If you are unsure about where to stay in Hong Kong then you are not the only one, and hopefully, this blog has all the answers you need (and leave a message if it doesn’t 😉 )
This is one of my beloved cities in Asia and in this guide you will find all you need to determine your best area to stay, how to move around and the top places for food and drinks.
The best part? This blog has been updated with 2020 info, no old stuff
Table of Contents
If you do not have much time then jump straight to the best areas to stay in Hong Kong.
Before starting your trip I also suggest checking the weather info at the Hong Kong Observatory, the most reliable source.
The length of your stay is also going to play a role in the decision of the best place to stay in Hong Kong.
For my short trips, for example, I prefer to spend a bit more but stay close to the Metro stations. For a long stay, I may decide in a different way.
When I travel with my family I tend to favour places that are different from the ones I like to experience on my own. And if I have a project to run on a budget then again the location is different, unless I have a friend hosting me of course 🙂
The common denominator to most of the areas in Hong Kong is the great street food, one of the main reasons to visit this city.
If you are into photography, I am about to publish a brand new guide to travel photography in Hong Kong with a great video too.
Best area to stay in Hong Kong (with family or without)
If you are looking for a quick answer than I can tell you that the best area to stay in Hong Kong with family is probably Causeway Bay.
If you travel as a couple then it widely depends on a budget and the type of holiday you are looking for.
As a single, I would probably suggest staying close to Soho, with plenty of restaurants and bars.
Now let me elaborate a bit more with some good information on the most relevant areas to stay in Hong Kong.
As you see in the below photo, the city is divided into 3 big macro-areas (in a different colour) called:
- Hong Kong Island: in the south, it is considered to be the business centre, where the offices of the corporates are. The north of the island is dominated by big buildings, skyscrapers and commercial centres. Other areas are much greener.
- Kowloon: the mainland of Hong Kong close to the water and facing the Island. This is where you will find the old city, with the district of Mong Kok, said to be the busiest place in the world, according to an ABC article. The buildings here are almost touching each other.
- New Territories: basically everywhere else. That’s where more and more people are moving to, thanks to the lower prices of the accommodations. The drawback is obviously the commuting time that can be a real pain. This is an area I would not suggest for a stay in Hong Kong unless you plan a very long stay.
Let’s now delve into the different area of Hong Kong, with a reference to the macro-area.
- Central (Hong Kong Island): this area is dominated by the big shopping centres. You can literally find everything you want. It’s a super handy area if you plan to stay one or two nights because the MTR station (Metro) is connected directly to the airport. Soho, the area with plenty of nice bars and a lovely walk over elevated bridges, is there as well as the JC Contemporary Museum (one of my favourites). Central is the expensive arty area of Hong Kong.
- Wan Chai (Hong Kong Island): it’s only 2 stops from Central, however, so different from it. It’s less modern with still the old street shops (the butcher, the veggie shop and more) and the great Wan Chai Market, still so authentic. The price of goods is much lower than in Central but you will not find the big labels. You will need to change the metro to go to the airport. There is a free bus service from Central reaching the most famous hotel names in this area.
- Causeway Bay (Hong Kong Island): It’s a bit of a mix of the previous two areas with plenty of shopping possibilities. This is a great place to book a stay with a family in Hong Kong because this area tends to offer more to the kids as the Toy Library in the Central Library (book your session in advance). Plenty of casual clothes shops around for the big kids too. In summer I suggest taking a hotel with a swimming pool.
- Sheung Wan (Hong Kong Island): a quiet area next to Central with probably the highest concentration of available AirBnb (more on this later). They tend though to be booked out quite in advance. It’s a hilly area so expect some steep ascends and descends. Accommodations are cheaper and quieter than in Central, though you are still in walking distance to Soho. Sheung Wan is said to be the hipster area of HK, so expect plenty of cafes
- Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon): it’s one of the most touristy areas of Hong Kong. Of course, the view of the bay is magnificent. The cityscape of Hong Kong Island is really amazing, especially at 8pm when the light show is on. The Avenue of Stars is a must walk, with plenty of movie stars statues. The hotels’ big names are all here, offering an amazing view of the city. It’s a great area for a romantic stay.
