Welcome to the insanity of Hong Kong, the city of contradictions. This is a city where the ancient and modern collide. Hong Kong is filthy rich and dirt poor. It’s fine dining, and dumplings on a street corner. A great destination to stop in when Backpacking Southeast Asia yet easy to visit if traveling with kids or for business. It’s officially China, but most of Hong Kong’s residents disagree. On arrival at this melange of contradictions, expect to be overwhelmed. There’s so much to do, where to start?
To get you on your feet, here’s a few ideas for how to spend 4 days in Hong Kong with . This itinerary includes some of the city’s most well known sites like Mong Kok and the Giant Buddha, along with lesser known gems like the severely underrated Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail. It’s a lot to get through, and anyone who likes to take their time might rather spread this itinerary over one or two weeks. Even then though, we’re only really scratching the surface of what Hong Kong has to offer.
So without adieu, let’s dive into the weird, wonderful, serene, ridiculous, old and new world of Hong Kong!
A Couple of Recommendations
Where to Stay
For great value accommodation in HK look no further than Rambler Hotels. We spent 2 nights upon arrival to Hong Kong at the Rambler Oasis and loved the great value (rate is usually around 40 USD per room, check today's price here ). Rooms are spotless with high ceilings, TV, AC, fridge, IDD phone, toiletries, nice views, comfy beds, swimming pool, gym and a few stores in the lower level! It might be far (ish) from HK downtown, but with the excellent public transport HK has getting there is a breeze. If you're a backpacker on a budget Pearl Guesthouse in Chunking Building is a good option. Manager Cindy speaks good English and can help you plan your stay in the city.
Where to Eat
With full menus starting at 50 HKD, we found Watami Japanese Restaurant in downtown Hong Kong a real bargain. Not only do you get 3 dishes of really good food, a soda and free water or tea but you get to enjoy it in a stylish restaurant with modern deco and furniture. As a reference It's in the same building as the famous toilet restaurant.
Hong Kong in 4 Days: Day 1
Kick off the first day in Hong Kong with a visit to the street markets in Mong Kok. This is one of Hong Kong’s most hectic areas, with street sellers everywhere, hawking pretty much anything you can imagine. It’s also possible to get some good deals here on souvenirs, though don’t overload yourself on the first day!
Next, try visiting the Avenue of Stars, over on the Tsim Sha Tsui Waterfront. The avenue is a bit like Hong Kong’s very own version of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and you’ll see plenty of familiar names like Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee. The waterfront itself offers some nice views, and is a good place for lunch. There’s a number of traditional style Cantonese restaurants in the area. Follow the smell!
Make sure you visit this area both during the day and at night. At 8:00pm the skyscrapers on Hong Kong island have a magnificent light show well worth viewing- at no cost!
After lunch, consider taking a ride on the Star Ferry, which regularly runs to Kowloon Island. You’ll get some great views, and it’s a good way to soak up a bit of the city’s culture. On Kowloon Island itself, you can find a sprawling park, featuring Chinese gardens, an aviary and more. This is the perfect place to escape the hustle of Hong Kong, and take a quick breather.
Hong Kong in 4 Days: Day 2
The second day in Hong Kong kicks off with a visit to another of the city’s most popular attractions. The Giant Buddha is located on the picturesque Lantau Island, and is simply unmissable. The best way to get here is via the Ngong Ping Cable Car, which is an attraction in itself. The cable car offers incredible, panoramic views of the city on clear days. The trip takes nearly half an hour, giving you plenty of time to snap some great shots (visit the Ngong Ping Cable Car official website for tickets and details).
Lantau Island itself can be a little overwhelming. After all, it’s one of the city’s most popular attractions, and the crowds can get serious. Visit as early as possible if you want a little peace and quiet.
For the afternoon, consider taking a guided foodie tour of the town. Most hotels can point you in the right direction for a tour, though some of the most popular operators include Bigfoot Tours, and the Hong Kong Foodie Tasting Tours.
