The best recommendations for 6, 24, 48 or 96 hours in Hong Kong
I never grow tired of telling you how much there is to explore, see and do in Hong Kong. Unfortunately enough, most tourists still see Hong Kong rather as a transit destination and only plan for a short stay with not too much time. As these visitors nevertheless want to get the most out of their stay, I wrote this article to show you how to optimize your Hong Kong experience according to the duration of your visit:
Hong Kong with 6 hours' time
In case you only visit Hong Kong for a short stopover between two flights, it is yet the more important to familiarize yourself beforehand with the first steps after arrival and the particularities of the different means of transport in Hong Kong in order to save time.
Short-term visitors benefit from the luggage storage option at Hong Kong International Airport and the fast and reliable Airport Express Train service between HKIA and Central (only 24 minutes). A same-day return ticket costs just as much as an one-way ticket, so definitely go for that option.
Having arrived in the city, you should at least have enough time for three of Hong Kong's biggest highlights: from Airport Express Station on Hong Kong Island take a short walk over a pedestrian bridge to the Central Ferry Piers, where you should hop on one of the traditional Star Ferries that cross Victoria Harbour regularly. For less than 50 Cent (2.5 HKD), this is easily the best value-for-money harbour cruise in the world! Enjoy the view on Hong Kong's panoramic skyline, the second big highlight, during the ferry ride and afterwards from Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. The panorama of the forest of skyscrapers with the harbour in front and the mountain in the back is truly unique!
The third absolute must-see is the mountain I've just mentioned: Victoria Peak. To get up there, first take a ferry back to Central. From there, it is advisable to hail a taxi. It shouldn't set you back more than 100 HKD and is most likely the fastest way up to the Peak. To find out about the best views and activities on and around Victoria Peak, please read my article here. Depending on the queues, you can either take the historic Peak Tram back down or alternatively take another taxi.
If you still have time to spare: Tim Ho Wan in Airport Express Station offers authentic, even Michelin Star-rated, yet affordable Hong Kong Dim Sum. Have something to eat here before you make your way back to the airport via the Airport Express.
Hong Kong with 24 hours' time
A good option (even though quite pricey) to see as much of Hong Kong as possible in a short time are the regularly running sightseeing buses that even provide you with some interesting background information. The two main companies running these hop-on hop-off tours in Hong Kong are Rickshaw Tours and Big Bus Tours. With both, you can leave at any stop to explore the area further and continue the drive with one of the next buses coming later. Rickshaw Tours is offering one route, Big Bus Tours even three of them (one in Kowloon, two on Hong Kong Island - combo tickets available!). Attractive are their inclusions: ferry ride, Peak Tram or Sky 100 observation deck as well as a Sampan cruise in Aberdeen are covered with your payment.
Big Bus Tours CitySightseeing
3 Routes + 1 Night Tour offered:
- Red Route (HK Island, Duration: 1:30h, every 30 minutes)
- Blue Route (Kowloon, Duration: 1:15h, every 45 minutes)
- Green Route (Aberdeen + Stanley, South HK Island, Duration: 1:30h, every 30 minutes)
- Night Tour (Kowloon, Duration: 1:00h, one tour per evening)
- Standard (valid for one day on all three routes)
- Premium (valid for two days on all three routes)
- Deluxe (valid for two days on all three routes plus including the night tour)
more information here
If you plan for an overnight stay in Hong Kong, you should definitely enjoy the magnificent view down from one of the city's many rooftop bars. Depending on the time of your onward flight, you can later have some fun in SoHo or Hong Kong's notorious LKF district (Lan Kwai Fong).
My three favourite bars with splendid views are the aqua bar in Kowloon as well as two bars belonging to the Wooloomooloo steak house chain: one in Tsim Sha Tsui, the other one on Hong Kong Island:
Hong Kong with 48 hours' time
Instead of sightseeing buses you can as well join one guided city walk, to see many of the city's highlights on your first day to Hong Kong "in a nutshell".
Two companies offering such walks (on tip-only basis) are for instance Hong Kong FreeTours and HK Free Walk. The latter ones offer two walks, one on Hong Kong Island (twice a day, four days a week) and one in Tsim Sha Tsui (twice a day, five days a week). Moreover, they offer a hiking tour to Lamma Island, which at 400 HKD, however, seems to be highly overpriced - rather explore Lamma on your own if you want to, it's easy!
