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 17 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.
- 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.
- 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, but make sure you have enough cash as taxis do not accept the Octopus card or credit/debit cards. Taxi drivers in Hong Kong are also sometimes reluctant to accept large denomination notes, and you’ll need to let them know if you don’t have anything smaller than a $100 note before you get in.
- 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!
17 things to do in Hong Kong that are off the beaten track
It’s not difficult to explore Hong Kong off the beaten path, you just have to know where to go. Keep reading so that you can plan your unique Hong Kong itinerary!
1. Visit Sham Shui Po
My favourite place to take visitors to is Sham Shui Po, a Hong Kong hidden gem. 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 you can get 10-15% off your harbour cruise if you book online here!
Prefer to stay on land? Not to worry, there are plenty of incredible rooftop bars in Hong Kong. Click here for some of my favorite rooftop bars to grab a drink at.
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
This is one of those hidden places in Hong Kong that most tourists don’t know about. 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 and Wan Chai
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, and Wan Chai. You can easily spend an afternoon walking around and stumbling upon funky and colorful street art.
Going on a self-guided street art tour is one of the coolest things to do in Hong Kong. In Central, start at Graham Street and walk along Hollywood Road towards Sheung Wan.
In Wan Chai, start on Queen’s Road East and make your way towards Morrison Hill Swimming Pool – make sure you explore all the different side streets: honestly the fun is in wandering around and spotting the pieces on your own! You can read more about other cool things to do in Wan Chai here.
You can also check out HKWalls to see if they have any guided tours coming up, or download one of their street art location guides.
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
For even more easy Hong Kong day trip ideas head on over here!
7. Explore PMQ
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.
PMQ is 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.
8. Walk around Tai Kwun
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.
It is one of the most underrated places in Hong Kong and is filled with many art and history exhibits throughout the complex as well as plenty of shops, restaurants and bars – I loved the cocktails at Dragonfly! Give yourself a solid 1-2 hours to soak in everything it has to offer! Entry is free.
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!
9. 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
10. 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.
11. 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”.
12. Try to spot pink dolphins
Pink dolphins in Hong Kong were first recorded in the Pearl River Estuary by explorer Peter Mundy in the early 17th century, and they are also known as the Chinese White Dolphin. They are called the Hong Kong Pink Dolphin because they appear light pink in colour. There are less than 50 left in Hong Kong, and can be spotted in the wild just off the coast of Lantau Island.
Going on a pink dolphin watching tour is one of the most unique things to do in Hong Kong, but make sure you go with an ethical and responsible dolphin watching tour. I recommend Hong Kong Dolphinwatch – you can read more about the Hong Kong pink dolphin by clicking here!
Don’t go on a cheap pink dolphin tour to save a few bucks. Click here for even more things to avoid doing in Hong Kong!
13. Check out The Mills
The Mills is a heritage landmark that used to be working textile factories back in the day. Today, it is a hub for retail shops, business incubation and a number of restaurants and coffee shops.
Not only does it feature stunning architectural features, it also showcases some seriously retro and vintage-inspired street art. It recently opened to the public at the beginning of 2019 so many shops have not yet opened, but it’s a great place to grab a coffee and murals and immerse yourself in a part of old Hong Kong.
Want to see the iconic sights in Hong Kong for first time visitors? Head on over here!
14. Pick your own strawberries
Hong Kong is home to several organic farms where you can go strawberry picking – it’s a great day trip for adults and children alike, and the strawberries are gobsmackingly good! But there’s a catch: strawberries are only available from mid-December to April. Read more about strawberry picking in Hong Kong here.
15. Learn about Cantonese opera
The Xiqu Centre is a new arts centre designed to conserve, promote and develop Cantonese opera and other genres of xiqu (Chinese traditional theatre) in Hong Kong and beyond. The spaceship-esque building is one of the most unique places to visit in Hong Kong and features a main entrance that resembles parted stage curtains.
You can go on an hour-long guided tour through the building to learn about the design elements as well as about the history and features of Cantonese opera – did you know that Hong Kong performers usually do their own makeup, and that different characters use different styles of makeup, colours and costumes?
If you want to delve a little deeper, check out the “Tea House Experience”, a 90-minute performance showcasing a selection of short excerpts. It also includes narration by an expert moderator to help newcomers to Cantonese opera gain insight into the history of the art form. To recreate the warm, authentic atmosphere of Hong Kong’s early 20th century tea houses, audiences are served traditional tea and dim sum during the performance. If you’re interested, book in advance as the theatre only seats a limited number of people.
Xiqu Centre can be reached via MTR: Take the subway to the Austin MTR station and take exit F. For easy access to public transportation in Hong Kong, look into hotels in Wan Chai, Central, Soho, Sheung Wan or Causeway Bay. Click here to see highly rated accommodation options in Hong Kong!
16. Try some local and Asian desserts
If you’re a dessert fiend, make sure you hit up a few of these spots and try out some yummy Asian desserts the next time you visit Hong Kong. Most of these dessert dishes are hard to find outside of Hong Kong, and many of them have been homemade over generations. Don’t miss “Yeung Zee Gum Lo”, a classic mango and pomelo sago dessert, or “Dou Fou Fa”, a tofu-based pudding. Click here for more delicious Asian desserts in Hong Kong!
17. Nerd out with all the gadgets
Hong Kong is one of the best places to buy electronic gadgets and accessories. If you’re a photographer, go camera and second hand lens shopping at Sim City in Mong Kok, but make sure you shop around before you make a purchase. Insider tip: the top floors tend to be cheaper, and the shopkeepers tend to be friendlier. Make sure you also bring your own camera to test a second hand lens out.
If you want to buy any tech accessories, head to Wanchai Computer Centre, a multi-level mall with dozens of shops filled with everything you could ever need. Looking for a new charging cable? Wanchai Computer Centre will have it. Need replacement blades for your drone? Yep, you’ll find it here.
BONUS: Check out a Banksy exhibit
The elusive street artist only known by the moniker, “Banksy”, has thrilled the world with his thought-provoking artwork for decades. “Banksy: Genius or Vandal?” is an exhibit featuring 70+ pieces of original Banksy artwork from private collectors around the world, and is being held in Hong Kong for the first time from December 20th 2019 to March 1st 2020. If you love contemporary art or are intrigued by the mystery surrounding Banksy then catch the exhibit before it closes! Tickets are available on the website or at the door and cost approximately US$30 per adult. Make sure you download the free audio guide before you go to make the most of your visit – the guide provides more detail about the exhibit and each piece of artwork. Note: This exhibit (and others like it) are not authorized by Banksy.
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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