Shanghai is divided into two principal areas by the Huangpu River: Pudong is in the east and Puxi is in the West. The Hongqiao and Gubei areas are further west than Puxi. The two sides are connected by bridges, tunnels, and an underground metro system. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to each area depending on your own particular circumstances and lifestyle.
The following three areas are the favorite places to live for most expats in Shanghai:
Virtually all of Pudong was built after 1990. Today, it contains the famous Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the JinMao Building, and the World Financial Centre, Asia’s tallest building. Most of the financial institutions that are the engine to the city’s growth are headquartered in Pudong. This area has China’s largest department store and the largest concentration of modern villas. There are wide highways and streets to ease the traffic, fresh air, peaceful surroundings, and it is a good option for those working on the east side of the river. This part of the city encompasses 185 square miles, so there are plenty of open spaces. The beautiful Museum of Science and Technology is here, as is the stock exchange, a very large aquarium, and a magnetic train that travels at speeds of 430 kph.
International Schools: Dulwich College International School, Concordia International School, and SMIC Private School.
Supermarkets: There are several American, German, and French supermarkets in the main residential areas, such as Carrefour, Metro, Wal-Mart, and City Supermarket.
Restaurants: There is a plethora of restaurants of every type in Pudong.
Cinemas: The major cinemas are in the Lujiazui area of Pudong, perhaps a 20-minute taxi ride from the Jinqiao residential area.
Sport Facilities: Although for spectator sports, one must travel outside of this area, there are plenty of open spaces, including Century Park, which is larger than Central Park in New York City.
Puxi (Luwan and Jing’an)
This is the traditional heart of the city, with the Bund and the most clusters of shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. When Shanghai gained the label “Paris of the Orient,” the description referred to Puxi. All expats will frequent the Xintiandi area for its magnificent restaurants, nightclubs, and shops built in the old Shanghai “Shikumen” style of architecture. The world-famous shopping streets of Nanjing Road and Huaihai Road are in this area.
Puxi has thousands of new apartment buildings, and is very convenient for shopping and recreation. This is the cultural and historical Shanghai, where the French, British, German, and International Concessions were located. Many great restaurants and shops are within walking distance. Living here is no doubt a bit more exciting, but crowded, too. Nothing is far away by taxi or subway – 30 minutes travel will take you to any location in Puxi. Expats living here are about 1 hour from the Pudong airport and 20-30 minutes from the Hongqiao airport. The two major train stations are here as well.
International Schools: Most of the international schools are outside of Puxi.
Supermarkets: Puxi has every type of supermarket any expat would want, including but not limited to Carrefour, Lianhua, Lotus Supermarket, Premier Foods, City Supermarkets, and Metro.
Restaurants: An extremely large variety of restaurants, including all ethnicities and budgets.
Cinemas: The best ones are the Paradise Theatre on Anfu Road in the French Concession and Studio City in Jing’an. Also, the German and French consulates show their country’s movies every weekend.
Sport Facilities: The large stadiums for tennis, football, and basketball are here, as well as dozens of quaint and picturesque parks.
This large area is very popular with expats from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, France, and Germany. It lies approximately 20 minutes to the west of downtown. In terms of numbers, this is the most popular area for expat residences. There are nice large living accommodations near shopping malls, clinics and international schools. Housing in the form of apartment, serviced apartments and villas are plentiful and are of the highest quality. The Gubei area has hundreds of new apartment building being built at the moment – it is gaining new stores, restaurants, and parks constantly. The Xujiahui area is packed with many large shopping centers and Western stores. The Hongqiao airport is only 10 minutes away, but it will take about one hour to travel to the Pudong airport.
International Schools: Many international schools, such as the German and French schools, the American schools, and the Singaporean Yew Chung international school are located here.
Supermarkets: Expats have a wide choice of Chinese and foreign food markets, including Carrefour, Metro, Lianhua, Lotus Supermarket, Premier Foods, City Supermarkets, Metro, and several Japanese and Korean food markets in the Gubei area.
Restaurants: A wide selection of restaurants of all types and budgets is available in these areas.
Cinemas: The main cinemas in the area are UME International Cineplex in Xintiandi, Shanghai Film Art Centre on Xinhua lu, Kodak CinemaWorld in Xujiahui, and Paradise Warner Cinema City in Hongqiao.
Sport Facilities: There are no large venues for sporting events, however, for personal fitness expats have a wide choice of clubs: Clark Hatch Fitness Center in Xuhui, Xpat Gym in Gubei, Gold’s Gym in Gubei, the Weider Fitness Club in Hongqiao, and Will’s Fitness Clubs in Xuhui and Hongqiao.