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Bars in Shanghai, like other metropolises, are clustered in streets and usually a night out entails going out to a specific street and stopping in for a few drinks at two or three (or four or five) different venues in a night. This practice is fading somewhat, however, as larger mega-clubs are entering Shanghai and the bar scene is much more event based. Nowadays, partiers are planning their nights around a single specific event and tacking on an after hours party rather than just bar hopping on a street. In addition to this focus, all bars usually have happy hours and drink deals to attract the after work crowd. Several bars offer competing “Ladies Nights”, which offer free drinks to ladies, and “Open Bar” nights, which offer an all-you-can-drink deal after you pay a cover charge (usually RMB 100). Shanghai’s more popular dancing venues usually try to book international DJs to attract the clubbing crowd.

Nowadays, clubs could be packed one night during a specific event, opening or promotion and completely deserted the next night. Avid club goers would be wise to consult local print media (That’s Shanghai, City Weekend) or web sites (www.smartshanghai.com) to keep abreast of the scene.

With the locals, KTV bars are the choice form of nightlife recreation, but the club scene in Shanghai is where the expats really come out of the woodworks. With a few exceptions, the bars in Shanghai are organized after Western models and on a given night you could be walking into Shanghai’s version of an Ohio State frat party, an Ibiza rave, a London ale house, a New York lounge, or a Paris café.

Bar Streets

Maoming Road: It all began on Maoming Road. Although its glory has somewhat faded in the light of new, bigger, and better night spot options, Maoming Road still continues to offer some highlights to the indiscriminate bar hopper. Bar girls abound in this street which is home to some of Shanghai’s oldest pubs and clubs. Those looking to sample some of that old school Shanghai vice could do worse that spending a night and early morning staggering up and down this famous strip. (Key venues: Babyface, Judy’s Too, Woodstock, M factory, Maoming Manhattan Bar)

Tongren Road: A smaller, more efficient Maoming, Tongren Road seeks to recapture the seedy flavor of Maoming and is home to many of that street’s sister bars. Tongren Road caters to a more single minded punter; the bar girls and their admirers seem a little more populous on this strip. (Key Venues: Blue Frog, Blue Angel, Judy’s Too, Woodstock, Studio 78, Mint)

Hengshan Road: At night, this shopping street converts into the largest bar street in Shanghai with nightspots lining both sides of the road for kilometers. One of the more picturesque and scenic areas of the city, Hengshan road is home to the cities most famous bars, cafes, restaurants and tea houses and boasts a wide selection of each. (Key venues: Sasha’s, O’Malley’s, Beni House, Zapata’s, Bourbon Street, Hello Bar, Narcissus)

Xintiandi: Shanghai’s trendy Xintiandi area is located within walking distance of the Huangpi Road (S) Metro station and contains a bevy of upscale bars, restaurants and international boutiques. This area buzzes after dark and is where Shanghai’s hip and wealthy go to sip on cocktails on terraced patios, lounges, and cafes. (Key Venues: Ark Live House, KABB, Soho Pub)

The Weekend Bender

For travelers that prefer the nightlife to the sights, the following schedule will ensure an unforgettable weekend in Shanghai.

Friday:

Head down to Sasha’s on Hengshan Road to enjoy the half priced drinks from 5:30 to 7:00 P.M and then pop next door to Zapata’s to try the best Mexican food in Shanghai. After finishing the meal and a few drinks proceed south down Hengshan stopping in at whichever place looks happening. Narcissus and Bourbon Street usually feature live acts and are good if you are looking to see a cover band and Beni’s is a great pub to have a pint. After you’ve sampled a bit of the Hengshan Road pubs head off to the main event at Mural Bar: the 100 RMB all you can drink special. Mural is the place to be on Friday night with an open bar and great music keeping the party going till 2 A.M. The open bar shuts down at two in the morning and depending on the state you’re in, your going to want to end the night right here or go for broke at Windows Too. The Mural’ s indows combination is a time honored classic Friday night lineup designed for those who want to drink and dance themselves into oblivion. Alternately, if you are looking to keep a certain level of integrity, or at least, something a little more exotic, try the Dragon Club on Fenyang Road instead. This venue is Shanghai’s most popular after hours bar and although the cover charge and drink prices are a little on the pricey side, it can always be counted on the be packed early into the morning.

