Shanghai's former French Concession is defined by tree-lined streets, quiet neighbourhoods, European-style housing and a central location. Living in the French Concession is popular with many expats and families in China.
The attractive area includes many of the city's historic buildings and is the first choice for many foreigners, housing almost one third of Shanghai’s expat population. Most of the buildings that define the area today were built with European money in the 1920s-40s. The vibe is international, blending European influence with Chinese living habits. Broadly speaking, the most interesting part of the former French Concession for visitors is the area on either side of Huaihai Lu, though the area ranges from Zhaojiabang Lu to its south up to the Yan’an Lu Elevated Highway to its north. Huaihai Lu is now a major shopping street running east to west, with plenty of brand names but little character.
Gorgeous historic apartments, lane houses and garden homes line beautiful streets like Wukang Lu, Hunan Lu, Gaoyou Lu and Jinxian Lu. Because of the area’s popularity, rental prices for colonial properties from the twenties and thirties have been rising steadily. For two-bedroom renovated apartments, expect rents to start at 25,000RMB. The lane houses and garden homes here represent the highest downtown rents, from 50,000RMB and up.
With its central location, people in the former French Concession have a lot of quality health care options. The New Pioneer Medical Centre on 910 Hengshan Lu has a foreign-friendly medical and maternity clinic, as does Ruijin Hospital on 197 Ruijin Er Lu. Huashan Hospital on 2 Wulumuqi Zhong Lu has a 24-hour foreign clinic on the 19th floor. The Sino-American OB-GYN clinic (www.americanobgyn.com) is on the 14th floor of Huashan Hospital, and the out-patient facility is a few blocks away on 800 Huashan Lu.
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There are many positives to living in the former French Concession. First and foremost is its mix of European and Chinese charm. The architecture and housing is varied and interesting. There are an endless number of nice coffee houses, restaurants and boutiques, and it’s an easy area in which to meet expats and enjoy a truly cosmopolitan international neighbourhood. Expats generally buy imported western food and local groceries at wet markets or at one of the City Shops and there are trendy Shanghai bars throughout the area.