What To Do In Hong Kong
Posted on May 17 2018
I first came to Hong Kong when I was 6 years old. The smell, the city, the harbour, the bustle, are just some of the many things that left an impression of deep affection that has not diminished over the many years since of regular business travel, and now almost a year and a half of living here. I genuinely love this city and it feels wonderful to have my business based here. Over the period of my residency and our many visitors I have become an unofficial tour guide of sorts. (Mind you talk to any ex-pat here and they will tell you the same LOL!) So as I get set to move on to my new Los Angeles home I thought I would share some of my favourite Hong Kong recommendations.
Coffee and Breakfast!
My day (ANY day!) must start with a good coffee. I only drink one (sometimes 2) so I need it be good. Life is too short not have the things you genuinely enjoy be ordinary is my view… I have yet to find a coffee destination on Kowloon that meets my strict Melbourne coffee standards but Hong Kong side has many good coffee spots now. However for me the best most consistent coffee is Petit Cafe Level 4, Pacific Place (right above the Admiralty MTR station). They do not offer a full breakfast – just an excellent selection of toasted sandwiches, pastries, and fruit but well worth coming to for the coffee, the wonderful staff, and the lovely, relaxed location.
If have not already eaten breakfast at your hotel and it’s a full breakfast you are after than I suggest heading to Wan Chai (only a short walk from Petit Café) to Pacific Place Three/Star St district where you will find several excellent Western style breakfast choices that open early. My two preferences are Oolaa Petit on Star St or Elephant Grounds on Wing Fung St. Both have good food and good coffee.
If you were feeling lazy and didn’t want to walk far from Petit Café then right next to it is Commissary that does a fabulous Heuvos Rancheros and Smashed Avo and also good coffee. Just as at Petit the staff here are so lovely. Being an early riser myself it’s only limitation is that it doesn’t open until 11am on the weekends (for Brunch).
On the subject of Brunch…
Brunch on the weekend in Hong Kong is quite a thing. It is also a great time to go to a variety of different places because most restaurants offer a weekend brunch menu that is generally a set price (cheaper than their a’la carte evening menus) and generally have an option of paying an additional set amount for ‘free pour’ wine or champagne. Personal favourites that I like to take visitors to are Hutong which offers free pour Verve Cliquot, and Duddells which offers free pour Moët (see more details on these below). And when I say free pour – I mean it. They are incredibly generous so if you’re not careful the rest of the day is a write off!
How to spend your day
If you only get to do 2 things in Hong Kong, number 1 is take a ride on the iconic Star ferry service between Hong Kong and Kowloon (Tsim Sha Tsui), and number 2 is take the equally iconic tram to the Peak.
The Star Ferry is one of those things that remains completely unchanged from as I remember it as a 6 year old. It is incredibly cheap and the 10 minutes or so spent crossing what is one of the most beautiful harbours in the world is priceless. It doesn’t matter which direction you are taking it but do it at least once on your trip and take a moment to look around at the magnificence that is Hong Kong.
The Peak Tram is much the same, completely unchanged. Often very busy on weekends with long queues, remember if you get there early it is better. The view from the top is phenomenal and like the Harbour (which you see in totality) it gives you pause to reflect on the beauty. When you get to the top, if you go out of the terminus building there are also several beautiful walks/hikes to do and the view is truly spectacular. The most popular walk also gives you views to the south side of the island and has many areas to sit and reflect on the Asian tropical vegetation and beauty.
Other things to choose from…
Catch a taxi to Stanley market to see the other side of HK Island. I like to suggest that visitors maybe head over mid to late morning and plan to have lunch over that side in either Stanley or further around in Repulse Bay. If you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, you can make a day of it by taking your swimwear and either staying at the beach there at Stanley (which is a bit ordinary) or heading further around to Repulse Bay or back to Big Wave Bay. Big Wave Bay also has surf boards for hire which is a bit of fun if you have older kids with you. Right by Big Wave Bay is the small village of Shek-O that also has a beach which is busier and more families. You could take a wander around the Shek-O village which is rather picturesque and European. There’s not much to see but you can get some great Instagram photos.
