Why leave now?
The sweltering summer days will soon come to an end and the high-rise metropolis of Hong Kong will once again be a joy to see. Add in new flights, a wave of new bars and restaurants, and some of the Far East’s most iconic sights and experiences, and you’ve got a city break of epic proportions.
Hong Kong is served by a number of direct flights from the UK. I traveled with Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 2770; virginatlantic.com), which departs every night from Heathrow on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Round-trip fares from £ 460.
British Airways (0344 493 0787; ba.com) also operates from Heathrow, as does Cathay Pacific (020 8834 8888; cathaypacific.com), which from September 2 will also fly from Manchester and Gatwick.
About 12 hours later you will land at Hong Kong Intl Airport (1), located on Lantau Island, 34 km northwest of the city center. The Airport Express train transports newcomers to downtown Hong Kong in 24 minutes. Services depart every 10 minutes between 5:54 am and 12:48 am to Central (2) and Kowloon (3) stations. A one-way ticket costs from 60 HKD. A taxi will cost from HKD285 to Hong Kong Island and HKD220 to Kowloon.
Currently £ 1 is HKD 10.31, while US $ 1 is HKD 7.76.
Take your bearings
The British have long had a love affair with Hong Kong. A colony until its return to China in 1997, it is now an autonomous “special administrative region” of the People’s Republic. It consists of 263 islands and a peninsula jutting out from mainland China.
The main destinations for visitors are historic Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, located south across Victoria Harbor and known for its futuristic coastline teeming with sparkling skyscrapers. But the outer islands – in particular Lantau, the largest of the archipelago – are also worth a look.
The main tourist information center (4) is located at the Star Ferry Concourse in Tsim Sha Tsui (00 852 2508 1234; Discoverhongkong.com; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily).
Dating from 1928, the Hotel Peninsula (5) on Salisbury Road (00 852 2920 2888; hongkong.peninsula.com) may be Hong Kong’s oldest hotel, but there are 21st-century touches everywhere: rooms with king-size beds, waterfall showers and specially designed control panels. Elsewhere, unwind in the heavenly spa with treatment rooms overlooking Victoria Harbor. Doubles from HKD 3,880, room only.
Design property Hotel icon (6) at 15 Science Museum Road (00 852 3400 1000; hotel-icon.com) is full of contemporary Chinese art, but it’s the harbor views that really impress. Doubles from HKD 1,846, room only.
Room 148 Butterfly Over Hollywood (7) at 263 Hollywood Road (00 852 2850 8899; butterflyhk.com) is stylish, well located and reasonably priced. Doubles from HKD 710, room only.
To take a walk
Start with one of the oldest temples in Hong Kong. Dedicated to the gods of war and literature, Man Mo Temple (8) at 124 Hollywood Road (00 852 2540 0350; 8 am-6pm) was built in 1847 and its crimson interior is intoxicating with the aroma of countless coils of burning incense. From there, cross the road and go down the small staircase, turning left onto Rue des Chats (9). This pedestrianized street is lined with stalls selling fake antiques and original souvenirs. Look at Chairman Mao, do you like it?
Return to Hollywood Road and walk east. Take a break for a maca-taha smoothie (coconut yogurt, maca powder, chia seeds and spinach) at Basic pantry (10) at number 108 (00 852 2873 3353; grassrootspantry.com; 9: 00-23: 00) and continue looking out for interesting street art on display at junctions with other streets. Finish at Shelley Street where you will find the Mid-Level Escalators (11), a pioneering system of elevated walkways that spans 800 meters with the aim of providing the thousands of residents living on the steep slopes with easy access to Central.
Mong Kok (12) in Kowloon is the place for gadgets, but much more interesting are the fine arts and rare Chinese artifacts on display in antique stores along Hollywood Road (13).
Hong Kong is also home to some of the best tailors in the world. Men can get custom made suit from Cuffs (14) at 2F 27 Lee Garden Road (00 852 241 36033; cuffs.hk), which recently opened its second store in Causeway Bay. Focusing on more contemporary designs, owner Ian Fong has crafted a unique process that personalizes everything from the cut to the buttons. Typical opening hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Lunch on the go
Fuel up with a plate of Sauteed Scallops with Black Garlic (HKD248) at SohoFama (15) at 35 Aberdeen Street (00 852 2858 8238; sohofama.com; 12 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily) – to be enjoyed at an outdoor table next to the restaurant’s vegetable garden.
SohoFama is part of the PMQ complex (00 852 2870 2335; pmq.org; 7 am-11pm daily), a former police station turned into a creative space with around 100 independent food and retail stores, many designs – and fashion – local-oriented connections.
