8 Essential Things to Do for First Time Visitors to Hong Kong

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Chinese junk boat in Hong Kong with text overlay View of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak with text overlay Hand holding phone with Hong Kong in background with text overlay Old Chinese junk boats in Hong Kong with text overlay Woman holding wine glass in Hong Kong with text overlay Fa Yuen Market Street in Hong Kong with text overlay Man Mo Temple in Hong Kong with text overlay

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.

Sunset cruise in Hong Kong

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 – read on for the top points of interest to add to your Hong Kong itinerary!

Not a first time visitor to Hong Kong and want to get off the beaten path? Check out this article listing things to do in Hong Kong that probably aren’t in your guidebook!

Quick tips for your first trip to Hong Kong

Octopus Card in 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.
  • One of 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 purchase your tourist Octopus card in advance here – pick it up from the airport when you arrive, and it comes with HK$50 already pre-loaded! 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! There are some fantastic boutique hotels in Hong Kong: I’m a fan of The Fleming, a boutique hotel in Wan Chai which features Hong Kong-inspired design and furnishings, Little Tai Hang in a happening neighborhood on the edge of Causeway Bay, as well as The Murray, a luxury boutique hotel in Central which used to serve as government offices. Click here for current rates and availability at The Fleming, click here for rates and availability at Little Tai Hang, click here for rates and availability at The Murray or click here to see other highly-rated 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 time 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.

Lion's Pavilion on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong

The best time to go to Victoria Peak is during a clear day right before the sunset, and if you’re lucky you’ll see the skyline at blue hour. Once you’ve caught a glimpse of the captivating skyline you’ll understand why visiting Victoria Peak is a must-do on any Hong Kong itinerary.

Blue hour at Victoria Peak in Hong Kong

If you have an hour to spare, head to Harlech/Lugard Road and walk along the circular trail to get away from the crowds – it also happens to be one of the easiest hiking trails in Hong Kong.

Lugard Road at the Peak in Hong Kong

How to get there: You can hop on the Peak Tram (pricier than the bus but much quicker) or take the bus 15 from Central. Both 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”.

Peak Tram Hong Kong

If your heart is set on experiencing the Peak Tram, try this special combo ticket for the Peak Tram + observation platform. Alternatively, take the Peak Tram going down instead of up – the queues are much shorter!

2. Head to Stanley

Murray House in Stanley Hong Kong

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, it is one of the most popular places to see in Hong Kong and home to tons of souvenir shops which make up “Stanley Market”. You also have to walk to the far end of the market to see the beautiful Blake Pier and Murray House.

Hong Kong Blake Pier Stanley

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”.

Alternatively, you can also hike to Stanley via the Twin Peaks. Head on over here to read the full list of 12 fun Hong Kong day trips to go on!

3. Go on a sunset cruise on the Aqua Luna or Dukling

Aqua Luna sunset cruise Hong Kong 2

I pretty much tell everyone to go on a Victoria 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 and is, in my book, a must do in Hong Kong.

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 and get 10-15% off 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.

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!

Aqua Luna harbour cruise in Hong Kong

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.

Aqua Luna sunset cruise Hong Kong

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

Rooftop bar in Hong Kong

There are so many rooftop bars in Hong Kong 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!

Sevva rooftop bar 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

Tai Kwun in Hong Kong

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 and Tai Kwun.

Street art in Hong Kong

There are also a lot of amazing street art pieces to be discovered as well as interesting storefronts to check out. Make sure you stop by “Cat Street” and poke your head into one of the antique and vintage shops for a hit of serious nostalgia!

Vintage shops in Hong Kong

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”.

Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan Hong Kong

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

Hong Kong 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.

This is one of the top Hong Kong tourist attractions, and the bronze Buddha also draws pilgrims from all over Asia to pay their respects and pray at the associated Buddhist temple and walk up the 268 steps that lead 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. Get 15-30% off your one-way or round trip Ngong Ping Cable Car tickets and skip-the-queue by booking here!

