Hong Kong in only 1 day!

Hong Kong harbor harbour Ts

If you had just one day to show people Hong Kong, where would you take them?

Here’s my top secret one-day tour!

Say you’re in Hong Kong just for a limited time and you want to see as much as possible. Where do you start?

First of all, don’t trust your guidebook. Most of the time it’s not aimed at the sophisticated traveler but for the most mainstream tourist. Use it as a reference only. The guidebooks tend to push things that aren’t central to the Hong Kong experience. Two places I would immediately skip are the Big Buddha and Stanley. Both of these require too much travel time and don’t deliver enough pay-off to justify the trip.

Get your goals straight before you arrive. Although the territory is diverse, Hong Kong is primarily known for being a vibrant, cosmopolitan city – “the Manhattan of Asia.” The emphasis on this short tour is to give you a glimpse into the colorful markets, extreme shopping, and stunning urban landscapes that earn the city its reputation.

This quick, condensed tour will provide you with excellent photo opportunities, great souvenir shopping and a peek into the soul of the city.

Before you set out:

Bring your walking shoes because in order to explore this town you need to walk. You can stop for a drink every so often and refresh yourself. Learn part of what makes Hong Kong tick – convenience stores! Hong Kong has two major chains: 7-11 and Circle K and they’re everywhere. Use them and you’ll be living like a local.

Getting around:
Taxis in H.K. are much cheaper than in other countries and are not too dishonest. (Perhaps because Hong Kong is too small to drive too far?) Apart from main tourist destinations, it helps to have the address either told to the driver or written in Chinese. Most taxi drivers’ English is fair but don’t expect them to know the names of every street in English. Normally it helps if you tell the driver both the street name and the neighborhood. For example: Queens Road, Central.

The MTR, Hong Kong’s subway system is extremely convenient, clean, and exceptionally safe. You can purchase tickets for individual rides through the easy to use vending machines, or you can go to the ticketing desk. Read my post with details about the system.

Hong Kong is relatively small so walking is a great way to really see the city. In many parts of town you can walk from one neighborhood to the next in no time. Take a small map with you and you should have no problem navigating. Streets are clearly marked in Chinese and English and there are natural landmarks such as the harbor and mountains, as well as tall buildings to help you get your bearings. Hong Kong is very safe and you won’t feel intimidated walking anywhere at any time of day.

Bargaining and haggling:
Since this tour explores markets, you may need some bargaining strategy. Keep these points in mind: start with a smile; prices get cheaper with greater quantity; not every price will be negotiable, but most prices in markets should be negotiated. Don’t go too crazy if the price is already cheap (for example, a $12HKD bouquet of flowers you don’t need to get down to $10.) However, a suitcase priced at $300 you may be able to get down to $180.) In some circumstances it helps to act like you’re going to walk away, but only after they’ve given you a reduced price that you believe is too high.

This is a one-day itinerary, but feel free to break it up should you only have an afternoon or a night free. You can use your guidebook, or any free map found at hotels or at the Hong Kong Tourist Association offices to help you follow along. The itinerary includes the following sites:
Flower Market
Bird Market
Fa Yuen Street Market
Tung Choi Pet Street
Electronics shopping on Sai Yeung Choi Street
Ladies Market
Tsim Sha Tsui Harborfront promenade
Star Ferry
The Peak
The Lanes

Markets, markets and more markets

Shopping is the number one past time of Hong Kong city dwellers. For better or for worse, you can’t stroll down the street without multiple shopping opportunities presenting themselves. You can find everything from ultra high-end to below $10 HKD stores. In addition to being places to shop, the markets included here provide an interesting slice of Hong Kong culture and are extremely photogenic. Here we go!

Start at the Flower Market in the neighborhood called Prince Edward on Kowloon side. Once you’re there, simply walk to the end and you can enter the bird market!

bird market Hong Kong HK

For details, directions and photos of the Flower and Bird markets, see my in-depth post.

