1 day in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a popular layover destination when travelling to Asia. If you’re connecting in Hong Kong after a long haul flight, consider breaking up your flight and staying the night in Hong Kong. With an extended layover of 24 to 36 hours, you can squeeze in a surprising number of sights and attractions in your 1 day in Hong Kong.

Once you clear customs in Hong Kong, take the Airport Express train into the city. We explain how to take the Airport Express here. You can either drop off your baggage at your hotel, or if you packed light, go directly to the first attraction.

The Peak Tram

If coming directly from the airport, take the Airport Express train to Hong Kong station. From there, walk to the Peak Tram terminus. The Peak Tram is a 1.5km funicular that climbs 368 meters/1,207 feet up Victoria Peak. Some sections of the ascent are surprisingly steep at a 27° incline/48% gradient, much steeper than the world’s steepest streets.

The Lugard Road and Morning Trail

Walking the Lugard Road trail in the morning, with views of Hong Kong, Victoria Harbour and Kowloon
Walking the Lugard Road trail in the morning, with views of Hong Kong, Victoria Harbour and Kowloon

Once at the top of Victoria Peak, follow signs for the Lugard Road trail. This popular paved walking trail circles Victoria Peak offering views of central Hong Kong and its countless skyscrapers.

As you continue along the trail, you’ll start to feel like you’re walking away from the city into a more natural, wooded park area. You’ll come to a clearly market intersection with Hatton Road. Make a sharp right turn on Hatton Road to start your descent back into the city. You can either take Hatton Road, or the smaller Lung Fu Shan Fitness Trail.

Wander through the Mid-Levels district of Hong Kong as you make your way to the following sights and attractions.

Man Mo Temple

Incense coils burning is a common scene in Hong Kong temples like the Man Mo temple in Central and the Tin Hau temple in Kowloon
Burning incense coils is a common scene in Hong Kong temples like the Man Mo temple in Central and the Tin Hau temple in Kowloon

There are several Man Mo temples in Hong Kong, with the largest and most photographed one being on Hollywood Road between Mid-Levels and Central. Built in 1847 (shortly after the start of the British Occupation), this is a popular site of worship and important symbol of Hong Kong culture. Step inside to admire the rays of sun shining through the open roof, illuminating the smoke from the hundreds of burning incense coils. No entrance fee, but donations are welcome.

Photography tip: As of 2018, the Man Mo temple on Hollywood Road was under undergoing significant maintenance. While still open, photo opportunities are limited. For better photos, visit the Tin Hau temple in Kowloon.

Hong Kong-style milk tea and Hong Kong buns at a rest garden

If you’re feeling hungry, stop for a Hong Kong-style milk tea and a Hong Kong sweet bun (the popular pineapple bun is listed as part of Hong Kong’s intangible culture heritage).

Walking through Mid-Levels, you’ll pass several small parks or “rest gardens” that are peaceful places to sit, rest and enjoy your Hong Kong buns.

Central–Mid-Levels escalator

The Central--Mid-Levels escalator in Hong King
The Central–Mid-Levels escalator in Hong King

Make your way towards the Central district. If it’s before 10am, save yourself a bit of walking by taking the Central–Mid-Levels escalators (it runs downhill from 6am-10am, then uphill from 10am-midnight). This is the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world at over 800 meters/2,600 feet long, and an elevation of 135 meters/443 feet. So even if you’re there after 10am and it’s going uphill, check it out and ride up a block just for fun.

Central financial district

Continue exploring Central, the main business and financial district of Hong Kong, home some of Hong Kong’s tallest and most notable skyscrapers, including the Bank of China tower.

The Star Ferry to Kowloon

The Star Ferry between Hong Kong and Kowloon
The Star Ferry between Hong Kong and Kowloon

Make your way to the Star Ferry pier to take the historic Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon. More than just a convenient way to cross the harbour, it’s an incredibly inexpensive mini-boat trip offering some of the best views of the Hong Kong skyline.

The Star Ferry has been operating since 1888 and now carries 26 million passengers per year with a fleet of 12 ferries.

