A city that boasts a classic fusion of East and West; Hong Kong welcomes you with an iconic skyline, cultural landscape, epic cuisine and colourful traditions. This bustling coastal city where eastern and western cultures intertwine, offers so much in terms of what to see and do. In this post I will cover everything we did during our five day visit here.
Where To Stay
A few people have asked me where I stayed when I was in Hong Kong. We met family here so we were absolutely spoiled rotten and magically transformed from backpackers to flashpackers overnight! We stayed in the most luxurious hotel I’ve probably ever stayed in called ‘The Harbour Grand Kowloon’ on Kowloon Island. It was absolutely amazing. Rooftop pool, stunning harbour views, super king-sized beds… the works! The funny looks we got when the doorman opened the door to two crazy looking Individuals with dirty rucksacks on their backs was priceless! Talk about being out of place! Ha. It wasn’t until Darragh’s family turned up that we looked somewhat normal.
If you are on holiday and looking to treat yourself then this hotel was stunning. Both Kowloon and Hong Kong Island offer lots of incredible, luxurious hotels. However in my opinion staying on Kowloon Island would be better, just because you will get better views from your hotel overlooking Hong Kong Island. However, if you are backpacking then you will be looking for somewhere as cheap as possible! Hong Kong doesn’t really have a backpacker ‘scene’ as such and this is mainly down to the cost of living here. You can expect to pay up to €60 a night for some of the cheapest budget hotels and even dorm rooms can cost €40-50 a night. I researched a bit and it seems that guesthouses are the cheapest option for backpackers in Hong Kong. They are no beauty but offer clean, cheap accommodation in good locations. Chungking Mansions seem to be Hong Kong’s hostel hotspot for backpackers so it may be worth having a look there.
Hong Kong may be expensive but it is a fascinating city to explore and has lots of things to do to suit every budget.
Things To Do
Take a Trip on the Star Ferry
The Star Ferry runs every 10 minutes from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon Island and back. Not only is it a very efficient mode of transport, but it is also incredibly scenic and very therapeutic. It has been successfully carrying passengers since 1888 and was voted one of National Geographic’s “50 places of a lifetime”. You can get some stunning views of Victoria harbour from the boat resulting in some fab photos too! And best of all… it only costs 2HK dollars (25cent) each way! Tourist passes do exist, but we never looked into this as we weren’t staying long enough.
Hong Kong is a shopping paradise! From luxury designer brands to high-street favourites and busy street markets, there is something for everyone. Even walking through the department stores and shopping malls was mind blowing. I mean how many Rolex shops does one city need!!? It may come as a surprise to you that I unfortunately was not shopping for Rolex watches… so street markets are my thaaaang. I love them, and have quite possibly been to every street market in Asia at this stage!
Hong Kong’s ‘Ladies Market’ is an absolute must to visit. A busy stretch of over 100 stalls selling everything from watches, handbags, souvenirs and trinkets. As the phrase “everything is made in China” goes, you can grab yourself some really good fakes here too! Just be sure to ask to see the “good stuff” out the back. Ok, that may sound like you’re asking for something else haha maybe ask to see the better quality products as they tend to keep the best ones out back! The market is located on Tung Choi Street and is open every day from 11am to 11:30pm. Get practising those haggling skills, you’ll need them here!
Ride the old tram up to Hong Kong Island’s highest peak for the most breath-taking 360 degree views of Victoria harbour. Unfortunately the smog rudely obstructed our views so my pictures are defiantly not blog worthy! But if you get a clear day then make sure to put this top of your list! It can get quite crowded for sunset so perhaps try and go early in the day. You can get a Peak Tram Sky Pass which includes the tram ride up and down and access to the Sky Terrace 428 for 90HK dollars (€12).
If you have been following me on my Instagram, then you will know that we are active Disney goers! My first ever Disneyland experience was to Paris last year and since then I have been to four out of the six World Disneys! An achievement if I do say so myself! Darragh and his family have been to Disneyland looooads of times so I was very excited to join them on their Paris trip last year. Darragh has now been to every Disneyland in the World! *claps for Darragh*.
When Darragh’s family came to visit us in Hong Kong, of course we had to check out Disney! I absolutely love Disneyland (who doesn’t?) and was beyond excited to see if it lived up to my Paris expectations. Needless to say it did. In fact it was very similar, if not identical to Paris with a few small differences between the rides. This magical kingdom filled with excitement, happiness and beauty is such a fun way to spend a day in Hong Kong if you have time to do so. Admission costs 499 HK dollars (€53) but be sure to check out my favourite app ever – Klook (more about that in my post here) to see if there are any discounts or special offers on the day. The same applies to all Hong Kong activities, be sure to check the Kook app first for discounts.
The Light Show at Victoria Harbour
You cannot leave Hong Kong without seeing its most spectacular skyline at night. Take a trip over to Victoria Harbour to see the Symphony of Lights in action. The light show is on every night at 8pm. It is organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board and is so beautiful to watch. For the best view of the light show, make sure you go down to the Tsim Sha Tsai waterfront just outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. It can get very crowded here so be sure to get down early to claim the best spot!
