Hong Kong is the perfect place for a stopover. A few hours or a couple of days, time to eat some Dim Sum, see the Peak and say Hi to Big Buddha, then you can hit the road again and head to your "real" destination. WRONG. Hong Kong is much more than that. This city offers plenty of opportunities, for all kind of profiles...
On the Southern coast of China is located a legendary city named Hong Kong... Known for its skyline and its deep natural harbor, it figures on most travelers' bucketlists. They travel here to get an idea of this autonomous territory of China -that Chinese city that is 'not really' Chinese-, usually from two to three days, enough to check all the must-do activities recommended on their Hong Kong guide.
Traveling in Hong Kong only for a few days would be way too frustrating. You would probably leave this place with more regrets in your heart than Dim Sum in your belly. Why? Well, let me tell you the 10 reasons NOT to come in Hong Kong for a stopover...
1|the amazing food scene
HK is one of the best places to eat in the world. You can find nearly everything here -I mean, the BEST of everything. If you come to Hong Kong City, you can spend pretty much all your time eating. Just eating.
Obviously, Hong Kong is known for its delicious Dim Sum, but also lots of strange Cantonese dishes such as the Snake Soup or Chicken Feet. It's time to be adventurous! The food scene is incredible here, and constantly evolving. The list of great places is endless, so I will just mention some of my musts -Asian style.
DIN TAI FUNG. If I would have one and only one night to spend here, that's where I would have dinner. Best Dim Sum I've tasted so far. And one of the cheapest Michelin Starred restaurant in the world.
G/F, 68 Yee Wo St, Causeway Bay. | 30, Canton Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui
THE SPICE HOUSE. You won't have any trouble to find a good, fancy Thai restaurant in HK. But it's always more complicated when you travel on a budget. Here's our secret spot: the food is GREAT, and you can eat for less than 5 bucks. Plus, they have green coconuts. And, you know, green coconut tastes like holidays. | 35 Amoy Street, Wan Chai.
HUI LAU SHAN. After a few failed attempts, I decided to stop with Asian desserts. Then these Mochis with fresh mango and coconut made me changed my mind. The shop is right in the middle of the shopping quarter, perfect for a sweet break. And it's GOOD! | Shop 3, G/F, 2-6 Yee Wo St, Causeway Bay.
2|the extreme sports
Buildings, shopping and parties, is that all this is about? Hong Kong is far from a regular big city. You'd be surprised by the many, many thrilling sports you can do here...
HUGE TRAMPOLINE PARKS. You'll look at people who really look stupid jumping like kids... then you'll do the same once on the trampoline. It's totally addictive. If you can't stand the crowds on the streets and need to explode somewhere, here's your place. | Bounce, EMAX, Kowloon Bay
AWARENESS OF THE BODY. More than a sport, Tai Chi is a religion here. Its graceful movements are choreographed to help balance the body’s internal yin and yang. The Hong Kong Tourism Board runs free Tai Chi classes for beginners, four days a week, with a trained Tai Chi practitioner.
WAKEBOARD ALL YEAR LONG. Of course, we need a wetsuit to ride on winter, but it's still a pleasure to be on the water. Every time we go there, we can't believe we're in Hong Kong. Thirty minutes from city center, it's a whole other world. The view is amazing... you feel like you're traveling when in Tai Tam Bay. | Tai Tam Wakeboarding Centre
EXTREME TRAIL RUNNING. 70% of the territory is nature in HK. With stunning national parks. All sorts of hikes/trails are possible here, you'll find out which one suits you in the The Serious Hiker's Guide to Hong Kong. Watch out for the exotic spiders and shy -and venomous- snakes... | Hong Kong Hikers Website
PADDLE BOARD YOGA. I looove to start the day doing some outdoor yoga -especially on the beach. But what about doing yoga on the water? I've never tried, and it's one of my list of resolutions for next year! | SUP Yoga Hong Kong
3|the constant festivities
In Hong Kong, people LOVE to celebrate. You wouldn't believe how many holidays they have per year! There is always a good reason, and there are always great traditions coming with the festivities...
CHINESE NEW YEAR. The atmosphere is vibrant. The flower market gets big and busy, people are all stressed and happy, running everywhere to make sure it will be ready for the D-day. You cross dragons dancing in malls, see gorgeous fireworks on the harbor, lanterns and decorations... Chinese New Year in Hong Kong is unique!
