HONG KONG TRAVEL GUIDE
If you’ve been following along on instagram then you’ll have no doubt spotted the jungle of high rise buildings, vibrant & hustling markets & tranquil mountains made for hiking already, but if not, let me introduce you to the wonders of Hong Kong.
I was fortunate enough to visit Hong Kong well over 12 years ago, and this year marked my return to the island and a whole different experience to the side I explored all those years ago.
For me, Hong Kong is the perfect contradiction.
True to it’s Chinese history and local culture with the hustling streets of Kowloon and it’s ladies markets, contradicted with the expact world over on Hong Kong island with western restaurants and bars taking residence and making Hong Kong not only the perfect cultural hive but also a fab place to wine, dine and party. Throw on top of this the vast lands made for hiking and exploring and you’ve got a country a little like no other.
Whether you’re visiting for the former or the latter, I wanted to share a few of my best tips for things to do, places to eat & areas to explore. Both from my point of view as a tourist, but with the added bonus of a best friend who’s lucky enough to call herself a resident too.
Welcome to Hong Kong.
WHAT TO SEE
Central & Sai Wan
Any trip to Hong Kong is likely to gravitate to Hong Kong island, in which case visiting central, soho and the area of Sheung Wan should be top of your list and a great place to look to stay if you want to be at the heart of the islands social life. Whether you’re looking for a smart dinner, one of Hong Kongs infamous reflexology session, or a good old shop (in authentic chinese stores or equally westernised pop ups), this area is your go to. Hollywood Road & Queens Road central aren’t a bad place to start your exploration.
Kowloon & The Ladies Market
You can’t visit Hong Kong without heading over the water back to mainland China to see the vibrant city of Kowloon. Kowloon is where the local culture is at it’s most vibrant, and a must see for any trip to HK. The hustle of the Ladies market makes for a great day out, and if you fancy a bargain or two getting your haggle on is a great experience.
The Peak & Botanical Gardens
Hong Kong’s beauty comes from the contradiction of concrete jungle with real life jungle, and the mountains / hills are really where nature gets a chance to wow you. Whilst the ‘lower levels’ of HK are packed with high rise buildings & back to back walk ups, once you’ve taken the mid level escalator up, and begin to climb the long long streets, you soon discover a secret world you might not have otherwise imagined. The Peak & botanical gardens are the most central areas to explore and hike, but there are so many more to discover like the Dragons Back and the Twin Peaks. Look up and you’ll soon see how much more there is to Hong Kong.
WHAT TO DO
Get Your Hike On
If there’s one trend amongst the expat community I saw it was hiking (and partying, ahem). You thought LA was the land of the hike, you were wrong. Hong Kong is infamous for it’s hiking trails and incredible views, and it’s the ultimate Saturday morning wake up after a long week and a heavy Friday night on the tiles (12pm close times do not exist in HK, so add in some jet lag and you’ll be dancing until 6am without even realising). The Peak & Dragons Back trails are highly recommended.
One thing I wish we could have done during our trip was the hike all the way down to the beach (of which there are many my friends). You don’t instantly associate Hong Kong with beaches, but beaches they do, and they do well. If you’ve got time & the weathers good then I’d definitely advise a trek to the seaside for a swan amongst the millionaires.
See The Light Show
The light show is a joke amongst Honk Kongers and those who reside there, it’s one of those tourist attractions thats unbelievably overrated (like the Big Budha hike from what I hear). BUT, what the Light show does offer is the perfect excuse to visit Kowloon & make base in one of their fine roof top bars (Aqua was a personal favourite). Watch the sun set back over Hong Kong island with a glass of fizz in hand, who could say no to that?
Haggle At The Markets
I’ve already mentioned the Ladies market of Kowloon, but the flower market also comes with great acclaim. Be sure to make a trip to the markets if only to see the local Chinese ladies doing there best East London market swag. You can pick up beautiful Noodle bowls and Chopsticks for as little as £5 for a set, so it’s the perfect spot for a few last minute holiday gifts. Whatever you do, don’t buy on first offer.
I for one like any excuse for a massage and pamper, so you can thank me later for this one. Hong Kong is packed to the brim with reflexology shops, nail parlours and massage spas. If you head to the mid level you’ll get a typical Chinese walk up but with London prices, but if you head a little further out towards Queens Road Central and Queens Road West you’ll soon fine the less commercial spots where you can get an hours foot massage for a tenner or so. Well worth it.
