With Cathay Pacific offering non-stop (and very comfortable) flights to Hong-Kong from IAD these days, Asia has never seemed closer/within reach.
So, for those who made a New Year’s resolution to travel more and are planning to treat themselves in the months to come – a selection of sights, sounds and bites not to miss, even if, like we, you only had a couple of days to enjoy the island.
First thing you should know is that Hong Kong is a city of neighborhoods and choosing the one you stay in will largely affect the way you experience the city.
From the mainstream Central, to the hipstery Sheung Wan to arty SoHo and boutique-y Mid-Levels all the way to more authentic seeming Kowloon neighborhoods with their night markets and hidden alleys, the island offers a myriad of choose-your-own-adventure options which may seem both exciting and overwhelming at times.
Central, while maybe a predictable choice, is a good place to start, if you’re new here. It is, as the name indicates, centrally located, and a lot of the recognizable brand hotels got their start here and have flagship outposts (to include the glorious Mandarin Oriental, where our group was lucky to reside), and for those wanting a D.C. connection far from home – Eaton House has a sister Kowloon outpost.
From there, everything from Mid-Levels to water-tours is a quick walk away and you can use it as a point to build up your Hong Kong exploration radius from. So, what to do with your time, once you arrive?
What to see?
Hong Kong has a few can’t misses for all first time visitors:
Victoria Peak – Hong Kong is all about the views. While the water-ones are much celebrated, a good aerial view of the city is equally coveted and there is no better one than that from “The Peak”, the highest point on Hong Kong Island. To get there? take the Peak tram, Asia’s oldest funicular and is the quickest and most scenic way to reach the summit.
Symphony of Lights – Speaking of water views – the skyscrapers of Hong Kong allow for a sunset boat ride that is part Vegas, part Disneyland (Hong Kong happens to have its versions of both), ALL HONG KONG. A sampler:
Mid-Level Escalators – Yes, escalators. It doesn’t sound that exciting but these are not just any escalators, this is the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator system, and a unique solution to navigating the hilly terrain of the island, coming up to almost 1 mile of moving sidewalks. They only run in one direction, depending on the day, but you can make your way in the opposite one by checking out the little boutiques that dot the side streets of mid-levels.
Tian Tanh Buddha – also known as the Big Buddha, took 12 years to make and is Hong Kong’s most recognizable and iconic landmark, and sits atop a 268-step hike. Well worth the exercise.
Tai Kwun Center for Heritage And Art – Beyond a museum, Tai Kwun A WORLD. One of Hong Kong’s biggest conservation projects to date and arguably the best art space in the city right now. Start with the world-class contemporary art on display, take in some theatre, take a stroll through the former Central Police Station, or the Victoria Prison or the Central Magistracy and see historic architecture up close. Then, grab a bite or a drink on site – the bars/restaurants are excellent too.
Street Art – the streets of Hong Kong are brimming with colorful art – this Time Out guide does a great job singling out some of the best spots, including the unmissable Man Fung building.
Fringe Club – When Central start seeming a little too safe/clean/fancy – check out Fringe Club – a hub for independent art, stand-up comedy and general quirkiness. Built in 1892 in a former cold-storage factory, the famed red-and-white brick building is now one of the most vibrant art spaces in Hong Kong, also featuring a legitimately cool rooftop garden bar for a drink/bite before or after some art.
Hong Kong Heritage Museum – The largest museum in the city, the Hong Kong Heritage Museum specializes in history, art and culture such as Cantonese Opera and traditional Chinese art, but also hosts regular themed exhibitions ranging from Pixar to, currently, (and until 2020), a pretty magical Bruce Lee exhibition here complete with tons of memorabilia.
Very Instagrammable Spots:
Markets of Kowloon – Hong Kong is also famous for many street markets. There’s a little something for everyone: night markets, ladies markets, flower markets, food markets, bird markets, and, hey, even a goldfish market.
Avenue Of The Stars – There was a time when Hong Kong’s filmic output was only bested by Hollywood and Bollywood, and produced names such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, the Shaw Brothers, John Woo and Wong Kar-wai. Avenue of Stars pays tribute to these names and many more, and selfie opportunities abound from shots with the actor sculptures to themed exhibits and more.
Monster Mansions – just google it.
Architecture in General – the skyscraper, mega building puzzle that is Hong Kong lends itself to some amazing photos. Even if you are just standing on a city basketball court, it could look like you’re in a movie.
And that is just the tip of the ice-berg. Use these as starting points and see where the adventure takes you.
Planning to visit mainland China while there? Check out our 72 Hours In Shangai story as well. (all photos courtesy of Unsplash)