Why Is This Place so Great?
Hong Kong is a special city due to its unique history as a former British colony, which accelerated its development years before its surrounding cities and hence created a globally renowned destination for business and travel. Tourists will find getting around Hong Kong quite easy with its quick, clean, and convenient public transportation and cheap taxi fares. In the event that you need directions, there’s no need to fret! While people natively speak Cantonese here, most residents are capable of speaking English and Mandarin quite fluently as well.
This urban jungle is a destination for your taste buds – from dim sum, Michelin starred restaurants, dessert buffets, afternoon tea, street vendors, to dai pai dongs (affordable local hole-in-the-wall restaurants) people are bound to eat some amazing food on their trip. The city also offers numerous luxurious and affordable activities as well, such as shopping in local markets or elegant malls, nightlife at either clubs or pubs, or visiting Mickey Mouse in Disneyland. Despite people’s familiarity of Hong Kong as a glamorous metropolis, its lush mountain surroundings make it easy for one to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and go island hopping, trek along one of the city’s many jungle trails, or visit the south of the island to see some of Hong Kong’s beautiful beaches and residential estates.
Where Should I Stay?
For Luxury Choose: Island Shangri-La
Located above Admiralty’s Pacific Place shopping mall, the hotel opened in 1991 and impressed both locals and tourists by its elegance. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by marble floors, luxurious oriental carpets by Tai Ping, and one of 771 Viennese chandeliers used to decorate the property. Taking the elevator to its 565 rooms and suites, guests will peer out of their glass enclosure to find a picturesque courtyard garden below and a silk painted mural spanning 16 stories high, which is just a small part of this hotel’s extensive Art Collection.
Each spacious room is decorated with a fusion of traditional European and Asian flairs including lacquered cabinets, silk fabrics, and a crystal chandelier. Its marble bathrooms are all equipped with soaking tubs and showers and LCD screens, but we would suggest booking a Deluxe Harbour View room or higher if you like to have separate shower units. For those looking for that added luxury, book a suite or a Horizon Club Room to enjoy private VIP Check-in and Check-out services, with the possibility of checking out at 4PM on the day of your departure if available, as well as access to the lounge which provides guests the option for complimentary breakfast, beverages, and canapés throughout the day, and a portable Wi-Fi device to stay connected outside the hotel.
Island Shangri-La also has an amazing spa and fitness center on property complete with a 24-hour state-of-the-art gym, outdoor swimming pool, complimentary yoga classes, sauna and steam room, jacuzzi, and experience showers. Alongside this, there are eight restaurants on-site, including an impressive buffet with live cooking stations at Café Too, some of Hong Kong’s tastiest sushi or Teppanyaki at Nadaman, and one-star Michelin awarded Chinese cuisine at the hotel’s Summer Palace.
For Lifestyle Choose: Cordis Hotel Hong Kong
Formerly known as the Langham Place Hotel, the hotel was rebranded to Cordis in 2015. Located in Mongkok within the district of Kowloon, the hotel is in close proximity to some of Hong Kong’s most popular markets, street food, and computer center (to barter and purchase technological items such as phones, chargers, laptops, etc. of good quality).
This hotel’s 665 rooms and suites each feature floor to ceiling glass windows offering views of the towering skyscrapers of the city, complimentary use of Handy Smartphones for guests to stay connected whilst exploring the city, and USB charging ports. Cordis also offers club privileges to guests staying in a club room or any of their suites, including personalized check-in and check-out services, complimentary breakfast, snacks, afternoon tea, and refreshments in the lounge, and a courtesy 30 minute massage extension with any 60 minute treatment valued at $960HKD or more at their spa.
We love this hotel for its amazing wellness initiatives. In addition to sky-high Health Club equipped with Life Fitness apparatus, the hotel offers a Fitness on Demand system filled with instructional training videos for cardio, yoga, spinning, Zumba, and TRX, a 22-yard rooftop swimming pool, and daily Tai Chi classes with their resident master. Its award-winning Chuan Spa takes a holistic approach to relax the mind and body by using Chinese herbs carefully selected by a healthcare expert to ensure that guests receive the full benefits during their treatments.
