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How I Spent 48 Hours in Hong Kong [Things To Do, What To Eat]

Ehsan Haque's image
Ehsan Haque
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Ehsan Haque

Content Contributor

72 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 100U.S. States Visited: 24

Ehsan is an avid traveler who has traveled to 100 countries, diligently using points and miles to fund his journeys. Currently, he holds 32 active credit cards and earns over a million points and mile...
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Michael Y. Park

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Michael Y. Park is a journalist living in New York City. He’s traveled through Afghanistan disguised as a Hazara Shi’ite, slept with polar bears on the Canadian tundra, picnicked with the king and que...
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Hong Kong is a vibrant metropolis known for its photogenic skyline, bustling city streets and night markets, incredible cuisine, and rich cultural heritage. Despite its small size, Hong Kong is on the world stage thanks to its complex history and unique blend of Eastern and Western influences.

Simply put, Hong Kong is one of my favorite places in the world and a dream travel destination for many. When I lived in mainland China (almost 10 years ago), I could visit several times. But this year, it’d been over 5 years since I last visited.

So, when I found time to make a quick trip there from Taiwan (where I was at the time), I immediately did so. Fortunately, you can see many of Hong Kong’s main attractions in just a few days. Here’s a look at how I spent 48 hours in Hong Kong.

Arriving in Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Hong Kong International Airport Ehsan Haque
A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 at Hong Kong International Airport.

Unless you come from mainland China, you will likely be flying into Hong Kong International Airport (HKG).

From the U.S., you can fly nonstop to Hong Kong on either United Airlines or Cathay Pacific. United offers nonstop flights between Hong Kong and Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), and San Francisco (SFO). Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific offers nonstop flights between Hong Kong and Chicago (ORD), Boston (BOS), Los Angeles, New York (JFK), and San Francisco.

Since I was in Taiwan before my visit, I booked a $55 one-way flight on HK Express from Taipei (TPE).

Where To Stay in Hong Kong

Although I stayed with a friend this time, there are hundreds of hotels to choose from. There are plenty of cost-effective local hotels, boutique properties, and hostels, but there are also major hotel chains, including Marriott, Hilton, IHG, and Hyatt.

Although Hong Kong is relatively small and well-connected by public transportation, several different areas are worth looking into. Where you choose to stay will depend on the type of activities you want to do.

Central

Central is considered Hong Kong’s ultramodern business district. It offers plenty of accommodations, world-class dining, luxury shopping malls, and tourist attractions. Central is also considered the transportation center of Hong Kong Island.

The area is also home to Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s all-night, party and entertainment district. Many of Hong Kong’s best and most luxurious hotels are in Central.

Admiralty and Wan Chai

The Admiralty and Wan Chai districts also lie along Victoria Harbour and offer many tourist attractions, with a slightly less busy environment than Central.

The areas offer an assortment of shopping venues and markets with discount clothing, souvenirs, and street food. The Hong Kong Arts Centre and Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre are also in these districts.

Causeway Bay

Causeway Bay is Hong Kong’s shopping center, home to world-class malls, including SOGO, Times Square, and Causeway Bay Plaza.

There are also plenty of golden opportunities for sightseeing, including Hong Kong Central Library and Tin Hau Temple. The famous Hong Kong Tramways also run through Causeway Bay.

Tsim Sha Tsui

Tsim Sha Tsui is on the southern edge of Kowloon near Victoria Harbour. Often referred to as TST, this part of the city has many of Hong Kong’s museums and concert halls.

The area is home to many of Hong Kong’s most popular tourist attractions, including the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, K11 Art Mall, Avenue of Stars, Kowloon Park, and Kowloon Mosque And Islamic Centre.

Mong Kok and Yau Ma Tei

Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok make up the lower sections of Kowloon and are where to find many of Hong Kong’s most important markets, including Jade Market and Temple Street Night Market. Here, you can expect to find endless inexpensive shopping and street food.

Mong Kok is also home to many of Hong Kong’s more traditional (and much more affordable) accommodation options.

Day 1

After arriving at Hong Kong International Airport at 9 a.m., I was ready to begin exploring one of my favorite places to travel. At the airport, I purchased an Octopus card, a rechargeable contactless smart card used for electronic payments in Hong Kong.

The Octopus card is incredibly versatile and can be used to pay for nearly all modes of transport, including the Hong Kong Mass Transit Railway (or MTR), Airport Express, Light Rail, buses, and ferries. It is the go-to electronic payment method for locals and tourists and can also be used at vending machines, kiosks, convenience stores, and supermarkets.

Hong Kong Octopus card Ehsan Haque
An Octopus card is a great thing to have when traveling around Hong Kong.

An adult Octopus card costs HK$150 ($19.20), which includes an initial top-up value of HK$100 ($12.80) to spend on transportation. The Octopus card also has a HK$50 ($6.40) deposit, which is refunded when you return the card (minus a HK$11, or $1.40, charge if the card is returned within 90 days).

