Your essential guide to Hong Kong

By Cathy Adams

Cathy Adams

Hong-Kong-based travel journalist Cathy Adams is the deputy editor of Discovery magazine for Cathay Pacific, and contributes to titles including Escapism, The Independent, Sunday Times Travel and The Guardian

Find your bearings

Things in Hong Kong move so fast you’ll need to run to keep up – literally. The location of Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong – flanking Victoria Harbour – makes it the perfect starting point for getting acquainted with Asia’s most photographed cityscape. Lace up your trainers and jog the path beneath the city’s skyscrapers.

Feed your mind

Hong Kong’s city centre is brimming with first-class art galleries. You’ll find them principally housed in the white-fronted Pedder Building – check out outposts of Gagosian, Pearl Lam and Lehmann Maupin. Nearby is the imposing Agricultural Bank of China, the ground floor of which is dedicated to the contemporary gallery, White Cube. Those interested in Hong Kong’s nautical heritage should make time for the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, while another nearby gem is the oldest colonial building in Hong Kong, Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware. It was once the office and residence of the commander of the British Forces in Hong Kong, and alongside its exhibitions, the museum holds demonstrations, tea-appreciation classes and lectures to promote China’s tea-drinking culture.

White Cube interior

White Cube

Work by artist Wang Gongxin at White Cube. Photo: White Cube and Kit Min Lee

Shop like a local

Hong Kong’s shopping is world famous – and you’ll find the best of it concentrated in the city’s core. Just across the road from Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong is Prince’s Building, with a collection of boutiques and lifestyle shops. Highlights include the smart book and stationery emporium, Bookazine; Blanc de Chine, a purveyor of premium, contemporary clothing with a Chinese aesthetic; jeweller Wai Kee, one of Hong Kong’s oldest; and Ascot Chang, a Shanghainese bespoke men’s tailor. On Lan Street, just behind Queen’s Road Central, is carving out a reputation as a high-end shopping street. Visit the Christian Louboutin flagship (or just stare at the playful window displays), Italian shoemaker Gianvito Rossi or the Central branch of D-Mop, a store stocking contemporary streetwear and cutting-edge fashion. Gents will find much to love in the J Crew Men’s shop here, too.

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And finally

As dynamic as Central Hong Kong is, it’s just one part of the territory’s makeup. Hop on a ferry from the Central Piers to the territory’s outlying islands – to hippy Lamma, mountainous Lantau or the classic journey on the glamorous, red-sailed wooden junk Aqua Luna.

Dine in style 

There’s a whole spectrum of fine dining options within Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. The one-Michelin-starred Mandarin Grill + Bar restaurant offers expansive views of Statue Square and Chater Garden and the setting is as stunning as its delicate dishes.

Hong Kong’s Michelin-starred meals don’t always come wrapped in a white table-clothed dining room, though. Locals know that some of the city’s best dim sum, including siu mai and har gow dumplings, served fresh from steaming basket trolleys, can be found at City Hall – a mere five-minute walk away from the hotel, while on nearby Wellington Street, hungry diners can find several inexpensive, Michelin-starred or Michelin-recommended noodle and dumpling restaurants. Favourites include Mak’s Noodles and Wang Fu, dumplings for juicy Beijing-style dumplings.

Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong by night

Time travel

At 91m high, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong was once the tallest building on Hong Kong Island when it opened in 1963. It has since been dwarfed by the 415m IFC, further west, which has the rather ungainly nickname of ‘the Hong Kong finger’.

See some sights

Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong counts some extraordinary buildings as its neighbours. Sir Norman Foster’s steel jenga-like HSBC building stares down IM Pei’s Bank of China – which was designed to reflect bad feng shui onto its banking rival). They flank the neoclassical former Legislative Council Building in nearby Statue Square, home to Hong Kong’s Supreme Court until 1985 – now a precious few square metres of tranquillity.

Get an up-close view of Hong Kong’s skyline either from Victoria Peak, one of the city’s highest mountains and easily reachable by taxi, or via a cross-harbour excursion to Kowloon by catching the iconic green-and-white Star Ferry, which has been carrying passengers since 1888.

Toast your arrival

When you talk of Hong Kong icons, Captain’s Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong is up there with the best. This legendary lounge has been serving outstanding cocktails and drinks for more than 57 years. Take a seat in one of its famed deep red leather sofas and sip on tankard beers.

Confit and smoked salmon dish

Mandarin Grill + Bar

Classics are given a modern twist at Mandarin Grill + Bar.

Chef Robin Zavou

Mandarin Grill + Bar

Fresh seafood at Mandarin Grill + Bar.

Make time to unwind

Hong Kong Park

Make time to unwind

Spa & Wellness

Multi-award-winning and elegantly reminiscent of 1930s Shanghai, the Spa at Mandarin Oriental is the city’s premier escape route to bliss. Unwind with the four-handed signature Oriental Harmony massage – ideal if you’ve touched down in this buzzy megalopolis after a long flight. Hong Kong’s urban parks epitomise the easy city/country split for which the territory is famous. Sprawling Hong Kong Park counts 600 species of birds (including some indigenous to Southeast Asia) within its limits, while waterfront Tamar Park has eye-popping views over the harbour and the city’s skyscrapers.

Red Amadai with Savoy cabbage seaweed purée


Line caught red Amadai served with Savoy cabbage seaweed purée, at Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental.

Smoked Black Cod

Mott 32

The signature Smoked Black Cod at Mott 32 in central Hong Kong.

The Terrace at Sevva


The Terrace at Sevva restaurant is a wrap-around balcony with panoramic views of the Victoria Harbour and the city.