The hotel is also home to four dining establishments, including its trendy Garage Bar offering the latest urban food truck experience and locally brewed craft beers, a sunlit buffet restaurant at The Place, and Ming Court – a two-star Michelin Chinese restaurant, which was first awarded a place on their list since 2009.
For Boutique Choose: Hotel ICON
There are many contenders for the best boutique hotel in Hong Kong, and although this hotel satisfies all three categories of luxury, lifestyle, and boutique, we’ve chosen Hotel ICON as our featured Boutique hotel for this city because of its immersive engagement in local Hong Kong culture.
Hotel ICON is located Tsim Sha Tsui, the most central location to be in within the district of Kowloon. Much like the Statler hotel by Cornell University, Hotel ICON works with some of Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s brightest hospitality students and trains them to become leaders in their respective fields of hospitality. These enthusiastic, service-minded interns can be identified by their unique brown uniforms. In addition to its social responsibility as a teaching hotel, Hotel ICON takes its sustainability efforts quite seriously. Upon entering the hotel, guests are greeted by a large vertical garden containing 8,603 plants of 71 different species to help produce fresh air in what can seem to be a daunting bustling city. The property has also managed to cut its carbon emissions by between 25 and 28 percent by using water cooling systems instead of air, natural ventilation, as well as large windows for natural lighting or high efficiency, LED light bulbs when that is not possible. The hotel also owns 100% electric fueled transportation, including the first-ever electric hotel shuttle, three-tesla cars, and a BMW i3 to provide guests with smooth and emission-free car transfers.
The hotel’s 262 rooms and suites are all stylishly designed with modern furniture, fixtures, and appliances, as well as plentiful luxurious amenities including a complimentary mini-bar that is replenished daily, Handy Smartphone usage (with unlimited data, free international calls to 25 countries and free local calls) throughout your stay, a KEF MUO Bluetooth Speaker, and a GP Smartphone PowerBank. Pay a little extra for a Club Room or and of their Suites to have added amenities including a Blu-ray player, turndown services, discounts on spa and laundry services, and exclusive access to its Above & Beyond club on the 28th floor, where guests can enjoy complimentary continental or buffet breakfast, afternoon tea, desserts, sandwiches, and beverages. Guests staying for two nights or more and book directly with the hotel will also receive a courtesy airport transfer in one of their Tesla cars.
The hotel offers its guests some amazing packages to get to know the city like a local, such as the “Very Hong Kong” deal where guests get to attend one of two “Foodie Tours” or “Hello Hong Kong Tour” to learn more about Hong Kong’s architecture and History and take a Dim Sum class from the hotel’s Cantonese chef from Above and Beyond. There is also a Pride Package that is inclusive of a 2.5 private walking tour to learn more about Hong Kong’s LGBT history, and shopping vouchers sponsored by local Hong Kong brands such as G.O.D. and Kapok.
Despite being an independent establishment warranting the hotel of its boutique status, Hotel ICON also provides luxury services including a spa operated by Banyan Tree’s Angsana and a Timeless Lounge that offers complimentary snacks and refreshments when early check-ins or late check-outs can’t be granted. Guests staying at this hotel are bound to have a smooth and relaxing stay from start to finish.
What Should I Do?
For Luxury Choose: Go Back in Time and Enjoy Afternoon Tea
During the Colonial Era at The Peninsula
As the flagship property of this luxurious hotel group, The Peninsula Hong Kong opened its door to the public in 1928 and quickly became a place to be seen. In the past, it was a whimsical tradition for those from wealthy families all over the world to enjoy Afternoon Tea in the hotel’s Grand Lobby while listening to fantastic music being played by a live 10-piece big band and even participating in an elegant ballroom dance or two. To this day, the hotel still serves its Afternoon Tea in the same location on a daily basis for guests to enjoy the opulence of the building while listening to live music by the hotel’s string band. Although dancing has dwindled down in popularity, guests may still find a couple or two dancing from time-to-time.
