Newsflash! There’s more to Hong Kong than delicious dim sum and affordable street markets. You’d be surprised to know that this island is beaming with unique cultural experiences for travellers. For example, you can watch the century-old Cantonese opera in the heart of Hong Kong! ?
Surprising, isn’t it? If you’re planning to explore the cultural side of Hong Kong, you’re going to love what they have to offer. Let’s start with a dance!
1. Experience the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance
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It’s wonderful to experience the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance in mid-September ?. Back in the old days, the people of Tai Hang performed the traditional dragon dance to prevent bad luck from hitting their village. While the village may be long gone, the tradition still lives on.
Credit: Hong Kong Tourism Board
During this time of the year, catch the ancient dance featuring a 67-metre dragon chasing two ‘pearls’ in the streets of Hong Kong. Held three days in a row, the ‘dragon’ is heavily decorated with 24,000 incense sticks every night and takes 300 performers to pull it off! Besides that, there are rhythmic drum performances and loud firecrackers to last the entire night. Hong Kong is truly the perfect place to experience the Mid-Autumn Festival! ?
How to get there: Alight at Tin Hau MTR station and make your way to Exit A1. Then, cross King’s Road before turning right. Walk to the second junction on the left where Tung Lo Wan Road is located. Finally, you’ve arrived at Tai Hang.
2. Watch the heart-thumping Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival
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If there’s a sport that keeps the locals cheering, it’s the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival! ? Held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar calendar (between May and June), you can catch the world’s best dragon boat athletes going head-to-head for the coveted title.
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Bring your picnic snacks and watch the dragon boat race at the Victoria Harbour (venue may change annually)! Featuring vibrant boats and pulsating drum performances, the event features ornately carved boats that measure up to 10 metres long and carries 20-22 paddlers!
3. Get lucky at Cheung Chau Bun Festival
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Come to Cheung Chau island during the fifth to the ninth day of the fourth lunar month (generally, in May) and experience the Cheung Chau Bun Festival! Witness the interesting festival that includes traditional ceremonies, lion dances, and drum performances!
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A famous local delight, the festival also sells “lucky buns” that come in three flavours: sesame, lotus and red bean. Traditionally stamped with a Chinese character for “peace”, festival goers may purchase the “lucky buns” from various street stalls during the festival. Ingredients included are flour, sugar, and water. While the buns are vegetarian and made without any animal products, we advise you to dine at your own discretion.
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Stay for one of their main highlights that is the famous bun scrambling competition! ? In this event, participants will gather around an 14-metre bun-decorated tower and climb to the top within three minutes. It’s believed that the more buns they collect, the better their fortune will be. It’s fun to watch!
How to get there: Head over to Central Pier 5 and take the ferry to Cheung Chau Island.
4. Enjoy a stroll at Kowloon Walled City Park
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Previously known as the world’s most densely populated city, the former Kowloon Walled City had a dark history that echoed through the small and narrow alleyways. Back then, vice activities relating to drugs, illegal gambling, and crime once ruled this crammed city.
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Today, it is transformed into a beautiful Chinese-themed park within the city. When the weather is nice and lovely, explore every corner of the garden to soak up the sun! ? The Kowloon Walled City Park also has a Jiangnan-inspired garden. Sprawled with gorgeous sceneries, you’re going to enjoy your afternoon here.
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To remember the story of Kowloon Walled City, visit the dedicated section that features the ruins of the lawless city and the history it left behind. After spending your time here, head over to Islam Food on Lung Kong Road for beef dumpling soup and curry mutton!
How to get there: Alight at Lok Fu MTR station and head over to Exit B. Then, take a taxi to Tung Tau Tsuen Road where the park is located.
5. Watch a traditional Cantonese Opera
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In the middle of Hong Kong’s progressive landscape, a traditional art form continues to thrive until today. Cantonese opera is a century-old performing art known for their vibrant costumes, dramatic makeup and melodious singing. ?
