Explore the city for free (dreamstime)
List Words : Graihagh Jackson | 12 April

10 things to do for free in Hong Kong

Accommodation, food and drink may be expensive in the busy hub of Hong Kong, but you don't need to blow the budget to enjoy the city sights

1. Learn to drink tea like the locals

Dedicate an afternoon to learning the delicate art of tea drinking. A thimble-sized tea cup may not look like much but in Chinese culture it is synonymous with a lot more than a few leaves and hot water. Sipping an authentic array of herbal and flowering teas involves a complex set of rituals and etiquette. Fortunately, the HKTB Cultural Kaleidoscope programme is here to help. It offers free Chinese Tea Appreciation Classes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon.

If you're not too tea-ed out afterwards, check out the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware next door, which is full to the brim with a collection of rare and exquisite teapots.

2. Eye up Mong Kok Market

Join the locals in this classic Asian market full of items you wouldn't expect to see at home. Taste the distinct local flavour of the sizzling street food before ambling along the blossoming flower markets, the chirping songbirds and then to (a personal favourite) the goldfish market. Here, the streets are lined with water filled bags and luminous aquatic creatures; gaze at mini turtles, eels and crabs or tiny sharks, yellow angelfish and sea snails. It's like discovering your own exotic fun fair.

3. Bathe in a symphony of lights

This is definitely one of the more bizarre ways to spend 15 minutes in Hong Kong. As dusk sets, the Victoria Harbour begins to glitter in the darkness, as light switches are flicked on. But Hong Kong have upped the anti on dazzling skylines by creating the World's Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show, best viewed from the Ferry Promenade.

Dracula-esque keyboard music drums in time to flickering building façades, almost as though there might be a faulty fuse. It's one of the weird but wonderful attractions that you simply shouldn't miss.

Although heavily polluted, the habour is safe for swimming in. Just keep your mouth closed.

4. Try your hand at shadow boxing

Wander around the parks before the locals head to work and you'll get a real feel for  shadow boxing, or to the western world, Tai Chi. The graceful practice is all about balancing your Yin and Yang and soothing your mind and soul.

If you don't know where to start, the HKTB Cultural Kaleidoscope and two well-known masters are at hand again to coach you every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8am for an hour for free. Be sure to pre-book as these classes are very popular.

5. Discover the Man Mo Temple

It's easy to see too many temples in Asia, but the rafters of Man Mo are camouflaged with red and yellow spiralling incense, making this temple a must-see. Popular with the locals, the temple is always thick with the smell sandalwood and the sounds of whispered prayers.

Join the masses by placing a lit incense stick or two in the stout golden pots and absorb the ambience of the gods of literature and war.

6. Wander through Hong Kong Park

Gaze at the now transformed site of an old Victorian Barracks, where the skylines and flyovers dwarf the artificial cliffs, gliding waterfalls and fish-filled lakes. Join local bird watchers, every Wednesday morning, on a free tour of the Edward Youde Avairy, full of cockatoos, parrots and massive hornbills from Borneo. Don't miss the butterfly corner, full of numerous species of brightly winged insects and iridescent dragonflies.

7. Climb the world's longest escalator

This escalator twists and turns through many walks of life, giving you sneaky peeks into the passing windows. Be one of the tens of thousands of people who chug 800m along the metal piece of machinery every day.

The clunky metal stairs stem from the Central Market on Connaught Road and criss-cross nearly halfway up to Victoria Peak ending at Conduit Road. Sadly, it's only one-direction, which means you have to tramp back down under your own steam.

8. Live in a hiker's dream

Although initially the thought of Hong Kong doesn't conjure images of walking, there are 1,000km² of beautifully maintained hiking trails and country parks to explore.

There are the slogging-your-guts type routes and cramp-inducing mountain climbs as well as gentle rambles and family escapades. Take your pick of unusual landforms at the Global Geopark or stick to the urban jungle that is the Dragon's Back.

9. Explore Ladder Street and Cat street

Potter around Hong Kong's western district, to find the unusually named Ladder Street and Cat Street – two fascinating roads full of cultural delights. The former street houses some of the city's oldest abodes, shuttered with wooden balconies and elaborate jade-green carvings dappled along an astonishing number of steps.

In Cat street you can practise your bargaining skills in the antique bric-a-brac market. Gaze at the miniature armies of Chinese soldiers and hordes of nature's precious stones.

10. Relax in Repulse Bay

The name may not enduce the urge to take a dip, but if you're tired of the city sites and fancy a spot of relaxation, head to the sandy and sun-drenched Repulse Bay. Stroll with the waves lapping at your ankles and crunch the sand between your finger tips. As the sun sets, climb the 1,000 steps to take a closer look at the towering twin statues of goddesses Yum and Tin Hau, who protect the local fishermen.

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