Hong Kong may be the skyscraper capital of the world — and among the most expensive — but there’s way more to the territory than concrete, glass, and sky-high prices. There’s a multitude of things you can do for free that will give you an idea of what makes this bustling city tick. Our list of free things to do in Hong Kong covers everything from tourist attractions and cultural hotspots, to outdoor activities and markets unique to the 852.
Avenue Of Stars — Tsim Sha Tsui
This 400-metre-long promenade that runs along Victoria Harbour pays tribute to Hong Kong’s rich cinematic history. Inspired by the Hollywood Walk of Fame, this avenue has bronze statues of iconic Hong Kong screen legends martial arts superstar Bruce Lee, starlet Anita Mui, and cartoon character McDull, as well as 116 handprints of stars like Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh, Jackie Chan, Leslie Cheung, Jet Li, Chow Yun-fat, John Woo, and Maggie Cheung on handrails. Visitors can scan the QR codes next to each handprint and read a short biography of each star, watch their film clips, and even use augmented reality to take pictures and interact with the late Bruce Lee and Anita Mui.
Official Website: https://www.avenueofstars.com.hk/en/
Location: Avenue of Stars, Tsim Sha Tsui
How To Get There: Take the Star Ferry from Central Pier 7, or get off at East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station (Exit J).
Victoria Peak — The Peak
Victoria Peak — also known simply as The Peak — is at the top of most free attractions in Hong Kong lists. At 552 metres, this is the highest hill on Hong Kong Island and provides 360-degree views of Victoria Harbour, Kowloon, Repulse Bay, Lamma Island, and Aberdeen. While you’ll have to pay to get these panoramic views at Sky Terrace 428, all you have to do is walk to nearby Lugard Road to get the same vistas for free. If you have kids, stop by at Victoria Peak Garden and Mount Austin Playground for a picnic-and-play outing.
Official Website: https://www.thepeak.com.hk/en
Location: Victoria Peak, The Peak
How To Get There: Take the Peak Tram to the Peak Terminus, or Bus No. 15 from the Central Bus Terminus at Exchange Square.
Symphony of Lights — Victoria Harbour
For 10 minutes every evening, 40 iconic buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbour — from the towers on Central and Tsim Sha Tsui to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal — put on a dazzling light show, synchronised to a score featuring western and Chinese instruments. While you can watch this dance of lights, lasers, and LED screens from both sides of the harbour, you’ll get the best experience from the Avenue of Stars — making this one of the best free things to do in Hong Kong. Make sure you’re there by 8pm, as that’s when the show kicks off!
Official Website: https://www.tourism.gov.hk/symphony/english/details/details.html
Location: Symphony of Lights, Central Piers, Central, or Avenue of Stars (Tsim Sha Tsui)
How To Get There: Take any of the ferries heading to Central, or head to East Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station (Exit J)
Big Buddha — Ngong Ping
The Big Buddha, also called the Tian Tan Buddha, is famed for being the tallest seated bronze statue of the Buddha and is one of the five large Buddha statues in China. Climb up 268 steps to reach the statue of the Buddha — with his right hand is raised, representing the removal of affliction, while the left rests open on his lap in a gesture of generosity — and bask in his blessings. While you’re here, visit the neighbouring Po Lin Monastery where you can see the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Official Website: https://www.np360.com.hk/en/attraction/the-big-buddha
Location: Big Buddha, Ngong Ping Village, Lantau
How To Get There: Take the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car or Bus No. 11 from Tung Chung, or Bus No. 2 from the Mui Wo Ferry Pier
Chi Lin Nunnery — Diamond Hill
This is the largest and easily the most impressive monastery dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings because the wooden structure is constructed without any nails, as the pieces naturally fit together. The Tang Dynasty-influenced structure that dates back to the 1930s also features a Lotus Pond Garden with bonsai trees, lilies, and, of course, lotuses. Take in the tranquil surroundings as you stroll through the compound, hearing nothing else but the sound of wind chimes, which can easily make you forget that you’re in the middle of a buzzing metropolis.
Official Website: http://en.chilinhk.cn/
Location: Chi Lin Nunnery, 5 Chi Lin Drive, Sheung Yuen Leng, Diamond Hill, Kowloon
How To Get There: Take the Kwun Tong MTR Line to Diamond Hill MTR (Exit C2) or Bus No. 19 to Fung Tak Road.
