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 proud to call it her birthplace.
Needless to say, I have my 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 including spas, shopping, restaurants and street food. 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 as that is where we lived. However, it is likely as a tourist that you’ll visit or stay in Central as some of Hong Kong’s best hotels are here. So, check out all of these places to see in Hong Kong!
See also: Best Things to Do in Hong Kong with Kids
Favorite Hong Kong Restaurants & Food
3-Michelin-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 3-Michelin-Star Cantonese restaurant. Because I am usually with my daughter, we find that lunch here suits us. The set lunch is always a sampling of Chef Tak’s best but you must order a baked barbecue bun and the barbecue pork sampler. Note that dim sum is served at lunch in Hong Kong.
Lung King Heen welcomes kids over the age of 3 and is located on the 4th floor of Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong.
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 think about. It’s not an uncomfortable spicy. It’s flavorful and doesn’t burn my mouth long after each bite (as some spicy salsas do, for example). It’s hard to explain so just eat it. While San Xi Lou has been featured on the some famous travel shows, it’s still a local favorite.
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. Showing 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 is the one with the Michelin star but the food is the same here. It’s delicious. 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 $25 USD between the two of us.
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).
Dine at the China Club
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 fashion tycoon David Tang’s private art collection. It’s an eclectic mix of old and new. Hong Kong’s elite go here to dine and have meetings, enjoy a drink or even play mahjong.
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 Central and Tsim Tsa Tsui for Kobitos (weird characters in vegetable suits) and Sanrio Gudetama dumplings (Gudetama was not available in Central location during our last visit)
- Yum Cha in Central (this one seems most trendy and cute)
- Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine
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 quite beautiful and it’s a good stop if shopping and sightseeing on Kowloon side in TST (Tsim Tsa 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 it’s because when I was living there… it seemed that more locals preferred it. You cannot go wrong with the Lobby Lounge at the Four Seasons or at Sevva.
Mandarin Cake Shop
I bought my daughter’s first birthday cake here (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 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.
Egg waffles are probably my favorite street food ever. But, 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 (rice noodles… yum) and more. You must experience a dai pai dong when in Hong Kong.
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:
- The 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.
Visit a Hong Kong Spa
It’s a walking city so treat yourself to a little relaxation with one or more of these Hong Kong spa experiences.
Get Foot Reflexology
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. I liken it to how a therapist often has to massage knots out of your back as 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. I truly believe it prevented swelling due to pregnancy (I’d go whenever my shoes felt tight) and with my allergies. While there are a number of shall we say “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 about 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.
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 Spa Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong where he’ll shave every single callous in the most delicate way by hand.
I’m warning you, 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 Wellington Street in Mid Levels near the escalator.
My Chinese doctor there did not speak a lick of English (reception did) and diagnosed me purely by sight and pulse. And, he was the best 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. Note that you do need to practice consistently to see results but I’m finding that people visiting Hong Kong sometimes like to go really local so here’s a way.
To experience Chinese medicine, you could also 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.
Luxury Hotel Spas
Hong Kong luxury hotel spas are not-to-be-missed because of attention to detail that so many in the U.S. 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 (though not in the last few years)
I have heard that ESPA at The Peninsula, Hong Kong and Chuan Spa in the Langham Hotel are both lovely.
Shopping in Hong Kong
Shopping in Hong Kong 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.
Shanghai Tang is one of my favorite luxury brands. I wish I’d had the foresight to have them custom make my wedding dress but have compensated for that with a closet full of cheongsams (Mandarin collared dresses). I always receive compliments on them even though some are 10 years old. Shanghai Tang has locations all over Hong Kong including at the airport, in Pacific Place and a flagship store on Duddell Street 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. They also have an outlet at Ap Lei Chau.
What to buy: iPhone cases, umbrellas, 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
Walk The Lanes
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 for $15 on up.
Anyway, The Lanes are alleys of outdoor stalls that sell trinkets, cheap Chinese-style clothing, knockoff character toys and even underwear. You can negotiate a little. But don’t let anyone lead you into the surrounding buildings to look at fake handbags. Yes, these are high-quality fakes. The penalties you could receive for getting caught are not worth it.
What to buy: Pashminas, cheap Chinese-style shirts and cheongsam, hair accessories, random toys
Location: Queens Road, Central
Browse Pottinger Street
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 here for my daughter’s birthday party for $2.50 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 eateries. Know that you’ll hit the escalator on 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
Oh how I adore Hollywood Road where many of Hong Kong’s best art galleries and antique dealers are located. I have been known to walk it pretty much from the escalator to Sheung Wan just for fun (hitting the Man Mo Temple and Cat Street market along the way).