Depending on how much you intend to use Hong Kong’s public transportation system, you can top up your Octopus card. I decided not to add any more since I expected HK$100 to cover most of my transportation for the 48 hours I was in Hong Kong.

From the Airport Train Station, I took the Airport Express directly to Central MTR Station to drop off my bags at my friend’s apartment.

From there, I was ready to head to the Kowloon side of Hong Kong. I had 2 options to cross to Tsim Sha Tsui: the MTR or the Star Ferry. I took the ferry since I knew I would utilize the MTR quite a bit over these 2 days.

Star Ferry

The Star Ferry is an iconic passenger service that has been operating between Central or Wan Chai (Hong Kong Island side) and Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry Terminal (Kowloon side) since the late 19th century.

Even though the harbor is crossed by railway and road tunnels, the Star Ferry still carries over 70,000 people daily. It is the fastest and cheapest way to travel across Victoria Harbour. Adult tickets start at HK$4 ($0.51), and the journey takes roughly 5 minutes. You can find the ferry schedule here.

In addition to the price, the primary reason for taking the Star Ferry is that it offers spectacular views of both sides of Hong Kong, the skyline, and Victoria Harbour. Its affordability, reliability, and historical significance have made it a symbol of Hong Kong and something worth experiencing for visitors.

Star Ferry Hong Kong
Ferries crossing Victoria Harbor. Image Credit: Harry Shum via Pexels

Choi Hung Estate

Choi Hung Estate is a public housing estate in the Wong Tai Sin District of Kowloon and is one of the oldest public housing estates in Hong Kong. It serves as a symbol of the city’s efforts to provide affordable housing to its residents.

Over the years, the estate has become a popular spot for photography enthusiasts and tourists for its basketball courts above a parking garage and the rainbow-colored apartments behind them. Although I have been to Hong Kong several times, this was the first time I made it out here. Best of all, this was a free attraction in a rather expensive destination!

To get to the Choi Hung Estate, take the MTR to Choi Hung Station.

Choi Hung Estate Hong Kong Ehsan Haque
Choi Hung Estate basketball courts.

Symphony of Lights

Every night at 8 p.m., there is the Symphony of Lights, a synchronized lights and sound show that illuminates the Hong Kong skyline with vibrant colors and dynamic patterns. The show has been one of Hong Kong’s largest attractions since 2004 and was declared the world’s largest permanent light and sound show by Guinness World Records in 2005.

The show orchestrates music, decoration lights, laser light displays, and pyrotechnics. It lasts around 10 minutes and is worth experiencing at least once. The best viewpoint is arguably from the Avenue of Stars promenade in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The promenade is easily reached via the East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station. The Symphony of Lights is free for the public, and no admission ticket is required.

Hong kong skyline at night
Hong Kong skyline during the Symphony of Lights. Image Credit: Aleksandar Pasaric via Pexels

Temple Street Night Market

After the Symphony of Lights, I walked about 15 minutes to the Temple Street Night Market, a bustling night market in the Yau Ma Tei area of Kowloon. The market comes alive in the evening with street vendors and stalls selling various goods, including clothing, accessories, electronics, souvenirs, and street food.

The Temple Street Night Market is a cultural experience that perfectly reflects the dynamic and diverse essence of Hong Kong’s street life. The market is easily accessible via the MTR at Jordan Station and is open daily between 2 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Hong Kong night market Ehsan Haque
Temple Street Night Market from an overhead pedestrian walkway.

Neon Lights of Mong Kok

After walking around the night market, I also wanted to see more of the brightly lit neon lights that Hong Kong is famous for, something I have done on every visit. These legendary neon lights, with their vibrant colors, have defined the city’s nightscape. They have become an iconic city symbol, embodying the spirit of Hong Kong’s vibrant street culture.

As a kid, my grandfather showed me many pictures of his business trips to Hong Kong. These neon lights inspired me to visit Hong Kong for the first time in 2015.

Unfortunately, Hong Kong’s famous neon signs are becoming increasingly difficult to find because of tightening government regulations. The increased building regulations have resulted in many iconic neon signs being taken down, essentially casting a shadow above the streets they once stood over.

Hong Kong neon lights and buses at night Ehsan Haque
The bustling streets of Hong Kong at night.

Day 2

After a long first day, including an early morning flight and a late-night street photography session, I was ready to see the city from above. However, before I headed to 2 different viewpoints, I wanted to photograph another famous spot.

Monster Building

The Monster Building, also known as the Yik Cheong Building, is a complex of interconnected residential buildings in Quarry Bay. The building gained international fame after being featured in several films, including “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” 

The building has a distinctive appearance, characterized by densely packed residential towers rising high into the sky. In my opinion, no other place represents the gritty urban density of Hong Kong more than this maze of buildings.

The Monster Building is easily accessible via the MTR at Tai Koo station. It is a residential complex, meaning people come and go throughout the day and night.

Monster Building Hong Kong Ehsan Haque
The Monster Building is the epitome of urban density.

