Wondering what the people who put together some of Shanghai’s best nights out get up to when they’re not hard at work? You'll normally find them behind the decks, strutting their stuff on stage or relentlessly planning their next big gig, but when the faces that help shape Shanghai’s nightlife aren’t busy pouring their heart and souls into music, parties and more, they – like the rest of us – are out and about making the most of the city during summer.
From swanky five-star hotels to long-running livehouses and al-fresco dining, we’ve asked a few of the figures that make after-dark Shanghai tick to share the spots they love to hang out when they do decide to take a well-deserved day-off.
Yu Yang, Co-founder of ALTER. and X Bar
Photograph: courtesy X Bar
'In the evening, I’m usually at our space on Donghu Lu, X Bar, for cocktails, chat, music and dancing. It’s down an alley with a chill yet industrial vibe that really reminds me of my old neighbourhood in Brooklyn. The dancefloor is filled with groove and dance moves led by different local promoters playing everything from ’70s disco to Italo to minimal to techno. With disco balls hanging, neon lights shining, records spinning, cocktails and natural wines flowing – that’s how I like to end my day/ night in Shanghai.'
Photograph: Cat Nelson
'Start the day with brunch at The Commune Social. It’s chic (designed by Neri & Hu), it’s got an ever-changing seasonal menu of fusion Spanish tapas and an intimate yet lively vibe. If you’re lucky enough to snag a seat in the courtyard in the summer, you’re in for a treat of beautiful sun, red brick and lush trees; and of course, high-quality and beautifully presented food. I’ve probably been 20 to 30 times – I can read their menu better than a map of Shanghai!'
Lingshi Lu Second Hand Market
Photograph: Yu Yang
'Another of my go-to haunts in the summer is the second-hand market on Lingshi Lu. It’s an old school Chinese market with a million small shops run by old Chinese ladies where gems are hidden in mountains of old clothes and bags. Go digging and you might be surprised with what you find – I’ve found some solid leather jackets, YSL coats, Issey Miyake shirts, Cartier sunglasses, etc. I could easily spend a whole afternoon here either with friends or by myself, and get most of the pleasure from digging.'
Voision Xi, Jazz vocalist, Little Happiness Group
'Jazz is the perfect soundtrack to a sultry summer evening in Shanghai, and it was at this live club that my love story with live music really started to blossom. JZ has moved three times, and while not everyone loves the look of its latest iteration, it’s never slowed down – over nearly 20 years, so many musicians have shared their talents on the signature red stage (including me!).'
Photograph: courtesy Elevator
'Although I don’t go to this underground club every weekend, I’m just so happy every time I do. A night out at Elevator is always a chance to listen to loads of music I haven’t heard before and dance a lot! The vibe here is high-energy and totally free – definitely in part thanks to one of the core personalities behind it, Mau Mau, who’s a big reason why so many people love this place.'
Lina K, resident DJ at Celia
Photograph: courtesy Pasha
'On a sunny summer’s day, you can’t beat brunch on the terrace at Pasha. The food – which is mostly Turkish – is fantastic, with plenty of choices for vegetarians, meat lovers and kids. There’s the signature kebab plates, Turkish pizzas, hummus and of course ayran as well as famous Turkish tea and coffee. Plus, the terrace set up means kids can play without leaving your sight, and there’s a separate baby playroom for little ones on the first floor.'
Photograph: courtesy Celia
'Celia’s been a home to lots of underground music lovers for many years – I don’t know anyone who hasn’t spent a crazy night/early morning there. What’s cool about it firstly is its soundsystem – for me, still the best in town. Secondly, it’s the music. Over the years we’ve managed to keep the place packed playing only good quality deep house, melodic house, techno and raw techno. The vibe is all about connecting people through dancing and supporting local artists. It will always be my second home.'
Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe
'Changfeng Park isn’t as popular as its neighbour Zhongshan Park, but that’s why I love it. It’s pretty big with lots to do, especially with kids – like a lake where you can rent a boat or catamaran and an old school amusement park with rides that my son and I are crazy about. There are also three or so fields where your kids can run wild as you enjoy a picnic and a glass of cold white wine with friends. Most importantly though, it’s generally a super green space that allows you to walk freely which is key when you have little’uns who just want to step everywhere.'
