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The Ultimate 3 Day Hong Kong Itinerary: A Local’s Guide

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3 weeks ago

Hong Kong is a city of immense contrasts. Open-air dai pai dongs (street-kitchens) and plastic chairs line alleyways full of Michelin-star restaurants. Dense residential towers create an urban jungle amid the lush green backdrops of Victoria Peak and Lion Rock. If you want to understand the complexities of Hong Kong, it is crucial to move between these worlds.

Hong Kong is at the heart of the Travel Insighter story. Our respective home for several years, Hong Kong was, and still is, the most formative city in this travel journey.

We have years of experience curating Hong Kong travel itineraries. Whether you’re on a quick 24-hour layover in Hong Kong on your way to Europe or Australia, or you’re visiting as part of a broader East Asia trip, you won’t run out of things to do in Hong Kong.

To get the most out of Hong Kong, I recommend spending anywhere from three to seven days in the city. However, I realize most travelers tend to allocate 3 days to Hong Kong.

With that in mind, we’ve crafted the ideal 3-day Hong Kong travel itinerary which aims to showcase the best of the city’s Cantonese culture, fusion ‘East meets West’ clichés, magnificent natural scenery and world-class dining and nightlife.

Before you go: Getting around Hong Kong

You’re probably thinking: take me from the beginning, how do I reach my Hong Kong hotel?

After many years of crafting Hong Kong travel advice, we’re used to questions like this. To better address getting to and from Hong Kong, getting around the city and more, we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know before visiting Hong Kong.

Where to stay in Hong Kong

Following the pandemic, we’re still not seeing the incredibly high prices for high-end hotels in Hong Kong, so you can get a great hotel at an amazing price if you book early enough. We would recommend that you stay around Central or Sheung Wan so that you have easy access to everywhere in our 3 day Hong Kong itinerary.

One of our favorite hotels at the moment is The Jervois, not least because the rooms are actually large, unlike virtually anywhere else in Hong Kong. Otherwise, Ovolo Central is perfectly located if you’re optimizing for the best restaurants and nightlife – and the rooms are beautifully designed as well.

The Ultimate 3 Day Hong Kong itinerary

Day 1: Hong Kong Island

Breakfast

One of the great joys of visiting Hong Kong is the deep dive into the uniqueness of Hong Kong cuisine. If your Hong Kong hotel doesn’t have breakfast, you’ll probably want to get started with a Hong Kong breakfast.

If you are after something traditional, start your day at Lan Fong Yuen. This is one of the few surviving cha chaa tengs in Central. Lan Fong Yuen is one of the most famous places in Hong Kong to try Hong Kong milk tea and other Hong Kong cha chaan teng staples like yuenyeung (mixed tea and coffee), Hong Kong French toast and macaroni in soup with ham.

Often considered the first Asian-fusion restaurants, Hong Kong’s iconic cha chaan tengs are famous for serving eclectic menus which merge Cantonese classics with Western cuisine.

If you prefer a Western style brunch: head to Fine Print in Soho for their famed ricotta blueberry sourdough toast and the best flat white on Hong Kong Island.

Morning: Soho and Sheung Wan

You’ll see many Hong Kong itineraries sending you up Victoria Peak at the start of your trip. I never recommend guests do that – you’ll find out why a bit later in Day 1.

Your morning starts with our very own curated walking tour from Hong Kong’s hippest neighborhood, Soho, to the more traditional shops of Sheung Wan. However, I encourage you not to follow this walking tour too closely.

Rather, take the time to explore the little side streets off the Mid-Levels Escalator and Hollywood Road. But, for your reference, I’ve prepared a list of some must-see spots around Soho and Sheung Wan to plan your explorations around.

