If you only have a few hours to kill, you could do a lot worse than be stuck in Hong Kong International Airport, which ranked first in the Best Transit Airport and the Best Airport for Dining categories at the 2018 World Airport Awards.
So what to do? Catching a film would be a good start, as the airport is home to the biggest cinema screen in the city. The IMAX Theatre in Terminal 2 can seat up to 350 customers and is a perfect place for catching the latest blockbuster.
If you fancy being a bit more active, there’s always the indoor golf club at GreenLive AIR that allows you to simulate being on a full 18-hole course. Alternatively, you can pretend to be a pilot, taking to the skies on the flight simulator at the Aviation Discovery Centre. For kids, there’s the Dream Come True Education Park, a 3,000-square-metre (32,2291-square-foot) facility complete with 20 attractions where children can play dress up and act out different professions, such as being a firefighter, policeperson and, of course, a pilot.
If you’d prefer to just chill out before your flight, there’s the free-of-charge Relaxation Corner located in Terminal 1. This quiet pocket of the airport enables you to stretch out, take a nap or even indulge in a massage, acupressure or reflexology session.
As you might expect from the world’s best airport for dining, the food doesn’t disappoint. For local favourites such as lo-mei-marinated (Chiu Chow-braised meat) goose slices and chicken’s leg tendon with sesame, head to Hung’s Delicacies in Terminal 2. Their original store in North Point was awarded a Michelin star, and here you can try their signature homemade XO sauce and chilli sauce without leaving the airport. Over at Terminal 1, you’ll find Crystal Jade, which serves delicious Shanghainese dumplings, and Michelin-recommended wonton noodle shop Ho Hung Kee, among numerous other first-rate restaurants.
Six hours should leave ample time to get outside the airport for a while. On neighbouring Lantau Island (less than 10 minutes in a taxi from the airport), you’ll find the Citygate Outlets. Home to more than 80 stores from top international brands, it’s perfect for a spot of retail therapy. The mall also offers more than a dozen restaurants, including the delicious dim sum restaurant Federal Palace, as well as a cinema and a spa.
If shopping is not your thing, consider a whistle-stop visit to the city. Catch the Airport Express train, which takes just 20 minutes to reach Kowloon Station (HK$105 per adult, HK$50 per child). Directly above Kowloon Station is the city’s tallest building, The International Commerce Centre; head to the Sky 100 Observation Deck on the 100th floor for unbeatable views of the city.
Twelve or more overnight hours to spend between flights in Hong Kong should give you more than enough time for a late-night taste of the city. Take the 20-minute journey to Kowloon Station on the Airport Express train, and then walk to Ritz-Carlton, which is directly connected via Elements Mall above the station. On the 118th floor of the luxurious hotel is the world’s highest bar, Ozone Bar, complete with panoramic views of Hong Kong’s magnificent skyline and Victoria Harbour.
Once you’ve marvelled at the view, hail a cab to take you to Star Ferry Pier. Enjoy a short ferry ride across the harbour before disembarking in Central and making your way to the city’s nightlife zone, Lan Kwai Fong, where a number of the city’s top nightclubs and bars remain open until the early hours. Following your night of revelry, hail a cab to take you to Hong Kong Central Station and jump back on the Airport Express for a 25-minute journey to catch your flight.
A day trip to the Big Buddha on Lantau Island is definitely worthwhile. The most scenic way to get there is via the Ngong Ping 360 cable car, a 25-minute journey showcasing gorgeous views of Lantau Island and the South China Sea. The cable car leaves for Ngong Ping Village from Tung Chung, which is 10 minutes away from the airport via the S1 bus or by taxi.
Once you get to Ngong Ping Village, take a stroll through the souvenir shops and tea houses, working your way towards the Big Buddha and the Po Lin Monastery. At 112 feet (34 metres) tall, Big Buddha is one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. The mountain path leading up to it is 268 steps long, so make sure you stay hydrated, especially if it’s a hot day. Po Lin Monastery, which stands right opposite the Buddha, is a palatial complex with beautiful courtyards and lavish interiors. Both worshippers and tourists frequent it.
If you don’t want to take a trip to Big Buddha, there are plenty of ways to spend a day in the city. One of these is to visit the Peak, Hong Kong’s most iconic tourist destination. The most fun way to get there is via the Peak Tram, a 120-year-old funicular railway that rises to 1,300ft (396m) above sea level. Once you arrive, there is plenty to explore; one attraction not to miss is the Sky Terrace, where you’ll see breathtaking views of the city from its highest vantage point.
Another activity perfect for a long layover in Hong Kong is taking a ride on the Star Ferry. A vestige of Old Hong Kong, the Star Ferry Company has been operating in Victoria Harbor since 1888. Take the ferry from Central Pier, just a few minutes walk from Hong Kong Station, and enjoy the skyline as well as a refreshing sea breeze. Get off at Kowloon, and take a stroll along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, where you’ll pass landmarks such as the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, the Hong Kong Space Museum and the colonial-era Clock Tower.
A longer layover gives you the opportunity to sample some of Hong Kong’s famous cuisine, especially dim sum. Visitors are spoilt for choice, from mixing with local people at Tim Ho Wan to admiring the view of the harbour from Lung King Heen, the first Chinese restaurant awarded three Michelin stars. After eating, wander through the city, taking in the atmosphere and perhaps stopping off for a drink before you have to head back to the airport.
This article is an updated version of a story created by Sally Gao.