Hong Kong is one of my favourite cities. There is so much to see, do, experience and eat. I could happily spend months there and never be bored. Whilst I would recommend at least a week to make acquaintances, I appreciate that this might not be realistic, especially given that it is a convenient gateway to the rest of the Asian continent. From personal experience, I would recommend setting aside at least 72 hours in Hong Kong to get to know the city, especially if it’s your first time visiting. As luck would have it, this article envisages a 3 day stay in Hong Kong, also known as the Pearl of the Orient.
How to spend 72 hours in Hong Kong
3 day Hong Kong Itinerary: Day one in Kowloon
Start the day off right with a protein fix courtesy of the world’s best scrambled eggs. Be sure to throw in a steamed milk pudding (delicious hot or cold) and a coffee while you’re at it. But where can I find such a wonderful breakfast? Why, look no further than the Australia Dairy Company; it’s a couple of minutes walk west from Jordan MTR stop. It opens daily at 7.30am (closed on Thursdays).
With a satisfied stomach, hop onto the MTR and head north to take in the Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden. From Jordan, ride the red line north. Switch over onto the green line at either Yau Ma Tei, Mong Kok or Prince Edward and stay on until Diamond Hill. Your destination is approximately a 5 minute walk away.
The Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden offer a piece of tranquility amidst the non-stop hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. They feature a serene selection of pristine gardens, pools, temples and pagodas. The nunnery was actually rebuilt in 1998 using only wood, with each piece interlocking perfectly (there are no nails or other building materials used). It’s basically the world’s most complex jigsaw puzzle and, perhaps ironically given its setting, seen as a visual representation of harmony between humans and nature.
After you’ve had your fix of the nunnery and gardens, I would recommend using this opportunity to head over to the Ten Thousand Buddha Monastery. It’s the furthest north of all the attractions in this guide, so it makes sense to visit now, given that you’re already half way there. It might be worth having a few snacks to hand in order to tide you over until lunch. Ride the green line west to Kowloon Tong and then switch onto the light blue line, riding north two stops to Sha Tin. Once you leave the station, the Monastery is a 15-20 minute walk north (Googlemaps is your friend).
The Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is nestled in the lush green Po Fook Hills and 400 steep steps will need to be navigated on the way. The steps are flanked by hundreds of golden-coloured Buddha statues, each one uniquely carved and help to take your mind off the lactic acid building up in your calves. Once you’ve caught your breath at the top, explore the various shrines, pagodas, temples as well as the views over Sha Tin.
Lunch / afternoon
After this morning’s journey you’re bound to be hungry, so it’s time to indulge in a large late lunch. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept of dim sum, it’s really rather a simple: a sumptuous selection of small plates that are best enjoyed with a group of friends and a large appetite. Head over to One Dim Sum (located a short walk east of Prince Edward MTR). Be sure to order the Char Sui Bao (steamed pork buns), soup dumplings, shrimp dumplings, lo bak go (fried turnip cake – trust me, its delicious), and some more Char Sui Bao (you can never have too much). For the more adventurous readers, perhaps a plate of Fung Jeow (chicken feet). Eat, eat and then eat some more.
Afterwards, you might want to slow things down a little: roll out of the restaurant and head slowly south, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Kowloon.
Evening in Hong Kong
As evening approaches, it’s time meet some of Hong Kong’s most famous sons and daughters with a trip along the Avenue of the Stars. If you follow the avenue from East to West, you’ll end up, conveniently, at the Star Ferry Terminal. Next to the terminal is one of the best places from which to gaze across Victoria harbour and admire the Hong Kong skyline. It’s one of my favourite views in the world and the skyline comes into its own at night. You could even wait for the Symphony of Lights (every night at 8pm, although it is a little tacky).
There’s something special about Hong Kong after dark – it becomes a canvas of neon technicolour splendour. A small part of this canvas can be enjoyed at Kowloon’s famous Temple Street Night Market, which will be beginning to stir. Peruse the various stalls and haggle for some nicknacks. Grab a curb-side plastic chair, sit down and enjoy a well-earned beer. For the best photograph of the night market, walk to the northern end of the street and then head up to the upper floors of the multi-storey car park.
What to do next? It might be sensible to hit the hay, tomorrow is a fairly early start… But, if you’re anything like me, there might be a low rumbling coming from your stomach. No problem, stop off for a world famous Po Lo Bun at Kam Wah Cafe (located near Prince Edward MTR stop).
