The Big Buddha, Avenue of Stars, the Peak, Man Mo Temple, Stanley Market, Temple Street…these are but a few of the typical “Top 10” places to visit in Hong Kong that you hear or read about (click here to read more about these top iconic Hong Kong sights).
Not to say that they aren’t spectacular and fun, but there are a whole host of off-the-beaten-path places to visit and things to do in Hong Kong that the guide books don’t tell you about.
If you’re planning a trip and putting together your Hong Kong itinerary, I’ve teamed up with some fellow travel aficionados to put together this list of 10 unique things to do in Hong Kong (that you might not have thought of doing or known about). But first, a quick refresher on basic Hong Kong travel tips!
Quick tips for traveling to Hong Kong
- The local currency is the Hong Kong dollar. Most places accept Visa or Mastercard, and I’d say 40-50% of places will also accept American Express. There are tons of ATM machines around Hong Kong, just make sure you’ve enabled international withdrawal or your card has the “Plus” or “Cirrus” logo on the back.
- Hong Kong gets 4 seasons! It is not a year-round tropical country as many people seem to believe. Summers are HOT and it gets fairly cold during the winter months (December to February). The best time to visit Hong Kong is from March to early June, and September to November (but avoid the 1st week of October).
- The main language spoken in Hong Kong is Cantonese, a local dialect. Many people speak English (or at least basic English), and almost all signs are bilingual.
- Public transportation is efficient, cheap and clean, and the network is very extensive. Taxis are cheap as well if you are in a hurry, with fares starting at just over US$3.
- One off the first things you have to do when you arrive in Hong Kong is get an Octopus card. It is a stored value card that works on all public transportation (but not in taxis). You can get your tourist Octopus card at any MTR (subway) station’s information centre – it comes with a refundable HK$50 deposit which covers the card cost. If you’re planning on traveling to Hong Kong again at some point, just hang onto the card for your next trip.
- The best way to get to and from the airport is via the Airport Express train. Tickets can be purchased at the station and the train stops in Tsing Yi, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island – it takes just 24 minutes from end to end! Want 30% off your Airport Express ticket? Buy your ticket ahead of time online here! Once you’ve purchased your ticket online, you can use the QR code that they send you to swipe through the special gates equipped with the QR reader.
- Most visitors opt to book hotels on Hong Kong Island or on Kowloon side. Look into hotels in Wan Chai, Central, Soho, Sheung Wan and Causeway Bay for maximum convenience and easy access to public transportation! Click here to book accommodation in Hong Kong.
For a full list of things you ought to know before your trip, head on over here for 11 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Hong Kong!
10 things to do in Hong Kong that are off the beaten track
1. Visit Sham Shui Po
My favourite place to take visitors to is Sham Shui Po. This colourful Kowloon locality is one of the poorest of all the districts in Hong Kong and provides a stark contrast to the glitz and glam of the Central skyscrapers. Each street specialises in different goods, from kids clothes and suitcases, decorations to match the season, electronics of every kind, craft and jewelry making supplies and every fabric under the sun.
For even more of a local feel go for a walk through the busy wet market to see fish fillets so fresh the hearts are still beating, every manner of sea creature and literally every part of the pig in the pork butchery. If that’s not your scene you can go on a Michelin foodie hunt with the famous Tim Ho Wan dim sum and new inclusions to the street food guide Kung Wo Tofu and Soybean shop and Kwan Kee dessert shop. Hit up Sham Shui Po in the afternoon or early evening to see daily life in full swing.
Contributed by Jess of Expat Getaways
2. Go on a sunset cruise on the Aqua Luna
Going on a traditional Chinese junk is one of the most unique things to do in Hong Kong. The stunning red sails of the Aqua Luna are iconic and clearly visible every night as it sails up and down Victoria Harbour. It’s one of the last remaining red-sail Chinese junk boats and has been refurbished to take passengers on short harbour cruises.
If you feel like taking your happy hour to the open water, book a spot on Aqua Luna’s sunset cocktail cruise to watch Hong Kong’s famous skyline come alive at night.
Tickets are HKD$220 (approx US$28) and includes 1 standard alcoholic beverage. The boat leaves from both sides of the harbour and tickets can be booked online here.
Going on a Hong Kong harbour cruise is one of the best things to add to your itinerary, whether its your first time to Hong Kong or your 10th! Click here to read up on the various Hong Kong Victoria Harbour cruise options!
3. Head up to Victoria Peak gardens
My absolutely favorite destination in Hong Kong is Victoria Peak gardens – not the famous Victoria peak you most probably know, but another much more amazing place. It’s quite hard to find and it was shown to me by a local. When reaching Victoria Peak Observatory/Peak Tower, you’ve got to keep walking up the road for 10-15 minutes and when you’ll see stairs. Keep your eyes open, since these stairs are barely visible.
Once you’ve taken them, you’ll get to Victoria Peak gardens, but don’t stop! You’ve got to climb up the hill, because when you get on top of it, you’ll see a wonderful nearly 360-degree panorama of Hong Kong. And most probably, you’ll be there completely alone and can enjoy the view in silence.
Contributed by Liza of Tripsget
Looking to pair the amazing views of Hong Kong with a good glass of wine? Click here to find out where the best rooftop and outdoor bars are in Hong Kong!
4. Walk around Lugard Road
If it’s beautiful views you’re after, skip the hordes of people at the Peak Tower and take a stroll along Lugard Road instead. Lugard Road is right next to the Peak Tower and offers a leisurely, mostly-shaded stroll around the Peak. I have two small dachshunds and this is one of my favorite places to take them – they get a nice, long walk and I get unparalleled views: a win-win!
