Travel & Food guide // What to do and eat in Hong Kong

hong-kong-travel-guide-pin-collage-670
ASOS skirt 00P (slit safety-pinned), AT top (old), Thierry Lasry sunglassesMadewell bag

We only spent a few short nights in Hong Kong this month, but wanted to share some of our favorite activities, and of course, favorite eats! This is one of those places where you can be immersed in a totally different culture, while getting around fine speaking English. As mentioned in my last post (read here for travel tips for a long flight), we flew in partnership with Cathay Pacific on their Boston to Hong Kong direct route. If you're contemplating an Asia trip, they are currently having a fare promo to HKG and a few other destinations. I also wanted to mention HKG is a popular hub for connecting flights around the world, so it could be fun to make a mini trip out of a layover!

What to do
In a nutshell, Hong Kong is comprised of three main sections: Hong Kong island, Kowloon peninsula, and then the "new territories" which include some size-able islands like Lantau and Lamma. Upper HK island and lower Kowloon are the most bustling urban areas, whereas you can find greenery and quieter open spaces in the outer areas. This time we chose to stay at The Pottinger on HK island (super central & convenient) and look forward to exploring Kowloon more next time!

Ride the glass-bottom cable car to Ngong Ping village. This was one of my favorite experiences during our morning trip out to Lantau island. You pass over lush trees and waterfronts on a 5km+ long ride. To get to the cable cars, take the MTR subway to Tung Chung station (which is also steps from HK's largest outlet shopping mall), then follow the signs towards Ngong Ping 360. Tip: buy tickets online and go early in the day, otherwise lines for both can get very long!
ngong ping glass bottom cable car things to do hong kong

While at Ngong Ping village, you can also...

- Climb up Tian Tan Buddha or "big Buddha." The stairs are a pretty leisurely climb, especially if you stop for photos along the way.
- Walk the nearby Wisdom Path, with wood pillars inscribed with prayers in an infinity pattern.
- Visit Tai O, a traditional fishing village on the Western edge of Lantau island.
tian tan buddha lantau things to do in hong knog
At the base of Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island

Watch the Symphony of Lights, the world's largest permanent light show. It runs daily at 8PM for about 15 minutes, on the buildings along Victoria Harbour. You can also buy a ticket for the Aqua Luna sailboat and watch the show from the harbour. That time slot was sold out when we visited, so we took the earlier sunset cruise and watched the light show from the pier.
hong kong aqua luna victoria harbour cruise
ASOS maxi skirt 00P (leg slit safety-pinned), Ann Taylor top

Take a hike on one of the many trails. We had planned on hiking either Lion Rock (looked like awesome views from the top) or the popular Dragon's Back trail right on HK island, but didn't get to due to rain. Here is a list of numerous other trail options with helpful details.

Take a daytrip to HK Disneyland, located on Lantau Island. We didn't go but I was enticed by their restaurant with dim sum shaped like Disney characters!

Visit Victoria Peak, the hotspot for all the Hong Kong "city views from the top." We didn't brave the crowds this time and also wasn't sure what would be visible in the rain.

Have afternoon tea at the top of the Ritz Carlton HK, the highest hotel in the world (or a drink at Ozone, their bar). Don't bother going on a rainy or foggy day as you won't be able to see a thing. Also I was told reservations for tea at the popular window seats need to be made about 2 months in advance.

Shop shop shop. A few options with a range of shopping:
- Harbour City, Hong Kong's biggest mall located in the Tsim Tsa Shui area on the Kowloon side. You can easily get there via subway or take the Star Ferry across the harbour. Refuel with a fruity shaved ice dessert at Hanbing on the top floor of the mall and maybe catch the Symphony of Lights afterwards. Also in this area, the grand Peninsula Hotel has an attached shopping arcade with a Goyard and another Chanel and Hermes, amongst other luxury shops. FYI, Chanel is now priced lower in HK compared to US boutiques and with no tax, but it's not easy finding specific pieces.

- PMQ, which stands for Police Married Quarters by Sheung Wan station on HK island. This large building was formerly used as housing for HK police and their families working in the surrounding areas, before being converted to design studios, art galleries, and small fashion, accessory and homegoods shops.

- Street shopping. Be prepared to bargain with the vendors! Here is a list of major street markets. We were interested in checking out the flower market and ladies market, but didn't make it this time.

