Words by James Gregory Wilkinson
The beauty of a stopover in Hong Kong is the city’s amazing accessibility. The Hong Kong Airport Express can whisk you from the airfield to Central station in a mere 24 minutes, so even with just a 24-hour stopover in the city, there are lots of things you can see and do. Here are some of our favourites.
Start any stopover in Hong Kong with a decision to stay in an airport hotel or one close to the Airport Express stops of Kowloon Station and Hong Kong Station (Central). Because of the rapid trains, there’s a good choice of either.
If you’re planning to stay at the airport, the Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Hotel is next to the main terminal and offers a spa, pool, fitness centre, a contemporary Cantonese restaurant, sports bar and grill, bistro and a club lounge. The rooms are contemporary, are available in a range of configurations and some have views of the South China Sea.
While it might be at the airport, it offers convenient access to two popular local attractions, the action-packed Hong Kong Disneyland Park that features seven lands to discover, and the Tian Tan Buddha, well-known as the Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery next door at Ngong Ping on Lantau Island. The largest sitting Buddha statue built outdoors, the Tian Tan Buddha is made from bronze and for Buddhists, “symbolizes the stability of Hong Kong, prosperity of China and peace on earth”.
Given the speed and frequency of the train, both attractions are also easily accessible from hotels near Kowloon and Central Stations. Right above Kowloon station are the W Hong Kong and Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong.
At the W Hong Kong, expect 393 hip and cool hotel rooms in true W fashion, with many offering stunning views over Victoria Harbour. Here, there’s also the Sing Yin Cantonese restaurant, popular Woo Bar, the Kitchen, as well as a rooftop pool, a W Hotels-signature Bliss day spa and fitness centre.
High atop the 500-metre high Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong find Ozone, the world’s highest bar that comes complete with an outdoor terrace. Here you are literally amongst the clouds and the venue offers breathtaking views of the city. The rooms below also have this incredible outlook and even when the clouds have rolled in, they’re still spectacular thanks to the luxurious finishings, oversized beds and latest technology the chain is known for.
Down the road at the Langham Hong Kong you won’t just find newly-renovated rooms, but a bar that’s going to challenge Hong Kong’s best for the top cocktails in town. You see, Artesian, the bar at The Langham London which was recently again voted the World’s Best Bar, has opened an outpost in Hong Kong and the Martinis, Daiquiris, Mojitos and Juleps here are on par with their London sister.
At the luxurious Peninsula Hong Kong, the star of the show isn’t the pink lighting at night time, but the food and views across Victoria Harbour on offer at the Philippe Starck-designed Felix restaurant, especially during the daily building light display.
Across the harbour on Hong Kong Island, two hotels to book are the Mandarin Oriental and Island Shangri-La.
Sitting above Pacific Place, a favourite shopping destination for locals and tourists alike, is the Island Shangri-La, where great views, luxurious rooms, fine dining restaurants, bars and a high-end day spa combine to offer a world-class stay. Make sure you book a stay at the Michelin-starred Restaurant Petrus.
The Mandarin Oriental offers its quintessential Asian hospitality, alongside luxurious and spacious rooms, many with a view over the Harbour. The hotel is also known for its Champagne brunch at the Clipper Lounge on Sundays and it’s something you shouldn’t miss.
High atop the hip Upper House hotel is Café Grey Deluxe where the emphasis is on everyday meals with local organic produce. Also expect a seriously good wine list and the Espresso Martinis always go down well after dinner.
Alongside the hotels, the city has a swathe of cool bars and restaurants tucked away in small streets, on rooftops of skyscrapers. Our picks at the moment are Rummin' Tings a Caribbean-inspired cocktail lounge and restaurant where a Hemingway Daiquiri goes down well with jerk chicken every time; Fatty Crab, an outpost of the popular New York shack where South East Asian fusion takes centre stage and as you’d expect, fresh seafood dominates the menu (as do the cocktails);and Sevva, a perennial favourite for drinks outside on the deck high amongst the skyscrapers.
Still on the Island, there are two legendary Hong Kong activities that we’ll never tire of doing: taking a ride across Victoria Harbour to Kowloon on the Star Ferry, the city’s most romantic journey, and up to Victoria Peak on the Peak Tram, to this day one of the world’s steepest funicular railways that has been running for over 120 years. The view of the skycrapers from the Peak, particularly at night, is something to behold.
It’s also a blast to the past when visiting the city’s stall-lined streets over in Mong Kok, including Fa Yuen Street (sporting goods), Temple Street (men’s street), Tung Choi (ladies' street) and Sai Yeung Choi St South (electronic goods).
Big brand shopping is to be had at Pacific Place and around Queens Road in Central, where big European, American and Asian brands like sit side by side.
When you head back out to Hong Kong International Airport, make sure to leave enough time to explore the terminals. Here, there’s world-class duty free shopping and award-winning Cathay Pacific lounges (including The Wing with a Peninsula Hotel-run restaurant and Champagne bar) and even if you’re not flying at the front of the plane, there are a plethora of dining options that are worth seeking out before your next onward flight.
Get there: Cathay Pacific flies to Hong Kong from Australia over 70 times per week, serving the city from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Cairns and Perth using three-class aircraft that feature Business, Premium Economy and Economy cabins.