Edited by Jessica Wright
What could be more dynamic and energizing than 3 days in Hong Kong; a veritable sprint around the Pearl of the Orient, this captivating hybrid of East and West? It’s a winding maze of civilization, a clash of ancient tradition and garish neon, one that you will want to get lost in and – and if you aren’t careful, somewhere you might really get lost. In this expansive jungle of steel, glass and concrete a bit of insider help certainly won’t go amiss, so I have put together all you need to explore Hong Kong in 72 hours. A fishing village turned economic power-house, Asia’s financial hub is a wealth-spring of urban Asian delights, and paired with the outlying islands and natural wonders to explore there are simply so many things to do in Hong Kong in 3 days that you will need all the help you can get in order to plan. With my 3 day itinerary for Hong Kong you’ll be munching on dim sum, browsing budget-friendly markets, frequenting ancient temples and dining with the locals in no time!
Day 1 - Morning
Launch right into the thick of things with a visit to the densely populated Quarry Bay to see the “Monster Building” – so named because of the close-packed living-quarters that give it the appearance of some monstrously overgrown creature.
The perfect attraction to kick off 3 days in Hong Kong whether you're traveling solo or with the whole family. This towering cluster of concrete and glass will instantly give you the context of the city which is considered one of the most crowded places on earth, and might even leave you feeling a tad claustrophobic with only the smallest patch of sky visible from the ground.
The symmetry and striking architecture of the building make it a coveted spot for filming and anime lovers will get a thrill out of visiting the location for scenes in the live-action rendition of Ghost in the Shell. Even those who have never heard of anime will drool over the spot for all the camera-friendly angles provided, ideal for Insta-opportunities.
Day 1 - Lunch
From the Monster Building, jump on a tram and head to the Red Market, a “wet market” – selling fresh, perishable goods – located north of the Three Lamps District in Macau. In this iconically symmetrical red brick building, there are several bustling floors of produce including all your fresh market staples; seafood, poultry, beef, pork, and vegetables.
Whether your Hong Kong itinerary is 2 days or a month, dim sum has to be on your to-do list, and where better to sample this regional delicacy than from the self-proclaimed dim sum specialists at Tim Ho Wan restaurant. Dim sum in Hong Kong is among many absolute must-try experiences in the city – varying from the stubbornly traditional variations to ground-breaking Michelin-star (the cheapest you are likely to find around the globe) reinventions.
No matter which shape, size, texture, or flavor of dim sum you choose from the dizzying selection of options, you simply have to include it in your trip. Are 3 days in Hong Kong enough to sample all the varieties of dim sum that Hong Kong has to offer? Absolutely not, but it’s enough time to get a good head start!
Day 1 - Afternoon
Once happily fattened with glorious dim sum it’s time to move on to Aberdeen, a fishing village situated on the southern end of Hong Kong. Here you can explore life by boat, navigating the town and seafood markets on the deck of a sampan most likely operated by an elderly village woman.
Floating peacefully by the surreal scenes of houseboats (full with satellite dishes and little gardens), trawlers and junk boats while taking in the serene natural beauty and juxtaposition of distant skyscrapers is the perfect way to allow your lunch to settle, but if your appetite allows – and with a true foodie isn’t there always room for a new culinary adventure? – there are several floating restaurants whose wares you might choose to try.
Day 1 - Dinner
If you travel for shopping, Hong Kong will be your jam. And for a culture shock? Hong Kong won’t disappoint. And if you travel for the chance of new and exciting flavor explorations, Hong Kong is simply a dream come true.
You could choose to stick around the fascinating bounds of Aberdeen for dinner; naturally, you can expect to enjoy some of the freshest seafood around. Partaking in a meal aboard a floating restaurant is also a truly unique way to experience Hong Kong’s seafood cuisine.
For an added dining experience that truly packs a punch head to the largest floating restaurant there is – a triple-decker affair that seats up to 2,300 people, Jumbo restaurant is elaborately decorated with hundreds of meters of string lights, pagodas, and gold dragons.
Day 1 - Night-time
Once refueled and happy, it’s time to head out for some nocturnal fun and games. After a day filled with food and relaxation, you will no doubt be full of energy and desire to dance off the extra calories (or add a few more!). Head to the famous pub area of Lan Kwai Fong – one of the most popular nightlife spots in the city – for a dynamic pub and club scene that unfolds down the length of a hilly cobbled lane.
Undoubtedly one of the top nighttime exploits Hong Kong has to offer, Lan Kwai Fong is home to over 90 restaurants and bars and has been the scene of some diverse and eclectic revelry. Whether you are the jelly shot, dance-on-tables variety of nighttime creature, or prefer sampling fine wine and brushing shoulders with celebrity elite, Lan Kwai Fong has something for you – something that will keep you going till the early hours of the following day!
Day 2 - Morning
After a night of high debauchery, you might be in need of a mellow morning. Time to move to the outlying islands, where you can take a much-needed hour and a half cable car trip – use the Ngong Ping 360 cable cars – to reach the Big Buddha area.
Whether you spend your trip peering out at the glorious panorama of forested hills or snoozing off a night of partying is up to you, but either way, this should be on your list of things to do in Hong Kong in 3 days if not for the stunning views then certainly for the chance to view the world’s largest seated bronze Buddha statue and one of Hong Kong’s star attractions.
