Sometimes it feels like my living stint in Hong Kong was just a far-off dream, melting away as I awoke from a deep slumber on a Wi-Fi fuelled long haul flight from Emirates.
And in many ways, it was.
Just 16 months amongst my 25 years. Whilst living there, I always felt like the luckiest girl alive, a constant holiday with new things to do, see and eat every day, palm trees and a glimmering water fountain outside my apartment, a quiet beach just a 10-minute minibus ride away.
Le sigh. Hong Kong, I miss you.
I’m often asked for recommendations of essential things to do in Hong Kong, especially as the country is just one huge bustling city that can feel quite overwhelming at (all) times and the travel research process can be arduous for countries that have a severe lack in bloody websites of all things.
Especially because that’s precisely how I felt when I first arrived; overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin exploring first.
So, whether you’re after shopping destinations, foodie recommendations or off-the-beaten-track ideas, here are just a handful of the things I’m seriously missing and my take on the ‘usual tourist traps’…
My cousin’s girlfriend recommended this spot to me and I absolutely fell in love when I visited.
Tai O is a little fisherman’s village on Lantau Island and it’s easy to reach from the Big Buddha and Ngong Ping Village. It’s one of the few remaining places that you can view Hong Kong’s traditional stilt houses that people still live in and there are boat excursions where you can sail out and view Chinese pink dolphins in the wild if you’re very lucky! Many of my friends have spotted them! Be sure to try all of the street food offerings, especially the doughnuts.
Dragon’s Back Hike
A popular hike trail, I recommend this hike if you have an energetic morning to spare. The best way to map your route is right here. Incredible views and a relatively easy hike too, it’s a great way to see a different side of Hong Kong. It’s not all about food and skyscrapers, you know?
PMQ and Sheung Wan
One of my favourite spots at weekends, after brunch or between coffee house haunts, is PMQ in Sheung Wan. The building itself is a convert of policeman living quarters from back in the day and it holds so much history.
PMQ is home to plenty of pop-up stalls and independent boutiques, making it a real treat to get lost in the labyrinth of little nooks and stairs. Head up to the rooftop for some pretty good low vantage points for those all-important Instagram shots.
After PMQ, I also adore venturing up and down the stairs adjacent to the building and exploring Sheung Wan’s infamous antique shops and other traditional old-timey Hong Kong instalments. For coffee, be sure to visit Elephant Grounds (their cold brew is incredible), Common Ground and Winston’s Coffee (my perfect flat white), all in the vicinity.
The Star Ferry is one of the most popular tourist recommendations that is often overlooked – ‘it’s just a boat’ – I am a huge advocate of the Star Ferry!
Incredibly cheap at $2/$3 a ride, I’ve used it as a commute ride too. The charming Star Ferry is somewhat of a historical feature having run since 1888 and the seven-minute journey offers a pretty view of both harbours, taking you from Harbour City to the ifc shopping malls in a one swift move.
PS. There’s no air-con but that just makes it more ‘gor yun’ (thrilling).
Tamar Park and Central Pier
I’ve included Tamar Park as a bit of a gratuitous option here, mostly because it’s somewhere I like to hang out at around sunset to read and to people watch.
You’ll get a truly breathtaking view of the TST buildings, the AIA wheel and more. I suppose if you find yourself in the area, whip your camera out and spend a little time here. If you’re here for a longer stretch of time, there are frequent yoga meet-ups here! West Kowloon Pier on the other side of the island is also a great pick for events and just hanging out to enjoy the views.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably have noticed that I spent about 80% of my time in Causeway Bay – and for good reason.
This is a brilliant place for shopping and food and to experience the busy culture without feeling claustrophobic. Perhaps I’ll leave it at that and let you explore the towering buildings for yourself, from the crazy SOGO department store to the adorable pet rescue centre and everything in between.
Repulse Bay Beach
Last but not least, I’ve included a beach in a wealthy area of town, Repulse Bay on the Southside. This is where I used to spend countless lunch breaks with the girls!
