Hong Kong, officially known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, is a gorgeous location on the eastern side of the Pearl River estuary in southern China. To celebrate a cosmopolitan birthday, my husband and I embarked on an adventure and created a Hong Kong itinerary to fit the occasion. We spent 5 days exploring Hong Kong, shopping our way around the city, eating dim sum and learning about its incredibly interesting history.
A place like no other, Hong Kong is undergoing serious transformations, thus we wanted to take the time to visit it as soon as possible. In this Hong Kong itinerary, we will touch base on must-do when visiting, ideal locations for shopping, incredible food and of course, some outdoors experiences.
Many assume that Hong Kong is an urban jungle, and while that is true for parts of it, there are vast green areas, with sub-tropical flora, fantastic beaches and hiking trails. Hong Kong has a fantastic infrastructure in place which serves the 7 million residents of Hong Kong. Public transport is cheap and reliable, making it a breeze to travel around Hong Kong. Hong Kong is made up of Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories, and 200+ outlying islands, all served by public transport.
Without further ado, here's our 5 day Hong Kong itinerary.
Table of Contents
Where to stay in Hong Kong
The first thing to figure out when visiting a new place is where to position yourself to have quick and easy access to all attractions. For the question of where to stay in Hong Kong, we decided to stay in the Kowloon Peninsula as it seemed the most vibrant and fun, as well as close to all attractions which we had planned for our Hong Kong itinerary.
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We stayed in an area called Mong Kok which is known for its narrow streets, shopping and markets. You'll find several tea houses and casual eateries as well as night markets for those who fancy a late-night bargain. We stayed in Cordis Hotel in their club lounge room. The club lounge gives you extras like afternoon tea, access to their gorgeous lounge, special champagne hours in the evening and diverse treats every evening. The club lounge rooms are also located on higher floors so you can enjoy an amazing view of the city. The pool and wellness area is located at the top of the hotel which is a very cool touch.
Is Hong Kong safe to visit?
As you may know, Hong Kong is undergoing some serious transformations right now. There is some unrest and there is tension. During our 5 day Hong Kong itinerary, we didn't experience any real threats. However, there was one single day where we almost got caught in a demonstration. It was pretty scary, but we managed to get out of the situation quickly and find our way to the hotel using the underground. The reason why this was a little bit scary it's because the demonstrations were right in Mong Kok, in front of our hotel, with most streets leading to it being closed down by the police.
This may not be an isolated incident and it is obvious that tourism is low in the country because of the current political tensions. When visiting Hong Kong we advise that you check Twitter regularly to see if any demonstrations are happening in the areas you plan to visit. Ask the hotel staff for advice and make sure you have uber downloaded on your phone. Check where is your embassy and mark it on your map to have it handy at all times. Travel with your passports on you just in case.
If you hear chanting or see a crowd of people who looks organised, with a purpose, best to turn around and go the other way. Be vigilant and stay informed at all times.
Remember, it's good to stay alert and avoid any situation where you can get caught up in the middle of a serious issue.
Getting from the airport to Hong Kong
by Private Transfer (our recommendation!)
During our visit, we organised a private transfer from the airport. We figured we will be tired from the journey and we didn't want to also carry our luggage from the train station to the hotel. We ordered a private transfer by Tesla with Klook and it went incredibly smooth. Klook sent us a message with the driver details and paid around 30 EUR for the journey from the airport to our hotel, Cordis. The fee included everything so we didn't need to worry about any surcharges. Besides, we travelled in a Tesla which we strongly recommend for your comfort and fun.
by Express Train
The Airport Express is the quickest route between the airport and Central Hong Kong. It takes less than 30 minutes from the airport to Kowloon. The train is fast, reliable and the tickets must be purchased on the train itself. You will see ticket vendors at the entrances on the train.
The train goes ever 12 minutes.
Travelling on a budget? Buses are the cheapest option to travel from the airport. They also offer the widest coverage so if you wish to visit a more remote area of Hong Kong, this may be your best bet.