SUNDAYS IN CENTRAL. Did you know there are more than 300.000 helpers in Hong Kong? If they work very hard during the week, Sunday is their day off. Every week end, Central is packed with girls chatting and having parties on the street, dancing, singing... It's a totally different Hong Kong, radiating cheerfulness and fun.
DRAGON BOAT CARNIVAL. This event goes as far back as the 3rd century and is known for its energetic and colorful dragon boat races, where teams of paddlers race the long narrow boats accompanied by the beat of the drum down to the finish line. Every year, boats, beers and cheers draw hundreds of thousands of revelers and spectators.
MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL. It's one of the most important festivals of the year, with magical lantern exhibitions and carnivals all over the city, traditional fire dragon dance, mooncakes... It's Hong Kong's own traditional Full Moon party!
Read my post about Hong Kong's Mid-Autumn Festival
4|the spectacular city views
Without a doubt, Hong Kong has one of the most photographed city skylines in the world. The enormous futuristic buildings combine with the lush mountain backdrop to create a dramatic setting that is unrivaled.
Far from the flat ones, this city is rolling. If it's sometimes harsh on the legs, it's a wonderful playground for photographers. To capture the landscape the best way possible, take some heights and enjoy looking down on the city, rather than looking up for a change.
BANK OF CHINA. Did you know you can go up to the 43rd floor of one of Hong Kong skyline’s most recognizable and appreciated features to enjoy the view? You need your ID or your passport to be able to enter.
1 Garden Road, Central - Open during office hours.
THE WOOLOOMOOLOO. In the heart of Wan Chai, you'll be on a rooftop you won't forget quickly. Every time I go there I realize how crazy it is to leave in this city. The best time for pictures -and cocktails: sunset, of course.
31/F & Rooftop The Hennessy, 256 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai.
THE DRAGON'S BACK. Elected Best Urban Hiking Trail in Asia, this is a must. The trail go along the ridge of a mountain, overlooking the ocean. It finishes in Big Wave Bay, the perfect spot to fuel up at nearby outdoor cafes and to enjoy the beach. | From MTR Shau Kei Wan Station, Exit A3, take bus 9 to To Tei Wan on Shek O Road.
THE PEAK. Inevitable. Yes, it is beautiful. Romantic. Sensational. Unforgettable. Don't forget your tripod and your mosquito repellant. | Bus 15 to The Peak, or take the old-school Peak Tram
TSIM SHA TSUI. Avenue of Stars is the spot to watch the Symphony of Lights. The show runs every day at 8pm. I won't tell you more about it -just watch it! Nearby, the view from the Ozone Bar is spectacular -the highest bar in the world.
RED BAR. This bar has a stunningly spacious outdoor deck. It's perfect for a relaxing drink with your friends. Plus, you can come and bring your own food/drinks. | 4/f, ifc mall, 8 Finance Street, Central.
5|the shopping opportunities
As you can guess, we see more Prada and Vuitton stores than H&M here -luxurious is the new cool! Sure, it's easier to find nice and expensive stuff than to find the gem. But whether you’re a ‘mallster’ or a market hound, there’s plenty to choose from in Hong Kong.
SHAM SHUI PO. I LOVE getting lost in this district. From sewing equipment to jewelry, it's a heaven for the 'do it Yourself' kind of artists. Trust me, you'll never come back from Sham Shui Po with empty hands. You just need to find yourself the soul of an explorer, and you're good to go.
HARBOUR PLAZA. You'll have some trouble to find something for less than 200$ in this mall, but it's kind of unique: 700 shops in 5 floors, with a magnificent view. A paradise to feed all your fashion needs and to inspire a wardrobe revamp. Or, at least, a nice place for window shopping.
CAUSEWAY BAY. You could spend days here, just shopping. Times Square, 230 stores, spanning mid-price to luxury fashion, Sogo, the biggest Japanese department store in the city, with 12 floors, a 4 floors Forever 21, Jardine's Crest, a long and narrow street market cramped with clothing, accessories and tacky souvenir stores at good value. Everything. For everyone. A good place to lighten your wallet.
