World on a Budget: Free things to do in Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a melting pot of new and old Chinese traditions with a dash of European charm, thanks to its history as a British colony. Surrounded by skyscrapers and luxurious shops, a trip to Hong Kong may not seem budget-friendly at first but those who know where to go and what to do can get the most bang out of their buck.
Art in the City
You don’t have to wander far if you’re looking for free art in Hong Kong. Visitors can get in the Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum, Flagstaff Museum of Tea Ware, and Hong Kong Railway Museum for free every day. The Museum of Art, Heritage Museum, Museum of Coastal Defence, Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum, Museum of History, Space Museum, and the Science Museum can be visited for free every Wednesday. Those who are interested in Chinese antiques can stroll through the galleries of the delightful street of Sheung Wan.
Some of the best views in this bustling city can be enjoyed for free. Head over to Harbour City rooftop carpark in Tsim Sha Tsui and have a romantic moment as the sun sets over the West Kowloon or the harbour. Astounding views of Victoria Harbour can be seen from the public terrace at the International Finance Centre. Looking for panoramic island views? The Bank of China Buildings’ 43rd floor viewing platform is just the spot.
Instant Nature Trip
Few travelers realize that more than half of Hong Kong is still officially countryside. Within an hour’s ride from urban Hong Kong, you can have your fill of sun-soaked coastlines, country parks, and verdant hills. Between a shopping marathon, there are plenty of gardens and urban parks to unwind in. Beaches in Hong Kong? Definitely. There are lifeguards around and the beaches are perfect for picnics and sunbathing.
Nothing quite explains the feeling of being in the bustling clamor of Hong Kong’s markets. Going to the market gives a glimpse of the city people at their core - going about daily details and showcasing the city’s raw nature. The Flower Market will give a boost of freshness while the ‘I Love HK tees and sports jerseys can be found at the Ladies’ Market. For a different take on market life, the Cantonese opera and fortune tellers are at the Temple Street Night Market.
Temples in Hong Kong are plentiful, and visitors can usually enter for free. Some places of worship feature architecture and a history that is truly unique to the city. Snap photos of more than 10,000 Buddha statues at the Man Fat Sze Monastery in Sha Tin or visit the engineering marvel, Chi Lin Nunnery, constructed without the use of metal nails. After a visit to the Chi Lin Nunnery, take a short walk to the Nan Lian Garden which is considered to be the most beautiful garden in Hong Kong.
Learn all about Hong Kong’s cultural heritage at the Heritage Discovery Centre in Kowloon Park. The centre holds an exhibition gallery, reference library, and an educational activity room. Experience the city’s distinct culture first-hand with the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s Cultural Kaleidoscope program. Check out the immersion activities that are available or simply sign-up for a free Feng Shui class to bring things to harmony. For listening pleasure, concerts by some of Hong Kong’s best musicians are held outside the grounds of the Blue House every second Thursday of the month from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and outside the Arts Centre every third Saturday of the month from 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Children and adults alike will have a wonderful time at the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. With a free admission, visitors can get up close with more than 500 birds and animals, such as lemurs, flamingos, and orangutans. The garden boasts of 1,000 species of flora and fauna.
The Harbour Calls
Nestled in the very core of Hong Kong, Victoria Harbour also hosts an amazing lights show at 8 in the evening. Titled ‘A Symphony of Lights’, this show has been touted by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show”. Marvel at an outstanding presentation that showcases more than 40 buildings on each side of the harbor. During special occasions, visitors can experience the show with pyrotechnics. Combine two free activities by watching the lights show from the Avenue of the Stars. A popular attraction for tourists, the Avenue of Stars not only has an excellent position for viewing the show but visitors can also check out names of celebrities embossed along the way.