Having a "sundowner" is a classic British ritual marking the end of a long day with a cool cocktail while watching the day fall into night, and Shanghai does not disappoint as it offers spectacular venues for such an occasion. There are many high-end bars to watch the sunset with a drink, but the best views are often in 5-star hotels, in which a few cocktails can put quite a dent into the travel wallet, as well as being slightly impersonal and out of touch with the real feel of the city.
Without breaking the traveling bank or being pretentious (no need to change from walking shoes to high heels), this list is for the traveler who desires a casual sundowner which includes a spectacular view and and/or a fun glimpse into the real Shanghai.
Kathleen's 5 — Sundowners with a Twist of History
Situated atop the old Jockey Club, a beautiful art-deco building (c1934) and what is now the Shanghai Art Museum, Kathleen's 5 is a rooftop bar/restaurant enhanced by a large outdoor patio with a historical view. The view below is of the lush green People's Park which was once the Shanghai Jockey Club's race course and beyond is a view to the historic buildings which line famous Nanjing Road.
If Kathleen, the proprietor, is around you might be graced with her five-minute history lesson about the historic Jockey Club and its subsequent use as the Shanghai Library after the Cultural Revolution.
Keep in mind that: When taking the one flight of stairs to the rooftop from the elevator, take a look at the original iron horse head balusters on the staircase; reminiscent of the buildings' former Jockey Club days
Best place to end up after: touring of the People's Square, Nanjing Road or Jing'an Temple.
- Address: 5th Floor, Shanghai Art Museum, 325 Nanjing Xi Lu
- Happy Hour: Daily 4–7pm — half off selected martinis, wine and beer
- Reservations: 021-63272221
The Rooster — Sundowners with the Locals
This laid back bar has some of the cheapest pints in town. Situated on Yongkang Rd, a narrow street which in years not long passed was lined with neighborhood vegetable markets and bicycle repair shops, is now home to a myriad of bars and restaurants of varying caliber. The street has become somewhat of a controversial battleground between the upstart bar owners and the upstairs local residents over the noise; especially in warmer months when patrons take advantage of the outdoor seating on the sidewalk.
Caveat aside, the entire street is lively in the afternoons and early evenings with students, locals and young expat professionals as well as a handful of well-meant elderly pan handlers. Yongkang is certainly not the swankiest area of Shanghai, but with the jovial atmosphere, lively music and outdoor seating it can be a great place to meet people or simply to people watch.
Keep in mind that: the street quiets down and closes up around 9pm to keep the upstairs residents happy.
Best place to end up after: touring the French Concession area.
- Address: 51 Yongkang Lu
- Happy Hour: daily until 7pm — selected drinks including draft pints at 25 RMB
Captain Bar — Sundowners with a View That Won't Break the Budget
Just steps back from The Bund, and on the rooftop of the famous Captain Youth Hostel, is the Captain Bar offering one of the best views of the Pudong skyline. Along with reasonable food and happy hour prices this casual backpacker venue attracts an eclectic crowd of budget travelers from around the world as well as locals and expats.
Captain Bar is very casual and welcoming and you'll be quite surprised that this little hostel offers a view that competes with those of the luxury hotels just around its corner.
Keep in mind that: Although there is an elevator there are still many stairs and steps getting to the bar.
Best place to end up after: your stroll on The Bund.
- Address: 37 Fuzhou Lu (near Sichuan Zhong Lu)
- Happy Hour: Monday–Thursday, 4pm–7pm — buy one get one free
Paulaner Brewhouse Pudong — Sundowners with a True Sunset
The Bund is not the only riverside esplanade in Shanghai offering panoramic views of the city skyline. Many tourists miss the Pudong Riverside Promenade on the opposing side of the river. The Paulaner Brewhouse is one of the very few venues along the river's edge where you can witness an actual sunset and have a ringside view to the constant hustle and bustle of maritime activity on the river.
With a large and informal picnic table filled patio, The Brewhouse is a favorite amongst locals, tourists and expats who enjoy a true sundowner with friends and family.
Keep in mind that the best place to see the sunset is from the outside patio which means you may need a reservation on a warm day.
- Address: Riverside Promenade, Binjiang Da Dao, Pudong (close to Pudong Shangri-La Hotel)
- Happy Hour: Monday–Friday, 4pm–7pm — half-priced drinks menu
- Reservations: 021-6888 3935
Bars on a China Highlights Shanghai Tour
On our Shanghai tours evenings are usually your own free time, unless you are on one of our evening tours. We hope our sundowner suggestions help you get the most out of your Shanghai experience. Feel free to ask our knowledgeable travel advisors and guides for further assistance.