Lujiazui was purpose-built to be the financial center of China on a small peninsula extending into the Huangpu River directly across from the old financial center of the city on the Bund. As recent as 1992, the area was a collection of factories, low-rise buildings and even some rice paddies.
Today, the Lujiazui skyline is the iconic symbol of the city with the Oriental Pearl Tower at the center (for better or worse).
The area’s designation as a special investment zone in 1992 signaled a turning point not only for Shanghai but also for China. In the years that followed right to the present, the pace of development of the 37 square kilometer patch of land is unprecedented in terms of scale.
In the ongoing race to be the home to the world’s tallest building, Shanghai continues to compete now having 2 of the top ten in the world. At 632 meters, the recently completed Shanghai Tower is a full 200 meters shorter than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai though the Burj doesn’t have anywhere close to as many world-class sky scrapers nearby. Currently sitting 10th on the list is the Shanghai World Financial Center at 492 meters making Shanghai the only city in the world with two buildings in the top 10. They even have a little brother named the Jin Mao Tower that rises to a paltry 421 meters and only 27th on the list.
As one would expect of a world-class financial center, Lujiazui is all about business. Steel, glass and concrete is the feel… polished, devoid of culture and lots and lots of suits. There are an abundance of 5 star hotels in the area as well as the world’s second highest hotel, the Park Hyatt in the World Financial Center.
There are luxury serviced apartments all along the waterfront with the best views in the city if you prefer to look at the Bund rather than the lights of Lujiazui. Many of these are filled with the employees of the most powerful financial institutions in the world whose offices dot the area. Luxury retail and food shopping are plentiful in the area and while the eating and drinking are not particularly noteworthy, the restaurants and bars of the Bund and French Concession are a stone’s throw away across the Huangpu. The serviced apartments in the area are very well appointed with even the lower end of the scale offering a full slate of amenities such as pools, gyms, restaurants, concierge services.
Offsetting the steel and glass of Lujiazui, Shanghai’s largest green space is a short distance away. Century Park is home to countless high-rise apartment buildings whose views of the park are highly sought after by locals. The park itself is more of a traditional western-style park with big open green spaces that can be used for sport of picnics. This is a stark contrast to most parks in Shanghai and China that are more traditional Chinese garden than park by non-Chinese standards.
Some expats do call the area home, though the choice to live there is a practical one if your cup of tea isn’t the villa thing or your package doesn’t support the high prices of Jinqiao. There are international schools nearby, which are also the closest schools to Lujiazui.
The shops and services of Century Park are not necessarily expat-oriented nor do they need to be with Jinqiao and Lujiazui nearby. Pudong has a number of excellent medical facilities and hospitals as well as clinics for non-emergency care.
When stepping back and looking at how far the whole area has come in 25 years, it boggles the mind to think that the development is only partly finished. The vast swathe of real estate south of Lujiazui is in the midst of a redevelopment on a grand scale. The same powerful mix of public and private funding that brought Liujiazui into existence has more plans to redevelop the Expo site and the whole eastern bank of the Huangpu River south to the Middle Ring Road and beyond.