Take a view
There is no better vantage point to appreciate Hong Kong’s dizzying skyline than from Victoria Peak (16) (00 852 2849 0669; thepeak.com.hk; daily 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.), best viewed at dusk. If time permits, hike the hour-long circular Peak Trail for a different perspective. The best way to reach the 552m summit is by taking the gravity-defying 125-year-old Peak Tram from 33, garden path (17), in Central, every 10-15 minutes between 7 a.m. and midnight. A return ticket costs 83 HKD. Pre-book your tickets as the queues are often long.
The newest and hottest bar in town is Ophelia (18) at 1 / F The Avenue, Lee Tung Avenue (00 852 2520 1117; ophelia.com.hk; 6 pm-2am closed Sunday and Monday), where cocktails are served in bird cages. Pass through the aviary-themed entrance and enter a decadent, dimly-lit space inspired by the city’s 19th-century opium dens. The attention to detail is astounding – there are 600,000 hand-painted ceramic tiles with peacock eye patterns and resplendent feathers. Try the “Cheongasm” cocktail with tequila, homemade pomegranate syrup, lemon mist and cinnamon.
Dinner with the locals
Hong Kong’s food scene is not only exciting, it is also constantly evolving with innovative new restaurants opening almost daily. One of these restaurants is Cobo House (19) at 8/12 South Lane (00 852 2656 3088; cobohouse.com; 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily), by celebrity pastry chef Janice Wong. Dishes include duck breast with herbs and mugi mocha (a sticky Japanese barley) and cod with smoked eggplant puree and dill cream. HKD168 area.
Another new access point is IQ Nine Dragons (20) at 20 / F Prince Tower, 12A Peking Road (00 852 2799 8899; qi-ninedragons.hk) which serves breathtaking Sichuan cuisine. Even the chocolate ice cream is spicy. Try the Fried Calamari with Sichuan Miso (HKD128) and cool off with a nightcap on the rooftop terrace.
Sunday morning: brunch outing
Do like the locals and dine at the restaurant with dim sum. But not just any old dim sum. At first glance, there is nothing particularly special Tim Ho Wan (21) at 2 Hoi Ting Road (00 852 2332 2896; timhowan.com; 10 am-9:30pm daily) – the dining room is crowded and a bit dingy with people eating on black plastic plates – but appearances can be misleading. Considered the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, the ravioli are simply divine. Go early to skip the line. The lightly sweet barbecued pork buns are not to be missed. Dishes from HKD18.
A walk in the park
Kowloon Walled City Park (22) on Tung Tsing Road (00 852 2716 9962; 6.30am-11.00pm daily), with pavilions and peaceful paths, is based on the Jiangnan Gardens of the Qing Dynasty and has a fascinating history; it stands on the site of a former ungoverned colony that was once the most densely populated place on the planet.
Fought over by both sides when Britain leased Hong Kong from the Chinese, it was ultimately abandoned by both nations and became a place of brothels, opium dens and unlicensed medical professionals with 350 rounds. residential areas crammed into an area the size of four football fields. The city was demolished in the 1990s.
Learn about the city’s colorful past at Hong Kong History Museum (23) at 100 Chatham Road South (00 852 2724 9042; lcsd.gov.hk; 10 am-6pm daily except Tuesdays; HKD10), which traces 400 million years of geological and cultural history.
Otherwise, focus entirely on its relationship to the sea at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum (24) at Central Pier 8 (00 852 33717 2500; hkmaritimemuseum.org; HKD30) which documents the naval and trade history of the town and the surrounding Pearl River Delta.
Take a ride
No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without at least one trip on the green and white Star Ferry (starferry.com.hk) through Victoria Harbor. Boats leave every 8-12 minutes between 7.20am and 11pm. Tsim Sha Tsui Pier (25) in Kowloon, and two piers on Hong Kong Island: Central (26) and Wan Chai (27). The crossing takes around eight minutes and one-way tickets cost HKD 2.50.
Frosting on the cake
The green, mountainous island of Lantau, which sits at the mouth of the Pearl River, is ripe for adventure. Ride the panoramic cable car, stand under the 34m high bronze Tian Tan Buddha (28) and hike the three-hour Dragon’s Back Trail to admire views of the island, its peaks and bays.
Also, allow time to visit the traditional fishing village of Tai O, where houses are built on stilts above the mudflats. Spend the night in charming colonial style Tai O Heritage Hotel (29) on Shek Tsai Po Street (00 852 2985 8383; taioheritagehotel.com). Doubles from HKD 710 including breakfast.
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