Spend Day 2 in Hong Kong Island
Grab a quick snack or a light breakfast. It’s an early start and a chance to tick off two of Hong Kong’s best loved attractions before the crowds appear. Victoria Peak (or the Peak, as its known colloquially) is the highest point in Hong Kong and the views back across the urban sprawl, dissected by Victoria Harbour, are spectacular. A visit to Victoria Peak is essential for your 3 day Hong Kong itinerary. For longer trips, I’d recommend trying it both in the morning and the evening. But with limited time, I’d opt for the morning because there will be smaller queues and less people to jostle with for a good vantage point. In the morning the city is often swathed in fog and mist, which lifts as the sun rises in the sky.
Unless you are mad and want to walk, the best way to reach the summit of Victoria Peak is on the Peak Tram, the other popular attraction I was referring to. It is always a thrill to ride the iconic glossy red tram cars as they ascend rapidly up the impossibly steep funicular track.
In addition to the amazing views, there are a number of hiking trails atop of Victoria Peak. A fairly easy circular route offers a multitude of views of Hong Kong and its surrounds. For those who want a more testing hike, there are trails which head out to the Pinewood Battery or the Kok Fu Lam Reservoir.
Back down at city-level is time to hunt out today’s lunch. This one’s going to be special and features the best 3 words that you’ll hear all day: Michelin Star Goose. Jump on one of Hong Kong Island’s Ding Dings (the trams that is – so called after the driver’s propensity to ring the bell twice when approaching a station) and head east to Kam’s Roast Goose. The restaurant is super popular, and quite rightly (queues will form, so maybe aim to arrive 20 mins ahead of opening).
Post-goose you’ve got two choices. Photographers, my recommendation would be to ride a Ding Ding eastwards, to Quarry Bay and North Point. Here lies a dense, vertical jungle of concrete. This is sardine living and it makes for some spectacular photographs. I could happily spend hours walking around, searching out interesting compositions and perspectives.
The alternative is to head west into Central, Lan Kwai Fong and the mid-levels. Here you can meet Stephen and Stitt (the lions statues standing guard at the Iconic HSBC Building), ride the world’s longest escalator system (the mid-level escalators), explore the street art of LKF, and stop off for a coffee in the multitude of hip, urban coffee houses.
While you’re here, be sure to pop into the Man Mo Temple. Whilst the exterior is a little battered and in need of some TLC, the temple’s atmospheric interior – in which shafts of sunlight stream in from the slatted roof above and the air is heavy with incense smoke – creates a throwback to an older time.
Begin the evening with a classic (and yummy) Hong Kong dish: wanton noodle soup. The oldest and most famous haunt in Hong Kong is Mak’s Noodle, the secret soup recipe having been passed down through three generations of Mak. Mak’s Noodle can be found on Wellington Street, in the heart of Lan Kwai Fong.
Afterwards, you’re in the perfect place to sample Hong Kong’s incredible bar scene. There are oh so many to choose from, but be sure to tick Stockton (a hip ‘hidden’ bar with some of the best mixologists around), the Quinary (their signature earl grey caviar martini is not to be missed) and Sevva (enjoy a chocolate martini and some of the best views in town) off your boozing bucket list.
Day 3 in Hong Kong Lantau Island / Kowloon
Dust off those cobwebs from the night before and get ready for day three. You know, eggs are good for a hangover, so a second trip to Australia Dairy Company might be in order. The final day of the itinerary takes us to Lantau Island, home of Hong Kong’s largest resident; the Tian Tan Buddha (aka the Big Buddha). After breakfast head to the MTR, where you will need to get to Central / Hong Kong and ride the Tung Chung (orange line) all the way to its final stop.
From here, make your way to Ngong Ping Village. There are a number of modes of transport available, but you should always choose the cable cars, which offer breathtaking views across Lantau Island, the airport and the South China sea beyond. In Ngong Ping check out the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery, two of Hong Kong Kong’s most popular attractions.
Lantau Island is also home to many hiking trails and beaches, which are perfect if you want to make a day of it (check out Pui O Beach – the beach bar offers a delicious fresh tuna salad).
The alternative to exploring the hiking trails and beaches of Lantau Island is to head back to Kowloon on the MTR (no doubt you’ll be riding it like a pro by now) for the markets. Before exploring the markets head over to Hop Yik Tai and indulge in a plate of cheong fun – thick rice noodles served in a peanut butter and soy sauce and topped with sesame seeds. Cheong fun is perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, a snack, you name it!
Then, with a full belly and a smile on your face, hit up the various Mong Kok markets. The flower, bird and goldfish markets are best for photos. The Ladies and Mong Kok markets are best for souvenirs.
To round off your three days in Hong Kong, my recommendation would be to go all out with another dim sum experience. It just so happens that there is a Tim Ho Wan right in the heart of Kowloon, close to the flower market. Talk about convenient! Tim Ho Wan is the proud owner of one Michelin Star and offers delicious dim sum dishes at reasonable prices. Go hard on the baked bun with BBQ pork.