Don’t be deterred by the fact that Hong Kong is one of the world’s most expensive cities. Like any metropolis, affordable angles for dining, experiencing cultural attractions, and booking a cool hotel that won’t bust your budget do exist — if you know where to look. From a cool ferry ride at a rock-bottom rate to Michelin-star dining at super low prices, here’s where to go and what to do.
1. Head to the Peak Tower's Sky Terrace. This August, the tram to the Peak Tower’s Sky Terrace 428 observation deck — named for its 428-meters-high perch — wraps up construction. Until then, take a bus or taxi to the building. For $11, you are treated to a 360-degree skyline view that feels as if you’re floating above Hong Kong. The only thing between you and the sky is a glass wall.
2. Take a ride on the Star Ferry. The easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to get around and enjoy the water is by hopping on the Star Ferry in Victoria Harbour. Besides, Hong Kong’s iconic skyscrapers are best seen from the water on a boat. The best part? It’ll cost you less than a dollar to ride, and you’ll never have to wait long to hop on board: the ferries come every six and 12 minutes (see the schedule here).
3. Visit the Big Buddha. If you’ve been eating your way through Hong Kong (as you should), blend a short hike with a visit to a cultural site. To reach the 85-foot structure (also known as Tian Tan Buddha) on Lantau Island, you'll have to climb 260 steps up to Po Lin Monastery. After your hike, fuel up with a vegetarian family-style meal at the monastery.
4. Ride a cable car. If you’re not skittish about heights, you’ll love the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, which spikes to 3,000 feet at Lantau Island, where you'll Tian Tan Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery, along with Hong Kong Disneyland and Tai O (a nearby fishing village). The cable car costs $34 to ride.
5. Walk down the Avenue of Stars. Earlier this year, the Avenue of Stars (which was modeled after the Hollywood Walk of Fame) received a major facelift thanks to architect James Corner, who also worked on New York City’s famed High Line. Here, you'll find plaques celebrating Hong Kong’s biggest film stars, plus a Bruce Lee statue. We recommend visiting at night, when you can ogle at the dazzling, lit-up skyscrapers and catch a glimpse of the iconic Symphony of Lights show (more on that below).
6. Watch the Symphony of Lights Show. This spectacular light show happens every night, at 8 p.m. What's more, the stunning 14-minute performance holds the record as the world’s largest permanent light and sound show, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Be warned, though: when the weather’s bad, the show gets canceled for the night.
7. Go shopping in Sham Shui Po. Looking for a souvenir? The names of the streets here will eliminate any guessing. (For example, you’ll find shoes on Sneaker Street and toys on Toy Street.) Some items worth hunting down include electronics and cellphone accessories along Apliu Street.
8. Treat yourself to Michelin-starred dining. In Hong Kong, Michelin-rated food is amazing, inexpensive, and tucked into a casual environment. Case in point: Tim Ho Wan (which now has locations in Houston, Honolulu, and New York City, plus other international cities). You’ll pay no more than $4 per item at any of the Hong Kong locations, which makes building a decadent dim sum easier — and more affordable — than ever.
9. Visit Sky Corridor and Green Plaza. Even if you’re not embarking on a high-speed train to mainland China, the sightseeing deck at the West Kowloon Station is a thrill. There’s no cost to access the Sky Corridor and Green Plaza, where you’ll find almost eight acres of splendid green space, along with a terrace that overlooks Victoria Harbour.
10. Admire street art on Hollywood Road. A stroll along Hollywood Road on Hong Kong Island will easily lead to beautiful, vibrantly painted walls that are not to be missed. Not sure where to find the art? Just look for all the Instagrammers. (Crowds of locals and tourists can usually be found at each installation.)
11. Sail in a Junk Boat. Junk Boats are ancient wooden boats, which are complete with red sails, and you'll see all around Victoria Harbour. (They are not, despite its name, a barge full of trash.) While you’re in town, consider embarking on your own junk boat sailing. We recommend Aqua Luna, a local charter. A 45-minute evening sail runs about $30 — a small price to pay for a memorable experience.