Hong Kong has always been one of the must-visit destinations in Asia. Over the years, this compact city has risen to the top of travel lists. Known for its highly cosmopolitan atmosphere, excellent food, buzzing entertainment and a wide range of shopping experiences, it’s no surprise why Hong Kong has held its own as an Asian favorite.
Along with its popularity, prices also rose in Hong Kong over the years. It’s now considered as one of the most expensive cities in the world. Fortunately, there are a lot of things to do in Hong Kong despite its small size (kind of like Switzerland). From luxury to budget, solo to family, adventure to relaxation, Hong Kong has something for everyone.
Hong Kong is a great destination if you don’t have months to spare for travel. It’s not quite easy to navigate, but everything is relatively near. You can even manage to make a day trip to Macau for the glitz and glamor of casinos and extravagance.
3-5 Days Itinerary: All the Hong Kong Highlights (and a little extra)
A typical trip to Hong Kong lasts 3 days. It might sound short, but travel is easy and there is a lot you can do in those three days. You can even squeeze in a day trip to Macau, which is a short ferry ride away.
Below is a detailed itinerary, and suggestions on how to extend your itinerary if you plan to stay for 4 or 5 days. Each day may seam very jampacked, so feel free to spread it out depending on the pace you’re comfortable with.
Day 1: Kowloon and Mongkok
Day 2: Hong Kong Central
Day 3: Macau Day Trip (consider flying out from Macau if you’re only doing 3 days)
Day 4: Disneyland Hong Kong or Ocean Park
Day 5: Lantau Island
Hong Kong may be a small place, but there are many things that can make your trip easier or harder than it should be. Before we jump into things that you can do, here are important information you need to know before you go on your adventure.
Hong Kong Facts & Useful Information
- Travel: Hong Kong boasts of a worldclass underground train system called the MTR. To make commuting a breeze, you can get an on-loan Octopus Card with an initial deposit of HK$50, which you can claim when you return the card. It also ensures that you don’t unexpectedly go on a negative balance. The card can be used on all underground trains, buses and ferries all throughout Hong Kong. You can get it online, at the airport and at any MTR station. If you need to reload, you can do so at the MTR station or at partner merchants that accept the card like 7-Eleven or McDonald’s.
- Timetables: The MTR map is color-coded according to your destination and has english translations. You can also download the MTR mobile app that shows you timetables and possible routes you can take. Since you will most likely be taking a ferry (the fastest way between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central), Star Ferry also has a map and timetables you can check out.
- Car: Public transportation is very convenient in Hong Kong, so it’s not advisable to drive a car if you’re a tourist. License validity vary per country, but the best chance of driving in Hong Kong go to those who have an international driving license. You can also apply for a temporary driving license. Car rentals are possible, but vehicle traffic in Hong Kong can get heavy.
- Currency: Hong Kong Dollar (HKD). This is accepted in Macau as well. In Macau, they have their own currency which is Macanese pataca (MOP), but the MOP can’t be used in Hong Kong.
- Timezone: Hong Kong standard time is GMT +8. (6 hours ahead of Europe and 12 hours ahead of EDT in the US)
- Credit Card Acceptance: Credit cards are widely accepted in Hong Kong except for some small local stores.
- Languages: Cantonese is the main language of Hong Kong. Half the population speaks Mandarin, and another half also speaks English. While there are English translations on all major and important signs, not everyone you meet will be able to speak English. This is usually a challenge for small shops run by locals.
- Visas: There are 170 countries and territories that may visit Hong Kong without a visa. Length of stay varies per country, so you should check your visa eligibility.
- Electricity: The standard voltage in Hong Kong is 220 V, but some bathrooms have outlets for 110 V. They use a UK-style three-pronged plug.
- Internet Access: Free WiFi is readily available in many public places and major establishments. The MTR is also a good spot for WiFi especially if you need to find your way. However, if you want to guarantee mobile connection wherever you go, there are prepaid sim cards and mobile hotspots sold at the airport. The prices here don’t vary much from those you will find at convenience stores, so better get it as soon as you land.
