Being on a tight budget in Shanghai, and yet seeking out fun bars (that are not dive bars) can be challenging. China Highlights set out to do exactly this and came up with five spots where you can chill with friends, meet new people, chit chat with bartenders, or just hang out by yourself over some creative drinks that won't bite your pocket.
One of our favourite bars is a slight walk further down the hugely famous bar street - Yongkang Lu - and is called Magpie. This six-month-old bar is a tiny, hidden gem, with a fabulous happy hour from 5 pm to 9 pm during which all cocktails cost 35 RMB; and beers cost 30 RMB.
The owner, Jacky, is a lovable guy, passionate about his bar and talented with his cocktails (he can be found practicing new mixes when free). Best bet is to ask him to make you something he thinks would go with your alcohol of choice, and voila! You won't be disappointed. At Magpie, China Highlights recommends the Ginger Moscow Mule - their best-selling drink.
Address: 189 Yongkang Lu, near Taiyuan Lu
This tiny Shochu bar can be hard to find, but a find it is! We weren't too sure at the entrance (a tiny wooden door) whether it was open or closed, but we walked in to find it full. This bar boasts of possibly the best (the only??) shochu collection in the city with an overwhelming number of shochu bottles in every possible flavor you can imagine.
The bar seems to have a cult following and feels like a closely-guarded secret. The bar is tended to by two lovely ladies who are happy to talk about the shochus, the varying alcohol content, and also make solid recommendations.
There is no menu, but a typical shochu drink will cost you 40 RMB. Look out for two giant glass jars with papaya – that's distilled papaya shochu for you. China Highlights recommends the coffee shochu (25% and 30%) – a potent and beautiful mix with a strong, lasting aroma of coffee beans. The others we tried were Grapefruit (quite fruity) and Kee Lime (zesty). They even have vinegar shochu!
A warm, friendly bar, where you will leave intoxicated with a happy wallet, and some new friends for sure. Snacking options are limited to peanuts and dried squid.
Address: 1245 Wuding West Rd, near Wanhangdu Lu
When you think 'The Bund' in Shanghai, you usually think expensive, high-end clubs and bars, where you enter if you clear the dress code and have the wallet for it.
China Highlights has this covered! Our wanderings in the lanes at the bund brought us to a backpacker's hostel called Captain Hostel. We went in and got to the top floor, to the bar. Upon entering, it may feel like a dark dingy place with dim lighting, but keep moving ahead and get to the door. You will be surprised with the terrace seating area.
Apart from the great location, we think the best thing about this place is the view. You should know that they serve only Evian or Perrier so carry your own water! The food is quite OK - we recommend the pepperoni pizza and the chicken wings if you get hungry.
Address: 37 Fuzhou Lu, near Sichuan Zhong Lu
LE CAFÉ DES STAGIARES (LCDS)
This bar is hugely popular, especially amongst the French populace in the city. LCDS, run by successful French entrepreneurs, has now grown to three branches, and soon opening their 4th - La Petanque.
The vibe at this bar is just right. China Highlights favours the one at Dagu Lu, which has a lovely open air seating, beautiful décor, and really attentive staff. Happy hours are from 4 pm to 8 pm at this branch daily. Nothing feels better than an early evening drink here - a perfect way to end your day spent exploring the city.
With beers at 35 RMB and house wines (red and white) at 20 RMB (30 RMB after happy hours), there is little doubt that you won't want to go back again. China Highlights recommends their Aperol or Campari Spritz at RMB 50 a glass. It's refreshing!
Address: 386 Dagu Lu, near Shimen Yi Lu
MINGTOWN INTERNATIONAL YOUTH HOSTEL
If you are looking for a cosy quaint bar that is not so much a bar, then this place is perfect. Somewhat hidden in a lane, with a very narrow alleyway leading to the entrance, China Highlights stumbled onto this hostel which has a two level restaurant and bar, with a pool table. A lovely outdoor seating and a laid-back ambience, this is quite a picturesque little find!
A clean space with a koi pond adding to the idyllic feel, you can have a good time enjoying a quiet afternoon or evening sipping beers that cost anywhere from 18 RMB (Tsingtao) to 38 RMB (Vedett), cocktails that cost 25 RMB and wines (starting from 55 RMB).
We found the staff to be very friendly, and recommend this spot (as opposed to the other more expensive bars at People's Square) for a few peaceful drinks before heading off to do greater things.
Address: 55 Jiangyin Rd, Huangpu
Bars on a China Highlights Shanghai Tour
On our Shanghai tours evenings are usually your own free time. We hope our suggestions help you get the most out of your Shanghai experience. Feel free to ask our knowledgeable travel advisors and guides for further assistance.