The ultimate guide to Shanghai gay bars

The ultimate guide to Shanghai gay bars

10 gay bars in Shanghai covering ballroom dancing, drag shows, cheap drinks and relaxed crowds

Most Chinese cities boast one, maybe two, gay establishments. Thankfully, the Shanghai gay scene has flourished along with its exploding skyline, affording rainbow flag wearers and friends plenty of opportunity to argue over where to go on a weekend night.

The Box

If you're looking for the decadence of West Hollywood...

Try: The Box
Owners of a once-desperate The Box tapped event guru Laurent Simonet to clean up, focus and promote their Hengshan Lu spot when it was on the brink of closing earlier this year. Simonet’s parties -- the most popular being the 1970s-themed “Disco Box” -- now regularly bring in more than 400 local and foreign boys and men on Friday and Saturday nights.
Don't leave here without: Scoping out some male nudity, courtesy of go-go boys who take to the bar top nightly.
B1/F, 10 Hengshan Lu, Wulumuqi Nan Lu 衡山路10号, 乌鲁木齐南路B1楼, +86 139 1894 9817, www.shthebox.com


Focus Club - Shanghai gay If you're looking for a place to take that lucky lady...

Try: Focus Club
As soon as night falls, this unsuspecting coffee shop transforms into Shanghai’s only “every day” lesbian venue. Known among locals and foreigners alike as a more sophisticated alternative to longtime staple Red Station, Focus has also become popular for the romantic atmosphere afforded by the candles that provide a great deal of its lighting.
Don’t leave here without: Taking in some of the Chinese pop songs played live by Focus’ house band.
Focus Club, 1/F, Harbour Ring Plaza, 730 Yan'an Xi Lu, near Xizang Zhong Lu 延安西路730号, 近西藏中路, +86 152 1685 7806


Rice Bar - Shanghai gayIf you're looking for someone to cuddle up to without getting a bill at the end...

Try: Rice Bar
Rice Bar’s name seems an obvious play on the term “rice queen” -- and there is no shortage of either Asian men or the Westerners who prefer them. A visiting businessman noted that the Shanghai outlet is “more enjoyable than the [now closed] Hong Kong location because it’s open, friendly and lacks money boys. There is no sleaze.”
Don't leave this Shanghai gay bar without: Letting the owner Takuya, an aspiring singer, serenade you.
Rice Bar, 532 Fahuazhen Lu, near Dingxi Lu 法华镇路532号, 近定西路, +86 159 2110 9881


Shanghai gay - transit loungeIf you're looking to practice your Japanese (and your game at the same time)...

Try: Transit Lounge
Although not officially a Japanese venue, Transit’s being owned and operated by Kyushu born-and-bred Masa had led to the cultivation of a disproportionately-Japanese clientele. This chill spot gets busiest on Fridays, when its plush couches and calming lighting provide a welcome alternative -- for some -- to the pounding bass found elsewhere.
Don't leave here without: Trying the Blue Shanghai, Transit’s signature cocktail of gin, blue curacao and sprite.
Transit Lounge, 41 Tai'an Lu, near Huashan Lu 泰安路141号, 近华山路, +86 133 9128 3097


Shanghai StudioIf you're looking to relive the WWII bomb scare sans the straightness of The Shelter...

Try: Shanghai Studio
Like a couple of the more mainstream venues in the city, Shanghai Studio makes its home in a bomb shelter that dates back to the 1930s. While Studio (as regular visitors prefer to call the bar) gets almost too packed on weekends, Thursday nights boast an unbelievable RMB 100 all-you-can-drink special that makes for an expectedly loosened-up crowd.
Don't leave here without: Exploring all the twists and turns of this serpentine maze.
Shanghai Studio, No.4, Lane 1950 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Xingguo Lu 淮海中路1950弄4号, 近兴国路, +86 21 6283 1043, www.shanghai-studio.com


Lailai Dance HallIf you're looking to sneak a peek at the undercover world of Shanghai’s working class...

Try: Lailai Dance Hall
If you doubt for a second that Shanghai’s gay scene extends to its outer reaches, hop on a Hongkou-bound Line 3 train and head for Lailai, where many of the older -- and married -- among the city’s blue-collar gays come for same-sex ballroom dancing. Once every two months or so, a well-known (but often unannounced) drag show rolls through too.
Don't leave this Shanghai gay bar without: Getting your rhumba or jitterbug on with one of the regulars.
Lailai Dance Hall, 2/F, 235 Anguo Lu , near Zhoujiazui Lu 安国路235号2楼, 近周家嘴路, +86 150 2174 7399


Fat Olive terraceIf you're looking for an excuse to start your workweek hungover...

Try: Enjoy @ the Fat Olive
Every Sunday night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., the terrace of this Xintiandi Greek restaurant goes gay, complete with stunning, sixth-floor views of the Bund and Shanghai’s skyline. Parties here have rotating themes, but the elegant yet relaxed atmosphere here is unwavering, especially when the RMB 100 entry also buys your first three drinks.
Don't leave here without: Enjoying some Greek tapas, which are offered at RMB 120 for your choice of seven.
The Fat Olive, 6/F, Silver Court Complex, 228 Xizang Nan Lu, near Huaihai Lu 西藏南路228号6楼, 近淮海路, +86 21 6334 3288, www.thefatolive.com


Shanghai gay - D2If you're looking for a pumping discotheque à la Queer as Folk...

Try: Club D2
Its remote location in the Cool Docks is a source of disappointment for some, but don’t let the RMB 50 cab ride spoil your fun: D2 is packed to the gills every Saturday night with Shanghai gays, wild and crazy. For those used to the international gay club scene, the techno beats and strobing lasers will come as less than a surprise -- try and focus instead on the manifold sweat and shirtlessness.
Don't leave here without: Visiting each of the “Cruzy,” “Lazy” and “Crazy” rooms at least once.
D2, The Cool Docks, 505 Zhongshan Nan Lu, near Fuxing Dong Lu 时尚老码头, 中山南路505号, 近复兴东路, +86 21 6152 6543, www.clubd2.cn


Shanghai gay - Red StationIf you're looking for the rough-and-tumble secrets of the Shanghai sisterhood...

Try: Red Station
Red Station is Shanghai’s oldest lesbian hotspot, albeit one that’s only gay two nights -- Friday and Saturday -- per week. Catering mainly to teens and 20-somethings, the floors here are sticky, the air is filled with smoke and as Shanghai LGBT leader Charlene Liu tells us, “things can get rowdy if you look at someone else's girlfriend.”
Don't leave here without: Catching one of the Station’s late-night brawls. Participation optional.
Red Station, 4/F, 200 Taikang Lu, near Sinan Lu 泰康路200号4楼, 近思南路, +86 21 6415 8695


Shanghai gay - eddy'sIf you're looking for a place where everybody knows your name...

Try: Eddy’s
The second thing you’ll notice at Eddy’s is the attention given to decoration, a kitschy scheme bringing together artwork from the imperial, 1920 and Mao eras under China Red lighting. The first is the welcome you’ll receive -- starting with a waiter, who’ll probably try and take your order (and your coat, if it’s winter) before you make it to the bar.
Don't leave this Shanghai gay bar without: Meeting Eddy, the bar’s down-to-Earth owner and namesake
Eddy's, 877 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Tianping Lu 淮海中路1877号, 近天平路, +86 21 6282 0521


Robert Schrader is a wandering writer, blogger and photographer currently shacking up in Shanghai.
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