Since Afternoon Tea at The Peninsula is still a highly sought after activity in Hong Kong, the Lobby seats guests on a first-come-first-serve basis. Consequently, those looking to dine there during weekends or public holidays may consider arriving a half hour early (around 1:30pm) to definitely obtain a table upon arrival otherwise, your party will most likely be waiting in line.
Guests are more than welcome to share one tea set between two, but keep in mind that Afternoon Tea in Hong Kong varies slightly from those in London where unlimited refills only apply towards the tea itself.
Those with gluten allergies are in luck! The Peninsula is most definitely able to accommodate a gluten free afternoon tea; however, you will have to call the hotel at least two days in advance to notify them of your dietary requirement.
** Bonus Luxury Activity: Visit Liang Yi Museum **
Liang Yi Museum opened its doors in 2014 and is one of the newest private museums in the city containing quite possibly the largest and best private collection you can find. Since admission fees are inclusive of a private guide, visitors will gain in-depth knowledge of antiques while exploring the four-stories worth of exhibits showcasing antiques from Tycoon Peter Fung Yiu-Fai’s personal collection of both East and West origins, as well as rotating exhibits from other collectors.
The collection is huge, featuring approximately 400 classical Chinese pieces from various dynasties and 550 European collector’s items ranging from vanity cases, bejeweled clutches, and scholarly items. With lots of the furniture pieces purchased from Hong Kong’s famed antiquities shops on Hollywood Road in the 80s and 90s, visitors of the museum will see pieces of Hong Kong’s past. Unlike most museums, touching items within the exhibit is encouraged, which means that you can open drawers, sit in chairs, and touch the materials to your heart’s content. You can only visit the museum by appointment only, so call or email them in advance to schedule your private guided tour of this fascinating museum.
Lifestyle: Hike the Hong Kong Trail
One of Hong Kong’s most unique aspects is its sprawling metropolis surrounded by a lush jungle landscape. If you’re looking for a unique way to take in breathtaking views, while also experiencing another side to this destination, we highly recommend hiking along the Hong Kong Trail to see it all. This trek spans a total of 31 miles long and splits into eight sections starting or ending at The Peak (4.4 miles), Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road (2.8 miles), Peel Rise (4 miles), Wan Chai Gap (4.7 miles), Wong Nai Chung Gap (2.5 miles), Mount Parker Road (2.8 miles), Tai Tam Road (4.7 miles), To Tei Wan (5.3 miles), and Tai Long Wan a.k.a. Big Wave Bay.
It is almost impossible for hikers to complete the entire trail in one day. Consequently, we suggest hikers who are up for the 31-mile challenge to plan wisely and split this trek amongst as many sections and days as you need. For avid hikers looking to complete longer trails at a time, we recommend segmenting the trail into two starting from The Peak and ending at Wong Nai Chung Gap, then start again by taking a taxi up to the residential complex called Parkview (this will save you approximately 30 minutes of uphill walking), where hikers can find the stairway entrance to Wong Nai Chung Gap’s trail next to one of the Hong Kong Park’s notice boards.
For those who are looking to complete a small section of the trail, we recommend tackling Dragon’s Back within To Tei Wan’s section of the trail (spanning a total of 5.3 miles long). The entrance to this trail starts on Shek O Road, which provides hikers with a beautiful walk through bamboo groves and breathtaking views of the city and Stanley Bay.
The best time for hiking in Hong Kong is in its colder months between November and March when temperatures have an average high of 66˚F and low of 60˚F. While it is possible to complete this trail in the heat of Hong Kong’s summer months it will be much more difficult, so remember to pack more water!
Boutique: Bet on a Horse at the Happy Valley Jockey Club
A trip to the Happy Valley Racecourse is worth it for both horse racing enthusiasts and first-timers alike. Despite the dwindling popularity of horse racing in other parts of the world, it is still a heavily attended event in Hong Kong, causing mass amounts of traffic in nearby districts by its eager attendees.
