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City Guide to Hong Kong

Hong Kong - Star of the East

1. October 2021

by Sugato Mukherjee

Asia’s most glamorous city and a global financial hub, Hong Kong is also steeped in traditional cultural roots, where bewitching neighbourhoods, rolling hilltops, an unbeatable culinary scene and geological gems all add up to make this city-state a sensory extravaganza.

The skyscraper-studded cityscape of Hong Kong is a kaleidoscopic mélange. The decidedly British names of the streets and the fleet of double-decker trams trundling along the vibrantly chaotic roads are holdovers from one and a half centuries of colonial rule, the teetering towers impossibly balanced on the hilly slopes are the symbols of infusion of modernity, and atmospheric neighbourhoods hosting Chinese opera, selling traditional Chinese medicine and smell of freshly steamed dim sums wafting through them are tell-tale pointers to the deep Chinese roots of the territory, whose sovereignty was formally transferred to China by the British on July 1, 1997.

The bustling streets of Hong Kong


The iconic Victoria Harbour lies on the north shore of Hong Kong Island, across a strait from Kowloon on the Chinese mainland. The harbour was the birthplace of the city and it remains its throbbing heart and signature attraction with its stunning skyline seen best from the  Tsim Sha Tsuiwaterfront, from where you can also marvel at the surreal spectacle of colourful lights from across the harbour dancing on the waves.

The Harbour


One of the main highlights of the quintessential Hong Kong experience is a trip to the Victoria Peak. While you can hire a cab or even hike to the highest point of Hong Kong, the most iconic way is to take Peak Tram, a funicular railway operating since 1888 that takes travellers and residents to the top of the hill for spellbinding views of the harbour and Hong Kong skyline. While there, head to Sky Terrace 428, the highest viewing platform in Hong Kong at 428 metres, which offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic vista.

The view from the hill 


Hong Kong boasts of some of the best theme parks to fill your holiday with zest and thrill, but Disneyland takes the cake. Sprawled over 126 hectares of land in the picturesque Lantau island with pronounced influences of Chinese culture and aesthetics in its design, the park spreads over seven themed areas where you can take rip-roaring roller coaster rides, enjoy live Disney shows and embark on a journey down memory lane to childhood world of Fantasyland to meet costumed Disney characters and explore a Fairy Tale Forest.

Disneyland Resort - Hong Kong


An imaginatively designed animal themed park located in the southern district of Hong Kong, Ocean Park is split into two units, separated by a hill and connected by a cable car system. The parkhas a spectacular collection of marine mammals, a grand aquarium and artificially created habitats for the rare and endangered species of pandas. Exhilaration guaranteed when the second largest escalator in the world takes you up for breathtaking views of the South China Sea.

Ocean Park Hong Kong


A relaxed and refreshing ride onboard one of the green-and-white, double-decker boats collectively famed as the Star Ferry is considered a must-do trip that frames Hong Kong’s urbanscape from a watery perspective atop the premium upper deck on the classic Harbour Tour - from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central, over to Wan Chai, past Kowloon Bay, and back.

The best way to cross the Harbour


For a taste of exquisite Qing dynasty architecture and craftsmanship, head to the atmospheric, smoke-filled interiors of Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road. Built in 1847, this Taoist temple complex venerates Man (God of Literature) and Mo (God of Martial Arts) along with other heavenly beings. Interestingly, the complex doubled as a seat of arbitration during the colonial days for resolving local disputes.

Man Mo Temple


A more recent resonance with Buddhist philosophy is manifested in the gigantic bronze statue of a completed in 1993. Located at Ngong Ping on Lantau Island, next to the Po Lin monastery, the statue symbolises the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and faith. The best way to reach is by taking the Ngong Ping 360 gondola lift from Tung Chung.

Tian Tan Buddha


To get a taste of the famed nightlife of Hong Kong head over to the cool and chill Lan Kwai Fong and explore the hidden holes in the pedestrian-only streets tucked inside the upscale neighbourhood. Join the crowd of refined, homegrown revelers in Wan Chai for a more high-end vibe and marvel at the immaculately-preserved colonial architecture; and if hipster is your buzzword, the trendy boutiques and contemporary art scene of Sheung Wan is the place for your evenings in Hong Kong. Just remember that this buzzing metropolis of 7.5 million wears its most vibrant and colourful look after nightfall.

Hong Kong at night


Shopping

There's something for every season and style somewhere in Hong Kong – from luxury vintage shopping to the collector’s haute couture, and if designer labels and exclusive retail are your poison, this dense metropolis is your destination to refashion and reboot your wardrobe. 

Central - a shopping hub


A former fishing village, Causeway Bay is dubbed as the ‘New York’ of Hong Kong – the city’s pulsating nerve centre that never sleeps. From iconic superbrands jostling for space in glittering glass towers to emerging names in street fashion, this cool district is an enticing enclave that is home for the biggest shopping malls such as the World Trade Center, Sogo and Causeway Bay Plaza, besides speciality department stores like Lane Crawford, where you can often rub shoulders with Hong Kong’s socialites and style icons.

