Mong Kok’s bustling Ladies Market with its overwhelming number of stalls, selling all you can imagine of cheap stuff, fascinating clothing and other exotic items, is amazing. Together with the Jade Market in Jordan, offering high-quality pearls and jade jewellery, Cat Street with its quaint antiques, and a bunch of other knick-knack local markets, it represents one of the colourful sides of Hong Kong. Other characteristics contributing to the whirl of activity in the city packed with the particular tower blocks, include the iconic Hong Kong trams, and the green Star Ferry, zigzagging between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.
So what are the top activities to do and authentic locations to visit, that will provide insight into modern Hong Kong, heavily influenced both by its ancient Chinese and, later, British colonial roots?
For an absolutely panoramic view of Hong Kong, go to Victoria Peak – one of the locations extremely popular by visitors and locals alike.
An option is to take the old single track Peak Tram from 1888 to Victoria Peak Tower and the remarkable viewpoint, from where you can enjoy the skyline of fabulous Hong Kong skyscrapers. Actually, the 360-degree Sky Terrace 428 is the highest viewing platform in Hong Kong.
From Victoria Peak you can enjoy the scenic views of the harbour, the iconic green Star Ferries, bustling Kowloon and Hong Kong Island’s awesome mountainous surroundings.
The short ride up to Victoria Peak is an experience in itself with the probably steepest funicular track in the world. Its history goes back to 1881, when the first tram project was presented. Seven years later, the line was inaugurated. Originally, it operated using a steam engine, but in 1926, this engine was replaced by an electrically driven device.
In the beginning the tram had three classes. One for British colonial officials and Victoria Peak residents, one for the British military and the Hong Kong Police Force, and one for the rest, animals included.
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Still today the Peak Tram plays a significant role in the Hong Kong transport system. More than 4 million people use the Peak Tram annually, corresponding to over 11,000 on a daily basis.
Alternatively, if you want to hike, maybe just one-way, there is also a trail going through the forest and along a few stretches of road to reach Victoria Peak.
You may also jump on one of the numerous trams from the Hong Kong Tramways, the world’s largest double-decker tram fleet, covering the distance between Kennedy Town and Shau Kei Wan. It is the perfect sightseeing tour of Hong Kong Island, just for a few Hong Kong dollars, where you get the opportunity to experience both eye-catching residential areas, famous landmarks and stylish skyscrapers close-up.
The first trams appeared in Hong Kong in 1904 as part of a fleet of 26 single-deck trams. The company behind Hong Kong Tramways was British due to Hong Kong being a British colony at the time.
In the beginning the tramcars were single-deck, but in 1912 they were replaced by open double-deckers.
After more than a hundred years, the iconic trams are still in operation, now in an enclosed form, and they even remain an extremely popular means of transport here.
The trams are also nicknamed ‘Ding Dings’ after their characteristic ringing when notifying pedestrians of the tram coming.
Another iconic thing in Hong Kong is the Star Ferry fleet. The green and white ferries zigzag across the harbour between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, more specifically between Victoria Harbour and Tsim Sha Tsui.
Most visitors include a Star Ferry ride as part of their Hong Kong itinerary, both for practical reasons and since it is an excellent budget harbour tour, where you will find yourself in the middle of fascinating boat traffic crossing between the islands.
The ferry company goes back to the 1920s, when the ferries became the common means of transport between Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong Island for ‘commuters’ and others having a need to travel between these Hong Kong locations.
Today, the ferries running are all the third generation of Star Ferries, and somewhat more modernised than the original ferries a hundred years ago!
At night, the harbour area is a true symphony of lights coming from all the high-rise buildings surrounding the waterfront on both sides. You can enjoy a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of central Hong Kong – probably one of the most impressive in the world.
On the Kowloon side there is a spectacular night show, named after the lights of the city: A Symphony of Lights laser and light show, all accompanied by music.
No visit to Hong Kong without exploring the iconic indoor Jade Market in sprawling Kowloon, where you can give your haggling skills a whirl. Being a mecca of jade items, hand-carved pendants, talismans, pearls, and a ton of other accessories in the genre of both semi-precious stones and beautiful gemstones, the Jordan Market is an everlasting attraction in the city.
The green jade comes in all shapes, shades and sizes, as jewellery, carvings, cute little statues and other souvenirs. Some pieces are even to the white or orange side. It may be difficult to tell if it is really genuine jade, since a lot of synthetic and fake jade is also around.
Side by side with a diversity of other objects there are loads of enticing jade. The jade supply is related to the Chinese culture, where jade amulets are seen as a symbol of good luck, as well as good health. At the same time it represents the idea of purity and grace. The Jade Market is where the elder Chinese people come to make a really good buy, and one of the locations in Hong Kong, that you as a curious visitor absolutely must include in your itinerary.
