Hong Kong is a fascinating city where East meets West in a very dramatic fashion. Although now governed by China, the city was under British rule until 1997, and this long history has definitely left its mark. Unfortunately, though, the city’s preeminence as a tourist destination and its popularity with businessmen has pushed prices on the island much higher than they are in most of mainland China, much to the dismay of travelers. But your visit to Hong Kong can be done on a budget as well. Here are five free things to check out:
There’s no better way to find out about the history of Hong Kong than to visit some of the city’s great museums. Actually, most people consider Hong Kong’s museums to be better than any museums in mainland China, including those in Beijing. Depending on what your interests are, you might want to visit the Museum of History or the Museum of Art, or get a more specific look at history by learning about horse racing at the Racing Museum or the milestones in the space race at the Space Museum. You’ll find that a lot of museums in Hong Kong—including all of these—offer free admission on Wednesdays.
Actually, less than half of Hong Kong’s population is religious, but the city is still home to a number of fascinating temples. You’ll definitely want to see Po Lin Monastery, one of the most popular Buddhist monasteries in the city, and its 34m-tall statue of a seated Buddha. Also see the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. It is no longer technically a monastery since no monks live there, but it has plenty of excellent architecture and Buddhist iconography. Both of these—and many of the other religious sites around the city—are free.
Even if you don’t need to go shopping, checking out a city’s markets can offer a lot of insight into the local culture. Hong Kong sure has some interesting ones, where you can buy anything from clothes to electronics to seafood. What’s better is that they’re happening at all hours of the day—got an evening to kill? Check out the Temple Street Night Market, which runs from late afternoon to midnight. Markets can also be a great place to taste test different types of the tantalizing Hong Kong street food. Of course, if you go shopping or go in for a meal, the markets will no longer be free, but you’ll find that market prices are usually pretty reasonable.
4. Take a Hike
Believe it or not, Hong Kong is a great place to take a hike. One of the favorite hikes in the area is the Dragon’s Back, but you’ve got plenty of options for getting out of the city, regardless of your fitness level. The Hong Kong Tourism Board actually has a whole selection of apps that will help you find walks both inside and outside of the city that you can load onto your smartphone. Make sure you set up a virtual private network for your smartphone before connecting to the WiFi abroad, though: travelers and businessmen are prime targets for hackers. A VPN will give you a more secure connection and help you protect your personal information
5. Symphony of Lights
This popular lightshow turns Victoria Harbor into a stunning display. The lights, music, and narration can be seen and heard from many points along the waterfront, but one of the most spectacular places for viewing is from the Avenue of Stars, the Hong-Kong equivalent of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. If you’re feeling a bit crowded at the Avenue of Stars, feel free to wander along and find a different spot: even if you can no longer hear the audio through the loudspeakers, you can tune in to the narration on the radio or listen via mobile phone. There are five different themes for the show (Awakening, Energy, Heritage, Partnership, and Celebration), so it’s worth it to go back again on a couple different nights if you have the chance!
Hong Kong is a beautiful city with plenty to do and plenty of activities to fit any budget. Although it often is considered an expensive city to travel in, you can certainly find a number of free activities to partake in, from museums and historical sights to hiking trails and outdoor activities. Whatever your interests, you’ll have a wonderful time exploring this fascinating, unique city.
Hi, my name is Jess Signet. My parents were travelers since before I was born. Even in the womb, I was able to travel all over the place! Boy, did things NOT change as I grew older!
Knowing there’s more to the world than the bubble I live in made me want to travel even further. Traveling is my drug and I’m addicted. (Please, no intervention!)