Where to Stay in Hong Kong: Kowloon vs Hong Kong Island

Hong Kong, Asia’s “World City”, is regularly rated as one of the top cities in the world – known for its cosmopolitan atmosphere, vibrant nightlife, and incredible shopping. As a result, travellers (especially those short on time) often feel overwhelmed by the city’s huge choice of hotels, and need an expert’s guidance on where to stay. The easiest way to decide on a hotel is to first decide on location: Hong Kong Island or “the Kowloon Side”.

Here’s a quick explanation from travel agents who know Hong Kong well!

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The Kowloon Side
The “Kowloon Side” refers to the Kowloon peninsula, north of Hong Kong Island, across Victoria Harbour. Kowloon is home to Hong Kong’s famous night markets and its two outstanding cruise terminals – Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and Ocean Terminal.

The best areas to stay:

  • Tsim Sha Tsui (often abbreviated “TST”): As Kowloon’s main tourist hotspot at the tip of the peninsula, it offers spectacular views of the Hong Kong skyline and Victoria Peak. Catch the Star Ferry across the storied Victoria Harbour from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central, on Hong Kong Island.
  • Mong Kok: A bustling area about two metro stops north of Tsim Sha Tsui, Mong Kok offers a huge choice of shops, markets and hotels. It is also the location of the world famous Temple Street Night Market and Ladies’ Market.

Recommended for:

  • First time visitors, as it’s not as “busy”, and has the best views of the skyline and the nightly Symphony of Lights show.
  • Pre- or post-cruise visitors who want to be closer to the cruise terminals
  • Shoppers, due to a vast range of market stalls and multiple malls.
  • Families, as there’s lots to keep kids entertained, such as a kid’s science centre and museums in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Kowloon's busy Nathan Road
Kowloon’s busy Nathan Road

The Hong Kong Island Side
The site of the original British settlement, dating from 1841, and the island that gives Hong Kong its name, consider this “downtown”. Most of Hong Kong’s tallest skyscrapers can be found here, as well as the territory’s government and financial centre. Hong Kong Island is also home to Victoria Peak, which offers breathtaking vistas of its namesake harbour, and definitely worth checking out. There’s even a vintage tram which can take you up there. The island’s southern reaches are a great contrast to the city’s urban core, and it’s where one can find beaches such as Repulse Bay and Deepwater Bay, fishing villages such as Aberdeen (with its Jumbo floating restaurant), and Stanley.

The best areas to stay in:

  • Central & Admiralty: Located in the heart of Hong Kong’s financial and business district, these areas are home to some of Hong Kong’s best hotels and serves as the hub of Hong Kong’s extensive transportation network. Central is the location of the Star Ferry terminal on Hong Kong Island, and is closest to the ferries heading to Macau.
  • Causeway Bay: This is one of Hong Kong Island’s prime shopping districts, and offers a mix of luxury, mid-range, and bargain shops and malls.

Recommended for:

  • Those who like “old time charm” and colonial architecture from the British era
  • Trend-setting travellers – areas like SOHO and Lan Kwai Fong are known for hip bars, popular restaurants, and galleries.
  • For those with limited time and an interest in sightseeing (since it is closer to highlights like Victoria Peak, Aberdeen, and Stanley Market)
  • Younger couples or solo travellers
View from Victoria Peak
View from Victoria Peak

Overall, whether a visitor stays in Kowloon or on Hong Kong Island, both areas have numerous attractions, wide selection of hotels and shopping, and great dining opportunities. With just a short ferry ride between both sides, you’re certain to have a fabulous time in Hong Kong either way!

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Christian Baines
Christian Baines

Globetrotting Contributing Editor -
Christian’s first globetrotting adventure saw him get lost exploring the streets of Saigon. Following his nose to Asia’s best coffee, two lifelong addictions were born. A freelance writer and novelist, Christian’s travels have since taken him around his native Australia, Asia, Europe, and much of North America. His favourite trips have been through Japan, Spain, and Brazil, though with a love of off-beat, artsy cities, he’ll seize any opportunity to return to Paris, New York, or Berlin.

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