What to buy: Art and housewares
Location: Central, you can start from the Mid-Levels escalator
Visit the Various Markets
I can (and will) eventually dedicate an entire post to Hong Kong’s markets. Temple Street Market on Kowloon side happens in the evening and is the most touristy. My 9-year-old likes it. I personally love the Flower Market for buying vases and looking at the beautiful flowers especially around Chinese New Year.
If I happen to be on the other side of the island, I’ll pop into Stanley Market. I also quite enjoy Cat Street Market just off Hollywood Road in Central for various Chinese propaganda knockoffs, antiques and other kitschy things. Kids will go berzerk for Tai Yuen Street in Wan Chai which is full of toys.
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. I also am a major fan of Edward Chiu’s jade jewelry which you can find in his IFC mall store in Central.
Sham Shui Po
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 and 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.
What to buy: Trinkets, buttons, ribbon, fabric, beads and more
Location: Sham Shui Po Station (MTR Tsuen Wan line)
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. There are three floors to browse here and the building is not huge so it can be done rather quickly. There are great housewares in addition to my favorite vintage poster and luggage tag shop, Picture This (we collect and this is the only place we buy). Oliver’s is a gourmet grocer that is perfect for stocking up on to-go 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, authentic vintage posters
Location: Central in between The Landmark mall and Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
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 like Joyce, MaxMara, Armani, Shanghai Tang and Lane Crawford. While you won’t be lugging furniture home on the plane, believe it or not, some stores will ship it plus there are accessories to pick up.
Tip: The elevators are small and there is often a queue. Grab a building map and head to the top floor and work your way down the stairs to avoid waiting. Some floors are worth a skip. Little Steps Asia has narrowed down a great lineup of stores to consider.
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. But, I always seem to be able to find something there. It’s near Horizon Plaza in South Horizons. You should have the address written down for your taxi as it’s not really on a major street. I only go here if I have time as there are really just so many other things to do in Hong Kong.
What to buy: Discounted Prada
Location: South Horizons
Visit a Tailor
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.
My husband used to get his work shirts custom made at Sun Shine Shirts House in Kowloon for the low price of nearly $30 USD per shirt. BUT, 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, 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’d 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, in my opinion.
Best Hong Kong Attractions
The list of best Hong Kong attractions could be a potentially long list so here are the highlights:
- The Peak: It’s touristy, but a postcard-perfect photo if the weather cooperates. You can walk down to Central actually with a map or a local (hail a taxi if you get lost).
- Mid-Levels escalator: It’s the longest in the world. We used to live up here so I like to ride it at least to Robinson Road and through the hip restaurants, bars and shops. It’s a nice quick tour of this part of the island.
- Hong Kong Disneyland: Only if you have kids or are a Disney fanatic. It’s my favorite Disney park in the world as it’s not huge and lines are manageable during the weekdays (summers can be crowded though).
- Outer islands: Take a ferry to Lamma Island for a nice hike, some green space and even a seafood dinner. Cheung Chau island is another great option (see Bun Festival below).
- Ocean Park: My husband and I had passes here before our daughter was born. It’s an ocean-themed amusement park and typically less hectic than Hong Kong Disneyland but still can get crowded during peak times.
- Big Buddha: The cable car is pretty cool (go glass bottom and buy tickets through a concierge to skip the queue) and you should see the Tian Tan Buddha. 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.
- Hiking: 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.
Do Something New
It’s not a huge city, but it is very possible to do something new every single time we go. On our list for our next trip coming up in just a few months, is a bike tour in the New Territories. And, I’d like to take a formal food tour in Sheung Wan.
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 happy to be visiting in fall, try a moon cake in honor 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 and the second is the flagship Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, our former social hub. I have written detailed posts about both. Hong Kong is the type of city where hotels play a bigger role the daily life of residents for business meetings, afternoon tea, spa, family dinners and much more. Therefore, I can confidently recommend the following:
- Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
- Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
- The Landmark Mandarin Oriental
- Upper House
- Conrad Hong Kong
- Island Shangri-la
- JW Marriott
- The Peninsula, Hong Kong
- Intercontinental Hong Kong
- The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
- Marco Polo Hong Kong
Fly Cathay Pacific
I feel spoiled rotten for once having Cathay Pacific as my 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.
Your Hong Kong hotel concierge is a very valuable resource. Through them, you can make restaurant recommendations, find the best tailors, craft shopping itineraries and, more importantly, buy tickets to popular attractions in advance (like Ocean Park, Disneyland, Cable Car to Big Buddha) so you can skip the queue.
I also buy the (affiliate link) Hong Kong Luxe City Guide which is updated about every six months or so. They have a helpful pocket-size version but nowadays you can download the paid app onto your smartphone.
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.
Also feel free to drop a comment here with a question or shoot me an email.
If you’re visiting Hong Kong soon, check out the Four Seasons Hotel. Read my guide to Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong here.
What are your favorite things to do in Hong Kong?