Things to see and do in Hong Kong
Attractions in Hong Kong
The impressive Central Plaza (www.centralplaza.com.hk) is 78-stories high. Visitors can view the city from the Sky Lobby on its 46th floor. After 1800 each day, neon rooftop lights change colour every hour to denote the time.
Chi Lin Nunnery
Take a relaxing stroll around the Chi Lin Nunnery, a modern complex built in a spectacular Tang Dynasty style; continue across a footbridge to the pleasant Nan Lian Gardens. To see Hong Kong's only historic pagoda, head for the Tsui Shing Lau Pagoda, which was built in 1486 in the Yuen Lang district.
Disneyland Hong Kong
At Disneyland Hong Kong (www.hongkongdisneyland.com), on Lantau Island, visitors can meet characters old and new, from Mickey Mouse to Buzz Lightyear, and can tour the park aboard the Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad. It’s small by Disneyland standards, but attractions range from the Jungle River Cruise of Adventureland to the rollercoasters in Tomorrowland.
Walk along the Dragon's Back on the south side of Hong Kong Island, which follows a ridge and gives spectacular views. It takes about two hours to complete, and isn’t too challenging. Start at the To Tei Wan Shuen bus stop, and finish with dinner in one of the restaurants in Shek O Village.
Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware
An imposing colonial-style building in Hong Kong Park, the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware houses ancient Chinese artefacts used in tea-making. Dating from 1846, the building is the former residence of the colonial Commander-in-Chief, and the oldest surviving colonial building in Hong Kong. For more information, contact the tourist board for details of classes held in the tea shop next door.
Happy Valley Racecourse
Vast sums of money change hands at Hong Kong's horse-racing meetings, held from September to June on Wednesday evenings (around 1900-2300). The easiest racecourse to access is Happy Valley (www.happyvalleyracecourse.com), which is on a tram route on Hong Kong Island. There is another racecourse in the New Territories, in Sha Tin (www.sha-tin.com).
Hong Kong Park
A popular escape from the busy city streets, Hong Kong Park includes plenty of green space as well as an aviary, fountains, a restaurant and the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre. On Wednesday mornings at 0800 there are organised birdwatching sessions starting from the artificial lake; these are cancelled when there’s a cyclone warning of level 3 or above.
Kowloon Walled City Park
This park and garden were developed on the site of an old fort with a fascinating history. Built by the Chinese after the British first took Hong Kong, the fort did not surrender when Kowloon became part of British territory. It remained a semi-autonomous community until the Japanese tore down the walls during World War II, after which it was squatted. Today, the park includes a small museum with photographs of the old walled city.
One of the most pleasant of Hong Kong’s outlying islands (along with Cheung Chau and Lantau Islands). The best reason to visit Lamma Island is to explore its car-free pathways, although the very good seafood restaurants in Sok Kwu Wan are arguably more popular. The beaches draw crowds too at weekends, although pollution makes swimming inadvisable.
Head across the New Territories on Hong Kong's longest hike, the 100km-long (62-mile) MacLehose Trail. Although some people do it in one exhausting go, as on the annual Oxfam Trailwalker fundraising event, it has been split into ten sections each taking from 90 minutes to five hours. Along the way it takes on Hong Kong's highest peak, Tai Mo Shan (985m/3,231ft).
Not part of the Hong Kong at all, but another Special Autonomous Region which was returned to China by Portugal in 1999, Macau is a very popular destination for day trips and weekend breaks. Locals and mainland Chinese are, on the whole, most interested in the casinos (as there are none in Hong Kong), but there are also some delightful older parts of the enclave (which is actually two islands which were artificially joined).
Man Mo Temple
One of Hong Kong’s oldest Chinese temples, Man Mo honours the gods of literature (Man) and war (Mo). It’s an atmospheric spot in a busy part of town, with large spirals of incense hanging overhead. While in the area, browse through the bric-a-brac shops and street market on Hollywood Road and Upper Lascar Row (known as ‘Cat Street’).
Thought to be the world's most densely populated urban area, Mong Kok provides the ultimate opportunity to mingle with the crowds. Exotic fish and amphibians are sold at the Goldfish Market, and intricate bamboo birdcages and songbirds can be purchased near the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden.