Times Square


Shopaholics can spend an entire day scouting for the archetypal luxe pieces in Harbour City. With nearly 500 boutiques and a multitude of restaurants peppered across the five different mall areas connected by bridges, this is Hong Kong’s premier shopping destination where luxury powerhouses such as Hermes, Salvatore Ferragamo, Yves Saint Laurent, Versace and Prada  have made their base in Hong Kong.

A city shopping mall


Woven with a warren of winding alleys and enveloped with an ever evolving, skyscraper-strewn urban space, Central is the business hub of Hong Kong. Your shopping blitzkrieg culminates here at the iconic, high-end shopping mecca of Galleria Square or the serene world of Landmark Atrium, the luxury retail podium where classic brands like Luis Vuitton have established their Asia flagship stores. A splurgy shopping spree can be followed up with alfresco dining in any of the prestigious Michelin-starred options, or for a leisurely cup of joe at the breezy Café Landmark.

Peak Galleria


Restaurants/Bars

Award-winning chef Umberto Bombana opened 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana a little over a decade ago and shortly received critical acclaim. The cavernous main dining room and two sophisticated private dining rooms, housed inside the elegant Alexandra House in Central, offers much more than contemporary culinary creations curated by masterchef Bombana. The only Italian restaurant outside of Italy to be a 3 Michelin-starred outpost, 8½ is a celebration of  la dolce vita epitomizing Italian warmth and hospitality in every aspect: from the delightful décor to the authentic and inventive tasting menu and the expansive list of over 400 wines to satiate the palate of the connoisseur.

8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana


Luscious and lavish furnishings with traditional red accents and Chinese artwork set the tone for indulging in sumptuous Cantonese culinary masterpieces at T’ang Court. The three Michelin-star holder, housed inside The Langham Hotel, recreates the classic timelessness of Chinese Golden Age during the reign of the T’ang dynasty -  a sheer delight for the culturally savvy diner - along with elevated takes on authentic Cantonese fare such as baked fresh lobster in chicken broth and sautéed sliced conch with prawn and scallop.

T'ang Court - at The Langham Hong Kong


Head to Caprice for the delectable taste of Hong Kong’s finest selection of artisanal French cheeses and best French wines. Located at the Four Seasons Hotel in the Central district, the floor-to-ceiling windows of this three Michelin-starred outfit lead on to scintillating views of Victoria Harbour that accentuate the sheer epicurean delight of sampling signature creations by renowned chef Guillaume Galliot, masterfully blending the subtlety of French culinary tradition with oriental twists.

Caprice - at the Four Seasons Hotel, Hong Kong


With a focus on local ingredients, Chef and restaurateur Simon Rogan creates farm-to-table dining experiences in Roganic Hong Kong. From the brisk set business lunch to the elaborate 6 to 9 course tasting menu, all dishes resonate with the philosophy and ethos of sustainability. Ingredients are fresh, organic and local; and the seemingly simple dishes, with a strong British accent, burst with flavours and amazing textures. Roganic is the only Hong Kong restaurant with a Michelin Green – a special accolade for championing sustainable practices.

Roganic


Hong Kong is peppered with a multitude of watering holes – from  uber upscale enclaves to subterranean dive bars. An exotic escape from the mainstream monotony into Ophelia’s peacock interiors, spruced up with ultra-refined décor and moody neon-lit walls can be the perfect way to sip on one of the signature cocktails meticulously crafted in this glamorous bar on Queen’s. 

Ophelia's


Road East

Plush settings and power lunches define Captain’s Bar – a city institution for more than half a century. Housed inside the iconic Mandarin Oriental, this cosy and classic unwinding destination serves draught beer in silver tankards and regulars get their own engraved silver beer tankard behind the bar. Every Tuesdays to Saturdays, live jazz and blues ginger up the place, where you can sip your beer matched  with some gourmet Indian classics like lamb samosa and chicken tikka makhni.

Captain's Bar - at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong


Museums & the Arts

Hong Kong’s history traces a chequered path that is one-of-a kind; and the storied past is told with a fascinating insider perspective in Hong Kong Museum of History. Perched inside Tsim Sha Tsui, one of Hong Kong’s busiest districts, the museum is a veneration of the city’s time-honoured existence outlining the natural environment, folk culture, and historical development of Hong Kong. The 4000 exhibits, showcased across 8 galleries, include prehistoric fossils, ancient Chinese artifacts and documents from the colonial era. The plethora of graphic panels and multimedia presentations make the experience intensely lively and enlightening.