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”.

Click here for even more Hong Kong travel tips and advice!

7. Eat a lot of dim sum

Hong Kong dim sum

Stuffing your face is one of the best things to do in Hong Kong. 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.

Dim sum lunch Hong Kong

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 for 20+ awesome food spots to check out!

I love dim sum, but don’t have it for every meal – try other Cantonese fare and Chinese cuisines. Click here for even more things not to do in Hong Kong!

8. Stroll through Hong Kong Park

Hong Kong Park

This beautiful public space in the heart of Hong Kong is a breath of fresh air and IMHO, one of the biggest Hong Kong hidden gems. 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.

Hong Kong Park

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.

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! More Hong Kong day trip ideas over here.

Waterfall in Tai Long Wan Hong Kong

How many days to spend in Hong Kong

Fishing vessels in Hong Kong

If it’s your first time to this city, you’ll need a minimum of 4 to 5 days in Hong Kong to cover the “must visit” places. Though it is easy to get around, you’ll find that 4 days in Hong Kong is not truly enough if you’re looking to explore the city beyond the top tourist attractions. There are plenty of easy Hong Kong day trips to do if you are able to spend a week or even longer in the city – trust me, you won’t regret it!

Looking for more Hong Kong travel tips and advice? Head on over here!

Dense Hong Kong skyline drone shot

Hong Kong is full of wonderful sights and these are 8 of the top attractions to visit during your first-ever visit. I hope this guide helps you plan your Hong Kong travel itinerary more efficiently. 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!

You might also find these Hong Kong guides helpful:

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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82 Comments

  1. Hi, any particular reason you do not recommend 1st week in Oct to visit HK?
    I’m plannin on going this week and at that exact time ?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Belinda, it is one of two major national Chinese holidays which means Hong Kong receives lots of Chinese tourists during that time. Hotel prices can be very expensive during that week – I would book as early as possible if I were you!

  2. Thanks for this itinerary. I read this article before I went to Hongkong last June and it was really useful. I actually wrote a piece about my experience travelling in HongKong: [link removed]

  3. I’ve been to many countries around the World. Hong Kong still remains on top of my favourite countries. I am going back there for a few days on my way to Europe and I will try the dim sum you suggested and probably go on the sun set cruise which I have not done. Thank you for the information!

  4. why we should avoid first week of oct? we were planning to visit hongkong on oct 2 because it is my bday. πŸ™

    1. October 1-7 is a public holiday in China, which means many tourists from China come to Hong Kong. Hotel prices tend to soar during this week, and it can get very crowded at the major sightseeing spots. That being said, if you’re mentally prepared for the crowds there’s no reason why you should avoid traveling to Hong Kong during that week.

  5. This is EXACTLY what I needed! How many days would you say one would need to accomplish all of these things? If I arrive on a Saturday, hit the peak early, (take a nap! – I’m coming from the US), then do something and the cruise? I’m a huge foodie… are there any food tours that you recommend, or should we just concentrate on the dim sum?!

    Thanks! Cheryl πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Cheryl!

      It’s super easy to get around so you can check off a few things each day. If you were super ambitious you could easily do these 8 things in 2-3 days. I haven’t been on a food tour here, unfortunately, but here are a few of my favorite restaurants: https://www.yogawinetravel.com/home-sweet-home-hong-kong/ and https://www.yogawinetravel.com/5-top-restaurants-you-must-visit-in-hong-kong-part-2/

      If you end up getting through this list of things to do, then you should move on to some of these off-the-beaten-path items: https://www.yogawinetravel.com/10-things-to-do-in-hong-kong-that-probably-arent-in-your-guidebook/

      Have a great trip!

