There are few cities on Earth as exciting and enticing as Hong Kong. Its chaotic streets, glimmering skyscrapers, flashing neon signs and cultural fusion all combine to create a city that attracts some 40 million visitors a year.
But skyscrapers, crowded streets and glistening shopping malls are a feature of many an Asian city – what makes Hong Kong unique? What are the things to do in Hong Kong that you can’t do in Singapore or Tokyo? Here we bring you ten unique Hong Kong experiences to try during your visit – from riding the world’s steepest furnicular railway, to enjoying a dim sum blowout, or sipping cocktails in the world’s highest bar.
Ride the Peak Tram
The Peak is Hong Kong’s most popular tourist attraction – with visitors flocking here to enjoy the best views over the city from its viewing platform at 428m above sea level. There are also visitor attractions, nature walks and plenty of dining options at the top. The best way to reach the Peak (at least the first time you visit – after that you will probably choose to avoid the queues and take a taxi!) is to take the Peak Tram, a truly unique Hong Kong travel experience.
The Peak Tram opened in 1888, when the majority of people travelling up the peak were being transported via sedan chair, and has since transported tens of millions of passengers. The journey aboard the world’s steepest funicular railway is less than five minutes long, covering just 1.4 kilometres – but climbing almost 400 metres in this time. The angle of the tram is so steep – 27 degrees at its most extreme – that you get the impression that the buildings are leaning into the mountain.
You can buy discounted Peak Tram tickets online at Klook Travel here.
Visit the Big Buddha
The Tian Tan Buddha, aka the Big Buddha, is one of the largest seated Buddhas in the world at 34 metres high, and is made entirely of bronze. If you are visiting with small children, bear in mind that you have to climb 268 steps to reach the Buddha – but the feeling of being so close to this enormous Buddha once you get to the top is worth it. Half the fun of this unique Hong Kong experience is getting there – a 25-minute cable car journey aboard the Ngong Ping 360, offering spectacular views out over the South China Sea.
You can buy discounted tickets for the Ngong Ping 360 online at Klook Travel here.
Read more about Visiting the Big Buddha here.
Drink Cocktails at Ozone
Hong Kong has one of the most spectacular skylines in the world, with its incredible array of skyscrapers lining Victoria Harbour, against the backdrop of the looming mountains. Every night at 8pm, more than 40 of the city’s tallest buildings take part in the Symphony of Lights – the world’s largest permanent light and sound show.
This orchestration of music, coloured lights and laser beams lasts 14 minutes and is best enjoyed with a cocktail in your hand – and where better to head than the Highest Bar in the World? Ozone is the bar to claim this title, and is located on the 118th floor of the Ritz Carlton hotel in Kowloon.
Brave the outdoor terrace for vertigo-inducing views of Hong Kong Island and order yourself the aptly named Hong Kong Rooftop – a blend of salted caramel, vodka, kumquat, grapefruit juice, strawberry and lemon juice.
Hike the Dragon’s Back
Hong Kong is renowned for its skyscrapers and urban sprawl, and so people are often surprised to discover that there are some fabulous hiking trails surrounding the city. Around 38% of the land surrounding Hong Kong has been designated as country park, and within these country parks are hundreds of kilometres of well signposted hiking trails.
The Dragon’s Back is one of the best introductions to hiking in Hong Kong. This 2-hour hike forms part of the Hong Kong Trail – a 50km trail that traverses Hong Kong island through five country parks. The Dragon’s Back is a relatively easy hike (children aged 5 and up should be able to manage it), offering spectacular views of Hong Kong’s southside and ends on Big Wave Bay beach, where you can rehydrate to the sound of the crashing waves.
Read more in our article Hiking the Dragon’s Back, Hong Kong
Spend a Day on a Junk
A favourite Hong Kong experience amongst the local population is to jump on a boat and head out to sea. Grab a group of friends and spend the day exploring the outlying islands, frolicking on a beach or floating in rubber rings off the back of the boat. Boat hire ranges from the very basic to the drool-worthy billionaire fantasy models, where uniformed staff ensure your champagne glass is never empty.
Eat Dim Sum at City Hall
You can’t visit Hong Kong without enjoying at least one dim sum blowout at one of Hong Kong’s best dim sum restaurants, and the most famous place to do this is Maxim’s Palace at City Hall. Set in an enormous banqueting hall, Maxim’s Palace is big, bright and brash and crammed to the rafters with noisy dim sum goers.Maxim’s is one of the best places to enjoy this unique Hong Kong experience as it is one of only a few restaurants left in the city where dim sum is still served the traditional way – from steaming carts, piled high with bamboo baskets, pushed around by surly uniformed waitresses. If you don’t know the names of the dim sum dishes in Chinese, just point and smile and hope for the best. If you can, avoid the weekends – or be prepared to queue for a long time.
Find more suggestions for the Best Restaurants in Hong Kong for Dim Sum here.
Ride the Star Ferry
The iconic Star Ferry has been ploughing across Victoria harbour between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island for over a hundred years, and continues to carry tens of millions of passengers every year. It is one of the most famous Hong Kong travel experiences and is also one of the best ways to take in the Hong Kong skyline, so be sure to enjoy the trip during both the day and night – and for just $2.50 HKD ($3.40 at weekends) per ride, you can afford to.
Ride the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator
The Central-Mid-Levels escalator is the longest system of escalators in the world, with more than 20 escalators and moving walkways winding their way from Central all the way up through Soho to the Mid-Levels. Opened in 1993, the escalator was constructed to ease the commute for thousands of residents in notoriously hilly Hong Kong, and today carries more than 60,000 people every day along its 800m length.
To ride the whole thing would take around twenty minutes, but you can hop on and off at each road that it bisects along the way. From a visitor’s point of view, it is a great way to get a feel of Hong Kong life, particularly through the Soho section where you are afforded views down over the bustling streets. Definitely a unique Hong Kong experience.
The escalators run downhill from 6am – 10am, then uphill from 10.30am til midnight.
Enjoy a Seafood Lunch on an Outlying Island
Hong Kong is blessed with more than 200 outlying islands just waiting to be explored. While reaching many of these is difficult without your own boat, the bigger islands are easily accessible via ferry. Probably the most popular island for a day trip is Lamma Island, thanks to its strip of seafood restaurants in Sok Kwu Wan.
Thousands of Hong Kong residents descend on Lamma Island at weekends to crowd around plastic tables and indulge in fresh seafood that is plucked from the large fish tanks in front of the restaurants. Other popular island destinations to enjoy this unique Hong Kong experience and enjoy a seafood lunch include Cheung Chau and Po Toi Island.
Party on Lan Kwai Fong
Love it or hate it, ‘hitting the Fong’ on a night out is a quintessential part of Hong Kong life and a Hong Kong experience not to be missed. This popular nightlife zone sees raucous partygoers spilling into the streets, downing jello shots and singing along to 1990s soft rock. What’s not to love?
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