Hong Kong is one of the most amazing places you can visit in Asia, if not the whole world. The former British colony is a vibrant, bustling, and complex destination. It is a foodie’s paradise and every shopper’s dream destination. It is also a cultural haven that is equal parts ancient and modern. Ask anyone who has lived in the city and you’ll find out that there’s so much to it than what meets the eye.
Although a bit small, it offers enough attractions and activities to keep you occupied for weeks or months on end. Whether you’re travelling solo or with a group, you’ll never run out of fun and interesting things to do. And since Hong Kong is compact and boasts transportation that is modern and efficient, you’ll find it easy to get around in and you’ll be able to visit many of its top sights in a couple of days.
However, if you really want to experience the best of Hong Kong, plan on staying for at least 5 days because a shorter stay won’t do justice to such an awesome travel destination. And to make the most of what this great city has to offer as well as gain a better understanding of the place, the people, and its culture, you have to plan and coordinate your activities and explore it in sections. Take time to slow down to take in the local way of life, explore nondescript streets and alleys, and try mom-and-pop eateries and hole-in-the-walls.
Most tourists either pick Kowloon or Hong Kong Island as their base. Stay in the Kowloon side if you are a first-time visitor to Hong Kong because this is where Tsim Sha Tsui, the night markets, museums, shopping malls, and cruise terminals are. It is also not as busy as Hong Kong Island. Kowloon also offers the best views of cityscape and the world-famous Symphony of Lights show.
On the other hand, Hong Kong Island makes for a great starting point to many of the city’s highlights. This half of Hong Kong is also home to the city’s tallest skyscrapers, the best and most affordable hotels, and areas like SOHO that are popular among the hip and trendy. It is also where you’ll find some very fascinating British Colonial architecture given that it’s where the original British settlement was established in 1841. You’d also want to stay here if you plan on visiting Macau.
Here’s an easy yet activity-packed 5-day itinerary for your first trip to Hong Kong.
Day 1: Dim Sum Breakfast, Man Po Temple, Star Ferry, Kowloon, Avenue of the Stars, Mong Kok
Exploring Hong Kong requires stamina so start your day with a hearty breakfast. We recommend having a traditional dim sum breakfast for an introduction to Hong Kong’s distinct flavours. Try the Ling Heung Tea House on Wellington Street in Central, a restaurant that’s been serving traditional Chinese fare for more than 80 years. Must-trys at the restaurant include steam chicken and mushroom rice, siu mai, chicken feet, and spare ribs.
After your delicious breakfast, make your way towards Man Mo Temple, one of Hong Kong’s oldest temples. Dedicated to the gods Man Tai and Mo Tai. Admire the picturesque Taoist temple, especially the intricately carved interiors.
From the temple, walk towards Central Piers for your Star Ferry ride to Kowloon. Enjoy the spectacular views of Victoria Harbour during your ride.
As soon as you arrive at the ferry terminal, walk along the Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront until you reach the Avenue of the Stars, a top attraction in Hong Kong that’s based on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. The Avenue celebrates big names in the city’s film industry such as Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Jet Li, and of course, Bruce Lee.
Finally, it is time for lunch in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST), a busy district overflowing with restaurants and eateries. We recommend Tak Fat Beef Ball, a gem of a hawker stall hidden inside Haiphong Road Temporary Market. This place has been serving insanely bouncy and delicious beef balls for more than 30 years. If you’re feeling adventurous, you should also try the beef entrails and tendon vermicelli soup. Yummy!
After your satisfying meal, it’s time to visit another temple – Tin Hau temple. Take the metro from TST station and hop off at the Yau Ma Tei Station and then walk towards Temple Street. You can’t miss the colourful temple, one of more than a hundred temples in Hong Kong built in honour of Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Sea.
From Yau Ma Tei, take the subway to one of the most popular shopping districts in the city, Mong Kok. Spend a couple of hours soaking up the flurry of activity while exploring its different streets and markets. You are guaranteed to find everything you need in Mong Kok, from clothing to jewelry, cosmetics, flowers, and even fresh produce. You’ll find street food everywhere so you won’t run out of tasty things to munch on as you browse the stalls and check out the vendors’ wares.
For dinner, try any of the small roadside restaurants in the district. We recommend Mr. Wong’s if ever you find yourself near Shamchun Street. Highly popular among tourists and expats, Mr. Wong’s serves unlimited flavourful traditional Chinese dishes at a very affordable price.
Afterwards, you can proceed to the sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck to enjoy sweeping views of Kowloon. Or you can go back to the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade at 8pm to watch the ‘Symphony of Lights,” the world’s largest permanent light and sound show.
Experience the best of Kowloon at a more leisurely pace with the Connect with KowloonWalking Tour and be introduced to its most fascinating markets, temples, and back streets. Discover what makes Hong Kong one of the top food cities in the world with the Kowloon Foodie Adventure Tour. Complement your activity-filled day with the luxurious Symphony of Lights Victoria Harbour Cruise and enjoy music and detailed commentary while you witness a dazzling multimedia feast that illuminates Hong Kong’s skyline.
Day 2: Lantau Island, SoHo, Lan Kwai Fong
Your 2ndday in Hong Kong will be spent discovering the beauty of Lantau Island. This beautiful attraction boasts Buddhist temples, traditional fishing villages, beaches, and scenic cable car rides.
Going to Lantau Island is easy. You can take the MTR from Tung Chung station and then take the bus or the Ngong Ping cable car. You can also take the ferry to Mui Wo from Central Piers and then a bus to Ngong Ping Plateau.
