Hong Kong junk boat
Asia,  Hong Kong,  Travel

3 Days in Hong Kong: A Hong Kong Itinerary for First Time Visitors

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I didn’t think I’d like Hong Kong. I was worried that it would be too big, too busy, too modern. After spending so much time travelling through small villages and towns in Southeast Asia where I couldn’t drink the tap water or flush toilet paper, I thought that being in Hong Kong would feel just like another big, western city. Turns out I was wrong and I actually fell in love with Hong Kong and everything it has to offer. So for anyone else headed to this incredible place, here are my tips on how to get the most out of 3 days in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong junk boat

Getting to Hong Kong

If you are going to Hong Kong, it’s likely by air (check Skyscanner for the best prices). I actually didn’t originally plan on spending time in Hong Kong, but since I was flying with Cathay Pacific for my last Southeast Asia adventure, I decided to take advantage of my stop there on the way back to Canada and add a couple of days- I’m so glad I did and highly recommend you do this same if you have a stopover option. 

Getting Around Hong Kong

Hong Kong Traffic

Getting around Hong Kong is really easy. There are plenty of taxis but the cheapest and best way to get around is by foot and public transit.

Hong Kong is quite big and divided into several islands, so you won’t be able to walk everywhere. But, once you arrive in a neighbourhood it’s best to explore by foot. There is so much to see along the way- you don’t want to miss it by spending all your time on a bus or the metro.

With that being said, the metro is a fast and easy way to get around Hong Kong. Stations are well marked with signs in English making it easy for visitors, such as myself, to navigate. In some places you’ll also want to take a boat, or a bus. Again, there are often signs in English to help visitors or you can always ask someone. English is quite prevalent in Hong Kong, especially among the younger generation.

Tip: The easiest way to use Hong Kong’s public transit system is with an Octopus Card. These can be used on buses, the metro, on the ferries that connect Kowloon to Hong Kong, and even in some shops.

Accommodation in Hong Kong

Royal Plaza Hong Kong Hotel

When it comes to finding accommodation in Hong Kong, know in advance that it can be quite expensive. I paid nearly $50CAD a night for a bed in a 9 bed dorm (with the bunks stacked 3 high). The rooms were tiny, the bathrooms were tinier, but I really just needed a place to sleep at night so it was fine. There are also several options for mid-range and luxury hotel. I’ll make some suggestions after but the real key here is location.

Once you are in Hong Kong it’s important to realize that it’s made up of several islands. One of these islands is called Hong Kong- so keep that in mind so you don’t get confused. I recommend staying either on Hong Kong Island or in Kowloon. They are divided by the water, but it’s incredibly easy to get back and forth between the two. The skyline from both sides is stunning, especially in the evening when all the buildings light up so I recommend finding accommodation close to the waterfront on either side.

Need some recommendations? Take a look at the following options.

Hostels: Yesinn @Causeway Bay or Check Inn HK

Mid-range: Ibis Hong Kong Central & Sheung Wang or Pentahotel Hong Kong Kowloon

Luxury: Royal Plaza Hotel Hong Kong or Hotel Icon

DO NOT stay in Chungking mansions. Just don’t.

Where to Eat in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a foodie paradise. From street food, to Michelin starred spots, Michelin rated spots, and more- plan to eat a lot while in Hong Kong.

As with many other countries, the street food is always a good pick. Though some things may seem a bit strange, if you are adventurous you will have no problem finding unique and different things to try. Also, make sure to try bubble waffles. They are an essential Hong Kong must- eat.

Psst: If you are a big foodie, check out this Hong Kong Street Food Tour

Hong Kong Street Food Vendor

Also keep your eye out for small little counter-type restaurants as you walk through the city. I stumbled across a Michelin-rated spot on my first day in Hong Kong and, after seeing the massive line of locals waiting to place their order, I decided to give it a try. So glad I did, because it ended up being my favourite spot to grab a meal while in Hong Kong. It’s called Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai Pan-Fried Buns and is located on the Kowloon side. You can read more about it here.

Another great must-try is Tim Ho Wan. It’s a name known around the world as being the cheapest Michelin starred place in Hong Kong for Dim Sum. I’d say it’s worth a try for sure- I went and enjoyed my meal (especially the pork buns). Though I do recommend trying to find someone to go with so you can try several things. Also try not to go during peak hours because it gets pretty crowded.

Dim Sum in Hong Kong

If you are looking to splurge on a special Hong Kong experience, I highly recommend going for afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel. It’s not cheap, but it’s fancy and a really cool opportunity. They don’t take reservations; it’s a first come first serve basis so get there early. The food is delicious and the room is gorgeous. It’s definitely a fun way to treat yourself.

Another fun splurge is the Ozone Bar at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. It’s the second highest bar in the world. Drinks aren’t cheap, but it’s a fun experience and offers some great views.

Nightlife in Hong Kong

If you are looking to experience Hong Kong’s nightlife, you have a few options. Lan Kwai Fong is the party district where you’ll find tons of bars and clubs and party-goers. It’s the best place to go if you are looking for club-type partying.

If clubbing isn’t your style but you still want to check out the nightlife in Hong Kong, then head to SoHo which is a little more upscale and sophisticated. You will find some great restaurants and bars here, making it a good area to spend an evening.

Not into bars and or clubs? Try one of Hong Kong’s night markets. The best known night market in Hong Kong is the Temple Street night market which caters to both tourists and locals. You can also try the Ladies Night Market or the North Point Night Market. Don’t forget to haggle!

