by Jackie Holland, The Telegraph, June 4, 2019
Hong Kong has everything: modern skyscrapers, ancient temples, a harbour criss-crossed with ferries and little wooden sampans, wonderful food, a neon-lit nightlife, superb shopping – all in the shadow of spectacular mountain peaks. And west of the city lies the South China Sea with more than 250 outlying islands to explore.
Cruise port location
There are two cruise ship terminals in Victoria Harbour – Kai Tak and the Ocean Terminal. Kai Tak, which began operations in 2013, is the newest and two mega cruise ships can berth here at the same time. The Ocean Terminal is not as modern but sits in a fantastic location in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui district. Here you’ll find the best museums and markets, and facing you across the harbour are the skyscrapers of Central, just a short ferry or metro ride away. Cruise lines that call at Hong Kong include Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silversea and Viking ocean cruises.
Can I walk to any places of interest?
Arriving at Ocean Terminal puts you within walking distance of shops, restaurants, museums, markets, parks, the underground system and the Star Ferry. Ocean Terminal is itself a major shopping complex with 450 shops, 50 restaurants, cinemas and hotels. And nearby is the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong Museum of Art and Hong Kong Space Museum. Meanwhile, above Kai Tak terminal is the largest rooftop garden in Hong Kong, featuring a lawn, a water garden, a fountain plaza and a viewing platform from which to take in the incredible views of Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula. Nearby attractions include the elegant Chi Lin Nunnery, Nan Lian Garden and the Kowloon City food district.
Ocean Terminal is very well placed for local transport. The Star Ferry that connects with Central is just to the east and in front of it are dozens of local bus services. Also Tsim Sha Tsui – the nearest stop of the MTR, Hong Kong’s metro system – is minutes away. Kai Tak provides a free shuttle bus to two nearby shopping malls. Once in the mall, you can use the extensive MTR system to reach other parts of HK.
What to see and do
You are spoilt for choice with dazzling modern architecture, ancient temples, fantastic food and excellent shopping. The metropolis also boasts rolling mountains, a vast wetland park, plus a number of outlying islands to explore.
What can I do in four hours or less?
If there is only one thing you can do, go to Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island. The views of one of the world’s most spectacular cityscapes, its harbour and mountains are astonishing. The most popular way to reach the top is on the 130-year-old Peak Tram, which costs around £3.50 one-way. After standing in the clouds, way above the rooftops, walk downhill via the leafy Central Green Trail and head to Tai Kwun, the arts and heritage centre in a former police station and prison. Spend an hour or so exploring its galleries, interactive displays, rotating exhibitions and 'contemplation' cells. Afterwards, head down Cat Street (known for its knock-off antiques, Chinese curios and trinkets) and into the higgledy-piggledy streets of Sheung Wan, where you can jump on one of Hong Kong's double-decker trams and sway through the city centre.
What can I do in eight hours or less?
One of the best ways to explore Hong Kong is by foot, so put on your walking shoes and head along Hollywood Road to the elaborate Man Mo Temple, dedicated to the God of Literature and God of Martial Arts. The temple boasts exquisite wood carvings, murals, ceramic figurines and granite columns. From here, meander through the Soho district, home to the city's lively nightclub and restaurant scene. Then cross the footbridge and arrive at the Mid-Levels Escalator. Stretching 2,620ft, it holds the Guinness World Record as the longest covered escalator. Although it travels in only one direction it carries almost 34,000 people every day. Next, stroll through the narrow alleyways of Li Yuen Street East and West. Packed with shops and stalls that sell everything from factory outlet clothes, jewellery, leather goods and silk items, these two streets are the place to shop.
Alternatively, escape the city hubbub and take a tour across Tsing Ma Bridge to Lantau Island, the largest of HK’s outlying islands with a sandy beach that stretches two miles. It is also home to the extraordinary bronze Tian Tan Buddha, which stands 34m high and draws pilgrims from all over Asia. Opposite, the Po Lin Monastery is one of Hong Kong’s most important Buddhist sanctums and is rich with colourful iconography.
Back on Hong Kong Island, if you're lucky, you'll get a late sail or an overnight stay. At 8pm, head along the waterfront to watch the nightly Symphony of Lights, shimmering sound and light show illuminating 44 buildings on both sides of the harbour. Afterwards, tuck into street food and haggle for goods at the Temple Street Night Market. With opera singers and fortune tellers, plus stalls selling everything under the sun, this a place so atmospheric that it has featured in many movies.
Eat and drink
Hong Kong boasts a fantastic food scene. Dim Sum originated here and consist of small plates or bamboo steamers of meat, dumplings or deep fried items. To find a good restaurant, look for one busy with locals. This indicates that it is both inexpensive and good.
Don’t leave Hong Kong without…
HK is the duty free capital of the world and the endless array of shops and markets offers everything from hand-tailored suits and ancient porcelain to the latest consumer electronics. For designer goods, there are many shopping malls but the most convenient is the Harbourfront Mall next to the Ocean Terminal.
Need to know
British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic are among airlines that fly directly from London to HK with flights arriving in around 12 hours.
Hong Kong is considered one of the safest places in the world. But, like anywhere else, don’t tempt fate by flashing wads of money about and wearing expensive jewellery.
Best time to go
From October to early December the weather is sunny, cool, and pleasant. Spring is a cloudy season and summer is hot, humid and wet.
Shops and museums are open most days of the week.
Buy a tourist Octopus card (HK's answer to London’s Oyster) for HK$39 (£4) at the customer service desk at Tsim Sha Tsui station which can be used on the MTR, buses, ferries, and trams.