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Last updated : Nov 2009
Shanghai Nightlife
Shanghai Nightlife - TravelPuppy.com
Hotly disputing with Beijing the title of China’s nightlife capital, Shanghai has a fast paced nightlife scene, with a proliferation of venues. There is also a heavy ex-pat presence in the nightlife scene, making it very welcoming to outsiders. Clubs and Bars seem to be everywhere, however are concentrated mostly along Hengshan Lu and Maoming Nan Lu in the French Concession area (with offshoots in Fuxing Park and the grounds of the Ruijin Guest House, 118 Ruijin Er Lu), Nanjing Xi Lu (for a relaxed and more mature ambience) and Julu Lu (for sleaze).

The larger hotels have fine high-class bars. There is no minimum drinking age in China and drinks are not expensive, with many bars offering a specialty of RMB10 standards. Most venues do not even charge entrance fees and many are open every night – there is no worry of passing a Sunday or Monday without action. Veterans of Hong Kong or Western cities may be disappointed to find that most venues outside Julu Lu close at 03:00 at the latest, however most revelers will have had too much fun by the small hours to care anyway. Most clubs and bars stay open until about 02:00 but some venues keep serving alcohol until 05:00 or later.

Information about the best venues are published in That’s Shanghai and Shanghai Talk listings magazines.


Face, Building 4, Ruijin Guest House gardens, 118 Ruijin Er Lu, is among the finest buildings and bars in Shanghai – a dark-panelled 19:30s mansion filled with pan-Asian art and a cosmopolitan group of drinkers (escape them on the outside lawns). O’Malley’s, 42 Taojiang Lu, is a mainstay of the ex-pat bars, with an Irish beer garden. KABB, Lane 181, Taicang Lu, is a great terraced location for watching the chic street crowd in Xintiandi. Bonne Santé, First Floor, Easter Tower, 8 Jinan Lu, is a relaxing and sophisticated wine bar, while Windows Too, 1699 Nanjing Xi Lu, recently refurbished, is the most upbeat and sociable of the RMB10-per-drink dive bars.


Casinos are illegal in China.


Rojam, Fourth Floor, Hong Kong Plaza, 283 Huaihai Dong Lu, is queen of the club scene, attracting the cream of foreign DJs that visit Shanghai, and is a full-on clubbers’ paradise on its regular nights. BOV, 42 Qinghai Lu, is no-nonsense no-frills clubbing at RMB10 a shot. A-Void/Buddha Bar, 172 Maoming Nan Lu, attracts in mad punters who find Judy’s Too, 176 Mao Ming Nan Lu, just up the road, too tame. Velvet Underground, 608 Jianguo Xi Lu, has a varied entertainment and music as well as steady popularity. Real Love, 10 Hengshan Lu, is the favourite meat market. California Club, 2 Gaolan Lu, Fuxing Park, on the Shanghai Lan Kwai Fong strip imported from Hong Kong and sells itself on cosmopolitan sophistication.

Live music

Live bands perform regularly on Shanghai bar and club scene, often at O’Malleys (see above). M-Box, 1325 Huaihai Dong Lu, offers a repertoire from local pop to reggae. Tropicana, Eighth Floor, 261 Sichuan Dong Lu, is a mainstay of the Shanghai Latino scene. Swing Music Café, 788 Hongxu Lu, popular with the most sophisticated clientele, and the Filipino band Far-to-See providing the music.


The Shanghai Concert Hall, 523 Yan’an Dong Lu (tel: (21) 6386 9153), is the leading vehicle for classical concerts. The Shanghai Municipal Performance Company is connected with both it and the Majestic Theatre, 1700 Beijing Xi Lu (tel: (21) 6217 4409). The Shanghai Grand Theatre, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu (tel: (21) 6372 8701), is a major venue for concerts and theatrical performances. The Shanghai Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra performs here. The Jing An Hotel, 370 Huashan Lu (tel: (21) 6437 1888), has a well-respected series of chamber music concerts performed by various local and touring ensembles.

is naturally a Shanghainese favourite, especially the Chinese variety. The Shanghai Grand Theatre and the Majestic Theatre frequently stage modern and traditional Chinese operas but the purist’s venue is Yifu Theatre, 701 Fuzhou Lu (tel: (21) 6351 4668).


Despite official censorship and propaganda productions, theatre aficionados are splendidly catered to in Shanghai, with many high-class venues. Shanghai Grand Theatre (see above) stages official prestige productions by visiting ensembles, which include some Chinese opera. The Dramatic Arts Centre Theatre, 201 Anfu Lu (tel: (21) 6473 4567), is much more purely dramatic, eschewing musical and operatic productions. The Experimental Theatre of the Shanghai Theatre Academy, 670 Huashan Lu (tel: (21) 6248 2920 ext. 3040), presents more experimental student productions.


The Shanghai Grand Theatre (see above) hosts both the National Ballet of China and the Shanghai Ballet Company, and visiting ensembles. To see traditional acrobatic dance, the Shanghai Acrobatics Troupe performs regularly at the Shanghai Centre Theatre, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu (tel: (21) 6279 8663; fax: (21) 6279 8610).


Raise the Red Lantern (1991) and films like it may have proven to the outside world that China has a thriving film culture but the government allows a maximum of ten foreign films per year – due to rise to 20, after China’s accession to the WTO in 2001. For locals, the staggering number of pirated VCDs and DVDs in circulation prove a mockery of these limits, however cinema-going in China is inevitably poorer for them.

Classic hollywood films like Josef von Sternberg’s The Shanghai Gesture (1941) or Orson Welles’ The Lady From Shanghai (1948) may have played to the Western idea of Shanghai as the ultimate Oriental flesh pot of vice, however native film culture of the time was much more diverse and sophisticated, the latest global hits debuting almost at the same time as they hit American screens. Post-war, Shanghainese film has been as dull and sparse as general cultural activity in the PRC. Shanghai Triad (1995) by Zhang Yimou, the wunderkind of modern Chinese cinema, only touches on the glamour of 1930s Shanghai at its infancy, in spite of its title.

Movie houses are the Golden Cinema Haixing, in the Haixing Plaza in Ruijin Nan Lu (tel: (21) 6418 7034), and Studio City at the Westgate Mall, 1038 Nanjing Xi Lu (tel: (21) 6218 2173). The Shanghai Film Art Centre, 106 Xin Hua Lu (tel: (21) 6280 4088), is the closest the city has to an arts cinema. The Shanghai International Film Festival is the city’s regular prestige film event.

Cultural events

The Chinese New Year, which is celebrated either in late January or early February, is the most important annual festival in the city. The build-up and anticipation to the festival is as frantic as Christmas is in the West, with parties, exchanging of gifts and houses and streets decorated with lights. Most Chinese celebrate the beginning of the New Year with their families. The Mid-Autumn Festival, in September or early October, is celebrated by displaying lanterns of various shapes, such as animals, and by eating traditional moon cakes made of ground lotus, sesame and egg.
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