City-hopping from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong was so lovely. I’d had friends who had visited the city before, telling me what a great city it was for couples, but I am here to let you know that Hong Kong is a perfect city for travelling with children, with so many things to see and do. We were there for half term break and managed to fit so much into our time, a vibrant city just 4 hours away from KL and now I’m here to share a few of our top spots with you all.
For those of you unfamiliar with Hong Kong, the city itself, as well as the tourist attractions, is split over Hong Kong Island and the mainland known as Kowloon Peninsular (which also gives on to the ‘New Territories’ for anyone wanting something a little different like wetlands, the Ecopark, and the nature reserve). The good news is that, wherever you decide to base yourself during your time in Hong Kong, travel between the two areas is extremely easy and cost-effective. Both HK Island and Kowloon have a mix of hotels, eateries, parks and tourist attractions; taxis are reasonably priced, and the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) and the infamous Star Ferry, make crossing from one side to another, a real joy.
There’s a great Tourist Information Centre as you come through Arrivals at the airport and these two people were so helpful! Take the time to speak to them and collect a few free brochures on the city and its attractions.
While we took a taxi from the airport (as a family of 4 this was more cost-effective) what I would suggest doing for nipping around the city on shorter journeys, is buying one of their ‘Octopus cards’ (similar to the Oyster cards in London) which makes taking and paying for the MTR, trams, and even the Star Ferry, very easy.
Mainland Hong Kong – Kowloon Peninsular.
Disneyland Hong Kong
MTR Disneyland Resort Line (pink)
Needless to say that anyone travelling with children will probably make a trip out to Disneyland but what an amazing way to spend a day!
The hype starts even before you step into the theme park; Disneyland has it’s own signage in the MTR and, once you board the final metro train to take you to the last stop of the journey, it’s a pure Mickey Mouse inspired train which sets the mood for the fun ahead.
The park is open daily from 10am until 9pm. We hadn’t bought our tickets in advance, so got there before 10am and were met by only a short queue for tickets which saw us entering the main gates at 10am to begin our day. Disneyland Hong Kong has a great app that I would definitely recommend downloading on your phone – it gave us all the parade times, the schedule for shows, the park layout, and even the current waiting times on the rides!
The park isn’t perhaps the largest of “the Disneylands” but this just made it more manageable. It has the usual meet n greets with characters, performances, rollercoasters, merry-go-rounds, simulators, eateries and everything else to ensure we all had the most amazing time. From being there at opening time, we stayed til closing after watching their fireworks display over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Perfect.
A little tip, check performance and parade times and work around those! We loved the “Flights of Fantasy Parade” but my absolute favourite was their ‘Festival of the Lion King’ which is as close to seeing the full musical stage version as you are going to get, with the most amazingly talented performers from all over the world. LOVED IT!
The Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery
MTR Tung Chung Station, Tung Chung Line (orange) Exit B
Officially called Tian Tan Buddha, this is a major attraction in Hong Kong. Not only is the large bronze Buddha an impressive sight hidden in the mountains, but it is reached by taking one of the longest cable car rides in the world, lasting 25 minutes and giving the most incredible views!
Located out on Lantau Island at Ngong Ping, it’s out towards the airport, in fact, you’ll have undoubtedly spotted the cable cars as they glide up to the mountain when making you way downtown. Once you have taken the cable car ride, you can brave the 200+ steps to get a closer look at the Big Buddah which will also allow yet more views over both the mountains and the sea, and then you can go opposite to the Po Lin Monastery, one of the most important monasteries of the country.
You can spend a good few hours at Lantau Island, enjoying the view, wandering little markets and restaurants and of course making the most of the main tourist sights and surrounding gardens.
Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden
MTR Diamond Hill Station, Kwun Tong Line (green) Exit C2
This amazing place doesn’t always appear on the ‘top list’ of things to do in Hong Kong and, for that reason, we almost didn’t do it. But, when I came across some photos online, I new we had to go.
I will tell you right here and now that, it was my FAVOURITE place we visited and I’m not sure I can do it justice with a few words here. Set a little bit off the beaten track in the Diamond Hill area, it was a good 10/15 minutes walk from the MRT station of the same name (head towards Hollywood Plaza and it’s right opposite!) but don’t let this put you off. Completely free to enter, the beautiful gardens set around a main central lake are enough to take a wander around, but with 3.5 hectares to explore, you’ll find so many treasures along the way.
