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 Taipei?
If you are wondering what to do in Hong Kong to make the most of your visit, here are ten unique Hong Kong activities to try – 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 must do in Hong Kong. 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.
As with other popular Hong Kong tourist attractions, the queues can get long here. A good way to avoid the queues is to book your tickets online before you go, then you can at least skip the ticket queue at the bottom of the hill. Also plan to get here early in the morning, before the tour buses arrive.
The Peak Tram opening hours are 7am to midnight every day. Click here to buy discounted Peak Tram tickets online.
Visit the Big Buddha
The Tian Tan Buddha, aka the Big Buddha, is one of the largest seated Buddhas in the world and one of the most popular attractions in Hong Kong.
This enormous Buddha is 34 metres high, and is made entirely of bronze. If you are visiting Hong Kong with kids, bear in mind that you have to climb 268 steps to reach the Buddha – but being so close to this enormous Buddha is a Hong Kong must see and totally worth climbing all those steps.
Half the fun of visiting this unique Hong Kong tourist spot is getting there – a 25-minute cable car journey aboard the Ngong Ping 360, offering spectacular views out over the South China Sea.
Bear in mind that this is one of the top things to do in Hong Kong for tourists, so you will want to get to the cable car early or be prepared to queue for a long time.
The Ngong Ping 360 opening hours are from 10am during the week, and 9am at weekends. Your best bet is to buy tickets online for the cable car to avoid ticket queues.
Just a short bus ride away from the Big Buddha you will find Tai O fishing village, Hong Kong’s oldest fishing village and another of our favourite unique Hong Kong experiences. Tai O is famous for its traditional stilt water houses and the Tai O pink dolphins.
Unfortunately its not so easy to spot the pink dolphins these days, but it is still nice to take a boat ride around the houses and take in the traditional atmosphere. You can also stop off at a local restaurant for lunch 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 and one of the most popular things to see in Hong Kong.
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. Add it to your Hong Kong to do list!
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 here and is one of the best things to do in Hong Kong if you want to get out of the city for a while.
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 detail of this Hong Kong hike in our article Hiking the Dragon’s Back, Hong Kong
Spend a Day on a Junk
One of the favourite things to do in HK 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.
If you don’t want to spend the whole day on the junk, there are companies running regular tours where you can spend just a couple of hours taking in the city skyline.
There are two famous traditional junks that take tourists on a sightseeing Hong Kong tour. The Duk Ling is Hong Kong’s oldest surviving sailing junk, dating from 1955, while the Aqua Luna is a popular alternative.
Both of these junks offer evening cruises that co-incide with the Symphony of Lights show at 8pm. The Aqua Luna also offers a weekend tour across to Stanley.
Eat Dim Sum at City Hall
You can’t visit enjoy the best of Hong Kong without having at least one dim sum blowout at one of Hong Kong’s best dim sum restaurants.
For a quintessentially Hong Kong experience, you need to head to Maxim’s Palace at City Hall, one of the most famous places to go in Hong Kong for dim sum. 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 known as where to go in Hong Kong for dim sum, as it is one of only a few restaurants left in the city where food is still served the traditional way – from steaming dim sum push 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.
Not only is it used by commuters throughout the day, it is also one of the most popular Hong Kong attractions for tourists. It has become such a famous Hong Kong travel experience because it is one of the best ways to do some Hong Kong sightseeing, offering great views of the skyline.
Be sure to enjoy the trip during both the day and night – and for just $2.70 HKD ($3.70 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 take in the Hong Kong sights and get a feel of local 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
Another of the best places to see in Hong Kong are the outlying islands, of which there are more than 200 outlying 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, as its strip of seafood restaurants in Sok Kwu Wan is known as one of the best places in Hong Kong to enjoy a seafood lunch. 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 is one of the most popular places to visit in Hong Kong at nighttime and sees raucous partygoers spilling into the streets, downing jello shots and singing along to 1990s soft rock.
I mean – what’s not to love?!
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