WAN CHAI COMPUTER CENTER. A place where you'll find some stuff you didn't even know it exists, which you'll suddently need. The prices here are out of competition. It's the place to buy. We bought our computer and camera here. So far, so good. | 130-138 Hennessy Rd, Wan Chai. MTR Wan Chai, exit B2.
6|the authentic Villages
Before skyscrapers and MTR, there were another Hong Kong... An authentic place with villages, tiny houses and charming lifestyle. Which still remains, in some parts of the territory. Some places that will change you idea of the 'city'.
TAI O. At 1.5h from the city, you're in the middle of a fishermen village, partially built on stilts. These unusual structures are interconnected, forming a tightly-knit community that literally lives on the water. You can enjoy a stroll through the traditional market with a vast array of dried seafoods and vegetables, which some are hard to recognize, and for 2$ only, you can explore the sea with a boat ride and try to spot the rare pink dolphins. | MTR Tung Chung + bus 11 to Tai O
CHEUNG CHAU ISLAND. Hop on a ferry for a day in Cheung Chau Island and disconnect from the city. Do like the locals and rent a bike to explore the village and the rest of the island. You will ride to lovely narrow alleys and discover a whole different part of HK. | Ferries from Central or Mui Wo.
MONG KOK BIRDS MARKET. That's kind of an original stroll. Yet another exotic and interesting find in the Mong Kok area. This street is full or colors, beautiful bird songs, insects and birds being fed squirming caterpillars with chopsticks. Again, a heaven for photographers! | MTR Prince Edward - Yuen Po Street, Mong Kok.
PENG CHAU. A few minutes from Lantau Island, you'll feel you're back in the old Hong Kong. Fishermen, local market, tiny boats, promenade, temples and, of course, delicious Dim Sum in local restaurants. Everything is here to spend a lovely day far from the crowds. Take it easy and soak up the serenity...
7|The art of feng shui in the gardens
Hong Kong overflows with little parks and gardens. It's one of the things I prefer in the city here. Bonsais elaborately carved, fountains, koi carpes, dry garden... You can find them pretty much everywhere! Open your eyes...
NAN LIAN GARDEN. Best place to appreciate the typical Chinese Feng Shui. This place is usually very quiet, peaceful and very tidy. One of my favorite places in HK. The adjacent vegetarian restaurant is excellent too. | MTR Diamond Hill
HONG KONG PARK. This outstanding green oasis is hidden amid the urban jungle. The park features a greenhouse, an impressive aviary, some beautiful fountains, lily ponds, a restaurant and even a marriage registry -Don't be surprised if come across a car decorated with satin ribbon and Hello Kitty teddy bears. It's common, here. | MTR Admiralty
ZEN ORGANIC FARM. Enjoy a little escape from the city in one of Hong Kong's best-kept secrets. Relax in this beautiful, informal garden setting where you can enjoy a wide variety of flowering and decorative plants that help to make this a unique destination for a lovely excursion. | Ping Che, Ta Kwu Ling, Fanling, Hong Kong
VICTORIA PEAK GARDEN. The peak above the Peak. You'll enjoy lush tropical forests and extensive birdlife, in a haven of calm with untrammeled views of the city. | Bus 15 to The Peak, then head uphill along Mount Austin Road
8|The hip coffee shops
Hong Kong boasts a thriving and very real coffee scene -of course, it's not only about the coffee, it's the whole experience that starts before the first sip...
The list of great places could go on and on, the option are endless, as new shops are opening every month! Here are some nice places to wander around until you find your hidden cafe spot!
SAI YING PUN. Since the MTR station opened, Sai Ying Pun became one of Hong Kong's trendiest neighborhoods. Head up to High Street and get lost in the tiny alleys, you could discover some treasures...
WAN CHAI. Get away from the crowds and the noise and explore the area around Sun, Moon and Star Streets (I know, the name are pretty inspiring already!). Among all the lovely shops, you will find your happiness.
TAI HANG. Tucked away behind the madness of Causeway Bay hides the charming Tai Hang district! It's packed with charming restaurants, bars and coffee shops from all over the world.
TAI PING SHAN. A lovely street livened by street art and art galleries, dotted with coffee shops. A great place to get lost, from vintage shops to cafés...
9|THE BEACHES & waterfalls
Summer in Hong Kong is veery hot and humid -like you've probably never seen before. Luckily, we have lots of options to refresh! There are approximately 50 beaches scattered over the Hong Kong, Kowloon and New Territories...
