From the colourful city lights of Kowloon, to the breathtaking hikes on Lantau Island, Hong Kong is much more than just the urban jungle that it’s renowned for. We’ve been lucky enough to visit numerous times, and it has quickly become one of our favourite Asian destinations (I feel like we say that about every place we visit, but for real, Hong Kong is definitely in the top 5). On top of that, we were invited by the Hong Kong Tourism Board this year to experience the Green Tourism Hong Kong has to offer, and so were able to see a completely different side to the sprawling city that many imagine.
When to go?
Hong Kong is a popular destination year-round. However, I would say don’t go between May to September (especially if you’re going primarily to take photos/not melt) as it’s monsoon season and temperatures can reach up to 35 degrees and nearly 100% humidity. Soph actually couldn’t be in my photos on a couple of occasions when we last visited in May because she resembled a fully-ripe tomato. Speaking from experience, I would also recommend avoiding Chinese New Year as prices rocket and many shops, restaurants and attractions close for the holiday. We had to pay £50 a night to stay in the infamous Chungking Mansions, and our room was no bigger than a cupboard under the stairs.
To experience Hong Kong properly, I’d suggest spending 4-5 days there. Hong Kong is one of the easiest cities to navigate, as everywhere is connected by either the MTR, busses, trams and ferries, and taxis and ubers aren’t too expensive either. You’ll find that you only really need to use the underground trains and an occasional taxi to visit the majority of photography hotspots. Purchase an Octopus Card from any MTR station when you arrive as this can be used to pay for any transportation whilst in Hong Kong.
For all those wishing to visit Hong Kong one day, or planning an upcoming trip, keep reading to discover my favourite photography spots in the sprawling mega-city and beyond!
Part of the New Territories, Sai Kung is a world away from the streets of Central Hong Kong, and is filled with quaint fishing villages and beautiful hiking trails. We took a trip there on our last day in Hong Kong in April, and it was definitely worth it. East Dam was without a doubt the best place we visited for photos in Sai Kung, but the area as a whole is phenomenally beautiful.
Getting there: Take the MTR to Choi Hung Station, then take Exit C1 and find the green minibus (1A). This will whisk you away to Sai Kung terminal station, and to get to East Dam from there you’ll need to organise a taxi. Make sure you have the taxi’s number so they can pick you up afterwards.
Best time to go: The lower the light, the better, so go either early morning or late afternoon. We went close to midday and it was almost impossible to shoot and the hottest I’ve been in my entire life...
Photo tip: Bring a drone! The best photos of the geometric concrete blocks in the dam and the rock named High Island are from above. Also bring something to lie on as those concrete blocks heat up FAST.
A trip to Hong Kong isn’t complete without a visit to Victoria Peak. But do you really need to pay $52HKD to witness Hong Kong from above? Lugard Road has a similar view to the Sky Terrace, but you don’t have to pay for an entrance ticket. You also can’t visit Victoria Peak at sunrise, making Lugard Road a perfect alternative. The view over the city is phenomenal, and you can walk along the cliff side path to admire the city from above.
Getting there: The best way to get to Lugard Road is by the Peak Tram or Bus Number 15 from Central MTR station to the Peak, plus a fifteen minute walk. However, queues can be long. If you want to get up there for sunrise, your only option is to take a taxi.
Best time to visit: I’d highly recommend going to Lugard Road at sunrise, and watch the city light up below you. It’s also a great place to see Hong Kong transition to darkness, although expect it to be busier.
Photo tip: Views of Hong Kong from above always look better with a wide angle lens. If you don’t have one, fear not, as there are a few camera rental shops in Hong Kong. I used a rental shop in Mongkok when I realised that I had left my camera on the plane on my first trip to Hong Kong (don’t ask, it was a bad morning…)
Located on the waterfront of Hong Kong Island, Instagram pier is ultimately a shipping container dock with spectacular views of Victoria Harbour, and has become a well-known spot amongst local photographers in recent years. Take a stroll along the dock around sunrise and enjoy the atmosphere of sleepy Hong Kong before everyone wakes up.
Getting there: Hop off the MTR at HKU Station (Exit B2) and Instagram Pier is a ten-minute walk towards the seafront.
Best time to go: Sunrise is a fantastic time to go to Instagram Pier as you’ll be able to photograph the sky lighting up Victoria Harbour as well as the locals exercising and meeting up with their friends.
Photo tip: Bring a polariser!
A grueling hike to the best view over Hong Kong, enter Lion Rock. As the name suggests, the rock itself supposedly resembles a lion, and it is one of the most popular trails in Hong Kong. The views over the city are drastically different depending on when you choose to do the hike, and it is top of my most recommended places to visit in Hong Kong, whether you take photos or not.
Getting there: The Won Tai Sin MTR Station is the closest to the Lion Rock trailhead, and you can either follow the signs from the station or take a taxi to the start of the hike.
