Get ready to eat, shop, and sight-see your way to a standstill from the moment your flight lands. Read my 48-hour Hong Kong city guide to find out how to make the most of two nights and two days exploring this crowded scrap of land off the edge of China on a short break or stopover:
Eating out in Hong Kong
Eating experiences can make or break a holiday, and food is certainly one of the top reasons to visit Hong Kong. The city is famed for its culinary delights and my advice is to base yourself in Tsim Tsam Tshui if you want international cuisine on Kowloon. Or head to SoHo for international eating on Hong Kong Island. Lan Kwai Fong is another buzzing area of clubs and restaurants.
As always when you travel, to eat well in a city you must eat where the locals eat. There are lots of dim sum places for lunch at Causeway Bay (these are even cheaper before and after lunchtime). Hillwood and Austin Roads also have many excellent eateries, while SoHo is full of chic clubs and restaurants.
I can highly recommend Tanyoto, on Johnston Road in Wan Chai. This place is an institution where you can try delicious (and fun) hot pot. Also try the Sweet Dynasty on Canton Road, a stylish eating hall popular with groups of young people stopping by for dessert on a night out. Try the Asian porridge ‘congee,’ following a savoury dish, all washed down with delectable fresh coconut juice with red bean.
Getting around in Hong Kong
The Star Ferry whisks travellers from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island in 10 minutes, every 10 minutes. These iconic ferries are an experience in themselves and a ride still only costs pennies.
On land, the skinny, double-decker ‘Ding Ding’ trams totter along the streets like super models. They were first introduced in 1904 and the Hong Kong system is one of only three in the world still operating double-decker trams (along with Blackpool in England and Alexandria in Egypt).
The Hong Kong Tourism Board’s online guide to catching the trams is a valuable resource for using the six main tram routes to explore Hong Kong Island. There are a number of classic routes that are an easy way to see the highlights of Hong Kong, especially Central, which is the classic ‘East meets West’ part of the city.
History and culture in Hong Kong
From the traditional dried seafood shops and ancient temples, to the financial heart of the city, and the colonial architecture, Hong Kong cherishes its history and its success.
Hong Kong remains lodged in the British historical psyche, despite belonging to China since 1997. However, surprisingly few colonial buildings remain. To find them take a stroll up the hill on Battery Path.
This once led directly from the wharves up into the city. Tall ships once moored in the deep waters of the harbour to unload their trade goods, and crinoline-skirted ladies promenaded along the path that runs past St. John’s Cathedral and the former French Mission building.
Stepping into the Man Mo Temple is a quick reminder of the ethereal in this success-driven city. The air is thick with burning incense and the high ceiling invisible behind hundreds of smouldering coils carrying prayers to the spirit world.
Young and old crowd the courtyard, carrying bundles of burning sticks above their heads and bringing their offerings of fruit and flowers.
Shopping in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has become synonymous with shopping—the Ladies Market for handbags, clothing and paintings, or the mile-long Temple Street Night Market for local crafts, cheap goods and street food.
The city is full of unique small stores, and if you want curios, Hollywood Road in SoHo (known locally as Antiques Street) is a good place to start hunting for delicate prints, ceramics and furniture.
For an even more unique souvenir, how about some dried starfish or a lump of ginseng, or some of the myriad of other dried curiosities available in the shops lining little streets with romantic names like Bird’s Nest Street and Cat Street?
Wandering in Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Tourism Board has a number of Hong Kong walking guides; for example, the Central and Western District walking tour introduces a city of contrasts with Asian and western cultures jostling along side-by-side.
Another essential wander is the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront and the ‘Avenue of Stars.’ Along with beautiful lighting displays on the waterfront itself, from 8 o’clock in the evening there is a light and laser beam show timed with music across Hong Kong’s skyline. The Symphony of Lights is actually the world’s largest permanent light and sound show. There are also good views of the display from the Star Ferry on Victoria Harbour.
Don’t leave Hong Kong without seeing the city from above — on Victoria Peak. The Peak Tram climbs 373 metres to a space-station-like viewing station. From there take the popular 3.5km (2.2-mile) circular walk along Lugard Road, from where you can enjoy views of the web of skyscrapers, the lush green countryside, and the misty, mountainous islands of the South China Sea.
Leaning over the iron railings, the vertiginous views of a reef of glass spires is a stark contrast to the sight and scent of the tropical forest that surrounds you.
The attractions and pleasures of this incredible Asian city are too many and varied to cram all of them into a 48-hour stopover, but if you follow this guide you will have caught a glimpse of the past, the present, and the future of this distinctive metropolis.
Where to stay in Hong Kong
I have stayed in two Hong Kong hotels and both were excellent. The first recommendation is the The Langham. This 5-star Hong Kong hotel is super luxurious and perfectly situated in Tsim Sha Tsui. The second is the more moderately-priced but still very, very comfortable Eaton on Wan Chai Gap Road.
By Natasha von Geldern
Find more information about visiting Hong Kong here. Do you have any recommendations for a short break in Hong Kong?