Another thing to do if you have the time is take the MTR to Lantau Island and then take the cable car to the Big Buddha. This is cable car ride is wonderful and also gives the option of a ‘crystal car’ which has a glass floor so your views are not only 360 degrees all around but underneath as well. Once at the Big Buddha side there is a village with restaurants and souvenir shops to wander through and cows wandering around through the people, and the Buddha itself is…BIG funnily enough and it is a lovely quiet space.
In the same vein is Wong Tai Sin Temple. Not so far away and easily accessible via MTR, you will find a beautiful Chinese temple surrounded by ‘stalls’ of fortune tellers, and picturesque grounds. The front of the temple is rich with photo opportunities with large statues of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. As you walk up to the temple you will see an open area with people kneeling and praying. To the right of this are kiosks with tubes of prayer sticks. You take one of these, then wait for a space in the praying area to come up. You then kneel and consider a question you would like answered. The idea then is to shake the tube all the while staying focused on your question (or whatever) and wait for a stick or in some case sticks to shake itself free of the others. The idea then is to take your ‘stick’ and as you return your tube to the kiosk you will find small pieces of note paper to record your fortune stick (or of course take a photo of it). You then wander into the area with all the fortune tellers and find one with a sign that says “English” and for a fee get your fortune told. It is lots of fun and a uniquely Hong Kong experience.
If you are after the old style Hong Kong shopping experience of cheap prices and haggling then head to Mong Kok Ladies markets or Temple St night markets. The Ladies markets starts setting up around midday and go through to late at night, but as HK weather is often hot and humid most of the year anyway I usually suggest to visitors to go in the evening or night. Apart from escaping the heat (a bit) it also adds to the total experience of the place with all the neon lights lit up. For a more local experience, behind the stalls are a series of permanent shops and restaurants, so if your are feeling more adventurous pop into one of these and have dinner at the market as well. I have tried many of them and found each one I have tried to be good.
Central, as the name suggests is the Central business district on Hong Kong Island. Shopping is dominated by the big luxury brands housed in the Landmark Centre, which is also chock full of a number of excellent restaurants for lunch or dinner. Or wander back toward the Harbour to the IFC (International Financial Centre) Shopping Mall which has similar boutiques, excellent restaurants, and Hong Kong’s very own Luxury department store Lane Crawford. If luxury brand shopping is not what you are after Central does have other things to see and do. I generally give my friends a little map and say have wandering around here. Suggestions include;
Wander around the wet markets in Central
Eat like a local at one of the Dai Pai Dongs (local street food vendors) in Stanley Street. My advice is look for the one that is busiest;-)
Try one of Hong Kong’s wonderful Egg tarts (much like a Portugese Custard tart) at the famous Tai Cheong bakery at 35 Lyndhurst Street. There is often a queue down the street.
Then walk further up the hill to Graham Street where you’ll find a steady stream of visitors taking Instagram photos against the mural wall there.
Check out some of the local boutiques. None specifically but pop in and out wherever catches your eye
Visit Man Mo Temple for an example of beautiful and real Chinese temple.
Wander along Hollywood Road and look at the amazing Asian antiques.
Don’t be afraid to wander down an alley way or lane as sometimes the most unexpected places are to be found.
Walk from Queens Road up the Pottinger Street stairs and soak up the atmosphere of the street vendors and take some stunning photos of the street lanterns – beautiful!
If it is a weekend I also suggest another cute restaurant/thing to do, which is have bite to eat for lunch at Little Bao (Staunton St near corner of Aberdeen St, Central) - super tiny and no bookings but it turns over fast. The salted caramel desert bao is super yummy! They also have the BEST Brussel sprouts. During the week it is only open at night but on the weekend it is good for a lunch bite and then wander directly across the road to the PMW building that is full of small spaces with artists, and independent boutiques.
Down the hill from there (along Aberdeen St) is another good restaurant called Aberdeen Social Club - good for dinner and drinks, and further down from there toward Queens Rd Central you turn left into a street called Gough St which also has some cute boutiques and restaurants. There are 2 good Japanese restaurants there too. One I have been to and 1 there is always a queue so have not bothered yet…
You get the idea. I could go on in a similar way about many of the Hong Kong districts – Causeway Bay for example but that can wait for another blog. We are moving on to the serious business of where to go out to dinner and after, in Hong Kong. However if you are looking for more to do. Also check out https://www.humidwithachanceoffishballs.com/
This is a business run by Virginia Chan who is a beautiful, bi-lingual Canadian born Chinese girl who quit her corporate gig and is now running HK tours. She is super nice, knowlegable, and we taken several of her tours. I highly recommend any of them and all of my friends who I have sent along to her also LOVE them!