Buses between the airport and Central take around 45 minutes. Buses go every 10 minutes or so during the day and night buses are less frequent, operating every 30 minutes. Make sure to have the exact change when purchasing your ticket on the bus as drivers don't give change.
Main Routes to Central (including Kowloon) A11, E11, N11 (night bus)
In order to figure out what taxi you need, you first need to know where you are going. Taxis come in three different colours and that's because each colour operates in a specific area.
Red taxis serve urban areas including all of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
Green taxis serve the New Territories.
Blue Taxis serve only Lantau Island.
Taxis operate on meter only so you won't be able to have a pre-agreed fare. If you carry luggage you may need to pay a surcharge and you will have to pay for any bridge tolls. It takes around 30 minutes to reach your destination if you are going Central.
Hong Kong itinerary
Our Hong Kong itinerary is meant for walking. Of course, you can take any public transport between attractions and locations. We walked as we like seeing unusual places and we love photographing the city. We visited in December when the weather was very nice and pleasant. However, it can get very hot during the summer months. We recommend wearing sunscreen and a hat if you plan on exploring Hong Kong on foot. Also, stay hydrated and consume at least 3 litres a water every single day.
Day 1 - Colours, gardens and urban landscapes
Ease into your Hong Kong itinerary. See some of the star attractions, stop to look around and admire how amazing Hong Kong really is. Parts of the city are the literal definition of an urban jungle.
Choi Hung Estate
One of the most iconic Instagram locations in Hong Kong is the Choi Hung Estate, which features 8 different colours. Choi Hung means rainbow, and that's exactly why people love the location so much, because it makes for a colourful background for any photo.
Now a word of warning, this is a residential area so make sure you keep it down when visiting. There is a basketball court where most people take photos so ensure you don't disturb any games. There will be lots of Instagrammers taking the same photo as what you may want, so have patience and wait for your own turn. Alternatively, try new angles and be a little different than the rest. If photography is not the aim for visiting this, simply admire the colours of the blocks.
We very much enjoyed seeing how locals interact with one another here, how they play, how they talk. It is, after all, a residential area like any other, which happens to have some colour to it. For us, it was the journey that mattered, as finding the estate took some time. Also, we walked from our hotel to the estate, which made it fun to see parts of Hong Kong first thing in the morning.
Address: 5 Chi Lin Dr, Sheung Yuen Leng
Nan Lian Garden
Nan Lian Garden with the Pavilion of Absolute Perfection is a gorgeous traditional garden with a Buddhist temple. Escape the Hong Kong traffic and retreat in this wonderful location. Admire the golden structure and the lotus pond and take a moment to meditate. You will see beautiful Bonsai trees, gorgeous architecture and Koi fish. The whole place is serene and calm, which invites you to take a step back and reflect on all the beautiful things in life.
Address: Diamond Hill, Hong Kong
Kowloon Walled City Park
Take a walk around the Kowloon Walled City Park and you will never believe that this very place was once home to the Kowloon Walled City was once a dense area riddled with crime and vice.
The Walled City was initially used for military purposes, housing many soldiers and their families. By the 1970s the population of this city had risen to 41,000 housed in 500 buildings. The government found it more and more difficult to manage and control the serious crime going on within the walls. In 1984, both the British and China started a conversation about solving the problems in the Kowloon Walled City. Between 1987 and 1989, residents were resettled, and demolition began in 1993
By 1995, the site had been transformed into a park. Within the park, you will see a model of the original site and how dense it really was. Nowadays, you can enjoy the gorgeous park, with its traditional gardens and bonsai.
Ichiran Causeway Bay
Who loves Japanese ramen? One of the best Japanese restaurants we visited during our time in Tokyo, Ichiran left an impression when it comes to their signature spicy ramen. When we found out there is an Ichiran in Hong Kong, we couldn't miss the opportunity to try it. The taste was the same.
The restaurant is open 24/7.