Check out our detailed instructions on taking the Star Ferry.

Lunch at a dai pai dong

The Macau dai pai dong-style restaurant in Kowloon
The Macau dai pai dong-style restaurant in Kowloon

For lunch (or dinner if you’re on a later schedule), make your way to a dai pai dong, a traditional open-air food stall. Some don’t open until noon, so if you’re hungry earlier, look for an indoor dai pai dong-style restaurant… if there’s a lineup, you know the food will be good. Indoor alternatives will also get you out of the Hong Kong heat and humidity, and English will more likely be spoken.

Explore Kowloon

Get beyond the built-up southern tip of Kowloon, and you’ll find wonderful pockets to explore.

Entrance to the Temple Street Market in Kowloon
Entrance to the Temple Street Market in Kowloon

Head up Temple Street (home of the famous Temple Street night market), even during the day. The market starts at 2pm, but even if you’re hear before then, it’s a peaceful walk through Kowloon. Make your way to the Tin Hau temple, especially if you didn’t make it to the Man Mo temple. I’ll risk saying it’s arguably more photogenic than the Man Mo temple.

Setting up stalls for the Ladies Market in Kowloon
Setting up stalls for the Ladies Market in Kowloon

Zig-zag your way over to Tung Choi street and make your way through the Ladies Market area, through the Goldfish market area, to the flower shops lining Flower Market road. There, you’ll see massive amounts of picture-perfect bulk flowers. The Yuen Ngai side street has a store with the must impressive bonsai trees you’ll ever find outside a botanical garden.

Beautiful bonsai for sale in the Kowloon Flower Market area
Beautiful bonsai for sale in the Kowloon Flower Market area

At the end of Flower Market road is the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden, which offers a unique glimpse into Hong Kong culture. Right at the entrance, you’ll usually see retired men “walking” their caged birds, letting them get some fresh air and sunshine. Deeper within are stalls selling exotic birds and related accessories. The area starts shutting down by late afternoon.

Beat the heat with afternoon tea

The afternoon heat is a convenient excuse to treat yourself to the British tradition of afternoon tea at a 5-star hotel. There are no shortage of fancy hotels in Kowloon, and most have a tea tradition from the British Occupation.

Cocktails at a luxury hotel

Young Hong Kong natives love to be seen out and about spending their money. One way to be seen is buying overpriced cocktails at luxury hotels with bars overlooking the harbour.

If this is your scene, head to OZONE, the world’s highest bar at the Ritz Carlton hotel, on the 118th floor of Hong Kong’s tallest skyscraper (and 11th tallest in the world). Be warned that cocktails and glasses of wine start around US$25 and their signature cocktail coming in at around US$45. Even a soft drink will set you back nearly US$15. But you’re really paying for the unsurpassed views of Hong Kong.

Symphony of Lights show in Victoria Harbour

The Hong Kong skyline during the Symphony of Lights show
The Hong Kong skyline during the Symphony of Lights show

The Symphony of Lights is a breathtaking light and sound show along the Hong Kong skyline that happens daily at 8pm, regardless of weather. It lasts about 14 minutes.

While the show now happens on both side of the harbour, with both Hong Kong proper and Kowloon participating, most people choose to watch from the Kowloon side, since Hong Kong has the more impressive skyline. Kowloon harbourfront area is bordered by the (newly renovated in 2018) Avenue of Stars which offers priceless views of Hong Kong for the show.

Photography tip: To get the best photos of the Symphony of Lights show, you’ll need a tripod. Consider photographing the show from further east along Avenue of Stars. You’ll avoid the crowds and have more room to setup your tripod.

Temple Street night market

If you still have some energy after the light show, head back up to the Temple Street area for the famous night market. While the market opens at 2pm, it really comes alive after sunset. The market features over a hundred stalls selling cheap everything (merchandise and food). Be prepared to haggle.

Have you visited these attractions or tried this itinerary for your 1 day in Hong King? Let us know what you thought in the comments!

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