There isn’t another place on earth that gives me butterflies in my stomach when I talk about it. I love Hong Kong and consider it a privilege to have lived there. My daughter is also proud to call it her birthplace.
I have a list of things to do in Hong Kong that I email to friends and readers when they ask for it. This is that list. It’s deliberately long to include a variety of budgets and experiences. I list spas, shopping, restaurants, street food, attractions and more.
You won’t be able to tackle it all in one trip but you’ll get a good idea of what to include on an itinerary of any length.
A majority of my haunts are in or near Central on the island where we lived. However, it is likely as a tourist that you’ll visit or stay in Central as some of the best hotels in Hong Kong are here.
See also: Best Things to Do in Hong Kong with Kids
Favorite Hong Kong Restaurants & Food
The beauty of Hong Kong is that while you can dine around exclusively at Michelin-starred restaurants, you can have an equally fulfilling epicurean journey in local shops that won’t cost much at all. And, these cheap and cheerful places deserve a spot on any Hong Kong itinerary.
Michelin Three-Star Dim Sum (Lung King Heen)
If you would like to have some of the most beautiful dim sum the world has to offer, it can be found here at Lung King Heen, the world’s first Michelin three-star Cantonese restaurant.
The set lunch is always a sampling of Chef Tak’s best offerings of the day but you must order a baked barbecue bun and the barbecue pork sampler. Note that dim sum is served at lunch in Hong Kong, which is when we usually book in.
Lung King Heen welcomes kids over the age of 3 and is located on the 4th floor of Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong.
Cheap Michelin-Star Dim Sum (Tim Ho Wan)
We’re usually pressed for time in Hong Kong so waiting in long lines for amazing dim sum just frankly isn’t an option.
Show up a tad shy of 11:00 a.m. on a weekday to Tim Ho Wan in the IFC mall (in Central) usually means a short wait for some of the world’s best dumplings.
The Kowloon location in Sham Shui Po is the one with the Michelin star but the food is the same here. It’s delicious. So, you could start your day of shopping Sham Shui Po (more on this below) a little early buy stopping into Tim Ho Wan for a barbecue pork bun snack when it opens at 10 a.m.
I always over-order because I want to sample things and never know what my daughter is keen for and we never seem to spend more than USD 25 between the two of us.
Michelin-Star Mile (Wellington Street)
This section of Wellington Street in Central (or Old Town Central as they call it now) recently earned the nickname of Michelin-Star Mile. Here you’ll find long-time and family-run local joints that have received nods in the red book because, well, the food is outstanding and it’s cheap.
Mak’s Noodle is a personal favorite. The small bowls of won ton noodle soup (a must-eat) will only set you back a few USD. Go early to avoid the line. Luk Yu Teahouse is a local institution that serves dim sum day and night. Enjoy roast goose at Yat Lok. The Pekinese dumplings at Wang Fu also make for a good snack in between sightseeing. And, there are even more. Check the Hong Kong Michelin guide for more details.
The key is to go on one side of lunch or dinner to avoid queues. Most Hong Kongers break for lunch at 1 p.m. so 11 a.m. or even earlier is advisable.
A luxury hotel concierge can score you a reservation at the members-only China Club. We were members of this exclusive gathering place when we lived in Hong Kong and I truly miss it.
Go for fantastic Peking duck and Beggar’s chicken (order the latter 48 hours in advance) but also for the amazing 1930s Shanghai décor and the late fashion tycoon David Tang’s private art collection. It’s an eclectic mix of old and new.
Hong Kong’s elite go to the China Club to dine and have meetings, enjoy a drink or even play mahjong. Children are allowed during certain times on weekends.
Spicy Szechuan Hot Pot (San Xi Lou)
My Hong Kong friends and I almost always gather at San Xi Lou for Sichuan style spicy fish hot pot every time I’m in town. It’s the kind of dish that I dream about because I love that tingly numbness of the peppers.
It’s hard to explain so just eat it. San Xi Lou has been featured on some famous travel shows, but it’s still a local favorite. You can BYOB.