Sishen, Events Manager at Inferno
Photograph: courtesy LOFAS
'LOFAS is a livehouse just out of the inner circle, near the West Bund. It’s run by a solid dude named Rex. It’s the perfect mid-sized venue, with a giant-ass screen for big-ass shows or events. Like everything, from jazz bands to metal shows, punk shows, indie film screenings, art exhibits and even fashion shows (well I saw one once, but like totally by accident I swear!). Plus, it also has a sweet beer selection.'
Photograph: courtesy Shanghai Tattoo
'I go to like four places in the city these days and only one of them I’m ever at in daytime – mainly because I’m either working or in a deep booze coma during anti-vampire hours. Anyways, that place is Shanghai Tattoo. It’s got a nice sized rooftop, where we drink, chill and occasionally barbecue. Inside, they have an actual bar (albeit skeletal in selection), a pool table, usually metal tunes playing and a sick macabre atmosphere. It’s pretty much a daytime Inferno. Also it's a great place to meet people from every walk of life, you meet anyone from travellers (well during non-pandemic times), English teachers (yeah that can be anywhere), freaks, hippies, entrepreneurs, to clean-cut CEOs getting full shibari back pieces.'
Photograph: courtesy Inferno
'Inferno is my passion and love. I do the events there – all for free – just as a hobby/ passion project. For those who’ve somehow never heard of it, it’s a metal dive bar, with the friendliest metalheads in the world. It’s a haven for not only metal lovers, but all alternate cultures: for freaky people and, of course, hopeless alcoholics. We’ve recently been nerding out with D&D, video game tournaments and our weekly Smash Bros night. But, we’re also been unabashedly into theme nights like goth, pirate, steampunk, Viking, cosplay, beach, evil carnival and a bunch of other stuff. In the summer it’s like a cold nourishing cave to get away from the merciless Shanghai heat.'
Duoji, Co-founder of HUNT
Photograph: courtesy Barbarossa
'Set in the middle of People’s Square Park by a beautiful lake with a view overlooking the Shanghai History Museum and JW Marriott Hotel, paired with its Middle Eastern decor and amazing shisha and drinks, Barbarossa’s balcony and terrace are impossible to resist for a romantic date night as the sun sets.'
Photograph: courtesy HUNT
'Rain or shine, I usually hang out in the garden at my place, HUNT. Fitted out with comfy seats and serving coffee, shisha and food from Pie Society during the day, the café is the LGBT summer’s day hangout.'
Meilihua Garden Pool
'Our go-to in the summer, the pool at the Meilihua compound is decent and clean, prices are good and it’s less crowded than other pools – especially during weekdays.'
Sheree Antoinette, vocalist around Shanghai
W Shanghai - The Bund
Photograph: courtesy W Shanghai
'The W Hotel is more of an experience than your typical hotel stay. Immediately upon entering, it’s abundantly clear why it’s so unique and unlike most hotels in Shanghai – I feel a bit like royalty each and every time I visit. It’s a wonderfully stimulating hotel experience that’s anything but boring. The W Hotel is more of an experience than your typical hotel stay. Immediately upon entering, it’s abundantly clear why it’s so unique and unlike most hotels in Shanghai – I feel a bit like royalty each and every time I visit. It’s a wonderfully stimulating hotel experience that’s anything but boring and drab. There’s always something cool happening with restaurants, events, parties and amazing views, plus the staff are diverse and friendly. Any visit here, whether for events, brunch with friends, or staycation is a guaranteed amazing time.'
Photograph: courtesy Hatsune
'Hatsune is one of the few restaurants in Shanghai that I’ve visited more than once and it’s my top choice for whenever I want to satisfy my sushi cravings. It’s an awesome spot for anyone looking to enjoy some great sushi and refreshing summer cocktails without breaking the bank. The understated ambience and intimate vibe are a welcome retreat from the busy and chaotic iapm mall in which it is located and it’s also an excellent day/evening dining option for meet-ups with friends, a quick bite for lunch or a relaxing date night.'
'I generally perform soul, funk and blues music, but I’m also a hip-hop head. Whenever I need to get my hip-hop fix at a proper rap music spot with live DJs, I take a trip over to Ninja. It’s a no-frills venue that reminds me of the hip-hop clubs I frequented as a young adult. It’s always a treat to go and check out my fellow ‘Atl-ien’ homie DJ Big Kerm turn up on the ones and twos, especially when he blesses the crowd with a few of my hometown Atlanta hip-hop classics. I love Ninja’s gritty and raw energy and it’s awesome to go there and witness the impact of American hip-hop culture on the local lovers of the genre.'
