A Local’s Guide to the Best of Hong Kong

looking to really experience the vibrant city of Hong Kong like a local? Forget the tourist traps and overcrowded hotspots – this guide will give you an insider’s look at the best hidden gems waiting to be discovered in this bustling metropolis. Whether you want to immerse yourself in culture, indulge in delicious cuisine, or get lost in nature, Hong Kong has something for everyone. Strap in for a whirlwind adventure as we take you off the beaten path to uncover the city’s best kept secrets. By the end of this journey, you’ll be navigating Hong Kong’s maze of streets like a pro and wondering why you ever bothered with the crowds. The real magic of Hong Kong is in the details, so get ready to dive in and explore all this dynamic city has to offer.

The Iconic Hong Kong Skyline

No trip to Hong Kong is complete without seeing the iconic skyline. Composed of towering skyscrapers and neon lights, it’s a view like no other.

Victoria Peak

For the best vantage point, head to Victoria Peak. At 1,811 feet high, it offers panoramic views of the harbor and city below. Take the historic Peak Tram up the mountain for an added thrill. Once at the top, walk around the peak’s perimeter along the circular walking trail. Be sure to find a spot on the peak’s western side for the iconic postcard-perfect view of skyscrapers like Bank of China Tower and HSBC Building.

Hong Kong Victoria Harbour
Hong Kong Victoria Harbour. By WiNG – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15192479

Victoria Harbour

Another prime spot to take in the skyline is Victoria Harbour. See it sparkle at night during the Symphony of Lights show. Ferries, junk boats, and cruises circulate the harbor, providing front-row seats to the dazzling display. For a budget-friendly option, simply find a place to sit along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade and enjoy the show.

High Island Reservoir East Dam

Venture outside the city to High Island Reservoir East Dam for a skyline view unlike any other. About an hour from downtown Hong Kong, it’s a popular spot for landscape photographers. You’ll gaze at the city’s towers in the distance, surrounded by the reservoir’s turquoise waters and verdant hills. Go at sunrise or sunset for a sight you’ll never forget.

With so many spots to take in the view, Hong Kong’s iconic skyline should be at the top of your itinerary. This harbor metropolis puts on an unparalleled visual showcase like no other city in the world.

Must-See Attractions on Hong Kong Island

Once you’ve explored the bustling streets of Hong Kong, head to Hong Kong Island for some of the city’s must-see attractions.

Victoria Peak

No trip to Hong Kong is complete without visiting Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island. Take a tram up to the peak for panoramic views of the city’s skyline and Victoria Harbour. The best time to go is at night when all the city lights are twinkling below you.

Man Mo Temple, Tai Po
Man Mo Temple, Tai Po. By Kfsung – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28751323

Man Mo Temple

One of Hong Kong’s oldest temples, Man Mo Temple is a tranquil escape from the city buzz. The temple is dedicated to the gods of literature (Man) and of war (Mo). Surround yourself in the aromatic scent of incense coils that hang from the ceiling and admire the architectural details.

Stanley Market

Looking for souvenirs? Head to the seaside town of Stanley and check out Stanley Market. You’ll find everything from casual clothes and accessories to home decor and art. After shopping, grab fish and chips or a pint at one of the restaurants along Stanley Main Street. On Sundays, the open-air Stanley Plaza Market also opens with stalls selling handmade goods, antiques, and local produce.

Hong Kong Museum of Art
Hong Kong Museum of Art. By Wpcpey – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82038044

Hong Kong Museum of Art

For a dose of culture, visit the Hong Kong Museum of Art which houses a world-class collection of Chinese antiquities as well as contemporary art exhibits. The museum is located within the lush Hong Kong Park, an oasis of green space featuring gardens, playgrounds, and an aviary. Spend an afternoon exploring the park and museum.

With stunning city views, rich cultural attractions, and opportunities for retail therapy, Hong Kong Island has something for every traveler. Take your time exploring all it has to offer.

Gate of Temple Street in Hong Kong.
Gate of Temple Street in Hong Kong. By hkgalbert – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14652141

Exploring Kowloon’s Food and Markets

Hong Kong is a food lover’s paradise, and nowhere is this more evident than in Kowloon. This bustling area offers everything from street food to world-class cuisine.

