Home to some of the best char siu (Chinese style barbequed pork) in the city, Chef Chan Yan Tak’s restaurant is the first Chinese establishment to earn three Michelin stars. Located inside the Four Seasons Hotel, Lung King Heen (meaning view of the dragon) serves authentic Cantonese dishes, including dim sum and braised abalone.
The most affordable Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, Tim Ho Wan offers authentic, budget-friendly dim sum. Dig into their signature pork buns, loved for their soft yet crispy exterior and barbecued pork filling, or order the pork dumplings topped with goji berries and served with chili sauce. If you can’t make it there during your stay, grab a quick bite before your flight at their other location in IFC Mall above the Airport Express.
Chef May Chow reinvents bao with fillings like Szechuan fried chicken and fish tempura that go beyond traditional barbecued pork. Try the truffle French fries and short rib dumplings with your sandwich, and finish your meal with a green tea ice cream bao, drizzled with condensed milk.
Don’t leave Hong Kong without trying a bowl of Kau Kee’s beef brisket with e-fu noodles. The lineup stretches out onto the street but you won’t have to wait long. Expect to share a table with strangers, a common practice in old-style Chinese restaurants.
Elephant Grounds is one of the few coffee shops in Hong Kong that roasts its own beans. Pair your coffee with one of the café’s ice cream sandwiches, made with cinnamon buns, waffles or oversized macarons. Check Instagram for the latest flavours.
This old-fashioned speakeasy is easy to miss. (Hint: look for an unmarked entrance below Fish & Meat and walk down the short flight of stairs to a door lit by a single light bulb.) With 150 whisky varieties, it can be hard to make a selection, but the Hawtrey (gin, vermouth, Maraschino liqueur, Angostura bitters) is a standout.
Take a bus from Shatin or Choi Hung subway stations to this fishing village and spend a day enjoying Hong Kong’s oft-overlooked greenery. Hike a section of the MacLehose trail, rent a junk (boat) to a small outlying island, feast on an eye-popping selection of fresh seafood, then cap off the day with a treat at the original location of local mega-chain Honeymoon Dessert.
For photo opps
Take a taxi (or bus number 11) from Tung Chung Station to this small village on Lantau Island, best known for its stilt houses built over the water. Hop on a boat tour for a rare glimpse of pink dolphins, a type of dolphin that is black before turning a pinkish hue when they become adults.
For indie flicks
One of Hong Kong’s only remaining art house theatre runs new releases and independent films from around the world, and hosts festivals throughout the year. After the show, browse the theatre’s bookstore, and have a rose latte at Kubrik café.
The MTR stations on the south side of Hong Kong Island make it easy to access the emerging art scene of Wong Chuk Hang and Tin Wan. The neighbourhood is full of art galleries, studios, cafés and restaurants. Stop by Art Statements for exhibitions featuring international artists or Mur Nomade for a showcase of collaborative art projects featuring local artists.
For a scenic hike
Take a break from the bustling city and hike Dragon’s Back, one of Hong Kong’s most popular walking routes. The trail is 8.5km long and takes roughly four hours to complete. Enjoy views of Hong Kong Island, and finish your day with a picnic at Big Wave Bay.
This upscale chain is the ultimate place to shop in Hong Kong. Its flagship store is in a historical building, full of crazy coloured goods (handbags, leather-bound books, clothing) with an Asian twist. If you really want to splurge, get something custom-made.
Set atop Pacific Place mall in Admiralty and designed by acclaimed architect Andre Fu, The Upper House offers luxurious lodging; think spa-inspired bathrooms with limestone bathtubs and rain showers. Reserve a table at Café Gray Deluxe, the restaurant on the 49th floor, for unbeatable views of the sunset.
Built in 1928, Hong Kong’s oldest hotel is known for its timeless elegance and convenient location, steps away from the Avenue of Stars and the shops of Canton Road. Experience classic afternoon tea in the lobby of the Grande Dame of the Far East amid palm trees and gargoyle-adorned columns. Chef Andy Cheng’s selection of finger sandwiches and homemade pastries served on Tiffany china is a feast for the eyes – and the belly.
Inspired by pictures of a foggy Swedish lake during wintertime, this hotel was designed using raw materials like concrete and iron. Pamper yourself in the white marble bathrooms with amenities by Fresh. For dinner, tuck into a plate of homemade pappardelle and braised Australian wagyu beef at Silver Room, the Italian restaurant hidden behind the lobby’s steel door.
