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Last Updated on 23/12/2020
Travel Alert: Just a quick heads up, there have been protests in Hong Kong since June 2019. If you do plan to travel there, check your government safety guidelines first.
Whether you’re on a layover or you’re just passing through, Hong Kong is an unmissable region that’s bursting with life, character and delicious food (seriously though, you’ll be salivating at the thought of that dim sum for months afterwards).
If you’ve only got a short amount of time, say, 3 days in Hong Kong to be precise, then this itinerary tells you everything you need to know in terms of what to do, where to stay and how to get around. If you’re lucky enough to have a few extra days then I’ve included some bonus activities you can add to the list.
Why Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is a territory located on China’s southern coast. It’s well-known for its striking skyscrapers which crest the surrounding hills and tower over the busy ports and harbours. Hong Kong has made a name for itself for being a business and financial hub. Its airport is just as popular, being a go-to for flight connections all over the world.
The territory has a rich cultural heritage, striking scenery and food to die for. You can spend your time exploring the sprawling metropolis, taking in the vast shopping centres, restaurants and markets. Or, you can head to the hills for hikes and beautiful views. The islands offer a slower pace of life and a stark difference from the hubbub of the city.
Since it’s relatively small you can spend 3 days in Hong Kong and catch a glimpse of the top highlights. Otherwise, if you have some room, you can make the most of it in 4 or 5 days.
Some fun facts about Hong Kong
- Hong Kong’s official title is the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.
- Although Hong Kong is known for its towering skyscrapers, 40% of the territory is made up of country parks and there are plenty of amazing hiking trails.
- Hong Kong is named after the Cantonese city name ‘Heung Gong’, meaning ‘fragrant harbour’.
- The Mid-Levels Escalator is the longest covered escalator in the world. It runs for half a mile.
- Hong Kong has 263 islands, including Hong Kong Island, Lantau and Lamma. You can reach them by ferry.
- Hong Kong egg tarts are an absolute must-try for foodies. They are derived from the Portuguese pastel de nata desserts and influenced by the British-style custard tarts.
- Kong Kong has one of the highest number of restaurants and cafes per capita.
- The currency in Hong Kong is the Hong Kong dollar (HK$, HKD)
Language and currency
English is one of Hong Kong’s official languages but most of the locals speak Cantonese, a dialect of Chinese. Don’t worry about the language barriers though as most people can speak English and most of the signs are also in English.
All public transport has both the Cantonese and English name for each stop. Some smaller cafes, restaurants and shops might not be in English but it’s still fairly easy to get about.
On the whole, Hong Kong is a pretty safe destination to visit. There’s hardly any violent crime and the streets feel safe both in the day and at night. As with anywhere else in the world, it’s still a good idea to take safety precautions just in case.
Don’t flash your valuables or wander about alone at night. Watch your bags in case of opportunistic pick-pockets, stay alert if you’re travelling solo and always trust your gut.
Best time to visit Hong Kong
Hong Kong has a subtropical climate and 4 seasons. Spring is typically warm and humid, summer is hot and rainy, autumn is warm and fairly humid and winter is cool and dry. Even during winter, temperatures rarely go below 15℃ in the winter, making this destination pleasant for travellers all year round.
If you’re travelling between May and November, it’s a good idea to be aware of possible cyclones and violent thunderstorms. September is also typhoon season. I would recommend that you stay indoors if the typhoon warning alert is 3 or higher to be safe. I visited in October and it was a little on the humid side but other than that, perfect. I’ve heard that April is a top month to visit too!
How to get around
Hong Kong’s public transport is pretty straightforward to use and the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) is probably one of the best underground transport systems in the world.
Buses are slightly trickier. There’s a standard bus system and an additional 16-seater minibus system to figure out. The difference is that when you want to get off the minibus you have to call out to the driver.
To be honest, I never tried to use one so I can’t tell you what it’s like. Fortunately, you can always tell what kind of bus you’re going to get at the bus stop so you can avoid them if you’re not feeling confident.
Even if you’re only going to spend 3 days in Hong Kong, get yourself an on-loan Octopus card from the MTR ticket machine as soon as you walk into the arrivals hall at the airport. It will save you a lot of time and hassle when you’re exploring the city.
Octopus cards can be topped up and used on public transport as well as certain shops. On-loan cards are priced at 200 Hong Kong dollars of which 150 HKD is your starting credit. The best part is that you can put as much money on as you like and if you return the card at the end of your stay, you’ll be refunded the remaining amount that’s left.
You can only top up your Octopus card with cash unless you’re at the airport so remember to take out a few hundred Hong Kong dollars just in case you’re running low on your commute. Most, if not all MTR stations have cash points somewhere in their vicinity. If you ‘re unsure where to find one there’s always an information desk on hand.
