Shanghai's no Ibiza when it comes to nightclubs – in fact many of the city's larger clubs dance to more of a bottle service and dice games tune. But what we lack in quantity, we make up for with other perks, like no entrance fee at most clubs. Neat huh?
Mainstream Clubs in Shanghai
Whether you're a fan of bottle popping and couch dancing or just want decent EDM and a dancefloor, these are the big clubs that'll take you from bored to floored in under 60 seconds...
Take a good, hard look at yourself if you haven’t heard of Bar Rouge; Shanghai’s most famous haunt for glitterati and beautiful people. The iconic roof terrace offers the best al fresco views in the city, and even if the high octane glamour isn’t really your scene, it's still worth paying a visit to tick off an item on your Shanghai bucket list.
Remember to look your best because you won’t get in wearing shorts, sneakers or flip flops. There's usually an entrance fee of RMB100, unless you know a guestlist password.
Price: drinks from RMB70+, tables from RMB3,000
Who's going: beautiful people, Shanghai newbies
Good for: al fresco partying, bottle service, ladies night, Bund views
Have you ever been in a club and thought, 'what this joint needs is a shark tank.' That was the thinking over at M1NT, Shanghai's other famous clubbing establishment, perched atop a skyscraper near the Bund. Sharks, views and long-limbed people make this place a guaranteed memorable night, but be aware that drinks are a little spendy, and there's a strict dress code of no shorts or sneakers. Maybe Yeezys if you can prove you didn't buy them on Taobao.
Price: drinks from RMB100, standing tables from RMB1,000, regular tables RMB3,500
Who's going: wealthy locals and expats, models
Good for: special occasions, views, EDM, expense accounts, modelizing
Part of the global Le Baron family, Shanghai's branch of the preternaturally cool chain has quickly become the hardest door to get through since opening in 2014. Once you do wriggle past the door betch (arrive before 10.30pm if you want a safer bet), you'll find sultry red interiors, two sizeable bars and a discoball-topped dancefloor that catches a lot of action at the weekends.
Come early to grab pre-game cocktails on the urban garden roof terrace when the weather's good. Dress nice.
Price: drinks from RMB60, tables from RMB3,000 (more when there's a famous DJ in the house)
Who's going: the beautiful and the damn trendy, locals and expats, the occasional celebrity
Good for: seeing and being seen, dancing, impressing guests
All the usual accoutrements accompany MYST. Loud EDM and chart music, bottle poppin' tables and VIP booths spread across three floors of Shanghai's largest club. There's also a good-sized dancefloor facing the stage and DJ booth, which occasionally hosts internationally renowned artists like deadmau5.
Usually free to get into unless somebody big is playing.
Price: drinks from RMB60, bottle service from RMB8,000
Who's going: moneyed locals and young expats
Good for: EDM, dancing, groups
Owned by Sino Group, Shanghai's largest club conglomerate, Fusion follows a similar model to sister EDM club MYST, albeit with a better sound and visual system and larger dancefloor. This place is a safe bet if you're rolling with a group who just want a drink and a dance, and is popular with a young crowd of both expats and locals.
Again, usually free entrance unless a famous DJ is there.
Price: drinks from RMB60, tables from RMB6,000
Who's going: young expats and locals
Good for: EDM, groups, dancing
Once upon a time M2 was the go-to option for dancing, but these days the club caters mostly to bottle service. Nevertheless, on the right night with the right people, it can be a fun place to drink and let loose. Cavorting dance troupes, impressive on-screen graphics and loud, pulsating music from the DJ perched above the people below make M2 a decent alternative to other clubs.
Price: drinks from RMB50
Who's going: locals and the occasional group of expat students
Good for: groups, flying under the radar
The newest club to grace this list, if you can get past the name (Age, Sex, Location), the hip hop-leaning soundtack can make for a fun night. Of course there’s bottle service and tables to go along with a bar and a small dance floor, but ASL is what you make of it and can be fantastically enjoyable. There is a velvet rope at the entrance, but they're usually chill as long as you ain't dressed tramp.
Price: drinks from RMB70, tables from RMB4,000
Who's going: popular with the young Taiwanese and HK crowd, locals and a smattering of expats
Good for: EDM, dancing, groups
Hidden away at the back of Bonobo restaurant, this hip hop-oriented haunt cuts a different character to the larger EDM clubs in Shanghai. Tables are available but not a necessity, since the club also benefits from a DJ-facing dance floor and two large-ish bars. For high rollers and passing ballers, a VIP area with pole dancing facility awaits...
