Four days in fast-paced, vibrant Hong Kong will whizz by. The city may be known for its dense urban scenes, but many first-time visitors are pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to get around and experience nature. Follow this game plan for an unforgettable visit filled with cultural adventures, historical landmarks, top-notch restaurants, amazing rooftop bars, nature trails, street art and indie stores.
There’s no better place to start your Hong Kong visit than from the top of Victoria Peak. Head up the mountain before the crowds ascend via the leafy Morning Trail. Then take the 45-minute Circle Walk – not only will you get your bearings, but you’ll have plenty of photo opportunities. After you’ve had your fill of sky-high scenes, head down to Central for lunch at Hong Kong institution Yung Kee. Load up on Cantonese classics such as wonton noodle soup, beef brisket and the signature charcoal-roasted goose.
Formerly the Police Married Quarters, the renovated PMQ complex now hosts many cool restaurants, indie stores, artist studios and a wide-open courtyard with weekend pop-up markets. Shop for souvenirs – think vintage cameras, locally made sunglasses, bags, fashion and art – then head over to Tasting Kitchen for a relaxed lunch. Every month, the restaurant features a new up-and-coming Hong Kong chef, so you’re in for a delicious peek at the city’s next big thing. With your energy restored, explore the hilly lanes around SoHo. A wide range of street art – from Hong Kong-based French artist Elsa Jean de Dieu’s laughing woman on Peel Street to Danish artist Christian Storm’s graceful koi fish just off Hollywood Road – awaits.
Keep those creative vibes going at the beaux arts-style Pedder Building, where you can peruse big-name galleries, such as Gagosian, Lehmann Maupin, Simon Lee and Pearl Lam – plan ahead, the galleries here usually close at 7pm. Enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail at Popinjays (named after the resident cockatoos) at the glamorous rooftop bar at the Murray hotel, which is nestled between the lush mountains and Central skyscrapers. Round out a perfect first day with a sophisticated Cantonese dinner at art gallery-like Duddell’s, before drinks at nearby Foxglove. Just around the corner, this speakeasy-style lounge bar sits behind the façade of a swish umbrella shop and serves inspired cocktails in what feels like a vintage train cabin. End the evening with a nightcap and amazing Victoria Harbour view at the well-known Sevva rooftop bar, a loungy cocktail bar surrounded by skyscrapers – the perfect setting for a toast to an unforgettable trip.
Start with a leisurely breakfast at LockCha Tea House in Hong Kong Park. Set next to the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware, this vegetarian dim sum eatery is best known for its loose-leaf teas (more than 100 and counting), but you can’t go wrong with the steamed veggie dumplings, stir-fried udon, rice rolls and fried turnip cake. After filling up on yum cha (a Cantonese version of brunch), sit down for a tea ceremony or calligraphy class, or shop for gorgeous ceramic teaware. Next, stroll through the lush park pathways – you’ll see older residents practicing tai chi and you can mingle with regat argus pheasants in the Edward Youde Aviary and relax in the butterfly garden.
Take a short walk to Wan Chai, where you’ll see another side of Hong Kong. Hipper and grittier, this district lives up to its reputation as a cultural hub. Since you’re short on time, follow the Wan Chai Heritage Trail: the scenic walk passes the Blue House (a well-known 1920s tenement building), Pak Tai Temple, Old Wan Chai Post Office and Wan Chai Market.
Break for lunch at Samsen, one of the best Thai restaurants in the city. This open-air spot specializes in freshness and authenticity, serving savory boat noodles alongside spicy duck and herb Thai salads, and spiked watermelon juice.
Rest your legs and soak up the cityscape aboard a street tram, then jump off by Central Market, which dates to 1842. Having just undergone a significant facelift, the Bauhaus-style building debuted in August 2021 with 11,334sqm (122,000sqft) of shopping, dining and entertainment space.
Next up is Temple Street Night Market. At this wonderland of outdoor stalls, you can stock up on everything from phone accessories and handbags to ceramics, luggage, jade, posters and antiques; you can even visit a fortune teller to see what your future may hold.
