Hong Kong is a small city with a lot going on! Based on Chinese society with other major cultural influences like the British Occupation, being crowned as a Top Financial Centre and home to globally diverse communities, Hong Kong is one of a kind. Travelling to Hong Kong is far more than shopping and eating, so here are the real reasons to visit Hong Kong so you can come to the city with a new perspective!
The million-dollar view of Victoria Harbour
This will be the first priority for sure when you are planning your trip to Hong Kong, which is said by all tour guide books, friends of yours who visited once and now me. You have to understand the view of Victoria Harbour really is something! Due to the limited space in Hong Kong and as the world’s freest economy, the city has a high density of skyscrapers and is truly a concrete jungle. One of the famous buildings is Sky 100 which by far is the tallest building in Hong Kong, it has a 360 degrees observatory on the 100th floor. The IFC (International Finance Centre) is the second tallest and the lower levels are a high-end shopping mall. Last but not least, the Bank of China; has this distinctive look with triangle frameworks. Most of the buildings in Hong Kong are very identifiable and usually associated with Feng shu.
There are two spots that were designed in Hong Kong for people to enjoy the view. The Peak gives you the full view of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island with the presence of Victoria Harbour in the middle, clearly dividing the two sides. It’s very easy to tell which side is which by locating each side’s representative landmarks; Hong Kong Island has the Hong Kong Observation Wheel at its centre and the Kowloon has the Clock Tower at Tsim Sha Tusi. If you want to have a closer look at the magnificent architecture on the Hong Kong Island side, come down to the harbour front at Tsim Sha Tusi. The Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade allows you to admire the creation of the Victoria Harbour bit by bit and certainly a perfect place to take a signature photo of Hong Kong.
But the night is when Hong Kong really turns into the Pearl of the Orient. As the light fades, Hong Kong becomes a canvas, more and more colors are being added on with all the lights and illuminations on the buildings. And every night at 8, we have an incredible laser show which is called Symphony of Lights, with green lasers shooting out from skyscrapers in a rhythm with the music.
The Peak: Central MTR station Exit A Peak Tram Terminus (Garden Road) or Taxi.
Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade: Tsim Sha Tusi MTR station Exit J or Star Ferry (From Central Pier).
It’s a cultural melting pot
Even though the British said their goodbye to Hong Kong more than 20 years ago, we’ve held on to some of their legacy. Nowadays, you’ll find most of the British footprints in the Western and Central Districts, with British architecture and streets named after governors still standing.Also worth visiting is the Western Market at Sheung Wan, a four-storey building in Queen Anne Revival style that was popular in the British Empire during the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods. In the 19th century, Chinese and European residents used to live separately in different neighbourhoods, and it was Pottinger Street, which once acted as a rough boundary between the two. Also known as Stone Slabs Street thanks to its uneven granite slab paving, the street separated the Chinese community to the west of the street, and the westerns to the east side.
The Former Central Police Station Compound is also a great example of Hong Kong’s cultural melting pot. It includes the Central Magistracy and the Victoria Prison, 16 heritage buildings in total. The site is bordered on three sides by Old Bailey Street, Hollywood Road and Arbuthnot Road. Chancery Lane runs along the southern prison wall. After some serious restorations done by the government, now it’s a place where people can join a heritage tour, engage with contemporary art, participate in workshops, and where the shops and restaurants offer additional programs to further enliven the site.
But it’s not only Hong Kong’s architecture which shows our cultural diversity; it’s in our food and fashion too. The West have secretly influenced us to an extent that we couldn’t possibly have thought of. For example, you can easily find all kinds of delicacies and gourmets from different countries in Hong Kong, authentic and originally imported by the communities who would have traditionally eaten these dishes at home. When it comes to fashion, the truth is we don’t really have a “Hong Kong style”; like the rest of the world most people here will follow the latest trend of fashion, hair and makeup. However, the difference is Hong Kong locals will try to mix the styles from the West and the East to come up with something new. After so many years absorbing western influence and interacting with other eastern communities, Hong Kong has been shaped into a land of surprises yet to be discovered.
Western Market: 323 Des Voeux Rd Central, Sheung Wan Sheung Wan MTR station, Exit B
Pottinger Street: Central MTR station, Exit C The Former
Central Police Station Compound: 10 Hollywood Road, Central, Central MTR station, Exit D1. Cross Wellington Street and Lyndhurst Terrace to Hollywood Road.
If you’ve done your research, you’ll know that Hong Kong has all sorts of markets, and all come with much cheaper prices. Of course, getting a good deal or not at the end requires some serious bargaining skills. And be aware that most of the markets in Hong Kong are only starting to open in the afternoon. If you’re looking for cheap clothing and counterfeit goods, Ladies’ Market in Mongkok will be the place, but despite its name, actually this is a family-friendly market, not just limited to women.
For those who want to purchase Hong Kong souvenirs, Temple Street Night Market and Stanley Market are the right ones for you. Temple Street Night Market in Yau Ma Tei provides all kinds of typical souvenirs, for example, key chains and magnets with symbolic items from Hong Kong, T-shirts that have Hong Kong logo printed on and some Chinese crafts. Apart from the souvenirs, this market is also known for its fortune tellers. You’ll find some who practice regular palm and face reading, some have partnered with clever birds, letting a bird pick a ticket for customers and some even do it the Gypsy way - tarot cards and a crystal ball. What’s more, it’s the most popular place for clay pot rice which is mainly served during winter time. Every winter, many locals will come here for this winter delicacy when temporary tables and chairs are put outside on the walking paths, like a big party!