Arrival: Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport is located on a reclaimed island called Chek Lap Kok. It’s directly connected to Lantau Island, which is part of the 5-day itinerary. However, Lantau Island is a more laid-back, almost nature-centric island. When you land in Hong Kong, the best way to experience Hong Kong is to head straight to where all the action is.
Getting From The Airport
The MTR counter is located right outside immigration. Here you can buy the standard Octopus card, or you can opt to get the Airport Express Travel Pass (one-way or return trip). The latter is available only for tourists and valid for 3 days. It really depends on where you’re staying and how you decide to get there because the travel pass also has limited stations and transportation modes. In general, it’s much cheaper and more convenient to just get the standard Octopus card and top up if you need to.
If you’re traveling with a group, it will be convenient to get a taxi straight to your hotel. You can share travel costs and avoid the hassle of long walks and carrying your luggage around.
Day 1: Kowloon and Mongkok
Kowloon is considered the “center” of Hong Kong with the amount of things to do and very local establishments. This is also great for nightlife and shopping and many street markets open day and night. Mongkok, an industrial district right next to Kowloon, is known for different kinds of markets. There are many budget accommodations here as well. Because these districts are very popular, there is always a large crowd bustling down the streets. Then again, what’s a trip to Asia without the chaotic energy?
Kowloon and Mongkok Highlights
- Nathan Road
- Kowloon Park
- Tin Hau Temple
- Lunch at One Michelin Star One Dimsum Chinese Restaurant
- Tsim Sha Tsui
- Symphony of Lights
- Sky 100
If you’re not staying in Kowloon, it’s easy to get there via Star Ferry and see the famous Victoria Harbour. The harbour is well-visited at night thanks to the views of the lit up Hong Kong skyline. However, it’s just as scenic in the day. There’s no need to pre-book your ferry tickets, though you can do so and buy your tickets online. However, you’ll still need to pick-up physical tickets from Shen Tak Center. If you don’t want to take the ferry for some reason, there’s an MTR from Hong Kong Island that will drop you off at the Kowloon Station.
When you arrive at Kowloon, head to Nathan Road and take the time to walk around Kowloon Park. It’s right in the middle of the Tsim Sha Tsui area and is the biggest green space in Hong Kong. Despite the number of visitors, this sanctuary remains tranquil and is decorated with Chinese gardens, lotus ponds and aviaries. Every Sunday from 2PM to 5PM, there’s a lion dance performance for the public to enjoy.
Also along Nathan Road are upmarket malls, local shops, restaurants, and cafes. This 3.6km strip is loaded with throngs of tourists. Along this road you’ll also find the Tin Hau Temple dedicated to Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Sea. Right now, it’s in the middle of the urban environment of Yau Ma Tei. However, when it was first built, it was right on the harbour-front before mass reclamation took place.
When you get hungry, look for One Dimsum Chinese Restaurant at Prince Edward. It’s a one-Michelin star rated restaurant that doesn’t burn a hole in your wallet. An average meal here will only cost you $10 for dimsum that is ridiculously good. The catch? It’s a small diner that sits 30 people, and the lines can get really long at peak hours. If you can, get here a little earlier or later than normal lunch hours to avoid the queues.
Once you’ve had your fill, head over to nearby Mongkok for some serious shopping. There are several street markets worth browsing through for incredibly affordable and stylish picks. Check out Sneaker Street on Fa Yuen St., Ladies Street Market on Yau Ma Tei, and the Mongkok Computer Center on Nelson St. The Temple Street Night Market on Jordan Road and Kansu Street officially opens at 2PM, but most stalls come alive around 4PM. It’s a great flea market bazaar great for trinkets, souvenirs and even some gadgets. This is also a great place to get a good clay pot dinner from the many stalls for some delicious local cuisine.
Towards the late afternoon or evening, take a leisurely stroll around Tsim Sha Tsui promenade. Here you can find the Hong Kong Cultural Center, the Hong Kong Space Museum, the Clock Tower, and the Garden of the Stars. The Garden of the Stars is where all the famous sculptures were moved while Avenue of the Stars is under renovation. The promenade is a great place to cram all the culture you can in one afternoon.
