Hong Kong is so much more than just a city break. It’s a collection of islands, each with their own unique character. It’s a place where you’ll find something for everyone: culture, history, nature, shopping, nature and even a Disneyland!
But figuring out what to do on a short trip can be tricky, so we’ve put together a three day itinerary from our recent trip to Hong Kong which will help you get the most out of this magnificent city.
3 day Hong Kong itinerary
Hong Kong is one of our favourite cities in Asia and - although it’s pricey - is a definite must visit. It deserves more than just an overnight stop. So why not stay for three and see what all the fuss is all about!
Our itinerary starts in Kowloon, just north of Hong Kong Island.
Day 1: Hong Kong Island
Take in the Harbour Views at Tsim Sha Tsua
The best place to get your bearings is the glitzy and glamorous Tsim Sha Tsua on the shore of Kowloon. The streets of this suburb feel more like New York than Hong Kong with high-end fashion brands and jewellers lining the streets.
But the main reason to go here is for the views from the Avenue of the Stars. From here you’ll get stellar views to Hong Kong Island and its iconic skyline. It is one of the best things to do, and gives you a glimpse of the heart of the city: Hong Kong Island.
Jump on the historic Star Ferry
From Tsim Sha Tsui take the historic Star Ferry. This has been running throughout the day between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon since the British occupation in the late 1800s. The ferry looks like it has barely changed in a hundred years and it’s all the more atmospheric for it!
The Star Ferry offers great views of the harbour and views of both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, meaning you can skip the cost of a harbour cruise! At less than $3 HKD it’s probably the best value attraction in the whole city.
Get cultural at Man Mo Temple
Having made it across to Hong Kong Island, you’ll immediately see the more modern side of Hong Kong: skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls. However, tucked in between all this mordernity are glimpses of Hong Kong’s past.
You’ll likely smell Man Mo Temple before you see it. The scent of the sandalwood incense is something we’ll always remember, it’s so incredibly atmospheric and creates a fog around the shrines. The temple is free, it’s a small fee if you’d like to join the locals and burn some incense.
Head up for more iconic views at Victoria Peak
After Man Mo Temple, it’s time to check out more of the best views in Hong Kong Island. You can choose to do the walk (which is long and steep) or queue up for the cable car. We chose to walk but the track itself is not overly interesting, although it does mean you avoid the crush on the tram.
From the top you’ll see sweeping views of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon in the distance. They’ve recently built a whole tourist complex at the top (of course) meaning you can have some food or even check out Madame Tussauds- a very odd place for a wax museum.
There are a couple of walking trails at the top which we would have loved to have done, but ran out of time. :(
If you time your visit for sunset that would be even more beautiful than the middle of the day.
Day 2: Time to get outside the city!
Having seen some of the best of the city, it’s time to see the natural side of Hong Kong. Whilst Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, there’s a surprising amount of greenery and stunning national parks, even on Hong Kong Island. We were blown away by the hikes in Hong Kong and would gladly return just to hike more.
So here’s how to see the other side of Hong Kong.
Be blown away by the Dragon’s Back Hike
The Dragon’s Back is the easiest of all the walking trails in Hong Kong and offers stunning views out to the South China Sea and across the island. Tucked in the South-East of Hong Kong Island, this trail starts in pretty woodland with many butterflies before reaching the top of a ridge that offers exquisite panoramic views.
We were surprised to see pristine beaches, forest, dramatic hills in a city many think of as a concrete jungle. The trail is absolutely stunning and not to be missed, offering views and tranquility normally associated with hiking in the wilds.
If you want to do this epic trail, then check out our blog all about the Dragon’s Back Trail. This gives you all the information about how to get there, where it starts and what to expect.
Or if you want to stay closer to the city try the Lion Rock Peak walk
If you’re staying in Kowloon, and want a quick journey then check out the Lions Rock trail. In the middle of a dense, urban area the track suddenly appears and leads you up into woodland.
The track is very steep and moderately difficult, but the views it offers are amazing. From the top you’ll see back over Kowloon to Hong Kong Island in the far distance.
It isn’t a quiet trail (unless you go on a midweek early morning) as a lot of people hike this trail as part of their exercise routine, but it is popular for a reason. You’ll likely see cute monkeys along the way too, as long as you don’t feed them they are not aggressive.
If you are looking for more detail, then check out our blog on the best hikes in Hong Kong.
