I have travelled to Hong Kong several times in my life, as my background is Chinese and my family are from Hong Kong. So going to Hong Kong for me isn’t just about sight-seeing but about getting in touch with my roots and seeing family. So much so, that when people ask me what are the top things to see in Hong Kong, sometimes I struggle to pinpoint sights. Last year, I went back twice, first time for a month and the second time for a shorter few day trip.
It’s true that Hong Kong is an expats paradise, with western amenities but also offering an ever present eastern, cultural way of life.
Top things to see in Hong Kong
Food is important in Hong Kong and for a western tourist, it may not always be easy to go to the best places or eat local. As well as the food though, there are also some really spectacular things to see and do.
Let me give you a 3 day itinerary for the top things to see in Hong Kong.
Day 1 – Kowloon Side of Hong Kong
- Mong Kok – Street food and Shopping
- Shum Tsui Po – Authentic Side of Hong Kong
- Kam Shan Park – Monkey Mountain
Day 2 – Hong Kong Island Side
- Tsim Sha Tsui – Harbour side
- Central – IFC tower and Peak
- Shek-O beach
Day 3 – Lantau Island
- Lantau Island – Big Buddha
- Lan Kwai Fong – Nightlife
One of the places with the highest concentration of people in the world. This should be viewed by day and by night as it is quintessentially what you think of when you think of Far Eastern streets, with the neon signs, street stall and hectic activity on the roads.
Eat street food – try the egg waffles, curry fish balls, Siu Mai, meat skewers, intestines. There is so much to try here and food is cheap.
Ladies market – this is quite touristy but heck, your only here once. Ladies market is a street with lots of street stall selling your typical tourist junk. I don’t come here myself but if you want to grab a bargain, negotiate hard and be prepared to battle through this narrow lane.
Sham Shui Po
Not particularly touristy but you can come here and get away from the touristy parts. There are more local people living in the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, where as all the expats live on the Hong Kong island side. The food will be cheaper on this side too. Walk through Apliu Street as you exit the station. This is a busy set of streets selling mostly electronics. Locals come here to buy all their electronical goods. Things like CCTV to phones accessories. There are also some excellent food to try here. There are lots of Tofu Fa stalls which is a soy dessert, where you typically add honey or sugar.
Kam Shan Park
Get the bus 81 from Nathan Road and get off at Shek Lei Pui Reservoir. It’s easy as Nathan Road runs through many areas and most likely very close to where you’re staying. Just ask anyone where it is. The buses have signs and announcements of what stop is next too. Hong Kong is just too easy!
On the short hike through nature, you will encounter lots of Macaques. Don’t tease them or leave food in sight as you will lose it. These monkeys are sneaky and quick. They can be pretty wild too, fighting with each other and being very loud. If you are scared of monkeys, probably give this a miss.
Tsim Sha Tsui – Hong Kong Harbour
This is where the harbour side is and one of the most iconic places in Hong Kong. The photos you’ve seen of Hong Kong’s unrivalled skyline will have been taken here. It is one of the top things to see in Hong Kong. My tip is to first go in the day one time, and then go one time in the evening for sunset.
Don’t forget to take the Star Ferry across to Hong Kong Island. It’s touristy but got to be done!
At around 8pm there is a daily laser show. I will tell you now, that it is pretty atrocious, and I wouldn’t waste your time. However, sites like trip advisor will tell you it is one of the top things to see in Hong Kong, so most people end up going. Sit and enjoy the skyline as the night draws on.
Central – IFC
This is home to the IFC tower which is the highest building in Hong Kong. Most of the skyscrapers in Hong Kong are insanely high, but this one tops them all. What a lot of tourists don’t know, is that you can actually catch a lit up the tower, not to the top but quite high up. Here there is a mini museum about Hong Kong’s money. Also is some awesome views over the city. You need to go into the IFC building, which is also a large shopping centre, and go to the place where it looks like everyone is going to their work offices, it’s like a concierge. From here, ask at the reception and they will point you to go downstairs. Get a badge from the staff and they will lead you to the lift up. Note that this is only available on the weekday.
Central – Victoria Peak
The highest point in Hong Kong and one of the top things to see in Hong Kong. Most people will queue for a long time to go up to the peak. This is actually just for the peak tram up and in my opinion is a waste of time, money and not that spectacular. Alternatively, catch the green mini buses to the peak (from Two IFC). It is cheaper and faster than queuing with the masses. Same on the way down. The bus drivers can get a little crazy fast so be warned.
At the top it is free apart from if you want to go right to the top part where there is a special viewing platform. It’s not necessary though, the view is just as good on the peasants section. Try to get here just before sundown so you can enjoy the view in the day and when it is dark.
I like coming to the beach in Hong Kong, and if you can do this on a weekday it is less crowded. One of my favourite things to do is buy a kite and fly it on the beach. The local kids love it and will want to play too. Enjoy the tranquillity and get away from the city’s hustle and bustle. Direction: MTR Island Line to Shau Kei Wan Station exit A3 then from nearby Shau Kei Wan Bus Terminus take number 9 bus* (approx every 15/20 mins) for Shek O.
Here you can visit the Big Buddha aka Ngong Ping 360. The best way to get there is to take the Tsuen Wan line from Mong Kok and change at Lai King for Tung Chung. From here you can catch the cable car or bus up to the where the Buddha is. The cable car is pricey but if you really want to do it, skip the queues by pre-booking tickets online. Alternatively catch the bus which is near the MTR station. Climb the 100 or so steps up to the Buddha and from there get panoramic views over the island.
Also on the island, you can visit Tai O which is a fishing village. I haven’t been here, but heard it’s more a tourist village now.
There are also some monasteries on the Island which are worth checking out whilst you are there.
Make sure you get the bus down to Cheung Sha Beach before sunsets. It is a beautifully serene beach which not many people bother going to after seeing the Buddha. Walk the entire length of this long beach and watch as the sun sets. It’s one of my favourite spots, when it is quiet.
Lan Kwai Fong
If you want to relax and dance the night away, then there is no better than Lan Kwai Fong (LKF). This is in Central and is the best place to drink and party. Drinking and partying isn’t a popular thing to do amongst locals, but there is still a demand from some and with the huge expat community, it gets pretty busy. Better yet, just buy some drinks from the local 7/11 and drink on the streets of LKF. That’s what a lot of people do, take the party to the streets.
Not to Miss
Not specific sights, but still top things to see in Hong Kong:
Yum Cha – this is almost a ritual in Hong Kong and is often something that tourists will miss out on because they don’t know where to go and how to order. Yum-cha means drink tea, but is simply going for food, traditionally eating dim sum and other small dishes. People in Hong Kong, especially the retired, will go yum-cha every day. Inside an authentic yum-cha place is like entering a battle ground of noise and chatter, where quality food is dished out for cheap-ish prices.
You will find most yum-cha restaurants hidden away in most of the shopping centres. You will know if it’s good as you will have to queue.
Dessert soups – If you walk round the streets you will see stalls or dessert cafes selling sweet dessert soups. They are really tasty and you should definitely try these. People love to eat dessert after dinner in Hong Kong, so you will find that you can still grab dessert in the cafes at 11/12 o clock at night.
Hong Kong is an awesome place to visit for a few days and offers probably the best mix between east and west. There is a super-fast pace of life in the city, but somehow Hong Kong seems to do maintain a form of organised chaos. If you have your own list of top things to see in Hong Kong, leave me a comment below!