Temple Street Night Market

No trip to Hong Kong is complete without visiting one of the city’s lively night markets. Temple Street Night Market is the largest, open from 4 pm to midnight. You’ll find stalls selling everything from leather goods to electronics, but the main draw is the food. Grab a beer and enjoy famous Hong Kong street snacks like fish balls, stinky tofu, and egg waffles.

For a sit-down meal, head to Kung Wo Bean Curd. This open-air diner has been serving fresh tofu and noodle dishes for over 70 years. Their signature dish is pork chops in a sweet and savory sauce served over rice noodles.

Mong Kok Food District

In the mood for dim sum? Head to Mong Kok Food District, with several affordable dim sum restaurants open from morning until night. Tim Ho Wan is known for their baked barbecue pork buns and shrimp dumplings. Be prepared to queue, as this Michelin-starred restaurant is immensely popular.

Flower Market Road

Take a stroll down Flower Market Road, lined with fragrant stalls selling everything floral. You’ll also find traditional Chinese teahouses and bakeries. For a classic Hong Kong-style meal, duck into Mido Cafe. This retro diner has been open since 1950 and is known for dishes like scrambled eggs with shrimp, beef brisket noodle soup, and Hong Kong milk tea.

Kowloon offers exciting food and cultural experiences at every turn. From upscale dim sum to late-night street eats, you’ll find endless opportunities for adventure in this eclectic area of Hong Kong. Come with an empty stomach—and be sure to bring your appetite for exploration!

The Natural Beauty of Lantau Island

Lantau Island is Hong Kong’s largest island and a natural paradise. Only a 30-minute ferry ride from Central, Lantau offers a respite from the bustle of the city with its scenic beaches, hiking trails, and Buddhist monasteries.

Hiking the Lantau Trail

The 70-kilometer Lantau trail winds through forests, beaches and mountains, with stunning views of the South China Sea. Tackle the full two-day trail or choose from 12 shorter sections for an easy day hike. Highlights include the climb to Sunset Peak, Hong Kong’s third highest mountain, and the descent to secluded Tai O fishing village.

Tai O
Tai O. By chensiyuan – chensiyuan, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25185870

Exploring Tai O Fishing Village

This historic fishing village is full of photo ops, with stilt houses, fishing boats and dried seafood shops along the riverbank. Take a boat tour to spot pink dolphins, then feast on fresh seafood at one of the waterfront restaurants. It’s a perfect escape from the city’s breakneck pace.

Visiting Po Lin Monastery

No trip to Lantau is complete without seeing the world’s tallest outdoor bronze Buddha at Po Lin Monastery. The serene monastery complex has beautiful gardens, temples, and vegetarian restaurants. Hike the Wisdom Path to contemplate the 38 meters tall Buddha, then enjoy a tea ceremony and vegetarian meal with the monks.

Relaxing on Silvermine Bay Beach

Silvermine Bay, also known as Mui Wo, is Lantau’s most popular beach with soft white sand and gentle waters perfect for swimming and kayaking. Rent an umbrella and beach chair for the day and unwind in the sun, or go for a stroll along the beach promenade at sunset. Mui Wo also has ferry connections, hotels, and restaurants if you want to extend your stay.

Lantau Island holds a magical allure with its natural and cultural wonders. Whether hiking, beachgoing, monastery-hopping or simply enjoying the laid-back village life, this island oasis offers an escape within an escape in Hong Kong. Discover Lantau and find your own slice of paradise.

Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island
Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island. By chensiyuan – chensiyuan, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15709673

A Day Trip to Lamma Island

A trip to Lamma Island is a perfect escape from the bustle of Hong Kong. Only a 30-minute ferry ride from Central, Lamma feels worlds away with its laid-back vibe, verdant hills and beaches.

Getting There

Catch a ferry to Lamma from Central or Aberdeen. Ferries depart hourly and the ride offers beautiful views of the city skyline and outlying islands. Once on Lamma, it’s easy to get around on foot or bike.

Sok Kwu Wan Village

Arrive in Sok Kwu Wan, a sleepy fishing village with seafood restaurants along the promenade. Order garlic crab or stir-fried clams at Rainbow Seafood Restaurant, or grab an ocean-fresh meal from any of the casual spots. After lunch, stroll through the market and shop for dried seafood, crafts and beachwear.

Walking Trails

Lamma has scenic hiking trails with panoramic vistas. Walk from Sok Kwu Wan to Yung Shue Wan, a 2-hour trek through lush forests and over coastal peaks. You might spot some of Lamma’s resident buffalo, goats or wild boars along the way. Stop for a rest at Hung Shing Ye Beach, a secluded cove with soft sand and calm waters.

