Things to see and do in Hong Kong: Hong Kong Island

Peak Tram and Victoria Peak

How long will it take?: Allow 2-3 hours; the view is best at dusk/early evening

How to get there: Peak Tram from Central, or take the #15 bus from Central, or a taxi.

The Peak is perhaps the single essential HK sight. The views cannot be overrated, but they can be completely obscured by the Peak’s frequent misty weather. Don’t put this one off if the weather is fine. Once you get off the tram, get out of that abomination in the sight of the Lord known as the Peak Tram Station as fast as you possibly can. The best views are from the walking path that runs all the way around the Peak itself. Exit the tram station, then veer a bit to the right, and you’ll see the path, labelled ‘Lugard Road’. It takes about 10-15 minutes of walking to get to an open area where you can really revel in the view, but it’s worth the extra effort.

Tram ride end-to-end on Hong Kong island

How long will it take?: 1-2 hours

How to get there: Bus/MTR to either North Point or Sheung Wan, or just get on a tram, ride it to the end of the line, then get on another one going back the opposite way.

This is a winner in all seasons, and it can be especially pleasant in the summer: even though HK trams aren’t air-conditioned, you get an almost walking-speed tour of the heart of HK’s Island’s business and shopping districts without having to do any actual walking. Be sure to start your ride near one end or the other of the tram route, because they’re miserable if you don’t get a seat!

A walk along the Central-Wanchai seafront

How long will it take?: 1½-2 hours

How to get there: Bus/MTR/tram/Star Ferry to Wanchai

This is easiest to describe if you are staying in Tsim Sha Tsui (TST), and fancy getting out for a walk. From TST catch the Star Ferry across to Central, and from the ferry pier turn left to follow the seafront. You’ll see the City Hall on your right -- there is an excellent Dim Sum restaurant in here if you are visiting around lunchtime. Then there is what used to be the barracks for the British Army, and now for the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army). You can recognise it by the old "Prince of Wales Building" which has a narrow neck supporting the larger tower. We very rarely see any sign of the PLA, just the guards on duty at the gates. Next there is a large empty flat area -- which in Hong Kong is usually a sign that it has recently been reclaimed. This is no exception and used to be the docks for the British Navy. Follow the coast along, until you turn left along the edge of the Convention centre which juts out into the sea. If you saw the handover ceremony where China reclaimed Hong Kong, this the building where it was held. It’s a popular spot for visitors from the mainland to come and have their pictures taken, and has great views along the harbour. Follow the path right around until you are back on the main HK island again, then just along on your left you’ll see the Star Ferry Pier where you can catch a ferry back to TST.

Or, you can then take Mr B's fascinating in-depth walking tour of Wanchai.

Stanley market

How long will it take?: ½ day-full day

How to get there: Buses or minibuses from many places on Hong Kong island

HK’s ‘Mediterranean’ coastal village, Stanley has been getting more and more pleasant in the past few years. The famous market is good for large-sized foreigner clothes, souvenirs, and cheap (if somewhat artistically suspect) Chinese calligraphy and paintings. There’s also a decent beach, and a good stretch of casual bars and restaurants. Best enjoyed in Mediterranean-style weather, but worth a visit at any time of year. See also our guide to shopping for more on Stanley.

Repulse Bay

How long will it take?: ½ day

How to get there: Buses or minibuses from many spots on HK Island.

Repulse Bay is the best easily-accessible beach in HK, and you can gaze up from it in Marxist-inspired fury at the lavish dwellings of the capitalist running dogs on the surrounding hills. Easily combined with a visit to Stanley market (see above).

Ocean Park (amusement park)

How long will it take?: Full day

How to get there: Bus/MTR to Admiralty, then special Ocean Park bus, or other ordinary bus routes from numerous spots on HK Island

Overshadowed for the moment by the opening of HK Disney, Ocean Park is now being comprehensively refurbished. The park is built on three separate tracts of land, connected by a long escalator, and an even longer (and very beautiful) cable car ride. Attractions include an excellent replica of a tropical reef with many colourful and delicious-looking fish, a shark tank, sea lions, carnival rides and games (both adult and kiddie-scale), a couple of panda bears, and some historical-re-creation Chinese cultural stuff. I’ve had good times here both with other adults, and on a family outing that included Toddler Tall.

HK history walk in Central and Western

How long will it take?: ½ day

How to get there: Bus/MTR to Central

In your wanderings around Central, you will likely lay eyes on little red signposts with historical facts and oddities on them. Hong Kong is most decidedly not a place for history buffs, but if you’re really into it, and you’ve already seen the History Museum, you might want to follow this trail of historical markers. You can get a brochure at the Tourist Association that provides a map and guidance. If nothing else, the walk takes you into some of the quieter back streets of the oldest part of the city.

Hong Kong Park and conservatory/aviary, plus Botanical Gardens

How long will it take?: two or three hours

How to get there: Bus/MTR to Central or Admiralty

A walk through Hong Kong park and/or the Botanical Gardens provides a good break from the otherwise hyper-urban wonders of Central and Admiralty. The Botanical Gardens have, as you might expect, a variety of plants, but also a small menagerie that has been much improved in recent years. In Hong Kong Park you can watch the goldfish in the pond, the plants in the conservatory, the birds in the aviary, and the newlyweds being photographed all over the park (do not laugh at them, because Mrs Tall and I did this very same photo circuit ourselves on our wedding day!).

Hollywood Road/Man Mo Temple, with lunch or dinner in Soho

How long will it take?: ½ day

How to get there: Walk up from Central/take the urban escalator

Hollywood Road is lined with upscale antique shops. You can also deviate slightly and go see the Man Mo Temple, which is both relatively old (for a HK temple) and quite representative. Its most interesting (and photogenic) feature is the spirally incense sticks hanging down from the ceiling. A bit further up the hill (you can take the escalator), you’ll find Staunton Street and the rest of HK’s ‘Soho’ (i.e. ‘South of Hollywood), where there are lots of bars and restaurants, some merely trendy, some genuinely good. It’s one of the most ‘western-feeling’ parts of the city if you’re a western tourist feeling the need for home comforts.