Chungking Mansions — Tsim Sha Tsui
This landmark in the heart of the busy Kowloon district of Tsim Sha Tsui is as much a cinematic icon as it is a cultural landmark, having famously featured in the Wong Kar Wai classic Chungking Express. It has dark winding alleys and 17 maze-like floors where you can experience cultural offerings from India, Africa, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. The five-block building houses everything from guest houses and electronics stores, to restaurants and foreign exchange services.
Official Website: https://www.chungkingmansions.com.hk/home.htm
Location: Chungking Mansions, 36-44 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
How To Get There: Head to Tsim Sha Tsui Station (Exit E), or take the Star Ferry to Tsim Sha Tsui and walk to Nathan Road.
Visit the largest of the three temples in Hong Kong dedicated to the gods of literature and war, Man Tai and Mo Tai. The temple complex comprises three buildings: the Man Mo Temple, Lit Shing Kung for heavenly gods like Kwun Yum and other deities, and Kung Sor where community conflicts used to be resolved. Observe devotees as they walk around the temple with three incense sticks and bow their heads in front of their chosen deity, or take pictures of the rows of spiral incense coils suspended from the ceiling.
To know more about this historic building, read our guide to Man Mo Temple.
Official Website: https://www.man-mo-temple.hk/
Location: Man Mo Temple, Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan
How To Get There: Get out of Central MTR Station (Exits D1 or D2) and take the Central-Mid-Levels Escalators to Hollywood Road.
Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens — Central
This is the oldest park in Hong Kong and is spread over 5.6 hectares right in the heart of the city. It has historical significance as it is on the former site of the city’s Government House, but is better known for having more than 1,000 species of plants in its gardens. Spot rare species like the dawn redwood and Ailanthus, and walk through gardens dedicated to bamboo, camellias, magnolias, bauhinias, and palms. Visitors can find birds like flamingos, scarlet ibises and blue cranes, as well as mammals like orangutans, gibbons and lemurs, and even reptiles such as pythons, tortoises, and alligators.
Tsz Shan Monastery — Tai Po
The standout attraction at this 500,000 sq. ft compound nestled among the Ting Tsz Hills is a six-metre-tall steel-framed, bronze-forged white statue of Guan Yin (Kwun Yum) — the world’s biggest statue dedicated to the Chinese goddess of mercy. The temple complex has three main buildings inspired by Tang, Northern Song, Liao, and Jin dynasty-style architecture. Participate in walking meditation and Zen calligraphy workshops, make a water offering to Guan Yin at the Thousand Wishes Pond, or visit the city’s first museum dedicated to Buddhist art and relics beneath the status of the goddess. Entry is free, but you need to make an appointment online to visit.
Official Website: https://www.tszshan.org/home/new/en/index.php
Location: Tsz Shan Monastery, 88 Universal Gate Road, Tai Po
How To Get There: Take the MTR to Tai Po Market Station or Tai Wo Station and hail a taxi from there, or take a bus.
Tai Kwun — Central
This is one of the premiere heritage buildings in Hong Kong, and dates back to 1864. It was the site of three Declared Monuments — the former Central Police Station, the Former Central Magistracy, and the Victoria Prison — but is best known for being the former police headquarters in Central. This is why it came to be colloquially known as Tai Kwun or “big station”. Stroll through the complex’s 16 buildings and two courtyards that now house hip restaurants, boutiques, art and performance spaces, and even a coffee shop. As a bonus, the best way to get here is to take the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator, the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, which takes you to the Tai Kwun parade ground.
Official Website: https://www.taikwun.hk/en/
Location: Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central
How To Get There: Leave Central MTR Station (Exit D1) and get to Tai Kwun on the Central-Mid-Levels Escalator.
Central-Mid-Levels Escalator — Central
This escalator and walkway system that spans 800 metres between Queen’s Road Central and Conduit Street is the longest covered escalator system in the world — making a trip on the escalators one of the most interesting free things to do in Hong Kong. It opened in 1993 to give commuters between Central and Mid-Levels a quicker way to commute, and traverses an elevation of 135 metres. The escalators run uphill between 10am and midnight every day, and then in the opposite direction from 6am until 10am. Get off at any of the staircases that lead to the streets below and explore the plethora of restaurants, boutiques, and other retail stores that the bustling Mid-Levels area has to offer.