What to Eat
Now for the most fun part...what to try while you're there! Some Cantonese favorites include:
hong kong chinese breakfast pineapple buns congee
- Dim sum, or Asian tapas/small plates for sharing, is served with tea and popular for breakfast or brunch. Traditional dishes are steamed, and include shumai pork or hagow shrimp dumplings, sticky rice with chicken wrapped in lotus leaves, buns with sweet or savoury fillings, as well as paper-thin rice noodles with filling. This is the city of dim sum served in all different styles, as you'll see on my list below.

- Noodles and congee, often available at the same shops. Noodle soup there is most traditionally topped with shrimp wontons and/or beef brisket. Congee or "jook" is a rice porridge soup with various mix-ins, most yummy topped with a crispy, cut-up fried donut stick "you tiao".

- Cantonese barbecue, including roast pork "char siu," duck or goose. You can spot these specialty shops from the street as they display their barbecued meats for that day along the window. They usually have combos on the menu where you can simply choose one or two of the meats over rice or noodles.

- Sweets, like the traditional egg tart pastry with flaky crust, eggettes (egg puff waffles) or milk puddings.

- Street food or "dai pai dong." It's not uncommon to see lots of tables and little plastic chairs set up on the streets by food stalls. Some of these get quite bustling, especially at night given the midnight munchies culture. These places don't speak English as much...Nick and I found the best way to order is to just look around on other people's tables and see what looked good or was most common, then point!

Where to Eat
We didn't even begin to touch on all the good restaurants during this short visit, but here are some of the noteworthy places we did try!
kau kee best beef brisket noodle soup hong kong
Kau Kee 九記牛腩: nearly century-old noodle shop famous for their beef brisket noodle soup, which is a staple in Cantonese comfort food. Nick said this was his favorite meal and really enjoyed the broth flavors. They churn bowls of these out like clockwork at this small shop so prepare to eat elbow to elbow and share tables with strangers. Lines gets long but we got lucky with no wait during an off-peak hour.
Go for: regular beef brisket e-fu noodle soup and try the orange-y hot sauce. I decided to branch out and get their curry but thought it was overpowering (would be better over rice), and spent the rest of the meal trying to sneak bites of Nick's.
Cost us: ~$10 USD per person
yum cha cute dim sum hong kong foodie travel guide
Dim sum critters at Yum Cha

Yum Cha: adorable dim sum critters but also pretty good other food, in a modern setting filled with natural light. Tip: we waited nearly an hour for a table but they do take reservations, which most ppl made.
Go for: critter dim sum like the "barfing custard bao" which my husband entertained himself with for a good 5 minutes over. We also enjoyed the dan dan noodle soup with shrimp wontons and salted egg yolk green beans
Cost us: ~$25 USD per person
yat lok roast goose wong chi kei congee wonton noodles hong kong food
Left: Yat Lok roast goose rice plate  Right: Wong Chi Kei crab congee + wonton noodles

Yat Lok: no-frills traditional Cantonese barbecue meats shop. Apparently Anthony Bourdain ate there as well, which I didn't realize even as a pretty avid No Reservations enthusiast.
Go for: barbecued meats over rice plates for lunch. They're most known for their roast goose and roast pork, and you can ask for some ginger scallion sauce on the side. Ginger scallion sauce is a reminder of home for me and I could wolf it down just over plain rice.
Cost us: ~$10 USD per person
oddies foodies ice cream egg puff waffles hong kong
Soft serve gelato + ice cream with eggettes from Oddies Foodies

Yee Shun Dairy Company (multiple locations): cafe specializing in milk pudding desserts, which are like an Asian panna cotta. Also serves traditional HK breakfast or snacks like milk tea and fried pork chop with sunny side up eggs, which several diners were eating. The Australian Dairy Company is another popular, similar-style cafe.
Go for: Nick tried a whole bunch and his favorite was the ginger milk pudding, served hot.
Cost us: $4 to $5 USD per pudding
tai cheong egg tart yee shun milk company dessert hong kong
Left: Egg tart at Tai Cheong   Right: Yee Shun milk puddings plain, w/ ginger, and red bean

