Hong Kong is something of a contradiction. One of the world’s most densely populated cities — certainly, with one of its most awe-inspiring skylines — Hong Kong is a surprisingly manageable place to visit, even if you’ve only got a short amount of time to discover it.
In fact, three days is all you need for an amazing Hong Kong itinerary, thanks to the city’s compact footprint, great public transport and 24-hour bustle.
Indeed, surprise is a feeling that will come up time and again as you explore all the things to do in Hong Kong.
The city is home to a number of sacred and downright tranquil spots, which provide a great contrast to the raucous markets and neon lights you usually associate with it.
Likewise, the highest point in Hong Kong is not one of its many skyscrapers, but an impossibly lush mountain called Victoria Peak.
No matter what takes you to Hong Kong, or how many times you’ve been, read this Hong Kong travel blog for the ultimate Hong Kong travel tips.
Where to stay
Hong Kong has a – deserved — reputation as one of the world’s most expensive cities, but Hong Kong hotels don’t have to be expensive.
If you’re on a shoestring budget, you can stay at the guest houses in the infamous Chungking Mansions, which is cheap and centrally-located, in spite of its somewhat sketchy reputation.
A more comfortable home for your three days in Hong Kong would be one of the city’s boutique hotels, most notably The Perkin Hotel located off Kimberley Road in Kowloon.
When to visit
Located at a subtropical latitude along the southern coast of China, Hong Kong has decent weather most of the year, so you can theoretically visit anytime.
With this being said, aberrations do occur — the past couple winters, for example, have very cold — so you shouldn’t take having good weather for granted during your own three days in Hong Kong.
Indeed, Hong Kong’s geography makes it frequently foggy and wet, so don’t expect to see much of the sun, temperature notwithstanding.
If there’s one piece of Hong Kong travel advice, it’s that any day in Hong Kong is as good as any other.
The ultimate itinerary
This cover three days, but you can squeeze these things to do in Hong Kong into a shorter trip, or spread your three-day itinerary over a longer period:
• Kowloon by Night: Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok
• Kowloon by Day: Chi Lin Nunnery and Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
• Star Ferry ride to Hong Kong Island
• Hong Kong Zoo
• Yick Fat Building
• Victoria Peak
• Day Trip to Lantau Island
• Day Trip to Macau
Kowloon by day and night
One of two main “lobes” of Hong Kong (the other being Hong Kong Island, just south across Victoria Harbour), Kowloon is in many ways the most iconic part of Hong Kong, and is probably the more popular among the places to visit.
If you arrive in Hong Kong at night, walk down neon-lit Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui to the waterfront Clock Tower, where you can enjoy a gorgeous view of the Hong Kong skyline, with ferries and red-sailed junk boats passing in front of it.
The view can be nice during the day, too, especially when it’s sunny, but seeing the city illuminated makes it seem more spectacular.
To be sure, while much of Kowloon is objectively more attractive at night (markets in Mong Kok and near Jordan Road, such as the Temple Street Night Market, come to mind), there’s plenty of engaging stuff to do with your day in Kowloon.
For a modern flair, visit the aptly-named Innovation Tower at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hung Hom.
Spots such as Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery exude a more traditional sort of chill, while Kowloon Park, which is the site of the controversial, now-demolished Hong Kong Walled City, blends the two moods.
Alternatively, if you’re seeking a more active day, you can add these to activities to your Hong Kong checklist: The short hike up Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery; or the (much) longer one to the summit of Lion Rock.
Highs and lows
Wake up at your leisure on day two of your Hong Kong travel itinerary, then head down to the Star Ferry Terminal and take a boat to Central Pier, on Hong Kong Island.
The pleasant, cheap journey provides great views of both sides of the city and a treat once you arrive, whether you prefer the city’s massive skyscraper, or traditional buildings such as the Former Legislative Council Building or the Former French Building.
Buildings should be the focus of your day in Hong Kong Island in general, so once you’ve finished exploring the central business district (CBD) – and, potentially, the Zoo, Aviary and Botanic Gardens – ride the Hong Kong MTR to Tai Koo station, where you’ll find one of the most iconic buildings in Hong Kong: A public housing tenement known as the Yick Fat Building.
After you finish exploring Yick Fat, it’s a quick metro ride back westward to Tin Hau (then, to be clear, a very steep and maybe not-so-quick uphill walk) to Lai Tak Tsuen, whose design is perhaps less recognisable than Yick Fat, but arguably more strange.
As you look up through the vortex-like foyer, you might feel like you’re being abducted by aliens.
Head back toward the CBD for a late lunch or early dinner (any location of dim sum house Din Tai Fung, or Indian at Khana Khazana in Wan Chai), before mounting The Peak Tower, then heading either to the bars of Hollywood Road to party, or back to Kowloon to sleep.
Lantau and the Big Buddha
Take note of where you picked up the Star Ferry to get back to Kowloon, because it’s in the next building over that you’ll catch your boat today: To Mui Wo on Lantau Island.
After your 30-minute ferry ride here, it’s about 30 more minutes on the #2 bus to Ngong Ping and the Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery, a tranquil place you might not expect to find in Hong Kong.
Actually, the Buddha itself usually isn’t tranquil. Thousands of visitors per day walk up its dozens of steps, especially on weekends, a fact that belies its calm natural setting.
The monastery is pretty chill through, as is the nearby Wisdom Path, which you’ll need to know Chinese in order to be “wise” enough to understand.
After enjoying lunch at the vegetarian restaurant in the monastery, board the #21 bus to Tai O, a “traditional” fisherman’s village.
Although the town is swamped with tourists, residents vehemently oppose extension of the Ngong Ping 360 cable car here, so when you walk even a few minutes off the main strip, you’ll find yourself delightfully alone.
Once you finish here, head either back to Mui Wo to get a ferry back to Hong Kong Island or to Tung Chung station, where you can ride the MTR all the way back to Kowloon, perhaps to enjoy one last view of the skyline across Victoria Harbour.
Yet another day trip to enjoy on your third day of your Hong Kong itinerary is to the territory of Macau, which is famous for casinos, but is actually rather magical — a Hong Kong and Macau itinerary is perhaps more satisfying than simply seeing Hong Kong.
This article first appeared in https://leaveyourdailyhell.
Leave Your Daily Hell informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travellers with evocative photography, immersive essays, easy-to-follow itineraries and priceless travel advice.