Hong Kong combines modern and traditional, ultra-urban and lush greenery, cheap Michelin-starred street food and expensive designer shopping malls. It is a great place for a layover, but there is more than enough to do and see to keep you busy for a few days. This itinerary can help you make the most of your three days in Hong Kong!
The best neighborhood to stay is Central, but if you’re looking for a more authentic experience you can also try an Airbnb in Causeway Bay. The subway, or MTR as it’s called in Hong Kong, is a quick and convenient way to get around, but for short distances I highly recommend you take the tram: it’s a great way to see the streets, and very cheap. Taxis are inexpensive but not always easy to find, plus service can be patchy. Ubers are a good alternative.
HK day 1: Causeway Bay, Hong Kong Park and Victoria Harbour skyline
Spend the morning discovering Causeway Bay, a great authentic area where giant shopping malls are just a stone’s throw away from more traditional life. Pass through Victoria Park, not so much for the park itself, but rather for some people watching. It’s a popular spot for early morning tai chi sessions. On the other side of the park is Tin Hau Temple, a modest but atmospheric temple dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea which is well worth a visit.
Next, a short walk brings you to Causeway Bay Market, a small but photogenic food market. Stalls here sell anything from live toads to dried pig’s faces and there is not a tourist in sight.
Not far from here is Oi!, an arts centre housed in one of Hong Kong’s few remaining old buildings. Built in the early 20th century as the headquarters of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, it is now a space dedicated to exhibitions and art-related events. You can stop for a bite at nearby Tim Ho Wan, one of a chain of cut-price Michelin-starred dim sum restaurants. Portions are bigger than expected so don’t order too much!
Take the tram to Hong Kong Park, where you can have a delicious vegetarian dim sum lunch at traditional Lock Cha tea house (I know, more dim sum… but these are very different!) on the ground floor of the pretty colonial Flagstaff House. The same building also houses the Museum of Tea Ware, which is well worth a quick visit.
Hong Kong Park is small, but still a nice place to stroll around. The densely-packed patch of green is home to an extraordinary amount of exotic birds, and makes for a great contrast with the skyscrapers surrounding it. The famous Peak Tram leaves from here, taking tourists up to Hong Kong Island’s highest peak for sweeping views over the city (on a clear day, at least). Unfortunately, queues are often very long, and I decided to skip it… You can take a bus or a taxi to get to The Peak too, but there are plenty of other places from where to get good views of the city.
A wonderful place for dinner, or more casual drinks and snacks, is Duddell’s. This stylish upscale restaurant inside the Shanghai Tang mansion also has an ever-changing collection of art works on show and a lovely terrace.
In the evening, hop on a ferry across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon to admire the lit-up Hong Kong skyline. From Star Ferry Pier it’s then a short taxi ride to get to the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where you can have drinks at the rooftop Ozone Bar for an even better bird’s-eye view. You might have heard about Hong Kong’s daily 8pm light show, A Symphony of Lights, but in my opinion this only very slightly improves the view and is not really worth planning around.
HK day 2: Central old and new classics
On your second day, stay around Central. Have early lunch (or rather brunch, to avoid the lunch-time queues) at Mak’s Noodle or one of the other gourmet street food style restaurants around Wellington Street. Several have (or have had) a Michelin star. Follow with a stroll around the area and a ride on the Mid-Levels escalator. This covered outdoor escalator system, the longest in the world, covers a distance of 800m and climbs 135m. It goes downhill in the mornings until 10am, and then uphill till midnight. Using it is not very spectacular, but it’s a good way to observe local life and give your legs a rest. The starting point is not easy to find, but you can hop on anywhere.
Next stop is Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road, one of the oldest and best-known temples in Hong Kong city. Its atmospheric shadowy interior is a timeless jumble of colors and smoke coming from giant incense coils hanging from the ceiling. Dedicated to the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo), it is very popular both with tourists and worshippers.
Leaving the spiritual world behind, spend the rest of the afternoon shopping and checking out Central’s art galleries, or head over to the waterfront Central and Western District Promenade for some good views over Victoria Harbour.
Have lazy late afternoon drinks with great views at Sevva, in the penthouse of Prince’s Building. Finish with dinner at a trendy restaurant in SoHo (= South of Hollywood Road, Central’s entertainment zone). I highly recommend funky and innovative Happy Paradise.
HK day 3: Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island
Tian Tan Buddha, also known as the Big Buddha, in Ngong Ping on Lantau Island was only completed in 1993 but has become one of Hong Kong’s most famous sights. The 34m tall Buddha statue is an extension of the nearby Po Lin Monastery, both are open to the public from 10am to 5.30pm. It is a bit of a trip to get there, so you might as well take full advantage of the monastery’s natural surroundings and make a day trip out of it.
There are two ways to get to Ngong Ping. Most people take the MTR to Tung Chung station, from where you can get the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. The 25-minute ride affords some nice views, on clear days, but is expensive and very busy: I highly recommend you buy tickets in advance to avoid at least part of the queue.
Alternatively, you can take a bus from Mui Wo ferry pier (see the schedule here). They take a little longer than the cable car, but there is no queuing and it’s much cheaper. The road is very nice, winding through quiet villages and along the coast. You might even see a water buffalo or two. All in all, I prefer this option, but you can also come by one and return with the other.
Both the cable car and the bus arrive at the horribly touristy Ngong Ping Village, a collection of charmless souvenir shops. The Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, although busy, have managed to keep a more authentic feel. They are both very popular with Buddhist pilgrims, and make for a good place to observe religious practices.
When you’re finished wandering around the various colorful temples and other structures, you can get a decent vegetarian lunch at the popular monastery restaurant.
Afterwards, follow the lovely quiet trail to the Wisdom Path, a collection of tall wooden pillars inscribed with what I am sure is a lot of wisdom, in Chinese. From here, more hiking trails are indicated if you want to explore more of Lantau Island’s nature.
Arrive back in Central in time for a delicious last dim sum dinner at classically elegant Restaurant de Chine or more trendy fusion Dim Sum Library. Three days might be enough to see Hong Kong’s most important sights, but there were still so many restaurants I wanted to try that I was sad to leave. I’m sure this was not my last visit to this fantastic vibrant city!
Have you been to Hong Kong or are you planning on going? Feel free to let me know what you think in the comment section below!
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