Ngong Ping 360 and Tian Tan Buddha
The 5.7km-long (3.5-mile) Ngong Ping 360 cable car (www.np360.com.hk) is one of the top attractions on Lantau Island, travelling between Tung Chung town centre and Ngong Ping. It offers stunning views across North Lantau Country Park and Tung Ching Bay, as well as of the giant Tian Tan Bhudda statue. Part of the development is Ngong Ping Village, a small theme park incorporating family-friendly attractions such as Walking with Buddha, the Monkey's Tale Theatre, the Ngong Ping Tea House and several dining, retail and entertainment outlets. The Po Lin Monastery, also at the top, is also likely to be interesting to most visitors.
The pristine beach at Repulse Bay is one of the most popular on the southern coast of Hong Kong Island, and on sunny weekends it can get extremely busy. To get away from the crowds walk to Middle Bay or South Bay. Alternatively, visit the Tin Hau Temple, which overlooks Repulse Bay. Another good beach destination is Cheung Sha, a white sandy beach on Lantau Island, which has the awe-inspiring Shek Pik Reservoir Dam. One-day island-hopping tickets allow unlimited ferry trips between islands.
Sai Kung country parks
The excellent country parks at Sai Kung East and West, in the New Territories, are home to macaque monkeys, wild boar, civet cats, barking deer and the Chinese pangolin. Sai Kung Town, the nearest settlement and a former fishing village, is known for its seafood restaurants. For birdwatching, try the Mai Po marshes near Yuen Long (www.wwf.org.hk/eng/maipo), while visitors can look out for the Chinese pink dolphin near Lantau Island.
Go shopping down bustling Nathan Road in Kowloon. Grab a bargain at Stanley Market. In Yau Ma Tei, stalls set up at 1400 on Temple Street for the Night Market, selling everything from electrical goods to incense sticks.
St John’s Cathedral
Observe glimpses of Hong Kong's colonial past at St John's Cathedral, thought to be the oldest Christian church in the Far East. Other vestiges of the colonial era can be found at Government House, the residence of 25 British governors from 1855 until Hong Kong's handover to China in 1997 (www.ceo.gov.hk/gh/eng). It is closed to the public except on an annual open day.
Hong Kong has over 30 highly acclaimed beaches. Excellent snorkelling, waterskiing, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, and fishing are available. Watersports equipment can be hired from beaches and hotels in Stanley and Sai Kung. One-day island-hopping tickets allow unlimited ferry trips between islands.
Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, in the New Territories hills above Sha Tin, houses around 13,000 small Buddha statues. Also in the New Territories, amble around a beautifully designed complex, located in Tuen Mun, which features pavilions, bonsai trees, lotus ponds and a Taoist temple.
Tolo Harbour Cycling Track
For an easy ride through scenic countryside, cycle on the Tolo Harbour Cycling Track, running from Sha Tin to Tai Po. Bikes are available for hire near KCR stations. Most outlying islands do not allow cars.
The green and white tub-shaped Star Ferry (www.starferry.com.hk) vessels have been a familiar sight around Hong Kong since the 1920s and are a much-cherished symbol of the city. Far more important, however, is the fact that their decks give one of the best available and most affordable views, day or night, of the waterfronts of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon – not to mention the plethora of ocean traffic surging through the shipping lanes.
The view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak (www.thepeak.com.hk) is a must-see, and the journey up on the Peak Tram from Garden Road is no less spectacular. At the top, visitors will find the seven-storey Peak Tower, which is a good vantage point. Alternatively, go for a wander along the various roads, including one up to the very top, and the steep Old Peak Road down to Central in around 40 minutes.
Wong Tai Sin Temple
The ornately decorated Wong Tai Sin Temple, located in Kowloon, combines Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist traditions. The temple is spectacularly colourful with its red pillars, golden ceiling and decorated latticework, and attracts around three million visitors per year. Arguably more interesting than the building itself are the fortune-tellers in their arcade of booths.
Hong Kong Tourism Board in the USAAddress: 370 Lexington Avenue, Suite 1812, New York, 10017
Telephone: (212) 421 3382.
Hong Kong Tourism Board in the UKAddress: 6th Floor, Mutual House, 70 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2GF
Telephone: (020) 7432 7700.