What to see in Hong Kong during a long layover

Hong Kong at night

Hong Kong, fondly known as the “Pearl of the Orient”, is a city that holds a special place in the hearts of its inhabitants. It’s a city where the past and the present coexist, creating a unique blend of Eastern and Western cultures. This unique identity is what makes Hong Kong so special to its people and you can certainly see a part of it even during a short visit such as a 10, 9 or even 8-hour layover may be.

The city is not just a hub of activity; it’s a testament to the resilience and adaptability of its people. The lively streets, diverse culinary scene, and thriving arts culture are all reflections of the city’s vibrant spirit. Traditional customs are still very much a part of life here, despite the rapid urban development.

From hidden temples amidst towering skyscrapers to vibrant festivals, Hong Kong’s rich cultural heritage is a source of pride for its residents. The city’s unique mix of old and new makes it an unforgettable destination for its people. 

Hong Kong Airport

Welcome to Hong Kong International Airport, your gateway to the vibrant city of Hong Kong and beyond. Located on the island of Chek Lap Kok in western Hong Kong, this airport is more than just a transit hub – it’s a testament to the city’s rich history and its significance in the Asia-Pacific region.

The airport, which opened its doors on July 6, 1998, replaced the former Kai Tak Airport. Today, it stands as one of the world’s busiest cargo gateways and passenger airports. Operating 24 hours a day, it serves as the primary hub for several airlines, connecting you to destinations around the globe.

There are two terminals at Hong Kong International Airport — Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. The vast majority of arrivals and departures occur in Terminal 1, so chances are you’ll be spending most of your time here.

But this airport isn’t just about getting you from point A to point B. It plays a crucial role in local tourism as well. As soon as you step off your flight, you’ll find two Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) Visitor Information Centres in the Buffer Halls on the Arrivals Level. Here, you can pick up informative brochures that will ensure you get the most out of your visit to Hong Kong.

So whether you’re just passing through or planning an extended stay, Hong Kong International Airport is more than ready to welcome you. Enjoy your journey!

How to get to the city from Hong Kong Airport?

First things first, let’s talk about getting into the city. Whether you’re heading to Kowloon or Hong Kong City, there are several transportation options available to you, each with its own advantages.

Boat in front of Hong Kong skyscrappers
Hong Kong’s Harbour (Photo by Flycoach.co.uk)

If speed is your priority, hop on the Airport Express. This service runs every 10 minutes from 05:54 to 23:28 and every 12 minutes from 23:08 to 00:48. In just about 20 minutes and for HKD 105, you’ll find yourself in the heart of Kowloon.

For a more budget-friendly option, consider taking a public bus. The journey will take a bit longer – around an hour – but it’ll only set you back HKD 21-48.

If you prefer door-to-door service, taxis are readily available outside Terminal 2. A ride to Kowloon will take about 30 minutes and cost around HKD 250-300.

Now, if your destination is Hong Kong City, the Airport Express has got you covered. It’ll whisk you away to your destination in about 24 minutes for HKD 115. Alternatively, a public bus ride costs around HKD 40 to HKD 60 per person.

Remember, time flies when you’re having fun! So keep an eye on the clock to ensure you return to the airport well ahead of your next flight. Enjoy your whirlwind adventure in Hong Kong!

What to see in Hong Kong during a long layover?

Things you can see in Hong Kong during your layover will depend on which station you will get off the Airport Express train.

What to see near Kowloon station

Avenue of Stars

A tribute to the luminaries of Hong Kong’s film industry is a must-see attraction for any visitor to the city. This iconic avenue, reminiscent of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, is nestled along the Victoria Harbour waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui. As you meander along the avenue, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of Victoria Harbour and the city’s skyline.

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Jet Li Statue at Avenue of Stars boardwalk (Photo by Flycoach.co.uk)

The Avenue of Stars is home to over a hundred handprints and statues of celebrities from the Hong Kong film industry. As you explore this star-studded avenue, you’ll have the opportunity to delve into Hong Kong’s rich cinematic history and perhaps find some new films to add to your watchlist!

Getting to the Avenue of Stars from Kowloon Station is a leisurely 37-minute walk. This route takes you past some of Hong Kong’s most iconic skyscrapers, offering a unique opportunity to appreciate the city’s architectural grandeur up close. Don’t forget to have your camera ready for some fantastic photo opportunities!

Elements Mall

Step into a world of luxury at Elements Mall, a sprawling shopping and entertainment complex that spans over a million square feet. The mall is divided into five zones, each representing one of the five elements of nature: Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth. Here, you can indulge in some retail therapy or savour global delicacies.

Sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck

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Hong Kong’s Sky100 tower (Photo by Flycoach.co.uk)

Ascend to the 100th floor of the International Commerce Centre (ICC) to the Sky100 Observation Deck. This indoor observation deck offers a 360-degree panoramic view of Hong Kong and its iconic Victoria Harbour. It’s an experience that’s sure to leave you spellbound.

The Ritz-Carlton Spa

If relaxation is what you seek, head over to The Ritz-Carlton Spa. This tranquil oasis offers a range of rejuvenating treatments with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer panoramic harbour views.

