Nearly as many people as the population of Italy visited Hong Kong last year (well, 75% came from the mainland). They probably took selfies by the bay with skyscrapers in the backdrop.
But Hong Kong is more than just skyscrapers. Here is a guide to the bustling city after that obligatory snap.
After you buy your Octopus card (a stored-value card used for public transit) at the service centre at the Airport Express station, you have three options:
If you are coming from elsewhere then you can take the island line towards Kennedy Town and get off at the HKU MTR station or take any bus that can drop you off at HKU West Gate.
Ready to explore Hong Kong? You could start by visiting the university museum, the nearby Instagram pier or you could even hike to the Peak from the university.
If you want to head outside, let’s look at the three most popular districts: Central, Tsim Tsa Tsui & Mong Kok.
Hong Kong is a foodie’s paradise – it has 63 Michelin starred restaurants. You can find nearly any cuisine (Argentinean, Russian, Lebanese, Thai, Vietnamese) with a quick search on OpenRice, the top food review app, but expect to pay a premium at the commercial districts.
Major banks near HKU: HSBC (HSBC University of Hong Kong Branch, Pok Fu Lam Rd, Shek Tong Tsui), Standard Chartered (Shop 8-12, G/F, 455-485 Queen’s Road West, Shek Tong Tsui, Hong Kong), Hang Seng Bank ATM (HKU MTR station, Pok Fu Lam)
At the heart of commerce, you can expect a lot of uphill walking. Get there via a quaint tram ride (get off at Jubilee Street) and take the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator, the longest of its kind (800m) in the world. Men and women in suits bustle to work during the day and party by night.
Places to visit: The Peak, Lan Kwai Fong (bars and clubs galore), PMQ (formerly Policeman’s Married Quarters, now an exhibition space for artists), Kau Kee Beef Brisket Noodle shop (Sun-Yat Sen used to meet here) & Man Mo temple (housing the god of war and the god of literature).
Restaurants & bars: Lin Heung Tea House (a classic dim sum/tea house that featured in Wong Kar Wai’s In The Mood For Love), Mak Noodle (wonton noodles), Bindaas (Indian), MANA! Cafe (vegan), The Flying Pan (all-day breakfast), Paisano’s (American pizza).
Bars: Petticoat Lane, LINQ (both are LGBQI-friendly), Honi-Honi, Havana Bar, Le Jardin, 99 Bottles (cheapest beer around), Social Place, Foxglove (jazz), The Globe (British-style pub).
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club might be worth a visit next to the Fringe Club next door. It’s a members-only establishment but the gala will be held here.
Major banks in Central: HSBC (L9, HSBC Main Building1 Queen’s Road Central), Bank of India (2/F, Ruttonjee House, 11 Duddell Street, Central), Chong Hing Bank Limited (Chong Hing Bank Centre, 24 Des Voeux Rd Central), Hang Seng Bank (83 Des Voeux Road Central)
You could take a ferry from Central or Wan Chai (a red light district by night) or you can get on the Tsuen Wan line (two stops after Central) to get here. This is where non-Chinese Hong Kong locals, asylum seekers and luxury shops coexist. Get the best exchange rate in the city at Chungking Mansions, a building containing a hotchpotch of African cafes, Indian curry houses, currency exchangers, convenience stores and guesthouses. Many of Hong Kong’s 6,000 asylum seekers live in this building.
Places to visit: Avenue of Stars (see buildings on the island light up at 8pm), Garden of Stars, The Peninsula Hong Kong (a hotel opened in 1928), Kimberly Road (little Korea), Cafe+ Kubric in nearby Yau Ma Tei (a cafe that houses all things indie – a theatre, a book and a video rental store), Jenny’s Bakery (cookies get smuggled out from here).