Official Website: https://www.td.gov.hk/en/transport_in_hong_kong/pedestrians/hillside_escalator
How To Get There: Go to Central MTR Station (Exit D1 or D2), turn right onto Queen’s Road Central, and start the escalator ride at 100QRC.
Western Market — Sheung Wan
One of the most defining features of the bustling neighbourhood of Sheung Wan is this building with its red-bricked bandage-style facade. Western Market, which was built in 1906, has the distinction of being the oldest market building in Hong Kong. It is now filled with stores that sell fabrics and art pieces, and even hosts the occasional exhibition.
Official Website: https://www.facebook.com/westernmarkethk/
Location: Western Market, 323 Des Voeux Road Central, Sheung Wan
How To Get There: Head to Sheung Wan MTR Station (Exit C) and turn left on to Connaught Road West, or take a tram to the Western Market Terminus.
Hong Kong is dotted with museums dedicated to a wide range of subjects that visitors have free access to. There’s the Hong Kong Museum of Art, which boasts an art collection of over 18,800 items that includes mainly paintings, calligraphy, and sculptures from Hong Kong, China, and other parts of the world. The Hong Kong Heritage Museum combines history, art, and culture with its exhibition spaces and theatre for performances. And while the Hong Kong Science Museum has a minimal entry fee of HK$30, admission is free on Wednesdays, so you can check out its 500 exhibits — including the world’s largest twin-tower Energy Machine — without paying a cent.
Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark — Sai Kung
This geological heritage site spans over two regions: the Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region with its wide distribution of hexagonal rock columns, and the Northeast New Territories Sedimentary Rock Region that has sedimentary rocks that are up to 400 million years old! The 150 sq. km park has a multitude of natural wonders, such as the beaches of Tai Long Wan, the Sharp Island tombolo, and the sea caves of Bluff Island. If you’re planning on hitting up several spots in this area, take the new ferry that sails between Sai Kung and High Island.
Official Website: https://www.geopark.gov.hk/en/
Location: Sai Kung, New Territories
How To Get There: Take green minibus 9A to East Dam of High Island Reservoir, or the ferry that goes from Sai Kung to High Island.
Hong Kong Park & Edward Youde Aviary — Central
Looking for a respite from high-rise buildings, fast-moving traffic, and busy street crossings? Take a break in this green space in the middle of Hong Kong Island, which is home to more than 500 birds from 70 species, including some exotic ones like Yellow Pheasant, Bali Mynas, and Java Sparrows. Families who’ve had their fill of checking out the birds, old trees and seasonal flowers, can unwind at the children’s play area, which is spread across six levels and has a sandpit.
West Kowloon Art Park — West Kowloon
This sprawling green space that runs along Victoria Harbour is the perfect spot to spend a whole day chilling out over a picnic, riding a bike, frolicking with pets, or even watching fireworks. Get some IG-worthy shots of the sunset or in front of the Freespace Mural. Need to grab a bite? Stop by any of the sit-down restaurants and snack stalls in the vicinity of the lawn.
Official Website: https://www.westkowloon.hk/en/
Location: Art Park, West Kowloon Cultural District
How To Get There: Head to Kowloon Station on the Airport Express and get to the park via Elements mall (Exits C1 or D1) or Nga Cheung Road (Exits E4 or E5).
Tai Lam Chung Reservoir — Tuen Mun
This scenic spot in the Tai Lam Country Park was the site of several hills that have since been covered by the water of the first reservoir built in Hong Kong after WWII. It is often called called Thousand Island Lake because of the tops of these hills that are visible to onlookers from a viewpoint, earning it a spot on a list of Hong Kong’s Top 10 Natural Wonders in 2023. The park also has 12 hiking and nature trails, and is home to the Sweet Gum Woods that turn red, gold, and orange in winter.
Official Website: https://www.afcd.gov.hk/
Location: Tai Lam Country Park, New Territories
How To Get There: Take Bus K66 from the terminus at Long Ping MTR Station to Wong Nai Tun Tsuen, and begin the hike to the reservoir from here.