This 42-storey hotel is set in the heart of the popular Mong Kok shopping hub. Recharge with a soak in your room’s oversize bathtub before heading to Ming Court for dinner. The hotel’s onsite Michelin two-star restaurant serves refined Cantonese dishes, such as suckling pig or the award-winning chicken, wild mushroom and foie gras clay pot.
There’s fun for the whole family at this hotel north of the city, with interactive activities for kids under 12, from eco-gardening and origami to a tennis court and a 25-metre outdoor swimming pool. Rent a bike from the fitness centre, and ride around Sha Tin’s Tolo Harbour to soak up Hong Kong’s mountain and coastal scenery.
Set inside a 19th-century French-style building in busy Causeway Bay, this hotel offers bright rooms with kitchenettes – complete with a refrigerator, microwave, and cooking utensils – ideal for families or travelers visiting for an extended period of time. Browse the boutiques in Causeway Bay for souvenirs; then head to nearby Victoria Park for an afternoon picnic.
This Wan Chai hotel boasts a rooftop bar with a pool that offers views of Hong Kong’s skyline and the streets below. Spend the day exploring neighbourhood landmarks like the Blue House, a four-storey bright-blue apartment building, or hunt for bargain souvenirs at Wan Chai Market.
Info about getting from the airport, public transportation and more.
Getting from the airport
Relocated from Kowloon to Lantau Island in 1998, the Hong Kong International Airport is located just 35km from the city centre. The Airport Express gets you to Central Hong Kong in less than 25 minutes (with stops at Kowloon and Tsing Yi) and costs HK$110 or HK$205 for a round trip. Taxis from the airport to downtown average HK$300. Airport buses are slow but reach most locations around Hong Kong with budget-friendly fares ranging between HK$20 and HK$40.
Hong Kong’s MTR subway system reaches nearly every major location in the city. Buses are also user-friendly with destinations written in both Chinese and English. The classic Hong Kong tram (also known as the “Ding Ding”) and the Star Ferry are cheap and provide some of the best views of the city.
Cabs can be hailed nearly everywhere in the city with a flat rate of HK$22; after two kilometres the fare jumps every 200 metres and after every minute of wait time. There are additional charges for baggage and crossing the harbour. Tipping isn’t necessary, but it’s common to round up the fare and leave the change. Transport Department Taxis: 852-2804-2600
Beyond the bustling Hong Kong crowds, discover a countryside in the process of re-wilding.
By Michael McCullough
“Just let us know if we’re going too fast or if you need to stop and rest,” urges Miriam Lee, a few steps ahead as we plod up a staircase of carefully placed stone slabs. I weigh this in my exertion-addled mind: On the one hand, I’m on holiday, out of shape and not in any rush; on the other, I’m a Canadian, a summertime weekend warrior hauling packs up the Rockies and the Coast Mountains. I’m not going to ask some city slickers from Hong Kong to hold up while I catch my breath. So we keep trudging skyward, and soon the brush and low trees on either side of Hong Kong’s 100-kilometre-long MacLehose Trail thin out and a pagoda comes into view. Surely we’ll stop there, I think. “He says we should keep going,” says Lee, referring to our guide, who goes by the name of Tom. (He won’t give me his last name or pose for a photo as he’s actually sneaking out of work.) “There’s a better view farther along.”
Tom is right, of course. Past the pagoda, the ridgetop we’re on starts to snake its way down to a rocky headland flanked by deserted blue-water beaches. We stop to take in the view, but only long enough to let a party of Japanese tourists in caps with fluttering sun flaps clamber by. After another 20 minutes of descending, we step onto the sand at Long Ke. The larger of the two beaches we’d seen from above, it’s about 250 metres across. Some campers have pitched a tent – the beach is one of 13 campsites along the trail, an east-west traverse of Hong Kong’s New Territories – and day hikers sit picnicking under the pine trees, warily keeping an eye on a feral bull that has wandered into the scene. About 500 wild cattle roam the parkland here. “They’re descendants of the livestock from abandoned farms,” Lee tells me. The bull doesn’t stop me from taking off my hiking boots, stripping down to my shorts and wading into the gently lapping waves. The water is refreshing and clear, free of the flotsam on the beaches facing the Pearl River Delta to the west. But the coolest thing is that in this notoriously crowded city state of 7.5 million people, I’m the only one out in the swell.
