Why go now?
The oppressively hot days of summer will soon be coming to an end and the high-rise metropolis of Hong Kong will once again be a joy to behold. Throw in new flights, a wave of new bars and restaurants and some of the most iconic sights and experiences in the Far East and you’ve got a city break of epic proportions.
Hong Kong is served by a number of direct flights from the UK. I travelled with Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 2770; virginatlantic.com), which departs every evening from Heathrow on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Return fares from £460.
Around 12 hours later you’ll touch down at Hong Kong International Airport (1), located on Lantau Island, 34km north-west of the city centre. The Airport Express train whisks new arrivals to downtown Hong Kong in 24 minutes. Services depart every 10 minutes between 5.54am and 12.48am bound for Central (2) and Kowloon (3) stations. A one-way ticket costs from HKD60. A taxi will cost from HKD285 to Hong Kong Island and HKD220 to Kowloon.
Currently, £1 is worth HKD10.31, while US$1 is worth HKD7.76.
Get your bearings
The British have long had a love affair with Hong Kong. A colony until it was handed back to China in 1997, it is now an autonomous “special administrative region” of the People’s Republic. It consists of 263 islands and a peninsula that juts down from mainland China.
The principle destinations for visitors are historic Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, located to the south on the other side of Victoria Harbour and known for its futuristic shoreline crammed with gleaming skyscrapers. But the outlying islands – notably Lantau, the largest in the archipelago – are also worthy of some attention.
The main tourist information centre (4) is at the Star Ferry Concourse in Tsim Sha Tsui (00 852 2508 1234; discoverhongkong.com; 8am-8pm daily).
Dating back to 1928, the Peninsula Hotel (5) on Salisbury Road (00 852 2920 2888; hongkong.peninsula.com) may be the oldest hotel in Hong Kong but there are 21st century touches throughout: rooms with king-sized beds, waterfall showers and specially designed control panels. Elsewhere, unwind at the heavenly spa with treatment rooms overlooking Victoria Harbour. Doubles from HKD3,880, room only.
Design property Hotel Icon (6) at 15 Science Museum Road (00 852 3400 1000; hotel-icon.com) is kitted out with contemporary Chinese art but it’s the harbour views that really impress. Doubles from HKD1,846, room only.
The 148-room Butterfly on Hollywood (7) at 263 Hollywood Road (00 852 2850 8899; butterflyhk.com) is stylish, well located and reasonably priced. Doubles from HKD710, room only.
Take a hike
Start at one of Hong Kong’s oldest temples. Dedicated to the gods of war and literature, Man Mo temple (8) at 124 Hollywood Road (00 852 2540 0350; 8am-6pm) was built in 1847 and its crimson interior is heady with the aroma of countless coils of burning incense. From there, cross the road and walk down the short flight of stairs, turning left onto Cat’s Street (9). This pedestrianised strip is lined with stalls selling faux antiques and quirky souvenirs. Chairman Mao watch, anyone?
Backtrack onto Hollywood Road and walk east. Pause for a maca-taha smoothie (coconut yoghurt, maca powder, chia seeds and spinach) at Grassroots Pantry (10) at number 108 (00 852 2873 3353; grassrootspantry.com; 9am-11pm) and continue, keeping watch for the interesting street art on display at the junctions to other streets. Finish at Shelley Street where you’ll find the Mid-Level Escalators (11), a pioneering elevated walkway system that extends over 800 metres in a bid to provide the thousands of residents living on the steep hillsides with easy access to Central.
Mong Kok (12) in Kowloon is the place for gadgets, but far more interesting are the fine art and rare Chinese artefacts on show in the antique stores along Hollywood Road (13).
Hong Kong is also home to some of the best tailors in the world. Gents can get a bespoke suit from Cuffs (14) at 2F 27 Lee Garden Road (00 852 241 36033; cuffs.hk), which has recently opened its second store in Causeway Bay. Favouring more contemporary designs, owner Ian Fong has devised a unique process that customises everything from the cut to the thread of the buttons. Typical opening hours are 10am-8pm daily.
Lunch on the run
Replenish your energy levels with a plate of stir-fried scallops with black garlic (HKD248) at SohoFama (15) at 35 Aberdeen Street (00 852 2858 8238; sohofama.com; 12pm-10.30pm daily) – best enjoyed at an outdoor table beside the restaurant’s vegetable garden.
SohoFama forms part of the PMQ complex (00 852 2870 2335; pmq.org; 7am-11pm daily), a former police station transformed into a creative space with around 100 independent food and retail outlets, many design – and fashion – focused with local connections.