Character Dim Sum
Character dim sum seems to be popping up all over the place. My daughter loves it and I actually enjoy it, too. This is only if you have extra time for Kawaii, otherwise, stick to the likes of Tim Ho Wan. You can go to:
- Crystal Lotus at Hong Kong Disneyland for (you guessed it) Disney dim sum
- Dim Sum Icon in Tsim Sha Tsui
- Yum Cha in Central, TST, and Mongkok (we’ve eaten at the Central location multiple times and I’m happy to report that the food is both cute and good—they also offer dim sum making classes)
- Social Place in Central
My favorite place for egg tarts is Tai Cheong in the Mid Levels. I also like egg tarts from the to-go counter at Tsui Wah which is a fantastic local joint that is open for 24 hours (great for when jet lag hits).
Hong Kong Afternoon Tea
As a former British Colony, it makes sense that afternoon tea is a big to-do here and it’s the hotels that really that do it best.
Perhaps the most famous places to have tea is the Lobby Lounge in The Peninsula, Hong Kong. It’s beautiful and it’s a good stop if shopping and sightseeing on the Kowloon side in TST (Tsim Sha Tsui).
I typically opt for afternoon tea at Clipper Lounge at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. First, it’s because we’re usually staying in the hotel but also because locals love it.
You cannot go wrong with afternoon tea at Lobby Lounge at the Four Seasons Hong Kong or at Sevva.
Mandarin Cake Shop
I bought my daughter’s first birthday cake at the Mandarin Cake Shop inside Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong (American cheesecake because she liked to eat cheese at the time) and it’s where I’d grab cakes and desserts to-go when we were invited to dinner parties.
If you like baking, it’s worth stopping in to check out the totally mind-blowing amazing cakes and chocolate creations behind glass that are sprinkled throughout the shop’s perimeter.
Any of the pastries are delicious and it’s a great place for a snack, coffee or quick breakfast. I highly recommend the croissant-donut and picking up a jar of their famous Rose Petal Jam.
Egg Waffles and Other Street Food
Egg waffles are probably my favorite street food ever. Go to Mammy Pancake or Lee Keung Kee (multiple outlets across Hong Kong and both in the Michelin guide).
Hong Kong’s dai pai dongs (open-air street food vendors) serve up a myriad of cheap and cheerful eats including fish balls, siu mai, bubble tea, grilled skewers, stinky tofu, roasted chestnuts and sweet potato, pineapple buns, cheung fun, and more. They aren’t known for the best hygiene but if you want a very local experience, you can try one of these.
When shopping around the escalator, I also stop by the Lan Fong Yuen (2 Gage Street) stall for traditional panty hose milk tea. You can also order “half and half” which is half tea and half coffee, also doused with evaporated milk (delicious).
Cocktails with a View
If you can time cocktails overlooking Victoria Harbour with the nightly Symphony of Lights laser show, that’s perfection. The laser show is something most locals overlook as it happens every night but for a visitor, it’s pretty cool. Great drinks with views include:
- China Club
- M Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
- Ozone at The Ritz-Carlton (note that if there’s fog, you’ll see nothing from this height of 118 floors)
- Cafe Gray at Upper House
- Felix at The Peninsula Hong Kong (really amazing men’s urinals with a view, I hear)
My Favorite Lychee Martini
I always, always make a point of enjoying a lychee martini at the Blue Bar at Four Seasons Hong Kong. This is a tradition. It was my drink when we lived in the hotel. Rest assured that it can be delivered via in-room dining or ordered to the Lobby Lounge (I’ve done both).
Rose Petal Martini
If I need to meet friends in the hustle of Central, MO Bar at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental mixes up a mean rose petal martini. It’s basically a regular martini with a touch of rose syrup and a floating petal. It is not overly sweet either. This is also a great spot for a Queens Road shopping break.
Hong Kong Spas and Wellness
It’s a walking city so treat yourself to a little relaxation with one or more of these Hong Kong spa and wellness experiences.
Foot reflexology is offered in luxury spas all over the world but it is different when it’s the real deal.
I firmly believe that it should be occasionally uncomfortable similar to how it feels when a massage therapist works knots out of your back. The meridians on your feet also have issues that need to be massaged out.