Address: 8 Minden Ave, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Walk around Mong Kok
Whether you like shopping, photography or just wish to immerse in the vibrant maze of narrow streets, Mong Kok is the place to be for an afternoon walk. If you get hungry, there are eateries at every step, so you will be spoilt for choices. There is street food available too, although it is mainly meat-based. So for us, as vegans, we found it quite difficult to properly indulge in the local cuisine in Hong Kong.
Our hotel was connected to Langham Place, a shopping mall with many (MANY!!!) shops and tons of eateries. We recommend it as they have known brands as well as some local ones with interesting merchandise and fun pop fashion.
Temple St, Jordan, Hong Kong
Do you still have some energy to shop? Great, because it's time to see Temple Street, a night market located in the areas of Jordan and Yau Ma Tei. It is one of the busiest flea markets which sells everything you can possibly imagine. We loved it and wished we had more space in the suitcase to purchase everything there.
Day 2 - Off the beaten path
On the second day, it's time to do a little bit of exploring around Hong Kong and venture to Lantau Island. It's easy to get to, with the MTR. Get an Octopus card and put some cash on it. We put a total of 10 EUR on ours and it lasted for the whole of our trip, but note that we did walk a lot as well.
Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car
From your hotel find your nearest MTR station and check how to get to Lantau Island. You will very likely have to change to the Tung Chung Line. Take the MTR towards Tung Chung Station. The MTR station is connected to an outlet mall, so if you ish to allocate some time to shop, this is your chance to strike some bargains.
From the MTR, the Ngong Ping 360 is located just 5 minutes walk away. You can follow the signs towards it or use Google maps on your phone.
For the Cable Car we recommend that you purchase a return ticket to Ngong Ping on the special Crystal Cabin. If you purchase it online, in advance, you skip the queue and you pay less. We recommend the Crystal Cabin because you will get incredible views and you will see the treetops from above. Expect a 5.7km journey between Tung Chung Town Centre and Ngong Ping Village on Lantau Island.
The price is around 30 EUR per adult if you buy a return in the Crystal Cabin, or 21 EUR on the Standard Cabin.
Tip: we recommend the Crystal Cabin because, as it is a little more expensive, it is also less popular, which means you are more likely to get the whole Cabin for yourself.
Walk around Ngong Ping
Ngong Ping is a really cute village with restaurants, souvenir shops and some museums. It's a lot of fun to just explore it and check and every single store around. Sure, it is touristy and doesn't scream authenticity, but we actually loved it a lot. If you are hungry, take a seat in any restaurant and order some dim sum.
There is some street food around as well and smaller stalls with small treats.
Hike to the Big Buddha
Gather your wits (and all your energy) and hike to the top of the Big Buddha. There will be lots of stairs to the top, but you can stop along the way to catch your breath and admire the views. There is a museum at the top and you can also purchase a special ticket which enables you to have lunch within the Buddha walls (pretty interesting concept). If you do not wish to have lunch at the top, there is no entry fee to climb to the top. There are some incredible vistas from up there so do make the trek, it's actually worth it.
Bus to Tai O
Once you recover from the hike, let's venture deeper into the heart of Lantau Island and get a bus to the fishing village of Tai O.
Take bus 21 which takes around 15-20 minutes to Tai O. You can pay with your Octopus Card as you enter the bus, which is pretty nice and convenient. Once you are in Tai O, take a moment to appreciate where you are. Appreciate how different the world is, and how incredible it is that we have open borders which allow us to travel the world and get to see places like this little village.
Venice of the East, Tai O has fishing houses on top of the water, and the locals live off of tourism and fishing. There are several restaurants in the area, souvenir shops and street food stalls. The real fun is to walk around and take a look at everything. There is so much fascinating street food here, including sweets, baked potatoes, cakes and of course, fish. There are doughnuts and tarts too.
There is also a mini street market within the village where you can see locals bargaining for fresh produce. Overall, it is a crazy cool experience.
Just note that bus 21 starts operating at 7:30 AM and ends at 6:15 PM, so make sure you check the schedule to not miss the last one back to Ngong Ping Village.
