The Key Places in Hong Kong That Every Tourist Needs to Know

Besides being one of the world's most vibrant and intense modern business cities, Hong Kong packs in Chinese culture, some incredible natural beauty in its marine and country parks, as well as world class shopping, entertainment and hospitality facilities. Hong Kong is truly a must see destination for travel enthusiasts from far and wide.

Ranked by the Heritage Foundation as the world's freest economy and China's safest city, it's easy to see why Hong Kong is such a great place for business and pleasure.

Hotels

Luxury Hotels

The Peninsula — Kowloon

This fine and venerable old institute has been a landmark of hospitality as well as the Kowloon skyline since 1928, when in the days before reclamation, it literally was, on the peninsula. Colonial area extravagance is the order of the day with afternoon high tea and scones, luxury shopping, a fleet of limousine Rolls Royces, helicopter trips and fine dining venues, all on tap for the well heeled.

The Peninsula Tower has been renovated recently, heralding more contemporary design features and smart technology, such as touch-screen tablets that control all room functions. Top restaurants Gaddi's and Spring Moon require reservations. Felix has a strict dress code and the city's best harbor-view men's room.

The Upper House — Admiralty, Hong Kong Island

Possibly Hong Kong's coolest hotel, where hip meets luxury and spaciousness, combined with outstanding views. For visiting celebrities, the Upper House is often the first choice. Environmental friendliness is a stated aim here so expect paperless registration, seamless connectivity and energy saving hybrid Lexuses for sightseeing and transfers. Rooms include maxi-bars, where the room price already includes everything.

Room sizes starting at a whopping 68 square meters are located on and above Level 38 with stunning panoramic views of the city and harbor.

The Upper House top floor is the venue for Cafe Gray Deluxe by chef Gray Kunz. Besides amazing food which features "everyday dishes with an accent on the organic", this 49th floor restaurant is a top spot to observe Hong Kong's nightly Symphony of Lights.

  • The Upper House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty; +852 2918 1838;
  • From HK$4,500 (US$580)

The Ritz Carlton — Kowloon

Since the relocation of the downtown airport at Kai Tak to Lantau, the tallest building is now on the Kowloon peninsula. The International Commerce Centre is a 118 storey skyscraper with the highest hotel (Ritz Carlton) in the world located on the 102nd to 118th floors.

Midrange Hotels

The Tai O Heritage Hotel — Lantau Island

The Tai O Heritage Hotel is a 110-year-old, Grade II historic building, and was previously home to a marine police station. It has been tastefully converted into a boutique hotel. The hotel supports the Tai O community, operating as a non-profit social enterprise and has been in operation since March 2012.

It features nine bedrooms, a rooftop restaurant and café with fine wine cellars. Ask about the scene of a shootout complete with bullet holes and look out for the cannons, guard towers and holding cells.

  • Tai O Heritage Hotel, Shek Tsai Po Street, Tai O, Lantau Island; +852 2985 8383;
  • Rooms begin at HK$1,380 (US$178)

The Stanford Hillview Hotel — Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

The Stanford Hillview Hotel is tucked away on Observatory Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. It benefits from being on the doorstep of Knutsford Terrace entertainment strip (see below) and one of Hong Kong's prime tourist and World class shopping districts. It's easy access from here to all points business and sightseeing in Kowloon.

Besides the great location, you get a respite from the hustle and bustle of the rest of Tsim Sha Tsui as the hotel is perched atop a small hill at the end of a cul-de-sac, backing on to the open spaces of St Andrew's Church and the Hong Kong Observatory.

The hotel has won awards for its service excellence and has a reputation for reasonable priced buffets.

  • Observatory Road on Knutsford Terrace Tsimshatsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong; +852 2722 7822
  • Rooms from US$180

Budget Hotels

The Bishop Lei International House — Central, Hong Kong Island

The Bishop Lei International House is a bit of an anomaly as its 5-star address in mid-levels Hong Kong Island on Robinson Road would suggest a far more luxurious hotel. Rooms here are small and the service is less polished than you would find at other hotels close by. Still, it's a great location for business travelers and is just a one-minute walk from the Central to Mid-Levels escalators.

It's also ideal for anyone who wants to be close to the entertainment centers of Lan Kwai Fong and SoHo.

The hotel overlooks Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, so unlike many budget hotels your room view comes with a spread of greenery instead of another high-rise just 12 feet from your window.

There's also an outdoor swimming pool and a convenient shuttle bus service to Central, Admiralty and Wanchai if the close by escalator is still too far.