For dinner, you’re in one of the best places to try chilli crabs and garlic clams – best enjoyed at a dai pai dong (traditional street-food stall) such as Tong Tai Restaurant. After dinner, switch gears entirely for a classy experience at Bar Butler – a two-story Japanese whisky and cocktail bar hidden in a commercial tower in the Tsim Sha Tsui district. As you might guess, this white-glove experience is known for its exceptional service and superb drinks.
Start the day with a ride on the Star Ferry, a beautiful green-and-white vessel that’s been cruising the harbor for more than a century. Disembark in Tsim Sha Tsui, then make your way via the MTR to Mido Cafe in Yau Ma Tei. This 1950s cha chaan teng (traditional cafe) sports retro tiled walls and booths ooze cinematic charm. Try the crabmeat omelette, condensed milk and peanut butter toast, congee, or ham and egg sandwich – all local staples. Once you’ve had your fill, wander across the street to the Tin Hau Temple, then zip up to the historic Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market and Shanghai Street, best known for its many kitchenware shops.
Make your way back to the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade to spend a couple of hours at the recently renovated Hong Kong Museum of Art before dinner. The harbor-front museum is a sight to behold, showcasing a geometric, wave-like façade, panoramic glass windows, plus 40 percent more exhibition space since its reopening. Inside, you’ll find everything from interactive installations to classic Chinese calligraphy, Chinese antiquities, landscapes and more.
More art and heritage awaits back across the water in Central. From the ferry pier, follow the Central-Mid-Levels escalator to Tai Kwun, a lovingly restored complex that once served as the Central Police Station. Stretching across 16 heritage buildings, the complex showcases gorgeous 1920s colonial architecture and has quickly become the destination for arts, culture, heritage and dining in Central since opening in 2018. Peruse the numerous art galleries, check out the local boutiques, and enjoy a self-guided tour using the Tai Kwun App to immerse yourself in the then and now.
For dinner, grab a seat in the photogenic pink salon at Madame Fu Grand Café Chinois – a contemporary Cantonese restaurant known for its artsy interiors and views of the Tai Kwun courtyard. Dine on crowd-pleasers such as truffle chicken and iberico char siu (barbecued pork), aubergine topped with minced pork, and crystal shrimp dumplings. After dinner, head to nearby rooftop bar Portico to sip on fancy cocktails. Opt for a Portico’s Rob Roy with scotch, vermouth and homemade strawberry vinegar. This modern, tropical rooftop bar is the ideal spot to round off the night.
Experience the green side of Hong Kong with a journey to Lantau. There’s much to do on this lush, mountainous island, starting with a ride on the epic Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car. The scenic, glass-enclosed gondola glides up the mountainside, offering views of the airport, South China Sea and expansive forests. Hop off at the top of the mountain to explore Ngong Ping Village, an area that promises a peek into ancient Chinese culture and life.
Next, visit the peaceful Wisdom Path for a warm up before climbing the steep staircase to the Tian Tan Buddha (also known as the Big Buddha) – a bronze statue stretching 27m (87ft) tall and weighing more than 226,796kg (500,000lb). Now you’ve worked up an appetite, enjoy glutinous rice dumplings filled with mango, noodles, dim sum and bean curd desserts at Po Lin Monastery. Founded in the early 1900s, the monastery has long been a respected Buddhist institution – and a scenic one at that.
After lunch, take Bus No. 21 from Ngong Ping Village down the mountain to Tai O on the western coast of Lantau. One of the oldest fishing villages in the city, this scenic waterfront community is characterized by pastel-colored stilt houses, little lanes, markets and dried seafood stores. Walk along the historic iron footbridge, check out beautiful colonial architecture at the Tai O Heritage Hotel and take a boat ride in a local sampan boat. If you’re lucky, you could even spot a rare Chinese white dolphins (which are actually pink!).
You can’t leave Hong Kong without experiencing the frenetic energy of Causeway Bay. Visit Times Square to hit the top stores, stroll through Victoria Park for a reprieve, then splurge on dinner at Roganic. Recently awarded the Michelin Green Star (the first sustainable dining accolade by Michelin Guide HK Macau 2021), this farm-to-table concept by British chef Simon Rogan shows off Yuen Long produce in exceptional dishes, such as seven-day hay-aged local pigeon.
For something a little more social, gastropub Hong Kong Island Taphouse pours local craft beers alongside casual dishes, while Club@28 rooftop bar offers excellent views of the Happy Valley Racetrack.
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