Old and new sit side by side as incense wafts out of temples sandwiched between skyscrapers. Cathy Packe visits a Chinese cracker of a city.
WHY GO NOW?
Hong Kong is buzzing again. There are constant new developments in the city, from the opening of Disney on Lantau later in the year to the ongoing redevelopment of the waterfront area.
You can fly non-stop from Heathrow to Hong Kong with British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com); Cathay Pacific (020-8834 8888; www.cathaypacific.com); Qantas (0845 774 7767; www.qantas.com.au); and Virgin Atlantic (0870 380 2007; ( www.virgin-atlantic.com). Emirates (0870 243 2222; www.emirates.com) flies from Gatwick, Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow via Dubai. The Airport Express rail link (00 852 2881 8888; www.hongkongairport.com) connects Chek Lap Kok airport to the city centre. Fares cost HK$100 (£6.75) to the terminus (1) on Hong Kong island.
GET YOUR BEARINGS
Hong Kong consists of a peninsula jutting out into the South China Sea that is fringed by more than 260 islands. Kowloon occupies the southern end of the peninsula, and its tip, Tsim Sha Tsui, is popular with visitors for its museums, hotels and shops. Across the harbour it faces Hong Kong Island, hub of the former British colony. It is dominated by Victoria Peak; on the north shore is the business district, known as Central, and a couple of miles east, the livelier district of Causeway Bay.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board (00 852 2508 1234; www.discoverkongkong.com) has offices in the Causeway Bay MTR station (2), and at the Star Ferry Terminal in Kowloon (3), which both open 8am-8pm daily.
TAKE A RIDE
Getting around the island - and between it and the mainland - is easy, thanks to the city's efficient public transport system, consisting of an underground, the Mass Transit Railway or MTR; the trams; and the Star Ferry (00 852 2367 7065; www.starferry.com.hk), whose boats shuttle between the terminals in Central (4) and Kowloon (3) from 6.30am until 11.30pm every day. The nine-minute journey costs HK$2.20 (15p).
Long-established as one of Hong Kong's luxury hotels, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (5) at 5 Connaught Road (00 852 2522 0111; www.mandarinoriental.com) has rooms from HK$2,000 (£74).
TAKE A HIKE
Contrast modern Hong Kong with the old, oriental city by exploring the district of Sheung Wa. Start in Millennium Plaza (8), a typical small urban park dominated by tall buildings and a video screen showing the latest share prices to passers-by. But off here is Wing Lok Street, lined with traditional noodle restaurants, ginseng shops and stores selling dried fish. Carry on past the Sheung Wan market (9) and along Bonham Strand West, taking a detour into Ko Shing Street, where the stores sell herbal medicines. Back in Hollywood Road modern life resumes. This is the oldest street in the city, and on the left-hand side, the park (10) is on the site of Possession Point, where the Royal Navy planted the British flag in 1841. Close by is Man Mo temple (11) (00 852 2803 2916), built in 1847 and dominated by the smell of incense.
LUNCH ON THE RUN
Turn off Hollywood Road into Graham Street, and, just before the bottom, turn into Stanley Street (12) and order a meal at one of the small restaurants, known as dai pai dongs, set up along the street. A plate of rice and a stir-fry is around HK$25 (£1.70). Or grab a sandwich at Cafe Landmark (00 852 2526 4200) on level one of the Landmark Centre (13).
The Museum of Art (14) at 10 Salisbury Road (00 852 2721 0116; www.lcsd.gov.hk/hkma) is the largest museum in the city, and has one of the best collections of Chinese fine arts in the world. Open 10am-6pm daily except Thursday, admission HK$10 (70p) - and free on Wednesdays.
The latest shopping mall is Two ifc, the tallest building in the International Financial Centre (15) on the Central Waterfront. Check out the Lane Crawford department store which opens 10am-9pm daily. It has a small but cool martini bar (00 852 2118 7600) in the menswear department. Elsewhere look out for branches of G.O.D., selling home furnishings and clothing. The largest is at the Leighton Centre on Sharp Street East (00 852 2541 1118; www.god.com.hk) (16), which opens noon-10pm daily. For electronic goods, visit branches of either Fortress or Broadway. There is one of each in the Harbour City complex (00 852 2118 8666; www.harbourcity.com.hk) (17) in Kowloon.
Follow the crowds, the lights or the music to find your way to Lan Kwai Fong. Currently in vogue is Stormy Weather (18).
DINING WITH THE LOCALS
The hottest place in town is Isola (00 852 2383 8765; www.isolabarandgrill.com), in Two ifc (15), which has caught the vogue for alfresco dining. Across the water, with superb views, is Hutong (19) at 1 Peking Road (00 852 3428 8342; www.aqua.com.hk), which serves traditional Chinese dishes with a modern twist.
SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH
Take the green MTR line to Wong Tai Sin and visit the temple, which is next to the station and clearly signposted. It is dedicated to the god of gamblers, which might account for its popularity. Around the edge of the complex are several dozen booths containing fortune tellers who will read your palm for HK$300 (£20). More traditionally, there are services every morning and throughout Sunday at St John's Cathedral (20) at 4-8 Garden Road (00 852 2523 4157; www.stjohnscathedral.org.hk), the oldest Anglican church in the Far East.
TAKE A VIEW
If the weather is clear, take the Peak Tram (00 852 2522 0922; www.thepeak.com.hk) from its base station at 33 Garden Road (21) to the top of the Victoria Peak, 400m above sea level. The tram operates every 10-15 minutes from 7am-midnight daily, and costs HK$20 (£1.35) single, HK$30 (£2) return. If you fancy some exercise, there are some well-marked walking trails back down to the city.
OUT TO BRUNCH
The Peak Lookout restaurant at 121 Peak Road (00 852 2849 1000; www.peaklookout.com.hk) just opposite the Peak tram's upper station offers breakfast on the terrace at weekends and on bank holidays from 8.30-11.30am. Expect to pay HK$89 (£6) for an Asian noodle breakfast. But dim sum is to the Chinese what brunch is to the Americans, and one of the most traditional places to try these sweet and savoury dumplings is in Happy Valley. Dim Sum, at 63 Sing Woo Road (00 852 2834 8893), opens 11am-4.30pm and 6-10pm at weekends, from 11am on weekdays.
A WALK IN THE PARK
Hong Kong Park (00 852 2521 5041; www.lcsd.gov.hk) (22) is a small haven in the frenzied urban environment of Central district. With the striking Bank of China Tower looming above, this is a popular spot for wedding photographs to be taken.
ICING ON THE CAKE
Try out Hong Kong's most unusual form of transport, the Mid-Levels Escalator. Designed to take commuters between Central and the residential district of Mid-Levels, it starts opposite Central Market (18) and ends up on Conduit Road, by means of moving staircases and walkways. The whole journey takes 20 minutes, and the escalator operates downwards from 6am-10am and upwards from 10.15am-midnight every day.Reuse content