Planning your first trip to Hong Kong?
Then you’re in for a treat!
Asia’s most emblematic city offers an eclectic mix of old-world culture and modern luxury living.
Hong Kong is steeped in tradition yet chock full of contemporary constructions.
The territory’s allure lies in its long-lasting reputation as the gateway between East and West. British and Chinese influences run rife here, creating a melting pot of both culture and ethnicity.
Of course, the city boasts a plethora of bucket list attractions to explore, as well. Here are the top 15 to help you plan your upcoming trip.
Hong Kong travel essentials
Before we dive into your Hong Kong bucket list, let’s go over the essential travel information to make sure you can make your Hong Kong dreams a reality.
Traveling into and out of Hong Kong
As Asia’s fourth busiest travel hub, Hong Kong International Airport welcomes a wide array of airlines from all over the world.
Thrifty travelers could opt to arrive on an uber-cheap carrier such as Air Asia, Scoot or HK Express.
Those traveling overland could come in on a metro via Shenzen. Or you could take a bus over the newly constructed Hong Kong–Zhuhai–Macau Bridge, which is the longest sea bridge in the world at an incredible 34 miles (55 kilometers).
If you’re staying in Hong Kong for a while and want to take a day or weekend trip, you can catch the TurboJET Ferry to try your luck at the offshore gambling haven of Macau.
Getting around Hong Kong
Hong Kong has an exciting array of public transportation options that, despite being a little crowded, work remarkably well.
Local buses are an option for the intrepid, while the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is fast and efficient.
Be sure to give the fun mid-level escalators a try, as well as the Star Ferry for excellent views. (But more on those later!)
Use a mobile app such as Baidu Maps to navigate the system.
Where to stay in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has loads of distinct districts, each appealing to a different type of traveler:
- Causeway Bay for shopaholics
- Central for luxury and business travelers
- Lan Kwai Fong for party animals
- SoHo for foodies
- Sheung Wan for bohemians
- Mong Kok for market aficionados
Communicating in Hong Kong
English is widely spoken in Hong Kong, thanks to a prolonged period of British rule. However, it definitely isn’t the most common language in the territory.
The most spoken language in Hong Kong is Cantonese, followed by Mandarin. (English is third.) While Cantonese is the most popular, Mandarin has become more and more common since Hong Kong became a territory of China in 1997.
If you’re only traveling to Hong Kong, then study up on your Cantonese!
However, if your trip to Hong Kong is part of a longer trip around China, learning Mandarin will be more useful.
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Hong Kong Bucket List: 15 Adventures for the Time of Your Life
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1. Ride the mid-levels escalator
Escalators aren’t just for airports in Hong Kong—they also play a part in the public transportation system.
Located in the heart of Central (Hong Kong’s business district), this novel form of transport was constructed 25 years ago to whisk office workers up and down the steep inclines of the neighborhood streets.
The 18-part system spans over 2,600 feet (800 meters) and climbs some 440 feet (135 meters), making it the longest outdoor escalator network in the world.
2. Visit Tai O to discover a fascinating local community
On the western banks of Lantau Island lies Tai O, a community of fishermen who have been living in stilt houses for several generations. These peculiar, elevated residences are interconnected and only accessible by boat, resulting in a tight-knit community that thrives on the water.
The most scenic way to get there is by taking a ferry from Central Ferry Pier to Mui Wo and a connecting bus to Tai O.
3. Cruise around Victoria Harbour on a junk boat
Victoria Harbour is among the most iconic cityscapes on Earth, and there’s no better place to marvel at the view than the deck of a traditional Chinese junk boat.
Local companies such as Hong Kong Junks and Saffron Cruises supply charming old-world vessels at a reasonable price.
4. Ride the antiquated Peak Tram
Speaking of old-school transport, the rickety, wooden funicular known as the Peak Tram is a blast from the past, made especially entertaining for the sweeping views available en route.
In operation for over a century, the five-minute tram ride provides a fascinating insight into the city’s history and topography.
