View from the Peak Hong Kong

First Time in Hong Kong? 5 Must See Sites

by Nicole on October 12, 2011

Hong Kong’s rise as an international gateway means millions of people will visit the city when travelling to or from Australia to Europe, the Middle East or Asia, and why not when the thriving city is the perfect step into Asia. With bi-lingual English/Cantonese signs, an abundance of international food options and a decent exchange rate, Hong Kong is one of my first options when I want to travel. So here are my recommendations of five things you should consider doing if you are visiting for your first time!

Hong Kong Junk Boat on Victoria Harbour

Chinese Junks and Ferries

Running between Central and Kowloon is the lifeblood of the city both in the past and today. On one side, Hong Kong Island which is also known as Central – the business district of Hong Kong and the other, Kowloon, home to Tsim Sha Tsui – a predominantly hotel and shopping area, the museums near the waters edge and the tourist areas of Mong Kok and Nathan Road.

One of the cheapest activities in Hong Kong is to take one of the Star Ferries between Kowloon and Central. The 10-minute ferry ride will cost you about about HK$2.40 and give you a unique view of the city skyline. Gazing out on the Kowloon side you will see the Avenue of the Stars and perhaps capture a glimpse of a celebrity adding their hand prints to the walk of fame. On the Hong Kong Island side you will see the curved roof of the Convention Centre, the International Finance Centre – which held the record for being tallest building in Hong Kong until 2010, and perhaps even catch a glimpse of one of Hong Kong’s most famous vantage points – The Peak.
For the most picturesque view I recommend taking the ferry in the evening. The city really puts on a show as the buildings light up, twinkling various shades of neon. If you visit during the holiday season you may even see a Santa Claus or two outlined on the buildings.

If you have a bit more money to spend take the time to catch a tradition Chinese Junk and sail the harbour in style. Tours on the Junks cost around HK$100 per person.

There are a number of option to tour Victoria Harbour. Please check-out this post for a comprehensive list of information. 

The Peak

Nestled amongst the most lavish houses in the country, Hong Kong Island is one of the most popular attractions for visitors – the Peak. Taking the red tram which run up the mountain side, the tram ride takes you on a rather memorable ride reminisce of something like a theme park roller coaster with angles of four to 47 degrees on the ascent!

Upon surviving the steep climb to the top you are greeted with a myriad of shops and restaurants at your disposal, as well as a Madame Tussaud and a Ripley’s Believe it or Not. But it’s not any of those which visitors flock for – it’s for the Peak Tower and the Sky Terrace which offers views across the city and, if the day is cloudless, into China.

Gazing over Hong Kong from the Sky Tower 428, that is 428m from sea level, Hong Kong’s looming skyscrapers feel like wooden blocks stacked together, the ferries like toy vehicles.

If you want to beat the crowds or don’t think a steep tram ride is your forte you can always take a taxi or bus to the top. For more information about prices and where to catch the bus have a look at the official The Peak Hong Kong site.

Tickets for the Peak Tram (only) cost adult/child HK$40/18 return or HK$28/11 for a single journey.
Tickets for the Peak Tram and Sky Terrace cost adult/child HK$65/31 return or HK$53/24 for a single journey.

The Markets

Gold fish markets, jade markets, ladies markets, night markets – Hong Kong is home to hundreds of markets and is a great way to get a taste of the real Hong Kong and meet locals. Here is a run down of some of the most popular:

Temple Street Night Markets

Is one of the biggest markets in Hong Kong running parallel to Nathan Road in Yau Ma Tei. If you want cheap anything this is the place to visit. From clothing to bags, watches to pirated DVDs or even just delicious street food visit these markets. I found that the busiest time for the markets were from around 7pm and everything begins closing around 10pm.

Ladies Market (Tung Choi Street Market)

Once upon a time the Temple Street Night Markets only sold mens clothes and so a woman’s market a short walk away was set up. Today, though both markets serves both genders but the name has stuck. The main draw to this market is the abundant nature of cheap clothes – particularly woman’s, as well as fake bags and shoes. The market begins around noon and I recommend you visit around 3pm for the best bargains.

