Moving to a new country is never an easy task, and the thriving metropolis that is Shanghai may overwhelm even the most seasoned traveller. Even foreigners who have called this city home for years are all to easily unnerved when trying to figure out where to live in Shanghai. Rent will vary from district to district, of course, and the checklist from when you start scouting an apartment to finalizing paperwork is extensive, and don't even get us started on the hassle of registering at the police station.
City Weekend's Housing Section provides a straightforward search process for affordable flats in Shanghai, so you can worry a little less and start thinking about what to do and where to eat instead. This neighborhood guide may be able to further refine your search, guiding you to possible homes in an area well-suited to your needs, whether you're a sleep-deprived investment banker or an up-and-coming found objects sculptor.
Where You Live if You’re an Artist
Captivated by the rapidly developing contemporary art scene in Shanghai, you reside northward in the less popular neighborhoods of Putuo and Hongkou. Hongkou has the historical character of the former French Concession without the inflated rent prices (insert starving artist trope here). It's a grittier area than most, and you'll be surrounded by plenty of urban decay. Living in this area means you'll be eating at local hole-in-the-wall restaurants more often, and you'll be close to Shanghai’s arts district, M50 Creative Park (50 Moganshan Road). It's worth noting, however, that if your living expenses aren't underwritten by some patron of the arts, your time time in the neighborhood may be short. Artists lofts and independent galleries are always the green shoots of a real estate revival. Count on property values rising here and thus your rent. Find listings in Hongkou and Putuo here.
Where You Live if You’re a Yuppie
If you’re a self-professed young urban professional, or yuppie, you probably live in Jing’an. The options here consist mostly of high rises and comfortable, newly-built Shanghai apartments. You like to try the hottest new restaurants as soon as they pop up and love the easy access to subway stations. Being in a major commercial center is also a definite plus. You’re never short of hip working spaces and cafes, and fortunately for you, most food delivery services like Sherpa's, Nosh and Saucepan are based in your vicinity, to cater to the busy lifestyles of you and your peers. Jing’an is practically yuppie haven; find available listings here.
Where You Live if You’re a Photographer
You were drawn to the quaint tree-lined streets, the dilapidated villas, the scent of Chinese food wafting from hole-in-the-wall eateries and the medley of park visitors. If this means you also have to deal with giant billboards and incessant traffic, so be it. Where else but Xuhui for a photographer? Old men in makeshift stools playing Chinese chess are much more interesting to capture on camera than the typical suit-clad westerner. You’ll see parks and small streets interspersed with bright neon lights, towering skyscrapers and busy intersections. This area is a 24/7 playground for the senses where the new and the old converge. It's no wonder apartments here are in such high demand. Find listings in the Xuhui district here.
Where You Live if You’re Working on a Disney Project
You’re on a ridiculous expat package (because Disney, duh), and plan to make the most of this cosmopolitan city. The high concentration of shops and restaurants and the vibrant nightlife make Xintiandi a perfect fit despite the constant crowds. This area offers all sorts of abodes, but mostly towering high-rises and older art-deco style homes that cost…well, it doesn’t quite matter. The architecture is elegant, the interiors are fabulous, and the pedestrian streets you can duck into seem far removed from Shanghai’s noise. Find available listings here.
Where You Live if You’re on a Ridiculous Expat Package And Think Xintiandi is Overrated
You know that the classy former French Concession is the most desirable area of Shanghai, and you have the privilege of being able to live where everyone else wants to live. Preferably in a lane house with heated floors, a guest bedroom and a second floor rooftop terrace large enough for a barbecue. Streets here are an enviable amalgamation of historic charm and European chic. Perusing The Avocado Lady’s stall, ducking into charming coffee shops or boutiques, and having brunch somewhere within walking distance of your home are all activities you regularly take part in. Or, you may be found taking a stroll under the imported French plane trees or exploring one of the many trendy bars in the area. Where exactly is this area, you ask? Well, we consider it anywhere south of Yan’an Lu where the trees start and end. Single and don't want roommates? It's highly unlikely you'll find an apartment or one-bedroom lanehouse for less than RMB5,000/month in this area. Even then, it's probably run down. Choose between apartments and lane houses in the FFC here.
Where You Live if You’re “In Finance”
Admiring the view from a high-rise apartment in Lujiazui is as close as you’ll get to living it up in a Manhattan penthouse. Aside from being close to your workplace in the Shanghai World Financial Center, a Lujiazui abode offers a multitude of perks. You’re one tunnel away from one of the many hotels and premium dining outlets by the Bund and you have all the glitz and glamour of the business hub appreciate that wonderful skyline (that is, when it’s actually visible through the smog). Alternatively, there’s much more recreational space on this side of the river with easy access via metro to places like Century Park and, well, parks. Find listings in Lujiazui here.
Where You Live if You’re an Entrepreneur/Student
You’re seeking a hub for innovation, and the idea of living in the national demonstration base for startups sounds particularly appealing. Yangpu is known for being a place where entrepreneurs connect, and is the home of 14 higher education institutes and over 100 scientific research institutes including Fudan University, Tongji University and University of Shanghai for Science and Technology. Authorities plan to alter policies to further support startups and to attract global and local talent, solidifying this district as the center of innovation in Shanghai. It's a completely self-sustaining part of Shanghai with its own pedestrian street Daxue Lu (University Road) with ample bars, restaurants and entertainment venues. Though, you might get sick of seeing the same people all the time. You can find listings in Yangpu here.
Where You Live if You’re Raising TCKs
You have at least one child (ahem, third-culture kid) attending an international school, and have decided that convenience and quiet trumps the hustle and bustle of downtown Shanghai. You’ve learned the hard way that pets do not belong in a Xujiahui high-rise, and that waking your young children up before six for their commute to school is miserable for all parties involved. Thus, you live in Qingpu or Jinqiao, depending on what school your child attends, where you appreciate the large expat community. Housing in these districts is awe-inspiring. We're talking about massive villas. Your neighbor may even have a pond. You live in enclaves with names like Beverly Hills (yes, this exists) with other expats who call on their company-provided drivers in minivans for afternoon tea in Puxi. Find family friendly listings in Huacao here, and Jinqiao here.
Where You Live if You’re Raising TCKs But Unwilling to Relocate to “The Middle of Nowhere”
You’ve decided to compromise; your kids can take a longer bus ride to school in exchange for living 20 to 40 minutes from downtown, depending on the traffic. A suburban community, villa compounds, the growing number of stores stocking international items and the sizable amount of restaurants are all factors that make Hongqiao the most attractive area for you. You like that Hongqiao is considerably more peaceful than Jing'an or Xujiahui, and the fact that you can have a garden large enough for children or pets to run around in doesn’t hurt either. Plus, you’re near the vibrant Gubei area and Hongmei Lu’s restaurants and bars offer more than enough for your nightlife needs. Find listings in Hongqiao here.
Where You Live if You’re an Asian Expat
You’re likely from Korea or Japan; there’s a reason Gubei goes by the misnomers “K-Town” or “Little Tokyo.” The high concentration of Japanese and Korean restaurants, supermarkets, salons and spas all point to why. While neighboring Hongqiao mostly boasts villas, Gubei residents tend to live in apartment complexes. Less hectic compared to downtown and more exciting than Jinqiao or Qingpu, this area also tends to be favored by families. Find available listings here.
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