Most tourists visit Lantau Island to see the “Tian Tan’” Giant Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery. Admiring both up close is a bit of a challenge as you need to climb 268 steps but once you reach the top, it will be worth it. At 34 metres high, the massive bronze Buddha is a sight to behold and you can enjoy stunning views of the mountain and the sea surrounding the island from its base.
We recommend you try a healthy meal at the monastery’s vegetarian restaurant. Meals are served between 11:30am to 4:30pm.
From the monastery, hop on a bus that will take you to Tai O, a fishing village famous for its collection of houses on stilts. Briefly explore the village before heading back to Tung Chung station.
Spend the rest of your day exploring SoHo and Lan Kwai Fong in the Central District – Hong Kong’s legendary entertainment and nightlife zones. These areas are literally brimming with restaurants and bars and you’ll surely be spoilt for choice if you’re looking for hip and trendy places to hang out.
Be acquainted with another facet of Hong Kong by joining the top-rated 360 Lantau Island Explorer Tour that will let you scope out cultural attractions, traditional villages, and panoramic vistas. Challenge yourself with a breathtaking cable car ride and a steep climb to see one of the largest Buddha statues in the world and the peaceful Po Lin Monastery that’s protected by the lush mountains of Lantau.
Day 3: Causeway Bay, Victoria Park, The Peak, Wan Chai
After breakfast at your hotel, go to Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. The park is the largest in Hong Kong and makes for a great place for an invigorating morning stroll.
Causeway Bay is also considered the heart of Hong Kong’s shopping scene where you’ll find an eclectic mix of luxury malls, boutiques, department stores, and market stalls. If you’re famished after all that shopping, have a filling bowl of wonton noodles at Ho Hung Kee on Hennessy Road. The restaurant not only serves great food, it also has a Michelin star.
Next, head to Victoria Peak, one of Hong Kong’s highlights. Enjoy your short Peak Tram ride that will give you spectacular views of the city if the weather cooperates. Go for an amble around Victoria Peak and consider taking a break at the Peak Lookout – a lovely restaurant housed within a heritage building perched high on Hong Kong Island’s tallest hill – and enjoy excellent food amidst a backdrop of fabulous scenery.
From Victoria Peak, your next destination is Wan Chai, a vibrant district known also known for its shopping and restaurant scene. Check out Tai Yuen Street Market and Wan Chai Computer Center if you’re after affordable finds. When you’re ready for a bite to eat, the busy commercial district is dotted with dining places offering international cuisine and authentic Chinese fare.
The Deluxe Hong Kong Island Tour is one of the best books to take if you want to see and experience the best vantage views in Hongkong, The 5-hour tour includes a free ride on the iconic Peak Tram that will take you to Victoria Peak, or Mount Austin, the highest point on the island. You’ll also get to experience what it’s like to stand more than 428 metres above sea level because this great-value tour includes admission to Sky Terrace 428, Hong Kong’s highest viewing platform.
Day 4: Hong Kong Disneyland or Ocean Park
Hong Kong Disneyland is a must-visit for every first-time visitor to the city, regardless of age. The park is divided into sections and there’s certainly something to keep everyone preoccupied. Highlights include the Disney Flights of Fantasy Parade, Jungle River Cruise, and the nightly Disney in the Stars fireworks show.
Alternatively, you can spend a whole day at Ocean Park, Hong Kong’s second largest theme park. It was opened in 1977 but it remains very popular among locals and tourists alike. Ocean Park is an amusement park, marine mammal park, oceanarium, and zoological theme park rolled into one.
Let the child in you run free at the “happiest place on earth” by booking the Hong Kong Disneyland Magic Tour. Watch the “Disney Paint the Night” parade and try the theme park’s newest rides and offerings in addition to its classic attractions. The Ocean Park Tour, on the other hand, is perfect for those looking to experience a family-friendly trip to one of Asia’s leading marine mammal and animal theme park. Both tour packages include admission tickets, reliable roundtrip air-conditioned transfers, and an English speaking guide.
Day 5: Macau
Macau, the gaming capital of the world, makes for a wonderful side trip from Hong Kong. Since it is just an hour by ferry from Hong Kong, you can explore the autonomous territory in one day. Aside from its shimmering casino hotels, Macau is also known for its historic attractions, luxury shopping malls, and mouthwatering Macanese cuisine.
One of the most important things to do in Macau is visit its cultural attractions. The autonomous region was under Portuguese rule and you can still see remnants of their colonial history with the peninsula.
See the heritage structures in the UNESCO-listed historic centre such as the Ruins of St. Paul, A-Ma Temple, St. Augustine’s Church, and Senado Square. Check out the tiled floors of Senado Square and admire the eye-catching wave-like tile arrangement.
And, don’t go back to Hong Kong without trying Macanese food. For the uninitiated, Macanese cuisine is the union of Portuguese and Chinese cuisines, the marriage of Eastern and Western cooking traditions. Local delicacies representative of this fusion cuisine include the pork chop bun, minchi, and egg tarts.
Finally, you have to try your luck at Macau’s collection of casino hotels that boast hundreds of gaming tables and slot machines. Definitely worth a visit are the Venetian Macao, City of Dreams, MGM Macau, Galaxy Macau, Wynn Macau, Casino Lisboa, and the Four Seasons.
Make your Hong Kong vacation extra memorable with an excursion to Macau, the “Vegas of Asia.” Take the Macau Excursion from Hong Kong Tour to see impressive UNESCO-listed attractions, visit the Museum of Macau, and marvel at the glitzy casino hotels on the Cotai Strip. Lunch and roundtrip ferry tickets are included in the package while entry to the Macau Tower observation deck is optional.