A Whistle Stop Tour of Hong Kong's Best Sights
If time is at a premium, this one-day whistle stop tour will take you around Hong Kong's must-see sights. Before you get underway, make your way to an MTR, or subway, station and buy an Octopus card. These handy cards allow you to swipe your way onto all of the city’s transport options. An HK$150 outlay will give you $100 credit, while the remaining $50 can be reclaimed when you turn the card in; the Octopus will give you more than enough ammo to complete this one-day tour. A map is always useful, but, for the most part, major sights are well signposted, and Hong Kong has a number of strategically placed maps, even in rural areas.
One-Day Hong Kong Itinerary
Morning: Peak Tower and Peak Tram
Lunch: Cafe Deco at the Peak
Afternoon: New Territories, Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
Dinner: Yung Kee, famous Cantonese restaurant
Evening: See the Nightlife in Lan Kwai Fong
Morning: See the Whole City
The first stop on your one-day tour is The Peak. The best way to conquer Hong Kong’s most famous mountain is via the Peak Tram. Reach the tram by first taking the MTR to Central, and then follow the signposts up to Garden Road and the Peak Tram terminus.
Servicing the peak since 1888, the tram ascends at an implausible vertical angle that will require you to keep one hand on your camera and another one on the kids. Despite the death-defying angle, the tram has recorded zero accidents since its inception, and the ride is almost as enjoyable as The Peak itself. Perched above the city, over three million visitors clamber up to HK’s biggest tourist attraction each year, and not without reason. Awaiting you at the top are some of the most breathtaking vistas in the world, as cloud-piercing skyscrapers bolt out of the sprawling landscape below. It is advisable to check the Hong Kong weather before climbing The Peak, as views are much diminished on cloudy days. Also at the summit is the newly renovated Peak Tower, which contains an Asian Madame Tussauds, hosting the likes of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan as well as Hong Kong’s former owner HM the Queen and Barrack Obama.
One of the best ways to take in the view is at one of the restaurants or bars inside either The Peak Tower or Peak Galleria. A restaurant that continually elicits positive reviews is Café Deco in Peak Galleria, which offers an arsenal of tasty international cuisine served against a stunning backdrop.
Afternoon: Chinese Traditions
Mountainous adventures complete, it's time to escape the big city and head for Hong Kong’s other jungle: The New Territories. To make your way off The Peak, take the number 15 bus. This departs from underneath the Peak Galleria and travels to Admiralty MTR station. From there, take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui, where you can transfer to the regional KCR west rail at Hung Hom, destination Sha Tin. At the end of the 30-minute journey to Sha Tin awaits the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, which is visible and just a short walk from the station. This is undoubtedly the most impressive temple in Hong Kong, and the temple is actually underselling itself as in reality it boasts 12,800 miniature Buddha statues and images. Hong Kong temples are quite relaxed in regards to rules and regulations; however, there are some Temple Customs to follow.
On arrival, bad news awaits via a 431-step climb to the temple, and, unlike the rest of Hong Kong, there’s no escalator. At the top, you’ll find the temple entrance guarded by a number of gods you wouldn’t like to meet in a back alley. Once you’ve negotiated your way past these guardians, you’ll enter the complex, flanked on all sides by jungle. A beautiful red and gold pagoda reaching nine stories in the air is at the heart of the complex, and, despite being built in the relatively recent 1960s, is one of the best of Hong Kong's ornamental temples. The main temple hosts the 13,000 gold and black Buddha statues, which are all around a foot high and posed in different positions; they impressively fill a domed room nearly 30-feet tall.
If the physical exertion has eaten into your lunch, food options at the complex are limited. A few snack stalls offer reasonably appetizing vegetarian food; however, if you can wait until dinner, a Chinese treat awaits.
Evening: City Center for Food and Drinks
Chinatowns around the world were created by the intrepid Cantonese and, with them, they brought their cuisine, making Chinese takeout one of the most popular foods in the western world. Hong Kong Dim Sum has also become a well-known and enjoyed routine for many around the world. Hong Kong is the home to this food, and, just like all national cuisines, it tastes better on home turf. The best place to refuel, for Cantonese food or otherwise, is the deadly combination of SoHo and Lan Kwai Fong, both just above Central MTR and well signposted from the station.
For a feed, the brimming streets of SoHo are jam-packed with restaurants from every corner of the world as well as with people. Top-notch Cantonese cuisine can be had at any number of restaurants in the city, but a solid recommendation is Yung Kee, at 32-40 Wellington Road. The restaurants neon façade hides some of the best Cantonese cooking in the world. Yung Kee is masters of most Cantonese dishes but their most famous dish is the delicious Cantonese classic roast pork - a must-try.
As the night wears on, you will inevitably find yourself gravitating towards the myriad bars that make up Lan Kwai Fong; these are literally round the corner from Yung Kee. Lan Kwai Fong is where you’ll find Hong Kong cutting loose; dedicated drinking dens rub elbows with funky bars and chic nightclubs as Hong Kong pleasure seekers drink and dance into the wee hours. This gives you time to get to know the city’s inhabitants and plan your next trip.