Get out on the harbour
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It’s still thrilling to ride the iconic Star Ferry from Pier 7 in Central over to Kowloon. Essentially, this is a commuter ferry – but it’s hugely popular with tourists, too. The trip takes just nine minutes but the views are worth it. Another favourite way to see the harbour is aboard the beautifully restored Aqua Luna junk, with its distinctive deep-red sails. With chic rattan daybeds for lounging and a glass of wine as part of the ticket price, it’s a sophisticated way to see the sights. The best sailings are early evening when darkness falls and the city lights up.
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The Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island and, as you may expect, delivers some of the most jaw-dropping views. Take the Peak Tram early (it starts at 7am), as queues build later in the day; then it’s up to the Sky Terrace in the Peak Tower (428 metres up above sea level). It’s a well-worn tourist route but it’s still a worthwhile excursion. To lose the crowds afterwards, turn right out of the tram depot and walk up Mount Austin Road for 15 to 20 minutes to the serene Victoria Peak Garden. This beautiful grassy expanse at the top of The Peak was once the site of the governor’s summer residence. Views are breathtaking and it’s incredibly peaceful.
Sheung Wan backstreets
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Sheung Wan, on the western edge of Central, has evolved into one of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods – and is a fun locale to explore. Start on Bonham Strand West to see shops selling pungent abalone and scallops alongside other wall-to-wall dried seafood then head up to the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road, a tribute to the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo) built in the mid 1800s. Just opposite are stairs leading to Upper Lascar Row, the perfect spot to rummage for antiques and Chinese bric-à-brac. Tai Ping Shan Street, nearby, is one of the area’s oldest streets and these days it’s home to a diverse mix of designer stores and cafés.
Take a hike
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In Hong Kong? Yes, that’s right. Over 40 per cent of the island is made up of parks and nature reserves. Here, the hiking is first-rate. Start with the ominously named Dragon’s Back (one the best urban hikes in the world according to Time magazine) on the south of the island (20 minutes in a cab from Central). Allow 90 minutes to climb the two “humps” of the dragon while admiring the expansive views over azure bays and emerald vegetation. On weekdays you will have it all to yourself but it can be crowded on weekends.
Visit an outlying island
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Hong Kong is part of a network of more than 260 islands; those further from the mainland are known as the outlying islands. Ferries regularly chug out to a handful of these peaceful isles from the Central ferry piers. Lamma and Cheung Chau are both good choices to see traditional island life or head to the tiny serene Po Toi for its excellent fish restaurant, Ming Kee. Hong Kong Tourist Association (which offers a multi-lingual visitor hotline on + 852 2508 1234) can help with bookings.
The Mandarin Spa
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Tucked into Mandarin Oriental in Central, this spa sanctuary features nine treatment rooms, including two couples’ suites with private vitality pools. Before your treatment, enjoy the spa’s heat and water facilities as your body begins to unwind. Drawing on eastern philosophies, the vast spa menu includes a range of facials, five variations of massage, pregnancy treatments, body scrubs and traditional Chinese therapies such as reflexology and meridian massage. There’s a range of pamper packs to choose from (ranging from 90 minutes to a full day); we like the two-hour Imperial Jade Ritual with herbal compress and reflexology, Chinese-style massage, sesame and ground rice body scrub, green tea and algae body mask and ginseng face mask.
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This local theme park beats Hong Kong Disneyland hands down. For starters, its position on a promontory in Aberdeen offers spectacular vistas over the water and the southside of the island. Also, the site is huge, incorporating an interesting aquarium, cute pandas, a scenic cable car with views of the South China Sea and a broad range of rides – from the tame to the terrifying. Kids will love Whiskers Harbour, with its games zone, theatre and playground, while adults can get their adrenalin pumping on The Flash or Hair Raiser.