If you’ve got 2-4 hours…
Your time is limited so it’s safest to stick to the airport. Luckily, Hong Kong International Airport is one of the best in world. There’s plenty of dining, entertainment and shopping for temporarily stranded travelers to indulge in.
Dining options include Chinese and Western restaurants, as well as coffee shops, bars and food courts in both terminals. Not hungry? You can take advantage of Hong Kong’s VAT-free shopping, either at the airport or by cabbing to a nearby mall. CityGate Outlets is probably your best bet, where you can find brands like Dunhill, Armani Exchange, Swatch, Timberland and more.
Beyond eating and shopping, there’s entertainment to be found by heading to Terminal 2’s Level 6. There, you can play a few rounds of simulation golf or watch a movie on the largest IMAX screen in Hong Kong. You should also take a look at the free in-house aviation museum, which features a cockpit simulator and the SkyDeck, an open-air rooftop where you can watch planes leaving and landing at the airport.
If you’ve got 5-8 hours…
A day trip to the Big Buddha in Lantau Island is definitely worthwhile. The most scenic way to get there is via the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, a 25 minute journey showcasing gorgeous views of Lantau Island and the South China Sea. The cable car leaves for Ngong Ping Village from Tung Chung, which is 10 minutes away from the airport via the S1 bus or by taxi.
Once you get to Ngong Ping Village, take a stroll through the delightful souvenir shops and tea houses. Don’t stay for too long, though — the best is still yet to come.
Prominent signs will point you toward the Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery. At 112 feet tall, Big Buddha is one of the largest buddha statues in the world. The mountain path leading up to it is 268 steps long, so make sure you stay hydrated, especially if it’s a hot day!
Po Lin Monastery, which stands right opposite the buddha, is a palatial complex with beautiful courtyards and lavish interiors. It’s frequented by both worshippers and tourists alike.
If you’ve got 9+ hours…
The city is your oyster! The first thing you should do is go downtown via the Airport Express. You can get to Hong Kong Station in 25 minutes. From here on out, you’ve got some choices. Here are a few ideas on how to spend your time:
Visit the Peak
The Peak is Hong Kong’s most iconic tourist destination. The most fun way to get there is undoubtedly via the Peak Tram, a 120-year-old funicular railway (the first in Asia, in fact) that rises to 1,300 ft above sea level. It gets pretty steep up there, so hang on tight!
Once you arrive at the Peak Tower, you can enjoy the array of restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. Take a whirl through Madame Tussaud’s Hong Kong — the museum contains over a hundred wax figurines, including the likenesses of Jackie Chan and Barack Obama. And be sure not to miss the Sky Terrace, where you’ll see breathtaking views of the city from its highest vantage point. At 428 meters above sea level, it’s the highest viewing platform in the city and the 360-degree view is unparalleled.
Cross the Victoria Harbor via the Star Ferry
Another vestige of Old Hong Kong, the Star Ferry Company has been operating in Victoria Harbor since 1888. Leave from Central Pier (a couple minutes’ walk from Hong Kong Station) for Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon. During the ride, you can enjoy the skyline from both sides of the harbor as well as a delicious sea breeze.
Once you’re on the Kowloon side, take a stroll down Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade along the waterfront. The walk will take you past landmarks such as the Hong Kong Cultural Center, the Hong Kong Space Museum and the colonial-era Clock Tower.
If you’re in the mood for some food or drink, Hong Kong’s oldest hotel, the Peninsula, is within short walking distance. There’s a cozy jazz-era lounge on the first floor. Alternatively, Felix on the 28th floor offers a show-stopping dining/bar experience and harbor view.
Eat Dim Sum And Go Shopping
There’s no better place than Hong Kong to taste the cream of Cantonese cuisine. Dim sum is usually available in restaurants between late morning and the late afternoon. As for where to go, you’re spoiled for choices: Lung King Heen in Central is the first Chinese restaurant have ever been awarded three Michelin stars, and boasts a great view of the harbor. There’s also the relatively new and trendy Mott 32, which isn’t afraid to take modern twists on old classics. Last but not least, you can opt to mix with the locals by visiting Tim Ho Wan, the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world.
After your meal, walk it all off by browsing the busy streets and markets of Central. The streets in this district are some of the city’s oldest. Pottinger Street (just off Wellington Street) is a popular film location, famous for its unevenly paved cobblestone steps. It’s known as Hong Kong’s costume market, selling wigs, masks and costumes for all occasions. The top of Pottinger Street meets Hollywood Road, known for its antique shops. There, you can browse Chinese-style furniture, ceramics, scroll paintings and more. From there, walk west and you’ll find yourself in Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s busiest bar and nightlife district. Feel free to grab a drink or a meal and congratulate yourself on a day well spent.