The Jade Market is usually open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. In case you feel like visiting another market in this area, consider the local food market, the Yau Ma Tei market in Kansu Street, or the Temple Street Night Market, which is also a big draw with its gadgets, electronics, clothing, bags and other knick-knacks.
Taking a look at the surroundings, Jordan is a traditional working-class neighbourhood packed with affordable, homogenous-looking high-rise blocks. The identical, traditional units of the residential buildings still prevail as the typical accommodation in this old Hong Kong district.
Nevertheless, the immediate monotony is broken right in the adjoining streets, full of ethnic shops, local markets and small authentic stalls. It is a multi-cultural society with a pronounced diversity of people and backgrounds. Jordan is one of the real fascinating places to visit in Hong Kong!
On Lantau Island at Ngong Ping you will find the famous Big Buddha statue, Tian Tan Buddha, situated near the Po Lin Monastery. It is a massive bronze statue of Buddha Shakyamuni from 1993. For its inauguration monks from all over the world were invited.
The base of the 34-metre (112 ft) tall statue is a model of the Altar of Heaven / Earthly Mount of Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, hence its name. It is one of the five large Buddha statues in China, and is set on a lotus on top of a three-platform altar. The three levels are the halls of the Universe, of Benevolent Merit and of Remembrance.
Surrounded by six smaller bronze statues, representing virtues such as generosity, morality, patience, zeal, meditation, and wisdom, it symbolises important aspects of life.
Since its construction The Big Buddha with the raised hand has been one of the most important locations of Buddhism in Hong Kong. Moreover, it is today a popular visitor spot!
The adjoining monastery and the Big Buddha are both locations that can be visited during day hours. The Buddha can be viewed from outside free of charge, whereas a fee is charged if you want to enter to see the relic of Gautama Buddha, as well as the carved bell depicting images of Buddhas.
The Big Buddha can be reached by ferry from the Central piers in Hong Kong, via the MTR, or by the Ngong Ping 360 Cable car which provides magnificent views of the surrounding seascape and landscape on Lantau Island.
The Man Mo Temple from 1847 is a unique temple at Sheung Wan in Central and the largest Man Mo temple in entire Hong Kong. The two gods being worshipped here are Man, the God of the Civil or Literature, and Mo, the Martial God.
In particular, students worship the God of Literature and come here to pray for good exam results. This goes all back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties, where students and scholars at the time came here in order to rank well in their exams.
In 1993, the Man Mo Temple was declared a Grade I historic building, and has now status as a historic monument.
In general the Man Mo Temple is open during day hours.
To explore a unique and traditional fishing stilt-house village, Tai O is an excellent option for a day trip. It can easily be combined with visiting the Big Buddha, also on Lantau Island. Continuing by bus from Ngong Ping, you will reach the picturesque spot, also known as the “Venice of Hong Kong” or “Venice of the Orient”.
Once shrouded in mystery and dubious legends about a smuggler’s place, due to is strategic location, later confirmed the scene of illegal activity in and out of Mainland China, Tai O has over the years gained historic importance.
Starting out back in time with the Ming Dynasty‘s fishing traditions, it gradually grew into a thriving fishing hamlet. So it has been ever since. During the last centuries Tai O has been known as the scenic fishing community with hundreds of fishing boats and other vessels providing the local population with fish and seafood caught in the shallow water in the small channels.
Tai O has also been rich in salt production. In particular, the salt industry prospered in the 1930s – 1950s. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that a speciality here is both dried and salted fish. Actually, the village is famous for its characteristic fish and seafood products, which beyond the salted and dried fish include shrimp paste, giant fish balls and other seafood-related specialities.
In recent years the stilt houses have been exposed to both fires and flooding, and the constructions now appear a bit dilapidated. Some of the original wooden pillars have today been replaced by steel.
Visiting Tai O is an outstanding experience of an ancient Hong Kong culture. Try the local seafood, take a boat ride to explore the channels and the old Chinese stilt structures – and with a bit of luck – maybe spot a pink dolphin or two!
WE Hotel is a centrally located hotel near Victoria Harbour and Sheung Wan on Hong Kong Island. The MTR Sai Ying Pun Station as well as the Eastern Street Tram Station are within a short walk from the hotel. The hotel is both close to the Dried-Seafood Market, SoHo District and Cat Street. The upper hotel floors offer great open city and harbour views. The hotel has a free shuttle service.
View more hotels by district in Hong Kong!
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What Top 7 Locations & Things to Do in Hong Kong
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What Things to Do in Hong Kong – Top 7 Locations