The leisurely walk takes around 90 minutes to complete and loops right back to where you started. About mid-way through the walk you will reach a small park and a fork in the road, take the path on the right hand side and keep walking. A few more minutes and you’ll get to a long cliff-side path for breathtaking, unobstructed panoramic views of Hong Kong. The view from these lookout points are, IMHO, much better than those from the Peak Tower!
5. Check out all the street art in Soho
Over the past few years, street art has really taken off in Hong Kong and there are lots of beautiful pieces scattered around Soho, a neighborhood just above the CBD. You can easily spend an afternoon walking around and stumbling upon funky and colorful street art.
Start at Graham Street and walk along Hollywood Road towards Sheung Wan, make sure you explore all the different side streets: honestly the fun is in wandering around and spotting the pieces on your own!
Hong Kong has incredibly colourful places to explore. Click here for a local’s guide to the most colourful places to visit in Hong Kong
6. Take a ferry to Cheung Chau Island
On every visit without fail I catch a ferry from Hong Kong to Cheung Chau Island. Rich in pirate tales, the island is a quiet escape where fishing boats bob in the harbour and beach sports are a popular pastime. Bicycles are the main mode of transport and you’ll find life is lived at a much slower pace until the annual Bun Festival celebrations when the island is home to one of the craziest (and tastiest) festivals in the world.
The ferry to Cheung Chau leaves from Central Pier 5 and the journey takes about 30 minutes if you hop on a fast ferry, and an hour if you get on a slow one. The ferry schedule is available here.
Contributed by Lisa of The Wandering Lens
7. Explore PMQ and Tai Kwun
PMQ is a complex in Soho that has become a creative hub for local designers and funky brands and products. PMQ stands for “Police Married Quarters” as it used to house married junior police officers before being emptied in the year 2000. It sat there until it was revitalized as a heritage site and was opened to the public in 2014.
It is now home to about 100 different design galleries, shops, exhibits and boutiques with an emphasis on homegrown designers and brands. It’s a great place to pick up unique gifts and check out cool storefronts – the complex is always hustling and bustling over the weekends with pop-up exhibits and workshops, so even if you don’t buy anything, you never leave empty-handed.
Like PMQ, Tai Kwun is a heritage site that used to serve an entirely different purpose and one of the most unique places to visit in Hong Kong. Tai Kwun is just a few steps away from PMQ and opened to the public in May 2018 after years of renovation.
The massive complex dates back to the mid-1800s and used to be the Central police station, prison and magistracy. Today, the buildings have been revitalized and preserved, and has been converted into a heritage & arts centre.
There are many art and history exhibits throughout the complex as well as plenty of shops and restaurants. Give yourself a solid 1-2 hours to soak in everything it has to offer! Entry is free but visitor numbers are managed in order to manage the impact on the heritage site, so you will need to secure a ticket ahead of time.
Looking for a place to stay in Hong Kong? Look into hotels in Wan Chai, Central, Soho, Sheung Wan and Causeway Bay for maximum convenience! Click here to book accommodation in Hong Kong!
8. Eat egg waffles
Arguably the main reason why I moved back to Hong Kong, Egg Waffle is a type of waffle that was created by a store owner who was trying to find a way to use up the leftover egg, flour, sugar and milk in his store back in the 50s. Their name derived from their shape, which is also called bubble waffle or eggettes.
Nowadays, you can get egg waffle at almost any corner street food stores and it comes in a variety of flavours as well. In fact, some stores have some whacky yet delightful flavours such as orange chocolate, pandan, pineapple and even meatfloss and sesame.
Contributed by Nam of Laugh Travel Eat
9. Chase waterfalls
There are beaches, waterfalls and hiking trails just outside of Hong Kong’s CBD – it may surprise you to learn that Hong Kong is a perfect blend of nature and the city!
I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love a good waterfall. Sheung Luk Stream is a great Hong Kong day trip destination if you’re looking to get out of the city and bask in nature. If you are visiting Hong Kong from May to about October/November, aim to head here on a weekday as you’re almost guaranteed to have the place to yourself. The best thing about this one is that you can swim in the cascading pools of fresh water!
To get here, take the MTR (subway) to Choi Hung Station and then hop in a taxi to Sai Wan Pavilion (Sai Wan Ting). Take the path on the right and follow it for about 45 minutes to get to the beach. Once you’re at the beach go to one of the local shops to pre-purchase your boat ticket back to Sai Kung as they tend to fill up fast.
After you’ve bought your ticket, head left down the beach and turn towards the woods. The waterfall is another 10-15 minute walk from the beach and you will need to climb over a few jagged hill faces to get to it so wear comfortable walking shoes.
More detailed instructions on how to get to Sheung Luk Stream are available on Hike Hong Kong.
10. Go for high tea at the Mandarin Oriental
Delve into Hong Kong’s British colonial history by sipping on tea and stuffing your face: one of the most popular places for afternoon high tea in Hong Kong is the Peninsula Hotel…however, I much prefer the high tea at the Mandarin Oriental in Central. We have been going to Clipper Lounge for high tea ever since we were little and it was always such a treat.
While the prices aren’t exactly cheap, the sandwiches, cakes and pastries are delicious. The star of the show, however, would have to be their raisin scones with rose jam and clotted cream. Unlike the Peninsula, you can actually book a table at the Clipper Lounge so you don’t have to wait around like a chump.
Note that there are 2 Mandarin Oriental hotels in Central – the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong and the Landmark Mandarin Oriental – you want to head to the original Mandarin Oriental. Just tell your taxi driver, “Gau Mun Wah”.
I told you there was plenty to do in Hong Kong off the beaten path! Have you been to Hong Kong before? What are some other cool and unique things you would recommend? Share them in the comments section below!
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This article was updated in June 2018 to add Tai Kwun Heritage Centre
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