Saturday:

For those who managed to stay responsible the night before and managed to drag themselves out of bed to sample a little daytime Shanghai, reward yourself with a little shopping on either Nanjing Road or Huihai Road to gear up for a ritzy Saturday night. If Friday night was all about crass then Saturday should be all about class at some of Shanghai’s finest upscale drinking and dining establishments. After lunch at Element Fresh head off for an afternoon at a massage and spa facility to rejuvenate after last night’s debauchery. Women should head to Dragonfly and men should head off to the Alexander Club for some much needed physical rehabilitation. Head back to your hotel to get changed and dressed up for a sophisticated night on the town. Have dinner and cocktails at Jade on 36 at the Shangri-La Building. Although the restaurant is on the pricey side (between RMB 400-900), it is well worth it for the gorgeous view and atmosphere and the food which is prepared with the utmost sophistication and refinement. Try the Sea-bass Rivera, accompanied by a basil sauce and cherry tomatoes. After dinner, head back to Puxi and stop in at the Glamour bar to lounge on the sofas and sample their extensive drink list. Glamour Bar, spinning jazz and designed with a 1930s sort of aesthetic, is a great place for conversation in an Old Shanghai setting. After an hour or two here, head to the main event, Bar Rouge, and visit the most talked about bar in Shanghai. Whether you are dazzled by the fire tricks of the bar staff, the chic clientele or the outrageous prices, a night at Bar Rouge is an unforgettable way to spend a Saturday night. If you’ve been there and done that, and are looking for a Bar Rouge type substitute, try Barbarossa or the new Attica Club. Depending on your budget, if you followed the earlier suggestions you should be cleaned out. However, never-say-die partiers who tire of the main event and are looking for a little fresh ground to tackle the early hours of the morning try Bonbon club, or Park 97. Both venues go all night and are guaranteed to be slamming on Saturday night.

Sunday:

You going to need to get up around 11ish and get down to the Jing’an district to get a big greasy breakfast at either Rendezvous Café (pp) or City Diner, both of which have great breakfast specials. After having the requisite amount of coffee head down to old town to buy antiques and souvenirs for yourself and your friends and family back home to prove you were in Shanghai. Head back to your hotel for a shower and to change for Sunday night.

Sunday night should be all about deetox and what better way than to purge the system that having ten or twelve beers at the best dive bars in Shanghai? For dinner, head over to Malone’s to chow down on one of their specialty burgers and hang out on the patio. An evening on the patio accompanied by a few pints and a few burgers is a great way to ease oneself into a good Sunday night. From here take a cab to Windows Scoreboard which offers great prices and value (provided you stick to bottled beer). The bar also offers pool and a large screen T.V. C’s bar is also a local favorite and the prices and atmosphere are great for lounging and hanging out with friends. For those who want a classier night, head on down to the JZ Club, Shanghai’s premier jazz performance venue to take in a live jazz show. If you’re in luck Shanghai’s own Coco will be performing.

Best of Shanghai

Shanghai’s nightlife scene is fast paced and cut throat with new bars, lounges, and clubs opening and closing weekly. It is almost impossible to keep abreast of all the changes happening, however, the following section lists some of the more popular nightspots and their chief selling points.

About The Author

Eslynn Su – I am a fond traveller, an expert on China travel and the best online tour guide you will find. Come and visit The World’s China Portal at http://www.jongo.com to obtain all the information you need on China, interesting articles to help you understand Chinese culture, and all the answers to your questions!

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