Hong Kong Museum of History


The curiously hemispheric structure of Hong Kong Space Museum, located on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, is Hong Kong’s first planetarium, dedicated to space science and astronomy. A day here can be super family-friendly fun, where you can embark on a virtual journey across the galaxies zipping past celestial objects or being weightless (and head-over-heels, literally) in a virtual space station.   Lose yourself in the mystic whorls of the universe through the interactive exhibits in the Cosmic Hall and Space Exploration Hall, which constantly curate new information about space technology and explorations through lighting effects and creative environmental layout.

Hong Kong Space Museum


From Chinese wash canvases to fascinating artworks by homegrown painters, from antique artifacts to ancient calligraphy manuscripts, the Hong Kong Museum of Art(HKMoA) is a treasure trove with more than 16,000 objet d’art. The pink-tiled building is the flagbearer of the discourse of art in Hong Kong and organises regular artist exchange programs. Hong Kong Contemporary Art Biennial Awards, hosted by HKMoA, is one of the best places to scout for emerging talents of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Museum of Art


Exclusive Experience

To pamper the savoir-faire traveller in you, avail the curated, customised experience of chartering a private helicopter ride to take in an unbeatable aerial view of the stunning skyscraper-strewn skyline and the gleaming Victoria Harbour, marvel at the spectacular rock formations of the Geopark, gaze at the magnificence of the Tsing Ma Bridge and the calm serenity of Sai Kung, and cruise over the beaches and bays of the outlying cluster of 263 islands. The scenic flights operate with twin-engine, state-of-the-art helicopters that seat up to 6 passengers. The aircrafts are noiseless and provide brilliant, all-round visibility.

A great way of seeing Hong Kong


Side Trip

A 45-minute ferry ride from Hong Kong’s Central District will take you to Cheung Po Tsai Cave – the fabled hideout of an early 19th-century pirate, after whom the natural cavern has been named. Follow the well-marked trail from the waterfront and play out your childhood fantasy by venturing into the narrow, half-hidden entrance that leads to a labyrinth of winding passageways.

Cheung Po Tsai Cave


This was the secret base of the fearsome pirate who had commanded a formidable fleet of 600 ships and a battalion of 20,000 men at the height of a career of pillage and plunder along the Guangdong coast. According to legend, Cheung Po Tsai had squirreled his entire piratical booty and hid it somewhere in this hideaway hole before he surrendered in 1810. He was offered amnesty by the reigning Qing dynasty, and spent the rest of his as a navy colonel fighting other pirates! Legend of his loot stashed in the cave lives on, hitherto unfound in the next two centuries. Your childhood dream of finding hidden treasure just might be fulfilled here.

Hidden Gem

Kam Tin, a rural area with over 500 years of indigenous history, is just a short 15 to 20 minute-walk from Kam Sheung Road station, but once there you are a world away from the mainstream bustle of Hong Kong and magically transported to a colour-splashed South American village. Since 2017, a community revitalisation project that has involved students, artists and volunteers, is promoting Kam Tin Mural Village as an arts destination to create sustainable cultural and financial opportunities for local residents. The walls of this rural village have become a canvas for creative expressions and the vibrant street art splashed across the village are designed around the theme of Love and strives to create awareness to preserve rural heritage.

Kam Tin


Sports

Sports is embedded in Hong Kong’s cultural canvas and the city-state has a definite colonial spillover in its vibrant sports scene. Football was introduced here by the British and still remains one of the most popular sports. Join the zest and zeal of the crowd at Hong Kong Stadium if an important match is on. The 40,000 seater stadium in Causeway Bay has also been the venue for Rugby World Cup Sevens twice.

Hong Kong Stadium


For an intense game of badminton, another eternal favourite here, head over to Hong Kong Football Club, where badminton is played on the eight courts in the Sports Hall. World-class badminton coaching talent supports a wide range of playing levels, from social to national-level, for all age groups.

Badminton at the Hong Kong Football Club


Horse-racing enthusiasts can allot an adrenaline-filled evening at the historic Happy Valley Race Course, an oasis of green perched right in the middle of the city. Wednesday nights are the most electrifying when the stands and even the balconies of the cloud-scratching skyscrapers around the course are brimming with resident racing fanatics betting with startling stakes for every race.

The world famous Happy Valley Race Course


Hotels

From colonial classics draped in British high-style and ultraluxe properties laced with oriental aesthetics to funky fusions merging contemporary designs with traditional motifs, the cosmopolitan metropolitan is peppered with upscale options spanned across locations, drawing trendy jet setters to well-heeled leisure folks from across the globe.

For the best in bespoke luxury in Hong Kong’s hotel scene, read our BusinessClass.com guide to The Best Luxury Hotels In Hong Kong.

Mandarin Suite, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong 


Getting Around

The most convenient method to get to the city centre from the Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is by hiring a Hong Kong airport taxi, though quickest public transportation is the train (24 minutes). The city is a public transport utopia with its intricately interconnected network of ferries, railways, tramways and buses which makes commuting a breeze in this territory.

Beijing-Hong Kong high speed train

 

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