Hong Kong Free Tours is meanwhile offering a huge variety of tours, for example a history tour in and around Central and also a "Delicacies" tour in Kowloon, during which you will be able to try a lot of local "specialties" - if you dare...
If you have at least 48 hours in Hong Kong, I strongly recommend to explore the green side of Hong Kong at least once. For example during a hike up to Victoria Peak. Or alternatively on the Hong Kong Trail Stage 5/ Wilson Trail Stage 2, which is in my point of view the nicest cityview hike in Hong Kong. Adventurers could also go to Lantau and hike to the Big Buddha via Lantau Peak, but beware: this hike is not for beginners! I would not recommend the Dragon's Back trail that almost all the guidebooks recommend - it is relatively far remote and in terms of nature the ones mentioned above are not less splendid.
Hong Kong with 96 hours' time
In four days you can get a quite comprehensive overview of Hong Kong. I recommend the following schedule:
One day Hong Kong Island highlights
e. g. Victoria Peak and Peak Tram; tram ride through Central; riding the escalators up to Mid-Levels and visit HK Zoo and Botanical Gardens afterwards; Hong Kong Park; Man Mo Temple and the Hollywood Road neighbourhood in Sheung Wan with the artist's workshops in PMQ, interesting memorabilia in Cat Street, nice cafés and restaurants as well as lovely Street Art, etc.)
One day highlights of Kowloon and the New Territories
e. g. skyline view from TST Promenade, Bruce Lee statue in Garden of Stars, flamingoes in Kowloon Park; visit the Temple of the 10,000 Buddhas in Sha Tin or Wong Tai Sin Temple combined with Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden (my favourite place in Hong Kong, truly an oasis of peace and calm amidst the hustle and bustle of the city); in the afternoon/evening stroll the markets of Mong Kok (Flower Market, Bird Garden, Goldfish Market, Jade Market, Ladies Market, Sneaker Street) or Temple Street Night Market in Yau Ma Tei, before taking another nighttime view at the skyline of Hong Kong from Tsim Sha Tsui again.
One day highlights of Lantau Island
Enjoy a mesmerising nature experience on green Lantau Island during a cable car ride on Ngong Ping 360 from Tung Chung to the Big Buddha. Afterwards, make your way to the water village of Tai O and take a look at the stilt houses before embarking on a boat trip into the bay to get a glimpse of the pink dolphins that live here.
One day on one of the Outlying Islands
This will provide you with a completely different experience as busy Central or lively Kowloon. The Outlying Islands are laidback and relaxed, the lifestlye here feels completely different and life seems to be pleasantly slow. On Lamma Island, for instance, you can hike the moderately exhausting Family Walk, lie down at one of its beaches and enjoy nice seafood. Also, Cheung Chau and Peng Chau are worth a trip. You can get to each of these islands easily from the Central Ferry Piers.
...yet, still not enough time...
Even though my recommendations make sure that you'll get a comprehensive overview of Hong Kong and its highlights, you will still miss places also worth seeing, like...
...Stanley: a relaxed small town on the South Island side with a nice promenade that features a kind of Mediterranean vibe, a high-quality souvenir market and a few nice beaches...
...or the most beautiful beaches in whole Hong Kong in Sai Kung (New Territories). Alternatively, as it is easier to get there, the most beautiful beach on Hong Kong Island in Shek O, ...
...interesting museums like Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong Maritime Museum or Science Museum, ...
...Hong Kong Disneyland or Ocean Park which is by far preferred by Hong Kong's locals, ...
...a day trip to Macau...
...and so on, and so forth...
What's more, I didn't cover any shopping or dining recommendations above. But, rest assured, for the shopping addicts and foodies amongst you there's plenty of choice in Hong Kong, too.
Moreover, there can always be special daily or seasonal events like the horse races in Happy Valley on almost every Wednesday or various seasonal festivals and events. Better check www.discoverhongkong.com for current events during your stay.
You see, there's far more to explore and do in Hong Kong than you may imagine! And even though I tried: it's simply not possible to see everything of Hong Kong in such a short time. Thus, combine my recommendations according to your preferences and add or leave things out as you like. By doing so, your time in Hong Kong - even though it is limited - will suffice for a qualified first impression. And Hong Kong will gladly welcome you back for a second visit, I'm sure!