When the sun sets on the East, the sweltering temperatures of Shanghai’s magnetic nightlife begin to rise. Entertaining a city of roughly 30 million people has proved rather easy for the Chinese, offering a diverse assortment of marvellous venues to suit every palette and preference. No matter if you’re wandering through the colonial-era apartment blocks of the French Concession or strolling down the Bund for a taste of haute couture, the city known as the “Paris of the Orient” never fails to deliver a delightful joyride that lasts well into daybreak.
- Bar Rouge
Photo: Smart Shanghai
Situated on the Old World half of the Bund, Bar Rouge is the quintessential example of Shanghai nightlife. Featuring a stunning, dramatic cityscape of the Pudong Financial district, Bar Rouge has consistently ranked as the best club in Shanghai. Women seeking an escape from the doldrums of Shanghai’s fast-paced lifestyle can capitalise on Ladies Night (every Thursday) for free, unlimited cocktails. Visitors can relax on the open terrace or just chill to the DJ’s ambient mixture of house and lounge music. Be warned: Shanghai’s most cosmopolitan crowd are stable visitors, so be sure to look your best and bring an extra wad of cash if you’re male: they tend to charge guys an extra 100 Yuan.
- Muse on the Bund
Photo: Definitive Drinking Guide
Hidden within the stone walls of the Rock Bund area, Muse on the Bund is by far one of Shanghai’s most popular members of the illustrious M-Group franchise. Featuring over 3,000 square feet, a massive stage full of energising performances, and one of the busiest bars you can find, this place is simply full of excitement. MotB has hosted various events, including the 100 Models Night (yes, there were 100 models, exactly) and stunning New Year’s Eve parties flowing with champagne. If you’re more of a lounger, there are eight custom rooms available with a fleet of pool tables. There’s something for everyone, and MotB certainly offers it.
You don’t need to wait until Cinco de Mayo to experience the full flavour of Mexicana! Zapata’s carries one of the most unique bar themes in all of Shanghai—an old, dusty Western saloon complete with endless tequila and trademark sombreros. This bar’s partying atmosphere is everywhere: indoors and outdoors, and from the top floor to the bottom… not to mention their world-famous tabletop disco, where booze, bravery, and drunken amateur salsa is expected. This venue hosts a monthly fiesta, an epic Cinco de Mayo party, and an assortment of drinks and tapas to keep you through the night.
Photo: Serena Xu Ning
Somewhere nestled quietly in the back alleys of Shanghai’s prestigious Jiao Tong University (交通大学) lies the answer to those seeking the avant-garde. A popular social hub for students and 20-something expats, DADA is the perfect place to break away from the materialistic humdrum of the city. Named after the Dadaist movement of the early 20th century, the venue features experimental techno seamlessly blended with obscure animated videos from Belgium and Germany, and attendees can help themselves to a hodgepodge of Northern European beers at student prices. If you’re willing to walk the beaten nightlife path, look elsewhere, but if you’re crazy about the eccentric, then you’ve come to the right place.
- Shelter/ Arkham
Photo: Club Seekr
When you crave something more underground, you really must go underground. The exact opposite of petit bourgeois clubbing would certainly be the proletariat venues of Shelter and Arkham; the ‘Dear Leaders’ of the Shanghai alternative scene. Both venues were once bomb shelters for the Chinese Red Army during World War II, and have been completely redesigned as the city’s hottest places to listen to drum and bass. With DJs pummelling the crowd with killer rhythms and featuring some of the world’s most hard-hitting electronica technicians in the city, these two venues are the vanguard in the war against the conventional.
Club Arkham [Photo: ALROCCO]
Photo: Cool Cities
Hidden beneath a rather dingy underpass of Yan’an West Road Station, this concert hall is certainly a rare gem amongst Shanghai’s music scene. Yuyintang is the go-to place for concerts, and is one of the first of its kind in Shanghai. Where other venues typically host dance parties and DJs, this venue stays packed full of antsy spectators waiting to mosh to rock and roll, heavy metal, and hip hop. Both local artists, as well as internationally acclaimed ones, have graced this unorthodox hotspot, and Yuyintang proves to be a shining example of what Shanghai’s music scene is all about.
- Rich Baby
Photo: Shanghai Stuff
Located a stone’s throw from People’s Square is the legendary Rich Baby. Formerly known as Babyface, it has been given an impressive facelift and features two separate dance halls conjoined by an opulent corridor. Unlike traditional clubs, Rich Baby is uncompromisingly for the Chinese, by the Chinese, and if one is brave enough to try, they can attempt their best efforts in Mandarin to interact with the locals there. Try to track down Jewel, one of the beautiful hostesses of the venue, and she’ll help you integrate into the crowds with a succession of free shots and translations. This place continues to be a regular spot for foreigners willing to cross the territory into Chinese culture, Shanghai style.
Photo: Club Seekr
Just a five-minute walk from Hengshan Rd. Station, Phoebe Club is by far a premiere destination for Shanghai’s local population, but is regularly packed full of foreigners. Sporting a terraced labyrinth of quirky female performers, VIP tables full of rum and Cognac, and elevated platforms to precariously show off some new dance moves, Phoebe is one of Shanghai’s most loveable and swanky places to frequent. Additionally, it’s also a favourite amongst locals for Halloween parties, as they offer masquerade parties, which are pure Bedlam to attend; a perfect complement to this carnivalesque treat!
Photo: Windows Bar and Grill
This bar is a Frankenstein creation of sorts, mixing one part dive bar, sports bar, and college frat-house. A franchise consisting of three distinct venues (Two, Scoreboard, and Garage), Windows differs in that it is actually less ‘dive bar’ than one would imagine. Sure, the food is questionably cheap (and surprisingly delicious) and the music is rather blaring at times, but the place stays crowded! Besides, you will not find a better place to watch your favourite sports game in Shanghai, as they offer one of the best Super Bowl parties in the country.
- The Cotton Club/ JZ club
Photo: City Weekend China
The beauty of Shanghai’s historical ties to French culture is its penchant for Western jazz music. The Cotton Club, named after the famous Harlem jazz club of the late 1920s, is an exemplary recreation of the American speakeasy. Conversely, JZ bar enjoys its status as the nonpareil of high-class jazz clubs in all of China with its opulent decor and down-to-earth staff. By far the best places to hear authentic live jazz performances from European, American, and local musicians, the Cotton Club and JZ are outstanding examples of what sets Shanghai apart from other Chinese cities.
Photo: JZ Club