Must-see sites in Soho
  • The Central Mid-Levels Escalator: the largest public escalator in the world.
  • Tai Kwun: the former British colonial central police station headquarters, recently refurbished to house a free museum, open-air cafes and art galleries stores.
  • Hollywood Road: the main street of Soho, full of antique stores, unique Hong Kong souvenir and concept stores and hipster cafes and restaurants.
  • G.O.D. (Goods of Desire): Hong Kong’s most iconic souvenir shop.
  • Graham Street Mural: Soho’s iconic street mural. Did you really visit Soho if you didn’t take a photo in front of this mural?
  • PMQ: the former colonial-era ‘Police Married Quarters’ which has been transformed into Soho’s premier arts precinct full of small Hong Kong designers and boutiques. If you’re looking for a unique souvenir to bring home, my favorite designer here is Glue Associates (Block A, level 4).
Must-see sites in Sheung Wan
  • Man Mo Temple: a great spot to appreciate how traditional Confucian culture blends seamlessly with contemporary Hong Kong.
  • Upper Lascar Row Antique Street Market: full of small Chinese antique stalls. While I can’t vouch for quality, it’s certainly fun sifting through vintage Hong Kong movie posters and Cultural Revolution paraphernalia.
  • ‘Poho’: the little galleries, hipster cafes and quiet, leafy cul-de-sacs which characterize Tai Ping Shan Street.
  • Dried Seafood streets: explore Wing Lok Street and Bonham Strand (otherwise known as Dried Seafood and Tonic streets) to see Sheung Wan’s iconic dried seafood stores. Keep an eye open for the pet cats used to guard the shops from other wild cats! And prepare your nose.

Snacks in Soho and Sheung Wan

This itinerary sets you up for a busy first morning and, quite frankly, a late lunch. If you’re hungry and craving a mid-morning snack, here are my favorites around Soho and Sheung Wan:

  • Hong Kong style egg tart: Tai Cheong Bakery (traditional) or Bakehouse (sourdough).
  • Egg waffles: Mammy for Michelin-recommended (my go-to order is matcha and chocolate chip – thank me later).
  • Sugar cane juice: Kung Lee Sugar Cane Drink store. A rare old-school find in Soho which has survived the rapid gentrification of the neighborhood.
  • Latest Instagram craze: Vission Bakery for a gooey matcha or tiramisu tart.

If you’re keen to try more of Hong Kong’s unique desserts, make sure you read our guide to the best desserts in Hong Kong (and where to find them).

Lunch: Yum Cha

It’s your first day in Hong Kong which means it’s compulsory to have a yum cha lunch.

Yum cha refers to the Cantonese tradition of eating dim sum – usually in the mid-morning with a side of Chinese tea.

hong kong dim sum

If you’re looking for the ultimate traditional yum cha experience, head to Luk Yu Tea House. It’s the truly nostalgic dim sum experience of Hong Kong’s past. Grab a ground floor table to best appreciate the old-school charm of the noisy dim sum trolley cars.

If you’re vegetarian, sadly, an ordinary yum cha tea house will have next to nothing you can eat. But don’t worry, Lock Cha Tea House offers the quintessential dim sum experience in a purely vegetarian environment. We’ve covered Lock Cha and more in our guide to the best vegetarian restaurants in Hong Kong.

Lock Cha in Hong Kong Park is a far better experience than the one in Tai Kwan (and very close to your next stop).

Afternoon: Victoria Peak

In our opinion, you want to see Victoria Park in both daylight and after dark. This means you’ll want to get to the Peak about one hour before sunset (or a little more if you’re planning on having a walk).

Hong Kong weather can be temperamental and is often overcast.

If the weather is not in your favor, abort this plan – you’ll need to shuffle plans around and come back when the weather clears up.

The Peak Tram has been taking tourists up Victoria Peak since 1888 and is an ultimate Hong Kong experience. Along the way, admire some of the more glamorous apartment buildings of Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels and Peak. These are the neighborhoods that many of the movers and shakers of Asian finance call home.

Once you’re at the top, take some time to walk along some of the walking paths. You’ll see them heading in all directions, and any path will quickly take you to beautiful views over both Victoria Harbour, and on the south of the Peak, Hong Kong’s southern beaches and neighborhoods.

Walking along the Peak, you can also appreciate Hong Kong’s diverse landscapes and beautiful beaches.

