4 Days in Hong Kong: The Perfect Itinerary

Sham Shui Po at night
Sham Shui Po at night.

Courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board

What can you see in Hong Kong for four days? Thanks to cheap transportation and a surfeit of options for all budgets, you can pack plenty of sights, food stops, spa breaks, and other activities in a short time.

This Hong Kong itinerary is designed for travelers with an ordinary budget (wants value, can splurge occasionally); the high-end stops (Peking Garden, Ozone, and the Bike Tour) can easily be swapped for less expensive alternatives.

We've also given plenty of room to off-the-beaten-path and super-local experiences, at the expense of popular tourist attractions Ocean Park and Disneyland. (Feel free to put them back in, if that's a step too far.)

If you're a first-time traveler to Hong Kong, try to visit during the autumn season between October and December. To get to the places listed in this itinerary, get an Octopus Card at your nearest MTR Station. You can use this contactless payment card at Hong Kong's MTR rapid transit, trams, buses, minibusses, and the Star Ferry. Use the MTR Mobile app to figure out how to get from points A to B.

Ready to go? The itinerary starts (and ends) with a view of Hong Kong from on high.  

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Morning, Day 1: The View from Victoria Peak

Viewing Hong Kong from Sky Terrace 428

Aldrich Infantado/EyeEm/Getty Images

Size up Hong Kong, by looking at the city from its highest point.

Victoria Peak is more a hill than a mountaintop, with a maximum elevation of 1,818 feet (552 meters) above sea level. Formerly an enclave for Hong Kong’s wealthy merchant class, Victoria Peak has grown into a major tourist destination thanks to the Peak Tram and viewpoints like the Peak Tower.

Take in the view from Sky Terrace 428 on the Peak Tower; the number comes from the viewing platform’s elevation in meters (that’s 1,404 feet for you Americans).

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Afternoon, Day 1: Streets of Old Town Central

Tank Lane Bruce Lee mural, Hong Kong

 Mike Aquino

Go back down the way you came, straight into Hong Kong’s oldest yet most active area: Old Town Central, a warren of narrow streets in Central and Sheung Wan districts.

Old Town Central represents Hong Kong both at its most authentic and cutting-edge. Both attributes are immediately apparent at your local lunch stop: Yat Lok, a roast goose shop founded in 1957 and still going strong (with five years of Michelin stars under their belt—their food is that good).

From Yat Lok, walk west and northwest up Hollywood Road—keep an easygoing pace, so you don’t miss the day-to-day spectacle of Old Town Central. In this order, you’ll pass the former Central Police Station compound, now repurposed into the Tai Kwun arts and culture hub; art walls along Graham Street and Tank Lane, favorite stops for selfie-ing tourists; the PMQ (Police Married Quarters), formerly government housing for police officers, now reserved for artists’ studios and boutique shops; and Man Mo Temple, a 160-year-old temple dedicated to the Gods of Literature (Man) and War (Mo).

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Evening, Day 1: A Tram Back in Time

Hong Kong tram

 Mike Aquino

Founded in 1904, the Hong Kong Tramways is one of the SAR’s most beloved transportation lines. Make your way to the Tramways’ Western Market Terminus by 4:30 p.m., to catch the day’s last Hong Kong Tramoramic Tour: an hour-long tour of Hong Kong seen from the tram route from Sheung Wan to Causeway Bay.

Watch the scenery pass you by from a 1920s-style passenger tram, with a large balcony on the upper deck and a mini-museum belowdecks that explains the passing sights through video and authentic relics.

Upon disembarking at the Causeway Bay terminus, explore the district’s posh retail spaces, then finish up at John Anthony, a modern East-meets-West restaurant and bar. Intimate (and surprisingly eco-friendly) interiors create the right mood to explore the bar’s rum infusions and the restaurant’s menu of Cantonese charcoal grill-roasted meats and handmade dim sum.  