When living in Hong Kong, I incorporated foot reflexology into a wellness routine. It prevented swelling due to pregnancy (I’d go whenever my shoes felt tight) and with my allergies. While there are a number of local places to go that are fantastic and a bit less money, I would send you to Foot in Central. I’ve been going there for over a decade and it’s conveniently located on the Queen’s Road near the Mid Levels escalator. If you have time for a 100-minute treatment, do it. English isn’t an issue and you can usually walk-in.
If you’d like to feel what your feet would be like in a state of perfection, book a traditional Shanghainese pedicure with Sammy So at The Mandarin Salon where he’ll shave every single callous in the most delicate way by hand.
It’s a bit freaky but also addictive. Foot also offers the Shanghainese pedicure.
Now, this isn’t something I would say that everyone visiting Hong Kong should do. However, if you would enjoy a traditional, no-frills Chinese medicine experience, I was a patient at Quality Chinese Medical Centre on Pottinger Street in the Mid Levels near the escalator.
My Chinese doctor there did not speak English (reception did) and diagnosed me purely by sight and pulse. And, he was the best Chinese doctor I’ve ever had. I sought help for nonallergic rhinitis (sinus pain and congestion unrelated to allergies) and morning sickness and truly believe it worked. They also perform cupping and moxibustion.
You do need to practice consistently to see results but I’m finding that people visiting Hong Kong sometimes like to try it. Some hotel spas offer acupuncture, too.
(To experience Chinese medicine, you should take a walk down Ko Shing Street in Sheung Wan where herbs and more are sold at wholesale. It’s the heart of the local trade and fantastic for photos.)
Luxury Hotel Spas
Hong Kong luxury hotel spas are not-to-be-missed because of attention to detail that so many spas elsewhere lack. They’re the type where you want to arrive early and stay late to lounge in hydrotherapy pools and then some. There are snacks and tons of extra touches. I can personally vouch for:
- The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
- The Mandarin Spa, Hong Kong (I recently enjoyed the Signature Jade Ritual)
- Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
I have heard that ESPA at The Peninsula, Hong Kong and Chuan Spa in the Langham Hotel are both lovely.
Shopping in Hong Kong
This is an absolute must. From fabulous Hong Kong-based brands to browsing for fabrics or electronics in the markets, there is a little something for everyone. I have written in detail about the best Hong Kong shopping.
Shanghai Tang is one of my favorite luxury brands. I regret not having them make my wedding dress but have compensated for that with a closet full of cheongsams (Mandarin collared dresses). Shanghai Tang has locations all over Hong Kong including at the airport, in Pacific Place and a flagship store on Duddell Street (you’ll want to see the lanterns here) in Central.
Should you visit the Big Buddha, it is worth stopping into their outlet at Citygate Outlets, right by the Tung Chung MTR stop, for discounted prices on prior seasons. A number of international brands have outlet stores here. Shanghai Tang also has an outlet at Ap Lei Chau.
What to buy: iPhone cases, picture frames, jewelry, and modern Chinese-style clothing here.
Location: Multiple across Hong Kong; flagship store at 1 Duddell Street, Central.
Goods of Desire (G.O.D.)
Thankfully, there are multiple locations of G.O.D. all over Hong Kong (including Hollywood Road, The Peak, and even the airport) where you can find really cool, hip, and modern housewares, clothing, accessories and more that embody Hong Kong. It’s a local brand and the kind of place that tweens and teens will love as much as you do.
What to buy: T-shirts, pouches and bags, random trinkets, hip mahjong sets, coasters.
Locations: So many
Oh how I adore Hollywood Road where many of Hong Kong’s best art galleries and antique dealers are located. Walk it from the escalator to Sheung Wan just for fun (hitting the Man Mo Temple and Cat Street market along the way—more on these below).
What to buy: Art and housewares
Location: Central, you can start from the Mid-Levels escalator
Horizon Plaza (Outlets)
If you happen to be in the Ap Lei Chau neighborhood, stop by Horizon Plaza for its 28 floors of mostly furniture shops with a handful of designer outlets sprinkled in.
We like Joyce Warehouse for designer brands), Kate Spade (found lots of accessories during our last visit), Saint Laurent, Shanghai Tang, and Lane Crawford outlets.
