The best places to live 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.
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 expats 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 expats who prefer to live in walking distance or within a 10-minute drive to their offices.
Chaoyang Park is one of the best residential areas in Beijing, thanks 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 but away from the office crowds. Compounds to the east of Chaoyang Park are less expensive, yet more spacious – a high price tag is normally attached to this, so it's important to consider the cost of living.
Sanlitun is one of Beijing’s most energetic and enjoyable neighbourhoods. With the famous Sanlitun 'Bar Street' providing the best pubs in Beijing, the Taikoo Li Sanlitun shopping complex, nightclubs and trendy restaurants, Sanlitun is an extremely popular hangout for young and single expats. Quite a few properties have been developed to meet the needs of young expat singles or couples who enjoy the colourful city life.
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 Koreatown, owing to its large number of South Korean residents. The local eateries and pedestrianised areas make it the perfect place for families as well as young adults.
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 transport hub nearby. Neighbouring the Sanlitun, Dongzhimen is one of the most popular living areas for expat 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. Cheaper rent can also be found here compared to the city centre, making it accessible for young working professionals on a budget.
Wangfujing and Dongdan
Wangfujing and Dongdan are located in the heart of Beijing, next to the pedestrian Wangfujing Street. This neighbourhood is a short walk to Tiananmen Square. There are limited accommodation options available for expats in this area, but those who do reside here love being surrounded by historical sites and cultural atmosphere, and enjoy the short walking distance to their workplaces as well as convenient shopping and dining out.
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 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 likely needed for daily transport.
Expats living in Xicheng District usually work in Financial Street, which is home to multinational companies, particularly in the banking and insurance sectors. The expat residential market continues to take shape here, with only a limited selection of serviced- and high-end apartments available, making rental fees relatively higher. Young expat working professionals looking for accommodation are likely to find flatshares, which is easier on the budget.
There is much to see and do in this area, whether expats find a home and work here or want to visit the popular hutong alleys and enjoy a night out at a trendy cocktail bar.
►Education and Schools in Beijing is an important read for expats with children
►Accommodation in Beijing provides an excellent overview of the property market in the city
"I highly recommend the hutong areas inside of the 2nd ring road. Don’t let the worn-down architecture fool you; many of the old buildings have had their interiors completely renovated with modern bathrooms, kitchens, etc." Greg provides some thoughts on the best neighbourhoods in Beijing in this interview.
"The majority of international schools are located in the so called Shunyi district, next to the international airport, as well as most of the expats housing compounds. I would say that the majority of families with children live in that area. Another option are the apartments of the high rise buildings located is the Central Business District or Sanlitun district." Read more in our interview with Alessandra Marin.
Photo credits: Wangjing by Sam Balye; Dongcheng by Zhang Kaiyv; Beijing by Yuanbin Du; Xicheng by G Shan. All sourced from Unsplash.
Are you an expat living in Beijing?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Beijing. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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