Expect an entrance fee, but more often than not a drink token is included in the price.
Price: tables from RMB3,000
Who's going: expats and young locals
Good for: hip hop, groups, whisky, Champagne
Dress up and make sure you’re looking tidy, because Linx is packed to the rafters with fiscally fortunate residents of Shanghai. Mainly catering to bottle serviced tables, expect regular 'Champagne trains,' complete with sparkler-touting waiters to carve their way through the club, as the thumping EDM plays at 11/10. The surprisingly spacious dance floor can be hit and miss – punters here aren't always game to get down and dance.
Price: RMB3,000 for tables
Who's going: well-heeled locals, the occasional celebrity
Good for: seeing and beeing seen, special occasions, impressing guests
Smack bang in the middle of the former French Concession, the music at Diva kicks off with house before progressing to a stream of EDM ‘bangers.’ Tables, fruit platters and bottle service are standard procedure here. Drinks are reasonable though, around RMB50 for most beers and mixers.
Price: drinks from RMB50, tables from RMB1,000
Who's going: mainly locals
Good for: local-style partying, groups
Lounge Clubs in Shanghai
You want somewhere more than a bar, but less hectic than a club: enter the lounge club. A popular model for Shanghai locals, who are often more inclined to sit down with a bottle of Champagne than dancing, several of the city's hottest venues morph from bar and restaurant to lounge club when the clock strikes 12.
Arguably the most influential opening of 2015, this upmarket gastrolounge at Rockbund broke the mould for late night partying in Shanghai, offering customers a triple threat of Nordic-inspired food, quality cocktails and an uptempo soundtrack that carries long into the night. A must-visit for taking in views, people watching and impressing guests.
There's no entrance fee, but book a table to guarantee entrance for groups.
Price: drinks from RMB65, dinner approx. RMB400 per person
Who's going: professional-looking expats and well-heeled locals
Good for: dinner, drinks and late night hangouts, small-medium groups, cocktails
Latin soul is at the heart of UNICO in Three on the Bund. Equal parts restaurant, bar and club, after dinner the place transforms into a full-blown club experience, often supplemented with live Latin music. There's no dancefloor per se, but that doesn't stop people from boogying around the enormous central bar.
Gents – you'll be asked borrow sweatpants if you show up wearing shorts.
Price: drinks from RMB70, standing tables RMB1,000, regular tables RMB3,000
Who's going: locals and expats, those inclined to dancing
Good for: Bund views, cocktails, dinner and dancing, Latin music, small-medium groups
More laid back than many other clubs on this list, The Apartment takes its style cues from a chic New York loft, minus the pretense that goes with that. With multiple rooms – each with their own bar, musical agenda and vibes – The Apartment also boasts a spacious roof terrace, and serves a casual dining menu alongside cocktails and beer.
Ladies, it's worth enquiring about the free-flow Champagne Ladies Night deal that goes down Thursday from 10.30pm-midnight.
Price: drinks from RMB70, tables from RMB2,500 on weekends
Who's going: healthy mix of locals and expats
Good for: groups, relaxed partying, dancing, late night, cocktails, roof terrace
Alternative/Underground Clubs in Shanghai
We get it; you're too chill to party with posers and the relentless drone of EDM. Here's what Shanghai has to offer for after hours hipstering.
With great music and good people, electro indie disco Arkham usually has something for all tastes, often hosting Soundcloud-famous DJs or live artists to dance the night away to. Drinks are fairly reasonable too, ranging between 30 and 40 RMB for beer and spirits. Expect an entrance fee when an artist is in the house, though the vibe and elongated party hours often make up for it.
Price: drinks from RMB30
Who's going: local and expat hipsters
Good for: live DJs, groups, dancing
Hidden down an alley off Xingfu Lu, the crowd at Dada tends to be a hipster-heavy mix of younger expats and locals. The drink prices are pretty reasonable, and they often have deals for their different beers. Make sure you go Friday or Saturday for a guaranteed busy night; weeknights strike a more mellow tone.
Price: drinks from RMB30-40
Who's going: young locals and expats
Good for: pretense-free partying, house music, groups
Housed in an ex-bomb shelter deep underground in the former French Concession, The Shelter has long served as Shanghai's favorite place to get lost (seriously, those catacombs-like siderooms are hard to navigate when you've had a few). Sadly however, the place is slated to close December 31 due to owners not being permitted to renew their license. Our advice? Make the most of the place while doors are still open.
