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25 Best things to see & do in Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong, China

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Lee Cobaj
  • Hong Kong, China

Boat with red flags sailing on aquamarine waters

Bucket List Experience

Aqua Luna

Instantly recognisable by the trio of scarlet sails, junk boats – tall, wooden three-mast vessels – once filled the waters around Hong Kong, providing homes for thousands of residents. Until as recently as the 1970s, many families lived, ate, worked and slept on board, travelling between the islands of the archipelago, and pulling into the harbours when typhoons struck.

In recent decades, families have swapped their boats for apartments in the city, and now only a handful of junks remain. The Aqua Luna is one of the last still sailing in Hong Kong waters, and there is no more cinematic way to appreciate the skyline city from the water. Lie on the open deck under stiff fan sails, glass of wine in hand and a cooling breeze, as you glide through Victoria Harbour.

Aqua Luna has two boats – the red-sailed Aqua Luna and the blue and white Dragon-sailed Aqua Luna II. Between them, they offer a number of different itineraries, day and night, including an afternoon dim sum tour, an after-dark Symphony of Lights tour and day trips to Stanley Village on the south side of the island.

Adult price: £23

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 45+ mins

  • Hong Kong, China

Exterior of a traditional Buddhist temple with people walking up the steps

Bucket List Experience

Po Lin Monastery

The century-old Po Lin monastery is the most famous centre of Buddhism in Hong Kong, and offers visitors an insight into the spiritual side of the city.

Two towering Pai Lau (entrance gates) mark the beginning of the complex, which comprises three halls, and many smaller buildings. Inside, the three main halls are vivid with ornate gold decorations and infused with the scent of incense. The Grand Hall of 10,000 Buddhas is a must-see; named for the thousands of glowing Buddhas in the vast main room.

The star attraction, though, is the 112ft-high bronze Buddha, seated meditatively upon a lotus base modelled on the ‘altar of heaven’. Weighing in at a staggering 250 tonnes, the statue is situated 268 steps above the main complex. There are wonderful views from the base of the Buddha across Lantau – Hong Kong’s largest and greenest island.

Good for age: 13+

  • Hong Kong, China

Exterior of the temple which has a golden roof and red and green paint. Smoking incense and praying people are visible

Bucket List Experience

Wong Tai Sin Temple

Set against a backdrop of high-rises and swathed in incense smoke, this is one of Hong Kong’s largest Taoist temples.

Named after Wong Tai Sin (a mythical shepherd boy with the power of healing), devotees flock here at Lunar New Year, but it’s popular the rest of the year as well, mostly for the ranks of fortune-tellers lined up outside.

Behind the temple are some attractive gardens – a miniature copy of Beijing’s Summer Palace – with colourful pavilions, fish ponds and waterfalls.

Good for age: 13+

  • Hong Kong, China

Boat tours of Victoria Harbour

Bucket List Experience

Boat tours of Victoria Harbour

Hong Kong’s world-famous harbour sits in an arena of skyscrapers and verdant hills, offering a spectacular perspective on the city. Its deep waters and location on the South China Sea were key to Hong Kong’s establishment as a British colony in the mid-19th century.

A trip around or across the harbour offers the chance to contrast mainland China with the unique atmosphere and pace of Hong Kong island – for mere pennies.

The cheapest and simplest way in on the iconic Star Ferry – a standard ferry route that connects Hong Kong Island with Kowloon. The Star Ferry has been in operation since 1888, before which time passengers crossed the harbour in oar-powered sampans. The early Star Ferries were steamboats. The Star Ferry Company also operate a harbour tour in the double-decker Shining Star, a re-creation of these ferries that plied the harbour in the 1920s.

A more traditional, cultural option is a tour on a traditional red-sail junk. Or you can go luxury, and book in for one of the luxury dinner cruises, often with a buffet dinner and sometimes a live band on board.

Adult price: £3

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1+ hours

  • Hong Kong, China

The dazzling skyline lit up at twilight set against the lush greenery of the peak

Bucket List Experience

Victoria Peak

Known locally simply as ‘The Peak’, this is the highest point on Hong Kong Island, 552m above sea level. In colonial times, it was a favourite summer retreat of the British, who were carried up the hill on sedan chairs to escape the sweltering, sticky heat. Development was limited until a funicular tram was completed in 1888.