3 Days in Hong Kong Itinerary

 

Hong Kong Itinerary Day 1: Hong Kong Side

For your first day in Hong Kong, I recommend dedicating the entire day to the Hong Kong side (Hong Kong island). This side is steep with plenty of winding streets up the hills. There are also escalators that go in both directions making it easier (and faster) to get to the higher streets. Do take the time to explore some of the streets though. I found plenty of cool like artisan and boutique shops, cute cafes for breakfast and lunch, and I even stumbled across a fashion shoot which was kind of fun. You’ll also find plenty of street art and murals in this area.

Street art in Hong Kong

The Hong Kong side also has some interesting museums, temples, and attractions that are worth checking out as you explore. Perhaps the best known temple on this island is Man Mo Temple located on Hollywood Road. You may also be interested in the Maritime Museum, the Ferris Wheel (though it’s cooler to experience at night), or Hong Kong Park which is known for its aviary.

Make sure you are at Victoria Peak (sometimes just referred to as The Peak) when the sun starts to set. It will be crazy busy, but the crowds are worth the sunset views. You can pay to go inside to a viewing platform but, honestly, you can get nice views from outside as well. I actually got the shot below from outside the washrooms by the Burger King (who’d have thought?) another good spot is by the walking path to the right of the viewing platform. Stay for the sunset, but also stay a little longer to see Kowloon light up for night. It’s stunning.

Sunset at Victoria Peak, Hong Kong

Tip: Getting up to Victoria Peak is a bit of an adventure. You can hike up (though it is quite steep), take a bus (along very windy roads, some people get sick). Or take the tram which is the fastest and easiest. It does get really busy though so if you do want to go that route, get these skip the line tickets. 

Hong Kong Itinerary Day 2: Kowloon Side

For your second day in Hong Kong, I recommend spending it on the Kowloon side. This is where I stayed and I had a lot of fun wandering around the streets, parks, and malls. It’s much flatter than Hong Kong island, but also a bit more spread out so you’ll still need to rely on a combination of your feet and public transportation.

Painted stairs in Kowloon

As with on Hong Kong Island, I think the best way to explore Kowloon is just wander and see what you come across. That being said, there are a few cool attractions that are worth checking out. Keep an eye out for the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, the Chi Lin Nunnery, Kowloon Park, The Avenue of Stars, and The Hong Kong Museum of History. For awesome city views, head to the Tsim Sha Tsui East Promenade

In the evening make sure you head to Victoria Harbour so that you can watch the Symphony of Lights. It’s a free laser light show that highlights the many skyscrapers and buildings that make up Hong Kong’s skyline. Get there early for the best views or, for unimpeded views, take a boat tour to watch the light show. 

Hong Kong Light Show

Tip: Victoria Harbour is also where you can get those classic Hong Kong photos with the junk boats sailing in front of the skyline. You can even take a tour in one yourself- book here

Hong Kong Itinerary Day 3: Enjoy Hong Kong’s Nature & Other Islands 

Hong Kong Sunrise

One of the reasons that I loved Hong Kong so much is because even though it’s a big, modern city, there’s plenty of greenspace nearby. Both in terms of the local parks, but also with all the hiking trails and beaches and other islands to explore.

There are several great areas where you can enjoy the outdoors in Hong Kong. It all depends on how far you want to go and what kind of activities you want to do. Here are a few suggestions:

Lion’s Rock: The Lion’s Rock is located on Kowloon side and offers some pretty great views. It’s 1600 feet high and most people recommend allowing four hours to hike up and down and enjoy the views. It’s a clearly marked trail, but make sure you bring plenty of drinking water.

The Dragon’s Back Trail: Another popular hike in Hong Kong is the Dragon’s Back trail. It’s actually part of the Hong Kong Trail, though this section is said to be the most scenic. Expect to take about three hours round trip, and keep an eye on the weather. If it’s wet or rainy, then skip it. The path can be really slippery and dangerous.

Clearwarer Bay: Clearwater Bay is made up of two beaches with soft sand and clear waters that give it a tropical vibe. You can also do a little hiking here for some great viewpoints.

Golden Beach: A resort type beach area. It can be quite crowded, but it makes for a great place to have a beach day.

Lantau Island: If you aren’t feeling hiking or beaches, or maybe the weather just isn’t great for either, then head over to Lantau Island. This is where you can see the Big Buddha and take the scenic Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car up the mountain. Get your cable car tickets here.  There is also a small fishing village on the island called Tai O. It’s famous for it’s stilt houses and fish market. It’s also a popular spot for tourists to take boat rides to try to find the elusive pink dolphins.

Final Tips for 3 Days in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Giant Buddha

 Three days in Hong Kong may not seem like much, but it’s the perfect amount to experience the highlights and get a taste, especially since Hong Kong can be pretty pricey. While there is lots to see and do, I honestly think the best part of exploring this area is to just walk around and see what you find. Try the street food, check out the temples, and take in the views. I hope you love it as much as I did.

Have more time? There’s lots more to see around Hong Kong or, if you want to switch it up, you can go to Macau for a day. Or, you can check out Hong Kong’s Disney World.

Psst: Wondering what my must-have travel items are? Here’s what you’ll always find in my bag.

 

A Note on Travel Insurance in Hong Kong

Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine twice before (once for damaged luggage, once because I developed a lung infection while traveling). While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance. With prices starting at $37 for 4 weeks, they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.

Make the most out of 3 Days in Hong Kong with this Hong Kong itinerary perfect for first time visitors. #HongKong

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