If you’re considering living downtown, then the sought-after Jing’an District will be one of your primary options. It is centrally located with easy access to the Bund, People’s Square and the French Concession and has an abundance of living options, including numerous luxury high-rise developments and colonial apartments. Though it is one of the smallest districts in Shanghai at 7.62 square kilometres, it is also one of the most densely populated, housing almost 400,000 residents or about 40,000 people per km². While these numbers may seem astronomical to some and give rise to thoughts of intense human congestion, they shouldn’t. That’s not to say the area isn’t crowded at times or that the traffic isn’t bad, because it is. However, if you are considering downtown Shanghai as an option, then the same can be said about most areas – even the French Concession, whose quaint and leafy streets suffer from worse rush hour gridlock as they were not constructed to deal with the burdens of modern traffic, whereas most of Jing’an was. Shanghai is a megacity (the largest in the world if you include suburban areas) and the main attraction of Jing’an is being at the centre of it all.
From a positive perspective, the high density of the area also means that all manner of services are close at hand, particularly if shopping is a priority. Jing’an is the central shopping district for the city. Options for dining and nightlife also abound and while Jing’an has some of the best venues in the city, post rush hour you can be on the Bund, in Xintiandi or in the heart of the French Concession in less than 15 minutes by taxi.
To the east, Jing’an is bordered by Chengdu Bei Lu (just west of People’s Square). To the south Yan’an Elevated Road forms part of the literal border from Chengdu Bei Lu to Shaanxi Nan Lu, where Changle Lu picks up and forms the remainder of the southern border. Functionally, however, Yan’an Elevated Road is the southern border, as expats who live south of it consider themselves to be living in the French Concession. To the west, Zhenning Lu and Changshou Lu combine to form the border, while Anyuan Lu forms the border to the north; however, most consider the area to the south of Suzhou Creek to be part of Jing’an.
Until recently Zhongshan Park was not considered to be an area popular with expats. As rental prices in the French Concession and Jing’an have risen steadily, however, and housing allowances have, in many cases, levelled off or declined, it is becoming more attractive as the area offers comparatively good value from a real estate perspective. Situated directly to the west of Jing’an District with its center located around the Zhongshan Park Metro stop and the massive Cloud Nine Shopping Center, the area is functionally not that much further from the core downtown areas than most of Jing’an. It is well served by Metro and is only two stops from Jing’an Temple and four from People’s Square at the heart of the city. In addition it sits about mid way between Jing’an and the Gubei and Hongqiao areas, which are very popular with expats and host a wide variety of expat-oriented dining, nightlife, recreational and shopping options.
Zhongshan Park is part of Changning District and as such does not have formal borders. You can, however, consider the western border of Jing’an as the area’s eastern border and Zhongshan Lu its western edge. The area south of Wanhangdu Lu and north of Yan’an Elevated Road can be functionally considered part of Zhongshan Park as well.
There are quite a few high-end apartments in the area and even a few colonial villas and apartments near the border with Jing’an; however, if your aim is historical character or slick urban polish Zhongshan Park will likely prove an unsatisfying as an option. However, as we stated earlier, your housing dollar will go farther here than in Jing’an or the French Concession, which are noticeably more expensive.
Expat residents of Jing’an and Zhongshan Park have a variety of high-end expat-oriented health care options on their doorstep.
ParkwayHealth has general health clinics at 389 and 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu and Global HealthCare at 1515 Nanjing Xi Lu. By virtually any standard, these clinics are top-notch with English-speaking Western doctors and excellent facilities. American-Sino at 800 Huashan Lu has perhaps the best OB/Gyn service in all of Shanghai.
For surgery and emergency medicine, Shanghai United Family Hospital at 1139 Xianxia Lu has a comprehensive expat-oriented facility.
For sports-related injuries and physical therapy, Sino United Health at 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu provides quality services.
Similar to the French Concession, there are no international schools in Jing’an or Zhongshan Park. Parents who choose to live in these areas usually send their children to schools in the Hongqiao, Gubei or Huacao areas via safe and efficient bus services provided by the schools. As we noted in the French Concession schools pages, commute times vary depending on a number of factors such as weather and day of the week (the ride home on Friday will usually be notably longer). Residents of Zhongshan Park can expect their commute times to be about 10-15 minutes shorter than those for people living in Jing’an, making the journey to schools in Gubei or Hongqiao relatively short.
Both areas lack the kindergartens and nurseries which are prevalent in the French Concession, though, depending on the facility, bus services are available. However, if a bus ride is in order for your young child, looking to an international school whose bus services will invariably include dedicated staff to take your child door to door may be the best option.
Though not quite as well served as the French Concession, both Jing’an and Zhongshan Park are well served by the Metro. Metro Line 2 is the east-west axis and the longest line of the world’s largest Metro system. It bisects both areas and can have you at People’s Square in short order, across the Huangpu River to the heart of the financial district in Lujiazui in a fraction of the time it would take to get there by road, or all the way to Pudong International Airport. It also runs west directly to the newly constructed Hongqiao Transportation Hub, which is the largest such facility in the world and the nexus of China’s high speed rail network. If you will be a frequent traveler to Beijing or other cities in China, this may be an important consideration. Additionally, Line 7 runs through Jing’an Station and circuitous Lines 3 and 4 though the Zhongshan Park Station.
Of course taxis are plentiful, though availability is an issue during rush hour and inclement weather.
Shops and Services
Regarding shopping in Jing’an, not much more needs to be said than Nanjing Lu, whose east and west sections comprise Shanghai’s (and China’s) pre-eminent shopping street. While the pedestrian-only east section is more of a tourist draw, the eastern section is home to every luxury brand imaginable, whether in street-side storefronts or gigantic malls such as CITIC Square, Plaza 66 or Westgate, which also hold countless dining options. For food shopping, Shanghai Centre has an excellent City Shop and the Freshmart at Jing’an Temple is also a good option. There are a number of world-class five-star hotels in the area, with fitness facilities available by membership.
In Zhongshan Park, the Cloud Nine Shopping Center is the nexus of commercial activity and the place where you can find most of what you need. The close proximity of Jing’an (via Metro Line 2 or taxi) and the Gubei and Hongqiao areas (via taxi) provide residents easy access to a wide variety of expat services. It’s also only about a 15-minute taxi ride to the heart of the French Concession and all that it has to offer in terms of shopping and nightlife.