Yung Shue Wan
Yung Shue Wan. By MarcBogonovich – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=110251994

Yung Shue Wan Village

Yung Shue Wan is Lamma’s largest town, with guesthouses, bars, and western and Asian eateries. Refuel with pizza, fish and chips, or dim sum. As night falls, have a cocktail at the popular Waterfront Bar while listening to live music. Stargaze on the beach under a sky free of light pollution.

A day exploring Lamma Island’s natural scenery and simple pleasures will leave you feeling far from the city. Make the most of a visit to this hidden gem in Hong Kong’s back garden. The laid-back, eco-friendly island life and welcoming community spirit provide a perfect antidote to the fast pace of Hong Kong.

Riding the Star Ferry for Stunning Harbor Views

One of the highlights of visiting Hong Kong is riding the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour. For over a century, these ferries have been transporting both locals and tourists alike between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The views you’ll experience aboard one of these ferries are stunning and a perfect introduction to the city’s iconic skyline.

Hop on the ferry at either the Tsim Sha Tsui ferry terminal in Kowloon or the Central ferry terminal on Hong Kong Island. The ride between these two points only takes about 10 minutes, but you’ll be amazed at how much scenery you can soak in during that short time. As the ferry glides across the harbor, you’ll get panoramic views of the skyscrapers of Central, including the unmistakable Bank of China Tower. The ferry also passes right by the historic Clock Tower, a remnant of the old Kowloon railway station.

Once the ferry docks at its destination, stay aboard if you want to experience the views on the return trip or disembark to explore either Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade and its Avenue of Stars, or the bustling streets of Central. The ferries run daily from 6:30 am until midnight at frequent intervals, so you can hop on and off as you please.

Riding the Star Ferry is a quintessential Hong Kong experience and a great way to get oriented to the city’s geography. The views you’ll see from its open-air decks are some of the most iconic in the world. And at only a few Hong Kong dollars for a ride, the Star Ferry offers one of the best deals in the city. It’s a perfect way to soak in the energy and vibrancy of Victoria Harbour.

Whether you’re at the beginning of your trip or nearing the end, a journey on the Star Ferry should be at the top of your list of things to do in Hong Kong. The stunning vistas it provides are a perfect encapsulation of what makes Hong Kong such a dynamic and visually stunning place.

Hiking the Dragon’s Back Trail on Hong Kong Island

The Dragon’s Back Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Hong Kong, offering stunning views of the southern side of Hong Kong Island and the South China Sea. This scenic trail takes you through forests and across the spine of Hong Kong Island’s mountain ridge.

To get there, take the MTR to Shau Kei Wan Station. Exit the station and head northeast up the hill. Follow the signs for the Dragon’s Back Trail, which will lead you to the start of the hiking path. The full trail is about 5 miles long, but you can hike smaller sections if desired. I’d recommend going at least as far as the middle vantage point at Shek O Peak, about a 2-mile round trip hike.

As you ascend the first hill, catch your breath while enjoying panoramic vistas of the skyscrapers in Shau Kei Wan and Victoria Harbour. The trail winds through shady forests, then opens up to grassy hillsides and boulder formations at Shek O Peak. Find a spot to sit, unpack your snack, and soak in the sweeping sea views below.

On the other side of the peak, the descent offers an entirely different perspective. Keep an eye out for the historic military pillboxes and other remnants of Hong Kong’s wartime past along the trail. Listen for the sounds of birds chirping and insects buzzing in the dense greenery surrounding you.

Once you’ve made your way down from the peak, the final stretch of trail brings you through more wooded areas before ending close to Big Wave Bay Beach. Reward yourself for completing the hike with a cold drink or bite to eat at one of the casual beachside restaurants. You’ve earned it after conquering the Dragon’s Back!

This scenic trail provides a perfect escape from the bustle of Hong Kong’s urban jungle. Lace up your hiking boots, fill your water bottle and don’t forget the camera—the Dragon’s Back Trail awaits! Let me know if you have any other questions about exploring Hong Kong’s natural wonders.

