Though Sha Tin is not on the tourist map, it has a number of hidden gems that are worth venturing out to see.
Sha Tin is the biggest city in Hong Kong’s sprawling New Territories district. What was once farmland and rural villages became a model ‘new town’ in the 1970s, with the construction of lots of highrises, new malls, and MTR stations. Today the travel time from Tsim Sha Tsui to Sha Tin by MTR is about 30 minutes, making it a popular commuter town.
It is easy to visit Sha Tin’s tourist spots in a day trip, and you may be pleasantly surprised at what this area has to offer.
What to see and do in Sha Tin
The 10,000 Buddhas Monastery is perhaps Sha Tin’s most quirky local attraction. Tucked away in the hills, this monastery (which actually isn’t a monastery at all) features thousands of golden statues of Buddha, each with unique facial expressions and gestures. You’ll need good walking shoes to climb an endless number of steps, lined with golden statues, but you’ll be rewarded with a very scenic view once you reach the top.
The Hong Kong Heritage Museum is an excellent place to learn more about Hong Kong’s distinct local culture and history. It’s free entry, and has a number of permanent exhibitions, covering Chinese art, Cantonese opera, martial arts, and more. This museum may not be as famous as its contemporaries in Tsim Sha Tsui, but it deserves to be.
Sha Tin also has Hong Kong’s biggest racecourse, the other of course being the Happy Valley Racecourse. Unlike Happy Valley, which is largely a party atmosphere, the races at Sha Tin Racecourse are during the day, and held on weekends.
Sha Tin is bisected by the Shing Mun River, which becomes the site of a pitched battle during the annual Dragon Boat Festival. Thousands of people line the river to cheer on the dragon boat teams as they race from the scenic Banyan Bridge.
Along the riverside you’ll find walking promenades and Sha Tin Park, which has very pretty ponds, paths and pagodas where you can relax. It’s a great spot for kids to run around, with playgrounds and picnic areas.
Biking is also becoming popular in Sha Tin, with a number of bike rental shops along the river that rent by the hour. Just be aware that on weekends, you may want to avoid this activity due to crowds… and other bikers who may not know how to ride a bike.
What to eat and drink in Sha Tin
If you’re looking for a quick bite at the Heritage Museum, there is one cafe on site, the Alchemist Cafe. They offer sandwiches and pasta dishes, but the waffles are a big crowd pleaser.
You won’t find much food up at the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery, other than perhaps some bowls of tofu, but if you head back downhill towards Sha Tin MTR Station you’ll be spoiled for choice. There’s a wide variety of restaurants and cafes inside the three biggest malls outside the station: Citylink Plaza, New Town Plaza, and Sha Tin Centre.
Din Tai Fung inside New Town Plaza is a well-known dim sum chain that was featured in the Michelin Guide.
Beans The Greenhouse is a popular all-day breakfast joint with a mostly Western menu and an outdoor verandah.
Popular local dessert chain Honeymoon Dessert also has a spot inside New Town Plaza, and is a must-try for people with a sweet tooth.
Where to stay in Sha Tin
One of the benefits of staying in Sha Tin is that Hong Kong’s ‘new towns’ had lots of wide open space to develop. This means the hotels are bigger, cheaper, and offer more facilities than those fighting for slivers of space downtown.
Regal Riverside Hotel is located right along the Shing Mun River. It features a great outdoor pool, a fitness centre, sauna and spa. It’s also right next to one of Sha Tin’s historical spots, the Wong Uk Village, a traditional example of the architecture that used to exist before the era of highrises.
Hyatt Regency Sha Tin Hotel boasts a lovely outdoor pool with mountain views, fitness and spa facilities, and comfortable, large rooms. It also has its own cafe and restaurant, and is a stone’s throw from University station.
Royal Park Hotel offers rooms that are bigger than many Hong Kong apartments; a restaurant and bar on site; and a beautiful outdoor pool with mountain views.
Alva Hotel by Royal was newly built in 2019, and is beautifully designed. One of its nicest spots is its garden terrace. You can also borrow bikes for a scenic ride along the river.
Courtyard Hong Kong Sha Tin by the Marriott group has expansive rooms with both river and city views, plus an outdoor pool, gym and spa/sauna. It can be reached by easy access from Shek Mun MTR Station.