While you won’t be lugging furniture home on the plane, believe it or not, some stores will ship it and there are smaller accessories to buy.
Tip: The elevators are small and there is often a queue for them. Grab a building map and head to the top floor and work your way down the stairs to avoid waiting for the elevators. Some floors are worth a skip.
What to buy: Housewares and designer clothing at a discount
Location: Ap Lei Chau
Prada Outlet (Space)
Like any outlet, this Prada Outlet can be hit or miss. It’s near Horizon Plaza in South Horizons, which you can easily reach now by MTR. (Taxi over to Horizon Plaza from here.)
I used to buy shoes regularly here but lately, sizes for bigger feet (I’m a U.S. size 9) haven’t been available. But, I have been able to pick up other accessories and clothes from prior seasons at steep discounts. You might have to queue to enter as they only allow a certain number of people in at a time.
What to buy: Discounted Prada
Location: South Horizons
Hong Kong Tailors
Whether or not you can actually take advantage of a Hong Kong tailor depends on how much time you have. They will require measurements and a fitting (maybe two) spread out over the course of a week, though some are known to rush things or ship the final product home.
My husband used to get his work shirts custom made at Sun Shine Shirts House (call to verify hours and location +852 2771 4245) in Kowloon for the low price of nearly $30 USD per shirt.
His suits were made at the prestigious Ah Man Hing Cheong inside Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. Their roots go back to 1898 and they are known for very high-quality tailoring with beautiful material. This will be a top-of-the-line suit.
If you want to rip a page out of Vogue because you loved a particular coat, we go to Sam’s Tailor for that. It is not cheap, but what they make will cost much less than say the original Chanel ad you pulled or buying Ermenegildo Zegna off the rack.
For cheongsams, Linva Tailor in Central below the escalator is the place. If you would like a very high-end Mandarin collared shirt, cheongsam, or coat made go to Blanc de Chine or Shanghai Tang’s Imperial Tailoring.
Ascot Chang is famous for extremely high-quality custom and off-the-rack men’s shirts but since they have outlets all over the world, it’s becoming less of a Hong Kong experience.
There is no shortage of designer malls, but I’ve always been most fond of the Prince’s Building in Central. Sure, there’s Chanel but you’ll find a fantastic local luxury clothing shop called Blanc de Chine. It’s adjacent to Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong so pop in if you’re staying there.
There are three floors to browse here and the building is not huge so it can be done rather quickly. There are great housewares (go to Altfield for antiques and Chinese-style decor) and Oliver’s, a gourmet grocer that is perfect for stocking up on snacks, great wine, and more.
I (and other Hong Kong friends) buy Tahitian and other pearls from Wai Kee, a very trustworthy jeweler who has been in business since 1885.
What to buy: Higher-end items, gourmet groceries, pearls, and housewares
Location: Central in between The Landmark and Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
The old Police Married Headquarters was transformed into a lifestyle center featuring shops by over 100 local designers and artisans. Boutique shoppers will enjoy browsing PMQ.
What to buy: Unique souvenirs, housewares, clothes, shoes, and accessories you won’t find in your home country.
Location: Central/Soho where Staunton and Aberdeen Streets intersect.
Hong Kong Markets
There are so many Hong Kong markets and there’s never enough time for all of them. My suggestion is to visit the ones closest to where you’re staying and make a special trip to Sham Shui Po.
Temple Street Market on Kowloon side happens in the evening and is the most touristy. I personally love the Flower Market for buying vases and looking at the beautiful flowers especially around Chinese New Year. In Mongkok, you’ll also find the Ladies Market and Fa Yuen Street.
I do like the Jade Market but you need to know where to go and a little bit about jade to make a smart purchase. If you are serious about buying good quality jade, you have to visit a shop that is QTS accredited by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Here are a few others that we visit regularly because all but Sham Shui Po are near our hotel in Central.
The Lanes (Li Yuen East and Li Yuen West)
I typically stay in Central so The Lanes—Li Yuen East and Li Yuen West—are my source of inexpensive pashminas and extra luggage. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent friends here for extra luggage when they insisted one suitcase in Hong Kong was enough. It’s not… come over with an empty suitcase or plan to buy one. If you need to buy one, it can be done on the cheap.
