Hong Kong is the kind of place you can spend months in and still find new gems to discover each and every day, but it also the perfect place to plan a 1 day layover in. Many people don’t like stops and layovers when traveling, but when there is enough time to get out and see the city, it is the perfect way to discover a new place. My one day in Hong Kong itinerary is best for full day layovers: that includes 10-12 hours, a full overnight, or 24 hours in Hong Kong. I made this itinerary when I stopped in Hong Kong on my way to the Maldives, and although I’ve spent longer trips here, I’ve found that this layover itinerary really allows you to see all the top places when visiting Hong Kong in a day.
Upon landing in Hong Kong (preferably early in the morning) the first thing you want to do is buy a tourist day pass. Public transportation is very efficient in Hong Kong and this pass is the most economical way to get around the island (yes, Hong Kong is an island!)
Morning in Hong Kong:
Tian Tan Buddha AKA “Hong Kong Big Buddha”
The first place you’ll want to visit is Tian Tan Buddha AKA Big Buddha. Arriving here early will ensure you beat the heavy, late morning and afternoon crowds. Take the cable car up (or climb the 268 steps) to the top of Big Buddha and enjoy the views as you ride up. Walk around and explore the nearby monastery, then have a traditional vegetarian Buddhist breakfast at the restaurant.
Next, head over to Victoria’s Peak AKA The Peak. The bus or tram ride up (your choice – I took the bus up and the tram back) offers fun views of Hong Kong, but The Peak itself is the highest point of the city and provides the most amazing panoramic view of the Hong Kong skyline. At the base of the peak, there is an easy hike that surrounds you with lush greenery, and completely transports you away from the busy city down below. The mall (where you will enter to visit the observation deck) also has a coffee shop with great city views, and is a good place to stop and recharge. Right outside the mall’s coffee shop is a fantastic observation deck (that is free and less crowded than the main deck). Stop and enjoy the views here, or you can head up to The Peak’s main observation deck at Sky Terrace 428 which has an $11.00 entrance fee.
Afternoon in Hong Kong:
Tim Ho Wan
After Victoria’s Peak, take the ferry over to the Kowloon side of Hong Kong for lunch. A trip to Hong Kong is never complete without Dim Sum, and as luck would have it Hong Kong is home to the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world at Tim Ho Wan. Enjoy authentic Hong Kong dim sum at a price that leaves both your stomach and wallet happy.
Hong Kong Street Markets
In the late afternoon, Hong Kong’s famous street markets begin to open up as they prepare for the masses that flock to the markets late in the evening. Hong Kong is infamous for cheap goods of all kinds, from counterfeit luxury items to knick-knacks and electronics. Choose one of the various street markets to walk around and souvenir shop. Ladies Market is one of the most well-known of HK street markets. It is great for souvenir shopping and also offers the biggest selection of jade. If electronics are what you’re after, definitely check out Ap Liu Street Electronics Market for cheap and second-hand gadgets. Don’t forget to haggle for goods at the street markets! If cheap goods aren’t your thing, head over to the Festival Walk mall for over 200 shops that offer a mix of high-end brands and local retailers.
Nan Lian Garden
If you want to ditch the shopping altogether or find that you have some spare time, Nan Lian Garden is an excellent place to get away from the city and spend an hour or two wandering the beautiful Tang Dynasty style garden. Enjoy a peaceful stroll among the colorful flowers, bonsai trees, rock structures, and lotus pond; and enjoy some traditional green tea at the tea house.
Evening in Hong Kong:
Sky100 Observation Deck & Ozone Bar
Right before sunset, head over to Sky100 and check out the 7th tallest building in the world. Watch as the city goes from day to night from the 100th-floor observation deck. Head to the Ozone Bar on floor 118 and have yourself a drink with a view at the highest bar in the world before heading back to the airport via the Airport Express Way in Sky100 to catch your next flight.
Hong Kong’s Famous Light Show: The Symphony of Lights
If your layover keeps you in Hong Kong past 8:00PM, do not miss the Symphony of Lights at Victoria Harbor. Watch as the famous Hong Kong skyscrapers come to life with a colorful light and laser show that is nestled on the water. The 15-minute show is a unique and memorable way to end your layover. Take the Airport Express back to the airport, and say farewell to Hong Kong, until next time.
Temple Street Night Market
If your layover keeps you overnight, or if you have time or want to skip the Symphony of Lights, head over to Temple Street Market for one of the most popular night markets in Hong Kong. Here you will find everything from traditional Chinese souvenirs, to clothing and electronics. Be prepared to bargain! This is also a great place to try Hong Kong street food.
Late Night/Nightlife in Hong Kong:
Lan Kwai Fong or SoHo Hong Kong
If nightlife is what you’re after when spending 1 day in Hong Kong, consider the areas of Lan Kwai Fong or SoHo so for some of the best bars and clubs. The many venues of Soho offer a more upscale and sophisticated experience. As the most cosmopolitan area of Hong Kong, SoHo also offers many great restaurants, art galleries, and lounges. Lan Kwai Fong is another lively district and the area is lined with various types of themed bars, from upmarket to downright quirky. Whatever your mood or budget, be prepared to dance or drink the night away because nightlife in Hong Kong is second to none.
Other Things to Know about Hong Kong:
- Hong Kong is split into 3 main territories: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon (mainland), and the New Territories. There are ferries, trains, buses, and taxis to easily take you in between the areas based on preference, time, and budget.
- The best time to visit Hong Kong is between September and March when the weather isn’t too hot or too cold
- The currency is HKD, Hong Kong Dollar
- Public transportation is very good in Hong Kong, with an efficient and easy-to-navigate subway system, as well as many local busses.
- Most people do speak English and are very helpful if needed
Whether you plan to spend 10 hours, 15 hours, or 24 hours in Hong Kong, use this guide to help you plan the perfect Hong Kong layover itinerary. Hong Kong is a great destination that is definitely worth a visit, and you may just find yourself wanting to re-visit to stay for a longer length of time.