More adventurous travelers

Hikers may want to hike the Peak (even one way). In my opinion, the best starting point is the Morning Trail.

The easiest way to reach the Morning Trail starting point is to take the Mid-Levels Escalator to the top (Conduit Road). Once you reach Conduit road, turn right and keep walking until you reach the trail entrance. The trail takes about one hour to the top – with magnificent views (and the occasional wild boar) en route.  

Dinner

Once you’ve freshened up, it’s time for dinner:

Budget

If you’re on a budget, go to Kau Kee on Gough Street, a rare, old-school Hong Kong restaurant that has survived the bougie transformation of Gough Street. You’ll see the line once you enter the street and you are here for the beef noodle soup.

Mid-range

If you’re looking for something mid-range (and fun), you simply must go to Ho Lee Fook. It’s where I would always bring visitors to Hong Kong. Ho Lee Fook leans more towards an Australian-style Asian-fusion restaurant, with fun takes on classic Cantonese favorites (read the name out loud a few times and you’ll get the point).

If you can’t get a reservation at Ho Lee Fook, consider Little Bao for trendy fusion-style bao buns.

High-end

If you want something special, it’s Mott 32 – easily my favorite of Hong Kong’s high-end Chinese restaurants. You’ll need to let them know when you make your reservation if you plan on ordering Peking duck. Mott 32 also has a dedicated vegetarian menu, a rarity in Cantonese restaurants.

After dark

Hong Kong is truly one of the few cities in the world that actually never sleeps. No matter the time of evening, you will usually find people out and about, especially around Central and Soho.

If you’re on a backpacker trip (or after a rowdy night out), head to the dive bars and night clubs of LKF (Lan Kwai Fong). My personal favorite is Insomnia, which includes a high-quality cover band. But if you want something a little calmer, head to Salon 10 for a great night out.

If you’re looking for cocktails, you’re in luck. We think Hong Kong has the best cocktail bars in the world. You’ll need to head to our comprehensive guide to Hong Kong’s cocktail bars for a more detailed review.

For the perfect Instagram photos, check out Iron Fairies or Dragonfly. But if you are serious about mixology, the Diplomat and Quinary will take care of you.

Day 2: Kowloon

Breakfast

I’m only giving you one option today: Australian Dairy Company.

Now this isn’t the hipster café it sounds like. Rather, this traditional cha chaan teng is famous for specializing in fluffy and soft scrambled egg (don’t ask how they get so fluffy) and steamed egg custard. The wait is generally down the road, but it moves very fast (I never wait more than 15 minutes) – as they basically kick you out once you finish eating.

Morning: Mong Kok markets

Mong Kok is often listed as being one of the busiest neighborhoods in the world: with sky-high population density and a truly unknown number of daily foot traffic. For visitors, the sheer scale and mayhem of Mong Kok is worth your time.

But, more interestingly, Mong Kok is famous for its markets, and you’ll want to spend some time exploring their streets.

The best markets to visit are:

  • Flower Market Road: a hub of activity and full of color.
  • Goldfish Market: the streets around here are full of vendors selling goldfish in plastic bags, turtles and other household pets.
  • Ladies Market: Hong Kong’s premier tourist and souvenir market. You can also occasionally find some knock-off branded goods here.

From the Ladies Market, continue down Nathan Road towards Yau Ma Tei and Tsim Sha Tsui (depending where you decide to eat lunch).

If you’re looking for a mid-afternoon snack, I recommend trying Hong Kong’s famous mango mochi (fresh mochi wrapped in a gooey rice dough). My favorite spot in Hong Kong is a small, streetside window on Nathan Road, just after Pitt Street

Lunch

My favorite lunch spot in Yau Ma Tei is the iconic Mido Café, easily my favorite cha chaan teng in Hong Kong. As you climb the mosaic-laden staircase, you’ll feel like you’ve walked into a 1970s Cantofilm set.

Cha chaan tengs are famous for fusing Western and Cantonese flavors and nobody does it better than Mido Café. The Hong Kong French toast here is easily my favorite in Hong Kong. Although be warned, it is extremely heavy and you may want to share it (or rather stop here for a snack).