The main attraction, however, fires up at 8PM. A dazzling show of lights dominate the Waterfront with the Symphony of Lights. It’s the World’s Largest Permanent light and sound show dubbed by the Guinness Book of World Records. Over 40 buildings on both sides of the Victoria Harbor and light up to put on an incredible show. It’s a must for photographers and just about any visitor to Hong Kong.
After the show, you can hang around Tsim Sha Tsui for the many bars for a good night out. However, don’t forget to head up to the Observation Deck at Sky 100. It’s near the Kowloon Station and lends a 360-degree view of Victoria Harbour. End your day with a breathtaking view of the Hong Kong skyline.
Day 2: Hong Kong Center
The central business district is the earliest developed district in Hong Kong. Almost all major international companies put up shop in this area and their headquarters are always breathtaking. Most photos you see of the Hong Kong skyline feature the skyscrapers and high-rise buildings lined up along Victoria Harbor. You can also see the Symphony of Lights from this side of Victoria Harbor if you happen to miss the one on your Kowloon day.
Hong Kong Central Highlights
- Shopping destinations
- Afternoon Tea at Clipper Hotel
- The Peak at Victoria
- Lan Kwai Fong
Start off your day at Central District and just walk along the street and under the buildings of some of the world’s largest companies. There are many cafes and restaurants here, but make sure to drop by PMQ building to see pop up shops with unique handicrafts, fashion, and art exhibitions. There are also great shopping destinations for some high-end designer shopping, including the Admiralty, Times Square, and Soho.
British influence is very strong in Hong Kong because of the large population of British expats that live there. Evidence of this is the fondness of the locals for afternoon tea, which you will find everywhere on the island. If you want to go all out, head to the Clipper Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental for lunch. Enjoy the sandwiches, cakes and pastries with tea and champagne and get ready to recharge for the rest of the afternoon.
In the afternoon, head to The Peak at Victoria Park, one Hong Kong’s most popular attractions. There are many ways to get up to Victoria Peak. You can walk from the park or take a bus from Exchange square, but the best and most iconic way is to take the Peak Tram. The tram goes through several tunnels and greenery and gives a spectacular view of Hong Kong. You can get tickets Garden Road Peak Tram Lower Terminus if you’re below a group of 15. However, several agents allow you to purchase online with packaged entrances to other attractions at The Peak. You can check out Klook or GetYourGuide.
Once you get to The Peak, take your pick of attractions. There are several shops and local stores, but the most visited attraction is Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. There are many restaurants with excellent views, and you can go on free nature walks to explore the mountain and burn some calories. If you’re at The Peak by sunset, go into Sky Terrace 428 and see the Hong Kong skyline thrown into orange hues.
Be warned that the queue to take the tram back down can last up to 30 minutes. If you have time to spare, go ahead and enjoy dinner with a view at The Peak. If not, head down before dinner and grab a bite at the many restaurants at the bottom. It will be less crowded and much cheaper. In any case, you can simply walk down the roughly 1-km trail.
If you still have energy left, take a Mini Bus from No. 2 Mansfield Road to the Foreign Correspondent Club and finish the night off at Lan Kwai Fong. Lang Kwai Fong is a row of bars that offer both cheap and luxurious shots, drinks, and bottles. It’s very crowded with people just partying on the streets well into the morning. It’s a great way to experience the very lively nightlife of Hong Kong and meet fellow travellers exploring Asia.
Day 3: Macau Day Trip
Macau welcomes over 30 million visitors every year. It’s also the perfect day trip from Hong Kong as it only takes an hour to cross water via ferry. Macau has packed 11 square miles of land with just about everything you need for an awesome vacation. You will find anywhere from historical buildings, world-famous cuisine, beaches, shopping malls, entertainment and even outdoor activities.
- UNESCO Heritage Sites
- Traditional Chinese temples
- Cotai Strip and the best Casinos
There are several operators that ferry people from Hong Kong to Macau, but the best ones are TurboJET and Cotaijet. However, for this day trip, take Cotaijet because it docks at the Macau-Taipa Ferry Terminal. It’s right beside the airport and also very close to many great casinos that Macau is known for.