But for tourists that aren’t quite used to the unbearable heat and humidity of Hong Kong, this is a great, well-serviced beach for you.
There’s an air-conditioned shopping centre – The Pulse – healthy food supermarket, coffee shops and beachfront restaurants and relatively clean showers and bathrooms here, so you can easily bop from soft sand to comfortable conditions in a few steps.
There’s also a beautiful Buddhist temple and shrine at the far left of the beach that is certainly worth the visit. Hong Kong isn’t all about those mirrored skyscrapers!
ifc Shopping Mall
Hong Kong is mostly renowned for its shopping and luxury labels and if you’re like me, you’ll want to shun crazy busy Canton Road in favour of something more calm. ifc is quite literally my shopping mecca when it comes to labels and food.
It’s directly above Central MTR station and the air-con smells incredible. Trust me on this. It’s home to the flagship Lane Crawford store (still flying the flag for my beloved team!) and you could spend hours musing over all of the beautiful wares. Also! Visit Glasshouse on the rooftop for a light bite and drinks.
Take the MTR to Central station and take exit A. Alternatively, exit directly from Hong Kong station.
Pluricil Japanese Eyelash Extensions
If you have a little more time on your hands than most, I really must recommend you my favourite eyelash salon. Come summer, I stop wearing makeup (granted I only really play up my eyes – Asian lash problems amirite) and get a set of Japanese eyelash extensions instead.
The process takes around 2 hours and you’ll get a bespoke consultation for your perfect lash look, but I just strongly believe no salon does them as good as here.
There are style variations and different curl styles and lash lengths for every single eye size. 100% recommend calling ahead and booking.
11/F, Soundwill Plaza, No.38 Russell Street, Causeway Bay. +852 2234 0055.
Take the MTR to Causeway Bay and use exit B.
I wax lyrical about Sasa here on this blog because for as long as I can remember, it has been my beauty mecca. I suppose its Asia’s Sephora in a sense!
You’ll find plenty of Sasa stores on every street but I recommend hunting down the Sasa Supreme store in Causeway Bay, neatly tucked behind Times Square, their biggest store that houses every single brand. Highlight brands to check out: Majolica Majorca, Laneige, Biore, Shiseido, My Beauty Diary, Canmake, ettusais.
Like I mentioned, Hong Kong is somewhat of a fashion enthusiast’s dream. I really like bopping around the Fashion Walk area in Causeway Bay to peruse labels. If you’re visiting via the US or England, most of the labels here will already be available to you at home as well being more affordable, but the shop fronts are beautiful and you’ll get a good ‘gram 😉
Another tourist-heavy place is the Ladies’ Market in Mong Kok. To be honest, there are hundreds of things to see, eat and do in Mong Kok but it can be completely overwhelming if you’re not sure.
From street performers on Sai Yeung Choi Street to the hoards of electronics shops, there is plenty to do. The Ladies’ Market is a glorified hawkers’ market, full of sellers offering wares from phone cases (almost all of mine are from here – we had those glitter-filled cases in 2013, doncha know?), fake designer bags, tourist tack, plushies, and more.
Try your hand at haggling too, it’s genuinely all part of the fun.
The majority of my homeware in Hong Kong came from Japanese interiors hub, Francfranc, hence its inclusion on this post. You’ll be able to find all manner of blog-worthy trinkets here as well as beautifully practical and kitsch trinkets that add a little something-something to the home. Oh, and everything is surprisingly affordable as well!
Put it this way, if I could open my own homeware label, it’d look a lot like Francfranc does.
Shop B, G/F & 1/F, 8 Kingston Street, Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.
The Hello Kitty Dim Sum Restaurant
I went to the soft launch of the Hello Kitty dim sum restaurant – the first of its kind in the world! – last year and I can safely say it was completely worth it. I’m a huge Hello Kitty kinda girl but even if you’re not, this restaurant isn’t to be missed.