The races occur every Wednesday between September and mid-July, but we recommend double check their race schedule here to ensure that a race will be occurring during your trip. The entrance fee is $10 HKD (approximately $1.3 USD), and visitors can either sit in the stands or stand mere feet from the track to experience the stampede of horses as they go past. While participating in gambling is completely optional, first-timers who don’t know the racing rules can typically place a minimum bet for $20 HKD and it won’t break the bank. For avid horse racers, we recommend paying a little extra for a Members ticket to have views of the finish line.
Since the event starts from 6:00pm and can end as late as 11:00pm, food and beverages of surprisingly good quality for a racecourse can be purchased. Those lucky enough to visit in the fall will be treated with refreshing pints and bratwursts to celebrate Oktoberfest, and those visiting in May will be treated to Ratatouille and Brie on the menu in celebration of French culture.
Once the races are over, take the tram over to Lan Kwai Fung to go clubbing or to Wan Chai to hit the pubs and bars to celebrate your winnings. Ladies night coincidentally falls on all Wednesdays in Wan Chai (Thursdays in Lan Kwai Fung), which means free drinks of the establishment’s choice for all women 18 years and older at participating venues!
Where Should I Eat?
Luxury: One Harbour Road at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
One Harbour Road is a restaurant that should definitely be on every Luxury Traveler’s list during their visit to Hong Kong. The restaurant itself creates a beautiful atmosphere with regal marble pillars, tons of greenery and flowers, a large water feature, and tall floor to ceiling windows showing patrons amazing views across the Victoria Harbour. Despite its gorgeous setting, locals and travelers keep coming back for its amazing food. In our opinion, One Harbour Road may even serve some of the best Dim Sum on the entire island.
Our Must-Eats here include the Steamed Honey Roasted Barbecued Pork Buns (a sweet bun variation of the Char Siu Bao), Deep Fried Fresh Shrimp Spring Rolls, Steamed Rice Flour Rolls with Fresh Prawns, and Mango Pudding for dessert.
Remember that Dim Sum is only eaten during lunch hours though, so the dishes above (with the exception of the pudding) will not be available for dinner.
Lifestyle: Sevva at Prince’s Building
It is incredibly rare, in Hong Kong, to find a vast healthy vegetarian menu at a restaurant that also serves meat, which is just one of the many aspects that makes Sevva so special. This restaurant has made the news in publications from all over the world including Condé Nast Traveller, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, and Time Out, all praising the restaurant for its fashionable interior designs, excellent food, and its ability to continuously keep up with the trends.
The menu at Sevva has been inspired by the cultural diversity in Hong Kong, and its “We ♥︎ Vegetables” menu is no different, featuring items such as Vegetable Nub Nub (a lettuce wrap containing 10 varieties of vegetables and pickles), to their Dosas made by their Indian Chefs in the Spice Kitchen. Eating a Sevva’s will most definitely a vegetarian’s paradise.
Address: Prince’s Building, 25/F, 10 Chater Road, Central, 2537 1388
Boutique: Eat Seafood Like Locals at Lei Yue Mun
As Hong Kong was previously known as a fisherman’s town prior to its colonial times under the British regime, the city is known for its amazing seafood. To this day, locals meet up with their extended families or friends to enjoy huge family-style feasts featuring fresh prawns, crabs, and numerous fish dishes. In our opinion, Lei Yue Mun district is the best place to have this feast.
Lei Yue Mun is an old fishing village where its restaurants have tanks filled with live seafood still swimming about. Patrons have the opportunity to select the exact fish or crustacean they want for their meal and tell the mongers how they want it cooked. From groupers, octopus, to lobsters, these restaurants tend to have every type of seafood one could desire – all most definitely fresh.
Out of all the restaurants here, we recommend Ku Kee Seafood Restaurant (巨記海鮮酒家). Some of our must-eats in this establishment are scallops with vermicelli noodles and garlic (帶子蒜蓉粉絲), lobster noodles with cheese sauce (芝士龍蝦伊麵), and Salt and Pepper Shrimp (椒鹽瀨尿蝦).