Standing in the South China Sea to the east of the Pearl River estuary, Hong Kong has long been a major centre of world commerce. It is made up of Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories together with more than 200 other islands of which Lantau and Lamma are of most interest to visitors. In 1997 when Great Britain’s 99-year lease of Hong Kong expired the territory was returned to China, now being officially designated as a ‘Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China’.
Centred on Victoria Harbour, the territory continues to thrive as a destination for trade and tourism although recent anti-government protests and the global coronavirus pandemic have seen tourism numbers decimated. The best time to visit Hong Kong is in the autumn months (September to December) and even into the winter (December to February) when the weather tends to be cool and dry. The spring and summer months (March to August) can get very humid with unpredictable weather patterns which frequently involve some heavy rainfall. The city is more packed than usual in late January or early February when Hong Kong celebrates the Chinese New Year.
Tourist Attractions in Hong Kong
Victoria Harbour: Historically, this deep natural harbour which separates Hong Kong Island from the Kowloon Peninsula played a key role in establishing Hong Kong as an important military and trading port under the British Empire. The advantages of this naturally sheltered channel remain a major factor in enabling Hong Kong to maintain its position as a commercial giant in world trade. Victoria Harbour is a constant hub of activity with a never ending stream of maritime traffic travelling through it and is Hong Kong’s most iconic tourist attraction.
Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade: Overlooking Victoria Harbour on the edge of the Kowloon Peninsula the TST is a major tourist destination lined with cafés, restaurants and shops. The area is also home to many of Hong Kong’s best museums such as the Hong Kong Space Museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Other sights to look out for include the Clock Tower of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Station which once stood here, the Avenue of Stars which is Hong Kong’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Kowloon Park. Look out for the bronze statue of Bruce Lee which is the promenade’s most photographed attraction. The Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade is the perfect place from which to watch the spectacular Symphony of Lights which takes place every evening and is one of the world’s greatest light shows. From the famous Star Ferry Pier on the western side of the TST tourists can hop onto a ferry which travels across Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island.
Central-Mid-Levels Escalators: These are another iconic means of transport once you arrive on Hong Kong Island. Running from Queen’s Road in Central to Conduit Road in the Mid-Levels for 800 metres and climbing 135 metres this unique transportation system is made up of twenty escalators and three moving walkways. The system is heavily used by commuters and by tourists who can stop off at cafés and shops en route.
Victoria Peak: Overlooking Victoria Harbour from an altitude of 552 metres in the west of Hong Kong Island this is a major tourist attraction which allows visitors to escape from the city. The best way to get there is by means of the funicular railway which runs from Garden Road Admiralty via the Mid-Levels. The ride itself is spectacular and at the top there are a number of noteworthy attractions including the Peak Tower shopping complex with its Sky Terrace 428 observation deck and a branch of Madame Tussauds. Also recommended is the Peak Circle Walk which is a relatively easy hike offering great views over Victoria Harbour.
Short Excursions from Hong Kong
Lantau Island: Located some 10km to the west of Hong Kong Island, Lantau is the largest of more than 200 islands in the seas around Hong Kong. In the east of the island is Hong Kong Disneyland which is easily reached from Sunny Bay Station on the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) network. Further west is the terminus of the Tung Chung MTR Line which is close to the Ngong Ping 360. This is a 5.7 km gondola ride which runs to to Ngong Ping which is home to a number of popular tourist attractions including the Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha.
Lamma Island: Another island worth a visit is Lamma Island which lies off the south-west coast of Hong Kong Island. It can be reached on a 30-minute ferry ride from Central Ferry Pier 4 which docks at either Yung Shue Wan in the north-west of the island or Sok Kwu Wan in the centre. There’s a pleasant walk from the former to the latter known as the Lamma Island Family Trail which ends at Sok Kwu Wan Village which is famous for its seafood restaurants on stilts. Ferries then return to Central from Sok Kwu Wan Pier.
Stanley Market: Probably the highlight for shopaholics visiting Hong Kong, this famous street market lies on the southern side of Hong Kong Island some 15km from Central by road. There are frequent bus services from Central Station to Stanley travelling through the centre of the island. Be sure to look out for the Happy Valley Racecourse and the exclusive Repulse Bay residential area on the way. The market is a great place for buying clothes, luggage and traditional handicrafts.
Arriving in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Airport: Hong Kong’s International Airport is located on the island of Chek Lap Kok some 35km west of central Kowloon. It is one of the world’s busiest airports for both cargo and passengers with flights arriving from almost 200 places around the world.
Airport Transfers: Road transport into the city along the North Lantau Highway is very well organised thanks to a fleet of airport shuttle buses and an efficient public bus service. Many taxis are available or you can pre-book a private transfer from Hong Kong Airport to your destination and have a driver waiting for you on arrival. A faster but less convenient option is to take the high-speed Airport Express train which runs from the airport to Kowloon Station and Hong Kong Station.
Getting Around: A cheap and efficient way to get around is by means of Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) which serves stations in Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the New Territories. Visitors should download the MTR Mobile app to help navigate the system and purchase an Octopus Card which can be used to pay for most public transport services in Hong Kong. Another essential mode of transport is the famous Star Ferry which crosses Victoria Harbour from Kowloon Point to Wan Chai and Central on Hong Kong Island. Other ferries are also available to Lantau and Lamma Islands amongst others. Buses and taxis are also widely available but journeys can be slow due to the volume of traffic. A popular tourist service is the Big Bus Tour which provides a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of Hong Kong’s main attractions departing from over 20 conveniently located bus stops.
Travel Tip: Buy an Octopus card for travelling around Hong Kong. It is widely accepted on most modes of transport including the MTR, city buses, ferry services and trams.
Where to Stay in Hong Kong
The Tsim Sha Tsui area which overlooks Victoria Harbour from the south of the Kowloon Peninsula is popular amongst tourists thanks to the availability of upmarket hotels and some budget accommodation. Away from the waterfront the areas of Hong Hum and Mong Kok are also worth looking at for affordable options. Directly across the harbour from Tsim Sha Tsui are Central, Wanchai and Admiralty which are home to some popular hotels for business travellers as well as providing attractive places to stay for travellers. Both sides of the water provide easy access to excellent public transport, restaurants and retail outlets.
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