Best time to go: I’ve been up to Lion Rock at both sunrise and sunset, but I prefer sunset as the city looks incredible just after dusk. Both are fantastic times to go though, and it’s generally easier to climb at sunrise as it’s a lot cooler.
Photo tip: Take your tripod with you and time-lapse the city as it falls into darkness and the city lights flicker on.
If you want to witness the real Hong Kong, this is the place for you. Largely an Instagram hotspot, it’s strange to think that when I first came here in 2016, we were the only tourists around. Nowadays, it’s a completely different story, but Quarry bay is still worth visiting to see and photograph the true population density of Hong Kong.
Getting there: Take the MTR to Quarry Bay, and walk up the hill (around 5 minutes).
Best time to go: My favourite time to shoot at Quarry Bay is after the sun goes down, but you can get good shots any time of the day. Side note- please be respectful to the residents, who unsurprisingly don’t particularly enjoy flood of tourists taking photos of their homes every day. And please, don’t fly your drone!
Photo tip: Lie on the floor and shoot straight up- you may get dirty but you won’t be disappointed.
Only in Hong Kong would you find a ship perched amongst some of the most densely packed skyscrapers in the world. The Wonderful Worlds of Whampoa shopping centre is the perfect subject for drone photographers, and to top it all off, the buildings surrounding it are shaped like hashtags when viewed from above.
Best time to go: Early in the morning is the best for Whampoa to minimise shadows on the buildings. It's also the least busy time so you won't gather unwanted attention with the drone.
Getting there: Take the MTR to Whampoa Station and leave through Exit C or D.
Photo tip: Go to a park or another open space if you want a drone shot of the ship, as drone signal is notoriously bad in Hong Kong.
Busy, noisy and colourful, with neon lights and a constant chatter of bargaining; Temple Street Night Market is everything you’ve imagined Hong Kong to be and more. You can buy virtually anything at this market, and it is known to be the best night market in the city. It also has some great vantage points to shoot from, so makes for an ideal place to shoot after dark.
Getting there: To reach the night market, exit Jordan Station MTR at C2, and walk along Bowring Street.
Best time to go: Being a night market, the only time to visit is at night!
Photo tip: One of my favourite vantage points of the market is the multi-story car park at the end of the street. I’d also recommend bringing a tripod to keep the market lights sharp in low light.
TSIM SHA TSUI
The waterfront of Tsim Sha Tsui offers unparalleled views of Victoria Harbour, and is a popular spot with both tourists and photographers alike. The traditional Junk Boats of Hong Kong also prowl the shoreline, making for an excellent photo opportunity as the sun goes down.
Best time to go: Head to the waterfront just before sunset on a clear day to watch the neon lights light up the city and shoot the junk boats from ground-level.
Getting there: The Tsim Sha Tsui promenade can be accessed via the Tsim Sha Tsui station Exit E, followed by a walk towards Salisbury road and under the tunnel towards the Star Pier. Alternatively, you can take the ferry across from Central or Wan Chai.
Photo tip: Use a higher shutter speed so the boat remains sharp as the sun goes down.
CHOI HUNG ESTATE
Probably the most photographed basketball court in the world, the vibrant estate of Choi Hung has become a popular playground for those wishing to take the ultimate Instagram snap. Housing over 18,000 people, Choi Hung literally means rainbow in Cantonese, and the government certainly did a good job in turning it into an eye-catching area of dynamic Hong Kong. However, if you go to visit Choi Hung, please respect the locals and don’t hang around here all day, as they may want to actually use the court to exercise!
Getting there: Make your way to Choi Hung MTR station, and take exit C4 in order to reach the estate. The basketball court is on top of the car park there.
Best time to go: As early as you can stomach! We made the mistake of going late morning, and there were at least 30 other people all trying to get the iconic ‘I’m playing basketball’ shot.
Photo tip: Use the symmetry of the court and the rule of thirds to your advantage.
MONGKOK MINIBUS STATION
The final photography location I would recommend in Hong Kong is the Mongkok Minibus station. Photographed at night from the overpass close-by, you can shoot a mixture of the city lights and iconic red mini busses as they park up on the street. It also serves as a great starting point to explore the streets and alleys of Mongkok, which is a superb area for street photography.
Getting there: Take the MTR to Mongkok Station, and exit at B3. Walk out to the main Mongkok Road and get up onto the overpass, where you’ll find the view of the minibus station on one side and a market on the other.
Best time to go: Head over in the evening for the best experience with the famous neon lights.
Photo tip: Bring a wide angle and a prime (I use the 50mm f/1.8) to shoot the minibuses and the surrounding streets with ease.
Inspired to go to Hong Kong now? I hope so! Let me know if you have any more photography location recommendations in the comments below...
Fancy another city break soon? I can't recommend Tokyo enough, as Japan is one of my favourite countries in the world. Check out my Tokyo photography blog here!