The bars and clubs that define Shanghai's nightlife
Every city in the world has bars and nightclubs, so what makes Shanghai the best party city in the world to so many? After speaking with every party animal we know, the following venues emerged as clear favorites that set Shanghai apart.
Shanghai nightlife staple no. 1: Bar Rouge
Perhaps Shanghai’s most well-known club, Bar Rouge is perched atop the Bund with a view of Pudong’s Jetsons-inspired skyline allowing one to take in the confluence of past, present, and future that marks Shanghai out from nearly every other city in the world.
While some decry Bar Rough as too French, too pretentious or simply too much, there is no denying that it has been a mainstay of the scene for years, and that few nightclubs in the world can compete with its spectacular vista.
Part-time Shanghailander Chris Murphy offered up a remedy to Bar Rouge’s perceived woes, “Don’t go there to meet people. Make a table reservation, bring your friends and enjoy a view you can’t get anywhere else.”
You can’t leave without: Enjoying a martini in front of the bartenders’ fire show, followed by stepping out onto the terrace to enjoy the breeze and the Bund.
7/F, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Nanjing Dong Lu 中山东一路18号外滩18号7楼, 近南京东路, +86 21 6339 1199, www.bar-rouge-shanghai.com
Shanghai nightlife staple no. 2 : Park97
The third installment in Shanghai’s Muse nightclub chain, Park97 is the little nightclub that shouts loud.
With a dance floor so small you might not even know you’re on it, but an abundance of tables filled with guzzling, moneyed youth, Park97 is the epitome of a Shanghai nightclub.
Henrike Klug, a long-time Shanghai resident, remarks, “Park97 has old-school value. It was the first good one, and it’s still going strong.” Decently priced drinks and a crowd full of young people eager to make new friends makes any night here a good time.
You can’t leave without: Playing dice and batting away the hands of the overly eager bathroom attendants that really want to give you a neck rub while you do your thing.
2A Gaolan Lu, near Sinan Lu 皋兰路2A, 近思南路, +86 21 5383 2328, www.museshanghai.cn
Shanghai nightlife staple no. 3: M1NT
M1NT arrived on the Shanghai scene just in time to provide the city’s increasingly sophisticated consumers with a well-dressed and mature clubbing experience
While not smack on the Bund, M1NT still boasts an epic view of Pudong and has quickly become the late-night venue of choice for the city’s elite. According to eight-year expat Kevin Han, “When M1NT first opened, it confused and offended with its pretentiousness. However, after a couple great nights of dancing and drinking in style, we saw through the pretense. M1NT was so above the rest that at first it seemed the antithesis of Shanghai nightlife, but it has brought about a paradigm shift that will take a long time to beat.”
You can’t leave without: Drinking a glass of Champagne while taking in a décor and clientele so chic you could be in any major city in the world.
24/F, 318 Fuzhou Lu, near Shandong Zhong Lu 福州路318号高腾大厦24层, 近山东中路, +86 21 6391 2811, www.m1ntglobal.com
Shanghai nightlife staple no. 4: Cotton’s
Cotton’s is the perfect place to relax and appreciate the other side of Shanghai -- the storybook French Concession.
Cozied up next to a fireplace in the living room or enjoying a springtime breeze in the expansive courtyard, Cotton’s has come to define a certain way of life in Shanghai. Owner Cotton Ding says, “I opened this place because I love the unique architecture of old Shanghai, and it’s such a pleasant place to spend time with friends.”
We’ve never met anyone who disagrees.
You can’t leave without: Just sitting back and enjoying the atmosphere, it’s that simple. Also, oddly enough, don't miss Cotton's Friend Rice. We know Cotton's is a bar but this is the best spicy fried rice in the city.
132 Anting Lu, near Jianguo Xi Lu 安亭路132号, 近建国西路, +86 21 6433 7995, www.cottons-shanghai.com
Shanghai nightlife staple no. 5: Babyface
Shanghai lore has it that once upon a time, Babyface not only didn’t allow foreigners, but even mainlanders who couldn’t speak Shanghainese dialect couldn’t get past the door. That’s about as Shanghai as you get.
Babyface, soon to reopen as “Rich Baby,” defines the over-the-top ridiculousness that many nouveu riche view as tantamount to a good time. Blaring techno, flashing lights, glasses of green tea and whisky and throngs of locals (and foreigners now, too) make Babyface a classically intense clubbing experience. Tim Richardson, a recently arrived expat, says it how it is, “I simply had never seen anything quite like it before I came to Shanghai.”
You can’t leave without: Ordering bottles of Champagne (or really any bottle service) just for the massive amount of sparklers and fireworks that come with them.
Rm. 101, Shanghai Square, 138 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Pu'an Lu 淮海中路138号上海广场101室, 近普安路, +86 21 6375 6667, www.babyface.com.cn
Shanghai nightlife staple no. 6: Constellation (I, II and Southern Cross)
This Constellation group entered the scene a few years ago with their first offering on Xinle Lu and has since then proliferated their professional and classy environment and cocktails throughout the city.
While these bars maintain the finest traditions and precision of Japan’s renowned cocktail bars, Constellation is owned and operated by a local named Kin, who studied in Japan. He has hit the mark dead on with perhaps the city’s widest selection of single malts and expertly mixed cocktails of all varieties.
For intimate groups of less than four, head to Constellation I or Southern Cross, but head to Constellation II to enjoy the drinks with a few more friends.
Constellation regular Nick Bihun, comments, “The cocktails here beat even the best of Western standards for a well-made cocktail, but as with everything in Shanghai, the crowd is not exclusive and will include a diverse mix of young professionals, older expats and those simply passing through.”
You can’t leave without: Sampling a fine single malt scotch over hand-cut blocks of ice made from charcoal-filtered water.
96 Xinle Lu, near Xiangyang Bei Lu 新乐路96号, 近襄阳北路 +86 21 5404 0970; 1-2/F, 33 Yongjia Lu, near Maoming Nan Lu 永嘉路33号1-2楼, 近茂名南路, +86 21 5465 5993; Southern cross: 1276 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Huating Lu 淮海中路1276号, 近华亭路 +86 21 5404 7211