It’s true: Hong Kong, or “Fragrant Harbor,” provides travelers nonstop intensity full of fitful sights, smells, and sounds in an autonomous territory that never slumbers.
It’s a brilliant amalgamation of East-meets-West, urban-meets-nature, and modern-meets-ancient, which will make you fall in love as you are hit in the face with these contrasting experiences. If you have the chance — and I highly recommend that you make one happen, even if it’s only for a short layover or for one perfect day — touch down on the Pearl River Delta in East Asia and see for yourself why Hong Kong is renowned for its stunning, dense skyline; bustling waterfront; efficient, clean, and fast public transportation; green spaces; and cosmopolitan metropolis. Hong Kong is justly the Pearl of the Orient when one considers its traditions, people, art, culture, and insanely delectable food.
Here are my recommendations for what to see, do, and eat if you only have 24 hours:
If you arrive in the late evening, take the Hong Kong Airport Express — high-speed and cheap transportation that’s a straight shot from the tarmac to Hong Kong Central. The Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong is located right off the transportation, in the IFC (International Finance Center) on Hong Kong Island, in the heart of the Central District. Check in here and treat yourself to the Jet Lag Solution massage before crashing in your Victoria Harborview room.
If you’re hungry, take advantage of the 24-hour in-room dining or spring for the Executive Club amenity, which offers breakfast (a full and delicious buffet), afternoon tea, a light supper, and late-night cocktails and snacks.
After a bit of sleep, wake up early and hit the ground running. Visit Lantau Island, via MTR public transportation, and take the Ngong Ping 360 cable car to the Big Buddha a.k.a. the Tian Tan Buddha Statue. On the ride up, you’ll experience panoramic views of the giant bronze Buddha, the South China Sea, and the rolling hills and avocado mountains that surround the Po Lin Monastery. Vegetarians and vegetable-fans alike will delight in the monastery’s restaurant, where you can get a variety of noodle dishes, tofu stir-fry, spring rolls, bean soups, lotus root sandwiches, and little cakes.
Take a ferry ride back to Central and head to The Peak Tram, an old, historic funicular cable car that will take you on a steep ride 1,300 feet up to Hong Kong’s highest point: The Peak. Once at the top, there are several shopping and dining opportunities, however, you may wish to skip this and head down on a nature walk through the lush landscape.
There are several trail options to choose from. One option is to walk Lugard Road for stellar views of Hong Kong, down Morning Trail, and then return to Central via Central Mid-Levels Escalator and Walkway System, the longest outdoor covered escalator in the world (2,600 feet in distance and 443 feet from top to bottom). You can beat the heat by stepping off at any one of the many tea restaurants to grab a traditional iced milk tea, sugar cane juice, salt soda water, or coconut milk to-go (and maybe grab a couple egg tarts as well).
A trip to Hong Kong necessitates some serious walking around. Explore the tight and winding streets in the Central District and in SoHo, visiting PMQ, a mecca for creative and design industries that serves as a fantastic place to find art, trendy pop-up shops, and great dining. There’s also Man Mo Temple, a temple from the mid 1800’s that was designed to worship the God of Literature and the God of Martial Arts; and Graham Street Market near the Mid-Levels Escalator, the city’s oldest and most atmospheric market, where you’ll see authentic Hong Kong life happen. You can shop alongside locals for fresh vegetables, pungent seafood, and colorful fruit, incense, and Chinese medicine.
If you have the energy, and you want to do the thing in Hong Kong that you’re supposed to do, get a bespoke suit made (for women and men). The tailors will make you a cheap, fast, and well-designed suit, taking into account short time frames for business and layover travelers. You should also — if you’re aiming to check everything off your list — take a tour on the harbor on a traditional Chinese antique junk, with bright red dragon-like sails. Stop along the way for a quick street snack of dim sum or steamed buns.
By the end of the day, when your feet are tired and you’re ready to call it quits, treat yourself to a Michelin-rated epicurean adventure. The Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong offers the two-star Caprice (don’t skip the artisanal French cheeses) as well as the world’s first authentic Cantonese restaurant to be awarded a three-star rating, Lung King Heen.
Whether you’d like to dine on haute French cuisine or award-winning dim sum and seafood, The Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong will have you covered in spades.
There are so many adventures to be had in Hong Kong, and this is in no way an exhaustive list, but hopefully you’ll be inspired to extend that layover — or, better yet, visit for several days. Another great datum about Hong Kong is that it’s a hub for further travel and exploration across Asia. Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, Japan — it’s all right there.
So get planning…adventure awaits!