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Hong Kong: The enriching and energising city-state


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This enriching and energising city-state distils the best of the Far East and offers a vision into the future while celebrating the past. Even if you can't tell your feng shui from your tai chi, Hong Kong will welcome you and offer day after day of high-intensity experiences. What's more, summer here is shaping up impressively, thanks to new cultural openings.

Get your bearings

As a tourist you're likely to spend most time on Hong Kong Island, an invigorating mix of skyscrapers and traditional life crammed into 30 mountainous square miles, with much of the action concentrated in the district known as Central. But many visitors stay, and spend, at the foot of the Kowloon Tsim Sha Tsui. The Hong Kong Tourism Board (Discoverhongkong.com) has branches at the airport which are very obvious as you leave Arrivals and are open 8am-9pm daily. There is also an office at the Star Ferry Concourse in Tsim Sha Tsui (8am-6pm).

Take a hike

Start a shoreline hike at the Avenue of Stars although, unlike Hollywood Boulevard, you may not be familiar with every screen idol. Of the cultural attractions on the "north bank", the Museum of Art is the most impressive – home to Ming and Tang dynasty ceramics (10am-7pm at weekends, to 6pm other days, closed Thursdays; HK$10/80p). Ignore the ugly Cultural Centre in favour of taking in the views across to Hong Kong Island, with Victoria Harbour offering a soothing dimension to the fast moving city. At the tip of Tsim Sha Tsui, the 1921 Clock Tower is all that remains of the former grand terminus of the Kowloon & Canton Railway, from which you could travel to Beijing and on to Moscow and Europe. Instead, wander into the Star Ferry Concourse and head south.

Take a ride
The Star Ferry is one of the world's finest pieces of public transport, offering Hong Kong's cheapest thrill – especially at night; it runs until midnight. The cheaper, lower deck actually offers better views; $2.80 (£0.22) at weekends, $2 (£0.16) weekdays. The MTR (underground) is the fastest way to get around; from $4.50 (£0.40).

Another excellent piece of public transport on Hong Kong Island is free: the Mid-Levels Escalator, which claims to be the world's longest moving walkway. It runs downhill until 9.30am, then takes half-an-hour to turn around to run uphill for the rest of the day.

Lunch on the run

Close to the escalator, you can choose from one of the many open air food stalls, known as dai pai dongs. Sing Heung Yuen at 2 Mei Lun Street (8am-5.30pm daily except Sunday) offers a giant bowl of noodles with beef, egg and tomato for $35 (£2.80).

Window shopping

Many people come to Hong Kong specifically to shop, and the 21st-century malls offer all the designer choice you could want – and an absence of sales tax, except on a few things.

For something bespoke, at Raja Fashions at 34-C Cameron Road (raja-fashions.com; open 9am-9pm daily except Sunday 11am-6pm), a made-to-measure shirt can be rustled up in a few hours for around $350 (£29).

At 5pm, retail action shifts to the Temple Street night market – touristy, but fun.

Dining with the locals
Stay at altitude, but on the other side of the harbour: 1 Peking Road. Hutong, a glass-enclosed grandstand on the 28 floor serves spicy northern Chinese cuisine (aqua.com.hk). The "Red Lantern" soft-shell crab arrives in a basket full of whole Sichuan chillies; $298 (£25).

Go to church
The spiritual dimension is an essential part of Hong Kong life. For many residents, each day begins by tuning mind and body with the delicate and balletic art of tai chi – a performance for the soul, and the watching visitor. Hong Kong is full of places of more formal worship – with the St John's Cathedral on the island one of the most beautiful. Man Mo Temple at 126 Hollywood Road is a 19th-century Taoist temple dedicated to the deities of literature and war.

Out to brunch
Dim sum loosely translates as "touching the heart" – but what it really means is nutritious fast food. The best place to try it: Tim Ho Wan at 9-11 Fuk Wing Street, in an unfashionable area of Kowloon (open 8am–10pm) – almost certainly the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world. Expect to queue.

A walk in the park
Hong Kong Park is a proper garden in the city, infiltrating between the high-rises – and offering two hours of free Wi-Fi. Get a bird's-eye view at the top of the 100ft tower.

Take a view
On the edge of the park is the Peak Tram terminus of the first funicular railway in Asia (thepeak.com.hk; $80/£7 return, including SkyPass to the viewing terrace). On the other side of the water you can find formidable views from Sky100 (sky100 .com.hk; $168/£11; 10am-9pm daily), on the 100th floor of the International Commerce Centre.

Cultural afternoon
The island's leading summer opening is PMQ at 35 Aberdeen Street (pmq.org.hk; 7am-11pm daily). The former Police Married Quarters, dating from 1951, is now full of studios for Hong Kong's brightest young designers. In Kowloon, the highlight of the Hong Kong Museum of History (hk.history.museum; 10am-7pm weekends, to 6pm other days, closed Tuesdays) is The Hong Kong Story, a compelling account of a unique territory.

Icing on the cake
At 8pm everyone crowds on to the Kowloon waterfront to watch the "Symphony of Lights", a 15-minute laser show decorating the island's skyscrapers.

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