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Hong Kong can be an expensive city to visit. Hong Kong can also be a fairly inexpensive experience as well if you do it right. Good and delicious food can be found on the cheap everywhere. Even accommodation can be affordable if you look for vacation rentals vs. traditional hotels. Activities can run the range of being extremely expensive to absolutely free. Here are 7 free things to do in Hong Kong that I took advantage of while in the city:
1. Avenue of the Stars
This promenade along the waterfront of Kowloon in Tsim Sha Tsui honours the celebrities of the Hong Kong Film Industry. In a similar fashion to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, along the path are gold stars with the handprints and signatures of Hong Kong’s rich and famous.
You can spot greats that have become famous in the western cinema too like Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Jackie Chan, and plenty of other names that I had never heard of. I did spot some names I recognized from various Cantonese soap operas I watched though!
For the ultimate cheesy experience stop and strike a pose for a photo with the famous Bruce Lee statue or pretend to be a director with the various film related props set up along the way. You can also see a replica of the statuette given to winners at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
MTR to Tsim Sha Tsui Station and follow signs to Avenue of the Stars
2. Visit temples and monasteries
Throughout the city, there are so many temples and monasteries worth visiting. Most of them are open to the public to wander through. Check out the Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Gardens in Diamond Hill, Kowloon. Wander through the famous Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple temple in Wong Tai Sin. Head to Lantau Island to explore the Po Lin Monastery.
One of my favourites that I visited was the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin. A bit of a trek outside of the main part of the city, but it’s worth it to see a quieter side of Hong Kong and to visit something so different.
3. Watch the Symphony of Lights
This may be the lamest attraction on the list, but it’s still worth seeing if only for the great views of Hong Kong Island at night all lit up in lights. While you go to the Avenue of the Stars during the day to look at the stars and day views, head back at night to watch this light show. Named the ‘World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show’ by Guinness World Records, Buildings on Hong Kong Island participate by flashing lights all set to music. The show takes place every night at 8 pm when the weather permits and lasts about 13 minutes.
The night we were there, it was a bit smoggy so it was difficult to really see all the lights as they blinked and flashed. They didn’t seem to really match the music either which was a bit disappointing. The whole time I was watching, I was expecting much more.
The best viewing point is to the west (away from the Avenue of the Stars) between the Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. The accompanying music and narration are broadcasted in this area. Another option is to watch from the Star Ferry if you’re able to time your sailing properly. The ferry boat will stop briefly in the middle of Victoria Harbour as the show goes.
4. Mid-Level Escalators
“What?! Riding an escalator is NOT all that interesting. They’re everywhere!” you may be saying. Fair enough, it does seem pretty silly, but the Central Mid-Level Escalators are a feat of engineering genius. In an area that is extremely steep and yet full of people, stores and restaurants, the city has managed to find a solution to be able to move people efficiently up and down.
This system of escalators is the world’s longest outdoor covered escalator system with 20 escalators and 3 inclined moving walkings. The escalators travel a distance of 800 metres, rising 125 meters. Depending on the time, the escalators run different directions, moving people efficiently. Downhill in the morning from 6am – 10am and uphill after from 10:30 to midnight.
Ride the escalators (it’s okay if you feel silly doing it because I did) and then head to the SoHo area for a drink or two.
MTR Central Station, Exit D2, walk along Queen’s Road Central towards The Center. Follow signs to the Mid-Levels Escalator.
5. Explore the markets
There are so many different markets to explore in Hong Kong. Anything that you could ever imagine wanting to buy, you can find it at a market. From birds to flowers to random knickknacks for the house to cheesy souvenirs, there is a market for you.
Read More: The Markets of Hong Kong
6. Bank of China Building
There are plenty of places in Hong Kong where you can get high up for a view of the city. Some of them cost money and some of them don’t. The view from the observation deck on the 43rd floor of the Bank of China Building is one of the latter and gets you a view of Kowloon and the other tall buildings surrounding the bank.
When we visited we were the only ones there. While it’s hard to get a clear shot with the glass between you and the world outside, it’s a good place to get out of the heat and relax a bit while you get your bearings for your next adventure.
MTR Central Station, Exit J2. Pass through Chater Garden and walk towards Garden Road
Bank Of China Tower,
1 Garden Rd, Central, Hong Kong
7. Free Museum Wednesdays
A number of museums are free on Wednesdays. If you’re a fan of art, consider visiting the Hong Kong Museum of Art. History buffs can take advantage of the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and the Hong Kong Museum of History. The Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum offers a glimpse into the leader’s life. Hong Kong also has a history of horse racing due to its British colonial past and the Hong Kong Racing Museum explores that.
We opted to visit the Hong Kong Museum of History which did a great job of explaining Hong Kong from its beginning to its present reality. It looked at the city’s period of occupation, the British influence and the whole handover back to China. It also covers cultural aspects as well. The whole museum is really interesting if you want to learn more about the city.
Plus! A Few Almost Free Things – Just Pay for Transportation
8. Ride the Star Ferry
Cross Victoria Harbour by taking the Star Ferry across between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui. Even though the MTR can get you across under the water, taking the Star Ferry is almost a rite of passage for visitors. The ride offers views of the city from the water for a very affordable price. You can pay with cash and receive a token to enter the fare paid zone, or use your Octopus card to get across.
9. Wander Lantau Island
Previously mentioned Lantau Island is free with the exception of getting there and around the island. The cable cars have a separate ticket which takes you to the Tian Tan Buddha, but you can also get around the island just using your Octopus card and regular transit options.
Read more: Seeking Enlightenment at the Tian Tan Buddha & Beyond the Big Buddha – Other Things to Do on Lantau Island
10. Enjoy the Views from Victoria Peak
Visiting Victoria Peak is a must for any visitor to Hong Kong. The most popular way of getting to the top is using the tram. You can pay for it using cash, or if you have enough money on your Octopus Card that works as well. The cost is significantly more than a regular transit ride, but once you’re to the top, you can wander around for free. There is also an option to take a regular bus to the top for regular transit prices.
Have you been to Hong Kong? What kind of free activities did you do?