With all the things to see and do there, Hong Kong can be a bit overwhelming. This is especially true if you’re short on time. While it’s impossible to cram everything into one visit, a few things should definitely make the list. Make a point to fit the following five things into your schedule when you visit Asia’s World City.
1. Take the tram to Victoria Peak.
Labeled as one of the top ten most spectacular skylines, Victoria Peak is a natural fit for the list of top things to do in Hong Kong. There’s no need to spend your entire day there; just go for an hour or two, grab a milk tea, and enjoy the view. The best time to visit (as any other travel site will tell you) is right before the sun sets.
Under a clear blue sky, Hong Kong appears peaceful and serene. But when the sun goes down, the scene below reveals the city’s true character: vibrant and busy. Not only will you see two completely different versions of the city, but the experience of watching the sun sink into the water on the opposite side of the peak is breathtaking—and romantic.
Don’t worry about eating before you go. What is best described as a minimall is located on top of the peak. There you can find not only clothing and souvenirs, but a wide variety of restaurants that range in price and menu. If you want to sit outside and enjoy the atmosphere, you can purchase all the necessities for a picnic at the supermarket on top of the mountain. And just as they have on every other block in Hong Kong, Starbucks and 7-11 have proudly stamped their mark atop this prominent attraction.
There are several ways to get to the peak, but we highly recommend taking the tram. At $36 Hong Kong dollars for a round-trip ticket (don’t waste your money on the Sky Terrace), a visit to the peak is an enjoyable and affordable experience.
2. Ride the ferry to Lamma Island.
Cruise the coast, feel the sand under your feet, and take half a day to get away from Hong Kong’s hustle and bustle. A peaceful place (there are no cars allowed), Lamma Island is only a twenty-minute ferry ride from Hong Kong Island. Arrive at the small fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan, where you can choose from two hiking trails. Both offer spectacular views and moderate to heavy hiking, but if you’re on a tight schedule or want to spend some time enjoying the town, take the Family Trail.
Wind your way through the trees and up the mountains, enjoying the simplicity of the island and the view. The more adventurous can stray off the beaten path and weave their way to one of the uninhabited beaches below, although there is a public beach halfway through the hike.
An hour-and-a-half later (or longer, depending on how much straying you do), you’ll arrive to the other ferry terminal in Yung Shue Wan. Before you leave, browse the shops, visit the temple, and enjoy some food at one of the many restaurants lining the sea. There are several vegetarian choices and breakfast-all-day cafés. There are also plenty of restaurants serving fresh seafood, eateries offering traditional cuisine, and bars, if that’s more to your liking.
3. Go shopping!
With cheap prices and lots to choose from, Hong Kong is a shopping haven. Bargaining is key to getting a good deal, and almost everywhere you go, it’s easy to whittle the price down. For the biggest bargains, check out Chungking Mansions; for traditional antiques, Cat Street and Hollywood Road are your best bets; and for unique gifts and a lively experience, head over to the Temple Street Night Market. If you have the time, take a day trip to Stanley Market. After shopping, you can grab a bite to eat at one of the many cafés and restaurants that overlook the coast. While a day trip to Stanley is probably the most pleasant shopping experience, bargaining isn’t as easy there because the vendors are accustomed to tourists arriving by the busload. Don’t forget: the higher the price, the lower you should start your offer.
4. Visit Tian Tan Big Buddha and walk down Wisdom Path.
Standing next to a 111-foot-tall statue of a Buddha is as cool as it sounds (although don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s thousands of years old; it’s a bit of a letdown when you discover its construction began in 1990 and concluded three years later).
Located in Ngong Ping, on Lantau Island, Big Buddha, the Po Lin Monastery, and Wisdom Path are all free attractions definitely worth a day trip. Take the cable car from the Tung Chung metro station and glide for twenty-five minutes over the South China Sea and mountains to reach Ngong Ping. Make sure to arrive early, as there tends to be a wait. Not only is the cable car a fun ride that offers some of the best panoramic views of Hong Kong, but sometimes you can spot people below as they hike their way to Big Buddha. Trust me; you won’t envy them.
Admire the scenery from atop the Buddha, marvel at the intricate details in the monastery, and then take a break to grab a bite to eat. For the full experience, contribute a small donation to the Po Lin monks, who will happily serve you a vegetarian lunch in their monastery cafeteria. You can also order from the adjacent to-go café, which offers a bigger variety and slightly tastier food. Once you finish, work off your meal (not that you need to after climbing up to see Big Buddha) and go for a walk down Wisdom Path. About fifteen minutes in, the trees disappear and the scene opens up to reveal mountains, the South China Sea, and a monument of thirty-eight timber-inscribed columns with the words of the Heart Sutra. If Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery didn’t blow you away, the beauty and serenity of the Heart Sutra will. Masterly woven into the surrounding mountainside, the tall timbers, high peaks, and sparkling water provide a tranquil backdrop for a lovely afternoon.
5. Have a picnic.
Whether you prefer having a view of the water or people-watching in the park, Hong Kong is a haven for enjoying the outdoors. Purchase a cheap bottle of wine and snacks, then head to the IFC rooftop (located in Central), which is decorated with sofas, tables, and armchairs for public use. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the view of Victoria Harbor without paying the price.
If you’re more of a picnic-in-the-park type of person, there are several parks located in the heart of the city and plenty more in outlying areas. You can bask in the peacefulness of Hong Kong Park, or spend a few hours with the animals at Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, or explore the maze of Kowloon Park; all three are great for an afternoon stroll. All locations are well-kept and offer a variety of things to see and do. If your schedule’s jam-packed, grab some street food and use the park as an excuse for outdoor dining. After you’ve been marching through the lively city all day, your feet won’t mind the break.
Originally published on Where I’ve Been