Yardbird: Trendy restaurant specializing in yakitori skewers and other chicken dishes. This is located within a whole area in Sheung Wan that appeared popular with expats, and was full of pricier "hipster" restaurants and nightlife with English-only menus. We were bummed we didn't get to try Little Bao in the same area due to some mis-planning...we kept reading about it, plus the chef used to live in Boston!
Go for: various chicken skewers (they were all very tasty, including the unusual ones), corn ball fritters, chicken and egg rice. I'd suggest sharing the Sundays sake instead of cocktails, which were $$ and on the weaker side.
Cost us: $60-80 USD per person for dinner, including alcohol.
envoy bar hong kong matcha green tea cocktails
Asian dessert-inspired cocktails at the Envoy - so good! ($15 USD+ per drink)

Tim Ho Wan michelin star dim sum hong kong
Clockwise from top left: turnip cakes, shumai, filled rice noodles, pork buns at Tim Ho Wan

Tim Ho Wan (multiple locations): a dim sum shop known as the world's cheapest Michelin star-rated restaurant. We went for this reason, and thought it was good but not worthy of the super long lines during peak hours. Tip: If you just want to try their famous pork buns, you can get them as take-out.
Go for: roast pork buns with a sweet crust on top (like traditional pineapple buns), rice noodles
Cost us: under $10 USD per person
hong kong yardbird mrs pound speakeasy fun places to eat
Left: yakitori at Yardbird    Right: lunch at Mrs. Pound

Mrs. Pound: speakeasy-style Malaysian fusion restaurant dressed as a stamps shop (like ink pad stamps, not mail). Press down on one of the stamps to get the sliding door to open.
Go for: the novelty. Lunch was not bad and reasonably priced (dinner is notably more), but not the most memorable. This was another one of those fully English-speaking places with English menu.
Cost us: ~$10 USD per person for lunch. Cocktails were ~$15 USD and up.
allegretto cafe 3D coffee latte art hong kong
3D latte art at Allegretto Cafe (cute but I wouldn't go out of your way for this)

Other Tips for Visiting Hong Kong

Take the MTR subway, which we thought was clean, timely, and fairly easy to navigate. Get a re-loadable Octopus subway card early on at the airport. These cost 150 HKD which includes 100 HKD on the card for you to use, and a 50 HKD deposit. You can also use these as a debit card, at 7-elevens and small shops that accept the Octopus but not credit cards.

Also take the Airport Express subway which speedily goes from a few central points in the city to the airport. Check with your hotel which might have a free shuttle to/from the nearest Airport Express station. You can also check-in your luggage at one of the city stations up to a day before flying!

Exchange enough currency. Most of the "modern" restaurants and stores accept credit card, but many places as well as the Octopus card system and all taxis did not.

Look for public restrooms inside the myriad of luxury shopping centers. They were always very clean!

Foodies can check out OpenRice, which is like an HK Yelp. Be warned that reviewers there are super critical so even the highest-rated restaurants might just be pushing 3 out of 5 stars. I mostly used this to look up photos of popular dishes or to search around a certain area.

Prepare for the humidity. My hair rarely held a curl so I styled it up most of the time. I also applied minimal foundation and finished with this travel-sized SPF50 makeup setting spray.

Make a custom map to pinpoint everything you want to do and see where they are relative to each other. This definitely helped us navigate the islands of HK more efficiently. I've included our map below, with a bonus addendum that Nick snuck on there!

Let me know some of your favorite places or things to do in Hong Kong that I missed! We'd love to check them out next visit!

40 comments:

  1. Followed your trip every step of the way via Instagram!! Such a treat.. I always love reading your posts. Thank you Jean!! <3333

    Jessica | Cubicle Chic

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  2. Just a note: you tiao is the romanization of the mandarin form; yau ja gwai is the cantonese romanization.

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  3. I lived in Hong Kong for a few years as a kid, and this post made me CRAVE dim sum. I visited a few years ago, but would love to go back again and try some of these places!

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  4. I really like the sandals you wore with your maxi skirt? What brand and style are those? Thanks!

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  5. I miss Hong Kong! Thank you so much for sharing:P

    Shall We Sasa

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  6. Love the food pictures, it makes me miss Hong Kong even more! I really like the slit dress and the sandals look very comfy to walk in. Awesome post!