- Mong Kok (Kowloon): it’s the busiest area of Hong Kong, and the world, according to the ABC article. It’s a district with a nice young vibe and lower prices. There are plenty of AirBnb and budget hotels around. The streets are very very busy with a few famous markets as the Mong Kok Market, the Ladies Market and the Temple Street Night Market (this is technically in Jordan, a small area south of Mong Kok). You need to change the train to go to the airport.
Is it best to stay in Hong Kong Island or Kowloon?
This is one of the most common questions. There are advantages and drawbacks for both macro areas.
Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong Island is sort of newer, better organised, with the MTR metro running along the coast, with many double deck trams running up and down. Plenty of options for food, drinks and coffee.
It may be not as Chinese-Hong Kong looking as you may expect though. It’s quite modern. Probably only in Wan Chai you can still find the local life as it used to be, with plenty of character.
In this post, I talk only about 4 areas of Hong Kong Island (Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay and Sheung Wan). There are many others that are not that touristy, however, they lack in hotels and AirBnb.
I like very much Soho because it has a great mix of restaurants, bars and cafe with an international crowd. Great place to spend a night.
In Hong Kong Island, you can also find great art galleries and museums, with the Chinese avant-guard arts scene.
Kowloon is much more chaotic, it is much more Asian in style if compared to Hong Kong Island.
There are not as many expats living there. It’s mostly an area with local restaurants, local bars, local cafes (with the great Hong Kong desserts) and plenty of shops dedicated to the young crowd.
Kowloon is a huge macro area and in this post I speak only about 2 districts (Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok). There are of course many others, however, they do not offer many accommodations for tourists.
If staying there, try to get a place close to the metro station as traffic is a real pain. Kowloon tends also to be a bit dirtier and disorganised.
In Kowloon you will find some of the best markets in Hong Kong (for a few souvenirs) of which the Temple Street Market is probably the most famous of all.
Of the two macro areas, expect to find more AirBnb in Kowloon and more hotels in Hong Kong Island.
Price wise, Kowloon tends to be cheaper however the quality of the accommodation is, on average, lower.
Better Tsim Sha Tsui or Causeway Bay for a stay?
These are the two most popular areas with families and couples.
They are both very well organised and they have a nice selection of hotels.
They are however quite different.
Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon)
Tsim Sha Tsui is in the southernmost point of Kowloon, facing the bay, with an amazing view to the cityscape of Hong Kong Island.
It’s not as busy as the rest of Kowloon, in fact, it is more similar to Causeway Bay than to Jordan, the bordering district.
Tsim Sha Tsui becomes very popular late in the afternoon and evening, with the beautiful Avenue of Stars walk, following the bay.
And at 8pm the Symphony of Lights starts its magnificent light show.
There are a few great hotels with pool and view to the bay that are really unbeatable, especially for a romantic stay or just a unique dinner.
Tsim Sha Tsui is not that great for shopping but it’s improving.
From the Airport, you would have to take the train to Central (in Hong Kong Island) and change there to Tsim Sha Tsui (in Kowloon). Much quicker than it appears.
Causeway Bay (Hong Kong Island)
If you are after some shopping, especially casual clothes, than Causeway Bay has to be the place to be.
This area is nice and clean, well organised and with plenty of shopping malls, interconnected between each other.
Beside the MTR Metro station, you can catch also one of the many double deck trams to move around. I suggest getting a seat on the very first raw of the top floor for an unusual view of the Hong Kong streets (almost like on a tour bus, but at a fraction of the price).
The restaurants’ scene is mostly based on restaurants, sometimes on an elevated floor or within the mall. If you are looking for street food I suggest going to Wan Chai
Causeway Bay is the best area to stay in Hong Kong for families. There are also good hotels for couples.
It’s a convenient area to book your accommodation, with plenty of transportation options.
The view from the hotel is usually not the best unless you stay in one of the rare accommodations facing the bay.
If you are the best view, then Tsim Sha Tsui is the place to be.
Best place to stay in Hong Kong with family – Causeway Bay
As I already said, Causeway Bay, in my opinion, wins big time on a hypothetical ranking.
This area has many places dedicated to kids like:
- Public library toy centre,
- indoor minigolf Stroke,
- Morrison Hill swimming pool with a toddler section (if you do not have one in the hotel),
- Sky Garden at the Hysan Place
- and for a break, book a spot at the Rabbitland Cafe for a close encounter with a few rabbits (you can’t pick them up however you can sort of play with them)
And my list could go on and on. Just google on the activities for kids and most of them are concentrated in Causeway Bay.