Day 3 - Monsters and Vistas
Day 3 of our Hong Kong itinerary involves a lot of walking. So make sure you wear comfortable footwear and have water and snacks with you. Check the weather before going out and come prepared with sunscreen and a hat. Have your octopus card with you as our first stop is a good 40 minutes away from the Kowloon Peninsula. This time we are going to Hong Kong Island and we will be spending most of the day there.
Another icon of Hong Kong is the Monster building. I'm sure you've seen it on countless Instagram photos, but most importantly you probably saw it featured in movies like Transformers and Ghost in the Shell.
The Monster is composed of 5 different buildings built in 1960s. The name comes from locals, who nicknamed it the Monster Building. The 5 structures which make the monster are Oceanic Mansion, Fook Cheong Building, Montane Mansion, Yick Cheong Building, and Yick Fat Building.
These buildings were created in the 1960s to offer subsidized housing for low-income residents. In other words, they are similar to council estates in the UK. You will see that on the ground floors of the building there are residents who sell tea, fish and household items.
With its striking symmetry and uncanny aesthetically, the Monster Building quickly made it into pop culture, becoming a sweet spot for Instagrammers, photographers and urban explorers. As it became more and more popular, it also became a lot more difficult to photograph here. There are countless signs telling visitors that photography is not permitted without prior permits.
When visiting, make sure you keep quiet and don't litter. People live here and you are a stranger in someone's concrete back-garden. Remember that photography is not allowed so if you really wish to take a photo, use your smartphone and not your DSLR.
Address: Take exit A at Quarry Bay MTR Station and walk along King’s Road toward Tai Koo.
Victoria Harbour is a natural harbour separating Hong Kong Island in the south from the Kowloon Peninsula to the north. The deep and sheltered water, as well as its strategic location, played an instrumental role in Hong Kong's establishment as a British colony. Thanks to this very harbour Hong Kong developed to the city it is today and became a spectacular, flourishing trading centre.
Victoria Harbour is a major tourist attraction in Hong Kong. There are boat trips which can be taken from here, restaurants and a mall strategically positioned for shopping lovers. There is a great walk along the harbour which has fun features (e.g. festive props for holiday pictures) and provides various photographic opportunities.
Far funfair lovers, there are some occasional rides by the harbour depending on the time of the year.
The Peak Tram
From Victoria Harbour, take the Peak Tram to the top of the hills to admire Hong Kong from above. If you time it well, you can arrive here just before sunset. At night, this is also a spectacular vista point.
The Peak Tram is a popular attraction so make sure you buy your tickets online, in advance. You will get a dedicated time slot so plan your day accordingly.
Avenue of Stars
Time to cross to the other side of the harbour and head towards the Kowloon Peninsula. You can get a boat or do it by MTR, whichever you prefer. The Avenue of Stars, modelled on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Souvenirs, knock-offs, silly things and electronics, this is the place to be if you love a good bargain. This looong street is lined with stalls on each side, filled with goods at a good price. If you see a brand you always wanted to buy, do note that things here are not what they seem. These are knock-offs at a cheap price. Bargain to the bone here, and take it as a sport.
And finally, it's always nice to support the locals, so do buy your souvenirs from here if you find something interesting. Either way, it is an enchanting place with colourful products, lots of people and tales to tell.
Day 4 - Chinese roots and British traditions
Hong Kong has a very interesting history which makes this special region charm visitors with its Chinese roots and British traditions. You can find both influences at every step of the way. Today is when we are going to sample both. So maybe, have a light breakfast, as today is the day when you eat and drink a lot.
Morning dim sum
Let's call it brunch dim sum, as the place we are recommending opens at 11 am. We always wanted to sample dim sum the traditional way, in a restaurant where there is a lady pushing dim sum carts. Try Maxim's Place for this, a great restaurant with a beautiful decor. They offer a wide variety of options so you will be sure to find something special just for you.
Address: Hong Kong City Hall, 2/F Low Block, Central, Hong Kong
Traditional Tea house
Have you ever tried Chinese tea? Served in small cups, we recommend trying green tea if you like a classic or a red tea (pu-erh). We wrote extensively about the history of tea so you can read a little more before deciding on what to order.