Take a view
There’s no better vantage point to appreciate Hong Kong’s vertiginous skyline than from Victoria Peak (16) (00 852 2849 0669; thepeak.com.hk; 10am-11pm daily), best seen at dusk. If time permits, walk the one-hour circular Peak Trail for a different perspective. The nicest way to reach the 552m summit is on the gravity-defying 125-year-old Peak Tram which departs from 33 Garden Road (17), in Central, every 10-15 minutes between 7am and midnight. A return ticket costs HKD83. Pre-book tickets as queues are often lengthy.
The newest and hottest bar in town is Ophelia (18) at 1/F The Avenue, Lee Tung Avenue (00 852 2520 1117; ophelia.com.hk; 6pm-2am closed Sunday and Monday), where cocktails are served in birdcages. Pass through the aviary-themed entrance and into a decadent and dimly-lit space inspired by the city’s 19th century opium dens. The attention to detail is astonishing – there are 600,000 handpainted ceramic tiles with peacock eye motifs and resplendent feathers. Try the “Cheongasm” cocktail with tequila, homemade pomegranate cordial, lemon and cinnamon mist.
Dine with the locals
Hong Kong’s culinary scene is not only exciting but also constantly evolving with new innovative restaurants opening on an almost daily basis. One such eatery is Cobo House (19) at 8/12 South Lane (00 852 2656 3088; cobohouse.com; 12pm-11pm daily), from celebrated pastry chef Janice Wong. Dishes include duck breast with herbs and mocha mugi (a Japanese glutinous barley), and cod with smoked aubergine puree and dill cream. Mains from HKD168.
Another new hotspot is QI Nine Dragons (20) at 20/F Prince Tower, 12A Peking Road (00 852 2799 8899; qi-ninedragons.hk) which serves blow-your-socks-off Sichuan cuisine. Even the chocolate ice cream is spicy. Try the fried calamari with Sichuan miso (HKD128) and cool off with a nightcap on the rooftop terrace.
Sunday morning: out to brunch
Do as the locals do and dine out on dim sum. But not just any old dim sum. Upon first impressions there’s nothing particularly special about Tim Ho Wan (21) at 2 Hoi Ting Road (00 852 2332 2896; timhowan.com; 10am-9.30pm daily) – the dining room crowded and a little drab with people eating on black plastic plates – but looks can be deceiving. Considered to be the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, the dumplings are simply divine. Go early to avoid the queue. The slightly sweet barbequed pork buns are not to be missed. Dishes from HKD18.
A walk in the park
Kowloon Walled City Park (22) on Tung Tsing Road (00 852 2716 9962; 6.30am-11pm daily), with pavilions and peaceful pathways, is based on the Jiangnan gardens of the Qing Dynasty and has a fascinating history; it stands on the site of a former ungoverned settlement that was once the most densely populated place on the planet.
Fought over by both sides when Britain leased Hong Kong from the Chinese, it was eventually abandoned by both nations and became a place of brothels, opium dens and unlicensed health practitioners with 350 residential tower blocks crammed into an area the size of four football fields. The city was torn down in the 1990s.
Discover more of the city’s colourful past at the Hong Kong Museum of History (23) at 100 Chatham Road South (00 852 2724 9042; lcsd.gov.hk; 10am-6pm daily except Tuesday; HKD10), which traces 400 million years of geological and cultural history.
Alternatively, focus entirely on its relationship with the sea at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum (24) at Central Pier 8 (00 852 33717 2500; hkmaritimemuseum.org; HKD30) which documents the naval history and trade of the city and the surrounding Pearl River Delta.
Take a ride
No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without at least one ride on the green and white Star Ferry (starferry.com.hk) across Victoria Harbour. Boats depart every 8-12 minutes between 7.20am and 11pm from Tsim Sha Tsui Pier (25) in Kowloon, and two piers on Hong Kong Island: Central (26) and Wan Chai (27). The crossing takes around eight minutes and one-way tickets cost from HKD2.50.
Icing on the cake
Green and mountainous Lantau Island, which sits at the mouth of the Pearl River, is ripe for adventure. Ride the panoramic cable car, stand under the 34m-tall bronze Tian Tan Buddha (28) and hike the three-hour Dragon’s Back Trail for views across the island, its peaks and bays.
Also set aside time to visit the traditional fishing village of Tai O, where homes are built on stilts above the tidal flats. Stay overnight at the charming colonial style Tai O Heritage Hotel (29) on Shek Tsai Po Street (00 852 2985 8383; taioheritagehotel.com). Doubles from HKD710, including breakfast.
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