    Mei
    Pieces of Mei

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  7. Thanks for giving an insight what to do in Hong Kong. I haven't been to Hong Kong for awhile since 2005 and I'm sure a lot of things has change. Have you got an opportunity to go to Macau? It's a boat trip away from HK and there's a lot of Portuguese influence. I enjoyed their Macau Portuguese Egg Tart. Hope to revisit Hong Kong again soon.

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  8. The shot on the glass-bottom cable car is stunning... did you get a stranger to take it for you? If so, how did that person manage to compose it so well? Usually if I hand my camera to a random person they'll take the shot straight-on (boring!) and without capturing interesting details like the glass floor. Plus it's always expected that we both be looking at the camera and smiling cheesily. I'm interested in knowing how couples can get good shots of themselves together while traveling because this is something I struggle with.

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  9. Wowowow, that glass bottom cable car looks SO cool! You're making me really wanna go to HK :3

    http://www.deasynoel.com

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  10. Hi Jean!
    I have been reading your blog for a few years and really appreciate your detailed reviews. It has helped me to curate my closet and make better styling decisions. Thank you!

    I noticed, in a number of recent blog postings, that you have come to love the Goyard St Louis PM tote. Would you please consider reviewing this bag and how you organize your items inside?

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  11. I've never been to Hong Kong but it looks like a wonderful place to visit! I didn't know there was a HK Disneyland! I went to the one in Tokyo last year and loved it! Your food photos are making me hungry. The beef brisket noodle looks so good!

    Polly
    http://gemsandjoy.com

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  12. HK looks amazing. Thank you for sharing all your food recommendations and things to do! Now I want to go. :)

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  13. Hi Jean,

    Question for you or anyone else reading. Both my son and I have food allergies. They include, sesame, mustard seed, shellfish and peanuts. As amazing as Honk Kong appears amazing, I fear we will never be able to travel to such a destination safely.

    Do you know if catering to food allergies is even possible there?

    Thanks,
    Nicole

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  14. Thank you for sharing your Hong Kong experience!
    I lived in Hong Kong for a two years till December 2015, prior that nearby in Mainland China.
    I would never recommend anyone to stay / explore Kowloon side. It's too crowded and dirty. Generally in Hong Kong view is everything, so it always worth to take a hotel that has it. East and Icon are my favourites, not too expensive and stylish. Icon is on Kowloon side, location is great for those who travel to (from) Mainland China (Shenzhen / Guangzhou). There is another hotel called Mira Moon (located right behind our ex home), it's also really nice / stylish and in the same price range, great location, but to have a view you must book a room at the left corner of the building.
    Sunset drinks at East's bar Sugar are must. It has a stunning view. (I'm sorry, but I don't like Ozon. They haven't made comfy sitting to enjoy the view. The Ritz lounge bar (probably the one where you had a tea) is way nice, but I love outside places)
    Aqua restaurant (not a boat) is another must. The food is good and the view is breathtaking, I like it better than from Ritz. The place is pricey, but it's always possible to come only for drinks at the bar. The gins and tonics selection is something.
    Helicopter tour over HK and ferry from island to Kowloon are also must do.
    For those who like crazy life and meeting bunch of people Lan Kwai Fong is a place to go. Dragon Eye is the best choice if you're looking for something upscale.
    For local foods Din Tai Fung is the must place to go. Their dumplings are best in the city.
    Fashion Walk in Causeway Bay and Star street in Wan Chai have some pretty spots for lunch time.
    Hope it helps!

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    Replies
    1. It's too bad you have such a poor view of Kowloon. Between the Peninsula hotel and stellar view of the Hong Kong skyline, Kowloon is more than the touristy Ladies' Market. If seeking an authentic Hong Kong street shopping experience, head to Fa Yuen Market - it's where the locals go.
      Din Tai Fung offers their famous and delicious xiaolongbao. This chain hails from Taiwan and has locations in North America, so I wouldn't consider it a local food destination. If seeking local foods, take on an appetite for adventure and stop in the random shops for a mango slushie or at a street vendor for a tapioca pudding or savory skewers. Hong Kong is a treat for the senses!