Head to the Sheung Wan Station and head to the ferry departure terminal. You can book your Cotaijet tickets online, but there are several discounted and packaged tickets on Klook. If you book via Cotaijet website, you get an online ticket that you’ll need to present before departure. If you book via Klook, you’ll get an “exchange ticket” that you will have to redeem the Beng Seng Travel redemption counters, also located at the Sheung Wan Station, then exchange it for a ferry ticket at Cotaijet counters. Check on the prices as these always change depending on the season. If you do book via Klook, keep in mind that the Beng Seng counters open at 9AM. If you plan to have an early day in Macau, redeem your exchange tickets the day before.
Once at the departure station, you’ll need to clear Hong Kong immigration. You’ll do the same when you arrive at Macau. Make sure your passport has the appropriate visas for both countries if you’re required one. Once you’re in Macau, Hong Kong Dollars are accepted as currency and is almost equal to the Macanese pataca.
If this is your third and final day and you’re flying out of Macau, you can store your luggage at the Macau International Airport or self-service lockers at Macau Ferry Terminal. Transportation around Macau is pretty easy. You can go by public bus, free shuttle services from casinos to the airport or to the ferry, or taxi and Uber.
Take a taxi to Largo de Senado. This is where the central square to Macau’s old city is located for an immersion into Macau heritage. There are several landmarks and buildings that have been preserved throughout the years and are also part of Macau’s UNESCO listed structures. The Leal Senado is the most central building and a good place to start your heritage tour. It was originally built in 1974 as the first municipal chamber. It’s built in typical Portuguese blue and white, and you’ll be able to go inside the building and look into some of the rooms. In front of the Leal Senado is a square paved with mosaic grey and white stones. It’s surrounded by stores, shops, food stalls, and pharmacies.
If you follow the square, you’ll reach the Holy House of Mercy or Santa Casa da Misericordia. It’s a very popular landmark established in 1569 as the first western-style clinic in Macau. Nearby is the St. Dominic’s Church built in the 16th century. It was also the site of the first Portuguese newspaper in China called the China Bee. Inside in the bell tower is a small museum that houses the Sacred Art on display.
Next up is the Lou Kau Mansion, a traditionally Chinese-Portugese building built in the 19th century. After a quick look, head to the Ruins of St. Paul, a church built in the beginning of the 17th century. The only thing left are the main facade and the crypt after the church was destroyed by fire in 1835. There’s a museum behind the facade, but there are other attractions surrounding the church as well including the College of St. Paul, Mount Fortress, and the Na Tcha Temple.
The lower peninsula of Macau has some of the country’s oldest Chinese temples and mansions. The most popular one is the A-Ma Temple located on a hill and surrounded by greenery. The temple houses several religious Chinese faiths including Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and even fold beliefs. There are different halls and temples dedicated to each one.
The Mandarin House is a traditional Chinese compound built at the end of the 19th century. It was home to Zheng Guanying, a celebrated Chinese literary master. There are many courtyards to stroll on and many rooms with their original furniture still intact.
Finally, head to the Guia Fortress and lighthouse. This structure dates back to the 17th century and was the main point of defense for Macau. It’s a bit of trek up stairs and snaking paths, but the reward is well worth it. It’s a great mixture of Western and Chinese motifs with military tunnels, canons, and even magnificent views.
One thing you should never miss is to explore Macau’s frantic casino scene. Visit the casino area at the end of the night, which is near the airport and ferry, so you can go back to Hong Kong or fly out easily.
The most lavish and luxurious hotel is the Wynn Palace, one of the newest hotels in Cotai. The equally lavish Wynn Macau is located at Cidada de Sintra, which is in the mainland of Macau. Since you’ll be leaving Macau after your casino trip, it’s advisable to head to Wynn Palace and easily get to the terminal. Here you’ll find main shopping areas open till midnight and lots of art on display. There are also water, light and music performances at the lake in front of both hotels that happen every 15-30 minutes.
