Lost in a sea of people on the busiest street I had ever seen, I fell in love with Hong Kong.
I’d bet Hong Kong sleeps even less than New York City. It’s loud and dramatic in the best way possible, a place that awakens all the senses, especially for a big-city lover like myself.
Officially known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, it’s actually an autonomous territory with its own flag and currency. The majority of the population speaks Cantonese rather than the widely spoken Mandarin in mainland China.
And nearly everyone I interacted with spoke English as well.
Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The thriving metropolis kept me busy for just under a week. Within six days I was able to hit the main tourist sites, take a day trip to Macau and hike a nearby mountain.
Find my weeklong Hong Kong itinerary below.
DAY 1: DIM SUM
I could smell the dim sum before I got off the plane.
I landed in Hong Kong at 8 a.m. on a Friday. I was starving. Hong Kong is home to dozens of Michelin-starred restaurants, and I couldn’t wait to eat my way through this city.
Enter Tim Ho Wan, dubbed the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world.
My first outing in Hong Kong led me to the dim sum hotspot located in the Central metro station. I wasn’t surprised to find a line at the door, but it moved swiftly as waiters efficiently shifted people in and out of the tiny restaurant.
*Tip: There’s no time for wasted time in a place like Tim Ho Wan, so prepare your order while you’re in line.
Guil and I were handed a paper menu to make our order; we chose six random dishes and hoped for the best. One thing everyone must order is the barbecue pork buns, they’re heavenly. We accidentally ordered two portions and managed to stuff all six of them down! They were too delicious to leave behind.
After lunch, I headed to Mid-Levels, a residential neighborhood home to the longest, outdoor covered-escalator in the world. It was time to walk off those calories. The escalator links the Central, SoHo and Mid-Levels neighborhoods together, easing the commute between each.
At this point the jet lag was getting to us so we headed home for a nap.
In the evening we went out for drinks and dinner at Ho Lee Fook, a hip Chinese restaurant on a happening street in Central. We ended our night in Lan Kwai Fong, the city’s nightlife mecca.
DAY 2: TAKE A HIKE
On Saturday, I ventured away from the city and into the mountains. I learned that hiking is Hong Kongers’ sport of choice, and there’s no shortage of treks in the surrounding mountains.
Guil and I were staying with a friend who invited us to Pineapple Hill, known as the mini Grand Canyon of Hong Kong. Pineapple Hill lies a bit outside the city center; it took us about an hour to get there via public transportation.
The trek itself took about three to four hours with plenty of stops for photos. The first portion is a steep uphill climb and the path is mostly paved. You catch a glimpse of Shenzhen on mainland China as you climb, although heavy pollution masks most of the skyline.
The good thing about this hike is you don’t have to walk all the way back. After reaching the canyon, we walked downhill until reaching a bay in Ha Pak Lai. Here we could easily see the Shenzhen skyline across the bay. It was a great spot to watch the sunset.
We then took mini bus #33 to the nearest Metro station to go home.
DAY 3: KOWLOON
Day three was spent in Kowloon, said to be Hong Kong Island’s grittier neighbor.
I visited the Park of Stars and Kowloon Park, both of which were buzzing with women picnicking on sidewalks. I learned that Filipino housemaids have Sunday off, so many of them spend the day in the city’s public parks.
The infamous Chunking Mansions, once a questionable place for tourists to visit, stood nearby and curiosity drew me inside. A quick elevator tour through a few of its floors showed me that the mansions, a.k.a. massive buildings comprised of shops, apartments, hotels and everything in between, have since been tamed. In fact, I didn’t see much of anything other than a few food stalls and technology stores within the mansions, much to my disappointment.
I then headed to Mong Kok — a shopping mecca — for the Ladies Market, where you can find everything from cell phone chargers to fake high-end purses.
Prepare to haggle your way through! Never accept the first price they quote you. I was able to cut the price on a Fjällräven backpack from $200 to $70 HKD (about $9 USD).
At night, I headed to Tsim Sha Tsui to watch the evening light show in Victoria Harbour.
DAY 4: VICTORIA PEAK
I headed to Victoria Peak early in the morning hoping to beat the crowds. I skipped the paid entrance and followed the advice from this blog instead, which gives a step-by-step guide on how to experience the best free view of the city.
After visiting the peak, I dined at Din Tai Fung, another popular dim sum restaurant.
Then I made my way to Montane Mansions, a tightly packed apartment-complex-turned-tourist-destination after its debut in a Transformers movie.
From there, I took the Ding Ding, or the double-decker tram, across the city — such a fun way to sightsee.
DAY 5: THE BIG BUDDHA
The Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha) in Lantau Island is easily accessible by train.
We chose the Big Buddha rather than the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery due to time, but you may be able to do both in one day. I believe they’re each a half-day activity, with the latter located much closer to the city.
You can either hike or take a cable car up to the top of the mountain, where a bronze buddha statue sits 100 feet high. We chose the crystal-cabin cable car, which gives you a 360-degree view of the surrounding landscape during the 20-minute ride up. It was an especially foggy day, so our ride up the mountain was quite eerie.
I got some discounted tickets off the Klook app so I definitely recommend downloading it before your visit to Hong Kong.
We spent the rest of the day hanging out at the village up top waiting for the sun to come out.
DAY 6: MACAU
My final full day in Hong Kong brought me to Macau, another autonomous territory with its own currency (the Macanese pataca).
Macau is like the Las Vegas of China, boasting many of the same fancy brand-name casinos you see on The Strip. To get there you take a 1-hour ferry from Hong Kong. As soon as you step off the boat and go through immigration (*bring your passports) you’ll find a number of free shuttles going to the casinos.
While Guil and I gambled for fun at the Parisian, the real reason we ventured to Macau was for the Portuguese food.
Macau was the first and last European colony in China, and although it’s no longer a Portuguese settlement, it’s still considered to be the official language there (which is nice for us, considering we speak Portuguese).
Head to Largo do Senado to feel like you’ve been transported to Europe. Here you’ll find Portuguese restaurants meshed with Chinese fare, as well as the remains of an ancient church.
Once back in Hong Kong, I bid farewell to the city with a drink at the Ozone bar, known as one of the highest bars in the world. Sitting on top of Hong Kong’s tallest skyscraper, the ICC Tower, the bar serves some ridiculously expensive drinks — but at least they’re paired with a spectacular view of the surrounding skyline 118 floors up.
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I have beautiful memories of Hong Kong. Looking back, we should have gone for a hike to get away from so much craziness or a little bit.