More hotels>>

Eat and Drink Hong Kong

The Globe — Central, Hong Kong Island

British cuisine, if there is such a thing has experienced a renaissance in recent years and a bar that has captured the hearts of many of the expat Brits in Hong Kong with its Great British fare and extensive range of fine ales is The Globe.

Its laid-back and unpretentious, with picnic bench seating and set lunches for under US$10. There's no pomp and circumstance here, just creatively remastered favourites like the Kate and Sid – that's steak and kidney pie to those who don't speak cockney rhyming slang.

With over 60 brands of beer and cider, many of them on draught and from numerous nations to wash down the pie with, you are never lacking for choice at The Globe.

  • 45 Graham St., Central; +852 2543 1941
  • Pricing: moderate

Under the Bridge Spicy Crab — Wanchai Hong Kong Island

Under the Bridge Spicy Crab was so named after its original location and signature dish and has made a real reputation for itself. The signature fried crab is deluged in fried garlic and chilies and can be ordered according to 5 levels of spiciness.

Such crab dishes originated in the nearby Causeway Bay typhoon shelter and were traditionally cooked by the Tanka boat people who made their homes on sampans and cooked freshly caught seafood. Besides the spices, the other ingredient is " good wok-wielding skills."

  • Shop 6-9, G/F, 429 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai; +852 2573 7698
  • Pricing: moderate

Dragon-i — Central, Hong Kong Island

Dragon-i is wannabe heaven, populated by models, tycoons, designers, artistes and all those who aspire to dizzying heights and hang on to those who've maybe already made it.

It's crowded and trendy dance interior is also the place to be seen lounging on low comfy chairs. The outside terrace is where business is done and most regulars keep their own bottle behind the bar. The doormen do something of a face check so if you don’t get in first time, there’s always a string of other bars on nearby Wyndham Street, frequented by the hip and happening set.

The day time dim sum buffet at US$24 is one way of trying this 10 year old entertainment icon and features free flow dim sum dishes whilst you schmooze and people watch.

  • UG/f, The Centrium, 60 Wyndham St., Central; +852 3110 1222
  • Pricing: expensive

Tim Ho Wan — Central, Hong Kong Island

Tim Ho Wan are a chain of Dim-Sum restaurants with reputedly the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the World. Former Lung King Heen chef Pui Gor opened the first Tim Ho Wan in a hole-in-the-wall in Mong Kok, just a few years ago. There are branches in many districts of HK now including the most conveniently located one in Central.

Guests can eat 3–4 dim sum dishes for as little as US$10 and 1–2 hour queues can easily form, especially on weekends. The secret of their success is apparently steaming the dim sum to order rather than in advance and only using fresh, not previously frozen ingredients.

The oft imitated but never matched cha siu (barbequed pork) pineapple buns are a signature.

This is what dim sum ought to be.

  • Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station (Podium Level 1, IFC Mall), Central; +852 2332 3078;
  • Pricing: cheap

The Chinnery in the Mandarin Oriental — Central, Hong Kong Island

The Chinnery is one of the first gastro-pubs in Hong Kong (Dickens Bar in the Excelsior, Causeway Bay as another example), with a cozy gentleman's club-like ambience. It is also the home of over 120 rare single-malt whiskies and some of the best fish and chips and chicken makhani in Hong Kong are served here.

The Chinnery offers whisky trails, each of which provides tastes of five different whiskies that are alluring to both novices and connoisseurs. Recommended Irish whiskies such as Jameson and Bushmills are good for beginners, having a "light and smooth finish" while aficionados will revel in the rare Lombard collection, which is irreplaceable as the distiller no longer exists.

  • 5 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong SAR; +852 2825 4009
  • Pricing: expensive

Also see Hong Kong Restaurants.

Shop Hong Kong

Retail therapy is a national pastime in Hong Kong and there are malls, markets, arcades, bazaars and street after street of retail outlets to suit every taste and budget.

Temple Street — Jordan and Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon

Temple Street in Kowloon is fun, old style shopping and entertainment at its best. A district as much for budget conscious locals as the legions of tourists that flock there.

Also known as men's market, Temple Street is several hundred meters of market stalls peddling everything from socks and electronics to underwear, curios and fortune telling services, not to mention delicious, hot, fresh, street food Chinese style, such as curried octopus tentacles and for the sweet toothed, waffles.

  • Directions: Turn right on to Jordan Road out of Jordan MTR exit A and walk three blocks to Temple Street.
  • Opening times: from 2pm, but most active from sundown until closure at midnight.

