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Hong Kong vs Singapore - Which City Does it Better?

Picture of Matthew Keegan
Updated: 4 September 2017
The Fragrant Harbour vs the Lion City, Hong Kong and Singapore, two of Asia’s so-called “tiger cities” have a longstanding rivalry. When it comes to areas such as the economy, education, quality of living and other factors, these two cities have been competing for years. But who comes out on top?

For over half a century the rivalry between Hong Kong and Singapore has surged on. Both are former British colonies, in addition to being two of the world’s busiest port cities and top financial centres.

Hong Kong is often believed to be more lively and dynamic, but less friendly and a bit more gritty, whereas Singapore is seen as being more sanitised, but less cramped with more pleasant surroundings. But overall, which city does it better?

Singapore is nicknamed “Lion City”. © Merlion444 / Wiki Commons
Singapore is nicknamed “Lion City”. © Merlion444 / Wiki Commons | © Merlion444 / Wiki Commons

Things to do:

In terms of attractions and activities, Hong Kong has the edge. Overall, Hong Kong is a more lively city, with a never-ending supply of things to do and see. From its temples to colonial buildings and world-class museums, Hong Kong is packed with sights. Popular attractions include visiting The Peak (Hong Kong Island’s highest point with awe-inspiring views of the city skyline), the famous Ladies’ Market, the Big Bhudda by cable car and surprisingly, Hong Kong is home to some of the best hiking trails in the world.

Meanwhile, Singapore is a bit more sedate. However, the Lion City is home to Marina Bay Sands ( world’s largest rooftop infinity pool), the beautiful Gardens by the Bay and even, arguably, the world’s best zoo. However, Singapore lacks the excitement and buzz of Hong Kong; Singapore’s sights can feel a little too well manicured and staid. Meanwhile, the markets, temples and sights of Hong Kong are teeming with life and vibrancy.

Nicknamed “Fragrant Harbour”, Hong Kong is well known for being a lively and vibrant city
Nicknamed “Fragrant Harbour”, Hong Kong is well known for being a lively and vibrant city | © momo from Hong Kong / Wiki Commons

Restaurants:

Both Hong Kong and Singapore are considered leading gastronomic hubs in the region. Hong Kong excels at Cantonese food – dim sum anybody? It is simply better here than anywhere else in the world. The sheer number of restaurants in Hong Kong is breathtaking. It’s estimated there are more eateries in Hong Kong per head than anywhere else. In addition to an unrivalled choice of Chinese cuisine, Hong Kong is home to some of the best, award-winning restaurants in Asia. No less than 61 of its restaurants have been awarded the much coveted Michelin-Stars.

Meanwhile, Singapore is also a foodie’s paradise. Known for its melting pot of Chinese, Malay, and Indian cuisines, there is no shortage of tasty local dishes to try. From chicken rice to chilli crab and an abundance of world-recognised street food, there are amazing dining choices at every turn in Singapore. The city is currently home to 38 Michelin-Starred restaurants, leaving it somewhat lagging behind Hong Kong in that respect.

Street dining and street food are very popular in Singapore.
Street dining and street food are very popular in Singapore. | © Khalzuri Yazid / Flickr

Shopping:

For its sheer variety of street markets, wet markets, hawker stalls and upscale shopping malls, Hong Kong has the edge. Indeed, Hong Kong is a shoppers’ paradise. According to Trip Advisor, Hong Kong’s famous Ladies’ Market is the most popular attraction in the entire city. Popular for its inexpensive bargain-priced clothes and accessories, despite its name, Ladies’ Market is not only for the ladies, here you will find a wide variety of men’s clothing and just about all kinds of merchandise, including small household items, electronic gadgets and toys.

Meanwhile, for the average shopper, Singapore has plenty to offer too including its famous Orchard Road shopping boulevard, with nearly 30 malls to choose from. However, for those who want to shop until they drop, Hong Kong is a punters paradise. From the traditional markets to the multiplex malls and swanky boutiques, your bank balance will take quite a beating in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s famous Ladies’ Market is the most popular attraction in the entire city.
Hong Kong’s famous Ladies’ Market is the most popular attraction in the entire city. | © Mitch Altman / Flickr

Overall liveability:

Quality of life: In Mercer’s 2017 annual list of cities in Asia offering the highest quality of life, Singapore ranked number one. Singapore is also ranked the nicest city to live in Asia for expats, with the best infrastructure in the world. Meanwhile, Hong Kong was ranked seventh in the survey’s list of top cities in Asia.

Housing: Singapore trumps Hong Kong when it comes to housing. Hong Kong is currently the most expensive property market in the world. Overall, rent in Hong Kong is 47 percent more expensive, according to data from Expatistan.com.

Hong Kong is home to the world’s most expensive property market.
Hong Kong is home to the world’s most expensive property market. | © Chor Ip / Flickr

Pollution: Hong Kong also trails behind Singapore when it comes to clean air and pollution levels.

Education: In global education rankings, Singapore has the highest achieving students in the world, with its teenagers coming top in tests in maths, reading and science. Meanwhile, Hong Kong was ranked ninth overall.

Cost of living: According to website Expatisan.com, the cost of living in Singapore is 9 percent cheaper than in Hong Kong overall. This takes into account variables such as cost of food, housing, clothes, transportation, personal care and entertainment.

Crime: Singapore and Hong Kong are both among the safest cities in Asia, with annual crime rates among the lowest in the world. Singapore has a slight edge with 596 crime cases per 100K people, compared to Hong Kong’s 936 crime cases per 100k people.

English: English proficiency is better in Singapore as the city made English its official language and it now ranks first in Asia. Meanwhile, Hong Kong sees continuing decline in standards of English and was ranked 30th among 72 places in the annual English proficient test conducted by Education First.