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  15. The food looks so amazing!!!!!!! It makes me so hungry and I just ate dinner. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week.
    Love,
    Thays

    www.sillycrazyme.com

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  16. Hong Kong is full of good eats! love the post, hope you drop by again soon ;)

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  17. Hong Kong is full of good eats! Hope you drop by again soon ;)

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  18. Bookmarked this post and looking forward to coming back to it when I plan a trip to HK! Absolutely stunning photos :) x Alona

    gentleconfusion.blogspot.com

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  19. I have major envy! I've always wanted to go to Hong Kong! When I lived in Korea I had planned to go, but it didn't end up happening. But this is a great list of things to do!
    xx Daniela / Fashion Shower Blog

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  20. Amazing trip! Thank you for the guide.
    xx

    http://www.mybeautrip.com

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  21. Thanks for the tips! All the food you posted looks sooo yummy!!

    xoxo
    Sharan
    www.MyGoldenBeauty.com

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  22. Thanks for posting all the recs + pix!!! Will def use this for next trip to HK

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  23. The best views for afternoon tea are on the Kowloon side, so you can look over at Hong Kong Island! There's a hotel with big windows nearby star walk... the Intercontinental, I think! You can get a Western or Chinese style tea set, and they often have live music, I think... Maybe it is a bar/lounge at night, too? You should try it out if you have a lazy afternoon to spend staring out the window. :)

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  24. LOVE your ASOS skirt and top. What color nail polish are you wearing? Is it gel?
    https://www.etsy.com/shop/heavenlybottoms

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  25. I travel to Hong Kong often for work, and I have to say that unless you've been to and enjoyed Tai O, I would not suggest recommending it... my husband and I visited the town and were very disappointed. It's unique, for sure - but not as romantic or interesting as blogs make it seem. I would definitely recommend the hike up to Victoria Peak, though!

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  26. what an incredible experience!! those coffees are the cutest! i need to go to hong kong asap now!

    xo
    allie

    pretaprovost.com

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  27. Hi,

    Have you done a post about Boston? I couldn't find one. I'm visiting for work soon and wondering what sweets I can bring back for my friends and coworkers to enjoy. Thanks in advance,

    Sandy

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  28. Thanks for sharing! One of my favorite bars in Hong Kong is the Mandarin Oriental's M Bar for the great view, also love Tim's Kitchen for exquisite dim sum. Until next time!

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  29. I loved all your outfits from the trip, and your photos too! The ride in the glass bottomed trolley looks amazing. I've never thought about vacationing to Hong Kong, but now it's on my travel bucket list!
    Julia // Little Miss Haute Couture

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  30. Oh, man. Jean you did all the touristy and overrated things. There're heaps better places for dim sum than Tim Ho Wan, for starters. And Tai Cheong egg tarts have devolved into something completely unrecognisable from their original form ever since the family business got bought over by an institutional fund. The taste, texture and even SHAPE of the egg tart is nothing like the form that made those egg tarts famous in the first place. These days it's just a mousetrap for tourists who don't know any better.

    Pro tip for anyone looking to visit HK: sign up for one of the food on foot guided tours, where you're guided through the dizzying maze of streets by a local guide (who speaks English fluently) so you can sample a much bigger array of the famous local eateries that locals still love for their authenticity and quality. They even give you a map of other eateries that they don't have time to cover during the 3-hour experience so you can explore on your own.

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  31. hong kong food -- insanely amazing! thanks for your post. I know your sandals are old, but ooc would you be willing to review Swedish hasbeens? I'm looking for a very walkable sandal in cognac with some heel in a small (6!) size, and have heard good things about them. otherwise, looks like madewell shoes are pretty similar in "look" -- do you know if they're good quality? cheers!

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  32. any chance you'd be able to review other walkable sandals in small sizes? would love to know what you think of swedish hasbeens.

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  33. Looks like it was an amazing trip! I need to visit!! I cannot get over all of your amazing food pics! 0.0

    www.tailoredandtrue.com

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  34. What a great guid! Thank you for putting it together! Glad to see you chose HK and LOVE all the outfits on your trip, especially the white puffy sleeve top. They are very suited for the climate there. I wish I can wear more white color tops these days - with an 8-mo old it's kinda difficult not to get it dirty. I remember taking those cable car/trolley when I was a kid too. Always super scary to me. It's making me planning ahead my outfits for summer vacation!

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  35. I love Hong Kong! Nice tips!
    xoxo
    www.donkeycool.es

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  36. Hi Jean, what nail polish are you wearing in these pics? Thanks!

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  37. so sweet ,nic's eyes are always on
    you.

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