Stanley Markets

Although situated outside of the city a visit to the Stanley markets is well worth the trip. Although the prices aren’t as low as what you can find in the city, the quality of the products are a lot better and include big brand names such as Converse and Adidas. The market is occupied with a lot of casual clothing, toys and art, but there are also a few international brands including that of Australian retailer Country Road, for a discounted price.
Not only are there popular markets here but decent priced pubs and restaurants, often overlooking Stanley Harbour.

To make a day trip of your visit head a little further to Aberdeen Harbour and take a sampan ride, or dine at the floating Jumbo seafood restaurant!

Bruce Lee Hong Kong - http://www.flickr.com/photos/envizion/

Avenue of the Stars

Located along the foreshore of Victoria Harbour and behind the New World Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui East, the Avenue of the Stars is the Hong Kong film industries equivalent to Los Angeles Sunset Boulevard. Complete with concrete handprints, information boards and a statue of Bruce Lee, during the day it can make a beautiful walk complete with views of Victoria Harbour and Central. However, it is night time when this area is really something special.

With coloured lights lighting you way along the footpath, the Avenue of the Stars is the perfect position to watch the nightly Symphony of the Stars –  a light show featuring about 20 buildings on the Hong Kong Harbour skyline which start at 8pm and last about 20-minutes. The area is particularly busy during New Years Eve celebrations, Chinese New Year celebrations and the annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat race in June. Best of all these attractions are free!

Ngong Ping and the Giant Buddha

Situated on Lantau Island, near the Hong Kong International Airport, the Tian Tan Buddah sits. As the largest outdoor sitting Buddah statue in the world many locals and visitors flock to pay their respects. At 23m (not including the lotus leaf he is seated on) it is well worth your time climbing the 260 steps for an up-close view of both Buddha, the surrounding statues and the view witnessed from that height.

Buddha’s birthday, a public holiday in Hong Kong, is celebrated in late April/early May and this is when thousands make the pilgrimage to visit him and the place really comes alive.

If religion is not quite your forte there are other interesting draw-cards to the area. The Ngong Ping 360 is a 5.7km cable car ride which stretches from Tung Chung (right outside the namesake train station) to Ngong Ping Plateau (which is a short stroll away from the Tian Tan Buddah.) The 25-minute cable car ride is pleasently releaxing showing great views of Lantau Island, the Giant Buddah, Hong Kong International Airport and Ngong Ping Village.
There are also options to visit a Monkey Tale show, Walking with Buddha tour, the Po Lin Monastery and an outdoor tea house.

Tickets for the Ngong Ping 360 (only) cost adult/child HK$115/58 return or HK$80/41 for a single journey.
(There are options to travel in a ‘crystal cabin’ which has a glass-bottom floor and is slightly more expensive. For more ticket options, or combined options visiting Monkey’s Tale Theatre or Walking with Buddha please visit the Ngong Ping 360 site.)

If you haven’t travelled through Asia before I recommend visiting Hong Kong as a stepping stone. While you will be surrounded by signs in Cantonese, chattering in a smattering of Asian languages, and the traffic is just as bad as other parts of the region; due to it being under British rule until 1997, many of the locals speak some level of English, with proficiency being quite high in the business and tourist districts.

Please note: all prices are correct as of October 2011.

Have you visited Hong Kong? What places would you add to this list?

Image credit: Envizion

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Vicky May 24, 2012 at 3:32 am

Great post. I have never been to Hong Kong but it’s on the list of destinations for our backpacking trip! Will definitely have to check out these sites when we’re there!

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2 Kershea July 18, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I Have 10 hours to spend in Hong Kong,trying to figure out what to do with them,and this list is a perfect start

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3 Nicole July 19, 2012 at 1:25 am

Thanks Kershea! If you need any help with what to do in Hong Kong please don’t hesitate to ask. It’s one of my favourite cities!