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Today, you can watch the Cantonese opera at Xiqu Centre (meaning ‘traditional Chinese theatre’) that is situated in Tsim Sha Tsui. Join the one-hour guided tour where you’ll learn about the centre’s facilities and architectural inspirations as well as the history and stories about Cantonese opera. Available in English, Mandarin and Cantonese, you can buy tickets to the guided tour here.
#HHWT Tip: To watch a traditional Cantonese opera, book your tickets here to catch renowned opera artists and performers on stage.
Address: Xiqu Centre, 88 Austin Rd W, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
How to get there: Alight at Austin MTR station and head towards Xiqu Centre that is connected to the station.
6. Hike at Plover Cove Country Park (Wu Kau Tang to Lai Chi Wo)
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As bustling as Hong Kong may be, their cultural and heritage sides are worth exploring. A favourite among hikers and fitness lovers, check out the scenic heritage trail at Plover Cove Country Park, which extends from Wu Kau Tang to Lai Chi Wo Pier. ?
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The hike may take 5.5 hours to complete, but the shaded uphill and trees will keep you cool. The best part about the hike is stumbling upon the 400-year-old Wu Kau Tang Village featuring ancient Hakka houses and tall bamboo trees! You’ll also find Lai Chi Wo Temple, which is famous for their impressive feng shui wall at the village’s entrance. Catch a glimpse of the feng shui woodland behind the houses! For generations, the Hakkas believed that it prevented their village from natural disasters and increased their good fortune too.
Level of difficulty: Difficult
How to get there: Alight at Tai Po Market MTR station and take the green minibus (no. 20R) to Wu Kau Tang.
#HHWT Tip: If you have time in your itinerary, you can explore other walking trails in Hong Kong too!
7. Marvel at the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees
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After hiking Hong Kong’s highest peak Tai Mo Shan, make your way to the charming residential area of Lam Tsuen. You’d be surprised to know that it has been around for 700 years. That’s a long time! Besides the century-old history, they’re also known for the popular Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees and famous Tin Hau Temple.
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Make your way to the wishing trees where you can watch a local tradition being played out. To make a wish, every local would throw a joss paper into these trees. It’s widely believed that the higher the paper lands, the likelier their wish will come true! ⭐️
How to get there: There are two ways to reach Lam Tsuen. The first way is to alight at Tai Wo MTR station and take a taxi to Lam Tsuen. The second way is to take the bus (no. 64K or 64P) from Tai Po Market MTR station and hop off at Fong Ma Po Station.
8. Take a boat ride at Aberdeen
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Somewhere in the southwest of Hong Kong, there’s a fishing village that blends perfectly amid the island’s metropolis vibe. A home for local boaters in the 1960s, the famous Aberdeen harbour continues to house houseboats, junks, fishing boats and seafood restaurants today.
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For a closer glimpse of the Aberdeen harbour, take a 20 to 30-minute boat ride from the Shum Wan Pier, which costs about HK$80 per person. While the seafood restaurants are not halal, this historical attraction is still worth a visit and maybe, hundreds of snapshots. ?
#HHWT Tip: For convenience, most city tours in Hong Kong include a visit to Aberdeen harbour. Do check it out!
How to get there: Alight at Wong Chuk Hang MTR station and head towards Exit B. Then, take 5 to 8-minute walk to Shum Wan Pier, where Aberdeen is located.
9. Practice your brushstrokes in a Chinese painting class
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To tap into your artistic side, join a local painting studio and learn the art of Chinese painting! With a professional art instructor by your side, you’ll get to try different painting techniques, style and tools within a single Chinese painting class! ? Compared to Western paintings, Chinese paintings emphasises on simplified brush strokes and abstract expression in their artworks.
Credit: KA Atelier Private Painting Studio on Facebook
Whether you’re painting a bamboo or floral artwork on rice paper, you can take it home once you’re done! Better yet, you’ll pick up a new artistic skill to create more Chinese paintings at home.
10. Catch the Petty People Beating ceremony
Everyone has a friend or colleague who gets on their nerves. ? When it gets too much to bear, the locals would go to the Ngo Keng Kiu flyover for the Petty People Beating ceremony. Led by a small group of ladies, the flyover is known to have the best feng shui to oust evil and petty people from your life! ?
