Our guide to the tiny dot on the map and its huge culture
Hong Kong is where steely glass clad skyscrapers meet old traditions, a culture of innovation, and lush nature brimming with hidden riches. You might be surprised to know that some three quarters of the iconic bustling city is cloaked in stretches of country parks and mountains. Beneath its image as a fast-moving commercial powerhouse, another persona that speaks to the city’s roots can be found in Hong Kong’s teeming markets, old double-decker trams, or simply by gazing at its unforgettable skyline. This tiny dot on the southern tip of China was a self-governing British colony until 1997, when it then became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China. Although petite, there’s nothing small about its huge culture, sights, and food.
"A vital cornerstone of Hong Kong’s dynamic culture, is food. You’ll find every cuisine under the sun to take your fancy."
Dotted throughout its diverse cityscape, are echoes of Hong Kong’s Chinese heritage, colonial past, and the rising talent of home-grown youngsters. It is a place where you’ll find a time-worn temple sit cheek by jowl with towering modern apartments and sleek mall complexes. You can enjoy Cantonese opera performed on a bamboo clad stage, then relish in Verdi at a concert hall the very next night.
With no sales tax, Hong Kong draws to its shores many a shopping enthusiast. After all you can find anything for every budget to satisfy the fashionistas and gadget fanatics alike - from extravagant shopping centres and fashionable insider boutiques to busy electronics markets. Each district has its own personality and with one of the most efficient and comfortable transport systems on the planet, roaming the city and a quick excursion to its charming islands is a piece of cake.
A vital cornerstone of Hong Kong’s dynamic culture, is food. You’ll find every cuisine under the sun to take your fancy, whether it be Cantonese, Japanese, Italian, French, or celebrity chefs’ latest fusion affair. Veggie? - not to worry. Have a sweet tooth? - you've got it covered. A few of the mouthwatering treats which are a definitive must when in this food-loving city are: dim sum at a traditional restaurant, wonton noodles and congee at a diner, and Hong Kong milk tea paired with Hong Kong style French toast. On the streets, cushiony egg puffs and springy fish balls are unmissable delights.
With the My Hong Kong Guide phone app you can effortlessly plan your adventures in the city that never sleeps. Take a look at our curation of captivating Hong Kong experiences, that’ll give you an itch for more.
8 ways to experience a dynamic Hong Kong
Cantonese Opera at Ko Shan Theatre
Cantonese opera or “Guangdong drama” is a traditional form of theatre that originates from Guangdong. This distinctive and vibrant form of art was bought with the arrival of early immigrants of Guangdong to Hong Kong, where they established Cantonese as the city’s predominant language. Shrill vocal tunes, remarkable costume, acrobatics and marital art sequences are all part of Cantonese opera’s charm. One of the few remaining places where you can enjoy this variety is in Ko Shan Theatre, a popular venue for the art form. First opened in 1983, the theatre has since been renovated and enlarged to include a new wing. Head to Hung Hom in Kowloon for a taste of this oftentimes lengthy but one of a kind show.
Temple Street Night Market
As yet another lively evening approaches in Hong Kong, Temple Street has already been laced with hawkers - herbalists, fortune tellers, and the occasional Cantonese opera singer being to emerge. The later it is, the more animated this renowned nightly market gets. Here you will find an assortment of antiques, tea ware, electronics, designer label fakes, and inexpensive clothes amongst other everyday items. Whilst bargaining may not be your thing, Temple Street Night Market is a hive of activity and a superb place to soak in the local atmosphere. Aromatic dai pai dong or street food stalls pack a punch with local delights - from hearty clay pot rice to fresh seafood. You can reach this market easily by taking the MTR to either Yau Ma Tei station, or Jordan station.
Hong Kong Wetland Park
Nestled in the north of Tin Shui Wai in the New Territories, Hong Kong Wetland park is a calm oasis for marine life and a plentiful variety of water-bird species to flourish - a world away from the noisy city streets. With 60 hectares of wetland reserve and a 10,000 square-metre visitor centre that showcases themed exhibitions, the park is perfect for families and nature lovers. The park’s winding boardwalk allows visitors to stroll effortlessly through the reserve, ideal for those who want to stay clear of any mud. The extensive wetland’s custom designed habitats cater to different birds including the Amur Paradise Flycatcher, creating the perfect platform to bird watch and unwind. Also home to salt water crocodile “Pui Pui” since 2006, the Wetland Park is just an MTR ride away from tranquil nature.
Lamma Island is home to Hong Kong’s traditional Chinese fishing village. The multi-cultural haven embraces laid-back living with a marriage between Chinese and Western island life. The easy-going atmosphere at Lamma is tantalising for many busy Hong Kongers eager to catch a break from the noise and endless throngs of people in the city centre. The roots of the island are in its fishing tradition and way of living, although it’s no longer the same industry as it once was. Fisherfolk’s Village is a floating fishermen's village and a step back in time, to when the fishing trade was thriving at Lamma. Through an attentive guided tour, visitors can try their hand at catching fish, weaving ropes, and catch a glimpse of life onboard a traditional fisherman boat and junk. This preservation project led by a Lamma native is a prized insight into Hong Kong’s history, but is off the beaten track. Tickets for this unique experience can be found online.
