48 Hours in... Hong Kong

| January 27, 2015

Katie Cosstick on the high-rise, all-hours city where Britain meets China, and ‘Have you eaten yet?’ is as common as ‘Hello, how are you?’


1. Why go now?

Perfect for a stopover year-round, the autumn months from September to November are considered the best time to visit Hong Kong, with plenty of sunshine, comfortable temperatures, a lack of humidity and pleasant breezes.  

2. Get your bearings

Most of Hong Kong’s 7 million residents live in skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island, but the Special Administrative Region spreads over an area of 1,130 sq km, including the New Territories and more than 200 islands. Take the iconic Star Ferry across Victoria harbour, separating Hong Kong Island from Kowloon peninsula, and be wowed by the size and number of buildings dominating the skyline on both sides. An extra 20p buys you a better view on the upper deck.

3. Check in

The Royal Pacific Towers is conveniently located on famous Canton Road, known for its upscale shops and bustling nightlife. Sitting slightly further south in between Kowloon Park and iconic Victoria Harbour, this modern hotel avoids the noise but benefits from the location – panoramas across the nearby park and harbour are stunning, especially when viewed from one of the many in-house bars and restaurants.

4. Known for

Being British. Or at least it was until 1997. Catch glimpses of old UK in Central, where the bars and restaurants could be on a London street. Colonial buildings are scattered throughout Hong Kong, such as the Western Market and Government House.

5. Worth walking

Experience local Chinese lifestyles in Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei, strolling through the colourful flower market, bird garden and goldfish market, selling exotic fish by the bag. Stop off at the jade market for a souvenir – the revered stone is believed to ward off evil spirits – and onto the Ladies Market to haggle for everything imaginable.

6. Quick lunch

Eat at the open-air food stalls, known as dai pai dongs, near any of the local markets. Share a table with locals and envy their audacious chopstick skills, eating noodle soup. Try the stalls near Graham Street market, or upstairs in Sheung Wang market. Luk Yu (££) on Stanley Street serves excellent dim sum in an atmospheric and traditional Chinese teahouse.

7. Cultural afternoon

Escape the busy streets for a couple of hours at the Hong Kong Museum of History in Kowloon, which traces the development of the region up until the handover to China in 1997. The cost is a bargain 80p, and although entry is free on Wednesdays it is best to avoid that day due to crowds. It is closed on Tuesdays.

8. Cocktail hour

For dizzying harbour views, Ozone is the highest bar in the world, on floor 118 of the Ritz-Carlton, the world’s tallest hotel. Here you can sip on cocktails infused with basil or chili foam, and even the lavatories offer floor-to-ceiling views of Victoria harbour and Hong Kong Island.

9. Dressing for dinner

Hong Kong’s 5-star hotels feature world-class restaurants. Four Seasons – the world’s only hotel with two restaurants with three Michelin stars – offers Cantonese dim sum and exquisite seafood at Lung King Heen; and fine French dining at Caprice (£££). Traditional signature dishes at local’s favourite Tim’s Kitchen (££) include sautéed pork stomach and snake bisque.

10. Night on the town

Head to the Avenue of Stars on the Kowloon waterfront to watch the free Symphony of Lights laser show (nightly at 8pm, with English narration on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays). Then, hop on the cheap and efficient MTR (metro) to Yau Ma Tei for the lively Temple Street Night Market. Have a quick Cantonese dinner at the Ming Fat Spicy Crab (£) before shopping for souvenirs until midnight. Chinese karaoke singers vie for room with fortune tellers reading palms and tarot cards on the lively streets.


11. Easy like...

Wander through Hong Kong Park in Central and join locals in their early morning tai chi exercises. Flagstaff House, in the northern end of the park, is the oldest existing western building in Hong Kong and now houses the Museum of Tea Ware (admission free). Behind it is a small reflexology area where you can walk on raised pebbles to massage tired feet.

12. Window shopping

Hong Kong is a shopper’s paradise. Malls link streets to MTR stations and markets pop up in the shadow of skyscrapers. Harbour City in Kowloon is the city’s largest mall and the adjacent Canton Road sees Chinese day tourists queuing to browse the top name brands. Smaller boutiques are found in the Victorian 1881 Heritage building on Salisbury Road.

13.Don't miss

Take the Peak Tram (from £4 one-way) up to Victoria Peak for spectacular views of the harbour, New Territories and, on a clear day, to the outlying islands. In operation since 1888, the tram winds its way up to the summit, past apartment blocks that seem to lean at 45 degrees so steep is the mountainside slope. Take the bus back down the winding road to miss the tram queues.

14. Out of town

It’s inexpensive and fun to catch a ferry to one of the many outlying islands. Lamma is a popular weekend choice for locals, offering clean air, sandy beaches and delicious sea food. Sok Kwu Wan (also known as Picnic Bay) on Lamma island features restaurants raised on stilts above the bay. Fresh chili crab, garlic prawns and steamed fish with ginger are all popular choices. Cheng Chau, Lantau and Peng Chau are other island options.

Cox & Kings is currently offering a free 2-night stay in Hong Kong with a holiday booked to Australia, New Zealand or the South Pacific. Call 020 7873 5000 or see the website for details >

Alternatively, explore hotels and excursions in Hong Kong >

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