Recommended Areas for Downtown Living in Shanghai
Former French Concession
The French Concession was founded in 1862 in southwest Shanghai as a result of the Treaty of Nanking. It now covers parts of the Luwan, Jingan and Xuhui districts (see location of the French Concession).
Today, the area’s central Huaihai Rd is a busy shopping street, but the tree-lined avenues and their many Tudor mansions still retain an air of the “Paris of the East”. Many areas of the concession have a pleasant mix of wide tree lined streets and interesting European style architecture. Huaihai Road once known as Avenue Joffre is one of Shanghai’s favorite shopping roads.
Chic shops housed in French style buildings sell Shanghai’s finest goods, designer clothes and much more. But for the best bargain, head over to Xiang Yang Market on Xiang Yang Market, a bustling place where shoppers bargain hard for fake designer goods with the vendors. You can feel the nostalgia of old Shanghai even more strongly by visiting the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Former Residence & Memorial Hall. Beautifully preserved, his home furnishes a place for visitors to walk the grounds.
Location of the Former French Concession
The French Concession actually consists of a very large portion of downtown Shanghai. However when people today refer to the French Concession the general misconception is a small area of the original that is today mainly residential.
As far as we are concerned the “Heart of the French Concession” can be distinguished by basic N,W,E,S boundaries. (See map)
- North South Borders: Between Beijing Rd & Zhao Jia Bang Rd.
- East West Borders: Between Hua Shan Rd. & Chong Qing Rd.
The area that we consider as the French Concession is a limited area of the downtown that offers the most inspiring homes and best location in terms of:
- Architectural and historical quality of property
- Quiet and residential environments
- Ease of transportation to all parts of the city
- Greenery (tree lined streets, small hidden parks and larger private gardens)
- The most convenient access to restaurants, nightlife and shopping
- Easy access to schools – It’s not the closest to the schools but most schools offer shuttle services in and around this area.
These attributes make the French Concession undoubtedly one of the best and safest area to rent and buy. Of course this means that properties in this area are in very high demand and can mean that rental and sales prices are more expensive as well.
Xuhui District is one of the most prestigious and popular residential area of Shanghai and is, together with Luwan, what we refer to as ‘downtown’. Here you will find more than 1/3 of the city’s entire expat population nicely settled in either some of the new compounds, or in one of the beautiful colonial houses from the 1920’s and 30’s which are so popular within the French Concession.
Xuhui has the lowest population density of downtown districts, and is extremely charming with its characteristic tree lined streets and interesting architecture. The area still has many beautiful old villas left over from colonial days, most in rough shape but some currently being renovated as single family homes.
It has traditionally been considered a luxurious high-end residential area and rental prices have been going through the roof over the last 5 years – you will get about half the space here as you would in Pudong or Hongqiao for the same price. It is easy and convenient living by all means and Xuhui is also considered the safest part of Shanghai. Most embassies and consulates are located here as well.
Luwan district is located directly south of People’s Square. The northern part of Luwan includes one of the best sections of Huaihai road, famous for its shops and restaurants. International brand stores line the streets for miles on this district’s main street with plenty of opportunities for dining and entertainment in international bars/restaurants.
Huaihai road also houses one of the cities largest central business districts. However the traffic in the area is horrible, especially in rush hour where traffic jams seem to be more the rule than the exception. Although located close to the elevated highway, the infrastructure in Luwan is poorly developed and you will have to get familiar with the subway system if you want to move around efficiently from here. 24-7 noise is also an important consideration if you are thinking about moving to Luwan. Although this part of the city boosts many parks, they are small and often overcrowded, especially in weekends – if you crave more quiet surroundings you may want to look at areas in Xuhui or Jingan.
However Luwan is also where you will find the beautiful old French Concession area, one of the most prestigious sections of the city. The parasol trees lining the main streets were imported from France over 100 years ago!
Jingan District is famous for its 750 year old Jingan Temple, one of the few temples in Shanghai which survived the Cultural Revolution. Today it has been turned into a cheesy tourist attraction, complete with souvenir shops, and lacking the original charm you would expect from a religious monument. However Jingan is the main business district of Shanghai and many of the city’s biggest office towers are located along this district’s main street, Nanjing Road.
This road connects the district to Luwan in the East and Changning in the West. High-end malls and shops as well as the best 4 and 5-star hotels are also to be found in Jingan along with many high grade offices such as Kerry Centre, Shanghai Centre and Plaza 66. When it comes to housing the choice in this area is limited to the new luxurious residential complexes and most of the older colonial buildings are either used as offices or not up to the renovation standard suitable for a foreigner’s requirements. However, living in Jingan offers an easy and comfortable lifestyle with easy access to the rest of Shanghai and many of the best restaurant and bars.