If you’ve wound up with a long Hong Kong layover, it’s time to get savvy. Don’t even think about settling down for a 24-hour stretch in the airport when the excitement of southeastern China awaits outside the terminal. With no time to waste, head into this complex city, which has a stark, commercial shell surrounding a strong spiritual and traditional center.
From airport to adventures
Got your flight to Hong Kong booked? You can expect to fly into Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), which sits on the island of Chek Lap Kok, around 20 miles west of Hong Kong. Thanks to the city’s impressive transportation system, you have several ways of getting around.
For starters, the Airport Express is a train that services both the Kong Hong and Kowloon Station, but if you’d rather hop on a bus, there are a number that run to downtown and nearby Lantau Island. Prefer to have a personal driver? Head to the airport’s taxi station, which is located on the ramp outside the arrivals hall. Better yet, rent a car in Hong Kong at the airport counters for the freedom to cruise around as you please.
Hong Kong sightseeing
Hong Kong’s buzzing streets and skyscraper-filled skyline is reminiscent of New York City, but its “A Symphony of Lights” show outshines even Times Square’s brightest billboards. Every evening at 8 p.m., Hong Kong bursts to life with music, fireworks, and laser light displays for a 14-minute spectacular. If you’re around for this dazzling light show, catch the best views from Avenue of Stars on the waterfront or the Golden Bauhinia Square promenade.
While Hong Kong certainly embraces the energy and excitement of a big city, you can find calm and serene spots around town—you just need to look in the right places. Take Tian Tian Buddha, for example. Sitting majestically on top of Muk Yue Shan, Tian Tian Buddha offers a peaceful retreat, with the potential of some spiritual enlightenment. Hop on the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car and ride it up to the giant, bronze statue that sits on a lotus, overlooking Po Lin Monastery Plaza. For the full experience, climb the 268 steps to see the meditative Buddha up close and relish views of the South China Sea and Lantau in the distance.
For another tranquil experience, ride the Peak Tram—one of the world’s oldest funicular trains— up to the top of Victoria Peak. Once you reach the summit, head to the Peak Tower, which features Sky Terrace 428, the highest viewing observation deck in the city. It rises more than 1,404 feet above sea level and provides some epic eye candy. Whether you venture up to catch the sunset over the mountains or to watch the light show illuminate the cityscape, the view is something else. Search for the International Commerce Center, which is the city’s tallest building, as well as the Cheung Chau and Lamma Islands in the distance.
Staying longer than 24 hours in the city? Book a hotel in Hong Kong and start packing your itinerary to the brim. There are countless day trips from Hong Kong that will expand your horizons, but Sai Kung will make a lasting impression. Known as the “Back Garden of Hong Kong,” this picturesque city to the north is home to lush, green hiking trails and surf-worthy beaches. Escape the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong for this oasis on the coast.
When you’ve ended up with an extended layover in Hong Kong, the choice is yours—suffer from boredom in the terminal or treat yourself to an adventure.
What other nearby cities do you like to visit during a trip to Hong Kong?
Viewfinder Tip: The MTR (underground railway) offers one of the fastest ways of getting around the city.