Shanghai, China

Living in Shanghai

Iyna Bort Caruso

A century ago, Shanghai was considered the Paris of the East. Now its status as China’s financial capital together with its high powered, high energy vibe is more likely to generate another comparison: the New York of Asia.

Shanghai is one of the world’s great megalopolises, with a population of over 24 million and a growing international community, particularly Japanese, Americans and Koreans. The outward-looking trajectory of the last two decades shows no signs of slowing. Shanghai’s influence in business, tech, fashion and the arts continues to grow.

The city is in the Yangtze River Delta, about a five-hour, high-speed train ride to Beijing. The Huangpu River runs through the center of the city. To the east is Pudong and its Lujiazui district, a designated economic zone. The city’s tallest buildings, including the Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center, make up the distinctive skyline.

By contrast, across the Huangpu River is the Bund, a historic waterfront area that runs a mile along the western bank with a rich collection of architectural styles: Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, classical, Beaux-Arts and Art Deco. In the mid-1800s, this area was one of China’s first ports to open to international trade. Foreign powers from the United Kingdom, France and the U.S., among others, set up banks and businesses here. Today the well-preserved area is a tourist destination and home to consulates, private clubs and luxury residences.

Shanghai’s residential properties are some of the most expensive in China. The city’s stock of luxury condominiums with western-style amenities is increasingly common. Single-family garden homes and mansions are found in desirable spots like the former French concession. This neighborhood also features traditional lane houses, which are three-story row houses that combine Chinese and Western aesthetics. Lane houses are tucked away along narrow alleyways. Unique to Shanghai, they were built by the thousands and housed millions up until the mid 20th century. Most have been bulldozed but those that still exist enjoy heritage status.

Expat communities are found in downtown Shanghai as well as in suburbs like Minhang and Quinpu, anchored by international schools.