Everyone has heard about Hong Kong’s skyline. We’ve all seen the pictures from The Peak, and the top of your to-do list is always going to be Tian Tan Big Buddha. Even if you didn’t know these things before you booked your trip to Hong Kong, you certainly would after one quick Google.
After three years in Hong Kong, I’m still working through my impossibly long to-do list of experiences and sightseeing — the city is constantly changing, and always revealing more hidden treasures. It’s a blessing and a curse that you always have fresh things to do, as it often means missing old favourites as they disappear with exorbitant rent or renovations. It does mean there is often a sense of urgency in seeing some of the lesser-known or more local sites—while you know the Disneyland isn’t going anywhere, you’re local cha-cha-teng could be gone tomorrow.
For new and old residents, first-time or return visitors alike, here is an incomplete list of some alternative ways to spend a weekend in Hong Kong, adapted from my much longer to-do list. You’ll see a different side to the city, and certainly delve a little deeper than the glossy light show facade.
- Chill out in Kowloon Walled City Park, the gardens where the former Kowloon Walled City stood (otherwise known as the most densely populated place on earth).
- Go off track and hunt down Hung Shin Temple in Sai Kung. Built in 1889, it’s one of Hong Kong’s rare century-old buildings, and a boat ride from the main peninsula means you’ll probably have it mostly to yourself.
- Check out the newly-opened Tai Kwun Heritage and Arts Centre. The former prison pays tribute to Hong Kong history and culture with great exhibits, and a stellar restaurant selection to boot.
- Hike on Po Toi Island. Ancient rock carvings, lighthouses, and sea-views galore… what more could you want? Just remember to bring your own snacks.
- Go camping at Long Ke Wan Beach in Sai Kung. You’ll be surprised at how much this feels like a remote tropical Thai island rather than a mere hour from Hong Kong’s urban centre.
- Explore haunted WWII Military Forts and Bunkers on Mount Davis. There’s walking history tours on offer that explore these abandoned buildings.
- Visit the 100-year-old Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market. It’s open 24 hours a day, and is both open to wholesalers and individual customers.
- Skip Ladies Night or the Races, and enjoy spoken word poetry at Peel Street Poetry every Wednesday night. The Social Room who host it offer 2–4–1 drinks until 9pm, too.
- Attend IRIS Yoga & Wellness Festival yoga festival every March and September/October. The city has had a huge surge in wellness activities and interests, so there are always some incredible teachers attending.