First off, we can assure you that in a city of such epic proportions, you'll not need to cross your fingers or pray to a pagan god to find a nightlife to match. Shanghai is arguably the most youthful and vibrant city in China and has the variety of nightlife to prove it. Whether you are looking for a dive bar that serves Chinese beer or a rooftop dance party that looks out on one of the most impressive skylines in the world, you'll have a number of choices on how to spend your evening. What we're here to do is narrow the options down for you.
Most travelers will initially find themselves east of the Huangpu River in Pudong, where the cloud-tipped highrises speak of Shanghai's economic might. Although the price for drinks and entrance will often be pretty expensive in most of this area's establishments, venues like the Music Room (a jazz bar on the 92nd floor of the Shanghai World Financial Centre), Blue Frog (American-style restaurant and bar), and the BREW (a microbrewery in the Kerry Parkside hotel) are musts in the area.
Cross the Huangpu to find the majority of the city's nightlife establishments in Puxi. There are a whole ten(!) districts here and therefore a ton of real estate in which to find a place to enjoy your evening, but the most popular neighborhoods in which to find yourself include Xintiandi, Zhongshan Park, Nanjing Lu, Maoming South Road, the Bund, and Hengshan Road. Even with this assortment of bar streets, there are plenty of places elsewhere to go; for example, a stroll through the Bund could end in a number of higher class joints that are notable for their views of Pudong. We suggest trying the Captain's Bar if you like your drinks on the inexpensive side.
The former French Concession has a few famous bar streets, although Hengshan Road and Maoming South Road have long had the best concentration of drinking establishments. Hengshan Road is Shanghai's first bar street, and, although many locals tend to go elsewhere these days, the European charm and open courtyards have a certain appeal worth experiencing at least once. Then again, Maoming South Road has a far more varied assortment of venues in the same finely architected buildings, from wild dance clubs like Babyface to drinking institutions like Judy's Too.
The most famous tourist street in Shanghai, Nanjing Road, whose largely car-free east section runs from the Bund to People's Square, is also an excellent option for nightlife. The 6 km long shopping area has a good number of venues, from elegant sky-high establishments like 789 Nanjing Road to the great vibes of Windows Too; just be aware that (especially) here and in other tourist avenues of the city, you will undoubtedly be approached by the seedier elements. Just be firm and walk away.
We could go on and on, because, as we've mentioned, Shanghai is epic, but rest assured that any vibe your searching for is represented. Still, there are a few venues that need mentioning. Yuyintang in Changning is an indie music haven, while the Shelter in Xuhui is the best in underground dance music. Also in Xuhui, No. 88 is truly an outrageous club, while there are a ton of dive bars, breweries, lounges, wine bars, karoake bars, performing arts shows, super-clubs, and so much more. For more information on these types of establishments as they relate to Shanghai, take a look at our activity listings or check in with our community.