Shanghai’s Unexpected Night Club Culture: An Outsider’s Perspective & Mini Guide

When I first moved to Shanghai I didn’t think I would be spending a lot of my social life in clubs but it turned out to be the complete opposite.  It was one of the main ways my friends and I spent time together.  After a few days of living there, I quickly learned there are a number of clubs in many different locations to choose from and that there’s usually free access to these places along with free alcohol.  However, this is both good and bad, simple and complex.

Although these clubs had free access and free alcohol, there was obviously a lot of catches:

  • You need a promoter.  When you enter clubs in Shanghai because it’s rare that any of them are free unless you know someone who works with the clubs, unlike in the UK where sometimes don’t have to pay at the door.  Finding a promoter for my friends and I was easy because we already knew someone who had lived there before and knew promoters in major Chinese cities.  They’re not hard to find and usually are in the clubs they promote.  Getting a regular promoter is as easy asking for their Wechat details.
  • The free alcohol is limited. After you’ve entered clubs in Shanghai, you usually get a colour coded wrist band or stamp and there is an allocated table which is for everyone who had a promoter is, well, lumped together.  It’s obvious that it is the free drinks table because everyone around the table obviously aren’t from China.  It’s a good way for promoters to get foreigners into their clubs and it is said that the more foreigners that occupy these bars the more natives will want to come in.  One of the biggest negatives about this aspect is that these tables are usually very overcrowded and it takes forever to get a drink for yourself and friends let alone refilling your glass.  There also isn’t a lot of variety in terms of what you can drink.  There is usually vodka, whisky or tequila with mixers such as coke or orange juice.  Sometimes there is beer.
  • The free alcohol can be dangerous.  There were many occasions when my friends and I were drinking in a club and felt terrible the next day.  But it wasn’t because we drank too much (sometimes).  A few months down the line of living in Shanghai, we learned from someone who works in a club that a lot the time the alcohol they use isn’t drinking alcohol but rubbing alcohol.  Yes, the kind you clean mirrors and use for other domestic things.
  • Lack of range in music.  It was difficult to find a club that didn’t play the same music all the time.  EDM can get pretty irritating after a few weeks.

Despite all of this there were many good things to take advantage of:

  • Well it is free.  You just have to be careful with alcohol and such.  The main reason finding a promoter and doing it for free is popular is because it is targeted towards foreigners.  If you’re travelling, it saves money too.  That way, the only thing you have to worry about paying for is your trip in general and getting to the club which is cheap because taxis are inexpensive.  Naturally, you can buy drinks in these places but they’re expensive in comparison to the UK which I found surprising.
  • Meet people from other countries.  Before frequenting to some clubs in Shanghai I thought that there would be a lot more Chinese people spending time in them due to their large population but I was wrong. Just as many if not more expats and travellers spend a lot of time in these places too.

Here are a couple my favourite clubs to go to in Shanghai.


image from

Dada was one my favourite clubs to go to because of the variety of music.  The music ranges from house, dub, dubstep, jungle and more.  The alcohol was never free here but there was always an amazing DJ on the decks doing there own thing.  It’s a dive bar and many people Chinese and foreign come from all over Shanghai to have a good night here.  It’s an interesting place with a classic 90’s grunge atmosphere.



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HU66 was a beautiful bar/club 66 floors up in the Royal Meridien hotel.  It was classy, had good music (sometimes) and the view was phenomenal.  This was one of the better clubs that offered free drinks that were of higher quality.  HU66 was one of few clubs which had a rather strict dress code which was nice every so often when you felt like making a little more effort.

Another couple of my favourites were:

  • Mansion
  • M1nt

And here are some others I went to but weren’t my favourite:

  • Celias
  • Fusion
  • Hollywood
  • Karma
  • Lucca
  • Lynx
  • Monkey Champagne
  • Mook
  • Myst
  • M2
  • Perry’s
  • Phoebe

There are plenty of clubs in Shanghai that cater to everyone, whether it’s a dive bar or luxurious night out.  Some are better than others but it depends on taste in music and they type of people you want to be around.  The nightlife in Shanghai is one of the best things it has to offer.



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