Picturing Hong Kong conjures a place of buzzing neon energy. But the island metropolis has an off button, should you choose to press it: its fringes are a hiker’s haven, there’s a groundswell in the arts scene and a growing collection of minimalist properties offer restorative sleep amid all the activity. Here’s our two-day guide to seeing the best of all that Hong Kong has to offer.
AM Hong Kong can be a lot to take in, so orienting yourself within the city from above can be a good way to dip a toe in. The over 130-year-old Peak Tram route to the top of Victoria Peak delivers spectacular views over the city’s cluster of skyscrapers. Find some breathing space by swapping the crowded view from Sky Terrace 428, a tower that stands 428 metres above sea level, for the views from Lions View Point Pavilion instead – it’s a two minute walk away and you’re more likely to share this view with elderly locals than camera-armed tourists. The Morning Trail, a twirl around the top of the hill, has a heart-pumping incline but is perfect for a morning stroll.
PM Peking Garden Restaurant is a local icon that’s been dishing up delicious duck for over four decades. While the waterfowl is the obvious choice for lunch at this Tsim Sha Tsui eatery, there’s more to Peking cuisine than its namesake dish: Beggar’s Chicken, a traditional-stuffed bird covered in layers of lotus leek and clay, is a standout.
PM Time to get down to business. Hong Kong’s shopping scene is legendary and you can almost guarantee there’s a stall, store or entire mall dedicated to the very thing you’re in the market for. The harbourside neighbourhood of Causeway Bay is a hub for classic, sprawling malls — namely Sogo, Times Square, Fashion Walk and Lee Gardens — but the former residential building of PMQ is one of the city’s best places to discover more unique bits and pieces, from homewares to fashion.
PM The city’s fine dining scene has a new addition in Hong Kong Cuisine 1983, an unassuming gem in Happy Valley on Hong Kong Island. Head chef Silas Li’s careful, contemporary Cantonese dishes and the sommeliers' extensive knowledge (and range) of wines and Chinese liquors combine to create modern gastronomic masterpieces — the buffalo milk panna cotta, finished with Taiwanese Irwin mango, is a highlight.
AM Begin the day with a hearty traditional breakfast of congee, Hong Kong’s hallmark comfort food. Some of the city’s most glorious bowls of rice porridge are from Trusty Congee King, a Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient in Wan Chai. The congees here are fish broth-based and the reigning favourite is the salty pork liver and scallop offering.
AM The former industrial district of Wong Chuk Hang has had a major glow-up in recent years. Some of the area’s factories — there used to be almost 1200 – have taken on new life in the form of boutique hotels, independent galleries and craft breweries.
PM Temple Street Night Market near the Yau Ma Tei MTR station is a unique glimpse into the city’s buzzy night scene, with vibrant stalls spruiking everything from T-shirts to novelty knick-knacks in the glare of gaudy lights and the sweeping tunes of local opera singers. It’s also known for its many fortune tellers but you’ll have to do your research if you want a serious glimpse into the future: although all may be gifted in the art of prophecy, not all can speak English.
AM End your 48-hour experience on a calmer note. You’ll be with locals and visitors alike at Man Mo Temple, a shrine to the God of Literature and Martial Arts in Sheung Wan on Hollywood Road. The Grade I Historical Building is small, with coils of incense hanging from the ceiling and permeating the air with a heady scent. It’s free to enter, so take your time and soak up the peaceful atmosphere before leaving.
SEE ALSO: First-timer's Guide to Hong Kong
*Commencing June 2023 subject to government and regulatory approval.
Image credits: Hong Kong Cuisine 1983, Fazon, Mosay May