Safe travels. :)

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4 fotoeins | Henry October 28, 2012 at 10:13 am

I’d just spent the month of June in Hong Kong, and I was going to write a similar “5 points” post about some sights in Hong Kong. I really enjoyed your post here! It shouldn’t surprise you some of own recommendations will parallel yours. :)

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5 June December 2, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Hi..i’ll be going to HK 12-17 dec for seminar…with 2.5 of free day, what n where should i do n go… Thanks in advance..

June

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6 Nicole December 2, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Hi June,
It all depends where you’re located for your conference and what you want to see. =)
Let me know if I can be of any help when you work this out.
- Nicole

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7 Miriam December 18, 2012 at 3:20 am

Hi Nicole! Thanks for a great post. I’m wondering – which islands do you recommend to visit for visting the beach? I’m going there in mid-January. :)

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8 Nicole December 18, 2012 at 11:52 am

Hey Miriam,
On Lamma Island Lo So Shing Beach is meant to be quite nice and perhaps the cleanest beach in Hong Kong. Silvermine Bay Beach and Shek O (south of Hong Kong Island) would probably have the best beaches, though pollution level has risen in Hong Kong so most of the beaches, particularly the city beaches, are quite average.

I do hope you won’t be swimming in mid-January because it’s the coldest month of the year!

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9 lea heart January 14, 2013 at 8:59 pm

hi Nicole,

I, my son, my husband and my 2 nieces are planning to visit Hongkong in April. I have never been to HK, so I thought of collecting ideas here in internet..I`m thinking of Ocean park and Disneyland for the children, the question is, what will be good for us adults to visit, of course where we can bring the 3 kids with us too.

Thanks and have a great day!

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10 wondernuts March 9, 2013 at 3:34 am

Oh, yes, we walked all the way up to that peak. It felt practically vertical. I mean, we had buns of steel after that. But, that was a pretty immense hike. The photos we got were totally worth it.

And Lantau is also amazing. Absolutely loved every minute of being there.

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11 Casey-A Cruising Couple March 21, 2013 at 11:10 pm

We’re headed to Hong Kong in May to celebrate our two year wedding anniversary, and I am so so excited! Thanks for all the good ideas!

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12 Kedar May 14, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Hi Nicole,

Nice article.

I transit through HK next week and have about 8 hours total (from noon to 8.30 PM) before I leave. Do you think I can do a Junk ride, go to Victoria’s peak, walk through the markets and along Victoria harbour and see the Giant Buddha in that time? Or am i planning to do too much.

Thanks,
KO

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13 Nicole May 21, 2013 at 7:35 am

Hi Kedar,

It’s really down to how fast you want to experience things. I think THe Peak, Markets and walking along Victoria Harbour is completely reasonable, but depending on time you may only be able to choose one of either the Junk Ride or the Giant Buddha.

The Junk rides seem to have scheduled departures so be sure to look online or head straight down to the water (I think they depart from next to the Star Ferry terminal/under the clock). Pending on their schedule and how much time you spend in each place, the Giant Buddha is near the airport and may take a little longer – there are a lot of stairs. I highly recommend you take the Tung Chung cable car to the top of the mountain, but it is accessible by taxi.

Good luck and let me know how you go! =)

Best,
Nicole

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14 Pinky May 17, 2013 at 1:49 am

Hello Nicole,

Good day! I will be traveling in Hongkong May 30 – June 3, 2013. Can you suggest any hotels near the airport? And what is the nearest tourist spot in there. I hope you’ll reply, so I can book my hotel. Thank you!

-Pinky

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15 Nicole May 21, 2013 at 7:27 am

Hi Pinky!

There are a whole heap of hotels near the airport, including Hong Kong SkyCity Marriot Hotel and Novotel City Gate.

The Novotel is located in Tung Chung – just off the island where the airport is. In Tung Chung you can take the Tung Chung Cable Car which will take you up the mountain to where the Giant Buddha, Po Lin monastery and some nice walks are. If you have a long layover consider heading to Hong Kong Disneyland which isn’t far away and also have hotels on site.

If you have time consider a day trip into the city. There is a inexpensive bus from the airport and it’s around 30mins into the city. There’s baggage storage at the airport near the bus terminal for China/Cathay Pacific business lounge. =)

Let me know if I can be of any more help!

