For someone looking to get out of the city rush, Hong Kong might come last in one’s travel list. This rings true among first time visitors to Asia’s World City. There is often a mistaken belief that Hong Kong is a highly urbanised territory with less to see apart from theme parks and shopping malls.
However, Hong Kong has so much to offer more beyond its reputation for being a cosmopolitan district. In fact beyond its famed skyscrapers, you may rediscover Hong Kong with new eyes as a place of natural wonder and a repository of memorable experiences.
Witness Hong Kong With New Eyes
There is a long list of things to do and places to visit in Hong Kong. The lineup spans from Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories, alongside the other outlying islands including Lantau Island. Assuming that you prefer quality time with nature before hitting the Hong Kong metropolis, let’s start our 3-day Hong Kong itinerary at Lantau Island.
Day 1: Exploring the Island of Lantau
Say you’ll be coming from Hong Kong Island, you can easily get to Lantau Island by taking the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) to Tung Chung. From Tung Chung, there are two options for you to reach Lantau. You either take a bus or ride the Ngong Ping Cable Car.
The fastest way would be through the cable car, not to mention you experience a great view from up high. Also, try to get to Tung Chung as early as you can to avoid the long queues. The line for both the bus and cable car builds up especially on holidays.
Our first stop will be Ngong Ping, situated in the western part highlands of Lantau Island. Ngong Ping has become an amalgam of modernity with nature as the ultimate backdrop. Apart from the established line up of man-made attractions, Ngong Ping is where you will also find the two must-visit sites, Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery.
There will be a lot of walking so I suggest you grab a bite before you make the hike. You can have a quick breakfast at the Ngong Ping Village, a well developed open-air tourist area that hosts a variety of restaurants serving Asian and Western cuisine. Apart from food and dining, the 1.5 hectare village also brings a multitude of cultural performances with shopping centers, which I suggest is best reserved for later.
Dedicate your entire morning to Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. From the village, head to the east part of the Lantau Trail Section 4/ Ngong Ping Rd heading toward Lin Ping Drive. You’ll definitely won’t get lost, as this site is one of Lantau Island’s most visited attractions and you’ll probably see a swarm of tourists on their way to the sites.
Depending on your pace, you can cover the trail, including climbing the 260 steps to the Buddha shrine, in 10 to 15 minutes or even less. Right across the majestic, and apparently the biggest bronze seated statue of Buddha in the world, is the Po Lin Monastery. You hit two birds in one stone, so the walk to this spot is well deserved!
Spend a bit of time here to learn about the cultural, spiritual and traditional significance of both the shrine and the monastery. If time permits, throw in a walk to the Wisdom Path. I’d say the Wisdom Path is another noteworthy and scenic trek especially for those looking for a more quiet, less visited area by tourists. You will find a signage that leads to the path from the base of Tian Tan Buddha.
With all the walking and climbing, for sure you will be dead hungry by noon. You can either go back to the base for your lunch or try out an all-vegetarian cuisine at the Po Lin Monastery’s Kitchen. I prefer the latter! The vegetarian restaurant may not be your typical “destination meal”. However, the fact that the vegetarian dishes are prepared and served by the monks from the area is worth a try. Moreso, you support the monastery when you dine in. Reserve in advance for your meals by buying a ticket from the dining area or at the ticket office at the base of the Buddha Shrine. Meals start at HK$78 for a General Meal, while a Deluxe Meal will cost you HK$118. Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
In the afternoon, you can choose to stay and leave no stone unturned at Ngong Ping Village, one of Ngong Ping 360’s attraction. After all, you are already in the area, you might as well spend your half day looking about what else they have to offer. Ngong Ping Village is a developed themed “cultural area” fashioned and inspired by a traditional Chinese Village. Mind you however, this choice may not be off-the-beaten path in terms of being a tourist destination. Otherwise, the site has it’s own charm to entertain you.
Alternative Afternoon Route, Tai O Fishing Village
In case you are still looking for places to visit that’s more off-the-beaten path, you can choose to go to Tai O fishing village, instead of hanging around Ngong Ping Village. This fishing village gets its share of tourists, but it is not as congested by travelers compared to other places. The fishing village is composed of stilt houses and a massive seafood market that can be overwhelming at times, but nonetheless offers a great experience for the hungry traveler.
Day 2 : Hello Kowloon
One of the most delightful things I love when traveling in Hong Kong is the accessibility from point A to B! If you love ferries, fasten your seatbelt as we begin our day 2 by boarding a ferry from Victoria Harbor to Tsim Sha Tsui!
It’s very easy to get to Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon by riding the Star Ferry. You can actually board the ferryboat from one of two of these piers, Wan Chai or Central. Taking the ferry is one of the oldest forms of transportations in Hong Kong. In fact, the Star Ferry Pier is seen as one of the most significant landmarks in this region.