What to see near Hong Kong station

Victoria Peak

Victoria Peak, often referred to as The Peak, is the highest point on Hong Kong Island and a must-visit destination for any traveller. Offering panoramic views of the city and its bustling harbour, The Peak is a feast for the eyes and a highlight of any trip to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Victoria Peak
Hong Kong view from Victoria Peak (Photo by gaijinbiker)

The tram station, located on Garden Road in Central, is easily accessible from the Central MTR station. Simply exit through J2, turn right, and walk along Chater Garden towards Des Voeux Road.

If you’re arriving in Hong Kong via the airport and have Victoria Peak on your itinerary, you’re in luck. Upon landing, hop onto the Airport Express train and disembark at Hong Kong Station. This station is conveniently located just two streets away from Central, making it a really easy destination to reach within a short time.

The tram ride itself is an adventure that lasts just 7-8 minutes but promises to be unforgettable. As the tram ascends at an incredibly steep gradient to an altitude of 396 meters, it feels almost vertical. This thrilling ride offers spectacular views of the city and is undoubtedly the most enjoyable way to reach The Peak.

Once you’ve reached the top, there’s plenty to explore. The Peak Tower, a distinctive architectural icon in Hong Kong, houses a variety of dining and shopping options. Its top floor features the Sky Terrace 428, the highest 360° viewing platform in Hong Kong. For a touch of glamour, visit Madame Tussauds and pose alongside lifelike wax figures of celebrities from around the world.

Hong Kong Observation Wheel

The Hong Kong Observation Wheel is a big Ferris wheel that lets you see the city from up high. It has 42 gondolas, or cars, that you can ride in. One of them even has a glass floor! All the gondolas have air conditioning and a way to talk to the staff if you need to.

Photo of People Near Ferris Wheel
Photo of People Near Ferris Wheel
(Photo by Jimmy Chan)

Getting there is easy. If you’re taking the Airport Express train, get off at Hong Kong Station and look for Exit A2. From there, it’s just a short walk to the wheel.

You can buy tickets when you get there. Each ride goes around two or three times and takes about 15 minutes. The wheel is open from 12 am to 10 pm Monday to Thursday and from 11 am to 11 pm Friday to Sunday and on public holidays. So no matter when you’re in town, you can go for a ride!

Central and Western District Promenade

After you’ve seen the city from the Hong Kong Observation Wheel, you should check out the Central and Western District Promenade. This is a lovely walkway that gives you great views of Victoria Harbour and Kowloon.

HK Central and Western District Promenade
Central and Western District Promenade in Hong Kong during the evening (Photo by tomosang)

It’s not far from the Observation Wheel. You can just follow the harbour around to the Exhibition Centre at Wan Chai. It’s a nice walk and you’ll see lots of cool things along the way.

The promenade is a favourite spot for people who live in Hong Kong and visitors too. It’s a good place for a walk, a picnic, or just to sit and watch the world go by. Sometimes, there are even fireworks over Victoria Harbour! 

From both Kowloon and Hong Kong Island

Victoria Harbour boat ride

Victoria Harbour Boat Ride is a great way to see Hong Kong from the water. You can see the city and the busy harbour. The boat leaves from two places: Tsim Sha Tsui Star Ferry Pier and Central Pier No.7. The ride lasts about an hour and goes all around the harbour.

silhouette of body on body of water during nighttime
Hong Kong City Skyline at Night (Photo by Andrés García)

Getting there is easy. If you’re taking an Airport Express train, get off at Hong Kong station (the last station on its journey). From there, it’s only a 7-minute walk to Central Pier No. 7.

You can buy tickets when you get there or prebook them here. The boat ride lasts about an hour. The boat runs from 12 pm to 10 pm Monday to Thursday, and from 11 am to 11 pm Friday to Sunday and on public holidays. So no matter when you’re in town, you can go for a ride!

How long layover do I need to visit Hong Kong?

If you’re planning on getting out of the airport to explore the city, make sure you have at least 6.5 hours to spare. This will allow you to enjoy the city’s main attractions.

Plan for a 30-45 minute journey each way to and from the airport, two hours for exploration, and two hours to go through immigration, security and getting to your gate. For a comfortable stroll through the city, we would suggest no less than an 8-hour layover.

Please note that these are just estimates and actual times may vary due to factors like airport security, immigration procedures, and the extent of your exploration plans in Hong Kong.

Why should you get cash before travelling to Hong Kong?

Even though Hong Kong is a modern city, a significant number of places, including metro sales kiosks, still prefer cash transactions. This is especially the case for minor purchases and transactions.

While a majority of hotels, shops, and restaurants accept most international credit cards, there are still establishments that only accept cash or Octopus cards. These typically include local shops, particularly smaller ones, street markets, and privately owned eateries.

As such, it’s always a good idea to have some Hong Kong dollars (HKD) on hand. It’s advisable to exchange your currency for HKD prior to your arrival in Hong Kong. This not only ensures smoother transactions but also helps you avoid any potential hiccups during your journey.

What is an Octopus card?

The Octopus card, launched in 1997, is a contactless smart card used for electronic payments in Hong Kong. Initially used for transit fares, today, the Octopus card is more than just a transit card. It’s used for a variety of purposes, from shopping and dining to recording school attendance and granting building access.

With over 20 million cards in circulation, it’s a convenient payment option for both locals and tourists. More information about the Octopus card can be found on the official website.


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