The most visited city in the world, Hong Kong is a wonderful blend of gorgeous hills, endless sea and ultramodern towers. A British colony for more than 150 years, Hong Kong hasn’t preserved much of its legacy, instead opting for mega tall structures that look like leafless trees on the shore. Strangely enough the sharp contrast with the natural environment gives the city a sense of uniqueness. You can feel overwhelmed as you set foot on the island with massive buildings, crazy traffic and people everywhere. But as soon as you leave for green Lantau or any of the smaller islands you will get the feel of what Hong Kong is really all about. If you are visiting Hong Kong for the first time this guide is for you!
What is Hong Kong Like
When we talk about Hong Kong we refer to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, an area of more than 1000km². The city proper spreads all over the northern shore of the Hong Kong Island, but the urban area expands all the way to the mainland with Kowloon being the largest part. The rest of the islands are sparsely populated with only Lantau receiving massive tourism. The city centre encompasses an area close to the Central station (on the Island) from where the city spreads both east and west longitudinally parallel to the sea. A highway, tram and the blue metro line run in such direction. Kowloon is more compact and wide and its main street Nathan Road goes perpendicular to Victoria’s Harbour, across the city centre.
What to See in Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s main highlight is its spectacular skyline. Two wonderful ways to enjoy it are the historical Peak Tram in Central and Ngong Ping 360 cable car in Lantau. The later takes you to the giant Tian Tan Buddha and the charming Po Lin Monastery. Unlike both Macau and Singapore, Hong Kong has not that many historical sites to visit. The Old Supreme Court Building surrounded by three squares in the centre, is the city’s most famous neoclassical landmark. A couple of steps away, the neo-gothic St. John’s Cathedral is the seat of archbishop of Hong Kong. Going west towards the Sheung Wan area, the Man Mo Temple is Hong Kong Island’s oldest temple. The Western Market in Sheung Wan is great if you are into shopping, The Pawn in Wan Chai is a top class restaurant. When it comes to modern structures several skyscrapers stand out for their size and gracious architecture: The Center, Bank of China, HSBC Main Building, Lippo Centre and International Finance Centre in Central, Central Plaza in Wan Chai and International Commerce Centre in Kowloon. Other interesting spots include several nice parks: Hong Kong Park in Central, Victoria Park in Causeway Bay and Kowloon Park in Kowloon. For a glimpse of real nature, hike the Lion Rock.
Check out this post if you only have 12 hours in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is a very expensive destination. There are hundreds of luxury skyscrapers all over the place. Some of them are considered midrange, but still expensive enough. By far the most logical areas to stay are on the Island in the Central and Wan Chai Districts and in Kowloon, close to Victoria Harbour. There are plenty of cheap hotels and hostels in Kowloon near Tsim Sha Tsui and Jordan metro stations. Few cheap options can also be found near the Sai Ying Pun Metro station and near the Victoria Park in Wan Chai District.
Most of the urban area is flat but intersected with highways. Plenty of overpasses make it safe to walk, but it’s not difficult to get lost. Biking is potentially dangerous; there is a lot of traffic and no bike lanes. Public transport functions to perfection with the metro being the fastest and most reliable service. Several tram lines connect different parts of the island. Though much slower than the metro, they are great to enjoy the views. A fast train is recommendable if you are heading to Lantau, including the airport. Another great way to enjoy the views is riding a boat. They are modern, fast, cheap and connect different parts of the city.
If you are heading to Asia, Hong Kong might just be your entering point. Most reasonably priced flights from the west land here and you realize you are literally in the middle of it all. Take advantage of the situation and spend a couple of days in fascinating Hong Kong. You will be impressed by its density, contrasts and futuristic layout. You can spend hours walking between towers without even touching the ground. From one shopping centre to another, office block to hotel it’s all there to entertain you and make you spend as much as you can. But even if you’re not a shopaholic its intensity will strike you, although not sure if in a positive way. Just take the boat from Kowloon to the Island on a clear day and you’ll understand why Hong Kong is such an exciting place.
If you are going to Mainland China check out this post about how to navigate the Shenzhen Bay Border Crossing.
Hong Kong Travel Guide
- Near Sai Ying Pun or Wan Chai Metro stations. Happy Frog recommends Butterfly on Waterfront
- Old Supreme Court Building;
- John’s Cathedral and Man Mo Temple;
- Western Market and the Pawn;
- Bank of China, HSBC Main Building and Lippo Centre;
- Hong Kong, Victoria and Kowloon Park.
- Have dinner in Lan Kwai Fong;
- Have coffee in the ONE tower to enjoy some incredible views.
- Check this post about the best food in Hong Kong
- On foot, by metro,train, tram or boat.
- Spend a day in Lantau visiting Tian Tan Buddha.
- Visit Guangzhou in Mainland China.
DO NOT MISS:
- Walk around the futuristic Central area;
- Take the Peak Tram to the Peak Tower;
- Stroll around Nathan Road in Kowloon;
- Take a boat between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island;
- Spend an afternoon in Aberdeen.
- Check out the best Hong Kong tours.