Nearby is the start of a different kind of market. On the front corner of the Flower Market, cross the street at the intersection of Sai Yee Street and Prince Edward Road and walk away from the market, towards Nathan Road. Look for the beginning of the market on Nullah Road / Fa Yuen street. You should see a car-less pedestrian street packed with stalls and people shopping.

Here you enter another dense street market. If you like, walk not down the center, but on either side where you will find sample clothing stores to browse. Head one long block down towards Mongkok and take a right on Bute Street. Next, take a quick left to head down Tung Choi Street. You know you’re in the right place when the street looks like a sidewalk aquarium!

Tung Choi street pet Hong

Pause to take some photos of the hundreds of varieties of fish on display. Continue down in the same direction as before. When you hit Argyle Street, cross and walk over one street to your right – this should be Sai Yeung Choi. Sai Yeung Choi Street is a major shopping strip particularly for electronics. (If you’re camera hunting, try inside the Yau Shing Building at 51 Sai Yeung Choi Street South. There you’ll find several floors of electronics shops. Note that electronics prices differ according to the type of warranty.)

At the intersection of Nelson Street and Sai Yeung Choi, take a left and walk half a block and you’ll hit the Ladies Market on Nelson Street and Tung Choi Street. The Ladies Market is filled with all sorts of necessities, tourist merchandise and knock-off products. This is a place you should definitely bargain and perhaps even use the ‘I’m walking away’ technique. After a few blocks you should be tired and perhaps sick of shopping! Take a break, grab a drink, or head to lunch.

Next stop is the Star Ferry pier in Tsim Sha Tsui. Take the MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui (pronounced ‘Chim-Sa-Choy’) or a taxi to Star Ferry pier if you want to save time.

Star Ferry Hong Kong HK TST

Once you arrive, walk along the waterfront, up the stairs of the observation platform and catch the magnificent view of the harbor. You can read more about this area here and here.

When you have enough photos, head back along the water and enter the Star Ferry terminal. The ferries depart to two different destinations on Hong Kong Island, Central and Wanchai. Take the journey to Central. There are actually two different entrances. Climbing the stairs will put you on the upper deck of the boat. The street level entrance goes to the lower deck. I prefer the upper, but you’ll have similar views either way. (The lower-deck smells a little bit like diesel fuel.)

(Note that the seats on the ferry are benches with back-boards that swing in either direction allowing you to sit facing the direction of travel. Switch it to the correct side, (if it isn’t set when you board,) and then take your seat.)

From the ferry you have a water level view while traversing the harbor. The route is much shorter than it used to be, but still provides you with a wonderful view of the city. As you depart you will get closer and closer to the skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island. Getting off the boat you will arrive in Central near the (current) tallest building in the city, Two IFC aka IFC2.

Exploring The Peak

Let the other people stand in line for the Peak tram. Instead, just hop in a taxi and say “The Peak”. It’s cheaper (with a few people,) faster, and you can take the tram down if you want.

Peak tram Hong Kong

Arriving at the Peak don’t go to the regular viewing platform. There you’ll see only a fraction of the view. Read my post on How to Optimize Your Peak trip. The Peak walk can take place at night or during the day. Either time is stunning and worth the trip when there’s decent to good visibility.

Hong Kong Olympics 2008

Hong Kong Peak night

Peak tram Hong Kong HK

After all your time in the markets and perhaps with the additional shopping you’ve done in Tsim Sha Tsui, Central, or Causeway Bay, you might be running out of room in your suitcase. If you find yourself in this situation, or just want to load up on more souvenirs while in the Central neighborhood, The Lanes are worth a stop.

Li Yuen Street Hong Kong

Comprised of two parallel alleys (East and West,) in the Lanes you will find similar tourist souvenirs as you would in the Ladies Market in Mongkok or at the Temple Street Night Market. (You can skip The Lanes if you’ve already filled your souvenir quota.) However, another draw is a set of shops selling suitcases at very reasonable prices. The stores are located closer to Des Voeux Road on Li Yuen Lane West. Expect to find lower to mid-range luggage. The price of suitcases in Hong Kong is much cheaper than in other countries. Something you would need to pay $200 USD for, you can find for $25 USD in Hong Kong.

