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The best places to live in Shanghai
Shanghai is divided into two large areas: Puxi and Pudong. Puxi is the older area on the west of the Huangpu River, while Pudong is the newer area on the east. Public transport between Pudong and Puxi is excellent. There are a number of tunnels and bridges, as well as many subway lines connecting the areas.
Pudong is the largest Shanghai district and lies on the east side of the Huangpu River. It is China’s biggest commercial and financial centre and home to the Lujiazui financial centre, the Shanghai Stock Exchange tower and most of Shanghai’s famous buildings, such as the Shanghai World Financial Center, Jin Mao Tower and Oriental Pearl Tower.
The Lujiazui Financial and Trade Zone can be seen on the east side of the Huangpu River and is Shanghai’s most impressive financial and commercial area. Lujiazui has the offices of most foreign and domestic banks, the Shanghai Stock Exchange as well as the new World Financial Center and Jin Mao Tower. Besides impressive office buildings, this area houses a number of well-managed residential compounds for both apartments and villas, making Lujiazui the recommended area for those wanting to live in downtown Pudong.
This is an organised area with a suburban feel. Jinqiao Export Processing Zone was developed to provide tax incentives for large multinational companies. There are plenty of villa compounds and a few high-end apartments. The area is near a large Carrefour supermarket, restaurants and bars. International schools, sports grounds and a park are all located here. Conveniently, residents are close to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Jinqiao is an ideal area for families.
This is an industrial zone located at the south of Pudong. There are a number of villa compounds and supermarkets owing to the presence of a few international schools. Compared to Jinqiao, the area is more spread out and not as well planned, with a slightly rural feel. Nevertheless, Kangqiao includes some newly built shopping malls and a large number of expat families enjoy living in the area.
Puxi makes up the various districts on the west side of Huangpu River. These expat areas, all with their own focus, offer easy access to shopping malls, restaurants, schools, medical clinics, entertainment and nightlife, public transport and fly-overs, and many areas are close to the commercial sectors of the city.
This was one of the first expat areas in Shanghai and is still home to a large number of expats, especially families. It has several good local schools as well as access to international schools, good transport facilities and infrastructure. It is also close to the city centre and has plenty of green spaces, including the Shanghai Zoo and Zhongshan Park. Changning District is a popular choice for both office and residential life. Many of its foreign residents come from the USA, France, Germany, the UK and Japan.
The vicinity of the famous park with the same name, Zhongshan Park has plenty to offer. Besides local housing, this district has several worthy residential complexes. The neighbourhood is generally quiet and less dense, but is not too far from downtown either. Subway lines offer a good and fast transit to other districts, and the travel time to international schools in nearby Hongqiao and Gubei is relatively short. This area attracts mainly singles and couples on lower- to medium-end budgets.
A former industrial zone, Hongqiao is now a proper neighbourhood. Though it is out of the city centre, it remains popular with expat families for being close to several international schools, supermarkets and medical facilities, and has good housing infrastructure and a number of entertainment options for its foreign residents. Many of the high-end housing facilities are large villas with private gardens and good modern amenities. Most of the entertainment and nightlife happens in Hongqiao in places such as the pedestrian part of Hongmei Lu.
Located in the southwest part of Shanghai, Minhang is a relatively new neighbourhood, crossed by the Huangpu River. Known for its quality educational institutions, the district is home to several international schools. This mostly farming and industrial area has pockets of residential areas that are popular with expats. There are medium- to high-end villas and apartments close to the schools. Residents also have all the conveniences a family could need – grocery stores, shops, restaurants, bars and golf courses. When it comes to public transport, Minghang is served by a number of different subway lines.
Named after the famous temple and its own landmark, this little central district is one of Shanghai’s most popular neighbourhoods among expats, for both living and going out. It’s quite dense and offers a variety of low-, medium- and high-end housing and is a buzzing downtown business and commercial hub. It is conveniently located close to many of the city’s cultural attractions, as well as many shopping malls, international restaurants, and lots of trendy bars and clubs. Even though it is a dense neighbourhood, the public transport system runs smoothly. Mainly singles and couples live in this area, but it also attracts families.
Known as the heart of the city, People’s Square is located here, which houses the Shanghai Grand Theatre and Shanghai Museum as its main attractions. China’s most famous shopping street, Nanjing Road, runs through the area.
Stunning Art Deco buildings built in the early 1930s line the Huangpu River, forming 'the Bund' (an embankment on the waterfront). This is an area that anyone who has ever seen a picture of Shanghai probably recognises. It is arguably Shanghai’s most spectacular attraction and number one tourist destination, and is stunning when lit up at night. As Huangpu is more of a tourist-, retail- and commercial area, there are limited apartment buildings to choose from.
Xuhui has a limited number of high rises and one of the lowest population density of all downtown areas which, coupled with a high property demand, mean accommodation can be quite costly. It covers the largest inner area of Shanghai and most of the historic former French Concession area. Many beautiful old classic villas and apartments can be found in this prestigious area and it is the choice of residence for many government officials.
There are a few distinct areas within Xuhui where expats hang out. Xujiahui has a large, crowded, five-way intersection with department stores and shopping malls. Housing tends to be in the form of medium-end local apartments where expats and locals mix.
►Education and Schools in Shanghai is essential reading for expat parents
►Working in Shanghai provides an overview of employment in the city
"In Pudong, Jinqiao is a great place to live because it’s a mini international neighbourhood. Areas like Central Park and Lujiazui are also nice because they’re close to the hubbub of the city without actually being in the city. Puxi in general is a convenient place to live..." Get some insights into Shanghai's best suburbs in this interview with Jordan.
"For families, I would definitely suggest somewhere like Shanghai Raquet Club in Minghang district, which is 45 minutes out of the centre but beautiful and quiet, with a river and gardens for young children to play." Read our interview with Georgia for more on neighbourhoods that suit families or young adults.
Images: Pudong by Yifan Cong; Puxi by Holger Link. All sourced from Unsplash
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