Mido Café is also famous for its classic cha chaan teng drinks like boiled lemon coke with ginger or pineapple ice (super refreshing on a humid Hong Kong day).

Across the road from Mido Cafe is Yau Ma Tei Tin Hau Temple. This is a classic historic temple compound in Southern Chinese style and is worth a quick look. If you’re keen to tick off more Hong Kong food experiences, nearby Chung Kee Congee offer Hong Kong’s most famous plates of congee.

Afternoon: Yau Ma Tei, Jordan and Tsim Sha Tsui

If your legs are up to it, I’d continue by foot towards Tsim Sha Tsui. In my opinion, the gargantuan buildings and hustle and bustle of Nathan Road are essential Hong Kong experiences. Take the time to get a bit lost, stop in little shops or explore the seemingly endless Hong Kong arcade malls.

As you are making your way down, I’d recommend stopping by:

  • Chungking Mansion: this colossal structure is one of Hong Kong’s more notorious icons. As you enter this building, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another world. On the ground two floors are restaurants and shops catering to Hong Kong’s historic South Asian community, and newer African and Filipino immigrant communities. The top floors are full of budget hostels, hidden restaurants and endless stories.
  • The Peninsula Hong Kong: one of Hong Kong’s most historic and iconic hotels, famous for housing countless dignitaries over the years. If you’re up for it, an afternoon tea at The Peninsula is one of Hong Kong’s ultimate experiences.
  • K11 MUSEA: one of Hong Kong’s ultra-modern shopping malls full of high-end designers and restaurants.
  • Avenue of the Stars: recently re-opened, this Kowloon promenade pays homage to the stars of Cantonese cinema with handprints, stars and a statue of Bruce Lee. Avenue of the Stars offers some of the best views over Hong Kong harbor and is worth a visit both during the day and after dark.

Dinner

Budget

If you’re traveling on a budget, head into Chungking Mansion and eat at one of the small Indian or Pakistani eateries. My favorite here is Smrat. You’ll find them on the ground floor.

Mid-range

If you’re looking for something mid-range, Branto may well be my favorite Indian restaurant in the world. In recent years they’ve had a bit of a face lift, but the menu remains as solid as ever. The dosas here are world-class, and my personal favorite is the dry Manchurian.

High-end

If you’re looking for something high-end, Hutong offers some of Hong Kong’s best Chinese food. Hutong has a large dim sum menu and Peking duck. But the real reason to come here is the sweeping harbor views.

Something adventurous

If you’re looking for an unusual eat, hop on the MTR up to Shia Wong Hip in Sham Sui Po for Hong Kong snake soup. This soup has a long history in southern China and is particularly popular in winter. If you do end up here in Sham Shui Po, take the short walk up Garden Hill (10 minutes) for beautiful views over Sham Shui Po.

After dark

After dark, you have a busy evening ahead of you on the Kowloon side.

For the best views of Hong Kong harbor, head towards the Avenue of Stars to see Asia’s most iconic skyline come to life.

For the best views of Hong Kong’s neon street signs, head back towards Temple Street, Tung Choi Street and Portland Street. I’ll be candid, you’ll see Hong Kong’s iconic neon signs across both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. But for some of the best signs, you should go to those streets.

If you’re looking for more shopping: head to Temple Street Night Market in Yau Ma Tei, where you’ll find lots of small seafood eateries and a large market catering to tourists, with souvenirs, t-shirts and model ding dings. I generally don’t find the shopping to be that different to the Ladies Market, but if you’re a market person, you should check it out.

For a unique view over Temple Street, head to the top where you will find the Yau Ma Tei Carpark Building, climb the stairs to one of the higher floors for beautiful views over the lit up night market.

Star Ferry

The Star Ferry between Central on Hong Kong Island and Tsim Sha Tsui on Kowloon is my all-time favorite Hong Kong experience. There’s something particularly magical about taking the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong Island after dark, and I strongly encourage you to find the time to do this at some point in your trip.

But be warned: much of Hong Kong’s skyline ‘turns off the lights’ at 10 pm.