Known locally as the Tian Tan Buddha, the Big Buddha sits atop the Ngong Ping Plateau amidst the picturesque hills of Lantau Island. Once you’ve visited the Buddha you can spend some time browsing the Po Lin Monastery – an impressively decorated complex of great interest to history buffs.
Day 2 - Lunch
A short bus trip to the west will land you in an area that might be considered a seafood paradise – the quaint Tai O Fishing Village. Spend some time in the village, exploring the waterways and rivers aboard a dragon boat to experience the way people once used to – and indeed still do – live.
Here the homes are built on stilts, and from the markets, you can expect to be offered a plethora of interesting dried fish or the pungent shrimp paste made by residents among more tantalizing fare.
Explore the narrow alleyways for a unique slice of life view of fish hung out to dry on lines along the waterfront. After some market nibbles, you might opt for a dolphin tours of the harbor where – if exceedingly lucky – you stand the chance to spot rare pink dolphins!
Day 2 - Dinner
If dried fish is not quite to your taste you might be feeling a bit peckish! Head back to the city where you’re in for one of the most delightful culinary treats the city has to offer – Peking duck! Like dim sum, this regional specialty can be found everywhere and while it is perhaps not as varied in shape and size, the quality of the dish is abundantly varied!
If you just so happen to find the best variations of this dish you can consider your travel experience (and perhaps life) made! At its base preparation, the duck is bathed in honey and sherry, cured for hours – sometimes days – before being put on a slow roast that results in a tantalizingly crispy amber skin that is salty-sweet.
The fall off the bone meat and crunchy golden skin is rolled into a crepe-like pancake with spring onions, drizzled with Hoisin sauce, and served to be devoured, no doubt, in one heavenly mouthful. To experience the absolute crème de la crème of this specialty in luxurious settings visit the Peking Garden Restaurant.
With a Michelin star, this restaurant promises a variation of this dish that promises to surprise and delight. If ever in doubt as to what to do in Hong Kong in 3 days that will give you an authentic cultural experience, this is it!
Day 2 - Nighttime
After dinner – if you can fit through the door – you might be in the mood for some retail therapy. For some decent bargain hunting head to the Ladies Market in Hong Kong. While it’s not only for ladies, this popular shopping spot sure is popular with the fairer sex purely due to the sheer volume of inexpensive clothes – for ladies and gents – accessories, electronics, and toys.
Once the stomping ground of the Hong Kong triad gangs, the market is now a favorite among locals and visitors alike as one of the most famous shopping streets in Hong Kong. With stalls open from noon to 11 pm this makes for the perfect after-dinner activity, ideal for walking off that Peking duck. Of course, when in Rome do as the locals do – be sure to haggle to get the best bargains!
Day 3 - Morning
Start the last day of your trip with some serene cultural appreciation at the home of traditional worship, where people go to pray for health and prosperity, and perhaps have their futures divined by chim – bamboo ‘fortune sticks’.
The Wong Tai Sin Temple is sacred among all the diverse facets of Hong Kong society; the assemblage of shrines, pavilions, and altars has been a busy destination for locals since its establishment in 1973.
Once you’ve explored the main temple and perhaps had your fortune told in one of the many booths, take a stroll through the Good Wish Garden where the bridges, waterfalls, and koi ponds promise the hope of granting your wishes! If you are on the skeptical side, the tranquil setting and peaceful walkways alone are worth the trip.
Day 3 - Lunch
Follow up the quiet, humble morning with a historical one in an area with British architecture that dates back to the generations when Hong Kong was a British colony. With many interesting buildings – such as St John’s Cathedral and the former Central Police Station – some of which have been declared national heritage sites, there is plenty to keep you occupied.
Possibly one of the best demonstrations of East meets West Eat the area is a delight to explore and for the perfect finish head to Kau Kee for a lunch of the most divine beef brisket you are likely to find in Hong Kong.
An institution that has been around for over 90 years, you should probably prepare yourself to queue behind a long line of devotees – if you are willing to wait it out you will be well rewarded with the slow-roasted brisket and legendary noodles!
Day 3 - Afternoon
Next, make your way to Cat Street to hunt for a moment to remember your holiday by. Hiding among rare Ming dynasty furniture and revolution propaganda in Upper Lascar Row – otherwise known as Cat Street – you might discover some true treasures.
Whether you are seeking jade and silk products, embroideries, vintage finds, or wooden handicraft items the congregation of antique dealers, curio merchants and art galleries will be eager to help and make for interesting window shopping.
When you’ve found just the thing to remember Hong Kong by – and to inspire you for your return! – head over to a local Hakka for a final authentic taste of Hong Kong. Born out of the need created by poverty, the ingenuitive dishes on offer are rich and hearty, promising to reinvigorate and satisfy. Hakka means “guest families” – a fitting description for the cultural practice of shared dining.
Eating dinner at a local Hakka is not only a great way to mingle with locals, but it is also a unique and revealing peek into the local way of life and most importantly the local cuisine. Listed in the Hong Kong Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Hakka cuisine includes delicious dishes like beef meatball soup, duck stuffed with glutinous rice, and many more tempting nibbles.
Eat your fill before ending off the trip with Temple Street Night Market, where you can find a cold beer to cheers to a perfect 3-day journey!
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