Whilst I didn’t do much shopping on my trip, Hong Kong has a serious retail offering, from the designer stores in the Landmark Mall or AMP Mall in Kowloon, to local designers in and around the PMQ are (the East London of HK & a former Police Station packed with bars and stores).
WHERE TO DRINK
I was quite amazed at the drinking scene in Hong Kong, at times it was like being back in Malia as a 17 year old (it’s like the 35 year olds version of a clubbing holiday). The drinking licenses and expat vibes mean Hong Kong knows how to party. Whether it’s ladies night in Wan Chai (the races & ladies drink free nights are a big thing in HK) or a sophisticated drink on Wydnham Street in central (much more my cup of tea), HK will serve you well. Below are a few of my favourite bars that we visited on our trip.
Lily & Bloom
33 Wyndham St, Central, Hong Kong
Lily & Bloom is packed with fairy lights, cool vibes & a stellar cocktail list. The perfect pre dinner cocktail spot.
1 Peking Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Aqau (as well as Eye Bar) are great spots for fancy cocktails & incredible views in Kowloon. Just look for the peninsular and you’ll find Aqua at the top with the best views over Hong Kong Island.
28 Hollywood Rd, Central, Hong Kong
The perfect post dinner and pre dancing interlude, Rummin Tings is your go to Rum bar and the ultimate in 90’s RnB & reggae classics. I for one can vouch that a trip to Rummin Tings does not end in an early night.
Neo Cocktail Bar
10 Shin Hing St, Central, Hong Kong
Neo Cocktail Bar has the vibes of an East London or Williamsburg speak easy, right in the centre of Hong Kong. They do my all time favourite, an Eastern Standard, to perfection. If you’re looking for something a little less formal than the likes of Aqua, but a little trendier than Rummin Tings, then Neo is definitely one to visit.
Aberdeen Street Social
35 Aberdeen St, Central, Hong Kong
ABS is the perfect spot for a mid afternoon Rose in my opinion. With chilled outside seating & vibes like the french riviera it makes the perfect, decadent al fresco drinking hole. The kind of spot where you could easily sink a few bottles of wine before realising you’ve missed dinner. Never mind, Jason Atherton has ensured the restaurant upstairs is as good as the bar downstairs.
WHERE TO EAT
Hong Kong does food GOOD. Whether it’s local Dim Sum (a firm favourite of mine), pan Asian fine dining or a good healthy grain bowl you’re looking for. HK has it. Below are my ‘must visit’ restaurant & brunch recommendations for you.
213 Queen’s Rd W, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
Avocado toastie & an iced coffee please. at 95 dollars (around £9) it’s not dirt cheap, but my god it’s worth it. We made Winstons are go to stop every morning and the avocado toastie is a total revolution.
56 High St, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong
If you’re looking for a good n’ healthy brunch or freshly cooked European dinner, then Ollies comes highly recommended. There fettuccine is to die for & the sweetcorn fritters are serious Granger & Co competitors.
46 Wyndham St, Central, Hong Kong
If you’re looking for more of a fine dining experience and some seriously tasty Chinese food then Mama San is a must must must. The belly of pork & ribs are to die for, and the oysters are no joke. Unbelievably this award winning restaurant offers 2 for 1 on a Monday night … not one to miss.
Ho Lee Fook, another up market, modern Chinese restaurant is on the list for next time too.
6 Pound Ln, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Mrs Pound combines seriously good food, with a unique and exciting experience, for without knowing where this restaurant was you’d simply walk straight by. An old stamp shop as an entrance, Mrs Pound is a seriously cool restaurant hidden inside. The avocado fries, Siracha Sweetcorn, Tuna Larb and Kale salad are to die for.
108 Hollywood Road Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
If you’re tummy is calling on some western goodness & green juice, then Classified is the perfect lunch spot for you. Grab a seat outside, order one of their free juices & a healthy gains bowl and you’ll be at home in no time.
Dim Dim Sum
26-28 Man Wui St, Jordan, Hong Kong
It wouldn’t be a trip to hong Kong without visiting a local Dim Sum cafe, and Dimdimsum on Kowloon makes for the perfect and authentic occasion. The food is crazy cheap and beyond delicious, and it’s packed with Chinese locals as much as expats catching up over lunch. Definitely one to try.
And there you have it, the ultimate Hong Kong travel Guide. Hopefully enough recommendations to fill any long weekend exploring Hong Kong, with the perfect mix of expat favourites and with tourist ‘must do’s’. Hong Kong has so much to offer, that every trip to this concrete jungle is so different. But whether you’re there to party or explore there’s certainly a lot to keep you busy.