Ladies' Market — Mongkok, Kowloon

Mong Kok district in Kowloon is one of the most densely populated places on earth and is just a few blocks north of Jordan and Temple Street. It's where everybody in Hong Kong goes to buy everything from fast food to fast computers.

Ladies' Market in Mongkok, Kowloon is on Tung Choi Street, off the famous Golden Mile of Nathan Road and sells cheap branded clothes copies and souvenirs. Lots of fashion accessories such as handbags, purses, belts, cheap jewelry and shoes can be found here.

The Mongkok Computer Centre on Fa Yuen Street is one of several centers in Hong Kong where retailers concentrate to offer computers, software and accessories. Many of the products here are cheaper than those overseas and products that are normally only found in Japan and Korea can sometimes be found here.

Tung Choi Street is another favorite location in Mongkok and is popular for sneakers as well as a concentration of tropical and ornamental fish retailers.

Then Dundas Street is yet another fashionable haunt for young locals and Chinese junk food lovers.

  • Directions:  Take MTR to Mongkok and follow exit signs for the various shopping streets
  • Pricing: cheap to moderate, not a venue for luxury goods

Stanley Market — Stanley, Hong Kong Island

Stanley Market was once a place for hundreds of local garment factories to offload outsized overruns and seconds. These days it is still a popular tourist destination for keen foreign shoppers looking for brand name bargains that would cost two or three times as much back home, but is also home to several galleries of Asian art.

Stanley Apple Mall is the place for accessories, bags, cashmere gloves, scarves and berets.

The promenade in Stanley is loaded with eateries of every budget and taste, so grab some lunch or dinner here after hard bargaining at the market or relaxing on the nearby Stanley Main Beach. If you want to see Hong Kong's most southerly outlying island, Po Toi, where just a handful of villagers subsist by farming, fishing and seaweed production, then the boat leaves from nearby Blake's Pier.

Further Reading:

Sightseeing

Hong Kong Global Geopark

Spectacular hexagonal volcanic rock columns, sea caves, stacks and arches, as well as beaches and other landforms such as tombolos are the highlights of the Geopark.

The Geo-Areas of Hong Kong Global Geopark of China cover about 50 square kilometers and include the Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region and Northeast New Territories Sedimentary Rock Region, which exhibit the geology of igneous rocks and sedimentary rocks respectively.

Each region composes four Geo-Areas and designated land and sea-based tour routes allow visitors to appreciate the diverse geological features and landscapes of Hong Kong.

The Big Buddha — Lantau Island

Perched on one of several hilltops that surround Ngong Ping Plateau on Lantau Island, the Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha), at 34-meters-tall can been seen from many miles around. This is reputedly the biggest outdoor seated bronze Buddha in the world.

The view of the Buddha from close up, Lantau Peak (HK's second highest mountain) as well as the South China Sea and the Lantau Country Park are worth the 268 steps climb. However, the Buddha can be reached by an access road with special permission for aged or disabled visitors.

Po Lin Monastery is a short walk from the Buddha and is an important Buddhist place of worship in Hong Kong which includes a vegetarian restaurant.

Tai O — Lantau Island

A short bus ride down the hill on Lantau's western tip sits Tai O, a stilted fishing village. Dried and fresh seafood stalls, shrimp paste sellers, bakers and restaurants all cram the narrow village alleys and compete for your attention along with the many pink dolphin tour operators.

These incredible and endangered porpoises are indigenous to the waters of the Pearl River estuary and sea waters off Lantau’s coast.

It's a bit of trip out to Tai O, on the western tip of Lantau Island, but it's worth the effort to visit this fishing village that has changed little in the last century.

The stilt houses and traditional wooden fishing boats have featured in many Hong Kong film and TV productions and there are Kwan Tai and Yeung Hau temples in the village that are a timeless snapshot of Chinese religious beliefs and practices.

Directions to Lantau for the Buddha and Tai O

The journey to Lantau can be as scenic as the island itself. A ferry from Pier 6 of the Outlying Ferry Pier in Central passes through picturesque Victoria Harbor on its way to Mui Wo, from where bus number 2 takes you to Ngong Ping or Number 1 to Tai O.

Alternatively, take the MTR to Tung Chung on Lantau’s north coast and take the Ngong Ping 360 cable car to the Ngong Ping Buddhist themed village with its shops and attractions.

