The thriv­ing metrop­o­lis of Hong Kong is a city that has much to dis­cov­er. With its mediter­ranean-like islands and beach­es to its fine din­ing and shop­ping. It’s a unique blend of Can­tonese and West­ern cul­ture with an intrigu­ing his­to­ry and breath­tak­ing views of beau­ti­ful cityscapes with­in easy reach. One minute I feel like I’m in Chi­nese New York and a few hours lat­er I’m alone on an island in the Caribbean. Nev­er before have I expe­ri­enced the diver­si­ty this city offers. The cost of liv­ing how­ev­er is high, so high in fact it was rat­ed as the sec­ond most expen­sive city in the world in 2016. Despite this there are many things to do and see that cost lit­tle to no mon­ey.  Here is a summary:


1. Star Ferry across Victoria Harbor (Cheap)

The Star Ferry in Victoria Harbour

The Star Fer­ry in Vic­to­ria Harbour

Hong Kong is a city on the water and for less than 50 cents you can ride across Vic­to­ria Har­bor with fan­tas­tic views of the sky­lines on either side. There are side­walks along the water on both sides of the har­bor as well that are per­fect to stroll and watch the var­i­ous boats and of course people.

From Tsim Sha Tsui (North side of the har­bor) take the Star Fer­ry near the Har­bour City Shop­ping Mall. From Hong Kong Island go to Cen­tral Fer­ry Pier num­ber 7

2. View Hong Kong from Victoria Peak (Cheap/Free)

Victoria Harbour Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

Vic­to­ria Har­bour Hong Kong from Vic­to­ria Peak

One of the unique things about Hong Kong is that it’s sur­round­ed by moun­tains that afford spec­tac­u­lar views of the city. The view from Vic­to­ria Peak is prob­a­bly the most clas­sic view of Hong Kong as well as the eas­i­est moun­tain view to get to.

You can get there 3 ways 1. Take the tram/cable car. 2. Take a bus 3. Walk
For more infor­ma­tion on the peak tram vis­it their web­site here. If you are going on the week­end get there ear­ly and expect a wait time of 1 to 1.5 hours. From the begin­ning of the cable car there is also a trail you can fol­low on the left side of the WWF build­ing. It takes 1–1.5 hours to get to the top.

For a descrip­tion on the walk/hike to Vic­to­ria Peak click here.

3. “Ding Ding” Trolley (Cheap)

This has to be one of the cheap­est tours in the world. For 2.30 HKD (About 30 cents) you can spend a few hours see­ing Hong Kong Island from a slow mov­ing trol­ley car (the locals call it the Ding Ding” due to the bell sound) with open win­dows to take pic­tures. If you have time and patience, take it from the start of the line in Kennedy Town all the way to the ter­mi­nus in Shau Kei Wan. And if you love it, why not do it again at night. You only pay when you get off. So you can stay and ride it for hours for just 2.30 HKD.

Tips: Don’t for­get to bring your octo­pus card or bring exact change. Pret­ty much all of the bus­es and trams in Hong Kong do not give change.

Go to the upper lev­el and sit at the front or the back of the tram. All of the win­dows can be man­u­al­ly pulled up or down.

If you want to know more about the sites along the way the tram web­site has some great infor­ma­tion you can check out for each neigh­bor­hood. Browse it before­hand and keep an eye out for things that inter­est you…and skip the over-priced Hong Kong Tours.


4. Go Hiking (Free)

Bonnie and Simba at Amah Rock

Bon­nie and Sim­ba at Amah Rock

For a metrop­o­lis known for it’s shop­ping (There’s no tax in Hong Kong) it’s a sur­prise to a lot of peo­ple that there are many great hikes in a jun­gle like set­ting, many of which have great views of the city or sur­round­ing islands.

The Best Hike in Hong Kong:

Drag­on’s Back on Hong Kong Island has been rat­ed in numer­ous places as the best hike in Hong Kong due to its acces­si­bil­i­ty (it’s eas­i­ly reached by bus) and scenery. Click here for the hik­ing guide to Drag­on’s Back.

For more hikes check out the Dis­cov­er Hong Kong web­site for hikes and lots more great infor­ma­tion about Hong Kong

Hong Kong from Kowloon Peak

Hong Kong from Kowloon Peak

5. Victoria Harbor Light Show — Symphony of Lights (Free)

Victoria Harbour Symphony of Lights

Vic­to­ria Har­bour Sym­pho­ny of Lights

Every night at 8pm beams of light shine into the skies above Hong Kong. For the best views go to the water­front in Tsim Sha Tsui. There is a view­ing deck near the Star Fer­ry Pier. Or you can walk any­where along the water. There will be few­er peo­ple fur­ther away from the view­ing deck. Grab a beer and enjoy (You can drink in pub­lic in Chi­na and HK!)

