Hong Kong is electric—and it’s not just because of the glittering lights on Victoria Harbor. This cosmopolitan city is one where East and West meet to create exhilarating, and sometimes startling, contrasts. Hong Kong Island comes to life with its intoxicating sights, sounds and smells, where remnants of the British colonial era meet Chinese culture and cuisine. Across Victoria Harbor, Kowloon is closer in distance and disposition to Mainland China, equally modern and mysterious—and where we’re making our home in Tsim Sha Tsui.
The greatest thrill of a visit to Hong Kong is just walking and letting the city envelop you. From museums, malls and markets on our doorstep in Kowloon to the iconic sights across Victoria Harbor on Hong Kong Island, here are a few insider things you don’t want to miss.
Hong Kong Highlights
In Hong Kong, there’s something new around every corner—from sleek skyscrapers, museums and world-famous markets in Kowloon, to vibrant neighborhoods across Victoria Harbor, teeming with designer stores and hawkers selling everything from incense to paper lanterns to dried seafood. A few stops worth seeking out:
- Man Mo Temple, one of the oldest in Hong Kong, honors the Gods of Literature (Man) and War (Mo). The heady sanctuary decked in red and gold draws tourists and worshippers but nonetheless offers respite from the hustle and bustle.
- The journey is the destination on the Mid-Levels Escalators, more than 2,600 feet of public escalators through posh neighborhoods near Victoria Peak.
- For a glimpse of local life, place your bet at Happy Valley Racecourse, which holds exciting races every Wednesday evening from September through July.
- The newly developed West Kowloon Cultural District is home to indoor and outdoor theaters, performance venues and galleries, bringing cool contemporary culture to the mainland.
It’s All About That View
The best sight in Hong Kong? The view!
- During the day, ascend Victoria Peak. The Peak Tram, one of the oldest funicular railways in the world, takes passengers up a shockingly steep incline to the top, where you can get the essential photo op from the 360-degree viewing tower or explore hiking trails, the best way to tackle jetlag in the morning before the throngs of tourists arrive. (The Peak Tram is undergoing renovations through 2021; the tram will be closed for a few months but you can take a bus or taxi to the top.)
- By night, see the city from Victoria Harbor. The magical Symphony of Lights laser show illuminates Kowloon’s skyscrapers at 8 p.m. daily, and it’s best viewed from the Star Ferry.
- It’s worth the hour-and-a-half journey to Lantau Island for another spectacular view: Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery. As you glimpse the magnificent statue rising from the misty mountains, you may get emotional—or maybe that’s just because your cable car is rocking nearly 2,000 feet in the air.
A Feast for the Senses
When it comes to dining, Hong Kong is one of the culinary epicenters of East Asia. From Michelin starred cuisine from around the region and world to local “must eats” like Peking duck, dim sum, hotpot and hairy crab, food is an essential element of any visit.
It’s impossible to provide a comprehensive dining guide, but we’ll say we never miss having lunch at Wang Fu (65 Wellington Street, Central), a hole-in-the-wall you might otherwise pass by—but where you’ll have the best Beijing-style dumplings of your life if you’re lucky to visit during pea shoot season in winter. For a glamorous dinner close to the Kimpton, Kowloon Tang serves classic Cantonese cuisine and cocktails in an Art Deco dining room.
In addition to all eight types of Chinese cuisine, you’ll find the breadth of Asian flavors, from Thai and Indian and Vietnamese, to sushi and ramen, plus vegetarian and renowned halal. If you’re nostalgic for Western fare, we love Pastis, as well as authentic New York-style pizza under the Mid-Levels Escalators and great eggs and coffee at Brunch Club.
Our favorite spot for a nightcap is right up the street from the Kimpton: Bar Buonasera, a Japanese whiskey and cocktail bar hidden in a nondescript office building, where the mixologists have encyclopedic knowledge of cocktail history and recipes. Across Victoria Harbor in Wan Chai, Dusk Till Dawn is a venerable live-music bar living up to its name, while The Pawn mixes classic cocktails in a colonial-era pawn shop.
A Shopping Mecca
From the world’s top designers at 1881 Heritage in Tsim Sha Tsui or Pacific Place in Wan Chai, to hawkers of dried seafood and herbs in Sheung Wan, to art, antiques and paper lanterns, Hong Kong has an endless array of unique things to buy, tax free.
If you’re looking for something more unique, head to Shanghai Tang, founded by the late tycoon and philanthropist Sir David Tang, which has high-end fashion, handbags, jewelry and housewares with distinctly Chinese design. To feel like a mogul yourself, pop into PYE, which makes exquisite men’s cotton shirts in sustainable factories. For edgy global streetwear, visit the multi-brand store I.T—and prepare to spend.
For home décor, stroll Hollywood Road for authentic and replicas of Chinese porcelain, furniture and jade; look for an open-air stall near Graham Street for affordable art prints. For contemporary design, explore PMQ, the former Police Married Quarters dormitory turned art complex with studios and shops of more than 100 fashion designers, artists and artisans, ranging from established designers to up-and-comers. Nearby, Goods of Desire sells design-driven but inexpensive accessories and kitschy houseware.
Whether you are visiting for an eye-opening vacation or for an important business meeting—or perhaps a little of both—the Kimpton in Hong Kong is the ideal base to experience all aspects of this cosmopolitan gateway to the East.