Kowloon Walled City Park — Kowloon City
This is the site of the former Kowloon Walled City, which was started out as a maritime defence station built in the 15th century. However, it became more famous as a sprawling settlement of unregulated housing blocks that became the most densely populated place on Earth, with at least 33,000 people living within the space of one city block. However, the government demolished the city in 1994 and opened a Jiangnan garden-style park in its place the following year, where visitors can find relics from the original walled city and learn about the settlement that continues to capture the imagination of Hongkongers.
Hong Kong’s retail therapy scene isn’t only about its shopping malls. The city has some of the best flea and street markets in Asia, where you can get everything from clothes and accessories, to souvenirs and dried seafood. Temple Street Night Market is where you can get a bit of everything — think T-shirts, kitschy signs of local street names, and jade jewellery. The rows of open stalls at Ladies Market have a rep for selling wallet-friendly but fashionable items, as well as mementos of your stay in Hong Kong. The city’s Dried Seafood Market in western Hong Kong Island is a collection of shops selling scallop, abalone, sea cucumbers, and dehydrated foods like dried snakeskin, black fungus and maw. Planning a food-themed trip to the city? Then don’t forget to visit the best wet markets in Hong Kong. Bring your bargaining A-game to these markets, and make a visit here one of the most exciting cheap things you can do in Hong Kong.
Blue House — Wan Chai
This four-storey tong lau is unique because it is one of the few of its kind with a balcony that remain in the city. Who knew that a decision to paint the building blue simply because there was no other colour available would result in this tenement becoming an iconic spot in Wan Chai? That, and the striking colours of its orange and yellow neighbours, have made this cluster of buildings a must-see spot for many Instagrammers.
Official Website: https://vivabluehouse.hk/en/menu/27/story
Location: 72-74A Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai
How To Get There: Make your way to Wan Chai MTR (Exit A3) and walk to Blue House via Queen’s Road East.
Kam Ning and Man Fung buildings — Sham Shui Po
If you’re in Sham Shui Po, we suggest that you head to the intersection of Tai Nan Street and Wong Chuk Street to see the bright-yellow Kam Ning building and the adjoining Man Fung Building — a residential structure transformed by Madrid-based street artist Okuda San Miguel for his work ‘Rainbow Thief’. You may find a street-level view picture hard to take, what with all the vehicular and foot traffic in the area, but you can head to the rooftop of a neighbouring building to get a perfect click.
Location: Wong Chuk Street, Sham Shui Po
How To Get There: Head to Sham Shui MTR Station (Exit A2) and walk to the buildings via Yu Chau Street.
Hong Kong’s coastline stretches across 456km, so it’s hardly surprising that the territory is home to easily accessible beaches. Take your pick from the soft sands of Shek O and the surfing hot spot of Big Wave Bay Beach, or the relaxed vibe of Upper Cheung Sha Beach and peaceful surroundings of Clearwater Bay Beach. If you plan to take a dip, remember to check whether there are lifeguards at the beach you plan to visit.
If nature is more your scene, then why not take a hike through one of the city’s 130 official hiking trails? If you’d like to get a bird’s-eye view of Victoria Harbour from one its most popular vantage points, take the relatively easy hike up to The Peak. Dragon’s Back — named for the undulating hills along the trail — is another favourite for beginners. If you want more of a challenge, climb up to Sunset Peak, the territory’s third-highest elevation. The 100km-long MacLehose Trail traverses the New Territories and features Tai Mo Shan, the highest elevation in Hong Kong, and Kam Shan Country Park that is famous for its macaque population.
To know more about hiking in the territory, read our guide to easy hiking trails for beginners in Hong Kong.
Hopewell Centre Observation Lift — Wan Chai
If you want an aerial view of one of Hong Kong’s grittier neighbourhoods, then hop into the Hopewell Centre Observation Lift, which will take you up to the 56th floor of the building in a glass elevator. It will take you about less than a minute to get to the top and you can get stunning views — and photographs, of course! — of the skyscrapers in the area. The building is of architectural significance as it was the first circular skyscraper in Hong Kong and has the city’s only revolving restaurant, which makes a trip here one of the most unusual places to visit in Hong Kong for free.
