7 Places you have to see in Hong Kong
In our Hong Kong Travel Guide, we show you this amazing city from two perspectives, the modern and traditional one.
And with this, the amazing places you have to see in Hong Kong to experience both sides, like the Big Tian Tan Buddha, the 10000 Buddhas Monastery, Central District, and so much more. Join us and discover Hong Kong with new eyes.
Hong Kong is not like any other city.
The city has a very interesting history and for almost 200 years it was torn between Asian traditions and Western ruling and lifestyle.
The History of Hong Kong
In the 19th century, Hong Kong suddenly became very interesting to foreigners, once they discovered that Hong Kong has one of the best protected natural harbors in the world. The British were very ambiguous and Hong Kong was soon turned into a trading center of the world. As the downside, locals were overrun by wealthy foreigners and their regime.
From 1898 to 1997 Hong Kong was a British Colony. At the end of this 99 years contract, Hong Kong fell back to China on 30 June 1997. Since then it has been an Autonomic region of China.
The remains of this era are the left-hand traffic and the equality of English and Chinese as official languages.
But not only this makes the city so unique.
Hong Kong is also known as ‘The Vertical City‘ and is one of the most-densely populated regions in the world.
Hong Kong is the city with the most skyscrapers in the world [Source: archdaily.com]. The issue isn’t the amount of territory itself, as Hong Kong claims an area of 1000 square km. But due to steep hills, only less than 25% of the landmass is developed. The population of about 7.5 million is mainly settled along the coastline which leads to high-rise offices and housing.
Coexistence of Modern and Traditional lifestlye
The other eye-catcher of the city is the coexistence of modern and traditional life.
Traditional lifestyle is still important and so it is no wonder that modern office buildings rise next to traditional old Buddhist temples and businessmen visit these temples during lunch breaks.
Even for modern architectural undertakings, Feng Shui Experts are still being consulted sometimes. The ancient Chinese science to harmonize humans with their surroundings still influences designs.
Hong Kong is divided into three parts, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and The New Territories. The New Territories consist of the mainland and Lantau Island.
Each of these districts has highlights worthwhile to discover.
7 places you have to see in H
ong Kong to discover traditional and modern lifestyle
Let’s start our Hong Kong Travel Guide Tour on Hong Kong Island. Out first of the 7 Places you have to see in Hong Kong is Central, the financial district of the city.
Central – The Financial District
Hong Kong Central, also called Financial District, is the city’s landmark of modern architecture.
Located on the north side of Hong Kong Island, the skyline is one of the most pictured places. It can be best seen from the southern point of Kowloon, which is reachable by ferry from Victoria Harbor on Hong Kong Island.
The majority of buildings are office buildings but also a lot of pubs and restaurants can be found in the Central District.
Some of the most famous buildings of Hong Kong are located here. Just to name two with interesting architecture – the Jardine House and the Bank of China Tower.
The Jardin House
The Jardine House is really an eye-catcher and, when it was completed in 1973, it was the tallest building in Asia. Its round shaped windows (more than 1700) really makes it stand out. It’s conveniently located close to the Star Ferry terminal if you want to set over to the other side to enjoy the view.
Bank of China Tower
The Bank of China Tower with more than 360 meters was when completed in 1990, the tallest building in Asia. It was also the first building to break the 1000 ft mark outside of the US. Its remarkable design of triangles is always an eye-catcher, also at night when it is illuminated.
Don’t miss visiting the Statue Square, a nice park with benches to relax from the crowded streets. It is even more impressive at night. It is a great place to have a look at the high buildings surrounding the square, for example at the Bank of China building. Just look up and enjoy the view.
The park is actually divided into 2, separated by the Charter Road which is one of the main streets of the Central District. The square was built already at the end of the 19th century.
Central District Skyline seen from Kowloon
From Hong Kong Island, the best to enjoy the skyline is to take a ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui, the south end of Kowloon. Star Ferry, leaving from Victoria Harbor Star Ferry Terminals, is probably the best known.
You can also take the metro to Tsim Sha Tsui Station, but the ferry is much more fun as you can enjoy the incredible view already during the ride.
You will have the best viewing experience if you take a boat shorty before sunset. This way, you will see the skyline during daylight and at night with all the amazing lights.
Let’s leave Hong Kong Island for a day-trip to Lantau Island. This will be number two on our ‘7 Places you have to see in Hong Kong’ list, and certainly worth leaving this vivid city for a day.
Lantau Island itself combines traditional and modern life in a wide range. On the one hand, the International Airport and Disneyland are located there, and on the other hand temples, beautiful nature, and the traditional Tai O fishing village.
I picked three highlights for a Lantau Island visit, that can be done within a day-trip.
Ngong Ping 360 and Village
The Ngong Ping Village can be reached by bus with a ride past the beautiful forests and hills of Lantau Island.
Ngong Ping 360
However, for this day trip, I actually recommend using the Ngong Ping 360. A modern cable car ride of 5.7 km and about 25min to Ngong Ping Village up on a hill, starting from Tung Chung city center. Tung Chung is located just outside of the airport on the northern side of the island.
