Hong Kong is known as the “Pearl of the Orient”, and even long-term expats are blown away by what’s on offer. There is quite literally something for everyone, regardless of your interests, if you are family or single. The problem is, with so much available, and as a newcomer to Hong Kong, knowing what should you see first and where other expats spend their free time can be pretty challenging.
As the top British International School in Hong Kong, we are used to helping students settle when they first arrive, but sometimes we overlook the fact that it can be equally as hard for parents. With most expats coming due to their jobs, most want to know what they can do in their free time and where they can make new friends. In this article, we will try to offer advice on what adults and families can see and do. Of course, everyone has their own tastes, but here are some of the best things to do in Hong Kong.
Stanley is a firm favourite of families living in Hong Kong and is always bustling with expats, locals and tourists at the weekends, creating an exciting vibe. It is conveniently located close to the centre of the business district and has something for everyone. Stanley has some excellent restaurants, the thriving Stanley Plaza and Murray House; all things you see before you get to the pier and then the beach. Everything is situated close together, making it ideal for those with younger children.
Arguably the best place for shopping in Hong Kong is Causeway Bay, where you will find a superb selection of local shops and shopping malls. Here you will find some of the world’s top brands, boutique shops and an outstanding selection of restaurants. Of course, there are coffee shops where you can arrange to meet people or sit and catch up with friends on social media. It is a place where you will meet like-minded people as well as a great place for shopaholics!
Dine at Cha Chaan Teng
There is often the misconception that expats only hang out in expat bars, but we also enjoy doing more traditional things too, and you will find plenty of expats mixing with locals at a Cha Chaan Teng (tea restaurant). Here you can enjoy some real Hong Kong-style food along with milk tea, and you will have a wide selection of authentic restaurants to choose from as well as some that aim more at the tourist market.
The Promenade at Victoria Harbour
Victoria Harbour is as popular with locals and expats as it tourists, and you will get the opportunity to enjoy the stunning views across the iconic harbour, something that you will never become bored of. The promenade is a great place to do some exercise, and it is particularly impressive if you go at 8pm when there is the famous “Symphony of Lights” laser and music display every night. For those new to Hong Kong, it will also allow you to see some of the famous sights, including the Avenue of Stars and the Clock Tower.
Sample real Hong Kong in Mongkok
We understand that when people first arrive in Hong Kong, they will have preconceived ideas about what to expect – usually crowded streets and street food. If this is something that appeals to you, and indeed, it does to many experienced expats, then the area of Mongkok is the place for you! One of the best and most popular places to eat is Dundas Street, where you will get the opportunity to try street food cooked in front of you. The food is healthy and cheap, and it will take you away from city life to which you have probably already become accustomed.
The nightlife in Hong Kong is superb and something that every adult enjoys. You will get the opportunity to mix with locals, other expats and tourists who are all ready to party the night away. There are several areas where expats go, so it will depend on your tastes which one you decide to opt for. Here are the most popular places:
- Lan Kwai Fong
Lan Kwai Fong and Hong Kong Island are the epicentres of the nightlife scene for expats in Hong Kong, but it is arguably Lan Kwai Fong that is the party capital and somewhere that expats flock to. The area is surprisingly small but filled with bars, restaurants and, of course, nightclubs, including the famous Play Club and Volar. It is the only place in Hong Kong where drinking in the street is permitted.
- Wan Chai
Wan Chai is probably one of the best-known districts in Hong Kong and is popular with expat businessmen. It is an area of town that is famous, or sometimes infamous, for its reputation as a place where the partying never stops. The district is now full of British-style pubs and bars and perhaps serves as a reminder of Hong Kong’s colonial past. For those who enjoy live music, Wan Chai is one of the few places where you will find live western music, albeit by a Filipino band playing 1990s rock covers!
For those who enjoy sitting in a rooftop bar sipping cocktails and taking in the magnificent night views, then Kowloon is the place for you. It is one of the areas, along with Soho, where you can enjoy the finer things in life. The bars are far more upmarket and classy than in Lan Kwai Fong or Wan Chai, so it is popular with expat couples who have managed to get a babysitter for the evening.
Although Soho may be located next to Lan Kwai Fong, the contrast couldn’t be starker. Unlike its namesake in London, Soho is full of sophisticated bars and restaurants, with the main streets being Hollywood Road, Staunton and Elgin. You could sample an exotic cocktail or sit in a wine bar people-watching. There are plenty of side streets where you will also find more bars and restaurants. As with Kowloon, this is a popular haunt for expat couples.