Hong Kong is a fantastic choice for a city to visit for a long weekend, yet getting to the heart of such a diverse, eclectic city in just a few days can be a challenge. If you’re looking for ideas on how to get the best out of this remarkable place when your airport check-in looms, take heed of our picks for the best ways to get to know the city fast, and avoid missing out any of it’s most inspiring treats.
Take the world’s cheapest harbour tour. The Star Ferry, an unassuming vessel that chugs back and forth across the city’s deep natural harbour between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, is probably the cheapest city harbour tour on the planet. The crossing costs around 20p and takes barely seven minutes, but in that time you’ll experience Hong Kong’s astounding cityscape in all its glory. Time your crossing to 8pm, and you’ll be rewarded with the city’s most prominent skyscrapers’ remarkable coordination in the form of a kaleidoscopic daily lightshow.
Ride the tram to the terminus and back again. Hong Kong is packed with taxis, buses, minibuses and an extensive MTR system, yet there’s something exciting in the somewhat anachronistic colonial relic of the tram network that spans the length of Hong Kong Island. We wouldn’t recommend getting on the tram if you’re trying to get somewhere in a hurry, but at just over 20p, it’s remarkably good value, and its wide windows and trundling pace make it the perfect vehicle for those wanting to explore the city from a unique vantage point on the tram’s top level.
Get to Victoria Peak. It doesn’t matter how you do it, whether it’s by bus, taxi, tram or under your own steam (the mid-levels escalators will help you up the hill a fair bit of the way, but you’ll have to hike the second part), but just make sure you get there. This vantage point on Hong Kong Island affords postcard-esque panoramic views of the cityscape, from the island’s famous collection of towering skyscrapers, including the IFC and The Centre, to the Kowloon Peninsula’s many colossal shiny structures and blinking lights, to the backdrop of mountains brooding in the distance. There are plenty of bars and cafes at the peak if you’re looking for dinner with a pretty unique vista, but we’d also recommend taking the peak circular walk to escape the flash of tourists’ cameras and enjoy the scents and sounds of nature as you admire the view.
Make a bet at Happy Valley Racecourse. Happy Valley Racecourse is a famous Hong Kong institution positioned, conveniently, in a deep bowl beside Causeway Bay and Wan Chai, making it perfect for a night out with a difference. Each Wednesday night, the 55,000 capacity stadium plays host to nine horse races, and the area buzzes with tourists, expats and locals alike drinking beer, placing bets and screaming and cheering their chosen horse onto victory. The atmosphere of the place is infectious, and no doubt after winning and losing a few races during the night you’ll find yourself aboard the party tram to Wan Chai to continue the festive spirit inside some of the city’s liveliest bars and clubs.
Ride the Hair Raiser at Ocean Park. Located in Wong Chuk Hang, Ocean Park is Hong Kong’s most exciting and most diverse theme park. When you arrive, we’d suggest taking the park’s very own cable car over the mountain to take in spectacular views of Deep Water Bay, Repulse Bay, Lamma Island and the South China Sea, before reaching this southern part of the park’s many rollercoasters and amusement rides for an adrenalin-fuelled afternoon. Don’t miss the Hair Raiser, probably the most terrifying and exciting ride in equal measure, which plunges, loops and twists at a hurtling breakneck speed around a track perched teeteringly on the top of the mountain, creating a spectacular silhouette for Repulse Bay beach’s envious onlookers. The park is open from 10am to 6pm daily, although we’d recommend avoiding summer Sundays and public holidays as there’s a tendency for longer queues on these days when Mainland tourists arrive in hordes.
Charter a Junk Make the most of Hong Kong’s hot subtropical climate and some 260 rugged islands by hopping on a junk boat this summer and discovering what else there is to the city beyond the glass and steel of the business sector. The term ‘junk’ formerly referred to traditional Chinese fishing and freight boats, but now it tends to mean the large white motorized boats that flock to the harbour every summer weekend. Arrange a junk to pick you up at the harbour at 10am, and set off delving into Hong Kong’s beaches, coves and coastlines with friends, a cool-box of beers and a barbecue for the next six or eight hours. Some junks can be booked to include food, drinks or water sports equipment, so shop around providers for the best deal - there are loads of junk companies out there.
Barter at Temple Street Night Market. Your first impression of this popular bazaar will no doubt be that of a bustling, thriving assault on the senses. When the sun sets on Temple Street in Yau Ma Tei, this one time unassuming and nondescript street on the Kowloon Peninsula is transformed seemingly magically into a buzzing maelstrom of street food, hawkers, fortune tellers and karaoke singers. Stalls crammed onto the street are packed with eclectic wares including knock-off designer clothes and headphones, kitsch propaganda posters, handbags, clothes, toys, jewellery and toilet roll dispensers shaped like toothpaste tubes. The market’s atmosphere is electric and vibrant with noise, lights, the smell of delicious local food and the sound of vehement haggling. Don’t miss the opportunity to barter with street-sellers over souvenirs to grab yourself a bargain before dinner.