The Best of Hong Kong

Walk along the elevated platforms in the tree canopy and listen to the calls of about 600 birds.

The allure of Hong Kong is immediate; flashing neon lights, futuristic buildings and crowded pavements full of shoppers easily highlight the fast-paced, dynamic side of this great city. Though its vast shopping malls, theme parks and street markets seduce visitors, the city is also full of a surprising range of activities. In Kowloon Park, flamingos wade against a backdrop of high-rise buildings; smoke from incense burners curls around the devout at Man Mo Temple; and elderly ladies waltz among the shrubbery in Victoria Park. In exhilarating contrast to the elbow-to-elbow energy of Kowloon and Central, Hong Kong’s offshore islands reveal a quieter, contemplative side to the city.

In such a multifaceted place, choosing the best of the best isn’t easy. Argue over them and make your own discoveries, but here are some of Hong Kong’s most overlooked, unusual or simply satisfying must-dos to set you on your way. 

Best Street Party  Wine & Dine Festival

Mix with the locals, listen to live bands and watch fire-eaters as you dine your way through international dishes from as far afield as France at more than 200 foodstalls. The inaugural Grand Tasting Pavilion showcases rare and fine international wines. This festival, however, is just a prelude to various Wine & Dine Month events happening in November, so stick around if you can. 

Best Walk  The Peak

While the Peak Tram that ascends Hong Kong’s highest mountain, the Peak (552 metres above sea level), is a tourist staple, it’s baffling how few people venture beyond the now highly commercialised top station. Hoof it along Harlech and Lugard Roads and you’ll discover one of the world’s most spectacular urban walks. Scented with jasmine and shaded by towering clumps of bamboo, the walk passes millionaires’ villas that lurk behind thickets resounding with bird twitter. Eventually, the path rises above the trees and you see Hong Kong spread out below in a panorama to make your jaw drop. 

Best Ride  Tram to Causeway Bay

Ride on a double-decker tram that lurches for three kilometres from Central to Causeway Bay. Some of the best mid-range shopping and restaurants are on this route. Hong Kong Tramways’ fleet of 163 trams includes two antique trams. In a city obsessed with getting ahead, there’s an endearing nostalgia about these rickety old trams from the colonial era (service started in 1904). The wheels screech on the rails as the tram rattles past cluttered neon signs illuminating bustling streets.  

Best Museum  Museum of Tea Ware

Flagstaff House, Hong Kong’s oldest colonial building, is at the northernmost tip of Hong Kong Park and was part of the former Victoria Barracks. Housed within is a quirky tea museum that takes just an hour of your time. Who would have thought teapots could elicit such curiosity? The displays highlight teapots dating as far back as the seventh century and delve into local tea culture. There are regular demonstrations of tea ceremonies in Cantonese that are a wonder to watch. Bag yourself a souvenir teapot in the shop on the way out. 

Best Down Time  Hong Kong Park

If you’re looking for some peace in this frenetic city, Hong Kong Park in Central is an unexpected eight-hectare oasis amid the skyscrapers. From the Museum of Tea Ware, walk through the park, past the Artificial Lake with its carp and bale of turtles, the orchid-studded Forsgate Conservatory and the Tai Chi Garden. When you reach the walk-through Edward Youde Aviary, named after a former governor, you’ll think you’ve been transported from an urban jungle to an almost real one. Walk along the elevated platforms in the tree canopy and listen to the calls of about 600 birds, including Great Argus pheasants and bulbuls, against the drone of downtown traffic. 

Best Shop  Shanghai Tang

Internationally, Shanghai Tang isn’t exactly a fashion secret, as founder David Tang has been making waves since 1994 with his label’s modern interpretation of traditional Chinese silk pyjamas, Mao jackets and body-hugging cheongsams with thigh-high slits. Even if Chinese retro chic isn’t your thing, this hip flagship store decked out in 1930s Shanghai style may convert you. The bright pink, yellow and lime-green creations look like something dreamed up on an opium bed. Buy off the rack or have something tailor-made. The shop also sells accessories and homewares. 

Best Swimming Pool  W Hong Kong

Stay at W Hong Kong hotel for the sheer luxury of swimming laps at 211 metres above street level. Enjoy the panorama of skyscrapers and harbour waters below from this dizzying rooftop recreation area dominated by a mosaic wall that dazzles at sunset. After you’ve taken the plunge, kick back in the rooftop jacuzzi or sip a refreshing cocktail from the pool bar as you watch the sun set. 

Best Restaurant  Bo Innovation

Surrender your tastebuds to ‘the Demon Chef’, Alvin Leung, who was born in London, grew up in Toronto and now baffles and thrills Hong Kong diners with his ‘X-treme Chinese’ molecular cuisine. He gives traditional dishes a modern twist with Japanese and French influences. Think egg tart martini and the ‘Dead Garden’ of morel, caterpillar fungus, green onion and lime, the likes of which you won’t find in a restaurant anywhere else. In a city of superlative food, you may find better elsewhere, but none so outlandish. 

Best Bar  Felix at the Peninsula

Several bars boast that they have superior views of Hong Kong’s neon-shimmering, laser-lit Symphony of Lights nightly show, but Felix at The Peninsula hotel is arguably the best with its floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Philippe Starck designed the interior with its sexy curved walls and perspex cube that functions as a wine bar-cum-dance floor. While you can opt to have cocktails, quaffing champagne in this classy joint is what it’s about. 

Best Island Hop  Lantau Island

When Hong Kong’s frantic pace becomes too much, swap constantly honking traffic for whispering pines on any of the several outlying islands where rural China lingers on. Though Lantau Island, for instance, is home to the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort and the NP360 tourist attraction complete with cable car, the island also features remote beaches and rugged hiking trails. From Ngong Ping hill (one hour’s drive from Central in Hong Kong), the leafy 90-minute walk to Tai O fishing village takes in the Po Lin Monastery’s ornate temples carved with writhing dragons and the famous Tian Tan Buddha, a 250-tonne bronze statue that sits atop 268 steps. 

Words by Brian Johnston - Published in Voyeur October 2010
Quick Facts 
Population 7.5 million
Time Zone GMT + 8
Languages Cantonese, Mandarin and English
Currency Hong Kong Dollar
Share this article 
facebook Twitter Pinterest Google
Related Articles 
The 4 Best Parts of Chinese New Year in Hong Kong
Looking for a reason to book that next holiday? Experience Chinese New Year in Hong Kong.
Work Trip to Weekend Escape: Hong Kong
Turn your business trip into a well-deserved break with our pick of the top ten things to do in Hong Kong.
Get Fit for Free: Best Outdoor Workouts for Business Travellers to Hong Kong
Upgrade from the hotel gym to the great outdoors with our guide to the best travel-friendly workouts in Hong Kong.