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Hong Kong family holidays

Symphony of LightSymphony of Light© Ewanchesser | stockfreeimages.com & dreamstime.com
View over Kowloon BayView over Kowloon Bay© Ewanchesser | stockfreeimages.com & dreamstime.com
Flying Time 12hrs
Timezone GMT +7
Currency Hong Kong Dollar

Today

Overview

With its vertiginous and densely packed skyscrapers, Hong Kong might not immediately spring to mind as a destination for family holidays, but it's filled with world-class accommodation, fantastic shopping, and some impressive sights and attractions that make it great for those travelling with kids – especially older kids or teens – whether as a stopover or as a destination in its own right.

More cosmopolitan than mainland China, the world’s leading international financial centre offers modern comforts, places to eat and stay to suit all tastes, budgets and needs, and impressive transport systems, but also sandy beaches, country parks, woodlands and mountains all around. It’s also, ultimately, a water city made up of islands, so while you might often be packed like sardines on the pavements, you’ll have a lot of fun getting from A to B on boats.

And Chinese people are very family-oriented, so kids are very much to be seen and heard in this neck of the woods!

Things to do with kids in Hong Kong

Shop! Hong Kong offers ample opportunities to splash your cash, with plenty of shopping for grown-ups – from high-end brands to bargain streetmarket finds – plus gadgetry galore for the kids. But it isn’t all about spending money – simply strolling through the amazing markets is an activity in itself, especially the daily Bird Market in Kowloon, where you’ll see some of south China’s most colourful birds on display in beautifully crafted cages hanging from trees, filling the streets with birdsong. The nearby Goldfish Market is also worth a visit, and many kids enjoy ogling the jars of dead seahorses and snakes at Sheung Wan market.

But remember that Hong Kong isn't just about shopping and eating – Hong Kong Park, Victoria Park and Kowloon Park are all great green spaces to let off steam and feed the ducks. Best of all is the practically vertical tram-ride past skyscrapers up to The Peak, where you can fly kites and enjoy the truly amazing views… oh, and say hello to David Beckham and others in Madame Tussauds Hong Kong.

Keep the kids up/out late, to see the nightly (8pm) Symphony of Lights, the world’s biggest laser and sound show, viewable for free from the Kowloon waterfront and an unforgettable part of all family holidays here.

Head to the white sands of Repulse Bay for sandcastles and swimming. The water is safe and there’s a lifeguard in summer. Don’t forget the outlying islands, either: you could easily spend a day on Lantau Island, getting there by ferry and riding its Ngong Ping cable-car to see the world’s largest outdoor seated Buddha and catch a show at the Monkey’s Tale Theatre, and hiking through its country parks. You could also take a Dolphinwatch Cruise to look for the endangered pink dolphins in the waters around Lantau. 

Visit Man Mo Temple, named after the gods of literature and martial arts, whose statues you can see there. It’s hugely atmospheric, with smoke from the massive incense coils burned by worshippers filling the air and lots of fortune-sellers’ stalls. 

Visit the world’s only full-size replica of Noah’s Ark at Ma Wan Park, with 67 pairs of life-size wild or endangered animal sculptures in the Ark Garden, complete with information panels.

Spend the day at Ocean Park, great for budding marine-biologists and thrill-seekers alike, with more than 20 rides plus 11 animal exhibits (including cute pandas) and a four-storey aquarium. It’s divided into two parts connected by cable car, which kids love too, but beware that the many escalators on the hills can be irksome if you’re pushing a buggy. 

Visit Disneyland Hong Kong – smaller than its counterparts elsewhere (you can do it in a day) and best for kids about 5-9 years old.

Other family options are the Hong Kong Space Museum with its planetarium and OMNIMAX cinema, the Hong Kong Science Museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, and the Hong Kong Museum of History.

Eat

Restaurants serving cuisine from all around the globe jostle for space in Hong Kong, so eating out on family holidays isn’t a problem. If your children are the slightest bit adventurous, try to lure them into Chinese food territory for at least one or two meals – they’ll be rewarded with some mouth-watering and eye-catching dishes. Dim sum is a great option with kids as it tends to be very casual, you get to sample lots of different things, and you can keep ordering more from the circulating trolleys according to your appetite.

Cha chen teng – Hong Kong-style cafés – found all over the city, are great for snacks to keep energy levels up, offering the likes of buttered pineapple buns and French toast as well as dim sum and noodles. Similarly, street-vendors dotted all about offer the likes of fishballs, mini egg-puffs and sticky rice pudding (put chai ko) rich in bean flavour.

Avoid tapwater in favour of bottled or boiled water, fruit juice or the ubiquitous fizzy drinks.

When to go to Hong Kong

Hong Kong has a subtropical climate with distinct seasons: typhoon season is May–Nov; spring is Mar–May, with temperatures and humidity rising but cool evenings; summer is June–Aug and can be hot, humid and sunny.

Generally, the best time to take family holidays here is autumn (Sept–Nov), when the copious sunshine is tempered by breezes.

At the Tin Hau Festival (Apr/May), colourfully decorated boats are expedited on Hong Kong's waterways to the city’s many temples to Tin Hau (goddess of the sea). Hong Kong is also a great place to celebrate Chinese New Year (February), or come in May for the Cheung Chau Festival culminating in the construction of a giant bun tower, in June for the famous Dragon Boat Festival, or in August for the Hungry Ghost Festival (Hong Kong’s version of Halloween).

Cost

Hong Kong may not be cheap to get to, but whether you’re stopping over en route to Australia or New Zealand or making it a destination in its own right, it need not be an expensive place for family holidays, with budget accommodation and eating options galore. Conversely, it can be a fabulous place for a budget-busting splurge and a shopping trip that you’ll never forget!

By Rachelle Keyes

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