A modern side to Lamma reveals many boutiques and hipster finds on Yung Shue Wan Main Street. For the avid hiker, extraordinary trails fascinate with WWII Kamikaze Caves and delight with sweeping coastal views. Catch a tan with the locals at Hung Shing Yeh Beach, or settle upon a chilled out bar to watch the sun set on this restful island.
Old Walled Village Kat Hing Wai
Before the dawn of metropolitan Hong Kong as we know it, the city was a modest collection of small communities that made home behind the walls of villages. In the New Territories many traces of this past still remain, and the traditional way of life survives in walled villages. In the rural outskirt of Yuen Long, Kat Hing Wai has stood for over 500 years. First built in the Ming dynasty, the characteristically rectangle-shaped village is built from blue brick. The old walled village was first inhabited by the Tang clan who built high walls to guard themselves from robbers and rival clans long ago, and whose descendants still live in the village today. Hong Kong’s intriguing and sometimes forgotten past is still alive in Kat Hing Wai - its stories echoed in time-worn walls. Venture to the old village with ease by taking the MTR to Kam Sheung Road station.
tai mei tuk kayaking & biking
A leisurely workout whilst soaking in views of none other than Hong Kong’s magnificent coastline - sea kayaking is a popular activity whether you’re an action junkie, a family, or a group of close friends. Kayaks can be found with ease on many beaches, but if you want to prep yourself for the briny deep then the sheltered northern shore of Tolo Harbour makes for a great starting point. A bus ride away from Tai Po Market MTR, Tai Mei Tuk is the starting point for many outdoor adventures. Tai Mei Tuk Water Sports Centre offers a training day for extremely reasonable prices, at £4 pounds for a whole day although booking well in advance is a must. Once you’re warmed up, you can book one of their kayak excursions to experience more isolated islands and hidden enclaves in the area.
Just a few minutes walk away is Plover Cove Reservoir, the world’s first man-made lake to be made from the sea. Rent a bike from a kiosk and coast along its breezy pathway, or take a kite with you to fly. Here you can revel in unobstructed views of surrounding mountains on your active day out.
Tsim Sha Tsui is a shopaholic’s utopia
This popular small getaway embraces a slower pace of life - with no motorised traffic and a network of winding alleys and side streets, Cheung Chau Island is like a scaled down and chilled out version of Hong Kong. Aside from hosting the world renown Cheung Chau Bun Festival, the island’s inviting waters are where Olympic windsurfing champion Lee Lai Shan once trained. Cheung Chau is a strollers paradise - the many nooks and crannies of the small island can be explored by foot. Follow Sai Tai Road from the pier and wander past a coastal panorama, evocative views of fishermen boats, Tin Hau Temple and Cheung Po Tsai Cave where a 19th century pirate once hid. Fresh seafood is popular in Cheung Chau, but you can also sample other quirky street food inventions such as a mammoth version of the classic fish ball. For the Beach Breezers, Tung Wan Beach is a popular spot for visitors and locals alike - with a view of Lamma Island and Aberdeen it’s the ultimate venue for a relaxed family day or romantic getaway.
tsim sha tsui east promenade & shopping
Stretching nearly all the way from New World Centre to Hung Hom MTR station, Tsim Sha Tsui East’s breezy promenade is the prime spot to steep in undisturbed views of Hong Kong’s memorable skyline. Visit in the day for a relaxing stroll or at night to catch the nightly dramatic sound-and-light show - Symphony of Lights. A dazzling display involving light, sound, and some forty structures within the city’s skyline, the show is a highly charged way to end the night or start it! The promenade is also a great spot to grab a much needed outdoor aperitif or digestif and put those feet up after a long day of exploring.
The Avenue of Stars is part of the promenade’s lengthy stretch paying tribute to Hong Kong’s stars and film industry. Featuring sculptures and hand prints, the avenue celebrates Hong Kong’s homegrown talent. The promenade becomes especially busy during New Year and Dragon Boat Festival, and will be closed during the end of 2018 for renovation work.
Apart from its popular promenade, Tsim Sha Tsui is also a shopaholic’s utopia. It’s like one big market where goods from all over the world can be found in simple stalls, chic boutiques, abundant malls, and noisy markets. Even if you’re not planning to splash out, there’s more than enough for the eyes to feast upon. On the crowded streets of Tsim Sha Tsui you’ll roam past eccentric memorabilia, glitzy jewellery, the latest cameras, and traditional tailors. For those who want a break from the heat, slip into one of the cool and spacious malls: The One, K11, or iSQUARE. Canton Road or Harbour City (the city’s largest shopping mall) is the place to be for luxury designer labels.
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