Hong Kong may be a small island, but it certainly packs a punch. Called "The Pearl of the Orient," Hong Kong is dazzling, frenzied, exciting and expensive. It's one of the most vibrant and bustling cities in the world and a place of contradictions where traditional old China meets flashy modern developments. I wasn't sure what to expect on my first visit but I absolutely loved Hong Kong. We had three days to explore the city, and while I think that's long enough to see the basics, it left me wanting more.
The fast-paced and crowded nature of the city can make it overwhelming for tourists, With so much to do, see, eat and explore it's hard to know where to start. As a first time tourist to Hong Kong, it helped me to categorize my trip in buckets... What I wanted to taste, what I wanted to see and what I wanted to explore.
No trip to Hong Kong is complete without some dim sum. "Dum sum" roughly translates to "touch the heart." It's a traditional Chinese cuisine style where food is prepared in small bite-size pieces served in steamer baskets or on small plates. The dim sum dishes are served with tea and typically eaten as a breakfast or early lunch meal and it's a vital part of Chinese culture, specifically in southern China and Hong Kong. Some favorite dim sum dishes include shumai (a kind of dumpling), steamed buns and egg tarts.
If you're looking for the city's best dim sum, make a beeline to Tim Ho Won, one of the most famous dim sum establishments and the world's cheapest Michelin star restaurant. Other well regarded dim sum spots are Mott 32 for a more modern experience and Yan Toh Heen.
Aside from dim sum, Hong Kong is packed with amazing restaurants, bars and cafes. Some favorite spots from my trip include funky modern Chinese spot Ho Lee Fook and trendy speakeasy joint Ronin which serves Japanese tapas and boasts a robust whisky menu.
First time visitors to Hong Kong must travel up to Victoria Peak and take in the city views from above. You can take the peak tram up the mountain and take in the sights as the buildings become smaller and it seems like you're standing on top of the city. Take a day trip out to Lantau Island to see Tian Tan Buddha, aka the Big Buddha. You'll travel via cable car up a mountain to the Buddha's base. Once you arrive it's up to you if you want to walk the 268 steps to see the massive bronze statue up close.
Take in the sights and sounds of one of Hong Kong's bustling street markets. The markets offer a unique shopping experience where you're sure to find anything you need, and plenty of stuff you don't. Remember that haggling is expected and don't be shy to try to score yourself the best price possible. Here's a list of the best markets. Spending an evening in Lan Kwai Fong, the city's top nightlife area, is a must. This vibrant neighborhood features Hong Kong's trendiest bars and restaurants perched upon and some tucked into it's hilly streets. Sevva is a gorgeous rooftop bar that offers creative cocktails and sweeping city views, Quinary makes some of the city's best cocktails and Foxglove is a speakeasy jazz bar.
I stayed in The Park Lane hotel and recommend it. The staff is great, the location is perfectly central in Causeway Bay and the rooms are comfortable with nice amenities.
Hong Kong is a hub in Asia, and there are tons of flights daily. I flew direct from Newark on United and despite their horrible press recently, I really enjoyed the experience. You can upgrade your seat to "economy plus" which offers more leg room and is worth it for the long haul. Once on the ground in Hong Kong don't take a taxi into the city center! The Airport Express train is easy to navigate, cheap and quick. Also, if you're returning to the HK airport to fly home you can check your bag through at the Airport Express train station! Super easy, fast and convenient! Can we please adopt Airport Express in NYC?!
Hong Kong is packed with amazing things to see, do and experience. This post is just the tip of the iceberg of things you can do there. Have you been to Hong Kong? What are your must-dos?