Hong Kong - Where to see in the new year

Ten things to do in Hong Kong for free

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By Steve Vickers
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Don’t be put off by the high-rise hotels and glitzy boutiques; Hong Kong can still be explored on the cheap. From wandering through sub-tropical forests to seeking out cultural shows in the dense urban jungle, you’ll find that some of the best things to do in Hong Kong are free.

Visit the zoo

Hong Kong’s Zoological and Botanical Gardens, on the slopes of Victoria Peak, are home to hundreds of animals – including flamingos, orang-utans and Chinese alligators – plus more than 1,000 different plant species. Admission is free.

Browse the Temple Street Night Market

Swaying light bulbs illuminate the market stalls that set up along Temple Street each evening. It costs nothing to browse through the ceramics, electronics and antique trinkets strewn across the tables, and buskers usually provide a bit of free entertainment.

Temple Street Night Market, Hong Kong

Hit the museums on a Wednesday

Schedule your culture fix for a Wednesday, when many of Hong Kong’s galleries and museums throw open their doors for free. Chinese paintings and ceramics are among the highlights at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, while the Hong Kong Space Museum focuses on all things astronomy.

Learn local customs

Hong Kong Tourism Board’s Cultural Kaleidoscope Programme gives visitors the chance to practise kung fu, learn about local architecture, or take a tea appreciation class. Sessions are free of charge, and most take place on weekends.

Visit the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas

Many of Hong Kong’s glittering Buddhist temples are free to look around. Especially rewarding is the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas, high on a hillside above Sha Tin. Here, rows of smiling statues lead up towards the main monastery complex, which is crowned by a nine-storey pavilion.

The Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas, Hong Kong

Take in a show at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre

Free variety shows and music recitals are frequently slotted into the busy schedule at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, a swooping, wave-shaped building close to Victoria Harbour. Tickets are handed out at the venue on a first-come, first-served basis.

Ride the world’s longest escalator system

Comprised of 20 moving staircases, plus a handful of travelators, the escalator system bisecting Hong Kong’s Central and Western District goes on for around 800 metres. Riding it saves a long, zigzagging walk through hilly streets, and gives you the chance to stop off for a drink or two in the buzzing bars of Soho.

Escalator in Soho, Hong Kong

Take a hike through the forest

Birds and butterflies flutter through the sub-tropical forests of Tai Po Kau in Hong Kong’s New Territories. Deforested heavily during the Second World War, the area has finally had a chance to recover some of its former glory, and trekking along its colour-coded trails makes for a welcome escape from the city.

Get a free view of the city

With four prism-shaped shafts jutting skywards, the Bank of China Tower is one of Hong Kong’s most recognisable buildings. From the free-to-enter observation deck on its 43rd floor, you can drink in panoramic views of Victoria Harbour.

 Witness the Symphony of Lights

 At 8pm each evening, lasers and flashbulbs light up the twinkling skyscrapers of Hong Kong’s Central District. For the best view of the free Symphony of Lights show, cross over to Tsim Sha Tsui in southern Kowloon, where you can listen to an English version of the accompanying soundtrack.

Symphony of Lights, Hong Kong