Many people use Hong Kong as a mere stepping-stone for getting to other parts of Asia. While it’s a great destination on its own with plenty to do, some people rarely spend more than a day here.
Lucky for those people, Hong Kong is small, which means you can see a lot in a short timespan. So as long as you actually leave the airport during your layover and do a bit of planning ahead of time, that is.
So if you only have one day in Hong Kong, here’s how to see the best of HK in just 24 hours.
Drag yourself out of bed as early as possible, preferable by 9am, and eat breakfast like a local, which of course would mean dim sum.
Hong Kong has no shortage of dim sum restaurants and most are pretty standard, so pick any you’d like and grab a table. Of course if you’re looking for something a bit more special, I’d recommend getting dim sum from Tim Ho Wan, the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant.
If you can’t read Chinese, it’ll become a guessing game of ticking random menu items or picking from the few pictures displayed on menus. But don’t worry; everything is delicious—even the intimidating chicken’s feet. Flag down the ladies rushing past with bamboo steamers loaded on carts if you see something you’d like to try.
Once you’re finished with breakfast, head out to Lantau Island to pay a visit to Tian Tan.
Known locally as Big Buddha, it is the largest seated bronze Buddha statue and draws visitors from all over the world. Just be prepared to get your morning workout as you must climb a whopping 268 stairs up to the Buddha—you’ll be thankful you’re visiting in the morning before the heat sets in.
From Big Buddha, take the cable car back down to the Tung Chung MTR station. Hop on the train and make your way to the crowded and bustling area of Mong Kok. Literally meaning ‘busy corner’ in Cantonese, Mong Kok is the most densely populated place on Earth.
Filled with markets, malls and eateries, it’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon. All of the markets are easily accessible and almost lead into one another, which make exploring them perfect as a walking tour.
Start up at the Bird Market and make your way down through the Flower Market, the Goldfish Market, Ladies’ Market, and the Jade Market, until you reach the notorious Temple Street Market.
Any of these markets are the perfect place to experience local Hong Kong life, as well as pick up a souvenir or two. And if you get hungry for a snack, make sure to stop and enjoy some of the cheap street food that you’ll find lining the streets.
Jump back on the MTR in Yau Ma Tei and take it just a few stops until you reach Tsim Sha Tsui. Here you’ll find world-class shopping, as well as the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade. Walk along the harbor here to experience the breath-taking views of Hong Kong’s skyline or spend some time at Hong Kong’s own Avenue of Stars.
Looking for more food? Of course you are! Hong Kong is a foodie’s paradise. Take a short break and enjoy some afternoon tea.
Hong Kong may no longer be a British colony, but the tradition of afternoon tea still holds strong. Hotels and fine dining establishments all serve extravagant 3-tiered tea sets come late afternoon. If you don’t need something quite so fancy, even chain restaurants will offer afternoon tea menus that include meal sets for a bargain.
Stick around Tsim Sha Tsui long enough to enjoy ‘A Symphony of Lights’ at 8pm. This permanent light and sound show over Victoria Harbour will surely make you fall in love with Hong Kong if you haven’t already.
Once the show is over, ride the famous Star Ferry across the harbor to Hong Kong Island.
No visit to Hong Kong is complete without a trip to The Peak. It’s boasted as Hong Kong’s most popular attraction, and there’s no question as to why. At 482 meters above sea level, the 360° view of Hong Kong is stunning, especially at night– which is why you’ll be heading there next!
Take the 120-year old Peak Tram up the mountain and watch as the city slides by at an amazing 27° to the horizontal. It is truly a unique perspective of the world’s most vertical city.
After enjoying the views, you can either take the Peak Tram back, or if you’re feeling adventurous, take a minibus. Although they’re a cheap alternative, minibuses are notorious for not following speed limits and daring driving. Hold on for a wild ride as you race down the mountain roads at top speeds and play the occasional game of chicken with others cars on the cliffs.
Whichever way you choose, once you’re back on the ground in Admiralty, take a ride on the historical ‘ding ding’ tram towards Central.
Sit on the top deck to take in all the sights of the tall skyscrapers that surround you and the mesmerizing neon-lit signs.
It’s now probably close to 11pm, and if you’re thinking about heading to bed, forget about it because the party is just getting started. At night in Hong Kong there’s only one place to go, Lan Kwai Fong.
Known by everyone as simply ‘LKF’, this small block in Central is one of the most popular locations for nightlife. Home to over 100 bars and restaurants, whether you’re looking for posh nightclubs filled with celebrities, Western style bars and pubs, or binge drinking in the streets, Lan Kwai Fong has it all.
So grab a drink, and enjoy a night out Hong Kong style.
10 Quick Tips for 24 Hours in Hong Kong
- Print any names of destinations you’d like to visit in Traditional Chinese. Although many Hong Kongers speak English, you’ll find that majority of those who don’t just happen to be taxi and bus drivers.
- Avoid coming in summer. Hong Kong’s sub-tropical climate is amazing in fall and winter, but you won’t want to leave your hotel room come summer time when it’s 36° C with 99% humidity!
- Carry some tissues with you. They’re handy for when places don’t have napkins, when bathrooms don’t have toilet paper, or for wiping down your face.
- Purchase an Octopus Card. These handy cards can be loaded up with cash and then are used to “doot” around the city. From buying snacks at a convenience store to getting on public transportation, using the Octopus is easier than dealing with cash and it often gives you a reduced fare. Just remember to return the card before you leave so that you can get your $50 HKD deposit back!
- Do not eat on public transportation, especially on the MTR.
- It is okay to take taxis; they will all use their meter and charge fairly.
- When riding escalators, stand on the right side and pass on the left.
- When in markets, you need to negotiate the prices. And just remember, those Beats headphones or Apple iPods you’re buying on the street are almost never the real deal!
- Don’t tip.
- 10. Hong Kong is crowded. Expect to be pushed and shoved and feel free to do the same. You don’t need to apologize, but if you’re still having trouble getting around people, yell out a loud “mm goy” and people will (usually) step aside.