Go for the wow factor at the highest bar in town
After all that exertion, you deserve a drink. So head up to the highest bar in Hong Kong - Ozone in the Ritz Carlton Hotel. This cool bar offers unique cocktails with an enviable view, including their signature cocktail, the HK Skyline, which has all the theatrics with smoke coming out of a bell jar!
It’s nearly 500m above ground and has great views of Hong Kong Island and the harbour twinkling in the distance. If you time it right, you can also take in the light show from here.
Stay up Watching the city lights
Hong Kong knows how to do a light show and it’s one of the must-do things when in Hong Kong. It starts every night at 8pm with the best views looking out to Hong Kong Island from Kowloon.
You can get a good view at Tsim Sha Tsui (and hear the music being played), or head up to the Ritz Carlton and Ozone for epic views higher up. Even if you miss the show just watching the ferries dart back and forth across the harbour is special.
Day 3: Exploring Lantau
Lantau Island is often overlooked as the island which most people fly into and then immediately bee-line for Hong Kong Island.
The beauty of Lantau is that it has a unique blend of things to do without the crowds and bustle of the city. We really enjoyed exploring here for a day, in particular climbing Hong Kong’s 2nd highest peak.
If you’re not a walker don’t worry there is also a fabulous cable car ride to get up here too.
Getting to Lantau Island
The easiest way to get to Lantau Island is by taxi. You’ll need to get a red taxi (these are able to cross islands), but can only drop you at the main cities. If you want to go more rural (for the start of Lantau Peak) you’ll need to change to a light blue cab.
Alternatively, you can take the MTR to Tung Chung. Take the Tung Chung & Disneyland line (orangeish colour line) from either Hong Kong station or Kowloon station.
Climb up the challenging Lantau Peak
Whilst Hong Kong isn’t well known for its lofty mountains, Lantau Peak is a still a killer of a walk. The second highest peak in Hong Kong is brutally steep and when you add in the humidity, it makes for a pretty tough hike.
However your hard work is well rewarded. The trail is incredibly beautiful, taking you above the tree line and into a land that feels a world away from the bustle of the city. You are surrounded by azure blue seas, epic mountain peaks and a rural walk which is highly memorable.
You’ll feel it in your legs unless you’re a regular hill walker, luckily there are many places to stop and admire the views, and it’s definitely fair payment for our favourite walk in Asia. If you are thinking of doing this hike, then check out our blog all about the climb to Lantau Peak.
The trail curves round to the Big Buddha, another of our favourite places to visit on Lantau Island.
Get up close to Tian Tan Big Buddha
Simply put, it is a Big Buddha. Built in the mountains of Lantau, the Big Buddha can be seen from miles away in all directions. In this rural setting and with the late afternoon golden light, the Big Buddha is a beautiful and peaceful place to visit.
You can climb up the 268 steps to the feet of the Buddha, admiring the huge statue as well as the views of the South China Sea and the route you have just walked from Lantau Peak.
There are a few drink and souvenir sellers around the area as well as a very touristy village. But the best way to finish the day is to take the cable car back to the city.
The photo above is from a beautiful lookout point just by the village. It’s one of our top Instagrammable places in Hong Kong.
Hop on the most beautiful Cable Car ride in the world
We’re not usually cable car fans, finding them often crowded and underwhelming. However, the cable car from Tian Tan is the best we’ve ever done. The views are total wow factor. You can ride it both ways if you don’t want to hike up Lantau Peak.
Starting at the village, the cable car soars high into the sky before meandering through the mountains for what feels like miles. You’ll get to see remote parts of the island, as well as glimpse some interesting views of the non-stop flights coming into Hong Kong airport. The journey takes 25 minutes, and we really didn’t want it to end.
The cable car will then finish and drop you back into Tung Chung, the main town on Lantau island. A single journey in the standard cabin costs $86 HK for adults.
Where to stay in Hong Kong
Our Pick - The Ritz Carlton
It’s a big statement, but the Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong is the best hotel we’ve ever stayed in! This five star hotel sets a new bar with incredible service, stunning rooms and an unrivalled location set on the 118th floor of the International Commerce Centre in Kowloon.
It costs a lot, but it is a once in a lifetime experience. We loved it so much that we struggled to leave the hotel.
The Hong Kong Lonely Planet guide
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Are you planning a trip to Hong Kong? Have you been and think we missed somewhere? Let us know in the comments below!