The Venetian, on the other hand, is a replica of Italy and is the largest hotel casino in the world. There are also some shops inside, but the biggest attraction is the San Marco square. Here you will find canals and Italian-inspired architecture. You can ride a gondola along the man-made canals and get lost in time. If you’re not very fond of Italy, you can head to The Parisian, another big casino in Macau. Here they have a replica of the Eiffel Tower which you can climb up for views of the entire Cotai Strip.
Day 4: Hong Kong Disneyland or Ocean Park
In a perfect world, you can go to both, but if you only have five days, you might have to pick just one. Hong Kong Disneyland is located at Lantau Island and Ocean Park is located in Hong Kong Island. There’s a big debate about which one is a better park, but it all really boils down to your own preferences. Disney fans will go straight to Hong Kong Disneyland, but Ocean Park is a Hong Kong staple with entertainment and rides just as good as Disneyland.
Both are ideal for families with a wide range of dining options, shops, and a huge property to explore.
Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong Disneyland is very near the airport. You can easily swap this out if you only have three days and you don’t have enough time to visit everything. It’s easy to get here via MTR and they have a luggage valet service so you can leave your stuff and enter the park.
The park is much smaller than the one in Florida and much less crowded than the one in Tokyo. There are plenty of rides to satisfy any Disney fan. There’s a Space and Thunder Mountain, It’s a Small World, Mickey’s Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Jungle Adventure Cruise. The Disney parade always draws a crowd in the afternoon and they display their signature fireworks at 8PM before the park closes.
Ocean Park, as the name suggests, is a marine-themed amusement park. There are animal exhibits with giant pandas, penguins, walruses, as well as aquariums with jellyfish and many marine animals.
Ocean Park is also easily accessible via MTR with a station that stops right at the park. Once there, there are numerous rides you can enjoy. It’s a pretty vast park with different themes and areas. Some of the most popular rides are the Raging River, Bumper Blaster, Arctic Blast, the Crazy Galleon and The Dragon. There are also cable car rides to get from the bottom to the top of the park.
If you really want to squeeze in as much as you want in a day, you can do a half day at Ocean Park and head straight to Victoria Peak. The two attractions are near each other. However, there is a lot to see in Ocean Park and you’ll probably use up an entire day without even noticing it.
Day 5: Lantau Island
Take it easy on your last day and see a different side of Hong Kong. Lantau Island is also called “new territories” and is the latest addition of reclaimed land. Far from the hustle and bustle of Kowloon and Central, Lantau is home to Buddhist temples and small traditional villages. Here you can take a meditative tour around the island and prepare your mind for the next adventure.
Lantau Island Highlights
- Ngong Ping Cable Car
- The Big Buddha and the Ngong Ping Village
- Tai O Traditional Fishing Village
You can go to Lantau Island by bus or MTR and head to Tung Chung station. Here you will arrive straight at the Ngong Ping Cable cars. Make sure to check the weather and the official site because the cable cars can be cancelled especially during typhoon season.
The cable car ride is a breathtaking trip up the mountains where you will see lush greenery and great views of Lantau Island. Once at the top station of the cable, take a bus to the “Tian Tan” Big Buddha. It’s the largest outdoor sitting Buddha made of bronze. Nearby is the Po Lin Monastery and the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery adorned with 13,000 miniature Buddha statues. There is also a restaurant at Po Lin Monastery that serves traditional vegetarian temple food for lunch.
There is also a Wisdom Path from the Big Buddha. It’s a peaceful walking trail flanked with wooden posts and Chinese Buddhist inscriptions. If you want to take your time, you can also walk around the village and visit the Ngong Ping Nature Center or experience different entertainment attractions such as the VR 360 and Stage 360.
After lunch, you can take a bus to Tai O, a traditional fishing village. It’s a great sight to see traditional wooden houses standing on stilts above the water. It’s a popular tourist destination especially for photographers. All the houses are interconnected, forming a tightly knit local community. This is also a great place to have a great meal of fresh seafood and many local fare.
A daytrip to Lantau Island seems short, but there will be a lot of walking and transferring. It’s also meant to be a slow day for you to observe and immerse yourself in the local culture. As your last day, after visiting the fishing village, head back to your hotel if you have enough time before heading back to the airport. If not, you can head to the airport and drop off your luggage before you begin your tour of Lantau Island.