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Shanghai Office Space Guide

[Updated Oct 2020]A guide to serviced offices and office space for rent in Shanghai as well as general information that may be useful if you are thinking of renting office space in the city.

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A history of trade

As China’s most populous city and the home of its busiest port, Shanghai occupies a unique position in the world. For much of its history, Shanghai has acted as a crossroads between East and West, and both the appearance and character of the city has been shaped by this role. Located on the mouth of the Yangtze River on China’s east coast, the city is strategically placed to function as a centre of trade and has done so almost since its very beginnings. It was because of its commercial importance that it was honoured in 1602, during the Wanli reign, by the erection of a City God Temple. Usually not given to country towns, which Shanghai then was, the honour gave Shanghai a huge psychological boost and set it on its course to becoming one of China’s great cities. By the time the Qing Dynasty came about in the late 17th century the city had grown to be an important seaport, and by 1735 it was the major trade port for the whole region.

Treaty port

As European trade with China grew, foreign merchants quickly realized the importance of Shanghai. After the Opium Wars, the Treaty of Nanjing designated Shanghai a treaty port, thus opening it to international trade and setting the city on its path to becoming one of the most important commercial centres in the world. European and American merchants developed the International Settlement in Shanghai and the city became one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan in the world. Along with an influx of White Russians, communities of almost every nationality in the world sprung up in Shanghai, and the city developed into the largest financial centre in the Far East, and the city soon acquired the nickname “the Great Athens of China”. In 1949, after the Communists took control of China many foreign firms moved their headquarters to Hong Kong. However, during the unsteady times that followed, including the Cultural Revolution, the city never ceased its tradition of trade and commerce. In 1991 economic reforms were initiated and a momentous redevelopment of the city started – one that continues to this day.

Culture, tourism & architecture

While Beijing may be the political and historical capital of China, it is Shanghai that is unarguably the most vibrant and culturally stimulating city in China. Because of its history, Shanghai has traditionally been seen as the spawning ground of most things considered modern and cutting edge in China. Its architecture is renowned as some of the most interesting and varied in Asia. Of particular note is The Bund, on the bank of the Huangpu River, featuring a graceful collection of late 19th and early 20th-century architecture. The beautifully preserved French Concession is also a very popular location for tourists and residents alike. Shanghai is also well known for its breathtaking array of skyscrapers, including the Shanghai World Financial Centre, the tallest skyscraper in China, as well as the unique Oriental Pearl Tower.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given its cosmopolitan nature, Shanghai is generally considered to have the best nightlife and dining in China. The city has a wide assortment of high-quality restaurants, bars and clubs that would be the envy of any city on earth. A nighttime cruise on the Huangpu River is always popular and because of the fantastic views of the city it affords. Shanghai’s multitude of tea houses are open 24 hours a day and must be sampled by any visitor to the city. But it is the Xin Tian Di district which has become the most popular place to go for a drink or a meal, with a vast array of open-air bars, restaurants and lounges.

The main shopping areas of the city are Nanjing Road, Huanhai Road and Xujiahui. The clothing stores in these areas stay open until 10 pm.


As one would expect of a city as modern as Shanghai, a vast and efficient public transportation system exists. The Shanghai Public Transportation Card can be used to pay for most forms of transport. The Shanghai Metro, consisting of subway and light trains, reaches every district of the city. Shanghai also has the largest bus system in the world, with over a thousand lines, as well as numerous and fairly affordable taxis. The Shanghai Pudong International Airport is accessible from the city by the Shanghai Maglev Train, the first commercial maglev line in the world.

Shanghai office space for rent

The vast majority of Shanghai office space is located in high rise buildings constructed in the late 1980s or 90s. A whole range of quality is available, from Grade C buildings right up to international level Grade A buildings. Recently old warehouses and other historical buildings have started to be converted into office space and these offer a sometimes superior alternative to the standard high rise office. These smaller offices are often popular with companies who want a more high profile image. Most office space in Shanghai is in the central downtown district of Puxi, the western district of Hongqiao, or Pudong in the east of the city.

Vacancy rates in Shanghai are traditionally fairly low, hovering at about the five percent rate. However, office space is not hard to come by. Offices of 150 square meters and over are fairly easy to find in Shanghai, especially in the high rise buildings. And rents are far cheaper than in Shanghai’s rival city Hong Kong, which currently has the most expensive office space in the world. Smaller Grade A office space, however, can be hard to find in Shanghai. Many foreign firms prefer to opt for the serviced office option. But the Chinese commercial property market is riding high and a recent report from Cushman & Wakefield found that Shanghai is rebounding incredibly fast from the financial crisis. Recently Morgan Stanley moved into a new 93,000 square metre property in Kerry Parkside in Shanghai, and Dairy Queen moved into a 61,000 square metre office in the ICC Towers on Huhai Road. Over 1.7 million square feet of new office space is currently under construction in Shanghai, and 900,000 square feet will come to market shortly.

We carry out a free office space search and our advisory and acquisition services are also free, always. Our Shanghai office space brokers and agents are globally regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) ensuring the highest standards of commercial property advice and service at all times. We look forward to helping you find the best office space for rent for your business.

RICS Logo - The Office Providers are regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

The Office Providers are Regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

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