Brian Offenther, DJ BO
Photograph: Cat Nelson
'Every summer there tends to be the ‘it’ stretch of town that attracts day-drinkers, loafers, roustabouts and other assorted top citizens. Over the years, it’s shifted all over the map. Julu has Found 158, some might remember when The Rooster and co ruled the Yongkang coop, and others might go all the way back to the JZ line along Yongfu Lu. This year, my bet is on Shankang Li. Right along the Shaanxi Lu expressway is this new and varied pedestrian area that’s perfect for a date, hang or dog walk. It’s sandwiched on either end with two top-notch establishments (with plenty of outdoor seating): Homeslice Pizza is a can’t miss and the other end has Bubba’s BBQ.'
Photograph: Tom Collier
'There’s a line in the sand that divides the men from the Shanghairen: the name of the rock music concert haven that sits at the corner of Kaixuan Lu and Yanan Lu – YYT Number One? YYT-OG? Shanghai’s best rock music venue? All those are true (even if it did have earlier locations) but for the long-term diehards it’s just YYT – Yuyintang if you’re fancy. And for a decade, there’s always the show that defines the summer: sometimes it’s tied to a band break-up or an album release, or a going-away party. Regardless, when the amps buzz on, the energy in that hot sweatbox flares up and the stars align, it’s a defining annual experience.'
Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station
‘The Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station is a place you might not always think of going, but hopefully will end up. Make your way up the stairs from the subway station, through the turnstiles and then up two flights, and there it is. You'll present your passport or ID and then you're in the main hub. The station has its amenities: open seating, restaurants, restrooms, convenience stores, and ATMs. But don't stop there…literally. Get yourself on a train and hit the road. Go get yourself in trouble. After all, what is summer for?’
Bai, bassist around Shanghai
Photograph: courtesy Hippie Music
'As a musician, one of my favourite places to hang out is Hippie Music in Tonglefang – it’s actually where my boyfriend took me on our first date. It’s a laid-back music store and café, and a great spot for music lovers to spend a few hours thanks to its solid range of instruments and accessories – including a load of non-mainstream mono amps as well as software demos you can trial, like NI (Native Instruments). The owner Sue makes coffee, pours the wine/beers, connects the wires and hands over guitar picks – most importantly, she doesn’t put any pressure on you when you try out the instruments.'
'When I’m looking for a space to escape Shanghai’s summer heat, long-running and blissfully AC’d Japanese music instrument shop Ishibashi is always on my list. One of the main highlights is its selection of second-hand instruments and monoblocks – with a bit of luck, you’ll find good vintage items at reasonable prices. The second highlight is the service, the staff are always very attentive without putting on the pressure and they’re happy to let you try out all kinds of instruments. Every time I go, I can’t help but stay for a long time.'
'There’s really no bad time of year to feel the heat at this Sichuan restaurant. Take the time to have a chat with the owner KT (if you catch him at the right time, you might get free shots).'
Charley Utton, Co-founder of Elevate
'I’m more of a street rat than a sophisticate. I’ll take a 19RMB bottle of soju on a random curb over a 100RMB cocktail that’s only going to last me five minutes any day of the week... I could name 100 great streetside drinking spots, but here are a few of my summer favourites.'
Photograph: courtesy DrinKuadi
'A brick-and-mortar incarnation of the eponymous boozy delivery service, DrinKuaidi is within reach of the Fumin Lu hullabaloo but without the sky-high prices. The staff are super friendly and serve up a strong G&T for 35RMB. It’s a nice starting off point and, if you want to do some people watching, you can always take your drink and wander down to Changle 624. There, you can get a load of rich faux-skater types in plain white tees squat down and drink beers on the sidewalk after stepping out of their Lamborghinis.'
Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler
'One of the few parks in the city centre with a huge lawn that you’re allowed to laze about on. In spring it’s great for daytime picnics, but the oppressive heat in summer can render that option unpalatable come July and August. Lucky for us the park’s open 24 hours, so at nighttime, when things cool off, it’s a great place to go with a few bottles of wine, a speaker and some of the vagrants you choose to call friends.'
Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler
The less-hip version of Changle 624. You can buy spirits and mixers at just a hair over cost-price here and they’ll give you glasses to quaff from, and stools to perch on. It’s a bottle shop, similar to many others that have popped up in the area, but with the added benefit of a bathroom (well, a closet with a toilet). It’s conveniently located for any next step in the night – it tends to be my go-to before heading to 151 for some lovely techno, X Bar for some disco goodness or Elevator for whatever they have going on that night.'