The best dive bars in Shanghai

From back alleys to graffitied dungeons, here’s where to go for cheap booze and good times

Photograph: courtesy D Darts Bar
Shanghai’s never-ending glow-up may be going as strong as ever, but it’s not all glitzy malls and restaurant complexes quite yet. There’s a clutch of old school dive bars still hanging on. These no-frills spots (mostly in tucked away in Changning) cater to eclectic crowds of dedicated regulars. If you’re after a cheaper, less sanitised alternative to Shanghai’s cocktail bars and lounges, look no further.


C’s is the mother of all Shanghai dive bars. For more than 20 years, it’s hosted many of Shanghai’s best DJs and bands, never losing its seedy integrity. Once you find the backdoor entrance, climb down the stairs and you’ll find a seemingly endless labyrinth of graffitied corridors. But it won’t be long to find the bar and dancefloor in the centre, where DJs and bands play most weekends with no cover charge. Depending on the night, you might hear techno, reggae, or rock. If the music isn’t for you, wander down one of the hallways to find a corner to chat or play dice while drinking a 30RMB mojito. 

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685 Dingxi Lu


Think of 233 as C’s low-key cousin. Just as cavernous, but replace the dice and dancefloor with cats, couches and Street Fighter II. Wander in on a random weeknight and you might find locals frying up aubergine on a hot plate and competitive games of darts and pool. With two full bars, refrigerators full of beer and taps in nearly every room, 233 most certainly has what you need for a night out without emptying your wallet. Go for their craft beer on tap, which comes in at 40 to 55RMB a pint. 

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233 Xuanhua Lu

Pine Tree House

In the best possible sense, drinking at Pine Tree feels like you’ve left Shanghai and been dropped straight into a Tier Three city. Tucked away on a grungy side street, Pine Tree’s regulars come for its shisha, cheap booze and friendly staff. The music, like the crowd, is eclectic and if you get to know the owner, he might let you DJ on a quiet night. Its outrageously cheap happy hour deal is the real draw though – for 138RMB, you get free-flow cocktails from 6pm to 2am any night of the week. Need something to line your stomach? The food is also surprisingly good for how affordable it is. Be sure to try the pad Thai and cheese sticks while you’re there.

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55 Yangzhai Lu


A punk rock bar with a Goth and glittery twist, Specters draws in a very eclectic crowd. The bar plays anything from hardcore punk to Motown pop and hosts live bands and indie short film nights. Stop by on a Tuesday for 25RMB beers or for the bar’s monthly Choker night for some shocking performances by Shanghai’s best drag talents. 

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753 Yuyuan Lu

D Darts Bar

This inconspicuous late-night spot is a favourite among Japanese expats and may soon become everybody’s favourite. As the name suggests, the two-storey bar has a range of games you can play on its electronic darts machines. Part of its charm is the regulars, who are generally more than happy to teach newbies how to play. Whisky fans will be happy with their wide range of bourbon, Japanese whisky and malt whisky. For a budget night out, you can opt for Asahi or Kirin for 35RMB.

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909 Fahuazhen Lu

My Place Ruin Bar

If you’ve ended your night here and have no idea how to find it again, you’re not alone. Tucked away on the third floor of an old building in the heart of Jingan, this bar is a great place to spend or end the night. The spacious bar has a pool table and a friendly crowd of regulars. If you miss the daily happy hour from 6pm to 9pm, try the signature Weng Weng, a mix of vodka, gin, rum, tequila, brandy and scotch (yes, you read correctly).

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1788 Xinzha Lu

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