Braemer Hill View Point

Braemer Hill is a lesser-known viewpoint near the Red Incense Burner Summit. It offers an excellent view of Hong Kong Island and is an alternative to the busier viewpoints the city has to offer.

There are several ways to get to Braemer Hill View Point, ranging from taxis to public transportation. To save money, I took a public bus.

From the Tin Hau Station bus stop in Causeway Bay, I took bus route 49M to the last stop, Upper Braemar Hill Bus Terminus. From there, it was about a 15-minute uphill hike to the viewpoint.

Braemer Hill viewpoint Hong Kong Ehsan Haque
The view overlooking Hong Kong island from Braemer Hill.

After enjoying the view, I began the climb back down. I took the same bus in the opposite direction back to Central Station.

Victoria Peak

There’s no debate that Victoria Peak, commonly called the Peak, is the most well-known viewpoint on Hong Kong Island. The viewpoint is world-renowned for panoramic views of Hong Kong’s forest of skyscrapers, the harbor, and even Kowloon.

There are several ways to get to Victoria Peak, with the famous 125-year-old Peak Tram being the most common. However, dedicated public and tourist buses also go up to Victoria Peak.

There was about a 2-hour wait to take the tram, and it wasn’t worth it for me to wait that long, considering I had ridden it before. Instead, I decided to hike up to Victoria Peak, which took just over an hour. I arrived about 30 minutes before sunset.

Once I reached the top, I arrived at the Peak Tower. At the top was Sky Terrace 428, which offered incredible views, albeit for an admission fee (adult tickets cost HK$75, or about $10). However, if you walk past the building and turn right on Lugard Road, you will find a walking path that offers even better views.

Victoria Peak Hong Kong Ehsan Haque
The views at Victoria Peak were worth the hike!
Hot Tip:

If you want to get even better (and, more importantly, free) views of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak, skip Sky Terrace 428. Instead, walk about 7 minutes past the building and turn right on Lugard Road. There will be a small hiking path that offers amazing views!

No other place on Earth has as many skyscrapers as Hong Kong. It’s always incredible to see the density of buildings. I enjoyed my time there so much that I stayed for 30 minutes after sunset.

Victoria Peak Hong Kong at night Ehsan Haque
Hong Kong looks even better after the sun has set.

Can’t-Miss Street Food

Hong Kong has world-class restaurants, but when I travel, I tend to go for street food. Fortunately, Hong Kong is known for its hawkers, people who run street-side food stalls that are often just carts.

Roadside Chinese Dumpling Restaurant in the Ladies Market Area, Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Some of the best eats can be found on the streets. Image Credit: David Parker via Adobe Stock

Hong Kong’s cuisine is world-renowned for its fresh seafood, bold flavors, and use of various sauces and spices. The cuisine has been influenced by the city’s history and combines Chinese, British, and Southeast Asian flavors and cooking techniques to create some of the best food on earth.

Here’s a look at some of the best street food that Hong Kong has to offer.

1. Dim Sum

Dim sum is a style of Cantonese cuisine that features small steamed or fried dishes, such as dumplings, buns, and rolls. It is incredibly common to have dim sum with tea.

2. Wonton Noodle Soup

Wonton noodle soup is a popular dish of thin egg noodles and wontons filled with pork or shrimp and served in a savory broth. The soup has a smooth texture and is generally quite oily.

3. Spicy Fish Balls

Spicy fish balls are probably Hong Kong’s most iconic street snack. Nowadays, they are mostly made from flour and contain almost no fish. They are typically served on skewers with spicy or sweet sauces.

Final Thoughts

Hong Kong is a dream destination for many, and rightfully so. It has something to offer everyone: a stunning skyline, incredible street food, unbelievably beautiful nature, and rich cultural heritage.

Although Hong Kong has changed a lot in recent years, it is still one of my favorite places to travel. It offers many experiences, and I look forward to returning there next year!

Frequently Asked Questions

What airlines fly between the U.S. and Hong Kong?

Only United Airlines and Cathay Pacific operate direct routes between the U.S. and Hong Kong.

Is local transport easy to use in Hong Kong?

Yes, Hong Kong has an excellent public transport system that is considered one of the best in the world. Make sure to pick up an Octopus card.

What language do people speak in Hong Kong?

The official languages of Hong Kong are Chinese (mainly Cantonese) and English.

What is the currency in Hong Kong?

The currency used in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong dollar abbreviated as HK$ or HKD.

What are some must-visit attractions in Hong Kong?

Some popular attractions include Victoria Peak, Victoria Harbour, the Monster Building, the Star Ferry, Disneyland Hong Kong, Temple Street Night Market, and the Tian Tan Buddha.

Ehsan Haque's image

About Ehsan Haque

Ehsan is an avid traveler who has traveled to 100 countries, diligently using points and miles to fund his journeys. Currently, he holds 32 active credit cards and earns over a million points and miles annually, primarily using them for luxury hotels and long-haul premium cabins.

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