Best things to do in Hong Kong
Find out more about those top places in Hong Kong
Hong Kong, officially known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region since its transition from British colony to Chinese governance in 1997, is a city of many identities. While the city is one of Asia’s financial centers packed with glittering luxury malls, it is also one of China’s most traditional cities, as it escaped the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution. The city’s most iconic attractions are the awe-inspiring harbor, which is best seen by the ferries that shuttle visitors around its jungle-clad shores, and Victoria Peak, which offers glorious views of the city’s towering skyline. What most visitors do not realize is that 70% of Hong Kong is near unspoiled wilderness with the city’s impeccable public transport system linking the mega city to the ancient Song dynasty villages of Kat Hing Wai and Shui Tau Tseun. In this way, Hong Kong, much like China itself, is a beguiling mixture of modernity and unchanging traditions.
Rising to nearly 600 meters, the jungle-clad Victoria Peak is the highest point in Hong Kong. It also offers one of the most spectacular vistas in all of China with panoramic views of the innumerable skyscrapers that huddle around the harbor area. What is more, there is no need to hike to the summit as a Victorian funicular has been running since 1888 that whisks you from downtown to mountaintop in less than 10 minutes.
There is no more quintessential a Hong Kong experience that cruising the vast harbor. For the best experience, either arrange a guided boat tour of the harbor with one of the many operators or simply hop on a Star Ferry, which shuttle locals backwards and forwards throughout the day. For the most evocative experience, take the ride at night when the skyscrapers are illuminated by dazzling neon advertisements.
Temple Street comes alive in the evenings when a gaudy profusion of neon-lit food stalls set up shop forming Hong Kong’s most vibrant market. Tours of this mouth-watering attraction are available that let you sample some of East Asia’s freshest seafood, delicious hotpots and spit roasted meats.
As the most easily accessible area of Hong Kong Global Geopark from the city itself, the monumental High Island Reservoir East Dam makes an ideal getaway from the buzz of the city. Once there you can marvel at the futuristic design of the dam, which repels the crashing waves of the South China Sea, and the geometric rock formations that are the result of cooled lava.
Part of the Po Lin Monastery complex, Hong Kong’s iconic Big Buddha is a dazzling vision in gold. For the best experience take a guided tour of the monastery complex, which is one of the territory’s most popular attractions, that will reveal the secrets as to how such a gargantuan statue was made.
This recent addition to Hong Kong’s impressive selection of museums and galleries is one of the city’s buzziest institutions. Housed in the colonial-era former Central Police Station, Tai Kwun is a multi-purpose arts and exhibition space with something to please everyone: cutting-edge art can be found at JC Contemporary Gallery; the Barrack Block uncovers the site’s dark history as a dungeon-like jail; and Block 12 houses exhibitions on daily life in colonial Hong Kong.
Part Taoist temple and part arbitration court used to settle disputes between the Chinese inhabitants of Hong Kong and colonialists, the Man Mo Temple is one of the city’s most historic locations. Guided tours of this remarkable complex are available throughout the day and offer an insight into Taoism and life in the city following the Opium Wars.
There are few experiences as quintessentially Hong Kong than a trip to the ever-thrilling Happy Valley Races. The races that take place every Wednesday evening are one of the city’s most raucous experiences with the stands packed with thousands of men cheering on their favored horse. For the best experience, take a guided tour that will let you get to grips with the betting system, which can be confusing for the uninitiated.