Where to stay
Here are a few quick recommendations for where to stay in Hong Kong:
If you’re a budget backpacker then I recommend staying at Mojo Nomad. Located in Aberdeen Harbour, it has great bus links to Hong Kong Island and the airport and it’s quite possibly one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed at. The skyscraper hostel has mixed and female-only dorms, and private rooms if you want some quiet. It also has pretty spectacular views across Aberdeen Harbour. It’s the perfect base for a 3-day trip to Hong Kong.
Book it here
I’ve heard good things about the Eaton Hotel in Kowloon. This quirky hotel goes above and beyond with their environmental and hospitality efforts. Guests can go on free guided tours of Temple Street Night Market and do free tai chi classes. Sustainability is a core part of the hotel’s values. They’ve also signed up to the international EarthCheck programme which helps monitor their ecological footprint. As if it couldn’t get any better, the hotel also has a pool and sustainable cocktail bar.
Book it here.
Cordis Hotel is a swanky 5-star hotel in Kowloon. Perfect for those wanting an eco-friendly luxury break, the hotel has a spa, a hot tub, sauna and pool. Cordis is also part of the EarthCheck programme. Just some of its sustainable initiatives include water-efficient shower fittings, a limousine service with electric vehicles and meals cooked with free-range meat and organic vegetables.
Book it here.
My 3-day Hong Kong itinerary:
And now for the best bit, check out my guide to the best things to do in Hong Kong in 3 days below:
Pro tip: You can plan as much or as little as you want for your itinerary but make sure you find a balance between relaxing and sightseeing on your Hong Kong trip!
Tian Tan Buddha
The Tian Tan Buddha (informally known as the Big Buddha) and Tai O Fishing Village are located on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island so if you want to make the most of Hong Kong in 3 days, I would do them together and give yourself enough time to take them both in.
The enormous Buddha statue, erected in 1993, is a formidable sight and it towers over the Hong Kong countryside at an impressive height of 34 metres.
You can climb the steps to the Big Buddha, wander inside it and walk its circumference for panoramic views of the surrounding rolling green hills.
If possible, try to plan your trip for early in the morning and avoid the weekends and public holidays. The Buddha is an exceptionally popular tourist attraction and it does get busy. If you’re planning to climb up the steps then you’ll want to avoid the midday humidity – trust me on that one!
The site of the Tian Tan Buddha is also home to the Po Lin Monastery, which is a stunning piece of architecture. You can look inside the monastery and study its hypnotically beautiful interior but heads up, photos are not allowed in this sacred space.
If you start to get peckish, I recommend that you head over to the canteen-style vegetarian restaurant next door to the monastery and fix yourself a plate of delicious assorted bites and goodies.
To get to the Tian Tan Buddha, take the 360 cable car from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping village. It’s an exciting activity in itself and you get to see the Hong Kong skyline in all its glory. From Ngong Ping, it’s just a 10-minute walk to the Buddha. You can’t miss it.
Pro tip: Get your cable car ticket online so you can skip the queues. I didn’t and it would have saved me a lot of time!
Tai O Fishing Village
Tai O is a small traditional fishing village and only a 20-minute bus ride from Ngong Ping. It’s an absolute must for anyone spending 3 days in Hong Kong. Tai O stands out because its architecture is completely unique and makes an interesting change from the built-up skyscrapers of the city.
The community of fisherfolk who have taken up residence there have built their houses on stilts above the water. This fascinating warren of unusual interconnected structures is a photographer’s dream and it’s all too easy to get lost in its narrow streets or its labyrinth of rickety piers.
If you can find it (it’s quite difficult to spot), I recommend visiting the Three Lanterns Cafe for a refreshing drink and a place to sit and watch the boats going by. Tai O is also famous for its weird and wonderful fish markets in the village centre. Check them out if you’re bold enough to see what’s on offer.
A Symphony of Lights
Hong Kong never sleeps. At night, the city lights up like a Christmas tree and the view is breathtaking. For a real treat, don’t miss the Symphony of Lights show that runs every evening at 8 pm. It’s completely free of charge and in 2017, it won the Guinness World Record for being the world’s largest permanent light and sound show.
Head over to the Avenue of Stars and watch the skyscrapers light up and flash with colours. The soundtrack recording is performed by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and you can see the boats twinkle with lights as they sail past.
If you want to secure a good view then you should get there about 30 minutes before it starts. Otherwise, you run the risk of only being able to see the show through a dense crowd of phone cameras – and that’s a tough gig if you’re on the short side like me!