The gardens are meticulously maintained, there is a water wheel, waterfall, cute little pathways, tea houses and exhibitions and then you get to the Chi lin Nunnery that stands amongst lotus ponds and yet more perfect gardens. The whole place has a very serene feel to it and it was in such stark contrast to the busy city just a few minutes away. The children loved it – there was so much to see and enjoy and it makes for some gorgeous photos. Fit it into your schedule if you can!
Temple Street Night Market
MTR Yau Ma Tei Station, Tsuen Wan Line (red) Exit C
As the name would suggest, Temple Street comes alive at night in the form of a lively, colourful Chinese market. Go in the day, and the shutters are down and it’s a ghost town, but come back after sun down and you can wander through stalls of knick knacks, food and everything else. It’s a nightly affair and is a popular one for tourists and locals alike. While it can get busy, it is still okay to do with little ones; our children loved looking at all the bits n pieces for sale!
It’s worth noting that in the vicinity you also have the infamous ‘Ladies Market’ where you may or may not want to head for a bit of ‘girly shopping! Handbags and fashion accessories adorn the streets by day and by night. There are no official opening (or closing!) times but it’s generally open in the morning until as late as 10 or 11pm, depending on trade. If you’re looking for some statement fashion pieces, this could be the place for you!
Hong Kong Museum of History
MTR Tsim Sha Tsui Station, Tseun Wan Line(red) Exit B2
It’s true I love finding things to do that are FREE, but not only is this large museum completely free of charge, it’s also extremely well thought out and so informative. Walk in and dive straight in to “The Hong Kong Story” exhibition, which will transport back through time looking at the historical and cultural journey that the country has gone through. While it isn’t as interactive for kids as some typical children’s museums, the displays were interesting enough to keep my two well-entertained and my daughter happily snapping photos at anything that caught her eye.
There are a number of theatre rooms along the way where you can watch videos on different topics. This in itself was lovely for families as it was a bit of down time, sitting in mini auditoriums while learning loads of cool facts about Hong Kong! Exhibits included a section on Boat Dwellers with a large boat replica to check out, a wonderfully colourful section on traditional festivals and folk culture and so much more. It was a lot larger than I expected so you can easily spend a few hours here if it’s something you’re interested in.
There are tours given in English at 2.30pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Public holidays (and in Cantonese at 3pm, and Putonghua at 3.30pm) should you want to be guided around the museum for better understanding.
Hong Kong Science Museum
MTR Tsim Sha Tsui Station, Tseun Wan Line (red) Exit B2
Now we didn’t actually visit this museum but, as it’s right next door to the Hong Kong Museum of History, I thought it was worth mentioning in order for you to combine the two, if you’re planning a day in the area. It’s worth noting that on Wednesdays it is ‘Free Museum Day’ in Hong Kong whereby 7 museums give FREE entrance for that day only. The Hong Kong Science Museum is one of these museums so, whether it’s to take advantage of them forgoing the entrance fee, or to avoid the crowds of people that will flood there on freebie day (!), just keep that piece of information in mind! It is supposed to be a wonderfully interactive museum, perfect with children.
Garden of Stars / East Waterfront Podium Garden (Children’s Playground)
MTR Tsim Sha Tsui Station, Tseun Wan Line(red) Exit B2
If ever there were a part of the city to cluster up lots of activities and cut down on travel time, it is here in Tsim Sha Tsui. As you can see from the above signpost, this little area is reeling with things to do, especially if you are travelling as a family and the kiddies need multiple doses of down time!
Firstly there is the little UN Centenary Park with a playground, sufficient enough to give younger travelers a bit of space to run, climb and slide! Right opposite, and very cleverly hidden on the roof of the MTR station, is the Avenue of Stars, a take on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and includes statues of famous people (including Bruce Lee!) and a lovely quiet place to sit and enjoy fabulous views over Victoria Harbour.
Continue through the gardens to the waterfront and you will eventually reach the Middle Road Children’s Playground; a nice, large playground that would keep kiddies entertained for quite a while! There’s a little kiosk for buying drinks and snacks and the promenade just below offers lots of eateries and bars, as well as giving on to one of the main shopping streets.
Victoria Harbour / Symphony of Lights
East Tsim Sha Tsui, West Rail Line (purple) Exit L6
Victoria Harbour is the main waterway separating the mainland from Hong Kong Island. It’s a beautiful spot for taking in the views over the city, irrelevant of which side of the water you are stood on. Junk Boats, Cruise ships, tour boats and the infamous Star Ferry, all roll along here and it’s a spectacular sight both during the day and by night.
