Why Hong Kong is more than just a stopover

Roshina Jowaheer
·7-min read

Dazzling, spectacular and bursting with energy, Hong Kong is a real feast for the senses, where modern metropolis meets traditional Chinese culture.

Many travellers visiting the Asian city take little time to stop and explore, often seeing it as nothing more than a stopover on their way to Australasia - but this is a mistake. This is a destination in its own right, and we've got the photos to prove it!

Made up of three main islands - Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories - as well as over 200 offshore isles, the cosmopolitan city offers Chinese and British colonial heritage, countless shopping malls and a flourishing arts scene.

With its famed expansive skyline, British influences and ever-growing social scene, there's never been a more exciting time to visit Hong Kong. Check out our recommendations below and make the most of your time at one of the world's most fabulous cities.

Explore the local life

Trendy, raw and chic - the Sheung Wan district on Hong Kong Island is where you'll find busy fruit and veg markets, antique shops and unique boutiques from up-and-coming designers. The island is just a short and inexpensive Star Ferry ride from Kowloon (a must for the picturesque views and a nostalgic trip across Victoria Harbour). Spend an afternoon walking around Sheung Wan and soaking up the atmosphere of the place where Hong Kong's hipsters hang out. From Cat Street (Upper Lascar Row), with its souvenirs and bric-a-brac, to the smell of incense coming from the giant incense cones hanging from the ceiling of Man Mo Temple, Sheung Wan is where the old world meets the new. Continue walking east along Hollywood Road and you'll reach the quirky outdoor Central-Mid-Levels Escalator, the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world.

Take a hike

Another great way to explore the city on foot is by heading over to The Peak. There aren't many major world cities that encourage hiking but if you're visiting Hong Kong you won't want to forget your walking boots. While most tourists take the tram to reach famous viewing platform The Peak, you can make the experience more special by ogling the magnificent views of Victoria Harbour on foot via the Peak Circle Walk. The 3.5-kilometre trail winds around Hong Kong's highest point taking in the awe-inspiring vista from the Lugard Road lookout, passing a pretty waterfall below Mount Austin Playground and the tree-shaded path of Harlech Road.

Stay in a hotel with views

One of the most striking features of Hong Kong is its skyline and you'll find yourself wanting to take in the iconic views wherever you are and whatever you're doing. There's a wealth of superlative hotels and a few with harbour views. At Hotel ICON (from £189 per room, per night) in Kowloon you can immerse yourself in the inspiring surroundings from almost every space - the bedrooms, the rooftop swimming pool, the Panoramic Bar and even the gym. Hotel ICON is not like other hotels. It's a research and teaching space for The Hong Kong Polytechnic University with run by some of the youngest yet most professional staff you'll ever come across. As well as boasting green credentials with its recycling and sustainability, the hotel houses over eight thousands plants in the lobby's vertical. The lush display was designed by world-renowned botanist Patrick Blanc and overlooks the aptly named Green café. The rooms are stylish, spacious and elegant with clever little touches, such as the free minibar, printer (because how many of us remember to print our flight details?)and chillout space with iconic Karuselli chairs. Experience fine dining at panoramic restaurant Above & Beyond, which boasts Terence Conran interiors and a relaxed yet sophisticated feel. Meat, seafood, soup and classic barbecue options feature and this is a restaurant where you can feast on Cantonese cuisine at its finest.

Hit the shops

The shopping. Oh the shopping. You can't visit Hong Kong without browsing the shops. From electrical goods to vintage clothing, there's something for everyone. One of our favourite places for retail therapy is the aptly named Sneaker Street (Fa Yuen Street) in Kowloon, lined with more sportswear shops than you can imagine and where you can pick up a pair of the latest trainer designs from leading brands at an affordable price. Mong Kok, where the street is located, is known for its crowds shopping beneath bright neon signs. Temple Street Night Market is worth a visit to see the abundance of souvenirs, electronics and trinkets on sale. For serious shopping 'til you drop, Harbour City is Hong Kong's largest mall, offering the best-known high-street and designers stores from around the world under one roof. In Hong Kong Island, Causeway Bay is a shopper's paradise, home to countless shopping centres, department stores and boutiques. For something a bit different, the Island Beverly Centre is filled with Korean and Japanese boutiques, offering unique fashion finds. Don't forget to check out Hong Kong's own style - Vivienne Tam, Giordano, Daydream Nation and G.O.D. are great places to pick up clothing items your friends back home won't be able to get their hands on.

Eat your heart out

For a quintessential dining experience in Hong Kong, you must sample the dim sum (literally meaning 'touch the heart'). Whether you fancy eating with the locals in an unpretentious setting or feasting in Michelin-starred restaurants, you'll find a plethora of dim sum restaurants in the city that was made for gourmands. In Hong Kong Island's Central district, Duddell's is the hottest new hangout with a members-only club feel (although the owners stress the elegant setting is for all to enjoy). Dishes such as Steamed Rice Roll with Dried Shrimp and Conpo, and Sweet Corn Soup with Fresh Crab Meat are traditional with a modern twist. And you won't want to pass up dessert with the light and refreshing Avocado Sago Soup with Chocolate featuring on the menu at the restaurant that simultaneously acts as an art gallery. If you really want to delve into Hong Kong's food scene, book a spot on the Central & Sheung Wan Foodie Tour, which takes in the best eateries for barbecue pork, dim sum, hot egg tarts, plus a visit to a tea connoisseur's studio to learn everything you need to know about Chinese tea.

Soak up the culture and tradition

A visit to Hong Kong isn't complete without a trip to a Chinese temple. There are dozens to choose from - each active places of worship reflecting the tranquillity that can be found among the city's skyscrapers. Take the MTR (Hong Kong's subway system which is simple to navigate with hi-tech features and feels a lot more pleasant than the stuffy London Tube!) to Diamond Hill and visit the Nan Lian Garden, an oasis backed by high-rise buildings. The public park is an amazing sight to see for its tranquillity, lush green landscape and serene ambiance within the buzzing city. Towards the back of the garden lies the beautiful Chi Lin Nunnery, a Buddhist temple complex which dates back to 1934 and is characterised by traditional wooden architecture, pretty lotus ponds and gold statues.

See the city come alive after dark

Hong Kong is the 'Asian City That Never Sleeps' and you'll certainly want to explore it once night falls. Don't miss witnessing the breathtaking sunset first - rooftop bar Wooloomooloo and towering Ozone at the Ritz-Carlton (which happens to be the highest bar in the world perched on the hotel's 118th floor) are the best spots for exotic cocktails and prime sunset viewing. For an unforgettable dinner with a show, Nanhai No. 1 is an upscale restaurant and bar offering glittering harbour views any time of night, but arrive in time for the free Symphony of Lights laser display which takes over the city's skyline and involves more than 40 buildings every evening. For the ultimate experience on water and a delightful night-time experience, hop on board the Aqua Luna for a ride on a traditionally crafted junk around Victoria Harbour. Order a drink, take in the views of the skyscrapers and just sit back while relaxing as the wonderful vessel takes you on an iconic cruise.

Get there: Cathay Pacific flies five times daily to Hong Kong from London Heathrow, with return flights from £589.

For more things to see and do in Hong Kong, visit discoverhongkong.com

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