Restaurants: Nomad’s (Mongolian), Burgeroom, Hungy Pug, Branto (Indian), Very Good Seafood Restaurant (Cantonese), Passion (French), Merhaba (Turkish)
Bars: Castro’s, aqua (a sky bar), Scarlett Cafe, Delaney’s The Irish Pub, Eyebar (30th floor of iSQUARE), Kowloon Taproom
Major banks in Tsim Sha Tsui: Hang Seng Bank (Hang Seng Tsim Sha Tsui Building, 18 Carnarvon Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui), Bank of China (22-28 Carnarvon Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui), HSBC (5 Canton Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui)
Sheung Wan is an area in Hong Kong located between Central and Sai Ying Pun. Just a 23-minute walk away from the financial hub, Sheung Wan is a world of wonder where the modern metropolis complement the colourful age-old traditions perfectly. If you happen to be in the neighbourhood, be sure to check out the Western Market and the abundance of streets and alleys touched with creative mural art!
Restaurants: Little Bao, The Chairman, Namaste Kitchen, La Creperie, Chachawan, Dim Sum Square, Okra Hong Kong, Bibo, Upper Modern Bistro
Places to visit: Dried Seafood Street, Western Market, Antique Street and Cat Street, Graham Street Food Stalls and Market, Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences, Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail, SoHo
Bars: Malt, Three Monkeys, VEA, Ronin, Lof 10 Distillery, Nocturne, Ginger Whisky Bar, Chachawan, Quinary, The Woods, Le Boudoir, Zoo Bar
Major banks in Sheung Wan: Hang Seng Bank (Shop 9-10Tung Ning Building251 Des Vouex Road Central), HSBC (293-301 Des Voeux Rd Central, Sheung Wan), Bank of China (2-12 Queen’s Rd W, Sheung Wan), Chong Hing Bank (163 Wing Lok St, Sheung Wan)
Lantau Island is the largest island in Hong Kong, located at the mouth of the Pearl River. Originally the site of fishing villages, the island has been developed in recent years with the construction of Tung Chung New Town on its north-western coast and the completion of several major infrastructure projects, including Lantau Link, Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ngong Ping 360.
Places to visit: Hong Kong Disneyland, Ngong Ping 360, Tian Tan Buddha, Discovery Bay
Restaurants: The STOEP at High Tide, China Bear, Enchanted Garden Restaurant, Wah Kee Restaurant, LongIsland Restaurant, The Gallery Bar & Restaurant
Major banks in Lantau Island: HSBC (G13-G15A Plaza Discovery Bay, Discovery Bay Rd, Discovery Bay), Hang Seng Bank (MTR Sunny Bay Station, Lantau Island), Bank of China (Discovery Bay, Plaza Ln, 2號, Discovery Bay Office Centre, g28)
Boundary Road in Mong Kok used to mark the extent of British dominion over the island. Mong Kok is now known for street performances, cage homes, various markets, local food, red light activities, cheap electronics and fake branded goods. It is rumoured that Bruce Lee used to train at a Wing Chun training centre here.
Be ready to haggle with the street vendors who are selling imported goods from China. You could probably get away with half off the stated price.
Places to visit: Ladies Street, Temple Street (you will have to haggle), Flower Market, Goldfish Market, Bird Market, Sneakers Street, Hong Kong Reader (offer your support to democratic activism with a post-it note), Mong Kok Computer Centre, the Bruce Lee Club
Restaurants: Sour and Spicy Noodles, Station 3 Cafe, Double Cafe, Kai Fong Cafe, Lo Dim, Aroy Khao Man Gai, HeSheEat, Double Cafe, Tim Ho Wan
Bars: Mr Wong’s (all you can drink for HK$80), The Garage Bar, TAP: The Ale Project (local brews), The Sky Bar
Major banks in Mongkok: Standard Chartered (617 Nathan Road), HSBC (673 Nathan Road), Citic Bank International (715B Nathan Road), Hang Seng Bank (677 Nathan Road)
Other places to visit: Snap an iconic photo at Montane Mansion (see photo), hike to Dragon’s Back, eat at the fanciest McDonald’s ever in Admiralty, see domestic workers assemble on Sundays at Victoria Park or stroll along Jardine’s Crescent, the most expensive commercial street in the world.
You could also visit Disneyland or Ocean Park if you have the time.
Enjoy your time at the Fragrant Harbour.