Night Market at Temple Street
Night Market at Temple Street. By severin.stalder – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20201126

Experiencing the Sights and Sounds of Temple Street Night Market

The Temple Street Night Market is one of the most popular night markets in Hong Kong. Every evening from around 6 pm to midnight, the market comes alive with the sights, sounds and smells of delicious street food and shopping. As a local, here are some of my tips for experiencing the best of Temple Street Night Market:

Walk the length of the market slowly. Stroll down the market from end to end, taking in all the activity and sensory overload. The market stretches over a kilometer long, filled with hundreds of stalls selling everything from cheap trinkets to designer knock-offs. There’s no need to buy anything, just soak in the atmosphere.

Try the street food. Some must-eats are fish balls, stinky tofu, egg waffles and curry fishballs. For the adventurous, you can sample exotic fare like fried scorpions, starfish and locusts. The food is cheap, tasty and part of the experience. Find a plastic stool and join the locals.

Haggle for bargains. The market is known for selling knock-off handbags, watches, clothing and other knickknacks. Haggling is expected, so don’t be afraid to negotiate at least 50-70% off the asking price. Check the quality of items carefully before buying. You can often find some hidden gems if you look hard enough.

Visit the Tin Hau Temple. In the middle of the market is the colorful Tin Hau Temple, one of Hong Kong’s oldest temples dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea. The temple provides an oasis of calm in the midst of the market chaos. It’s a popular spot for fortune telling, so you may encounter locals seeking advice or blessings.

Have your fortune told. Fortune tellers line the walkways of the market, offering palm, face and tarot card readings. For a few dollars, a fortune teller can reveal insights into your future and luck. Even if you don’t believe in fortune telling, it’s an amusing experience and glimpse into traditional Chinese culture.

The Temple Street Night Market is a feast for all the senses. Take your time to explore all it has to offer—you never know what hidden gems or experiences you may uncover in this Hong Kong institution.

Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland. By Castleofmagicaldreams2020 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=106078018

Top 10 Things to See and Do in Hong Kong – FAQ

Hong Kong is filled with exciting things to see and do. Here are some of the top highlights you won’t want to miss:

Victoria Peak

No trip to Hong Kong is complete without visiting Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island. Take a tram ride up to the peak for panoramic views of the city’s skyline and Victoria Harbour. The tram is very affordable and runs from early morning until late at night. Once at the top, walk around the peak area to find the best vantage points. You can also shop and dine at the Peak Tower and Peak Galleria.

Victoria Harbour

This iconic harbor separates Hong Kong Island from Kowloon Peninsula. The best way to see it is on a Star Ferry ride, with service between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. The ferries run daily from early morning until late evening. The ride only takes about 10 minutes but offers stunning views of the skyscrapers and mountains surrounding the harbor.

Temple Street Night Market

For an exciting nighttime activity, head to the Temple Street Night Market in Kowloon. This popular open-air market is filled with shops selling everything from souvenirs to phone cases to clothing. You can spend hours browsing the stalls, tasting delicious street food and watching impromptu opera performances. The market is open daily from around 4 pm to midnight.

Hong Kong Disneyland

If you’re traveling with kids or just young at heart, don’t miss Hong Kong Disneyland. This magical theme park on Lantau Island is filled with fun rides, live shows, parades and of course, beloved Disney characters. Buy tickets in advance on the Hong Kong Disneyland website to save time waiting in ticket queues. The park is open year-round, but busiest on weekends, holidays and during summer months.

Other must-sees:

•Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island

•Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong’s oldest Buddhist temple

•Lan Kwai Fong, popular area for food, drinks and nightlife

•Ocean Park Hong Kong, large marine-themed amusement and animal theme park

•Hong Kong Museum of History to learn about the region’s fascinating past

Enjoy your trip and all the wonderful things Hong Kong has to offer! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong

You’ve now got an insider’s guide to the very best of Hong Kong. From the bustling harbor and skyscrapers of Victoria Harbour to the peaceful beaches and hiking trails, this dynamic city has so much to offer. Don’t miss your chance to experience the vibrant culture, delicious food, and natural beauty. Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s colonial history, shopping at massive markets, enjoying a night out on the town or just relaxing, Hong Kong should be at the top of your travel bucket list. There’s a reason it’s called “Asia’s World City.” Get out and explore – you’ll soon discover why Hong Kong is one of the most exciting places in the world. This city will captivate you, inspire you and stay with you long after you’ve left.

Travel MCM
Travel MCM
News about travel and new places to discover around the world.
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