The Lanes are two narrow alleys of outdoor stalls that sell trinkets, cheap Chinese-style clothing, knockoff character toys, and even underwear. You can negotiate a little. Don’t let anyone lead you into the surrounding buildings to look at fake handbags. Yes, these are high-quality fakes but the penalties you could receive for getting caught with one are not worth it.
What to buy: Pashminas, cheap Chinese-style shirts and cheongsams, hair accessories, random toys, luggage
Location: Queens Road, Central
Make this a quick stop if you’re in the neighborhood. Exit the Mid Levels escalator on the Queen’s Road and walk west toward Admiralty. On the right side of the street, within about a minute’s walk, you’ll see a set of steep stairs. This is Pottinger Street and a great place to buy costumes, Chinese New Year decor, ribbon, and accessories.
You can negotiate a little here, too. I recently bought 30 feather boas for my daughter’s birthday party for $2.50 each that otherwise would have sold for $8 each in the states.
If you keep walking uphill, this is a cool part of town to “get lost” in with lots of boutiques and Wellington’s Michelin Mile. Know that you’ll reach the escalator if you walk to the right, if you want to return downhill.
What to buy: Halloween costumes, feather boas, Chinese New Year décor
Location: Queens Road, Central near the escalator
Cat Street Market (and Man Mo Temple)
Pair a visit to Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road in Central with a stop across the street at Cat Street Market. Here you’ll find various Chinese propaganda knockoffs, antiques, and other kitschy things.
What to buy: Random Chinese trinkets, art, antiques
Location: Go down a small walkway across the street from Man Mo Temple
Sham Shui Po (Top Pick)
This working-class neighborhood is truly special. It’s famous for two things: electronics (Apliu Street flea market) and clothes (Ki Lung Street).
It’s actually where major clothing designers and companies come to check out fabrics, trims, buttons, and other adornments. Neighboring streets Nam Cheong Street, Yu Chau Street, and Ki Lung Street are also fantastic for ribbons, beads and other trinkets. If you like to sew or craft you must come to Sham Shui Po. But I’m not a sewer or all that crafty but I absolutely love it.
Be ready to browse, dig and walk so don’t be in a rush. There are bargains to be had. Go to Dragon Centre, too, for the “Apple Mall” shops on the 5th – 7th floors to browse the little booths with various inexpensive wares. Bring cash as not all vendors accept credit cards.
Kids will also love a visit to toy street, Fuk Wing Street, here for random toys, school supplies, party favors, and more. The stalls tend to open between 10:30–11 a.m so go to Tim Ho Wan here for a barbecue pork bun when it opens at 10 a.m.
What to buy: Trinkets, buttons, ribbon, fabric, beads, and toys
Location: Sham Shui Po Station
Other Hong Kong Attractions
The list has things to do in Hong Kong not already mentioned.
Cross between the island and Kowloon on the famous Star Ferry. The American football-shaped boats take just a few minutes to cross the harbour and are particularly scenic in the evening.
Sit on the upper deck for better views (and fewer coal fumes).
You can walk down to Central actually from The Peak with a map or a local (hail a taxi if you get lost).
It’s the longest escalator in the world. We used to live up here so I like to ride it at least up to Robinson Road and through the hip restaurants, bars, and shops. It’s a nice quick tour of Old Town Central and the residential Mid-Levels area plus you’ll wind up using it anyway to get around.
Hong Kong Disneyland
Go to Hong Kong Disneyland if you or your kids are Disney enthusiasts. It’s my favorite Disney park in the world as it’s not huge and lines are usually manageable during the weekdays (summers can be crowded though).
Take a ferry to Lamma Island for an easy walk/hike around the island, beach time, and even a seafood dinner. Cheung Chau island is another great option (see Bun Festival below).
My husband and I had passes to Ocean Park Hong Kong before our daughter was born. It’s an ocean-themed amusement park with some thrill rides and opportunities to interact with animals (like Panda Keeper for a Day).