As for other interesting Hong Kong shopping destinations, I’d suggest On Lan Street in Central, Granville Road and vicinity in Tsim Sha Tsui, and the area around Juice in Causeway Bay.

Note: I may update this post from time to time to add more spots I think are worthy of a one-day tour. Enjoy!

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14 Comments

  • Leontjai says:

    Thanks for this information! Really handy!

  • JasonMan says:

    great information about HK and some much tips that i didn’t even know!!!!

  • Irene says:

    I stumbled upon your website when I was searching for cool things to do in Hong Kong.
    I am actually going to be in HK for only one day (to reset my visa so I can go back into Beijing) and this was extremely helpful!!!
    I will be there on Nov 7th – 8th…know of any good (indie) shows or something cool I can do on my own?

  • Administrator says:

    Hi Irene,

    If you’re just in town for one day, I’d recommend our special 1-day itinerary here, and heading up to The Peak at night if you have the energy. Hong Kong doesn’t have a thriving live music scene compared to Beijing, though check back right before your visit, to see if we have anything special to recommend! Enjoy your trip! :)

  • Irene says:

    Where is a good place for live music in Beijing? The only place I have been too (night life wise) has been MIX.

  • dolly says:

    I know this may sound crazy but can you suggest some good places to eat vegetarian food? Also I have heard there’s great desserts in HK- could you highlight some. My husband and I are going to be in HK for one day and both of us are foodies..and it would be a great experience to try out new kinda food.
    This is a great post !!made my planning a lot easier :)
    thanks

  • Administrator says:

    Hi Dolly, check out our post about local desserts here, and try Din Tai Fung for vegetarian food. It’s not a vegetarian restaurant, but they do have excellent food, and there are certainly vegetarian choices on the menu. Enjoy your visit!

  • derek says:

    Your guide here is great I was looking for a list of things that can be done in a day in Hong Kong. Since I’ll be in Hong Kong from the 25th of Jan to the 27th. I was wondering if you have any recommendations on a good hostel to stay in, and a good place to have a romantic dinner with out paying a lot of money. Since this is my first time to hong kong and I am moving to Guangzhou I’m hoping to do things a little cheaper.
    Thanks!

  • ARNOUXYOLAND says:

    Merci pour toutes ces indications. devons passer une journée à Hong Kong et parlons très mal l’anglais!!

  • dk says:

    2012 November
    This post is still relevant.
    I followed it like a child will follow a treasure map.
    Thank you so very much.
    This has helped a lot.
    If you’re in HK for a day. Make sure to get a 24 hour WiFi pass for about 20$ .

  • Diane says:

    I’m really confused about whether to go to Sydney via Hong Kong (only 1 day there!) or just go direct to Sydney. I have read some of the 1 day visits but I’m told that the airport is far out of town so takes ages to get there. Please advise if you managed this 1 day viewing leaving from the airport and having to get back to the airport by 7pm. thanks.

  • Administrator says:

    Hi Diane, actually the airport isn’t far from the city – a little less than 25 minutes. It’s definitely worth heading into Kowloon, or over to Hong Kong Island if you’ve got several hours to spare. The Airport Express train zips you into the city in a very short time. This is just one of the reasons why traveling to and from the Hong Kong airport is extremely convenient.

  • First Time HK Traveler says:

    This looks great! What would you suggest as a recommended budget for your itinerary? Granted, my traveling partner and I are hoping to not buy too many things, but may get some items from the street markets. We have Saturday afternoon/evening — which markets would you prioritize? We also will be in HK the next day til early afternoon, but may or may not check out the history/culture museum.

    We’re hoping to eat some dim sum, roast duck, and other local specialties!

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