Nowadays, the steep funicular tram ride up is part of the fun and – on a clear day – the views across the city and harbour, and up to the mountains of Kowloon, are incredible.

Once you get to the top, escape the crowds and the merchandising hard-sell by walking around the mountain along Harlech Road and Lugard Road.

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 4+

  • Hong Kong, China

The market from above, showing the buildings on either side, with rows of red flags

Bucket List Experience

Temple Street Market

Sure, Temple Street Night Market is touristy, but it’s also terrific fun and still somewhere it’s possible to bag a bargain. More than just a place to burn cash, this is also one of Hong Kong’s oldest neighbourhoods; a place where pensioners gather to play mah-jong in the parks and lovelorn youngsters seek the advice of fortune tellers (tourists are also welcome to try face and palm readings and astrological charts).

Aside for the usual souvenirs – faux silk pyjamas, Bruce Lee t-shirts, novelty chopsticks – you can also pick up good quality leather bags, pretty wooden ornaments and cool gadgets. Don’t’ be afraid to haggle hard, just remember to keep it friendly.

Good for age: 8+

  • Hong Kong, China

Row of Peking roasted ducks being sold, glowing in the light of street food stalls

Bucket List Experience

Hong Kong’s best food & drink

To quote the late Anthony Bourdain, ‘in Hong Kong you don’t take the tour bus to find good food. . . just press start’. This is one of the world’s greatest foodie cities, packed with over 15,000 restaurants offering mind-boggling variety and a galaxy of Michelin stars.

And while you’ll find every kind of food imaginable – from Nepalese dumplings to French fine dining – it’s with home-grown, Cantonese dishes that Hong Kong really excels. Seasonal vegetables and super-fresh seafood are key ingredients, and dim sum is not to be missed – the city starts its day with steaming baskets of har gao (shrimp dumplings) and char sui bao (barbecue pork buns).

Good for age: 18+

Duration: -

  • Hong Kong, China

With space at a premium, the only way is up in Hong Kong. It’s made the city’s skyline a sight to behold, a forest of skyscrapers rippling down mountainsides and across the harbour front. A few buildings dominate: the Sir Norman Foster-designed HSBC Bank building, I.M. Pei’s Bank of China, and, on the Kowloon side, the 118-storey International Commerce Centre, one of the tallest buildings in the world.

In-between you’ll find a wild diversity of architectural styles, tracing the city’s literal and metaphorical rise, from tiny ancient Taoist temples, to 1930s tong lau tenements, to the brutalist Chinese University of Hong Kong Campus, and the enormous ‘monster building’ housing estate.

Good for age: 18+

  • Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong’s most prolific museum has one of the world’s largest permanent displays of Chinese fine art and antiquities, as well as local contemporary art, all set against the beautiful backdrop of Victoria Harbour.

A wide variety of visiting exhibitions maintains the museum’s international outlook, whilst an interesting collection of historical paintings and prints shows the visual change of Hong Kong from the 18th century.

The Historical Pictures Gallery is one of the highlights, with Chinese watercolours, oil paintings and pencil drawings depicting the region in and around Hong Kong from the late 18th century through to the late 19th century. Ideal for a rainy day, or if the outdoor humidity starts to overwhelm.

Adult price: £1

Good for age: 18+

  • Hong Kong, China

Exterior of the market building with a blue sky ahead

Bucket List Experience

Stanley Market

The market stalls and shops here give new meaning to the term ‘higgledy-piggledy’. The seaside location is uplifting, and there are plenty of restaurants and cafés dotted around for a pit-stop along the way.

There are no huge bargains to be had, but the sheer variety is impressive – everything from cheap clothing, art and bric-a-brac, to bamboo bird cages, embroidered silk and gadgets (you can’t buy fake watches here).

Don’t be afraid to bargain, particularly if you’re buying more than one item. Vendors will often knock 10% off the original asking price.

Good for age: 8+