Not many people associate Hong Kong with world-beating beaches, however with over 200 Islands the territory is blessed with a host of top-quality beaches.
BIG WAVE BAY. Any surfers, here? You can find your spot in HK! This beach is our little Bali. Well, it's tiny, but the waves can be great sometimes for surfers or paddle-surfers, the water beautiful and the atmosphere awesome.
MTR Shau Kei Wan Station, Exit A3. Then bus 9 to Big Wave Bay Beach.
MAN CHEUNG PO'S INFINITY POOL. Arachnophobe, this isn't for you. I spent my time watching hundreds of yellow & black spiders on the way, terrified. But once you're in the Infinity Pool, it really worths the fright. You can treat yourself with a massage under the waterfalls or relax on a rock. | Bus 11 from Tung Chung to Tai O
TUNG PING CHAU. This is a full day trip, you're almost in China here. This is the easternmost outlying island of Hong Kong. It's far indeed, but it's so good to be really lost! Nobody, white sand an clear water... Pretty nice.
MTR East Rail to the University Station, then walk to Ma Liu Shui Pier and take a ferry to Tung Ping Chau.
STEPHENS BEACH. Lovely beach for a sunset barbecue & beers with your friends. When the sun comes down, you can move to the restaurants/bars in Stanley, 15 mins walk from there. | Bus 6, 6A, 260 or 6X from Central
TAI LONG WAN PAVILLON. This is THE ONE -our piece of paradise amid our urban jungle. After a little hike, the first beach emerges, emerald water and white sand, then, bonus upstream, rock pools and waterfalls. Finish the day with a sunset hike to the next beach, where you can camp. Waking up to the sound of waves is truly a special experience.
From MTR Diamond Hill Station, Exit C2, take bus 92 to Sai Kung bus terminus, then a taxi to Sai Wan Pavilion.
10|the pop-up parties & underground events
The best for the end... Hong Kong hosts enough drinking spots to knock you off course for hours, days or weeks. Are you ready to party?
JUNK BOATS. It's a tradition in HK! If you can get the chance to be invited in a junk boat party, don't hesitate. Every summer, from May to October, every week-ends, numerous boats leave the pier to go party on the sea. Food, beers, slides and jump in the sea, music... You can be sure to meet awesome people and to have great fun.
POOL PARTIES. The W Hotel Hong Kong Pool Party will make you feel you're on one of these American TV series! Can you picture yourself on the 76th floor of a luxury hotel, in a bikini, sipping a cocktail while admiring HK's skyline?
LADIES NIIIGHTS. Girls, tonight, drinks are on the house! On Wednesday, Lockart Rd is the place to drink. Go to The Carnegies for bubbles, it's free champagne from 9pm. And on Thursday, go for LKF. | Wan Chai + HK Station
HAPPY WEDNESDAY. Whether or not you are a horse racing enthusiast, it's an experience not to be missed. One of the most impressive horse-racing track in the world, hemmed in, as it is, by apartments, skyscrapers, hills and graveyards, and with a fizz of excitement that few other sporting venues can ever hope to generate. Something you won't do anywhere else on earth. | Happy Valley Racecourse, from Oct. to April. MTR Causeway Bay, Exit A or tramway.
MACAO GAMBLING. Macao is China's Las Vegas, only much bigger. The casinos are huge and sumptuous. More than just gambling, it offers a large range of shows. We recently had the chance to see Dancing on Water in the City of Dreams and Nitro Circus in the Venetian. Both shows were fantastic. | Ferry from Sheung Wan Pier - running 24/7.
THE SEVENS. It’s the time of year when Hong Kong’s bankers and brokers swap their sober suits and hard work ethos for garish outfits and three days of drinking, schmoozing and sport. Fantastic high speed rugby, endless beer, crazy costumes, non-stop fun. Beg, borrow or fight for a ticket and enjoy! The city is suddenly packed with hairy-fairies, Supermen and other creatures.
French expat living in Hong Kong since January 2014, it didn't take me long to fall for the city. I still consider myself as a tourist, as there is sooo much to explore in every season. I can't get enough of the 852!
Did you travel in Hong Kong yet? What is your best/worst memory here? What would be YOUR must-do? I'm all ears! Please comment and share your favorite things to do in the city! And if you like this article, share it!