A one-day layover in Hong Kong may well be an option on long haul flights around the world. A few more days to explore this fascinating and captivating city would of course be preferable, but you may be constrained by your tight flight schedule. So how much Hong Kong culture can you actually squeeze into a one-day itinerary?
Ainnelise Niyvold Liundbye UPDATED: 08 JAN 2020
Hong Kong is a vivid, Asian metropolis with a wealth of options and things to see and do. To make the most out of your Hong Kong layover, you may want to prepare and do some inspiring reading and careful planning beforehand, getting an overview of what Hong Kong has to offer. Check out useful matters like transport options, prices, opening hours etc. In this way you will not be wasting time seeking information and solving practical issues once there!
Morning: Hong Kong Island culture
Head towards the Wan Chai district on Hong Kong Island. Stroll around the business and financial district in Wan Chai and make a photo shoot of the futuristic and streamlined skyscrapers.
Sightseeing tour by tram
Jump on one of the numerous electric double-decker trams, or ‘Ding Dings’ – as referred to by the locals, on Hong Kong Island to get a DIY sightseeing tour. They run between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan. The Hong Kong Tramways is a historical means of transport dating more than a hundred years back to the British rule in Hong Kong. Both commuters and tourists eagerly make use of these eye-catching trams which are convenient for exploring both quaint neighbourhoods and areas of state-of-the-art residential buildings, as well as impressive, stylish skyscrapers. Still today, the Hong Kong Tramways has the world’s largest double-decker tram fleet. Update yourself on significant buildings in Hong Kong beforehand, such that you will know which landmarks to notice.
Hong Kong Island shopping
Visit one of the malls, for instance the IFC mall in connection with the One IFC (International Financial Centre). It is one of the iconic skyscrapers in Hong Kong and the second tallest building (415 m / 1,362 ft). The view of Hong Kong is amazing from up there!
Longest escalator in the world
From the level 1 exit of the IFC mall, you can catch the longest escalator in the world! The Central Mid-Levels Escalator System is an 800 m (2,600 ft) chain of covered escalators, travelators and elevated walkways dating back to 1993. It consists of a series of 20 reversible escalators, all covered, taking the frequent rain in Hong Kong into consideration. Early morning it runs downhill, and mid-morning the entire escalator system is reversed such that it only runs uphill! A one-way ride takes about 20-25 minutes – but there are frequent exits!
Victoria Harbour is next. There is a myriad of boats and ferries crossing the waters between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula. The iconic double-decker Star Ferry is a fine option for a budget boat tour in spectacular Victoria Harbour. This third generation Star Ferries take you back to the 1920s when they were the prevailing means of transport in Victoria Harbour.
Eat dim sum
For lunch pop into a dim sum restaurant. Dim sum is the typical Hong Kong eat, a Chinese tapas-like classic usually served for breakfast or lunch. You may even be lucky that your hotel serves them for breakfast! Dim sum are bite-sized small dishes, that can be either steamed, served in bamboo steamer baskets, fried or baked. Typically, they are served with tea. It is a long-established tradition occasionally to gather and eat dim sum with family and friends. According to the well-travelled, nowhere else are the dim sum pieces as delicious as in Hong Kong!
Museum visit – Hong Kong Museum of History
Hong Kong features a number of fabulous museums. Hong Kong Museum of History, Hong Kong Museum of Art or Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre are all excellent museums to get some local insight. Pick one to get another approach to the capital. For a thorough introduction to the Hong Kong history and culture, the Hong Kong Museum of History will definitely not disappoint!
Continue in northerly direction to the old, covered Jade Market at Jordan in Kowloon. Here you will find tons of stalls of jade items like rings, bracelets and other quirky accessories among a wealth of statues, pearls, agate, turquoise and malachite stones, as well as other knick-knacks. The extensive jade offer is linked to the still practiced Chinese culture where jade amulets represent luck and wishes for a long life. You may try your bargaining skills to get a good buy! Jordan is in stark contrast to modern Hong Kong a traditional working-class district with affordable high-rise, monotonous-looking residential properties of similar individual units, local street markets, tiny ethnic shops and an authentic multi-cultural diversity.
Finally, if you are keen on shopping, prioritise Nathan Road, the famous, bustling shopping street which is the heartbeat of Kowloon. It is busy day and night. Shops, restaurants and coffee shops are lined up side by side. Throngs of tourists as well as insisting street vendors contribute to the hectic vibe. Nathan Road was the very first road built in Kowloon, when the Qing dynasty passed the land over to the United Kingdom in 1860. The 3.6 km (2.2 miles) thoroughfare in Kowloon was later named after the 13th governor, Mathew Nathan. In the post WWII years it was also known as the Golden Mile.
Evening: Hong Kong night culture
Central Government Complex
You are back on Hong Kong Island. Stroll around the back streets and alleys with delicate food stalls and local restaurants serving savoury noodle soups, a tempting dinner option. Then continue in the direction of the Central Government Complex of HKSAR near the waterfront where you can admire the massive governmental arch-like building and other impressive skyscrapers.
Hong Kong by night
There hasn’t been time for Victoria Peak since waiting for the tram (the wait is sometimes considerable) and going there most likely would have stolen too much time of your day. Instead, second best option: go to Tamar Park (next to the Central Government Complex) and the Central and Western District Promenade along the waterfront. Here you can enjoy the most spectacular 360 degree panoramic view of amazing Hong Kong by night with its multitude of skyscrapers. You have an awe-inspiring view of thousands of buildings lightening up the black night sky, as well as the tiny twinkling ferries and boats crossing Victoria Harbour. You may alternatively go to the other side for the Symphony of Lights at the Avenue of Stars in Kowloon. It is a stunning view and the highlight of your Hong Kong visit!
You may also want to check out these hotels in Hong Kong:
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Read more about Hong Kong (vibe, see & do, accommodation, price level, transport, safety, climate, history) in our Facts About Hong Kong – Travel Guide.
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