Hong Kong is a city that raises expectations. Travelers’ anecdotes frequently drop phrases like “cultural kaleidoscope,” “gateway to China,” “world-class hotels,” and “amazing dining culture,” while Hong Kong raised its own bar by rebranding itself as “Asia’s world city,” Even Chek Lap Kok airport, built on reclaimed land on Lantau Island, is regularly rated the world’s best.
It is in the evening, sitting in a chic cocktail lounge overlooking Victoria Harbour, that Hong Kong really delivers. The harbor view – flanked by skyscrapers sculpted by leading global architects and set against a backdrop of undulating hills – is magnificent. The density of these vertical steel pinnacles explains why movie director Christopher Nolan chose Hong Kong to represent Gotham City in his Batman blockbuster The Dark Knight. When night falls, Hong Kong is a mesmerizing vision, whether viewed in the flesh or on the silver screen.
In addition to its glamorous appeal, classy tourism marketing, and openness to globalization, Hong Kong is remarkably resilient. When the territory was returned by the British to Chinese rule in 1997, concerns were raised about its future as a tourist destination. Then the late 1990s Asian financial crisis and the 2003 SARS outbreak decimated its economy.
On both occasions, the officially titled “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China” (historically known as “The Fragrant Harbour’” in Chinese) bounced back and, since 2004, has seen booming visitor numbers, largely from China.
Hong Kong’s signature attractions span its irregular topography. At sea level, riding the aging green-and-white Star Ferry that chugs heroically between the Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong Island remains a timeless pleasure. Crossing from Kowloon, gaze up into the hills behind Cesar Pelli’s soaring Two IFC Tower, I. M. Pei’s angular Bank of China headquarters and Lord Foster’s meccano-like HSBC building. The futuristic Peak Tower atop Victoria Peak affords the city’s best vantage point.
Day and night, visitors throng the harborside malls, restaurants, and bars. A nightly laser and light show adds an extra dimension of color and drama. Hong Kong is a renowned destination for diners and, while locals choose the dim sum snacks and double-boiled soups of Cantonese cuisine, the city’s food scene offers something for everyone, from a sumptuous array of mainland Chinese dishes to pan-Asian and global fare.
But there is much more to Hong Kong than its well-trodden tourist routes and, by leaving behind the delights of the harbor, you’ll discover the city’s culture, history, and heritage, secluded spots and green spaces, and experience the real Hong Kong
Getting There and Around
Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport is located on Lantau Island.
Frequent Airport Express trains run to Kowloon and Central Hong Kong Island in 24 mins.
Where to Eat
Yung Kee serves unfussy Cantonese dim sum and a splendid roast goose. Bo Innovation offers more contemporary, deconstructed Chinese cuisine, while two- Michelin-starred French fare is the hallmark of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Where to Stay
The pride of Hong Kong is The Peninsula on the waterfront of Kowloon. Bishop Lei House offers mid-range rooms in Central’s Mid-Levels district. Hong Kong’s most quirky design-led hotel is the Luxe Manor in Kowloon
When to Go
Mar–Apr and Oct–Nov offer the best climate. The long summer in between is very humid. Hotel accommodations are very hard to find during the week-long Chinese New Year (Jan/Feb) and National Day (1 Oct) holidays.
Budget per Day for Two
Hong Kong is not a cheap destination. Allow US$250–350 for a mid-range hotel, meals, and transportation. Hotel rates rise significantly at peak times.