Fast-paced and packed with fun, Hong Kong is a fantastic place to be stuck on a 48-hour layover. Of course, knowing all that the region has to offer is quite different than actually experiencing it. With this handy guide, though, you’ll see as much as you can before needing to head back to the airport.
First-time visitors to Hong Kong craving unbeatable harbor views can never go wrong with the centrally located Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong. Offering stunning views, excellent restaurants and bars and direct links to the MTR and the ferry piers, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Once you’ve gotten your bearings, indulge in one of the city’s most important rituals: dim sum. Up for a splurge? Head straight to Four Seasons’ Five-Star Lung King Heen — it’s one of the most exclusive Cantonese fine dining rooms in the city.
After you’ve had your fill of char siu bao and har gau, hit the streets of Central and behold historic colonial buildings juxtaposed with the jaw-dropping modern architecture of Statue Square, City Hall, Bank of China Tower and the HSBC Building.
For more old-meets-new scenes, find your way up to the Mid-Levels Escalator. The world’s longest outdoor covered escalator will carry you through the heart of Soho — a hive of dining, drinking and shopping establishments set along hilly cobbled streets.
Hop off at Hollywood Road and walk west. As you stroll along this historic street, you’ll be greeted with a wellspring of art galleries, hole-in-the-wall boutiques and Chinese antique shops. Farther west along Hollywood Road, the Man Mo Temple is a must-stop on your culture circuit. From there, a flight of steps down the hill across the street takes you to the Cat Street Market — a haven for jade, antiques, trinkets and pottery.
Circle back to Central and treat yourself to one of the city’s most elaborate dinners: Five-Star Amber. Helmed by award-winning chef Richard Ekkebus, the contemporary French restaurant is the jewel in the crown of recently renovated Five-Star The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.
Finish off the night at new-to-town Cé La Vi, an upscale lounge that has taken over the rooftop (and two floors below) of the California Tower in the center of Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s popular nightlife area. The bar itself caters to a sophisticated set and is home to one of the city’s most jaw-dropping views.
To avoid the crowds, get an early start and head straight to The Peak for a chug to the top on the historic red tram. From there, take the Peak Circle Walk around the perimeter of Victoria Peak to view the city from every angle.
Wander through the park, if weather permits, or make your way down to Central Pier to catch the Star Ferry from Pier 3. Once in Tsim Sha Tsui, you’ll be surrounded by some of Hong Kong’s most luxurious shopping along Canton Road. But it’s not all mega malls: history and culture buffs will appreciate the Art Museum, Science Museum and Space Museum, all within a few blocks of one another.
But the best part of Kowloon is deeper into the territory. Take the MTR up to Prince Edward to visit the colorful Yuen Po Street Bird Garden and the nearby Flower Market. This area of Hong Kong moves slower than Central and feels locked in another era, making it a nice respite from the downtown hustle.
Next stop: Yau Ma Tei. Walk south along famous Shanghai Street to see where all of Hong Kong’s kitchen equipment seems to be sold. The industrial cooking shops have everything from cleavers to sleek Japanese knives, dim sum steamer baskets to enormous stainless steel vats.
After a few blocks, you’ll arrive at a leafy courtyard facing the Yung Shue Tau Temple; it’s a sight to behold with the mix of towering banyan trees and neon lights. Step inside for a closer look. Just a couple of blocks away is the indoor jade market, where you can shop for souvenirs, if you have the stamina.
By now, it should be teatime and you have a couple of excellent options nearby. For a taste of local tea, try a yuanyang (half coffee, half tea) at Mido Café, a historic cha chaan teng diner on the corner by the temple. Or, if you’re craving a classic colonial experience, make a beeline for The Peninsula Hong Kong. This Five-Star hotel pulls out all the stops — think pageboys, a live string quartet, colonial interiors, sky-high ceilings and all the clotted cream your heart desires.
Slow things down a bit while you digest with a traditional Chinese foot massage. A popular and hygienic option nearby is Tai Pan Reflexologist, a business outfitted with traditional interiors and a hushed atmosphere. Choose from a full-body massage with warm stones, an aromatherapy treatment, or stick with the traditional foot pampering.
Just in time for sunset, make your way to Ozone, at Five-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong in West Kowloon. Sip on a glass of wine or a crisp martini inside the world’s highest bar, an address where you can peer down at passing ships from the 118th floor.
Cap off your decadent weekend back on the Central side at one of the city’s timeless restaurants, Ronin. The modern izakaya is tucked behind an unmarked gray door along a small lane off of Gough Street. Once you figure out how to get inside, prepare yourself for killer cocktails, an esoteric whisky list and a seafood-centric menu that changes daily depending on what’s fresh from the market. Just be sure to make reservations two weeks in advance.
If you’re craving another round of cocktails afterwards, Ronin’s convenient location between Sheung Wan and SoHo means you have the best of both worlds within reach on your last night in Hong Kong.