Day 3 in Hong Kong
It’s time to check out another of Hong Kong’s best landmarks, Victoria Peak. Often simply referred to as The Peak, this mountain top is the highest point in Hong Kong. Getting to it on foot is interesting enough already, as you'll be heading up the hill along a set of mechanical stairs. At the top, you’ve got an impressive 180-degree view all the way to the harbor. To get there, take the Peak Tram, which grinds up the mountain side on a funicular. In the afternoon, consider hitting up the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, which showcases local art, including exhibits of Chinese opera. Nearby, it’s worth checking out the Sha Tin Park, which is a nice place for an ice cream.
What to See in Hong Kong in 4 Days: Day 4
Anyone visiting Hong Kong should dedicate a day to hitting the Ping Shan Heritage Trail. The trail winds through the north of the city, exploring nooks and crannies you won’t find on the average tour.
Some highlights include:
- Tsang Tai Uk, a walled village traditionally inhabited by the Hakka ethnic group
- Fu Shin, a packed bazaar a bit like Mong Kok
- There’s also three popular temples on the route: the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas, Che Kung Temple and Man Mo Temple.
Cities Close to Hong Kong: Macau on Day 5
At this point, you might want a break and visit Hong Kong nearby cities. So, why not visit Macau? The so called Monte Carlo of the Orient is a Vegas style casino haven within a stone’s throw of Hong Kong. Business is so big here, it reportedly brings in more revenue than Las Vegas itself.
If you’re not too excited about visiting massive, over the top casinos, bear in mind Macau actually has a fascinating history. This former Portuguese concession retains some relics of its colonial past, including cobble stone streets and Portuguese cuisine. In some corners, it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of Asia. Indeed, it’s an unusual experience to enjoy a pastry from a Portuguese pasteleria in the middle of China, but there you go.
For further reading go to Visiting Macau in One Day
If You Have One Week to Visit Hong Kong...
On the second last day, consider checking out one of Hong Kong’s real hidden gems. The Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail is often overlooked for the more popular Ping Shan. However, if you have the time, this alternative trail is well worth your time, and can easily take up a day. The trail starts at Fung Ying Seen Koon, a sprawling Tao temple. From there, the trail leads to many of Hong Kong’s lesser known attractions, such as Ma Wat Wai and Lo Wai. Both are walled villages somewhat similar to Tsang Tai Uk. The trail ends at the Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall, an 18th Century building that has been wonderfully preserved. On this day, expect to get away from the crowds a bit, and see the real Hong Kong (get more details of the trail from the HK Official Tourism Website)!
Your Last Day
There’s so much to do in Hong Kong, that even a week isn’t really enough time. For the last day in Hong Kong, consider doing something we’ve missed over the past 6 days. One popular option is to take a junk boat ride in the harbor. Junk boats are those classic Chinese boats with massive red sails. Numerous operators down at the harbor offer full and half day trips.
Another possibility is to hit up some of the cultural sites we’ve missed so far, such as the Che Kung Temple. Named after the Song era military leader Che Kung, the temple has some amazing architecture. If you’d rather something a little more unusual, consider a visit to Chungking Mansions. These 17 story apartment blocks draw thousands of people everyday for their eclectic markets. It’s a good place to pick up a second hand phone, or just see a bit of Hong Kong’s crazier side. The upper floors have some good, dirt cheap restaurants and also very cheap accommodation for backpackers or travelers on a budget. We spent a couple of nights here.
For an off-the beaten-track option make your way to Hong Kong’s New Territories. This rural area in the island’s north is a world away from downtown. There’s wide open parks, peaceful beaches and a handful of small islands to explore. Consider checking out Lamma Island if you really want a slice of tranquility- we certainly enjoyed it.
No matter which way you look at it Hong Kong is a fascinating and vibrant city. With over 7 million people and a rich history it has something for everybody. Get lost between its modern skyscrapers and wander peacefully along Lanna island for your ultimate trip to Hong Kong.