Price: drinks from RMB40
Who's going: mixed crowd
Good for: electro, house music, groups
It might be inside a mall, but this underground club is literally underground. Here you'll find two rooms playing different genres of music – usually hip hop or dance – meaning you can pick and choose as the night goes on. If it’s a busy night, a couple of smaller rooms are also opened, all of which have DJs (even the toilet has a DJ!). Music is definitely king at Reel to Reel, but drinks aren’t bad either (RMB50 for beer and spirits).
Price: drinks from RMB50
Who's going: music lovers, groups, expats and locals
Good for: dance music, hip hop, groups, weekends
Often with international and good local DJs playing, Lola spins an electro house-oriented soundtrack to an audience of hard-partying expats. Since moving to a new location on Yueyang Lu, the club has maintained its late night (read: until the sun comes up) mantra, albeit with a slight move towards the mainstream Shanghai club model with bottle service and dancers.
Expect an entrance fee, which usually includes a drink ticket in the cost.
Price: drinks from RMB60, tables from RMB2,000
Who's going: Euro expats, some locals
Good for: late night, house music, live DJ's
Born from visionary Shanghai DJ, Dave K, URVC is one of the more unique clubs Shanghai has to offer, specializing in vinyl records. This will become apparent the instant you walk inside; the inside is stacked floor to ceiling with shelves and shelves of vinyl covers, making it not unlike partying in a record shop.
Despite its more intimate proportions, the quality of music and bass-heavy soundsystem have imbued this place with a vibrant culture of regulars.
Price: drinks from RMB40
Who's going: music lovers both local and expats
Good for: house music, late night, meeting people
Having opened earlier in 2016, this laid back club is a must-visit for any house fan. A bone-shakingly loud sound system means music fills every corner of the place, while during the day there’s ping pong tables and a micro restaurant. With a crowd that sometimes tops 500, be warned that things can get pretty hot and sweaty (isn't that what you want in a club anyway?), so probably don’t dress like you’re going to Bar Rouge.
Entrance through a teeny, three-person elevator from which the club takes its name.
Price: drinks from RMB45
Who's going: mixed bag of expats and locals, music lovers
Good for: chilled partying, immersive music, late night
One of the more off-beat clubs to have opened in 2016, Ninja is a good time for those willing to take a chance on it. Armed with an open mind, you'll find cheap drinks, servers dressed up as ninjas and a delightfully surreal ambience. The music is hit and miss and it’s not helped by a sub-par sound system, but Ninja can still be very fun with the right crowd. Read our review here.
Price: drinks from RMB45, bottles from RMB500
Who's going: mainly young locals
Good for: hip hop
Having caught the many of the patrons left in the lurch after Amber Club's closure earlier in the year, Celia by Pulse is a late night joint pumping deep house and techno most nights. Opened by veteran Shanghai DJ Jasmine Li, expect a die hard crowd of partyers and good vibes on the weekends.
Anticipate an entrance fee on peak nights.
Who's going: locals and expats
Good for: techno, late night
LGBTQ-friendly Clubs in Shanghai
Shanghai might not have the selection of queer clubs to rival global cities like London or New York, but what is available here often makes up for that...
Loud, throbbing techno fill every corner of this place. You'll find all the usual hallmarks of any good gay club: muscles, sweat and tears. Though Lucca is dominated by an expat crowd, there are locals here too, and the place has a generally inclusive vibe that welcomes revellers from every tribe. It’s got a decent-sized dance area (as you’d expect), a stage that hosts regular performers and a moderately-sized bar too.
Anticipate an entrance fee on busier nights.
Price: drinks from RMB50
Who's going: mix of expats and locals
Good for: dancing, meeting people, the odd drag show
With loud house and techno thumping through the sound system, don’t expect to come here for a quiet, intimate conversation. Dancing is king here. You always get more alcohol than you bargained for too, with generous pours with each drink. The combination of free-flowing liquor and a night of exuberance can make ICON a very good time indeed.
Price: drinks from RMB50
Who's going: mainly locals, the odd expat
Good for: dancing, techno and house music, drag shows
The city’s only lesbian joint has a great atmosphere and good, well-priced drinks. Mixers start at RMB45, and the bar is a good place to hang out during the day as well as at night. Weekends are super busy, but during the week the place functions as a quieter spot suited for hangouts and casual drinking.
Price: RMB45 and up
Who's going: chicks both expat and local; mixed gender crowd when there's an events on
Good for: weekend partying, hangouts during the week