5. Enjoy the best view in Hong Kong from Sky Terrace 428
Your ride on the Peak Tram will lead you to the Peak Tower, an oddly shaped edifice full of family-friendly museums and malls.
The highlight is Sky Terrace 428, the highest viewing platform in Hong Kong at 428 meters (1,404 feet) above the sea.
6. Meet the marine animals at Ocean Park
In southern Hong Kong lies Ocean Park, a fun-filled, marine-themed amusement park packed full of exotic mammals and rides.
An impressive selection of oceanariums, wildlife experiences and rollercoasters are guaranteed to keep the whole family entertained.
7. Discover your inner child at Disneyland
If sea creatures aren’t their thing, bring the kids to the Hong Kong Disneyland instead.
Built over reclaimed land in Lantau Island, this ode to imagination is the most popular family-friendly destination in the city.
8. Meet the Tian Tan Buddha
For a sweeping lookout with a spiritual twist, make a beeline for the Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island.
Travelers need to navigate a flight of 268 steps to reach the majestic 35-meter bronze construction. But it’ll be worth it for the panorama up top! Expect to rub shoulders with pilgrims and international tourists alike.
9. Chow down at a $2 Michelin Star meal
The divine dumplings at Tim Ho Wan start at just 2 USD, meaning you don’t need to break the bank to indulge in world-class Cantonese cuisine.
Try their mouthwatering savory chicken and shiitake mushroom variety.
10. Shop till you drop in Hong Kong’s malls and markets
Hong Kong is a shopping mecca, attracting scores of retail-hungry vacationers from mainland China and further afield.
Pacific Place and Times Square are among the city’s most glamorous malls, while the Temple Street Night Market and the Ladies Market offer excellent al fresco bargains.
Looking for something specific? Try the Mong Kok Flower Market, Cat Street Antique Market or the Apliu Street Electronics Market.
Want to get even more specific? Check out the Tung Choi Street Goldfish Market, Yau Ma Tei Jade Market or the Tai Yuen Street Toy Market.
Yep, Hong Kong has it all!
11. Marvel at the Symphony of Lights
A giant laser and lights show has been illuminating the Hong Kong skyline since 2004, and it’s one heck of a sight to behold.
Head to the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront or the Golden Bauhinia Square to see the Symphony of Lights synchronized with music by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.
Alternatively, watch from aboard the Star Ferry in Victoria Harbour.
Either way, the show begins at 8:00 p.m. sharp.
12. Have a pint at Happy Valley Racecourse
Over 150 years of British rule brought in a number of outside influences, one of which was horse racing.
Make your way to Happy Valley Racecourse for a fun day out at the races with plenty of gambling and merrymaking to boot.
13. Check out the Chinese motion picture greats at the Avenue of Stars
It may not be as famous as Hollywood’s walk of fame, but Hong Kong’s Avenue of Stars is a fun experience nonetheless.
Occupying a harborfront promenade with spectacular views, the avenue is awash with the statues and handprints of China’s silver screen superstars. I’ll be honest though, you probably won’t recognize many names other than Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee.
14. Have a crazy night out at Lan Kwai Fong
Hong Kong may appear rather wholesome at first glance. But all that changes when you indulge in a wild night out at the party hotspot of Lan Kwai Fong.
Hong Kong’s enormous contingent of foreign expats lead the charge with their “work hard, play hard” mentality, meaning a boozy and debaucherous evening can be had virtually any night of the week.
Who knows? You may even become inspired to settle and work in Hong Kong as a means of indulging in this carefree lifestyle.
15. Ride the Star Ferry to Kowloon
The Star Ferry may be a regular old passenger service, but it also happens to take in spectacular views of the Victoria Harbour.
Kowloon, a region of northern Hong Kong, is thought to be the most densely populated region on Earth. So don’t expect a whole lot of tranquility upon arrival!
Must-see Hong Kong is widely considered one of the world’s premier travel destinations.
By keeping these Hong Kong bucket list attractions in mind, you’ll be able to fully appreciate everything this remarkable territory has to offer.
Harry is a South American-based freelance writer who covers travel, the arts and culture, among many other things.
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