If you are looking for a place with easy Disneyland access then budget a 2-hours train trip from anywhere in Hong Kong Island (similar if staying in Tsim Sha Tsui), Just grab a taxi and you will be there in 30-40 minutes.
In case you plan multi-day access to Disneyland then I would suggest staying there altogether.
Where to stay in Hong Kong on a budget
Hong Kong is not a cheap city to book a place to sleep. It can be compared to many western cities.
Hostels are usually the best bet for a stay in Hong Kong on a budget, especially if you are on your own.
I would avoid Central, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui (on the water side). These are usually the most expensive areas.
If you prefer to stay in Hong Kong Island, then I would look into
- Wan Chai, for a more traditional and local experience, with a beautiful market and nice eateries
- Sheung Wan, for an apartment or a boutique hotel, with easy walkable access to Soho and the Central area.
In Kowloon, I would focus on Mong Kok and Jordan. There are plenty of cheap hotels and small units. Be selective as some are really in a run-down condition.
Best area to stay in Hong Kong for nightlife
The best areas to stay in Hong Kong for nightlife are around Soho.
You have two possibilities:
- Central, where actually Soho is. Try to book a hotel close enough to the action, however, still far from the main bars. Be selective, otherwise, it can be quite noisy, especially in the accommodations on a budget, without any kind of insulation.
- Tsim Sha Tsui, bordering Central. It’s a much quieter area and walking distance to Soho. And if too tired, late at night, you can grab a taxi without spending too much.
You can find nightlife everywhere, of course, like in any big city. Soho has just a higher concentration of bars, clubs and restaurants to move around easily, even late at night.
Where to stay in Hong Kong for 3 nights
In my opinion, if you would like to have exposure to the past and the present of the city then the best place to stay in Hong Kong for 3 nights is Wan Chai
Wan Chai, for a short stay with a local feeling
Why is it my favourite area?
Because I am in love with the Wan Chai street market that runs every day till late. With the butchers that display the red meat on the front shop. The many greengrocers selling exotic fruit and veggies. People screaming at the stands.
And of course, the many locals walking in the streets, not just tourists.
From Wan Chai, you can take an easy tram ride to Central or Causeway Bay. It’s not great for nightlife but it’s not too far from Soho.
The Airport train stops at Central, however, a free bus is provided to a few hotels in Wan Chai. Just get out at the closest stop to your accommodation.
For a drink have a try at The Pawn. They do serve also food.
If you are more interested to experience the local aspect of Hong Kong, booking an apartment between locals, and being a bit squeezed in the busy city life than Mong Kok in Kowloon is a great alternative area to stay in Hong Kong.
Where to stay in Hong Kong for 2 nights or less
In this case, I would try to book as close as possible to the MTR station, to easily catch the train from/to the airport. A taxi may actually take longer than a train trip.
Central, for 1 or 2 nights
Central is a clear winner for a very short stay, especially if you have just one night. No hesitation.
Most of the MTR metros stop at central, it will be therefore so much easier to move around even during the day.
For the night you are one step away from Soho and other great places for drinks and food.
Catch a tram for a quick ride to Wan Chai to experience more of the local life. Do some shopping in the many malls. Visit one of the many art galleries, my favourite is the JC Contemporary (free entry) at the Tai Kwun – Centre for Heritage and Arts.
For a cosy drink have a look at The Old Man. One of the best for cocktails.
The alternative is to stay close to the Kowloon station, the other stop of the Airport Express.
How to move around Hong Kong
The easiest way is to use the Metro and the ferry network.
From the airport, you can catch the Airport Express that will take you directly to the Kowloon and Central station in 30 minutes (internet available on the train).
If staying for 3 days I suggest buying the Airport Express Travel Pass, a real bargain. It will give you a return ticket to the airport and unlimited metro rides for 3 days. When you give the card back (at the Airport, before departing) you will be reimbursed HK$50.
There are other options for tourists, as the single day one. You can see all the possibilities here.
Tram rides are very cheap, however, they are not included in the tickets above.
My last tip is to get an Octopus Card from a convenience store (literally everywhere) and top it up with some small money ($10-20). You can use it everywhere to pay even small things, I mean cents. Even transportation, like trams or buses. Very convenient, instead of dealing with coins and banknotes.