The Peak — Hong Kong Island

For fine views of Hong Kong’s amazing skyline Victoria Peak (The Peak) is a breathtaking 500 meters above sea level and the Central business district on Hong Kong Island. A near 180 degree spread showpieces Victoria Harbor from end to end with all of the iconic skyscrapers that have sprung up in the last 30 years or so.

What have Jet Li, Barack Obama and Madonna all got in common? They are all found at the Peak Tower in Madame Tussauds Hong Kong exhibition. Like its London parent, the exhibition portrays lifelike waxwork images of the famous and sometimes infamous. Film and pop icons of the West as well as China and HK rub shoulders with politicians, royalty and comic book figures.

For an extended trip to the Peak, fresh air and outstanding views of the outlying islands of Hong Kong’s western waters, walk the nearby Lugard Road path, which will take you around the Peak proper in about 50–60 minutes.

  • Directions: Take bus number 15 from Exchange Square in Central or the Peak Funicular Tram from Garden Road in Central

Happy Valley Racecourse — Hong Kong Island

The British turned this malarial swamp in to a race course soon after they first arrived in the 1840s and it has been a world class race track since the 1970s.

Even if you have no interest in gambling or picking a horse, you can still enjoy the festive spirit and the wide range of food and beverage outlets you find at the track. The Hong Kong Jockey Club's Happy Valley Racecourse is the venue then on most Wednesday evenings for a 7 card line up of horse races. Check for seasonal opening times.

  • Directions: Accessible from Causeway Bay MTR or Hong Kong trams with Happy Valley signage.

Getting Around in Style

Vintage modes of transport, the Star Ferry, and Hong Kong tramways are still used every day in Hong Kong by thousands of commuters getting around on a regular basis, but are also great tourist experiences.

Star Ferry — Central (Hong Kong Island – Tsim Sha Tsui)

Operating since 1888, the Star Ferry was the main way to get between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon peninsula until the opening of cross harbor vehicular tunnels and the Mass Transit Railway in the 60s.

Nonetheless, gently bobbing along to the ferry’s engine beat as you marvel at Hong Kong’s skyline, day or night has been voted one of the most exciting and scenic rides of its kind. This cross harbor ferry ride also famously featured as the opening scene in the 1960 movie, The World of Suzie Wong.

  • Directions: Take the ferry from the Star Ferry pier in Central or Tsim Sha Tsui to the other side

Hong Kong Tramways — Hong Kong Island

Hong Kong Tramways, founded in 1904, operates open trams (street cars) solely along the north of Hong Kong Island. They operate the largest fleet of double-decker tramcars in the World, more than 160, which includes two, restored vintage trams.

Look out for the open upper deck trams and take a ride in the evening when all the neon signs come to life to experience the best of the trams.

Travelling the whole length could take more than a couple of hours to complete, so sticking to the more commercial and shopping focused districts like Wanchai and Causeway Bay is a good idea. However, The route along North Point passes through the middle of an outdoor wet market (Chun Yeung Street market) and is a good photo opportunity.

  • Directions: Tram stops are frequent (every 100–200 meters) and run the length of the North coast of Hong Kong Island

After Dark

Wanchai — Hong Kong Island

Expats and Chinese alike throng to the nightlife haunts on Jaffe, Luard and Lockhart Road in Wanchai after dark.

The nightclubs, bars, fast food takeaways and restaurants are a colorful riot of action seven days a week. Many of the best live bands playing in Hong Kong are at Wanchai bars like Amazonia, Dusk til Dawn and Boracay.

Boasting over 7,000 sq ft, Escape is the largest bar and disco in Wanchai, with its impressive 9-meter Long Island Bar and the glow of the unique, state-of-the-art LED stage back drop display aptly called 'The LED Wall'.

Knutsford Terrace — Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

Kowloon's answer to Lan Kwai Fong, this traffic free, mews-like path behind a road, is an exciting little hideaway for a nightcap, supper or entertainment if you are in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Firm favorite, El Cid serves up delicious tapas and is on the Ground Floor at number 13 Knutsford Terrace so plenty of opportunity to see and be seen.

Upmarket and on the first floor of 7 Knutsford Terrace is Amico Italian Wine Bar & Restaurant and for bar and entertainment try Bahama Mama's Caribbean Bar and All Night Long for live music.

  • Directions: Exit B2 of Tsim Sha Tsui MTR on Cameron Road, turn left on Carnarvon Road and follow this to the junction with Kimberley Road. The entrance to Knutsford Terrace is through a short, steep, covered path at the junction of these streets.

Also see Hong Kong Nightlife.

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I updated this article on April 9, 2014
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