The Mong Kok Market Trail
You can’t spend 3 days in Hong Kong without adding its famous markets to your itinerary and there’s no better way to see them than with the Mong Kok Market Trail. It’s completely self-guided and you can download the map for it here.
The Mong Kok Market Trail takes you on a route through the flower market, past the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden to the goldfish market (yes, really!), the ladies’ market and the jade market. This fun little trail captures the eclectic, vibrant and sometimes chaotic essence of Hong Kong.
The trail also gives you the perfect chance to pick up a few souvenirs as the markets have everything from Bluetooth speakers to ‘I love Hong Kong t-shirts’. You might even spot a few faux designer labels dotted about. ‘Canel’ or ‘Doir’ anyone?
Prepare to be disorientated and dazzled by the bustling crowds, the markets and their owners. Just remember to give yourself a budget because if you’re not careful, you might end up buying enough trinkets to set up a stall of your own!
Pro tip: Get cash out if you want to do any shopping at the street markets. This is especially useful if you’re on a budget and want to keep track of how much you’re spending during your 3 days in Hong Kong. Having a specific amount of cash on you can help establish how much you’re willing to spend and it will even motivate you to shop around for a better deal.
Stone Slab Street / Pottinger Street
Pottinger Street or Stone Slab Street is a historical street that was built in 1850. As its name suggests, the street has been laid with stone slabs that slop up to follow the contours of the land in the form of steps.
During the day, the street is bustling with interesting market stalls selling costumes, accessories and souvenirs. If you want to get the most out of your Hong Kong itinerary, head directly up the street until you come to Tai Kwun, a complex which used to be the Central Magistracy and Victoria Prison in the mid-19th century.
The old prison, which was in fact built by the British offers an interactive way to get a glimpse of Hong Kong’s history. That aside, the complex is a beautiful example of neoclassical architecture and it’s absolutely free!
Victoria Peak offers the best views of Hong Kong and I don’t exaggerate when I say I could stay up there all day. An absolute must-do for your 3 days in Hong Kong, Victoria Peak is predominantly home to a shopping mall with activities, refreshments and souvenirs. It has a lookout point at the top but if you want to keep things budget-friendly, wander over to the Lion’s Pavilion Lookout Point nearby for the best views for free.
The best time to go to Victoria Peak is late afternoon because you can watch the city below as the sun sets and the lights flicker on. Taking in these wonderful views was the perfect conclusion to my 3 days in Hong Kong.
There are many ways to get to Victoria Peak. You can bus it, get a taxi, or for the most popular route, get the little red tram. You might, however, be queueing a while if you decide to get the tram. If you have a fairly moderate level of fitness then you can walk it. It’s a pleasant, albeit, very steep walk through the park to the top but it was worth it for the views.
3 Days in Hong Kong: Mix and match your itinerary with these suggestions
If you’re looking for more things to do in Hong Kong in 3 days, check out these itinerary suggestions:
Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery
If you’re keen to get off the beaten track then the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is a worthy activity. It has a bit of a long and steady uphill climb to reach it but you’re guided by dozens of gold-painted Buddha statues which lead you up the mountain to the 5 temples at the top.
Once you get there, you’re rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and there’s even a cafe to relax in.
Kam Shan Country Park
For hiking and the chance to see the wildlife during your 3 days in Hong Kong, Kam Shan Country Park is a good place to go. The park is known for the family of macaques that live there. Visiting these cheeky monkeys is a popular activity among tourists.
If you plan to head to Kam Shan, don’t take any food of any kind or anything resembling food containers (including plastic bags). After years of being fed by visitors, these clever creatures know exactly what to look out for and how to get it – and they can be very aggressive about it too.
Nan Lian Garden
On the whole, the city of Hong Kong is a busy and crowded metropolis but there are pockets of peace and quiet. Nan Lian Garden is just that. This Chinese Classical Garden was designed in the style of the Tang Dynasty. The landscape is beautiful and elegant with carefully built hills, water features, trees, rocks and wooden structures. If you’re looking for a break from the city then this garden is a perfect tranquil oasis where you can relax and unwind.
The Dragon’s Back is ideal if you want to go on a big hike but don’t fancy going too far out of the city. It takes an average of 4.5 hours to complete and you’re treated to beautiful coastal views along the way. You can even finish the trail on the beach so remember to pack your swimwear!
Hong Kong Museum of History
So what if you wake up to heavy rainfall? No problem! Soak up some culture indoors by heading to the Hong Kong Museum of History. The museum has an impressive collection, squeezing in about 400 million years of history with objects relating to archaeology, history, ethnography and natural histories of Hong Kong and South China. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re a history buff or if you feel adrift on a rainy afternoon.
I hope you found this 3-day Hong Kong itinerary useful for your trip. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out in the comments or contact me directly via email!
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