The Ngong Ping 360 was opened in 2006 and is the longest bi-cable in Asia. They even have gondolas with glass floor (which they call Crystal Cabins). You will enjoy a spectacular view over the island.
One way ride: HK$145
Ngong Ping Village
After approximately 25 minutes you will reach the end station at Ngong Ping Village. The end station is a cool piece of modern architecture.
In case you’ve decided to go here by bus from the city center on Hong Kong Island, it takes you about 45min.
The Ngong Ping Village in itself is another example of modern and traditional life on a small scale.
Although I say traditional life, don’t expect an ancient village or you will be disappointed. It is a very touristic place and made artificially but inspired by thetraditional Chinese architecture style and it reflects the Buddhist culture and religion.
Within these traditional looking houses all kinds of modern restaurants are housed, even Starbucks.
It might be hard to understand why they have artificially created a combination of both worlds, but the answer is not far-fetched.
As mentioned in the introduction, tradition is still of high importance in the Chinese culture.
Insider tip: Instead of having lunch at the ‚food court‘ of the Village, I actually do recommend to eat at the Po Lin Monastery. The monastery, founded in 1906, is located about 150 meters outside of the actual village. It is open to all visitors during lunch hours and monks serve very tasty traditional vegetarian dishes.
Upon arrival at Ngong Ping Village, the first thing that will capture your eyes is a large Buddha statue up on a hill.
Tian Tan Buddha
This large Buddha is the Tian Tan Buddha and is the icon of this area. It is also called the ‚Big Buddha‘. The statue is 34 meters tall and a visitor has to climb 268 steps to reach it. But a stunning view over Lantau is your reward.
The statue is fairly young and was only completed in 1993. Despite this young age, the large bronze statue is not only popular with tourists from all over the world but is also an important center of Buddhism in Hong Kong itself. Many locals pilgrimages come here on the weekends and holidays.
The left hand resting on his lap gives happiness to all while the right hand indicates the compassion to save all beings from their suffering.
It’s free to go up, but you have to pay a small fee if you want to enter the statue.
Let’s leave Tian Tan Buddha and head to our next on Lantau Island:
Tai O fishing Village
A visit of the Tai O fishing village is a special experience.
The village can easily be reached by bus from the Ngong Ping Village.
Historically it was a fishing village. Although nowadays fishing is almost not providing a rentable income, seafood is still sold in a large amount in the small local stores all over town. Today, tourism is their primary source of income and often the only way to maintain a living. Boat tours are also offered by locals for a small fee and it is a way to support the local economy.
Tai O means ‚Large Inlet‘ which explains that the village has a long history in Hong Kong’s smuggling and illegal immigration history.
The most interesting part is a walk through an area of inhabited stilt houses.
The Stilt Houses
For western visitors, the sight might be a bit disturbing. But if you’ve traveled around a bit in China before (or other parts of Asia), especially in the more remote areas, you see that these living conditions are actually not so unusual. Although, due to the bad economy, the houses are more and more dilapidated.
Taking the runway through the stilt house area sometimes even lets you pass someone’s open living area. This is quite a strange feeling.
It is a tourist spot, but it is still authentic and it gives a good idea of how people lived here decades ago. For example, the area of the stilt houses has no sewage water system.
How to get there: 15 min by bus (Line 21) from Ngong Ping Village
Leaving Lantau Island after a great day of sightseeing, and entering the next of the places to see in Hong Kong – we’ll explore the New Territories.
Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
First, our Hong Kong Travel Guides leads us to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. Although the Temple of the 10000 Buddhas was completed only in 1957, it still tells a lot about the Chinese traditional and spiritual life.
Depending on where your hotel is located, it can be a bit of a ride with the metro to the Pai Tau Village on the New Territories, but it is worth it.
If you love Asia, you will also like our post about Lhasa.
Lhasa Travel Guide – Practical Tips to Prepare your trip
The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery name already lets you guess what to expect. Right, be prepared to see Buddhas in all variations.
Although the number of Buddhas is, in reality, closer to 12000-13000 Buddhas. But that does not really matter, as it is said that in Cantonese ‘Ten Thousand’ is figurative for a very large number. And that sure is what you will see.
Walk your way up
The main attraction is actually not the Monastery itself, but the walkway up to the monastery. During this steep and long climb uphill, golden Buddhas are lined up left and right of the path. Each Buddha sits/stands in a different pose.
Once you finally reached the top, you can explore various halls and pavilions, and a pagoda.
The Monastery was founded by Reverand Yuet Kai, whose body was preserved after his death in 1965, and is displayed (in sitting pose) in front of the main altar in the monastery.
Although it is a monastery, no monks are living on site.
It is, once more, like diving into another time and century. The metro station closest to the monastery is located in a very modern part of the town with shopping malls close by. But the monastery is something else.
Some practical tips
Just as a note, I would recommend taking lunch when back from the monastery in one of the restaurants closer to the station, instead of the vegetarian restaurant at the monastery (different to my tip for the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island).
Due to an accident during heavy rain some years ago, the monastery may decide to close on heavy rainy days. Make sure to take this into account for your planning. The entrance is not easy to find, so pay attention to the signs you see and follow the masses.
