Food, music, art, fashion, architecture, design: You name it, Hong Kong has it. It’s no wonder, therefore, that the Asian metropolis is one of the coolest, liveliest, most popular cities on the planet. Whether you find yourself taking advantage of a long layover or exploring the city for the first time, here’s a quick 24-hour itinerary to help you get started (local and insider tips included, obv).
3pm: New Home
Located right in the heart of the city, Hotel ICON is one of the best downtown spots you could hope to put your feet up in. The chic hotel, designed by local architects, boasts a curated Asian art collection, high ceilings with plenty of natural light, and a botanical “Green Wall” catching your eye as you walk in. Its location in Tsim Sha Tsui places you right in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, while its proximity to the iconic Victoria Harbour promises a spectacular view of the Hong Kong skyline. Check in, then get started on your epic day and night.
4.30pm: Snack Time
Got a sweet tooth? Hui Lau Shan is the one place you can’t miss. The dessert chain, which has been around since the 1960s, is well known for its mango desserts, snacks, and tong sui (a traditional Cantonese-style dessert soup) that are refreshing, healthy, and delicious to boot. The mango is rich and flavorful, but for an extra kick, try dishes incorporating pomelo (Asian grapefruit).
5pm: Market Mania
Hold on to your bags: You’re about to enter one of the most well-known and popular (read: crowded) open markets in the city. With over 100 stalls of clothes, accessories, and souvenirs, the Ladies’ Market is filled to the brim with bargains, so navigate carefully but with an open mind. Also, despite what the name says, this market is certainly not just for ladies only. Shop away!
5.30pm: Bright Lights
Now it's time to explore the streets and snap some photos: Tsim Sha Tsui is one of the districts where the old truly mixes with the new, and you’re going to want to remember those flashing vintage neon lights before the government phases them out for good.
7pm: Unforgettable Views
Grab a taxi on the way down if you must, but make sure you at least make your way up Victoria Peak on the Peak Tram – it’s a fun little ride on a vintage-inspired tram car that takes you uphill while affording a spectacular view of the city. The view from the Peak is breathtaking on its own in the daytime, but you can’t beat the nightscape: For the first-timer, the dynamic, Matrix-esque cityscape is entrancing and unforgettable; for the city veteran, the bright pulsing lights still draw you in completely like a moth to a flame.
The free viewing deck certainly holds its own, but the Sky Terrace 428 (aptly named for being 428 meters above sea level) offers a full 360° panoramic view of Hong Kong – a stunning tapestry of skyscrapers, neon lights, hills, and sea. There is a separate entrance fee of HKD $40 to the Sky Terrace, but a Peak Tram Sky Pass (combining the terrace and the tram) will set you back only HKD $65 for an adult’s round trip ticket.
Hang out on the Peak until 8pm to see the Symphony of Lights: A daily harbourside light and sound show (in fact, the largest in the world) comprising of lasers, lights, music, and the occasional fireworks.
8.30pm: Dinner Deliciousness
While Hong Kong is truly a mecca for foodies everywhere, you can’t go wrong with traditional Cantonese cuisine, elevated by one of the city’s finest restaurants, Lei Garden. Try the Braised Abalone in Oyster Sauce for an indulgent Cantonese twist on seafood if you’re feeling adventurous, or if you’re traveling in a small group, do dinner the traditional Chinese way: family-style. A spread of meat (Crispy Roasted Chicken), fish (Sabah Fish Braised with Bamboo Shoot and Mushroom), veggies (Braised Assorted Vegetables with Conpoy), soup (Double Boiled Fish's Bone with Dahurian Angelica Root and Szechwan Lovage Rhizone), and rice (Steamed Rice in Mini Clay Pot) will fill you up and send you along your merry way.
10pm: Innovative Cocktails
Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s famous (or infamous) party district frequently abbreviated by locals as “LKF,” comes alive every night, promising delicious cocktails and breathtaking rooftop views or packed dance-floors and raucous debauchery. Depending on which one you’re looking for, LKF has it all.