I’ve come to explore the former British colony’s wild side. Nearly three decades earlier, I’d gotten a taste of Hong Kong’s green spaces during a layover on the way home from a post-university jaunt through Southeast Asia. Some roommates in the hostel I was staying at invited me to go for a picnic with them in the mountains. I remember taking several modes of transportation – subway, ferry, various sizes of bus – to a lovely lakeside park. Since then, I’ve been wondering how many other wild, peaceful places may be found here.
On this return trip, I don’t find untouched wilderness; the hills, denuded of trees for fuel during the Second World War, are in the process of re-wilding, and you never completely escape the haze from factories on the mainland. But I’m reminded that Hong Kong’s backyard has some advantages as an outdoor destination. Thanks to the extensive transit system, I find solitude less than an hour from the city centre and can thru-hike from one location to another rather than retracing my steps. (Established in the 1970s, the park system is criss-crossed by footpaths that in some cases are several hundred years old, the remnants of villages-turned-ghost towns when small-hold farming became uneconomical.) And with so many places to eat and drink, even off the beaten path, I don’t need to pack a lunch.
Back on the trail after my swim, we’re surrounded by flowering tea bushes, butterflies and birdsong. Our morning’s excursion finishes at the High Island Reservoir East Dam, a remarkable feat of engineering. Its rock-filled walls jut out from the mainland to a couple of islands, encircling the former seabed and creating a raised freshwater reservoir. While waiting for a cab, we stroll down the dam site toward the seashore. Here perfectly hexagonal basalt columns rise 100 metres out of the sea, a reminder that Hong Kong’s eastern reaches represent the caldera of a giant volcano that blew its top 140 million years ago. I try to imagine the force of upwelling lava met by the ocean’s cooling power, which froze this buckled forest of rock columns in place.
The next day, in search of a little more human history, I hike to Lai Chi Wo, a still (but barely) inhabited Hakka village in the northeastern New Territories, close to the Chinese border. Hakka means “guest people,” referring to waves of migrants fleeing wars farther north and settling on the less productive vacant land around Hong Kong about 300 years ago. These days, many of the Hakka have resettled in London and other northern European cities, but they come back like snowbirds in the winter to their ancestral homes, mostly two-storey stucco structures slotted cheek by jowl into a walled compound that’s only about 100 square metres. I talk to one man dressed in well-worn work clothes as he attempts to fix a waterline entering his family’s home. “We have electricity from the city but no water,” he explains, gesturing toward the reservoir nearby. “We keep our own system to draw water.”
As I pass back out of the village and turn to admire its whitewashed wall, a Lycra-clad runner with hiking poles and a hydration pack appears through the arched main gate. Then another. Before long, whole groups of adventure racers flow past me like a river in flood looking for its course around the buildings. The North Face 100 ultramarathon is at stake, but without good signage, the racers are all finding their own path to the finish line. Travelling at a more leisurely pace, I have time to stop at Fook Lee’s, a family-run restaurant in the middle of a marsh. Fortunately, I’m here on a Saturday; the place is only open on weekends because the sparse weekday traffic makes it hardly worth hauling in supplies by boat or on foot. I grab a table on the shaded patio, which quickly fills with hikers, a few speaking English, most Cantonese. I order lunch made the Hakka way – deliciously slow-cooked pork belly in a hearty sauce, noodles and sweet-potato leaves.
To escape the habitual snarl of downtown traffic on my final day, I board a ferry from Central on Hong Kong Island to Lamma Island. My guide, Yammy Tam, tells me the territory has some 200 islands, 40 percent of them inhabited. Lamma, the largest after Hong Kong and Lantau, is home to 6,000 people but not a single automobile. A mere 40 minutes later, the catamaran drops us at Sok Kwu Wan (Picnic Bay), and, suddenly, engine sounds are conspicuous by their absence. We stroll on paved trails through quiet villages, banana groves and elaborate gravesites, where the feng shui is just so. The only movement along the undeveloped beaches comes from a fisherman in a rowboat and the occasional bark from lazy beach mutts. All I can hear is my own breath as we climb a series of switchbacks over the ridge that runs the length of the island. From its top, a sweeping view of the South China Sea, studded with freighters, unfolds silently at our feet.