Get to Know Hong Kong
The pace and energy of Hong Kong can be overwhelming at first for newcomers. Given time to settle that will change, but why wait? Jumpstart your knowledge of the city with a good old-fashioned tour. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Bus and Tram Tours
Big Bus Tour
The big open-top bus tour is perfect for those who prefer to explore at their own pace. When the weather is good, grab a seat on the top deck for refreshing, open-air views and unobstructed photo opportunities. All three routes — the Hong Kong Island Tour, the Kowloon Tour and the Aberdeen & Stanley Tour — are accompanied by a recorded commentary in a language of your choosing. Buy a ticket for any one (or all three) of the hop-on-hop-off bus routes and enjoy the sights of the city at your leisure.
Rickshaw Sightseeing Bus
Painted and decorated to look like a traditional Chinese rickshaw, the eponymous Rickshaw Sightseeing Bus is similar to the Big Bus Tour. Its Heritage Route will take you past the sights, sounds and smells of “old” Hong Kong, allowing passengers to form a fuller picture of how the city has developed over the years. The Night Scene Route takes you to Temple Street for the famous night market and also stops at other scenic nighttime spots.
History buffs will enjoy touring the city aboard a 1920s-style open-top tram. The one-hour sightseeing journey is supplemented by a recorded commentary of local life and tram history in eight languages.
For some, the best way to explore a new place is on foot. The Hong Kong Tourism Board publishes a Hong Kong Walks brochure with eight self-guided walks, as well as e-guidebooks presenting detailed walking tours of Central and Sham Shui Po.
Or join one of these walking tours led by passionate and knowledgeable local guides.
Taking advantage of Hong Kong’s natural harbor and the South China Sea surrounding its islands, boat tours are a popular way to explore the territory from a different perspective. Here are some well-known boat tour operators, who can arrange everything from a nighttime harbor sail to a full-day tour of the outlying islands.
Junk Boats and Tram Parties
Junk boats and trams can also be rented out for special occasions. Junks in particular are a huge part of Hong Kong social life, with “junk season” running from June to November. A plethora of operators offer everything from a romantic dinnertime outing for two to an all-day free-flow boat trip with 29 of your closest friends, plus add-ons like an on-board masseuse or a speedboat for wakeboarding or wakesurfing. These outings can be catered, or you can bring your own food and drink on board.
Popular junk operators include:
In an effort to boost Hong Kong’s tourism sector and relieve the boredom of residents grounded by the coronavirus pandemic, in 2020 the Hong Kong Tourism Board introduced Hello Hong Kong, a website offering deals on tours, hotel staycations, and restaurants. The website’s expertly produced itineraries, organized around interests like culture, wellness, and food, will give even longtime residents a fresh view on what the city has to offer.
Once you are familiar with the lay of the land, why not dive a little deeper into your area of interest with a specialist tour?
Hong Kong’s art scene is up-and-coming, with clusters of galleries to be found all over the city from Hong Kong island to the New Territories. Joining an art tour will help you navigate this flourishing world.
Nature and Hiking Tours
Hong Kong’s countryside offers an abundance of natural attractions for those willing to journey a little further. On a nature tour, you can explore everything from the “ghost villages” in the New Territories to the hexagonal columns of Hong Kong’s Geopark. Many tour operators also offer guided hikes on the territory’s many walking trails. You may already be an experienced hiker, but having a tour guide along for the first time to provide directions will free up your energy to enjoy the sights.
Hong Kong’s endangered “pink dolphins” are sadly diminishing in number, but people’s curiosity about them has been unwavering ever since the pink dolphin became the official mascot of Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997. Hong Kong Dolphinwatch offers boat tours to view these elusive creatures and is currently the only sustainable tour company doing so. (A silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been more frequent pink dolphin sightings due to a reduction in marine traffic.)
Conducted by passionate and discerning “foodie guides,” these walking tours are a delight for food lovers with a taste for adventure. Tastings are sure to include classic Hong Kong dishes such as dim sum, wonton noodles, roasted meats with rice, Hong Kong-style milk tea and egg tarts. In between each stop, learn about local lifestyles and culture as explained by your guide.
Most of the tour operators listed above under Walking Tours, and many listed under Nature & Hiking Tours, offer history- and heritage-themed tours on topics such as Hong Kong’s World War II sites. Another specialist option is Talks & Walks by well-known local historian Jason Wordie.
Party animals are in the right place! Hong Kong’s renowned nightlife scene is in a league of its own. Join the famous Hong Kong Pub Crawl for an exciting introduction to the clubs, pubs and bars in the city, and make some new friends along the way.