Home to seven million people, 260 islands and more super-tall skyscrapers than any other city on the planet, Hong Kong is an immense destination in every sense of the world. Overwhelmed? Start with these 20 Hong Kong attractions.
These humble vessels have been chugging their way across Victoria Harbour since way back in 1880, giving visitors an unrivalled view of the water, skyscrapers and mountains beyond. Plenty of tourist cruises zoom around the harbour, but the Star Ferry costs relatively little for the same mesmerising vistas.
Temple Street Night Market
When the sun slinks below the horizon, the stall holders in the Jordan area begin their haggling. Night markets aren’t as common in Hong Kong as they are in other parts of Southeast Asia, which is what makes Temple Street so popular, selling traditional Chinese street food alongside all the typical trinkets and souvenirs.
Among the first things you need to add to your Hong Kong to-do list is the Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island. The cool mountain air made Victoria Peak the city’s most exclusive area during the old colonial days, but the uninterrupted view of the spellbinding skyline is the main attraction today. The historic tram is the most scenic – and exertion-free – path to the top.
Symphony of Lights
Every visitor needs to get themselves to Victoria Harbour at 8pm of an evening, when this dazzling light show illuminates 40 buildings on either side of the water. With the Guinness World Records recognising the Symphony of Lights as the world’s largest permanent light and sound show, it’s easy to understand why a visit to watch the Symphony of Lights is consistently among the most popular things to do in Hong Kong.
Man Mo Temple
Sitting on Sheung Wan’s Hollywood Road, this incense-scented temple is a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle outside. Dedicated to Man Cheong, god of literature, and Mo Tai, the god of war, the elegant Man Mo Temple is always well populated by students cramming for their exams.
Mong Kok is renowned as the busiest district on the planet, and you won’t disagree when you’re trying to navigate your way through this busy market. Tung Choi Street, or the Ladies Market, is a one-kilometre span of markets peddling everything from cosmetics to clothing. Prices are negotiable for talented hagglers, of course.
Tian Tan Buddha
Tian Tian Buddha – better known simply as the Big Buddha – is one of Hong Kong’s biggest drawcards… literally. Standing 34 metres (112 feet) high above the Po Lin monastery, the enormous statue brings a stream of visitors to this quiet corner of Lantau Island. Catch the Ngong Ping cable car over forest, water and mountains to the summit.
Wan Chai Heritage Trail
Wan Chai may be infamous for its red light district, but there’s more to this part of Hong Kong Island than its reputation suggests. This two-hour walk through the Wan Chai neighbourhood – formerly an R&R port for British sailors – takes in historic sites like the Blue House, Pak Tai Temple, the old post office and the Wan Chai Market.
Tsim Sha Tsui
The southern point of Kowloon offers more than just a great vantage point of Victoria Harbour. Stroll along the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade to check out the A-list statues along the Avenue of Stars, the imposing Hong Kong Cultural Centre and the colonial-era Clock Tower.
The name isn’t exactly appealing, but just wait until you lay your eyes on this golden stretch of sand. Named after a 19th-century battle where the British army repelled invading pirates, Repulse Bay is now one of the city’s most exclusive areas thanks to its gorgeous beach on the southern edge of Hong Kong Island.
Ten Thousands Buddha Monastery
Although the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is one of Hong Kong’s must-visit attractions, the name is misleading. One, it’s not a real monastery – no monks live here. And two, it contains way more than just 10,000 Buddhas. Sitting on a hilltop high in the Sha Tin countryside, this is one of the most eye-catching religious sites you’ll ever see – the 400-step stairway to the top is flanked by countless golden Buddha statues, each with their own unique pose and expression.
Nathan Road – nicknamed the Golden Mile – is the spine of Kowloon, linking the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront to Sham Shui Po in the north via 3.6 kilometres (2.2 miles) of malls, temples, eateries and jostling crowds. High-end shoppers will find Hong Kong’s glitziest boutiques on nearby Canton Road.
Lan Kwai Fong
No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without a boozy night in Lan Kwai Fong. This small square of streets in the Central district contains almost 100 bars and restaurants, including everything from Hong Kong’s trendiest restaurants to the city’s most raucous nightclubs. SoHo, Wan Chai and Knutsford Terrace are other top spots for a night out.
Golden Bauhinia Square
On the other side of the harbour, this golden sculpture is one of Hong Kong’s most recognisable landmarks. Sitting outside the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on the Wan Chai waterfront, this perpetually blooming flower marks the site where this territory was handed over to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 1997.
Hong Kong Disneyland
The Magic Kingdom has made its way to Hong Kong, bringing Mickey and his gang to Lantau Island. Unleash your inner child at all the old Disneyland favourites like Space Mountain and It’s A Small World After All, as well as new thrill rides like the Iron Man Experience and Star Wars: Tomorrowland Takeover.
Tai O Fishing Village
This part of Lantau Island is about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the soaring skyscrapers of Victoria Harbour, but it feels like it’s on a different planet. The locals in Tai O have built their homes on stilts above tidal flats, best seen on a boat tour of this traditional fishing village, where you might even spot a rare pink dolphin if you’re lucky.
Happy Valley Racecourse
Since the British converted some Hong Kong Island swampland into a racecourse in 1845, Happy Valley has been one of the world’s most legendary horse-racing venues. Punters from every corner of the globe converge on Hong Kong for a flutter during race season, which runs from July to September.
Hong Kong Park
This man-made landscape is a natural oasis in the midst of Hong Kong Island’s concrete jungle. Built in Central in 1991, Hong Hong Park is home to water features, an aviary housing 80 species of birds, a green house, the Hong Kong Visual Art Centre and the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware.
Three decades before Disneyland came to town, Ocean Park was Hong Kong’s original amusement park. Sitting on the south side of Hong Kong Island, Ocean Park combines rollercoasters with exotic wildlife – marvel at the aquarium and meet the resident pandas Ying Ying and Le Le before testing the laws of physics on the Whirly Bird and the Hair Raiser.
Wong Tai Sin Temple
This large temple complex was rebuilt as recently as 1968, but you wouldn’t know it when you’re gazing at ornate structures like the Hall of Three Saints, the Good Wish Garden and Confucius Hall. This Kowloon temple is dedicated to the Taoist god Wong Tai Sin, who is believed to bring good luck in the horse racing – so maybe pop in before you visit the Happy Valley Racecourse.