Surprisingly, it will only take you around 10 minutes to arrive at your destination, which is pretty awesome. The shorter the travel time, the more time you have at your disposal to visit more spots in Kowloon area. Nothing less is to be expected from this age old traditional means of transportation traced back to the 1880s.
Kowloon is a highly urbanized area in Hong Kong. Some even describe Kowloon as being than “grittier” end of Hong Kong. Even so, a day trip to Kowloon is worth your while as there are indeed interesting districts that are very memorable.
Upon arriving at Tsim Sha Tsui pier, head to Kowloon Park by taking the MTR and exit at Tsim Sha Tsui station. In my opinion, the 13.33 hectare public park strikes a balance between a densely populated city and presence of nature. Use the whole morning to go around and visit the following facilities within the park: Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre , Avenue of Comic Stars & Bird Lake and The Aviary.
Try to wrap things up and head for an early lunch to One Dim Sum, which is known for being the best affordable dim sum restaurant in Hong Kong. One Dim Sum gets crowded at lunch. You’d think only tourists flood this dim sum place but you’ll be competing with the locals as well. You are in dim sum heaven with nothing above HK$26. If you are not sure what to order, head to their classic favourites and you will not be disappointed!
To get there, take the MTR and exit Prince Edward Station. One Dim Sum is located at Shop 1 & 2, G/F, Kenwood Mansion at 15 Playing Field Road, Prince Edward. They are open from 11:00am to 12:30mn on Mondays to Fridays and 10:00am to 12:30mn during
After lunch, check out Wong Tai Sin Temple to have your fortune told! The cheapest way to get there is through the MTR. Get off at Tai Sin Station, exit B2 and take a short walk to the temple.
The site is very picturesque, with daily visitors stopping over at this temple dedicated to Wong Tai Sin. The temple was build to honor the most prominent Chinese religions which includes Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Visitors come here to worship and to pray for good fortune.
After your short visit to Wong Tai Sin Temple, head to Mong Kok to try one of the many street side restaurants popularly known as dai pai dongs. Also, take a look at their infamous flea market, which begins late in the afternoon. The “real action”, however starts at 9:00pm which you can skip if you lack the time. Nearest MTR is at Mong Kok Station.
Don’t miss out watching the Symphony of Lights from the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade at 8:00pm. After watching the show, head back to Hong Kong Island by taking the ferry enjoying the the view of Victoria Harbor amidst the city lights at night.
You can watch the Symphony of Lights daily all throughout the week. The show lasts for 13 minutes.
Catch the live narration in English every Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
Day 3: Last Day Well-Spent in Hong Kong Island
The past 2 days have been undoubtedly action packed. I usually reserve my last day during a trip to chill and do a bit of shopping. But there’s still much to see in Hong Kong Island. No time to waste here!
If you’re feeling touristy, schedule a visit to Madam Tussauds situated at the The Peak. It’s the first ever wax museum in Asia with about 100 wax figures displayed at the museum. It would be such a shame not to go.
Board the Peak Tram with the nearest MTR at Central Station. You will be transported to Victoria Peak through the Sky Terrace. Take this chance to bask in the panorama of the city from The Peak, the highest point in Hong Kong Island. Afterwards, hop your way to the infamous wax museum!
For lunch, it was a choice between going to Kam Kee or Luk Yu Tea House. The latter is known for its history. Built in 1933, this lovely teahouse takes you years back with its Eastern art deco interiors! They serve old-school Cantonese cuisine. The food is a bit pricey but if you have the money to spare, it’s worth a try. Nothing beats good food with a perfect ambience. Nearest MTR is at Central Station. Address: No.24-26 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong. Open at 7:00am to 9:00pm from Mondays to Sundays.
If you haven’t had enough of shopping from the souvenir shops in Ngong Ping Village and Mong Kok, the PMQ or Police Married Quarters is an area to consider. From being a six story school, to to a site recruiting police in the 1940s, this architectural landmark has been turned into a building filled with shops.
This building has become a hub for budding designers and entrepreneurs. Spend 2-3 hours scouring for great finds made by the young bloods! Wrap your Hong Kong trip by dining and drinking cocktails in one of the joints situated inside the heritage building.
PMQ is located at 35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong. Nearest MTR is from Sheung Wan Station.
Where to Stay in Hong Kong
Budget: The place to stay if you are looking for convenience, Mini Hotel Central Hong Kong is located in Lan Kwai Fong area and is a short walk to Central MTR Station. The rooms are tiny and service almost non-existent but if value for money and location are what you’re after then this is the place to stay.
Midrange: A good midrange option I typically recommend is City Garden Hotel located near Fortress Hill MTR Station. The area is refreshingly devoid of tourists but still convenient enough to several good eateries.
Luxury: You can’t go wrong with the grand dame – Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. It’s the property that spurred dozens more of this iconic chain. Personally one of my favorite hotels in the world. Excellent service through and through.