From its iconic skyscrapers and bustling streets to its diverse food scene and history of multicultural fusion, Hong Kong has earned its place at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists. But the long journey from the US can be daunting for some people, and exploring Hong Kong for the first time is a mind-boggling experience for anyone. Luckily, Cathay Pacific has nonstop flights from several North American cities to Hong Kong, including its newly-unveiled route from Seattle, making the Pearl of the Orient more accessible than ever for North American travelers. So, to help fuel your wanderlust, we’ve put together a first-timer’s guide to Hong Kong. All that’s left to do is book your flight!

A view of Hong Kong's skyline
Photo by Edward Barnieh

Where to eat

Located in Hong Kong’s Central District, Mott 32 boasts a daring modern take on traditional Chinese cuisine. Named after 32 Mott Street in New York City, where the first Chinese shop opened in 1851, the restaurant pays homage to Cantonese and Szechuan classics right in the city’s modern center. So, if you’re a foodie hoping to experience the cutting edge of Hong Kong’s vibrant culinary scene, book a table and be sure to try their famous Peking Duck!


Photo by Zach Houghton

Traveling with health restrictions or special diets can sometimes make it difficult to find places to eat ― especially if you’re in an unfamiliar place with its own unique food culture. Luckily, the restaurant world is shifting to accommodate varied diets, and Hong Kong’s food scene is no exception. At VEDA, the city’s first and only vegetarian hotel restaurant, you can find an array of plant-based dishes and creative cocktails, all in an unmatched downtown location. With an emphasis on bringing together Eastern and Western flavors, the restaurant is an urban oasis that highlights Hong Kong’s multifaceted culture and cuisine. Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, VEDA delivers bold flavors with Hong Kong flare.

Where to drink

A drink at Komune in Hong Kong
Photo by @komunehk

In a city as big as Hong Kong, choosing where to grab a drink from a myriad selection of bars and restaurants is no small task. The innovative spirit of Hong Kong has created a lively and forward-thinking bar scene that has something to offer everyone. For a laid-back atmosphere, visit Kömune in the neighborhood of Wong Chuk Hang. Here, sharing plates are accompanied by Hong Kong-inspired cocktails such as the Ma Hang, named after Ma Hang Park, or the Rock Island, an ode to Hong Kong island’s Shek O beach. Both classic and contemporary, Kömune encapsulates the spirit of an ever-evolving Hong Kong.

Lan Kwai Fong is an area in the Central District that is a must-visit if you want to experience Hong Kong’s nightlife. The district’s eighty-odd bars range from relaxed speakeasies to upscale wine bars, all of which are constantly buzzing with activity. Stop in at Fringe Club, where you can sip your drink from their rooftop that overlooks the surrounding city, or listen to one of the many weekly musical acts. If you want something a little fancier, head to Cé La Vi for a specialty cocktail on their sky deck, or to nearby Sevva in Central. No matter where the night takes you, the frenetic streets of Lan Kwai Fong are a good place to start.

First-timer's exploring Temple Street Night Markete
Photo by Jan Schulze 

What to do

Speaking of nightlife, be sure to experience the Temple Street Night Market while you’re visiting the city. A spectacle in its own right, the market is a street bazaar full of food, antiques, clothes, and even fortune tellers. It’s also a hotspot for street performers and buskers who add to the thrilling atmosphere every night.

Nan Lian Garden in Hong Kong
Photo by Jacqueline Reyes

Looking for something a little bit further afield? Head up to Victoria Peak, which boasts stunning panoramic views of Hong Kong. Hop on the Peak Tram and ride right up to the top; time it just right, and you can watch the sun set behind the city skyline, Victoria Harbour, and the mountains beyond. What better way to see the complex beauty and brilliance of Hong Kong than to wonder at it from above?

If the city’s chaos gets to be a bit too much, make your way to Nan Lian Garden, a classic example of traditional Chinese gardenscaping. The garden is a sanctuary amid the urban hustle and bustle , and is a great place to visit when you need a moment of tranquility. While you’re there, you can wander the serene paths and snap some photos of the brightly colored pagoda and footbridge. With the rest of Hong Kong’s skyline as a backdrop, Nan Lian Garden is a great way to experience both sides of the city, and see how its venerated history and traditions complement its dynamic and modern global presence.

Where to stay

If it’s your first time in Hong Kong, being well-situated is essential. Consider staying in Central or, alternatively, in Wan Chai, Sheung Wan, or Tsim Sha Tsui. Regardless of where you stay, the city’s MTR will efficiently connect you with virtually any destination on Hong Kong Island or in Kowloon.

The interiors at Ovolo Central in Hong Kong
Photo by Ovolo Hotels

With a prime location in entertainment and business district of Central, Ovolo Central is a boutique designer hotel that is ideal for immersion into Hong Kong’s vibrant center. With its sleek, Instagram-worthy interiors, the hotel embodies the city’s futuristic aesthetic and playful atmosphere, so you can get to know Hong Kong from the moment you check-in. Another noteworthy option is the nearby Mojo Nomad Central, the latest opening from Mojo Nomad. It’s the first co-living and co-working accommodation concept of its kind in Hong Kong perfect for travelers on a budget or in search of shared accommodation options.


While a visit to this vibrant metropolis can sometimes seem like a sensory overload, our recommendations can help you experience the true city and tap into its culture ― even if you’re a first-time visitor. So, pack your bags and head to Hong Kong!

Need more inspiration for your journey to Hong Kong? Plan your itinerary, discover the city’s best-kept secrets, and book your flight.

Words by Hope Allison.

This article was created in partnership with Cathay Pacific Airways.