Hong Kong is a modern, skyscraper-filled city, but it also has a rich cultural heritage that comes alive through traditional festivals. These events are an excellent opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in the city’s history and customs. Hong Kong festivals are celebrated throughout the year, commemorating the seasons, important deities and figures, and more, from Lunar New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival to the Dragon Boat and Hungry Ghost Festivals. These are the Hong Kong festivals any traveler would be lucky to experience.
Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year ushers in the Chinese New Year with a 15-day celebration between late January and mid-February. Festivities include parades, temple fairs, and firework shows, culminating with the Spring Lantern Festival, which is a big event in its own right. In Hong Kong, one highlight is the Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade held in Tsim Sha Shui, Kowloon, where the streets come alive with vibrant floats, marching bands, and lion and dragon dances. Flower markets are another staple of the festivities. Head to Victoria Park in Causeway Bay or Fa Hui PArk in Sham Shui Po to see Hong Kong’s busiest flower markets stocked with good-luck blooms such as peach blossoms, orchids, and tangerine trees.
The Mid-Autumn Festival has been bringing families together to encourage a successful harvest and bring peace since the early Tang Dynasty in China. It’s one of the most vital annual events in Hong Kong. Round shapes are a symbol of unity that’s represented through mooncakes, a traditional pastry with a thin crust and dense filling that ranges from salted egg yolk to lotus seed or red bean paste. For an extra special experience, head to Hong Kong’s Tai Hang neighborhood to see an epic fire dance. Wherever you go, you’ll be delighted to see lanterns adorning buildings around the city. The Mid-Autumn Festival occurs on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, coinciding with the autumn equinox in September or October.
Dragon Boat Festival
Seeing dragon boats race across Victoria Harbor is one of the most exciting spectacles to witness in Hong Kong — boats decorated with dragon heads and tails are manned by expert rowers while countless spectators cheer them on against the backdrop of breathtaking skyscrapers. In addition to the dragon boat races, rice dumplings play a significant role in the festival as they’re said to ward off evil spirits. In the fishing village of Tai O there’s also a beautiful water parade where traditional sampan boats carrying deity statues are towed by dragon boats to appease water spirits. Originally celebrated in honor of Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet and statesman, the Dragon Boat Festival also coincides with the summer solstice, taking place on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month in May or June.
Hungry Ghost Festival
The Hungry Ghost Festival takes place on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, usually between August and September, when ghosts are said to return to the land of the living. During the two-plus-week festival, people in Hong Kong offer food, incense, and other offerings to their deceased relatives to appease their hungry spirits, along with large feasts like the Yulan Festival. People also burn fake money for their ancestors to use in the afterlife. Chinese opera, music, and dance performances are part of the experience. Hong Kong’s Chiu Chow Community’s Yu Lan Ghost Festival is listed on China’s national Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Hung Shing Festival
Observed on the 13th day of the second lunar month, the Hung Shing Festival honors the god of the South China Sea, a former Tang Dynasty governor whose knowledge of astronomy, mathematics, and geography aided fishermen and merchants, and is even said to have saved many people from natural disasters. Traditional celebrations include Chinese opera performances and weeklong processions. The festivities center on two locations in Hong Kong: Ap Lei Chau, an island with a 240-year-old Hung Shing Temple, and Ho Sheung Heung Village in the New Territories, which dates back about eight centuries.
Hong Kong is home to approximately 7.5 million people, more than a million of whom are Buddhist. That makes Buddha’s birthday a big deal in Hong Kong. It’s celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth month according to the lunar calendar, which typically falls in May. Sometimes called the Buddha Bathing Festival, Buddha’s birthday is typically observed by visiting temples to bathe Buddha statues, a ritual that’s said to help cleanse the soul and derives from the legend that baby Buddha was cleansed by nine dragons when he was born. The grandest celebration takes place at the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, Hong Kong’s largest island and the site of a famously grand Buddha statue. Bitter green cookies are commonly eaten around Buddha’s birthday, as well, symbolizing triumph over hardship and good things to come.
Cheung Chau Bun Festival
The Cheung Chau Bun Festival is held annually on Hong Kong’s Cheung Chau island during the eighth day of the fourth lunar month, usually in May. The festival began over 100 years ago when the local people prayed to the deity Pak Tai to ward off a plague that had taken many lives of the residents. The most popular feature of the festival is the Bun Tower Climbing Competition, where people scramble to climb a 60-feet tall tower made of steamed kwon kam kee buns to grab as many of them as they can. The climber who brings back the most buns is the winner. In addition to the competition, there are colorful parades, lion dances, and traditional Chinese opera performances throughout the days-long festivities, including piu sik parade where children dress up as deities alongside stilt-walkers and lion dancers.
Tin Hau Festival
Hong Kong’s Tin Hau Festival honors the birth of Tin Hau, the goddess of the sea, on the 23rd day of the third lunar month, which falls between March and April. Festivities include lion dances, opera performances, and fireworks shows, anchored by visits to dozens of temples dedicated to Tin Hau, among them Hong Kong’s oldest and largest temple, Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay. Locals visit these temples to make offerings and ask for better fortune for their families and businesses. One notable event of the Tin Hau Festival is the parade in Yuen Long, a town in the New Territories belonging to a district of the same name.
Hong Kong Arts Festival
For a more contemporary cultural festival, the Hong Kong Arts Festival is a huge international event that launched in 1973 and spotlights local and foreign artists who specialize in the performing arts, from music to dance. It takes place between February and March. In addition to performances, the festival also hosts educational opportunities such as lectures and workshops. Late March also signals the beginning of the city’s international Art Basel exhibition, which is hosted at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Where to stay to experience best Hong Kong festivals
Festivals in Hong Kong tend to spread throughout the entire city, so there’s always something to see, whether you’re staying on a residential street adorned with beautiful lanterns or are based on a main street near a parade route. These Hong Kong Airbnbs and Hong Kong hotels are a good place to start your accommodation search.
We hope you love these accommodations near the best Hong Kong festivals! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.
Light-Filled Apartment in Tai Hang
Located in the Tai Hang neighborhood overlooking Victoria Park, a hub of Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year festivities, this two-bedroom apartment is well-positioned to experience the best of Hong Kong any time of year, close to restaurants, shops, and public transport.
Two bedrooms, four guests
Price per night: $127
Hotel ICON is located in the bustling entertainment district of Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon, not far from the Temple Street Night Market. The views from the rooms showcase Hong Kong’s dazzling skyline, especially when it’s lit up during citywide festivities.
Where: 17 Science Museum Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon
Price per night: $195
Lantau Island Villa
This four-bedroom villa on Lantau Island, where the Po Lin Monastery and Big Buddha statue are located, accesses both beaches and hiking trails. You’ll need to walk uphill to reach the three-story building with a rooftop terrace in Pui O village, which is just 20 minutes from the airport and 2.5 miles from the Mui Wo ferry pier when you want to visit Hong Kong Island.
Four bedrooms, six guests
Price per night: $255