Compared to many major Asian cities, Hong Kong isn’t big – but it’s just as busy. So when we started researching where to book a room during our first visit in spring 2018, we didn’t know where to start. “Should we stay on the island or on the mainland?” was just one of many questions we asked ourselves as we searched for an affordable, centrally located place to sleep.
In the end, thanks to the length of our trip and a brief stint in Macau, we were able to stay in all three of the neighborhoods that are popular with tourists. Here’s what we loved (and didn’t love) about each, so you can choose according to your itinerary and interests.
- Good for: Luxury shopaholics, sports enthusiasts
- Our favorite attraction: Happy Valley racecourse, where the Wednesday night races are a must-do!
- Where to stay: Hotel
We stayed in this neighborhood first because of its proximity to Hong Kong Stadium, where an annual rugby tournament (Hong Kong Sevens) and free fan fest would be taking place. We also wanted to spend a few days in Causeway Bay because it’s home to Times Square, Jardine’s Crescent street market, Happy Valley horse racecourse, the main ferry port and other important sites.
We liked that Causeway Bay was jam-packed with restaurants, cultural attractions and shopping, but we were off-put by the amount of construction being done in the neighborhood. It seemed like every time we went to cross the street, we’d have to zigzag due to sidewalk closures. We also had to dodge a lot of scaffolding, trash and other debris that were the result of the construction. If we were to visit Hong Kong again, we’d likely only pay visits to Causeway Bay as opposed to make it a home base; the construction appeared long term and we aren’t into luxury shopping.
- Good for: Backpackers, budget shopaholics
- Our favorite attraction: Street food – this is where to get it in Hong Kong!
- Where to stay: Airbnb
The next neighborhood we stayed in was Mongkok, an area we chose after reading that it has more of a “local’s vibe” than neighboring Kowloon. When we exited the metro, it was clear we were in a place very different from Causeway Bay. Suddenly, far fewer signs were in English, restaurants had more of a hole-in-the-wall feel and more locals than tourists crowded the sidewalks.
Mongkok also has its fair share of mass retail stores (“Sneakers Street” is home to Nike, Adidas and New Balance), but for the most part, restaurants are locally owned. It’s also home to the Ladies’ Market – one of Hong Kong’s most iconic street markets, which opens much earlier than Hong Kong’s other night markets – and is walking distance to the Temple Street Night Market, which ended up being our favorite hangout in the city. In the end, though, we found the Mongkok area to be a little rougher around the edges than we would have preferred.
- Good for: Foodies, nightlife
- Our favorite attraction: Kowloon ferry port and Airport Express train stop
- Where to stay: Hotel
After a couple of days in Macau, we took the ferry back to the Hong Kong mainland, where we had a room booked in Kowloon. We knew Kowloon was one of the most popular places for tourists to stay, and upon leaving the ferry terminal, we could see why. With its many shopping streets, restaurants at every price point, and balance of locals and tourists, Kowloon felt like a sweet spot between Causeway Bay and Mongkok.
Like Mongkok, Kowloon is walking distance to the Temple Street Night Market where we ate at the pop-up restaurants almost every night. For those looking for something more high-end, it’s home to some of the best restaurants and rooftop bars in the city. We also liked having easy access to Kowloon Park – a large public park to stroll through after a meal – as well as the ferry terminal, which made a day trip to beautiful Lantau Island and our final trip to the airport a breeze.