Then, walk to the Wisdom Path and either have the traditional vegetarian lunch at the Po Lin Monastery or head over to the Tai Po fishing village.
You can hike in Hong Kong and it’s beautiful! Dragon’s Back is my favorite but you can take hikes on Lantau Island near the Big Buddha, too.
Seasonal Events to See
This is for those who can’t decide which time of year to visit Hong Kong. These are some fun seasonal events to keep in mind.
Chinese New Year
The skyscrapers are decked out in gorgeous lights during Christmas and also Chinese New Year. It’s also when you’ll see the traditional red and gold decorations everywhere in addition to mandarin orange trees for good luck. The city is absolutely stunning with an upbeat vibe throughout the season with fireworks displays, dragon dances, special menus and more.
Just note that during Chinese New Year public holidays that some shops will be closed.
If you happen to visit in the fall, try a moon cake in honor of Mid Autumn Festival. Yes, there are many types with the salted egg yolk but modern moon skin varieties are a little more palate friendly (ice cream and chocolate even) and very good. Mid Autumn Festival also involves loads of lanterns all over the city, carnivals and more.
Cheung Chau Bun Festival
The Bun Festival is an unusual weeklong spring event one on the outer island of Cheung Chau. It’s a centuries-old tradition that started off as a way to ward off pirates and evil spirits from the island.
Now, it draws in thousands of people each year with parades, papier-mâché deities and more. The centerpiece of the celebration is the 60′ bun towers where people actually climb in a race to the top to grab the highest bun. The higher the bun, the more good fortune.
Note that dates for these events change as they are based on the lunar calendar.
Where to Stay in Hong Kong
There are two hotels we always stay in. The first is my former home at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong (best with kids) and the second is the flagship Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, our former social hub.
Hong Kong is the type of city where hotels play a sizable role in the daily life of residents for business meetings, afternoon tea, spa, family dinners and much more. I can confidently recommend the following:
- Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
- Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
- The Landmark Mandarin Oriental
- Upper House Hong Kong
- Island Shangri-la
- JW Marriott Hong Kong
- The Peninsula, Hong Kong
- The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
Fly Cathay Pacific
We’re spoiled after having Cathay Pacific as our home airline. Their Hong Kong lounges are among the best in the world (mad props to the Champagne bar in The Wing’s first-class lounge). We do fly business class to Hong Kong so are able to access them that way, but you can also access them with Sapphire or Emerald oneworld Alliance status.
The Hong Kong International Airport is also a tremendously fabulous place to spend time in between so much shopping and good food. You’ll love it.
Good Hong Kong Resources
Your hotel concierge is a very valuable resource for things to do in Hong Kong. Through them, you can make restaurant recommendations, find the best tailors, craft shopping itineraries and buy tickets to popular attractions in advance so you can skip the queue. Here are some other tips.
Klook for Discounted Tickets
Or, you can buy tickets in advance on Klook, a very popular travel agency in Asia that sells discounted tour and attraction tickets.
Hong Kong Pass for Bundled Discounts
Avid sightseers may want to consider the Hong Kong Pass, a popular bundled attractions pass that provides discounted admission to the most popular things to do in Hong Kong. You’ll need to make sure the attractions you want to visit are on the pass and that you’re relatively certain to hit them all. Otherwise, individual discounted tickets from Klook might be better.
Context Travel for Private and Small Group Tours
For those who like to move at their own pace, I highly recommend a private tour with Context Travel especially if you’re interested in a food tour. The other tour I would recommend is one of the outer islands. It’s helpful to have a guide walk you around and navigate the ferries to make sure you don’t miss the sights.
Luxe City Guides for Intel
I also buy the Hong Kong Luxe City Guide which is updated every six months or so. They have a helpful pocket-sized version but nowadays you can download the paid app onto your smartphone and use their website as a resource.
Octopus Card for Public Transportation and Purchases
You should get an Octopus Card at an MTR station and load it with cash. This electronic payment system will enable you to use the MTR system, the Airport Express to the airport (buy discount easy-to-use tickets on Klook) and even buy drinks at 7-11 in lieu of handing over cash.
I’ve also written about getting from Hong Kong airport to your hotel.
What are your favorite things to do in Hong Kong?