The Hong Kong Big Bus Sightseeing Tour
I’m a big fan of city bus tours but have never really done any in Asia, mainly just within Europe. This hop on, hop off bus tour allows you to see so much of the city and learn about its history and culture. You can experience the bright lights and bustling streets of downtown, tranquil surroundings of the peaceful bays, impressive high rises within the business districts, traditional markets and colourful temples.
We had such a laugh on this tour and genuinely learnt and saw so much. We bought the premium two day ticket which cost approximately €50. It included all three routes, a star ferry return ticket, Sampan Boat Ride and Peak Tram Sky Pass OR Sky 100 Observation Deck entry. So it was defiantly value for money. It’s a good idea to get this ticket on your first few days in Hong Kong so you have time to do the rest of the activities included in the price.
Sky 100 Observation Deck
The Sky 100 Observation Deck is located at 1588 feet on the 100th floor of Hong Kong’s tallest building, the International Commerce Centre (ICC). The Observation Deck offers the most incredible, 360 degree panoramic views of Hong Kong and Victoria Harbour. Its high speed elevators bring you straight to the 100th floor in just 60seconds. The views really are spectacular so make sure you visit on a clear day as smog is very common in Hong Kong and can completely block your view.
The ICC also hosts the highest hotel in the world, the very prestigious Ritz-Carlton which occupies the top 16 floors. So if you’re looking to really treat yourself then it can be yours for a whopping €450 a night! Also located on the 118th floor is the ‘Ozone’ rooftop bar, the highest bar in the world! We went here for one drink, and one drink only as you can expect to splash the cash here. Obviously you are paying for the completely unobstructed view of Hong Kong and Kowloon Island. Unfortunately for us the smog made an unwanted appearance once again!
Hike the Dragons Back
Over 70% of Hong Kong is made up of mountains and sprawling country parks. So if you are looking to escape the city limits then this hike is for you! Darragh and myself love a good hike but unfortunately we didn’t get time for this. ‘The Dragons Back’ is a famous hiking trail that has been named Asia’s top urban hike, however there is nothing “urban” about this hike. It approximately takes 4 hours to complete and has the most incredible coastal views of the China Sea. This hike will allow you to completely forget that you are in one of the world’s most densely populated cities as you walk through the peaceful, unspoilt beauty. Once you finish the hike, you will be rewarded with some stunning white beaches of Shek O seaside village.
Climb Lions Rock
If you want to experience the best view of Hong Kong then you are going to have to work for it! Located in Lion Rock park of Hong Kong’s New Territories, you’ll find the gateway to Lion Rock Peak. This hike is no walk in the park and can sometimes require climbing on all fours to reach the top. It will be challenging and it will be sweaty. However once you do, you will be rewarded with the most UH-MAAAAZING city views with Hong Kong and Kowloon Island laid out at your feet.
It’s important to note that this hike requires one of Hong Kong’s rare clear days. We had quite bad weather in Hong Kong so unfortunately we never got to do this hike. However it is top of our list for our next visit here!
*Hat tip to our mate Clive for sharing his amazing photo with us above!*
Hong Kong is one of the world’s top culinary capitals and with its eclectic mix of east and west, you won’t be stuck for options. From some of the best Cantonese and Chinese dishes to French and Japanese there is something to suit everyone. As regards where to eat, Hong Kong has so many amazing restaurants. They will be expensive but my god are they good! You can eat very cheaply here too, if you know where to look! The street food here tends to be perfectly safe to eat and you can get a delicious meal of sweet and sour chicken with rice for as little as €5 from any street corner diner.
Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula Hotel
The Peninsula hotel has been ranked one of the world’s top hotels. Offering a blend of the best eastern and western hospitality, the Peninsula is luxury defined with an atmosphere of unmatched grandeur and timeless elegance. This hotel also plays an important role in Hong Kong’s history. It was opened in 1928 and it was here that the British Colonial Officials surrendered to the Japanese headquarters at the end of the battle of Hong Kong.
The Peninsula’s iconic Afternoon Tea is the ultimate holiday treat. The lobby’s elegant surroundings and delicious delights won’t disappoint. Sip on prosecco and indulge in a selection of the finest pastries, sandwiches and desserts. Sounds like utter bliss doesn’t it? This was recommended to us but unfortunately we weren’t in a position financially and visually (more important visually haha, it has a strict dress code!) to visit this time round.
Having said that, when we return to Hong Kong no longer as Backpackers, this is something I would love to do. A perfect holiday treat. Please make sure to pre-book your Afternoon Tea slot with the hotel as it is extremely popular and can book up fast.
That concludes my guide to Hong Kong, I hope you find it helpful!
Ps, Cathay Pacific have just recently announced that they will be flying direct from Dublin to Hong Kong four times a week from next June! Read more about this here. I really think this would be a perfect location for a four/five day trip or getaway for a long weekend!
Thanks so much for reading!