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Morning, Day 2: Sham Shui Po’s Markets

Apliu Street Market

Mike Aquino 

Take the MTR to Sham Shui Po Station, your entryway to the retro district known as Sham Shui Po.

Sham Shui Po is where Hong Kong locals go shopping on the cheap—or browse through hip boutiques showcasing Hong Kong's bleeding-edge in art and design. Visit the following Sham Shui Po street markets to see both the cheap and the chic side by side:

  • Apliu Street: a street market with a focus on gear—from power tools to ancient audio equipment to LED flashlights, you'll find plenty of cheap (and not always genuine) gearhead fodder for sale here;
  • "Toy Street," where the shops along Fuk Wa and Kweilin streets specialize in school supplies, children's toys, and party supplies; and
  • "Leather Street," a Tai Nan Street that was ground zero for Hong Kong's leather production during the late manufacturing boom in the 80s.

Shop around the stores for ready-made wallets, handbags, and totes—or sign up for a leathermaking class at Brothers Leathercraft to learn to make your own!  

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Afternoon, Day 2: Hong Kong Museum Tour

Hong Kong Museum of Art

 Michael Zegers/LOOK-foto/Getty Images

Don’t leave Sham Shui Po without a good, authentic (and Michelin-star-rated) dim sum lunch at the original Tim Ho Wan; their baked barbecued-pork buns burst with char siu goodness in your mouth, and are well worth the wait!

Afterward, board the MTR again and disembark at Tsim Sha Tsui Station.

Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring two of Hong Kong’s best museums close to each other: Hong Kong Space Museum, a kid-friendly stop with hands-on exhibits demonstrating science concepts; and Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong’s best museum hands-down with one of the world’s best collections of Chinese Art, featuring a rotating selection of nearly 15,000 items.

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Evening, Day 2: Symphony of Lights

Avenue of Stars, Night View

 courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board

For dinner, we suggest a posh Imperial-style meal at the Tsim Sha Tsui Peking Garden, famous for its five-star food with a healthy helping of theater. Enjoy Peking Duck served by a white-gloved waiter while watching a live noodle-making demonstration.

Come nightfall, make your way to the Avenue of Stars, a 457-meter long promenade that combines eye-popping views of Hong Kong’s skyline on the one hand, and remembrances from Hong Kong cinematic stars on the other. More than 100 handprints of famous Hong Kong celebrities grace the rails, but it’s the statues of Bruce Lee and Cantopop diva Anita Mui that will command your attention.

Stay till 8 p.m. to see the Symphony of Lights play out: a 14-minute light and sound show illuminating the skyscrapers fronting Victoria Harbour.  

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Morning, Day 3: Ngong Ping & the Big Buddha

Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong

 Mike Aquino

Get up early to take the MTR to Tung Chung Station, the base station for the Ngong Ping Cable Car. The scenic 25-minute aerial tour aboard the gondola reveals Lantau Island’s greenery below you and the Hong Kong International Airport in the distance.

You’ll touch down at Ngong Ping, where the Po Lin Monastery sits in the shadow of the 250-ton, 112-foot tall bronze statue of Buddha perched at the top of a hill. Explore the theme park-like Ngong Ping Village and its souvenir stands, restaurants, and exhibits – then walk in the direction of the monastery to see the area’s overtly religious displays.

There’s the Wisdom Path, a footpath featuring the Buddhist Heart Sutra inscribed on massive wooden columns; and there’s the Tian Tan Buddha himself accessible after a 268-step climb up the hill. After your climb, descend to the Po Lin Monastery for a filling vegetarian lunch.

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Afternoon, Day 3: Tai-O Throwback

Tai-O Village

 Mike Aquino

From Ngong Ping, you can take Bus 21 to down to Tai-O, one of Hong Kong’s last authentic fishing villages.

Tai-O was founded by Tanka fisherfolk over 300 years ago, and the village has barely budged even with the arrival of the Portuguese and the British. The Tanka built their homes on stilts over the water; while concrete and steel have primarily replaced wood and bamboo, Tai-O’s residents still live as their ancestors did, fishing and selling their catch to visitors.