In the mood for cocktails? Lounge at the Quinary’s open terrace against the vibrant backdrop of Hong Kong, sipping on exquisitely crafted drinks such as the Earl Grey Caviar Martini and Marshmallow Duo. It comes as no surprise that with their innovative menu and handsome decor, Quinary has been consistently named as one of the Top 50 Bars in the world.
11.30pm: LFK Clubs
Want to let loose on the dance-floor instead? Just pick any direction in LKF and walk. You’ll end up hitting one of the many nightclubs in the area, such as Kee, Fly, and Volar. Volar, in particular, is super exclusive – frequented by celebs since it opened in 2004, it's somewhere you really need to dress to impress. Sleek, chic and full of international DJs, you can't help but get a little friendly with the expat crowd here ;)
7am: Seaside Stroll
Here’s your reminder to take a walk by the harbourfront. At night, the skyscrapers by the water light up in the most wondrous kaleidoscope (and you’re in for a special treat if you happen to stop by during Christmas or Chinese New Year); but in the early morning, the quiet buzz as the city slowly wakes up will energize you.
8am: Local Breakfast
For a real taste of Canton, you can’t miss Hong-Kong-style breakfast – and few places embody that flair better than Tsui Wah Restaurant. The iconic Cha Chan Tang (literally translates to “tea restaurant”) chain houses many Hong Kong breakfast classics, including the locals’ favorite, Shredded Squid and Ham with Macaroni, with fried eggs and toast on the side.
If you can't resist being a bit of a Westerner, treat yourself to a full English breakfast at The Flying Pan. Because you should never underestimate the power of baked beans, eggs, and sausage to treat a hangover, especially if you had a little too much fun the night before.
10am: Caffeine Rush
Make your way to Sheung Wan, an up-and-coming district that’s slowly populating with trendy cafes, small boutiques, and art galleries. If you’re more of a coffee person, LOF10 is a short walk away, and serves up classic coffees, in addition to novelty drinks such as Rose Latte and Earl Grey Tea Latte. The rustic decor channels old Hong Kong, mixed in with modern art and neon light displays.
Need a different kind of caffeine jolt? Head over to the cozy tearoom at teakha and indulge in their expansive menu of fresh teas and tea-inspired pastries and desserts. The signature teas range from hearty and aromatic to light and floral (and are extremely photogenic, for all of the Instagrammers out there), and the chiffon cakes (if available) are delicate and fragrant. Enjoy the zen as you settle into a nook with your teapot.
11am: Art 'n' Fashion Crawl
As evident by its name, Central is indeed one of the most central districts in Hong Kong, and only a short tram ride away from Sheung Wan. Central is home to some of Hong Kong’s best art galleries, such as Galerie Perrotin, Gagosian Hong Kong, Lehmann Maupin, and White Cube. Most of them are situated fairly close to each other, so be sure to have your camera ready.
In addition, some of the world’s most renowned designers and boutiques have also set up shop in Central. Browse through department stores Harvey Nichols and Lane Crawford or shopping complex LANDMARK to get your designer fix, or head to JOYCE, a fashion fixture in Hong Kong well known for their eclectic selection and support of local designers.
12.30pm: Lunchtime Feast
A trip to Hong Kong isn’t complete without a sumptuous spread of dim sum, and Tsui Hang Village will definitely hit the spot. Go for the classic crowd-pleasers such as egg tarts, char siu bao (BBQ pork bun), and xiao long bao (soup dumplings), or branch out and try any of their award-winning entrees. You may wish to call ahead and make a reservation if you can – the restaurant tends to get fairly busy.
2pm: Sea You later!
As you head back to the hotel to grab your bags, make it a point to experience Victoria Harbour from a different perspective: from the water itself. Walk down to the Central Ferry Piers and take the Star Ferry across the harbour back to Tsim Sha Tsui – you’ll be able to take in plenty of sights along the way as you make your way through the throngs of skyscrapers and people. The ferry runs fairly frequently, is extremely cheap for the scenic mileage you’ll get out of it, and serves as a great break from the hectic city. Just don’t drop your camera into the water.