Areas and suburbs in Beijing
Expat housing can be found in most areas of Beijing, but the focus is still in the eastern part of the city, including the Chaoyang, Dongcheng and Shunyi districts.
Generally speaking, singles or couples prefer living in apartments close to their office, while families with young children may prefer the suburbs as the housing compounds are gated and children have more freedom to ride bikes and play with friends, as well as their proximity to more international schools.
Expats in Beijing often live in gated residential compounds, as these provide additional communal facilities such as international television channels, high security, professional property management, English-speaking services, gyms and swimming pools, depending on the community.
Beijing is an incredibly diverse city with a wide variety of options for living, and expat housing comes in four main categories:
Townhouses, semi-detached or detached villas
Chinese traditional courtyard houses
There are several factors expats should consider when looking for housing in Beijing, including proximity to their children's school and places of work, individual lifestyle and housing budget.
Chaoyang District serves as Beijing's diplomatic district, where most foreign embassies to China are located. With the concentration of international companies and international schools, Chaoyang District is one of the top choices for expatriates to live.
Central Business District (city centre)
Five-star hotels, office skyscrapers and international shopping malls are concentrated in the city centre of Beijing. Expats can find a wide selection of serviced and non-serviced high-end apartments offering exciting city living. The city centre is an ideal choice for expatriates who prefer to live in walking distance or within a 10-minute drive to offices.
Chaoyang Park is one of the best residential areas in Beijing, due to its large green areas and open spaces. High-quality properties have been developed with a “park view” concept and it is a perfect setting for expat families who prefer living in the city and yet away from the office crowds. Compounds to the east of Chaoyang Park are less expensive, yet more spacious.
Sanlitun is one of Beijing’s most energetic and enjoyable neighbourhoods. With the famous Sanlitun "Bar Street" providing the best pubs in Beijing, the Village Lifestyle shopping complex, nightclubs and trendy restaurants, Sanlitun is an extremely popular hangout for expatriates. Quite a few properties have been developed to meet the needs of young expat singles or couples who enjoy the colourful city life.
The Lufthansa Area is located along the northeast of 3rd Ring Road and Liangma River, next to the "Third Embassy" area. With its convenience and accessibility to the airport expressway, Lufthansa Area has become one of the major business centres of Beijing, leading to the appearance of large numbers of office towers, luxury apartments and shopping malls in the past decade or so. The Solana Lifestyle Shopping Park has also enhanced the expatriate lifestyle here.
Lido and Wangjing
Lido was one of Beijing’s earliest expat residential areas, and is particularly popular with families. Lido is conveniently located near parks, entertainment, art galleries and international schools. The neighbouring area, Wangjing, is a massive residential zone, where expats can find more reasonably priced accommodation and a sense of integration with the local population. It’s also known as Beijing’s Korea-town, due to its large number of South Korean residents.
As part of the Central Imperial City, Dongcheng District is laced with history from eras throughout Beijing's history. Although dotted with many museums, relics and landmarks, a growing number of modern shopping malls and office buildings have brought a more businesslike atmosphere to the district.
Dongzhimen is one of the most vibrant areas in Beijing, with the city’s largest public transportation hub nearby. Neighbouring the Second Embassy Area and Sanlitun, Dongzhimen is one of the most popular living areas for expatriate families in Beijing. Despite its central location there is an abundance of trees and the newly renovated canal system is a wonderful place for romantic evening strolls under the willows.
Wangfujing/Dongdan is located in the heart of Beijing, next to the pedestrian Wangfujing Street, and is a short walk to Tiananmen Square. There are very limited accommodation options available for expatriates in this area. But those who do reside here love being surrounded by historical sites and cultural atmosphere, and enjoy the walking distance to their offices as well as convenient shopping and dining out.
Shunyi District (including “Beigao”, the northeast border of Chaoyang District)
Located just outside 5th Ring Road to the northeast, about 18 miles (30km) out of downtown, this spacious suburban district has been developed as a high-end living villa district. Most popular high-end villa compounds are nestled in the west of the Beijing Airport Expressway, along Jingshun Road and Wenyu River. Shunyi District offers an excellent living environment for families with children and people who prefer a lifestyle of leisure, outdoor space, and want to escape the pollution of Beijing. Expats can easily find amenities like restaurants, supermarkets, coffee shops, banks, grocery stores, pet shops, beauty salons and flower markets. However, a car is needed for daily transportation.
Expats living in Xicheng District usually work in Financial Street, which is home to multinational companies, particularly in the banking and insurance sectors. The expatriate residential market continues to take shape here, with only a limited selection of serviced apartments and high-end apartments available, making rental fees relatively higher.