There are paths along the water­front on both sides of Hong Kong Har­bor with great views of the city. A nice place to walk day or night.

6. Visit the monasteries and temples (Free)

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

Ten Thou­sand Bud­dhas Monastery

With more reli­gious free­dom than main­land Chi­na, there are many Monas­ter­ies, tem­ples and church­es from all denom­i­na­tions. My per­son­al favorite is the Ten Thou­sand Bud­dhas Monastery. It’s a quirky tem­ple that starts with a wind­ing stair­case lined by gold­en, life-sized stat­ues of Bud­dhist men, each a unique char­ac­ter with a unique facial expression.

The Po Lin Monastery (Big Bud­dha) is per­haps the most famous with an enor­mous 34-meter high stat­ue of Bud­dha atop a hill.

Man Mo Temple

Man Mo Temple

The Man Mo Tem­ple in Cen­tral (HK Island) is the oldest.

Click here for more information.

7. Open Air markets (Free…until you buy something)

The mar­kets are a buzz of activ­i­ty and an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence even if you aren’t going to buy any­thing. Peo­ple and win­dow shop­ping at it’s finest. Since I car­ry every­thing on my back I’m not exact­ly in the mar­ket for a knock off Lego Star Wart [sic] Mil­len­ni­um Falcon

More infor­ma­tion on the mar­kets of Hong Kong.

8. Islands and beaches (Free/Cheap)

Sunset on Po Toi Island

Sun­set on Po Toi Island

Escape the crazy throngs of peo­ple in Kowloon and head to the islands and beach­es. There are many places to explore. My favorite island for less crowds is Po Toi, but the fer­ry is only on Tues­day, Thurs­day and the week­end. The eas­i­est acces­si­ble Island is Lan­tau Island (Can be reached by the MTR) with the famous Big Bud­dha Stat­ue as well as Tai O Fish­ing Vil­lage and some fan­tas­tic hik­ing. For the best expe­ri­ence (few­er peo­ple) go dur­ing the week if you are able to.

Kamikaze Tun­nels on Lam­ma Island

Yim Tin Tsai Hong Kong’s Ghost Island

More infor­ma­tion on the islands

More infor­ma­tion on the beaches

9. Monster Building (Free)

Hong Kong Monster Building at Night

Hong Kong Mon­ster Build­ing at Night

A dense­ly con­struct­ed E shaped pub­lic hous­ing struc­ture on Hong Kong Island built in the 1960s as an answer to the mas­sive influx of Chi­nese immi­grants to a then British Hong Kong. The Ins­ta-famous view look­ing up from the court­yard has a cer­tain aes­thet­ic qual­i­ty and was recent­ly fea­tured in a few block­buster Hol­ly­wood movies.

See the detailed post with more pic­tures and direc­tions to get there, here.

10. watch the Horse Races (Cheap)

Sha TIn Horse Race

Sha TIn Horse Race

For just over $1 you can watch horse races all day, though a few hours is prob­a­bly enough. The races are usu­al­ly on the week­ends dur­ing the day and Wednes­day night from 6pm-11pm. The races them­selves last about a minute and twen­ty sec­onds each and occur every 30 min­utes. The 10 HKD fee ($1.30) gets you access to the pub­lic area. Inside you can eat and place bets, but don’t be wor­ried if you want to try bet­ting for the first time and don’t know how, there are plen­ty of employ­ees ready to show you how to part with your mon­ey. A large seat­ing area out­side will give you a high­er view of the action, or you can walk right up to the track and prac­ti­cal­ly feel the thun­der­ing hooves as they whip by you.

Though I went on a Sun­day it appar­ent­ly is a good place to hang out on a Wednes­day night with friends and drink.

There are two tracks, Sha Tin (New Ter­ri­to­ries) and Hap­py Val­ley (HK Island)

If you are in Sha Tin take a look at the enor­mous video screen, report­ed­ly equiv­a­lent to 4,500 21 inch screens. In 2003 it earned a place in the Guin­ness Book of World Records for the longest tv screen.

To get to Sha Tin take the East line metro and get off at the Race­course Sta­tion (rac­ing days only)
For the cal­en­dar and more infor­ma­tion on Sha Tin click here: 

Hap­py Valley:
Cause­way Bay sta­tion, Exit A on the Island Line MTR.

If it’s been rain­ing a lot the races may be can­celed due to unsta­ble ground conditions.

More infor­ma­tion on the races.

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