In Hong Kong, this ancient practice is popular among the locals. The ceremony begins when the customer mentions the identity of the ‘petty people’ in their life. Then, these feisty aunties will light up some incense sticks, create a paper tiger cut-out and beat ‘that person’ with her shoe. It’s an experience unlike any other. Come and see it for yourself!
P.S. Head to Islamic Centre Canteen for your dim sum and duck rice fix after this experience!
How to get there: Alight at Causeway Bay MTR station and head towards Exit A. Then, walk along Canal Road for five minutes before you reach Ngo Keng Kiu flyover.
11. Sip a cup of blooming tea
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If you’re wondering what a blooming tea is, head over to a Hong Kong teahouse to find out more! Different from the usual tea leaves you’ve seen, blooming teas are neatly-bundled tea leaves wrapped with dried flowers. ?
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When hot water is poured over, this tea will ‘bloom’ like a flower and unleash its full flavour. Some tea houses in Hong Kong offer tea ceremonies and demonstrations, so ask the owners about it! You can sample blooming teas at MingCha Tea House, Li-Nong Tea House or The Best Tea House.
12. Explore Tai O Fishing Village
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After visiting Ngong Ping Village, take a short bus ride to Tai O Fishing Village, which is the home of the Tanka people. Explore this village, and you’ll realise how interconnected their stilt homes are. That explains why Tai O consists of a tightly knit community of fisher folks!
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Besides their laid-back charm, this fishing village is a favourite among nature photographers. Take a picture when you’re here! ? After that, explore the small alleyways and shop at the local market!
How to get there: From Tung Chung MTR station, take a 50-minute bus (no. 11) to Tai O bus terminus. Then, enjoy a five-minute walk to the rope-drawn ferry bridge before you reach the waterfront.
13. Embark on Asia’s longest bi-cable car ride in Ngong Ping
Credit: Ngong Ping 360
The ultimate way to experience a scenic journey to Ngong Ping is by taking their cable car ride! Surrounded by panoramic views of the South China Sea and Lantau Island, the cable car is famously known as Asia’s longest bi-cable aerial ride! For the complete experience, we recommend taking the Crystal Cabin cable car for a complete 360 view.
Once you’ve reached the peak, explore the sights and sounds of Ngong Ping! Climb the steps to see the Big Buddha, which is the world’s second largest outdoor seated bronze Buddha statue. Then, head over to Po Lin Monastery known as one of the country’s most important Buddhist sanctums. Don’t forget to shop for souvenirs and eat delicious halal food when you’re there!
How to get there: Alight at Tung Chung MTR station and walk towards Exit B. Then, enjoy a five-minute walk to the Tung Chung Cable Car Terminal, which will take you to Ngong Ping.
14. Seek inner peace from a Taichi class
Find your zen when you enrol in a Taichi class in Hong Kong! Recognised as a form of Chinese martial art, which combines self-defence and health benefits, you can book a class to experience a mindful taichi lesson. ?
Perfect for beginners, most classes begin with an introduction to Taichi’s history and philosophy. Then, you’ll move on to basic Taichi movements and Qigong breathing techniques, which is easy to follow. Since the classes are often led by certified Taichi masters, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in this traditional martial art.
15. Capture the red sails of Aqua Luna
Spot the red sails of this Chinese junk when you hang out at Victoria Harbour! Famously known as Aqua Luna, it is also referred to as Cheung Po Tsai, which is named after a famous 19th-century Chinese pirate.
Built using traditional shipbuilding techniques, this decade-old Chinese junk is a recreational cruise open to everyone. The food served onboard may be non-halal, but this tour offers comfortable lounge chairs complete with a free drink! It also promises a great view of the light symphony from the middle of Victoria Harbour. ?
#HHWT Tip: Alight at East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station and walk towards Exit L6 to reach Victoria Harbour.
Whether you’re planning to catch the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance or Cantonese Opera, there are many cultural experiences in Hong Kong to tick off your list. Combine it with yummy halal food, awesome shopping spots and beautiful Instagrammable places, we know Hong Kong will top your list of travels too. ?
This article is brought to you by Hong Kong Tourism Board.