Official Website: https://www.hopewellcentre.com/eng/index.htm
Location: 183 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai
How To Get There: Go to Wan Chai MTR Station (Exit A3) and walk to Hopewell Centre via Spring Garden Lane.
Rainbow Building — Ngau Chi Wan
The rainbow-hued facade of Choi Hung Estate is the subject of many Instagram pictures. The 60-year-old estate is made up of 11 buildings that are between seven and 20 storeys high, and houses 7,400 flats. The basketball court on the carpark rooftop is where most shutterbugs come to get their clicks for the ‘Gram as it has the best view of the estate’s rainbow blocks. However, if you stroll around Choi Hung, you will also see traditional Shanghai-style barber shops and old-school eateries that have served residents for decades. The building is so iconic that it has an MTR station named after it, complete with rainbow-hued pillars!
Location: Ngau Chi Wan, Wong Tai Sin
How To Get There: Walk to the estate from Choi Hung Station (Exit C3) via Lung Cheung Road.
Xiqu Centre — Tsim Sha Tsui
Xiqu Centre is best known as a venue for Cantonese opera and Chinese traditional theatre, but you can still visit its open centre that is a blend of modern and traditional architectural sensibilities. The design of the interior is resembles a futuristic spaceship, but at the heart of the space is a little tea house. Take the escalator up to the second floor of the centre for a top view of the wooden tea house contrasting against the stark white interiors of the centre.
Official Website: https://www.westkowloon.hk/en
Location: 88 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
How To Get There: Leave Austin Station MTR Station (Exit F) and cross the road to reach Xiqu Centre.
Ng Tung Chai Waterfalls — Tai Mo Shan
If we had to pick one out of the several waterfalls in Hong Kong to visit, Ng Tung Chai would be it. That’s because it’s actually four waterfalls, with the 30-metre-high Main Falls being the highest in the city. The only way to get there is on foot, so lace up your hiking boots and get ready for the three-hour trek ahead that involves walking through dense jungles, scaling large rocks, and overcoming steep inclines.
Official Website: https://www.afcd.gov.hk/
Location: Tai Mo Shan, New Territories
How To Get There: Head to Tai Wo MTR Station (Exit A) or Kam Sheung MTR Station (Exit C) and take a bus to Ng Tung Chai village on Lam Kam Road to start your hike to the waterfalls.
Monster Building — Quarry Bay
This group of five connected buildings in Quarry Bay is well-known in Instagrammer circles for its unique symmetry and striking density and lends itself well to thought-provoking imagery. Film buffs may recognise this behemoth from movies like Ghost in the Shell and Transformers: Age of Extinction. The buildings, originally constructed in the 1960s, form an E shape. When you stand in one of its courtyards, you get a sense of what it is like to inhabit Hong Kong’s tightly-packed housing estates. Wait long enough and you may get that money shot of an airplane passing overhead!
Location: Yick Cheong Building, King’s Road, Quarry Bay
How To Get There: Make your way to Taikoo MTR Station (Exit B) and walk towards the estate via King’s Road.
Tai O — Lantau
Escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and head to Tai O, where Hong Kong’s Tanka population has lived for generations in stilt houses above the tidal flats of Lantau Island. The homes in this quiet village are linked by a maze of interconnected wooden bridges and boardwalks, which visitors can spend hours exploring. There are no motor vehicles allowed in Tai O, so you can stroll through the village at your own pace, and stop by the pedestrian bridge to watch the boats sailing along the main creek. Learn the local history of Tai O at the museum, hire a boat to immerse yourself in river life, have lunch at the Tai O Heritage Hotel, and pick up seafood you can’t get anywhere else in Hong Kong — we highly recommend the shrimp paste!
Location: Tai O, Lantau
How To Get There: Go to Tung Chung MTR Station and take Bus No. 11 to Tai O.
So there you have it — a comprehensive list of places to visit in Hong Kong for free. If you’re looking to hit up spots that put the city on every holidaymaker’s must-see list, check out our list of attractions and tourist spots to visit in Hong Kong. Want a complete guide to a genuine 852 experience? Then read our recommendations of the best things to do in Hong Kong. If you’re popping into the city for just a couple of days, take a look at our guide on how to spend 48 hours in Hong Kong.
Header image credits: markrhiggins & Leung Cho Pan via Canva