I always feel Hong Kong comes into it’s own at night. When I was a kid a could not believe how many lights and colours there were and that has only increased over time. I have had some of my best nights out ever in this city, and on any given day this list might be quite different but for now it will include some of the favourites I return to time and again.
The top 5 that pack a punch with visitors.
For amazing Chinese food and stunning ambiance my most favourite HK restaurant is MOTT 32 (Standard Chartered Bank Building, 4-4A Des Voeux Rd Central, Central) Named after the address of the very first Chinese grocery store in New York. This is the only one of the restaurants in this list without a view, but it is high end fabulous Chinese food in a super cool environment. They also have a lovely lounge for late drinks or supper. If you would like the Peking duck (which I recommend highly) you need to order it at least 24 hours before.
HUTONG (28/F, 1 Peking Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon) is another favourite that never fails to blow away visitors. In my opinion the food while good is not as good as Mott 32 but I like to take visitors here for Sunday lunch/brunch as it has a fabulous old Shanghai vibe with spectacular views across the harbour to Hong Kong. For brunch they offer a very reasonable 10 course set menu which for an extra $200HKD you can get free pour Verve champagne. It is sensational - you just have to watch yourself drinking hahaha.
HUTONG also offers a night time or evening package which is also excellent as it includes a harbour cruise on the AquaLuna Chinese junk to watch the nightly light show and includes an onboard beverage also. Find details here at https://aqualuna.asiapay.com/cart/2 Again I highly recommend this.
If my guests are not feeling like Chinese food then I suggest CAFE GRAY DELUXE at the top of The Upper House hotel at Pacific Place Admiralty. Definitely an upscale venue choice. The décor and the view are stunning, and the food and service are not bad either!!
SEVVA (Princes Building, 10 Chater Rd, Central) . This is definitely a Must see roof top bar. Amazing views and super cool. Even if we don’t have dinner here I generally like to take visitors for an after dinner drink and to take some photos.
ABOVE AND BEYOND (28thfloor of The Icon Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui) like Hutong this offers amazing views across the Harbour back to Hong Kong, however in a more elegant setting. The food and wine are truly excellent.
Other favourite restaurants that offer a uniquely Hong Kong experience without the views though are:
HO LEE FOOK (1-5 Elgin Street, Central) does not take bookings but is super cool with awesome food and fun 80’s playlist! This looks like a nothing special take-away joint from the street, but trust me and put your name on the list, then walk up the hill to Staunton St to one of the many surrounding bars and have a drink while you wait. This in itself is quite fun as you’re allowed to drink in the streets in Hong Kong so it is a relaxed and friendly vibe full of people form all over the world in this area at night. But don’t forget to go back because the food is delicious!
BRICKHOUSE (20 D'Aguilar Street) Blink and you miss the entrance. You look like you are going down a dirty little alley that may result in mugging but at the end is an awesome and cool bar and restaurant with excellent Mexican food and margaritas and loud music. It is also open very late if you’re looking for somewhere for late food or drinks.
DIM SUM Library (124/Level 1, Pacific Place, Admiralty) has awesome dim sum. This is the ground floor of Pacific Place Shopping Mall and is one of our regular favourites.
YUM CHA CENTRAL (Nan Fung Tower, 2/F, Nan Fung Place,, 173 Des Voeux Rd Central, Central) also has awesome dim sum but their’s are more Instagram-able. Pork buns shaped liked pigs for example. Everyone gets a kick out it.
DUDDELL’S (Level 3 Shanghai Tang Mansion, 1 Duddell St, Central) excellent Chinese food and nice outdoor deck/bar for drinks, and as I already mentioned offers a wonderful weekend brunch! On a side note, the staircase at the end of this short street offer another great Instagram photo opp, and they are also home to Hong Kong’s last remaining gas street lamps.
Ok I need to stop there, because I could seriously go on and on! I hope you enjoy Hong Kong as much as I do…