Updated on October 21st, 2018
Where iconic skylines, rolling landscapes and frenzied markets meet, along with over seven million residents and many more tourists, Hong Kong is a city of contrasts. I visited for three days on a stopover with Cathay Pacific and had an incredible time exploring solo. I came here for the dumplings (that sounds like a joke but I’m deadly serious) and I left somewhat unexpectedly impressed with what the city had to offer. Here are my top nine things you have to do on your Hong Kong stopover.
Search for the city’s best dumplings
Obviously this is number one, given that it’s the reason I chose Hong Kong for a stopover over San Fran, Singapore and Bangkok. Dumplings are currently in my top three foods on earth (behind cheese and peas in a pod, foods of champions) so I was desperate to visit somewhere with dim sum restaurants on every corner. My absolute favourite xiao long bao (a.k.a. soupy dumplings) that I’ve ever had were the pork and black truffle dumplings from Din Tai Fung in Causeway Bay, a renowned chain dim sum spot that boasts Michelin star at its original home in Taiwan. If you go to Hong Kong and don’t try them, we can no longer be friends.
Stay at a crazy hotel
Hong Kong has its fair share of boutique hotels, penthouse apartments and luxury skyscrapers, and I was fortunate enough to stay at one of the best in the city: the Ritz Carlton. Occupying the top 16 floors of the tallest building in Hong Kong, its penthouse on the 117th floor is the highest hotel room in the world and my 116th floor room wasn’t too shabby either. With a huge bed, Club Lounge benefits including free meals and drinks basically all day, and welcome macarons, they truly knew the way to my heart. If your wallet doesn’t stretch to the 116th floor (I can assure you mine does not!) check out Hotel ICON, TUVE or MojoNomads Hostel for a stylish stay without murdering your overdraft.
Escape the chaos in Nan Lian Garden
In a city that overloads the senses, Nan Lian Garden is a peaceful haven in the middle of the madness. Just around the corner from the Diamond Hill MTR station and with a delicious onsite vegetarian restaurant, it’s the perfect place to enjoy the fresh air (well, fresh compared to the rest of the city). The ponds, rocks and trees are all strategically placed according to the Tang Dynasty rules of balancing the elements. A nerdy garden? Sounds like my kind of place.
See the rainbow building at Choi Hung Estate
If you haven’t seen this kaleidoscopic apartment block on Instagram then you must have been living under a rock with no phone reception. Probably the most colourful building in the world, this housing estate (complete with multi-coloured basketball courts) has become a must-see on the Hong Kong ‘gram circuit. Head there early in the morning to miss the crowds and avoid harsh midday sunlight.
Cruise Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry
Seeing the skyline from the harbour is a quintessential Hong Kong experience, and for less than $4HKD (about 50 US cents) it’s a no-brainer. Particularly stunning at night with the dazzling city lights, the 10-minute ferry journey is by far the most enjoyable way to get from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and vice versa. If you’d like more time on the water they also offer a 60-minute harbour cruise complete with commentary about how the ferries were used back in the 1920s.
Bargain hard at the Ladies’ Market
Grab some cash and put your game face on because this one kilometre stretch of market stalls in Mongkok is going to put your haggling skills to the test. From midday to 11pm each day hundreds of stalls are visited by tourists and locals alike, selling everything from cheesy souvenirs and fake handbags to traditional Chinese dresses and some cool artwork. Pro tip: If you see something you like, just buy it! For some ungodly reason I walked away from Pikachu chopsticks for chopstick-challenged adults (okay, they were for kids) and I still cry myself to sleep some nights thinking about them.
Ride the Ding Ding
The Hong Kong double-decker trams, known as ‘Ding Dings’ by locals from their bells, have been roaming the city streets since the early 1900s. They creep me out a bit because they seem too tall and thin to stand up safely but their 110-year history speaks for itself I guess. Get a seat up top at the front, the windows can open and the tram moves super slowly so it’s a great vantage point for photos.
Get zen at Man Mo Temple
My experience at Man Mo Temple involved near suffocation from incense overload but I’ve heard that it’s generally a peaceful place! I visited just after Chinese New Year so the temple was packed with locals paying their respects to Man (God of Literature) and Mo (God of War). The crowds and smoke were somewhat of an assault of the senses but with its bright red and gold decorations, bell-shaped incense coils and offerings lining the room, Man Mo Temple is a worthwhile visit for peek into local culture and spirituality.
Drink a cocktail at the highest bar in the world
Full disclosure: The cocktail cost me £28. BUT I was celebrating being on the viewing deck of the highest bar in the world, and the clouds were literally about a metre above my head, and the drink was goddamn delicious. Ozone Bar is on the 118th floor of the International Commerce Centre, just above the Ritz Carlton hotel. With a massive variety of drinks, a fab food menu and views to die for, it’s worth popping up for a tipple on a clear evening to snap a photo and see how the other half live. Bring a scarf or a jacket though, being 484 metres in the air can get a bit chilly.
That’s it for my top things to do in Hong Kong! I would also recommend checking out Victoria Peak, seeing the Big Buddha on Lantau Island and hanging with Mickey and Minnie at Disneyland, but my three-day stopover didn’t leave much time for anything else. Let me know your top picks for Hong Kong in the comments below.
Hong Kong flights
I flew to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific as a three-day stopover on my way back to London from New Zealand
Hong Kong accommodation
Hong Kong experiences
I bought a 48 hour hop-on hop-off bus ticket with Big Bus Tours which took me to almost all of the main sights
Hong Kong travel insurance
I have an annual policy with NZ Travel Insurance which gives me medical, cancellation and baggage protection for the whole year.
This post was in collaboration with the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, but as always all opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience. Please note that this blog contains affiliate links that give me a small commission from anything you buy, at no extra cost to you. I would never advertise a product I don’t know or use myself, and this commission helps Finding Alexx reach more travellers just like yourself. Thanks for supporting me!