By Rachel Yu, self-professed Hong Kong foodie who loves exploring the parts of the city most tourists don’t even know exist. Edited by Elodi TroskieMany people think there is nothing more to Hong Kong than its skyscrapers and urban life, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In areas surrounding the city, there are beautiful nature parks and outdoor hiking trails from where you’ll get a whole new perspective on Hong Kong. If you’re looking for non-touristy things to do in Hong Kong, rest assured that there are lots of interesting spots in and around the city where you can go to avoid crowds. Here are my top 10 hidden gems in Hong Kong!
Dim sum restaurants
Dim sum is a Chinese style tea-time cuisine served in bite-size portions of various kinds of food. Dim sum is the first thing you should try when you visit Hong Kong! You can have it at any time of day – from brunch to dinner appetizers. You can find dim sum at most restaurants in Hong Kong and the prices vary depending on the restaurant. Jade Garden, located next to the Star Ferry terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, is a good choice for budget dim sum. Jade Garden serves classics variations like barbequed pork and rice paper rolls at affordable prices. If you’re looking for something on the higher end, Duddell’s is a popular Cantonese restaurant in the style of a secret garden, known for their art exhibitions and unusual wine pairings – perfect if you’re looking for arty things to do in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong-Zhubai-Macau bridge
The Hong Kong-Zhubai-Macau bridge takes the crown as the longest sea bridge in the world. At 55 kilometres long, it might not be much of a ‘hidden’ gem, but it has an interesting history leading up to its completion and official opening in October 2018. The bridge serves as the link between Hong Kong, Macau and the cities that form part of the Greater Bay Area. This construction is considered to be an engineering wonder and symbolizes how China has gone from strength to strength over recent years. It was specifically designed to withstand earthquakes and typhoons and more than 400 000 tonnes of steel was used in its construction – that’s enough steel to build 60 Eiffel Towers! The bridge significantly cuts back on traveling time between Zhubai and Hong Kong. What would normally have taken as long as four hours has now been reduced to 30 minutes. This definitely makes intercity traveling much more convenient!
The New Territories is one of the three main regions of Hong Kong. This region has a rich cultural presence and is a great area to explore if you’re interested in learning about the history and heritage of Hong Kong. Apart from the cultural landmarks, New Territories has beautiful natural landscapes. Hiking trails, unspoiled beaches and large areas of undeveloped land. The Hong Kong Unesco Global Geopark is one of the main attractions in this region and is definitely worth a visit. Guided tours are available through the park to explore the age-old volcanic and sedimentary rock found here. Another interesting thing to do is to visit the walled villages of Sha Tau Kok, Sheung Shui, Fanling and Yeun Long. Guided tours are available on Sundays to explore these preserved villages.
Shek Kwu Chau
Hong Kong’s secret island, formerly known as the “Coffin Island”, was mostly uninhabited until the 1960’s, when a rehabilitation centre for drug abusers, SARDA, was opened. The island is only open to the public for one day in November, so if you’re visiting Hong Kong during this time, don’t miss out on this rare opportunity to explore Shek Kwu Chau. The island has its own reservoir and features structures like mock Roman baths and marble sculptures that were constructed by SARDA’s patients. The only other permanent residents of Shek Kwu Chau are the handful of sheep, cats, dogs, turtles and exotic birds. The island can be reached by a 20-minute ferry ride from Cheung Chau. A special visitor’s permit is required.
Lam Tseun Wishing Trees
The Lam Tseun Wishing Trees are a located close to the Tin Hay Temple in Fong Ma Po Village, Lam Tseun. These two banyan trees are believed to make wishes come true by throwing joss paper upwards into the trees after praying. The higher the joss paper lands in the tree, the better the chances for the wish coming true. The temple is a cultural landmark, dating back to the 1700’s during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. The shrine of the Wishing Trees are most frequently visited during the Lunar New Year celebrations – arguably the biggest highlight on the Chinese calendar! A visit to the Lam Tseun Wishing Trees is certainly one of the most unique experiences in Hong Kong.
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Hong Kong at night, a street food tour is always a good idea. It’s no secret that street food is the best part the culinary scene all over Asia, but any tourist can testify that the best and most affordable street food spots are always hidden away. In Hong Kong, Mong Kok is the go-to street food area for most visitors. Mong Kok is a vibrant, fast-paced market area that truly encompasses the energetic day-to-day life of Hong Kong and is definitely worth a visit. But if you’re looking for a non-touristy experience in Hong Kong, head to Kwai Chung Plaza, an off the beaten path street food market where you’ll find all the must try Asian dishes you can think of. You can enjoy Hong Kong classics like curry fish balls and squid tentacles or branch out and try a few more uncommon dishes like deep-fried ice cream and strawberry cream crepes. Kwai Chung Plaza is located in the New Territories region of Hong Kong and is open every day from 10:00 until 22:00.
Victoria Peak, locally known as The Peak, is the highest hill on the island of Hong Kong. There are many things to do around here, like taking a ride on The Peak Tram, visiting Madame Tussauds Hong Kong and The Peak Galleria, strolling along the Peak Circle Walk, or simply enjoying the incredible city views. As the highest point in Hong Kong, you can imagine the view from up there! There is a large viewing platform, Sky Terrace 428, and there are various other lookout points like the Lions Point View Pavilion and the Lugard Road Lookout. To get to The Peak, take the tram from the Peak Tram Lower Terminus, which you can reach by foot from the MTR in Central Hong Kong. A good idea is to buy a Peak Tram Sky Pass, which will get you special prices on many other Peak experiences.
The Bethanie, built in 1875, is a neo-gothic church located in Pok Fu Lam Road. The church was built in 1875 and served as the city’s base of the French Catholic Church until the 1970’s. Nowadays the building houses the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. The chapel is the most beautiful part of the church, featuring intricate, picturesque symmetrical designs. In the basement, a museum is located with displays of historical items dating back as far as 300 years. The church offers guided tours throughout the museum. The venue is also available for rent and is sometimes used for wedding ceremonies. You can only imagine the beautiful wedding photos! The most photogenic hidden gem in Hong Kong.
Sai Wan swimming shed
The Sai Wan swimming shed is one of the best sunset spots in Hong Kong! The site was built in the 1950’s and was originally used as a changing room for visitors swimming in the Sulphur Channel. Because it takes a while to get there, not many people bother to go the extra mile – or 20-minute walk. To reach Sai Wan, walk along Victoria Road from Kenny Town MRT for about 20 minutes until you see the sign indicating the shed. To catch the sunset, head to the shed during the late afternoon. If you’re lucky, you’ll have the place to yourself! Definitely one of the best secret places in Hong Kong.
My favourite thing to do in Hong Kong is to explore the hiking trails in the areas surrounding the city. This is by far the best to explore Hong Kong off the beaten path! One of the most beautiful trails is up Sunset Peak, one of the highest peaks on the island. Sunset Peak is known for its breath-taking panoramic sunset views. It might not be the easiest hike, but the view from the top will make it all worth it! To reach the starting point, take Bus 11, 23 or 3M to Pak Kung Au, and to make it back to the city, take bus 3M to Tung Chung. If you’re not an experienced hiker, opt for a guided hiking tour or head back early enough so you don’t get stuck in the dark.
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