The access is free of charge.
The next places to see in Hong Kong are two of our favorite ones.
Nan Lian Garden
In walking distance from the 10000 Buddhas Monastery lies this beautiful piece of Chinese gardening architecture.
The Nan Lian Garden is a really beautiful park in the New Territories, but often underrated.
Although the garden was only opened in 2006 is was inspired by the traditional gardening style during the Tang Dynasty (around the 9th century). This style of gardening allows the designer to express feelings and thoughts and to tell stories.
Within the garden, there is a one-way circular path that shall bring you to the finest places in the park, along with waters, bridges, plants, and other structures. There is quite something to explore in this garden.
The entrance to this 3.5 hectares land is free.
Chi Lin Nunnery
Just across the street is the Chi Lin Nunnery that also manages the Nan Lian Garden. The Nunnery was founded in 1934 and consists of a large wooden main hall and various smaller buildings. The temple complex holds Buddhist relics and visitors are allowed to enter some of the buildings.
The Nunnery was rebuilt in the 1990s also following the Tang Dynasty style.
Also, the nunnery is free of charge and open daily and really a recommendation if you are looking for something off the beaten path. It’s a beautiful and quiet place.
There is one more thing that makes it such a special place – while standing in the garden or the nunnery and experiencing the peace of your immediate surrounding … look up and you will feel captured in an almost surreal world of skyscrapers combined with the traditional Chinese (garden) architecture.
At the metro station, which is closest to the garden and nunnery, is a shopping mall with a large cinema complex which shows once more the indistinguishability of traditional and modern life.
Let’s continue our Hong Kong Tour and return to Hong Kong Island. Our Hong Kong Travel Guide now leads you to a special place.
Aberdeen Harbor is located on the south side of Hong Kong Island and famous for its floating village and floating restaurants.
The number of Boat People decreased over the last years, due to an attempt by the government to increase the hygiene conditions. Many of them now live in apartments. But for the older generation, it is a bit more difficult to adapt and some remain living on their boats that are laying in the Aberdeen Harbor. In the past, Tanka People (Boat People) were seen as outcasts.
Various tours are offered through the harbor on junks (Sampans). These tours are really nice as you explore the whole harbor and usually a bit of the open sea. The tours also pass by the most famous floating restaurant, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant.
The tours do not cost much and the one we took lasted about 45 min with 6 other people in the boat.
During the Dragon Boat Festival, a spectacular boat race takes place in the Aberdeen Harbor in traditional dragon boats.
The promenade invites for a little stroll and it gives you an amazing view over the harbor and the skyscrapers behind it.
As the Grand Final of our Hong Kong Travel Guide, let’s see all of this from ‘above’.
Victoria Peak, Peak Terrace and Peak Tram
The Victoria Peak is a landmark of Hong Kong and the view from the top over the city is an absolute must-do when in HongKong. There is no doubt about it.
Now, let’s dive a bit deeper into it.
The Victoria Peak mountain is prominently located on the Hong Kong Island. With an elevation of 554 meters (sometimes mentioned 552 meters), it is the highest mountain of that island.
The Victoria Peak is known to be home to the rich and important people.
Victoria Peak and Peak Tram History
Already starting in the 19th century when (mainly) British people started to build their residences on the hill. At that time, there was no tram, so the people were carried up the hill in sedan chairs (litters).
When the Peak Tram started to operate in 1888 soon more houses were built on the Peak. However, this was a privilege only for foreigners at that time.
There was once the Peak Hotel (closed in 1936) that was a hotel with a very impressive overlook of the city. If you have the chance to see it on old photos, it looks stunning, although the construction wasn’t good and sealed its fatal destination, when it was destroyed in a fire in 1938.
The before mentioned Peak Tram is also the commonly used access way to the Peak for tourists. By taking the Peak Tram, one can already enjoy a nice view over the city while comfortably driving uphill.
If you are brave, you can also walk your way up there.
The terminus of the Peak Tram is located at the Garden Road where a small gallery also explains a bit of the history of the tram. Many signs show you the direction. As it goes almost every 10 minutes, the waiting times are usually acceptable.
Sky Terrace and View
Once arrived at The Peak Tower, which is a cool piece of architecture, you enter a very busy area with numerous restaurants and shops. But the viewing platform (Sky Terrace 428, as it is 428 meter above sea level) will make you forget all of this, as it offers such a stunning view over the city and water.
Best is to go there before dawn and wait until the sunset. That gives the best impression of all. An unmissable experience in our Hong Kong Travel Guide.
You can buy a combined ticket for the Peak Tram and the Sky Terrace 428 for HK$99 (about 10Euro, US$12).
Inspired to visit Hong Kong?
In addition to the above, Hong Kong has many other fantastic things to offer. It’s for example, also a great place for shopping.
Although it is very crowded due to its high population density, there are hideaways everywhere across town. From hiking trails on Lantau Island to small temples throughout the busy streets. In most parts of the city, we felt very secure, also during late hours.
If you like the idea of visiting Hong Kong, why not planning your trip with mundolore and out free trip planner?