- Nicole

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16 Colin June 3, 2013 at 1:51 am

Nice article, Nicole.

I was in Hong Kong in October 2009 for 5 days and I can’t recommend Lamma Island high enough. The walks were excellent and the beaches were pretty, although I wouldn’t recommend walking barefoot on the sand as it feels like glass. The thing that really stood out for me, and is very much my fondest memory of the trip, is eating at a restaurant on Lamma Island’s Yung Shue Wan Main Street, overlooking the bay as the sun went down. The sunset was beautiful.

I was worried about ordering Chinese food during my visit as most places don’t have menus in English and I like to know what I’m getting. The menus on Lamma Island are all in English, however, so that wasn’t a problem. The only downside is that last ferry back to the mainland leaves at 7pm. Therefore, I’d suggest touring the island in the afternoon, coming back to the Main Street before sunset for dinner then heading home just after dark. It was wonderful way to spend a day.

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17 Fiona June 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Hi Nicole
I am having a 2 day stopover in HKG at the end of August on my way to mainland China. Thanks so much for your post. I have been looking into what I want to see and I think everything I have researched so far is on your list.
I haven’t confirmed any accommodation yet. Is there anywhere in particular you would recommend? I am happy to spend up to HKD1800 per night but am comfortable in hostels also.
Thanks
Fiona

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18 Lucy September 22, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Hi Nicole,

That was great!
I went to Hong Kong for the first time last year and absolutely loved it! My favourite part of the trip was the boat cruise on the harbour at night, the colourful lights display was amazing not forgetting the free alcohol that they served on board…

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19 Rusty November 21, 2013 at 7:04 pm

Hi Nicole,

My family will visit HK on Dec 26′ and we only have barely 2 days to visit the place. We will be staying at the Disneyland Hotel, am sure the children will consume one whole day in disney.

What places can you suggest that we must for our second day?

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20 Nicole November 25, 2013 at 12:11 am

Hi Rusty,

Thanks for getting in contact!

If you haven’t been to HK before I recommend taking one of the Red Bus Tours – I’m love how they give a brief overview of the city but also the chance to get on/off whenever something catches your eye.

If you want to go your own way, my top picks would be to see the holiday displays at Harbour City (in Tsim Sha Tsui), take a ride on the Star Ferry, and a trip to The Peak.
If you have time then the Ladies Market in Mong Kok is always an interesting experience, otherwise the Symphony of Lights – a laser light show – is fantastic to watch each evening. (http://lovelivehongkong.com/a-symphony-of-lights/)

Enjoy your travels and let me know if I can help with anything else. :)

Best,
Nicole

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21 Dg May 2, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Dear Nicole,
Loved your article…my family is planning a trip to Hong Kong this May for Disney …have half day left…what are the things I should not miss when I am there.

Thanks in advance.

Regards
DG

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22 Nicole May 4, 2014 at 7:16 am

Hi DG,

Thanks for taking the time to get in contact and for the kind compliment.

It depends on what you are looking to do and how old your children are.
I LOVE the Peak and if it’s not on your itinerary it should be. Be sure to pre-purchase tickets to take the cable car up the mountain – I’m sure the kids will love the ride.

If you have time one evening, the Symphony of Lights is beautiful – and laser lights seem to always be a pleaser with kids.
Other options is taking the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour and going for a walk along the Avenue of Stars. Remember to get the kids to strike their best martial arts pose at the Bruce Lee statue.
If you think you can handle another theme park there is always Ocean Park!

I hope that helps – do let me know how your trips goes.

Happy travels! :)

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23 Satish August 21, 2014 at 9:23 am

Hi Nicole,

Good write up, We are planning to go to Hong Kong during End of Oct 2014. for a period of approx 3 days, let us see what I can cover.

Regards,
Satish Kumar D S

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24 Mya September 15, 2014 at 3:02 am

Hi Nicole,
Thanks for all the great ideas. Our flight home will be late in the evening and we haven’t decided yet what to do on that day. Do you know where we can store our luggage for the day?
Thanks in advance.
Regards,
Mya

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