Very close to the Avenue of the Stars is the Clock Tower (another cute place for photos especially at sunset) which should be your pinpoint for finding some of the best spots in the city to watch their ‘Symphony of Lights’ that takes place every single night at 8pm. Living in Kuala Lumpur we’ve watched the beautiful water fountain show too many times for me to count and we love it, but The Symphony of Lights in Hong Kong is slightly different and takes on the form of laser lights of all colours making patterns to music all over the skyscrapers on Hong Kong Island.
Needless to say, the view is best from the opposite side of the water and there is a two-story viewing gallery right in front of the Clock Tower. Get there early to avoid disappointment; although there are a number of other spots you could choose from to enjoy the show (including the Garden of Stars and the East Promenade previously mentioned).
Now that we’re down at the waters edge, it’s time to nip across to the other side of the city; Hong Kong Island. The MTR will take you between the two (as will taxis!) but for something a little bit different (and offering a far better view!) you may want to consider taking the ferry!
On Kowloon Peninsular: MTR Tsim Sha Tsui Station, Exit L6
On Hong Kong Island: MTR Hong Kong Station, MTR Central Station
The Star Ferry has made quite a name for itself and rightly so. These ferry boats that run permanently, connecting passengers with Hong Kong Island and Kowoon Peninsular, are a fabulous way to cross the waters.
Offering uninterrupted views of both sides of the city, this short boat trip is one you can make when travelling around Hong Kong. It’s ridiculously cheap (and they accept payment with your Octopus card if you have one) and allows you to feel right in the very middle of all the action while sailing to your destination. It’s only a 10-minute trip but you can choose to sit inside or go up on the top deck to really take advantage of your surroundings. (Incidentally, if you time it right, this would make a great spot for watching the Laser Light Show that illuminates the skyscrapers on HK Island with accompanying music!)
Hong Kong Island
MTR Admiralty Station (intersection for the green, blue and red lines)
The views from Victoria Peak, the highest point in Hong Kong, have made this attraction the most popular of things to do while in the city. Tourists flock to the viewpoints, both by day and by night, to catch the perfect moment at sunset. Queues at the ticket office can get pretty insane later on in the day (so if you fancy buying them online in advance, this may be your best move!) but early mornings were fine when we went. There are a number of ticket options for the quaint little tram ride, and while a return ticket may seem the obvious choice, a friend suggested we take the tram up (for the experience!) and then come back down with the local bus as it gives a different view point and offers multiple stops on the way down. I’m so glad I listened to her as this is exactly what we did (the first time we went up!) and it worked out perfectly!
Your visit to The Peak will start with your little tram ride up the hillside, taking only about ten minutes. It’s a cute little journey, offering nice views, and runs every 10-15 minutes so it’s frequent enough to not need to wait too long. Once you arrive at the top, you have a number of things to do. If you purchase the Peak Tram Sky Pass, this is a combo ticket that includes entry into the The Sky Terrace 428 which gives you 360 degree views over Hong Kong. Needless to say, this is one of the main reasons you’ve gone up to The Peak so take advantage of the view, the scenery and taking your selfies from the highest part of the city.
Other viewpoint options include the Lugard Road Lookout and Lions Point View, both of which we did the second time we went up for a sunset session! There are also some beautiful walks to do, and in fact, on one occasion, we walked all the way down (which took us directly to the Zoological gardens!)
There is also the Peak Tower with a host of shops, dining options and entertainment facilities. You can grab some souvenirs, take photos in their 3D art section or just head directly up to the viewing platform.
Hong Kong Park
MTR Admiralty Station, (intersection for the green, blue and red lines)
Hong Kong Park is a beautiful place with landscaped gardens set around a central lake in the heart of the city. We could walk there from our hotel but it had a second entrance directly opposite the ticket office for The Peak so you may find yourself combining these activities. The park has a very pretty lake that also gives on to a waterfall where turtles play on the rocks, some water features and nice little walks. Near the lake there is the Museum of Tea Ware and a little tea house set in cute gardens. Walk a little further into the park and you’ll come across their enclosed bird aviary, which you can walk through and get up close and personal with more than 80 species of feathery friends!
Across from the aviary and up a fairly steep hill is their amazing ‘rainbow’ playground, which we were all really impressed with! Noticeable by it’s colourful striped walls, the playground is set over several levels, and offers different zones of play; from a sand play area, to a toddler zone, to the larger climbing frames and tubular slides for ‘the big kids’. Access to the park is not surprisingly free of charge, but so too, is access to the aviary so it makes for a nice little stop off which the little travellers will particularly enjoy!
Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens
MTR Admiralty Station
These gardens are yet again a fabulous thing to do while in Hong Kong, be it with children, or without. Located close to Hong Kong Park (and the base of The Peak experience) there is a central part that houses a nice big fountain with plenty of benches and space around it for relaxing or having a picnic, with a little coffee shop nearby. Stroll up the hill to wander through their orchid gardens, and row after row of large enclosures with birds ranging from bright flamingos to geese and cranes!
Continue up the hill to reach a small, but shady playground where there are swings roundabouts and some climbing structure as well as some ‘Little Tikes’ style playhouses for the minis. If you think you’ve seen everything by this point, then you’d be mistaken! Follow the signs for the meerkats and monkeys and you’ll be stunned by all the other animals you get to see in the zoological gardens!
We could have watched the Gibbons swing and play tricks on each other for hours, but the Orangutans were also extremely impressive, albeit a little lazy while lying in the sun! This is a great place to spend a few hours and it’s all completely FREE of charge!
Hong Kong Tramways
These skinny double-decker trams are an absolute delight to see! The tramway runs on Hong Kong Island between Shau Kei Wan and Kennedy Town and you’ll regularly see them zipping up and down the roads when you’re in the city.
If you’ve taken the Octopus card for use on public transport, the good news is that you can use the card on these trams too (just by swiping when you get off at your stop) and it is definitely a fun way to get around that part of the city. We only did it once, but really enjoyed sitting upstairs and watching the action on the streets below. They are great to photograph, and are lit up to look really quite festive of an evening which we all loved seeing.
Man Mo Temple
MTR Central Station Exit D2 (and a bit of a walk to Hollywood Road)
Man Mo regularly comes up on the top tourist attractions to see while in Hong Kong so I think I was expecting a little more, or perhaps something a little bigger but if, like us, you are in the area you can very easily visit one of the city’s oldest temples.
It is located on Hollywood Road which basically runs parallel to some of the art streets and local markets so it’s worth taking the time to combine all of these things while you’re in the area. The statues, the incense, the dimmed lighting, the offerings to the Gods, all make it an interesting stop, but you won’t need to set aside too much time for the temple itself.
Hong Kong Art Scene
MTR Central Station Exit D2
You can’t help but stumble across the fabulous street art and the little markets of antiques and artwork that adorn the streets near Man Mo.
We just wandered around the streets of Central, but there are several walking tours which, even with children of 7 years old, was very enjoyable to do. With western and Asian influences, art, food and music, it’s a nice neighbourhood to check out.
There are a few other places well worth a visit while in Hong Kong but, for one reason or another, we didn’t get the chance to do them. So, if you are planning your trip, they’re definitely worth looking into:
Hong Kong Observation Wheel
MTR Hong Kong Station, Exit A2 or MTR Central Station Exit A.
This was unfortunately closed when we were there in October 2017, but we did go down to the waterfront to check t out as it’s right near the terminal for taking the Star Ferry.
Due to a change in ownership it’s closed until at least December but I’ve since read that upon it’s reopening they will have crazy prices for taking a ride on Hong Kong’s scenic wheel; at least 5 times lower than the rates were previously! So, if you’re heading that way – look out for these great deals!
Hong Kong Maritime Museum
MTR Hong Kong Station, Exit A2 or MTR Central Station Exit A.
Again right down on the water’s edge of the island close to the Star Ferry Terminal and the Observation Wheel, this museum is a great way to learn about Hong Kong’s maritime heritage. It’s fun and interactive for kids, and informative for the whole family. It is also home to
Ocean Park Hong Kong
MTR Ocean Park Station, South Island Line (kiwi green!) Exit B.
This is marine-life theme park and is another popular attraction with tourists to the city. It has a funicular train as well as an impressive cable car that connects the two separate sections of the theme park, the latter giving stunning views over the islands.
You’ll find thrill rides and rollercoasters, live shows, and marine wildlife all in the same park. We didn’t go as I saw on their website that they have temporarily closed their main outdoor water attraction and I thought we’d save it for a future visit when everything is up and running again!
So, at the end of this extremely long blog post on Hong Kong, all that I have left to say is that we truly loved the city of Hong Kong! We didn’t do everything, so there’s hope for a return trip and maybe we’ll even combine it with Macau next time! But, as far as a city break is concerned, from KL or elsewhere, I have to say that Hong Kong really is perfect. S x