Get out of the expensive city centre and move to the outskirts for some fresh air, scenic views and free outdoor fun. Here's our favourite four...
1. Enjoy priceless views from Victoria Peak
Hiking the Peak Circle in reverse at the right time offers stunning urban views over the Victoria Harbour. Winding round the highest point on Hong Kong Island takes just 90 minutes. Pause on the precipice at sunset to see the south side of the island glowing under a fiery orange sky.
The priceless sights don’t end there. Arriving at the north side at twilight opens a window to the gold-lit skyscrapers clustered like dominoes around Victoria Harbour, fading out across the mountains and reflecting their light off the midnight blue water.
2. Discover the Dragon’s Back
This four hour hike only needs 20 minutes to prove itself. The cameras come out to capture the panoramic views from Shek O Peninsula Viewing Point, where white roofs fight with a tangle of trees on top of the islands for prime position, all neatly fringed by pristine sands.
Turning around offers a glimpse of the next three hours rising and dipping into the horizon, reminiscent of a Dragon’s Back. Another viewing platform stands above Tai Tam Bay and later, Pottinger Gap looks out on distant Chai Wan’s skyscrapers in amongst the trees – a true urban jungle.
Eventually, a steep descent opens out into the Big Wave Bay. Its bright white sands and shimmering sea cradled by the surrounding mountains offers the perfect place to refuel and refresh.
3. Spot birds at Nam Sang Wai Wetland Reserve
Rural, rustic and relaxing. The Nam Sang Wai Wetlands trek is less of a challenge (an easier 5km) and more of a chance to slow down and really appreciate the wildlife and scenery surrounding you.
Start with a scenic stroll along Shan Pui River, taking time to appreciate the abandoned farms, fishing ponds and quaint wooden huts you'll pass. Pause at the mudflats and turn your eyes skywards to spot an array of birds. Watch out for crabs scuttling past your feet.
End with a walk through an alley of trees before hopping aboard the ferry — the only free river crossing in all of Hong Kong.
4. Get your head in the clouds at Tai Mo Shan
The view from Tai Mo Shan – Hong Kong’s highest peak – rarely disappoints. There’s several marked routed snaking slowly to the summit, all of which will get you to the top in around two hours.
For your first glimpse, stop at Tai Mo Shan Lookout. Clear summer days will reward you with the distant rolling mountains. Spring is when the wild flowers come out in a blur of purples and blues. Autumn brings out the aromatic smell of the growing wild herbs.
The end of the hike is 950 metres high and bookmarked by a giant white sphere – the weather station. If you’re lucky, and most likely if its been raining, you’ll witness a cloud inversion – a natural phenomenon where the clouds seemingly drop below your feet, so you can look down on the mountain tops breaking through the other-worldly white blanket.
In all their gilded splendour, one of the very best free experiences to have in Hong Kong is to visit some of its magnificent temples. From giant buddhas to thousands of icons, here’s our top three...
5. Discover the lesser-known road to the Big Buddha
Some people pay for the cable car and many decide to take the tram. But the most beautiful (and only free) way to reach Tian Tan Big Buddha is to walk.
The green-cloaked Ngung Ping Trail makes for a serene, spiritual hike. Three and a half hours later, you’ll be at the foot of the Tian Tan Buddha which sits atop Muk Yue Shan.
The largest of its kind in the world, the bronze buddha, with its extended right hand offering a blessing, towers above and looks down on the mossy mountains and craggy coastline surrounding it.
6. One steep climb for thousands of Buddhas
Head to Sha Tin in the New Territories to brave the steep yet meditative steps to Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery. Be sure to take time to appreciate the gold statues on the ascent.
After around one to two hours, you’ll arrive at the top out of breath but elated – over 12,000 Buddhas crammed inside and spilling outside of a temple await exploration.
You can literally spend days observing these intricate and individual icons. Some gilded, some colourful and all of them beautiful. Admission to this quiet and well-hidden temple is free.
7. Pay your respects at Man Mo Temple
Paying tribute to the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo), this is one of Hong Kong’s oldest temples.
The temple's stairs lead under arches, working their way to the red colonnade up front. Inside is boldly but intricately decorated in red and gold. From the incense coils on the ceiling to the lattice bannisters bordering the stairs, every tiny detail is eye-catching.
Part of a larger complex, the nearby Lit Shing Kung and Kung Sor are also worth exploring.
Art Basel may only come to Hong Kong for a short period, but that doesn’t mean you can’t feast your eyes on masterpieces for free at many different times of the year. Check out the best free art experiences…
8. Admire the end result of HKWalls
HKWalls is a not-for-profit organisation that helps create opportunities for local and international artists to display their work. Every March, during Hong Kong’s art month, HKWalls holds an art festival where artists from all over the world flock to cover the walls with their creative concepts.
This year, the artists took over Wan Chan. Download a google map of the key pieces and lose yourself among the mesmerising murals.