The restaurant itself is spacious in Hong Kong terms and the menu is plentiful, full of classic Hong Kong dishes and adorable dim sum. Ok, so the food isn’t Michelin star quality and some of the rice dishes can lean a little bland and expensive, but it’s just too cute to pass up.
Lee Loy Mansion, 332-338 Canton Rd, Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong.
Take the MTR to Jordan station, use exit C and walk to the end of the road. Turn left.
Ho Lee Fook
I have hundreds of restaurant recommendations of Hong Kong, so many that I couldn’t possibly list them all here. But a standout option that I always give to my friends and family is Ho Lee Fook on Elgin Street.
First up, yep, the name is good, eh? But the standout comes in the food, carefully curated fusion dishes by a Taiwanese head chef. Each dish perfectly balances the traditional food at the heart of old school Hong Kong with fun and fresh twists in flavour. It’s a great one for group meals as well as catch-ups with friends.
1 Elgin St, Central, Hong Kong. +852 2810 0860.
The thing about Hong Kong is that the entire country is a melting pot of cultures. Whilst of course it is largely a Chinese community, there are echoes of its once British colony everywhere and so it isn’t surprising at all to see people return from their travels with Western recommendations!
I really like Sevva for occasion eating. I say this because you expect to eat cheaply in Hong Kong and Sevva leans more to evening dining that you’d see in London. It offers a beautiful harbour view and makes a lovely date night or celebratory spot.
25/F, Prince’s Building, 10 Chater Rd, Central, Hong Kong. +852 2537 1388.
Mong Kok Street Food
While I’ve included plenty of restaurant recommendations in this round-up, Hong Kong is really all about the street food and the best place for this is Mong Kok over on the Kowloon side.
Wander through the ‘specialist’ shopping streets until you find Tung Choi Street and Mong Kok Road and get ready. My favourites include egglet waffles, curry fishballs and deep fried aubergine. So unhealthy. So good.
Kau Kee Beef Brisket Noodles
I stumbled upon Kau Kee when trying to find a different place with Sophia one lost afternoon. Pretty much how it always works out! Apparently this place was famous, so I made a note to venture back with a cousin in tow for his far superior Chinese reading skills.
While the menu is indeed plentiful, their beef brisket noodles are what keeps people returning. Expect huge wrap-around-the-block queues at the weekend (pack a travel fan if you’re not used to outdoors heat!) but it is blooming well worth it. The beef brisket is unbelievably soft and tender, melting in your mouth and pairing perfectly with perfectly cooked noodles. This is one of my favourite signature dishes of Hong Kong and nowhere does it better than Kau Kee.
21 Gough Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.
A hallmark of Japan, Genki Sushi is also widely available in Hong Kong. The concept is exactly the same as our beloved Yo! Sushi in England, except the pricing is better, the selection is better and, yep, it tastes even better. A select handful of branches have an insanely cool system where sushi platters arrive on a mini train as well. Expect queues and a timed dining slot.
Unsurprisingly, something I’m asked a lot about is where to find a good cat café in Hong Kong. I mean, I’ll just embrace my cat lady status and say I’ve visited quite a few.
I have one about 5 minutes’ walk from my apartment but I live fairly far out in the New Territories so I’ll recommend my second favourite to you, Cat Store in Causeway Bay. What can I say… it’s a cat café. Order their insanely huge 3D latte art coffee and sit and cuddle cats all afternoon! And the cats genuinely seem happy here, too.
Flat D-E, 3/F Po Ming Building, Fu Ming Street,, Causeway Bay.
Take the MTR to Causeway Bay and use exit F1.
Prince Edward Flower Market
For expats, I really recommend the much-talked about Prince Edward Flower Market. Whilst it gets unbearably busy sometimes, it’s just standard Hong Kong procedure and you’re bound to get a fruitful haul of unique greenery here.
Let me know if any of these spots make it to your Hong Kong itinerary.