An 80-year-old, manually-operated drawbridge still stands over the Tai-O creek that divides the village. The area has gentrified somewhat, with touristy stalls selling candles and boat tours alongside old homes where locals sit and play mah-jong.

After your Tai-O visit, go to the nearest bus station and ride Bus 11 back to the Tung Chung MTR Station.

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Evening, Day 3: Temple Street Night Market

Temple Street Night Market

 Mike Aquino

Travel from Tung Chung MTR Station to Yau Ma Tei Station (switching lines at Lai King Station midway). Leave the station via Exit C to make your way to Hong Kong’s most happening street bazaar, the Temple Street Night Market.

The brightly-lit Night Market feels like a bazaar and circus all wrapped into one. Long lines of stalls hawking jade beads, stuffed toys, and Chinese copies of branded toys and casualwear might keep you occupied for an hour or so. Closer to the namesake temple, you’ll find a row of fortune-tellers divining patrons’ futures for a fee.

The restaurants and street food stalls around Temple Street are legendary among foodies. Hong Kong Foodie Tours conducts a Temple Street food tour that scours the area for local delicacies like egg puffs, “stinky” tofu, and curry fishballs.  

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Morning, Day 4: Bike Past Tolo Harbour

Bike on Tolo Harbour wharf, Hong Kong

 Mike Aquino

Take the MTR to Tai Po Station, in the heart of Hong Kong’s “New Territories.” You’ll take in the area’s expansive natural beauty and laid-back vibe as you cycle down a protected bike path alongside Tolo Harbour.

Wild Hong Kong’s Tolo Harbour Cycle Tour covers a 15-kilometer round trip from Tai Wai Station to the Pak Shek Kok Promenade. Given the flat terrain, dedicated bicycle paths, and gorgeous views of the harbor and the Ma On Shan and Pat Sin Leng Mountains beyond, this bike trip counts as one of Hong Kong’s most family-friendly activities.

If you have more time on your hands, extend the bike trip further by starting at Sha Tin near Shing Mun River, follow the protected bike path along Tolo Harbour north till you reach Tai Mei Tuk near the Plover Cove Reservoir.  

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Afternoon, Day 4: Museums or Massage?

Therapy room, Hong Wo Lok

 Mike Aquino

It’s time to go back to the busier parts of Hong Kong, with an MTR ride from Tai Po Market Station to Hung Hom Station, at the end of the line.

Two museums can be found just outside your MTR stop: Hong Kong Museum of History, its displays covering 400 million years of Southern China’s past, and the Hong Kong Science Museum, with over 500 exhibits that demonstrate scientific concepts to curious young minds.

If you need something a little more relaxing after that morning bike ride, ditch the museums and go to Hillwood Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, where Hong Wo Lok offers a spa experience using principles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).

An in-house TCM specialist will design a regimen based on your specific needs, executed through traditional therapies like ginger moxibustion, meridian conditioning, and tea therapy.  

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Evening, Day 4: Ozone Up There

Ozone Bar, Hong Kong

 Mike Aquino

You’ll end your Hong Kong trip the way you began it—from a high vantage point. The Ozone Bar Hong Kong, on the 118th floor of the ICC Tower in Tsim Sha Tsui, is one of the world’s highest rooftop bars—the view from the terrace is often obscured by clouds rolling in from the sea.

On a cloudless night, though, the view from Ozone can’t be beaten. You can enjoy Ritz-Carlton-level tapas and cocktails as the Symphony of Lights unfolds below. Or stay within the bar area, a Masamichi Katayama-designed modern space all aflash with neon and mirrors.

If your hotel is across Victoria Harbour in Central, catch the evening Star Ferry from Kowloon to Central–a cheap ten-minute boat ride popular with both commuting locals and excited tourists. The Star Ferry runs only till 11 p.m., so finish up your drinks before then!