Day 3: Choose your own adventure

You could spend months in Hong Kong and still find things to do. On Day 3 we recommend you follow your interests and create your own Hong Kong travel itinerary!

Public transport in Hong Kong is efficient and fast, so if you start early you can usually pack a few of these options into one day.

If you’re interested in hiking

Many travelers are surprised to learn that Hong Kong is an outdoors wonderland. With countless hiking trails, this is one of the best ways to appreciate Hong Kong’s mountains, beaches and skyline.

For first-time visitors to Hong Kong, I’d recommend one of the following:

  • The Peak (1 hour): we’ve set out above our favorite trail to reach the Peak – Hong Kong’s most iconic hike.
  • Dragon’s Back (3 hours): probably the most popular hike in Hong Kong which covers the south of Hong Kong Island and ends at the beautiful Shek O beach.
  • Lion Rock (3 hours): if you’re interested in Hong Kong culture, it’s crucial to visit Lion Rock. This difficult hike sits behind the phrase the ‘Lion Rock Spirit’ which is said to embody Hongkongers. Expect magnificent views over the skyscrapers of Kowloon.

If you’re interested in Hong Kong architecture and heritage buildings

From decaying monster buildings to Hong Kong’s iconic housing estates, Hong Kong is one of the best cities in the world for architecture and construction enthusiasts.

My favorite spots to appreciate the unique Hong Kong style are below:

  • Monster Building (or Yick Cheong Building) in Quarry Bay: extremely popular with tourists, over 10,000 people live in this large housing estate. If you are visiting, don’t miss out on some of Hong Kong’s best egg waffles nearby at Lee Keung Kee.
  • Choi Hung Estate: famous for its rainbow colored facade, this is one of Hong Kong’s most iconic Instagram spots. This estate can be tied in with a visit to Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden (a few minutes away).
  • Sham Shui Po: I love simply exploring the extremely vibrant streets of working-class Sham Shui Po. Alight the MTR at Sham Shui Po and try to get lost – it’s all part of the joy!

If you’re interested in museums

If I’m to be honest, for a global city, I was always surprised how Hong Kong’s museums never really matched up. However, all that has changed in recent years with the opening of the West Kowloon Cultural District.

If you are interested in visiting some Hong Kong museums (or stuck on a rainy day), I recommend heading straight to M+. This new museum offers Hongkongers their very own, state-of-the-art contemporary Chinese art museum. Expect slightly provocative, cutting-edge exhibits from both Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese artists.

Those interested in Mainland Chinese history may also want to check out the nearby Palace Museum. Housing 900+ treasures from Beijing’s Forbidden City, you could spend hours in this museum.

If you’re interested in theme parks

Traveling with kids or simply love a good theme park? You’ll want to head straight to Ocean Park or Disneyland. If you aren’t particularly keen on Disney, Ocean Park is a better choice with better rides, closer access to major hotels and pandas! However, both theme parks have direct MTR connections.

For Disney enthusiasts who want to spend the night, Hong Kong’s Disneyland has its very own Disneyland Hotel.

If you want to explore Hong Kong’s outlying islands

One of my favorite things about Hong Kong is how quickly you can move from the center of Asian finance to tiny fishing villages which have remained unchanged for centuries. One day in the ‘other’ Hong Kong might be the perfect addition to your 3 day Hong Kong itinerary.

Some of my favorite outlying islands to visit include:

  • Lantau: unlike the smaller islands below, Lantau is large and worthy of your time. You could easily fill a whole day in Lantau, including a visit to Lantau’s Tian Tan Buddha via the incredibly scenic Ngong Ping 360 cable car (you’ll want to pre-buy tickets). If you start early, you could also squeeze in a side-visit to Tai O Fishing Village to experience the Hong Kong of yesteryear.
  • Lamma and Cheng Chau: these smaller islands make extremely pleasant day trips. With regular ferries from Central, it couldn’t be easier to escape the city. The simple joys of Lamma or Cheng Chau include a seafood lunch, a small walk through town and an afternoon at the beach.

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