Try yú teahouse for a traditional experience. You can reserve your tea tasting experience online.
Address: Shop L230, 2/F, The Eslite Spectrum, Star House, 3 Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Happy go lucky dim sum
Hungry yet? Good, because it's time to try cute little dim sum which looks too adorable to be eaten. You can have sweet or savoury dim sum which looks too cute to be true. Head over to Yum Cha and order yours. Just note that this is a tourist place, and while the taste of the dim sum is great, the prices are on the expensive side. Nevertheless, you can order 3-5 dim sum to satisfy your curiosity and have a bit of fun.
Yum Cha Address: Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui, Granville Rd, 20-22號Attitude on Granville Hotel3/F
Alternatively, have dim sum at Zhen Restaurant Contemporary Dim Sum which also offers beautiful dim sum in all sort of shapes and colours. You can get pandas, piggies, duckies and bird-shaped dim sum and pastries.
Zhen Restaurant Contemporary Dim Sum Address: Hong Kong, Shek Tong Tsui, Hill Rd, 48-52號號 地下 C 舖 Nam Cheong Building
(Photo from Zhen Restaurant Contemporary Dim Sum Facebook Page)
Quench your thirst with an ice cold tea from Caring Tea. You can order normal tea or have bubble tea which is made with tapioca pearls. If you are lactose intolerant make sure you ask for non-dairy milk or ask them to make you a simple cold fruity tea. You can also say if you don't wish to have sugar in your tea.
You can pre-order your voucher online and go on location to redeem your drink. Click to order here.
Address: Hong Kong, Tsim Sha Tsui, Blenheim Ave, 2號號地下A舖
Fancy Afternoon Tea
Time to try something a little more British this time. So what better way to experience British traditions than by having an afternoon tea. And we found a location like no other: in the Sky100 building, which offers stunning views of the harbour and Hong Kong Skyline.
When we went to the top, we were convinced our hotel is a super skyscraper. Well, wait until you see the vistas from Sky100. Pretty incredible if you ask us.
You can preorder your afternoon tea experience on their official website. The name of the cafe is Cafe 100 by the Ritz Carlon. Please note that they do change their offers frequently and this seems to be a limited time offer. Click here for more details on how to book.
We recommend booking as late in the day as possible to try and catch the sunset. As part of your afternoon tea, you get tickets to the Sky100 as well so after your tea you can walk around and admire the city from above.
Victoria Harbour Symphony of Lights
The Symphony of Lights is a daily light and sound show in Hong Kong. It is the world's largest permanent light and sound show according to Guinness World Records. It takes place at 8 pm at Victoria Harbour. There are 42 different buildings which participate in the show.
The best vantage points include the "Avenue of Stars" on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, opposite of Victoria Harbour.
Day 5 - Nature, Hikes and Beaches
Take a 20-minute cab ride to Repulse Bay, a gorgeous beach with one super interesting feature. It is lined by skyscrapers which have wholes in them. This is for Feng Shui (Chinese geometry). These massive holds are known as dragon gates. This is so dragons can freely pass every day from the mountains to the sea.
Of course, since this is a great beach, don't forget to grab a beach towel and the sunscreen to enjoy a fun morning with your loved ones.
Relaxed and ready to go? From Repulse Bay, take another 15-minute cab (or bus) to Dragon's Back, a great place for hikers. The Dragon Back trail is a gorgeous hiking trail which provides views of the southern Hong Kong Island and its shoreline.
Although bare and exposed, the platform on the summit of Shek O Peak (284 m) is the ideal place for stunning panoramas. Turn around and observe the winding trails to finally understand why this incredible urban trail has its well-deserved name: Dragon's Back.
At the end of the hike, is the Big Wave Bay where you can surf or just chill by the sea. When you are ready, grab a cab back to your hotel.
This is how we spent our 5 day Hong Kong itinerary. We hope you found the inspiration you need to enjoy your own time in Hong Kong. Don't forget to let us know in the comments section below if you decided to enjoy a similar journey. We look forward to hearing from you.