Stanley Market can fulfill your demand for high-quality souvenirs. The things they sell there are definitely more sophisticated, like silk products and Chinese artworks. Stanley itself is somewhat more westernized, and much calmer, so people can hardly tell it’s in Hong Kong. But who says markets are only for shopping? Don’t forget about the mouthwatering street food markets in Mongkok! Heaven for all foodies, you’ll find Hong Kong specialties like egg puffs, curry fish balls, and deep-fried skewers, as well as local delicacies like livers, kidneys, and intestines if you’re up for the challenge! Yum! Food markets are usually open until at least midnight, some even until the early hours of the morning, so feel free to stop by if you fancy some late-night snacks.
Unique markets like the Golden Fish Market and Birds Market are also fascinating to see. Golden Fish Market is located in Mongkok as well, but it’s more than goldfish, it’s in fact one big aquarium, the whole street is dedicated to different kinds of sea creatures, unique fish, and aquarium supplies. There’s also the Birds Market, or Yuen Po Bird Garden in Prince Edward, a small lane that’s packed with lots of character and even more birds! Be transported to the birds’ dimension as you stroll through the market, listening to the birdsong from the thousands of cages above you. The market here began as traditionally, the Chinese loved to keep the birds as pets, and the market provided a venue for bird owners to socialize and show off their beautiful birds. Old folks still come to this lane, hang their birdcages from the branches of a tree and play cards together - it’s a glimpse into Hong Kong’s more traditional past!
Ladies’ Market: Mong Kok MTR station, exit E2 and walk along Nathan Road towards Shan Tung Street
Temple Street Night Market: Jordan MTR station, exit C2 and walk along Bowring St OR Yau Ma Tei MTR station, exit C and follow Man Ming Lane.
Street Food Markets in Mong Kok: One on Dundas Street and one at the corner of Tung Choi and Mong Kok Road.
Golden Fish Market: Mong Kok East MTR Station, Exit C and walk to Sai Yee Street via the footbridge, and follow the signs.
Birds Market: Prince Edward MTR station, exit B1 and walk north along Nathan Road until you reach the intersection with Yuen Po Street.
Hong Kong is a city that never sleeps. At nightfall, the city comes alive again with vivid neon lights and spotlights on. Unlike western countries, restaurants and retail shops in Hong Kong often open till at least 10 pm, and some privately owned restaurants could go until 2 or 3 in the morning. Generally speaking, finding something to eat at late night is never an issue in Hong Kong - both weary locals who are too tired to cook after a long shift and visitors who have found themselves a little too devoted to sightseeing feel the benefits of this!
Nightlife here can be whatever you want it to be; there really is something for everyone. If you’re a a party animal, then Lan Kwai Fong is the place for you. LKF is a small square of streets in the Central neighbourhood, where more than 100 bars, restaurants and clubs have squeezed in alongside one another. It’s the regular hangout for expats in the city, who want a nightlife experience that’s similar to their home country after a long week at work! But if you’re looking for a real local experience then head straight for Mongkok, an area which operates literally 24/7! By day, feeling overwhelmed by the crowds is one thing, but after dark is when you’ll truly be amazed by what you see. Brightly lit neon signs hang from the side of every building, even more people than you thought possible fill the streets and the tempting smells from hundreds of street food stalls and restaurants start to fill the air.
Nathan Road, the main thoroughfare in Kowloon and its portion in Mongkok shines bright like a diamond! You could either enjoy the sight on foot or sit back in one of the public buses which have Nathan Road on its route. Mongkok Pedestrian Zone on Sai Yeung Choi Street South is a dreamland for people to get recognized for their talents. There are many kinds of performances awaiting you every Saturday, Sunday, and public holiday, ranging from singing, magic tricks, juggling, and kung fu shows. And there’s never a lack of food here in Mongkok, food stalls and restaurants are always at your service on every corner and block.
Lan Kwai Fong: Central Station MTR, exit D2 and walk along Theatre Lane, and up D'Aguilar Street.
Mongkok Pedestrian Zone: Mongkok station MTR, exit E2 and turn left. Walk a little and you are on the Sai Yeung Choi Street South.
Nathan Road sightseeing public buses routes: 1, 1A, 2, 6
It’s a great layover city
Even if it isn’t your end target, making a stop in HK on the way to other countries like Japan, Korea and China is always worth it! With so many airlines offering a cheaper price with layovers in Hong Kong, it certainly doesn't do any harm to check out one more amazing place on your globe trotting list! If you’re pushed for time, you can even check out a lot of what it has to offer in just a day, and not many cities can say that - for once, being such a small city is an advantage! Next time you’re planning a trip or travelling around Asia, think of choosing Hong Kong as your layover city - even if you only have a few hours between your flights you can explore a little of the city.
What makes things even easier is that our MTR (the subway) is organised with straightforward maps and routes, making getting around the city and making the most of your time a breeze. Also, there are information boards next to exits at MTR stations, listing sightseeing points in the area, all within 2 to 10 minutes walking distance. And if you ask me what is the second best transport to take other than MTR? On foot! To be honest, most of the attractions within the same area are very close to each other, so it’s faster to just walk there one by one after you get off from the MTR.
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