8 Essential Things to Do for First Time Visitors to Hong Kong
I have spent the majority of my life in Hong Kong and the city never ceases to amaze me: Hong Kong has it all. Are you a foodie? Hong Kong has you covered. Love immersing yourself in nature? Done and done. Are you a shopaholic? We’ve got dozens of malls and markets. A lover of rooftop bars? There are too many to count. If you are visiting Hong Kong for the first time and want to see the quintessential, iconic sights of the city, then here are 8 things you must do and see in Hong Kong – take it from a local! Just make sure you plan a trip back as these 8 things only scratch the surface of what Hong Kong has to offer.
Not a first time visitor to Hong Kong and want to get off the beaten path? Check out this article listing 10 Things to Do in Hong Kong That Probably Aren’t in Your Guidebook!
Quick tips for your first trip 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 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.
- 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!
- 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! 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!
8 must-do’s if it’s your first trip to Hong Kong
1. Visit the Peak
Victoria Peak is one of the most popular attractions in Hong Kong. It is the highest point on Hong Kong Island, which means the view is spectacular! There are a number of different lookout points at the Peak: the Sky Terrace in the Peak Tower (you will need to pay an entry fee unless you purchase a combined ticket at the Peak Tram), the free viewing platform in the Peak Galleria and Lion’s Pavilion to the right of the Peak Tower. If you have an hour to spare, head to Harlech/Lugard Road and walk along the circular trail to get away from the crowds. The best time to head here is during a clear day right before the sunset.
How to get there: Take the bus 15 from Central (route map and prices here) or hop on the Peak Tram (pricier than the bus but much quicker). The bus and tram get very busy so be prepared to stand! You can also catch a taxi, just tell the driver you want to go to “San Deng”.
2. Head to Stanley
Bottom left photo credit: Dmitry Chulov / Shutterstock
Yes, it’s a tourist trap, but you should still visit (just don’t buy anything!). Stanley was a fishing village and was the last stand for the British troops before surrendering to the Japanese in 1941. Today, tons of souvenir shops make up “Stanley Market” and it is also home to the beautiful Blake Pier and Murray House. Murray House is a restored Victoria-era building that used to be located in Central – it was dismantled in the 1980s and reassembled brick-by-brick at its current location. Stanley shows the slower side to Hong Kong and is a great place for lunch on a sunny day, there is also a small beach if you’d like to go for a dip. I would recommend avoiding Stanley on the weekends as it can get very busy.
How to get there: Take bus 6, 66, 6X or 260 from Central, or hop in a cab – tell the driver you want to go to “Chek Chuh”.
3. Go on a sunset cruise on the Aqua Luna or Dukling
I pretty much tell everyone to go on a harbour cruise on the Aqua Luna or Dukling, and have personally been on their famous sunset cruises a bunch of times – it never gets old! The Aqua Luna is a restored old Chinese junk boat that hosts cruises and dinners along Victoria Harbour, and the Dukling is one of the oldest Chinese junk boats still in operation. Book your harbour cruise with Aqua Luna here or book your harbour cruise with Dukling here.
Both depart from Pier 9 in Central – your ticket includes 1 alcoholic beverage! Instead of doing a round trip, hop off the boat on Tsim Sha Tsui side and stay for the daily evening light show. To get back to Hong Kong side, hop on the iconic Star Ferry.
The Aqua Luna recently added a new boat to its fleet, but they both set sail between Central Pier 9 and Tsim Sha Tsui. If you are dead set on going on the boat with the red sails just wait a few minutes and it should dock soon after the junk with the blue & white sails.
How to get there: Pier 9 is located on the waterfront in Central. Catch any bus that heads to Exchange Square/IFC or hop in a cab – tell the driver that you want to go to “Gau Ho Ma Tau”.
Victoria Harbour is one of the most colourful spots in Hong Kong and truly comes alive at night. Click here for a local’s guide to the most colourful places to visit in Hong Kong!
4. Head to a rooftop bar
There are so many to choose from! There’s nothing better than hanging out with a drink in hand on a nice afternoon, casually checking out the view. Click here for a list of the top rooftop bars in Hong Kong!
On a budget? Grab some brewskies and vino from 7-Eleven or a supermarket and head to the IFC rooftop garden (4/F) where there is public seating available.
5. Wander around Soho and Sheung Wan
Take some time to explore the city on foot. There are a number of great sights in Soho and Sheung Wan from Man Mo Temple to PMQ. There are also a lot of amazing street art pieces to be discovered as well as interesting storefronts to check out.
How to get there: From Central, head to the Mid-levels Escalator (the longest covered escalator in the world), or walk up through Lan Kwai Fong (bar street) or Lyndhurst Terrace. You can also catch a cab, just tell the driver “Zhong Wan Soho” or “Zhong Wan Bai Fa Gai”.
Looking for a place to stay? Look into hotels in Wan Chai, Central, Soho, Sheung Wan and Causeway Bay for maximum convenience! Click here to book accommodation in Hong Kong!
6. Check out the Tian Tan Buddha
Photo credit: Henry Wang via Pixabay
This Buddha statue is HUMONGOUS! The Tian Tan Buddha is located on Lantau Island and was completed after 12 years of construction in 1993. The bronze Buddha draws pilgrims from all over Asia and there are 268 steps that lead up to the statue. Across from the Tian Tan Buddha is the Po Lin Monastery, home to many devout monks!
How to get there: Take the yellow MTR (subway) line from Hong Kong station in Central to Tung Chung Station. From Tung Chung station you can go on the Ngong Ping Cable Car or bus 23. It’s also possible to take a cab from Tung Chung station but it’s pretty expensive- US$30 or so. Tell the driver you want to go to “Dai Fut”.
7. Eat a lot of dim sum
Hong Kong is famous for delicious Cantonese fare, one of which being dim sum. Dim sum is typically eaten at brunch time (or earlier) and consists of lots of bite-sized food – steamed shrimp dumplings, barbecue pork buns, spring rolls, fried turnip cake and much much more. Hong Kong is home to Tim Ho Wan, the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant, as well as tons of other dim sum restaurants. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t adore dim sum. True story. Want more restaurant recommendations for Hong Kong? Click here and here for 10 awesome food spots!
8. Stroll through Hong Kong Park
This beautiful public space in the heart of Hong Kong is a breath of fresh air. Check out the conservatory, say hello to the turtles, walk behind the waterfall and let the streams and ponds soothe your soul. Entry is free and it leads straight to the Peak Tram if you are heading up to Victoria Peak.
How to get there: Head to Pacific Place/Admiralty by bus, tram or MTR (Admiralty station) and follow the signs up to Hong Kong Park.
Alas, we’ve come full circle! Have a little more time? Head to the flower market in Mong Kok, take a day trip to Macau, Cheung Chau or Lamma or check out some of Hong Kong’s beaches, hiking trails and waterfalls – told you there were a ton of things to do in Hong Kong!
Hong Kong is full of wonderful sights and these are 8 of the top attractions to visit during your first-ever visit. If you are looking into where to stay, check out hotels in Central, Soho, Wan Chai, Sheung Wan and Causeway Bay to make the most of your time in the city. Click here to book accommodation in Hong Kong!
Have you been to Hong Kong before? What are some other iconic sights that you would add to this list? Share them in the comments section below!
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