  6. Flo – I lived in Hong Kong from 2004 – 2008 and miss it so much. We are planning a return visit next year and I have been visiting a lot of travel sites. I have to say that this is my favorite. You have really given great advice for first time visitors and even seasoned ones like me that need a refresher course. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Donna! Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment – I truly appreciate it. I hope you have an amazing time when you come back next year, so many fantastic new restaurants have opened up. Make sure you guys try Ho Lee Fook, the food is sublime!

  7. Hi? We are travelling from Hungary with our 13 years dougher. We will spend Christmas and New Years Eve in HK. Could you recommend some program with a teen and program for 24 of Dec and New Years? Is it any day trip where you recommend to travel by boat? For some sunshine and to see delphins, elephans etc.?Thank you! Eszter

    1. Hi there, you may want to look into NYE parties that will be held at different restaurants – Watermark is a nice restaurant that has a great view. Some good day trips include venturing out to Lamma or Cheung Chau islands, if you want to see some dolphins (sightings are not guaranteed), look into visiting Tai O. There are no wild elephants in Hong Kong πŸ™‚

  8. Hi Flo, I came across your blog while searching for things to do in Hong Kong. I like your content and the layout of your blog. I’m also going to visit Taiwan. I have 12 days total for both Taiwan and Hong Kong. Do you have any posts for Taiwan? Thanks!

  9. I have been told that since locals don’t understand English and public transport is difficult to manage for first timers, the safest bet would be to pre-book with a travel agency so as the transportation is sorted. What is your take on that?

    1. Hi Niketa, thanks for your comment. I would have to say that I don’t agree with this at all. Public transport is extremely easy to navigate and many people understand basic English.

    2. I bet you were told this by a travel agent. You can absolutely get around easily and most locals in the city speak English and are more than happy to assist you if you need directions. I lived there for 4 years and spoke very little Cantonese. I used to tell people that the most difficult thing to do was to look at a map. Someone would always come over and offer to help me find my way. Do consider booking a tour or two when you visit. A local food tour or historical tour at the beginning of your trip will help you get your bearings.

  10. Wow I’ve been to Hong Kong about 5 times (I live in China) and I thought I’d done EVERYTHING. But this post made me realize I haven’t been to Soho and Sheung Wan and I haven’t ever taken a cruise. I guess I have to go back.

    1. Now you have a reason to visit again! A lot of new restaurants are opening up so if you’re a foodie you’ll love it.

  11. Awesome read Flo! My hubby is really keen to go to Hong Kong, so hopefully we”ll make it there one day soon! Looks like we won’t be running out of things to do here!! πŸ˜€

  12. I’ve never been to Hong Kong, but I’ve been reading a lot about it and my friends have been texting me about their trip there, and sending me photos, and reading you makes me want to go asap! It’s on top of my bucket list!

  13. You have shared so many pearls of wisdom for the first timers. That whole bit about the currency and certain places being tourist traps is so useful. It is this kind of information that the reader is so keen on!

  14. Hong Kong is a throbbing and vibrant place with a wide range of experiences on offer. We had a great time when we were there a couple of years ago. Your list covers the top things to do in HK and holds the promise of some lovely times.

  15. I loved Hong Kong when I was there few years ago. Thanks for bringing me back memories of my trip. I especially enjoyed the night laser show on the city skyline. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Damn if this doesn’t look like a fun city to spend a few days! Food and wine is about all I would need but those views look great and sure the cruise may have to happen too! Thanks for the tip on finding Hong Kong Park, it looks amazing. Didn’t expect such natural beauty to be in the city.

  17. It’s always great to get tips from someone who lived in the city. Love places that have such a range of things one can do. And those rooftop bars… I can just imagine myself there! πŸ™‚

  18. I’ve only been to Hong Kong for a day because of a flight transit, but I really did enjoy my time there. Victoria Peak was a pleasant experience because I got to see the view and all. I love your pics, btw! What camera do you use?

  19. Haven’t been to HongKong yet so thanks for this guide! The view from Victoria Peak is spectacular! The parks are just gorgeous!!!

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