Recently voted as the world’s most expensive city, Hong Kong can be an intimidating place to visit for first-time visitors. However, after living here for a few years (5 years this summer!), I’ve managed to find some hidden gems that are off the beaten path, and I’m here to share my insider knowledge with you!
Traditional breakfasts in Hong Kong are usually hearty and can consist of congee, dim sum, noodles, soup, bread, tea, or a combination of all those things.
A popular breakfast option for locals would be instant noodles with satay beef and a fried egg. You can find this dish in many local restaurants like Maxims or Kam Wah Café. These restaurants also serve macaroni soup.
Another popular breakfast item would be crispy buns with condensed milk. Tsui Wah restaurant has arguably the best crispy buns with condensed milk in all of Hong Kong. This dish consists of a bread bun split in the middle, slathered with butter, toasted until crispy, then doused with a generous serving of condensed milk. Best paired with Hong Kong milk tea!
For me, nothing beats a steaming hot bowl of congee to start the day. If you’re unaware of what congee is, it’s basically a savory rice porridge that’s cooked with meat or fish and then finished with various toppings like shredded pork, thousand-year-old egg, fish skin, among other things. My personal favorite is Cheuk Kee Congee Shop in Kennedy Town which serves classic Cantonese-style congee. Don’t forget to order yaujahgwai (fried bread sticks) with your congee!
Go for a Hike
Although Hong Kong is known for its sophisticated urban sprawl that’s rich with glittering skyscrapers, not many people know of Hong Kong’s majestic natural scenery. With its hilly and mountainous terrain, multiple parks and wildlife preserves, and a collection of outlying islands, Hong Kong is rife with natural beauty that everyone can enjoy.
One of the most underrated things to do in Hong Kong is to enjoy the scenery. In my opinion, the best way to take in as much of the natural beauty is to go on a nature hike. The most popular trail for hiking in Hong Kong is the Dragon’s Back, a stage 8 trail that takes you all the way up Shek O Peak. It’s a moderately difficult hike that can take up to 4 hours, but all your hard work will be rewarded with gorgeous views of Shek O, Tung Lung Island, and Tai Long Wan.
My personal favorite, however, is the Tai Tung Shan Trail, or Sunset Peak Trail. Located on Lantau island, Tai Tung Shan is a much easier trail compared to the Dragon’s Back. Sunset Peak is the second highest mountain in Lantau (with the tallest being Lantau Peak), but the trail only takes a couple of hours because the ascent is gentle and gradual. For the best experience, go up Tai Tung Shan trail and catch the sunset at the summit!
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time to start hunting down a filling lunch. Hong Kong has no shortage of food and is in fact one of the gastronomic capitals in the region. From traditional Chinese and Western cafes, to more exotic South Asian and African restaurants, Hong Kong’s local and immigrant community have ensured that people in the city will never go hungry.
A local favorite is Under Bridge Spicy Crab. This hugely popular restaurant, once visited by the likes of Anthony Bourdain, used to be a daipaidong, a street food stall that consisted of a makeshift kitchen and some tables under the Jaffe Road bypass. They’ve since moved to a brick-and-mortar location not too far from their original stall. They are world famous for their spicy crabs: fresh whole crabs stir-fried with aromatics and a LOT of chili. Not for the faint of heart!
But nothing is more iconic of a Hong Kong lunch than the famous Maxim’s Palace in City Hall. Popular with both locals and tourists alike, Maxim’s provides visitors with an authentic Cantonese-style dim sum experience. While their dim sums are spectacular, don’t miss out on their other specialties, like barbecued suckling pig!
Get Some Shopping Done
Hong Kong is legendary as a shopper’s mecca. There are few places on earth where you can find the kind of bargain shopping deals that you can find in Hong Kong. With neon lights and billboards leading shoppers from one purchase to the next, its easy to lose yourself from one retail haven to the next.
Perhaps the most well-known shopping area in Hong Kong is Mongkok. This district is renowned for its night markets, food stalls, and discount items you won’t find anywhere else. From clothing and apparel to accessories and electronics, there’s nothing you can’t find in Mongkok, or MK as the locals call it. While most of the shops cater to tourists with kitschy souvenir items, a lot of locals still go to MK for bargain bin shopping.
The most well-known markets in MK, Ladies Market and Temple Street Night Market, both offer fantastic deals on most items. However, there are also specialty markets like Goldfish Market, Flower Market, and Jade Market.
Get Snacks and/or Dinner
After a long and exhausting shopping spree, it’s best to take a short break, and there’s no better way to do it in Hong Kong than to visit a cha chaan teng or tea shop for a light snack. These places offer the kind of food that’s perfect for a mid-afternoon break: small portions of very flavorful food.
If you’re craving for dim sum, nothing beats a local favorite like Lin Heung Kui. Established in 1926, it is one of the oldest cha chaan teng’s in Hong Kong and is renowned for serving classic dim sum dishes like har gao and siu mei, but they also make a braised stuffed duck that is just as legendary. Be warned, though: The dishes in Lin Heung Kui go FAST, so make sure to grab what you want from the dim sum cart the moment it passes you by.
Dim sum restaurants are generally crowded, loud, and cheap places to get food. But just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. In fact, one dim sum restaurant called Cheung Hing Kee garnered for itself a Michelin star for their Shanghai-style pan-fried xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. These dumplings are famous for their juicy meat and piping hot soup.
But if you’re looking for something more substantial, then a roast dinner is the way to go. Most roast restaurants will offer set meals that include a roasted meat with vegetables, rice, soup, and tea. My personal favorites are Kam’s Roasts and HayHay Kitchen. Kam’s Roast is a Michelin-starred restaurant that specializes in Cantonese-style barbecue, specifically roasted goose. Every goose is prepared in the traditional Cantonese style and only high-quality ingredients are used.
Meanwhile, HayHay Kitchen in Wanchai is a smaller, lesser-known restaurant that serves some of the best roast pork belly in Hong Kong. HayHay Kitchen has a communal seat plan, so don’t be surprised if locals join you at your table. Although their specialty is the roast pork belly, they also have a very decent roast duck and roast chicken selection.
Hong Kong is an amazing city with endless possibilities, and I’m sure each and every person who has traveled to the Fragrant Harbor has their own unique story to tell. Hit us up in the comments below with your own insider tips on food, culture, and everything else in between!