Hong Kong is known the world over as a glamorous city and a top choice for luxury shopping. But this city-state is steeped in culture and history, and has a lot more to offer than mouth-watering dim sum and an impressive skyline. Hong Kong has an energy about it that is hard to describe. In the city center, millions of people are crammed into a very small space that somehow seems to function flawlessly. Around every corner is something new and unique, whether it's an ancient temple, a shop selling the latest electronic gadget, or a man taking his bird in a cage for a walk. Hong Kong has another side as well, where you'll find forest-covered mountains, hiking trails, beautiful beaches, islands, and traditional fishing villages.
ATTRACTIONS TO VISIT IN HONG KONG
1. Star Ferry
Hong Kong's famous Star Ferry, with roots dating back to 1880, costs only a few Hong Kong Dollars to ride, making it one of the best deals in all of Hong Kong. Victoria Harbour is a hive of activity, and ships of all shapes and sizes chug, zip, or wallow past as the expert captains of the Star Ferries somehow avoid collisions. As you travel the main route from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island, or more specifically, Tsim Sha Tsui (TST) to Central, it's hard not to be struck by the dense towers of Hong Kong Island, backed by green mountains rising up before you. The breeze off the water is exceptionally refreshing, and the wide-open spaces are a perfect antidote to the tight confines of the city.
2. Hong Kong Skyline
Hong Kong has one of the most impressive and recognizable skylines in the world. The dense collection of skyscrapers, both on the island of Hong Kong and in Kowloon, combined with the surrounding mountains and harbor set this city apart. In the harbor, traditional red-sailed Chinese junk boats and the historic Star Ferry contrast sharply with the backdrop of modern high-rises. At night, the skyline changes character completely as the sky darkens and the city lights fill the scene. Two of the best places in Hong Kong to see the skyline are from the top of Victoria Peak or from the Kowloon waterfront (along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade near the clock tower), not far from the Star Ferry dock, where benches line the waterfront and look across to Hong Kong. The latter location is the best place to watch the nightly A Symphony of Lights laser and light show set to music.
3. Victoria Peak (The Peak)
Evening is a great time to visit The Peak, when you can see the spectacular skyline lit against the night sky. This is one of the best views in Hong Kong at night. If the tram line is long, or you want to go directly from your hotel, you can also take a taxi to the top.
4. Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha Statue)
The 34-meter-high "Big Buddha" sits above Lantau Island's Po Lin monastery, which was a fairly secluded place until the statue was built in 1993. This is one of the largest Buddha statues of its kind in the world and took 12 years to complete. The size is astounding, both up close and seen from a distance. The setting here is also incredible, surrounded by the green forest and views out over the ocean and islands. Although you can take a bus, the best way to reach the Buddha is via the scenic Ngong Ping cable car, which takes you on a 5.7-kilometer, 25-minute ride over forest, water, and mountains. The ride terminates at the small tourist-focused Ngong Ping Village, which you'll have to walk through before reaching the monastery and Big Buddha.
5. Wong Tai Sin Temple
The Wong Tai Sin Temple is one of the newest in Hong Kong and also one of the most interesting. Located in Kowloon, the original temple was a private structure built in 1920. It was later replaced with a newer building in 1968, which is what visitors see today. The temple was built to honor the Taoist god Wong Tai Sin, whom locals regard as the bringer of good luck in horse-racing and a healer of illnesses. A festival is held at the temple in Wong Tai Sin's name each fall.
6. Repulse Bay and the Beaches
Not everyone thinks of beaches when they think of Hong Kong, but you don't have to go far to find some incredible soft-sand beach. The beach at Repulse Bay is the most popular in all of Hong Kong, with beautiful views and a great place for swimming, although it's very non touristy. A day spent here is complemented with the luxury and style typical of Hong Kong itself. The street running along the oceanfront and overlooking the wide beach is lined with trendy restaurants and shops. Amalfitana is fun place to enjoy a pizza, with casual open-air dining looking over the beach.
7. Temple Street Night Market
A stroll through the Temple Street Night Market is another one of those all-important things to do while you're in Hong Kong. Located in Kowloon, this is the place to go to taste eclectic foods and to shop for bargains on everything from clothing and trinkets to electronics and household goods. Vendors sell gadgets of every shape and size, as well as jade jewelry and traditional Chinese crafts. The market gets going around 6pm, but vendors are often slow to get set up, so it's best not to arrive too early. This is the best market for tourists in Hong Kong, but you can find a number of interesting street markets. See our article on Hong Kong street markets to learn about markets to explore by day. The MTR stop for the Temple Street Night Mark is Jordan Station, Exit A.