Shanghai's best quiet gay bars

Our guide to the relaxed side of Shanghai's gay nightlife

Where do you go for a night out when you're not in the mood for meat market clubbing? Anna Leach visits five of the chillest gay venues

Best overall: Eddy's Bar

No round-up of the city’s gay watering holes would be complete without Eddy’s Bar. Shanghai’s original gay bar, Eddy’s first opened on Weihai Lu in 1995 and has been in its current Huaihai Lu location since 2002. It’s as popular as ever and it’s not hard to see why – with its industrial chic meets mish-mash Chinese decor (trust us it works), it’s the coolest looking bar on this list. Add to that the efficient and hospitable service (punters are regularly shown to their seats) and you have an appealiing set up.

The drinks menu is decent and affordable with beers (Tsingtao, Tiger and Budweiser/30RMB), half a dozen wines (Chilean red 60RMB/glass, 360RMB/bottle) and cocktails (strong Long Island iced tea/60RMB). Another reason Eddy’s is so popular, as well as the standard issue gay bar music of pop remixes, is its close proximity to the city’s most popular LGBT club, Shanghai Studio, which is just opposite at 1950 Huaihai Zhong Lu.

See address details

Best for girls: Focus Club

Café by day, lesbian bar by night, Focus Club offers ladies an alternative gathering place to bars with pounding house music and flashing disco lights. Middle-aged women play cards, chat and meet a girlfriend or two in the brightly-lit space with matching purple velour drapes and seating. Two striking abstract paintings of beautiful women inherited from Eddy’s Bar (Eddy used to be a partner here) adorn the walls as do black and white portraits of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Vivien Leigh.

Owner Xiao Xin acts as a mother hen to the regulars, consoling them after break-ups and listening to tales of discrimination in the work place. ‘They like it here because they can talk and get to know each other before they decide they want to go out together,’ she says. ‘It’s not like bars where people decide to go home with each other purely because they like the look of each other.’

Xiao Xin says the women who come to Focus are mainly in their thirties and forties but while we’re there two women in their twenties turn up – one travelling through and one local. They both sit with Xiao Xin as she knits and chat over apple juice and coffee. It’s quiet on weekdays but at the weekend around forty women come here, mostly Chinese but with the occasional foreigner.

Soft drinks seem like the preferred choice for most patrons but Focus does serve beer (30RMB), cocktails (40-45RMB), and wine (260-380RMB/bottle), as well as pasta (35RMB), sandwiches (30RMB) and ice cream (32-35RMB).

See address details

Best for friends: Mini Pink

Mini Pink is like a house party in two rooms, with the back one filled with furniture, a loud group playing games and two guys canoodling on a sofa in the corner. The focal point is definitely the bar though, which features a fair selection of cheap and tasty cocktails (50RMB).

It’s a warm and friendly place that feels like a gay version of Cheers – by the end of the night everybody knows your name and, with a maximum capacity of 20 people, it’s not hard to remember theirs too. The look is red lighting with quirky furnishings – the ubiquitous lamp where the ‘on’ switch is a little boy’s willy, and a kitsch painting of a fox and her cub, for example – with the obligatory Lady Gaga on the stereo.

The house party feel is compounded by having to ring a doorbell to get in. ‘Mini Pink’ is stencilled in capitals on the wall outside but, while cheery owner Dran Zhu insists he doesn’t restrict who gets in, the first time we tried there was no response. The friendly welcome and relaxed vibe make it worth persevering however.

See address details

Best for cocktails: Rice Bar

Rice Bar is a lively place with guys packed around the small L-shaped bar and guys and girls crowded into two small seating areas on the left playing dice. They’re mostly here for the great cocktails, as well as the chic Japanese men who populate the bar. Try the super smooth, sweet but not sickly lychee martini (60RMB) with two elegant slithers of lemon rind. Also, check out Rice Bar’s website for their quarterly 100RMB open bar nights.

See address details

Best for romance: Transit Lounge

With a warm red glow, corner sofas to snuggle up on and tasteful design elements, such as the strings of red lanterns, Transit Lounge makes the ideal spot for a quiet drink with a special someone. With ten tables in the bar and a separate, curtained off seating area, you should have no trouble finding a seat with at least a little privacy.

Drinks prices are reasonable with beers for 40RMB and cocktails for 50-60RMB, and the music is relaxed and suitably loungey. The Japanese owner opened the bar with a Chinese friend four years ago and it attracts a mixed Japanese and Chinese crowd. But whoever you’re mixing with, Transit Lounge is a relaxing spot to mix in.

See address details

See more bars & clubs