Shanghai's bar scene is thriving, and all tastes (and budgets) are well represented around the city. However, due to the constant development and rapid turnover in Shanghai, the bar scene is in a continual state of flux - bars and pubs are often closed down, renovated, or relocated.

While there are plenty of staples that will be around for a good while, it's not altogether unusual in Shanghai for bars to open and close within a matter of months.

Sports bars

If you're looking to watch any major sporting event (no matter whether it's football, basketball, American football, rugby, cricket, or whatever) there are 2 major sports bars in the city where you will more than likely be able to catch the game.

  • The Camel Sports Bar has branches in Puxi (Yuèyáng Lù/Dōngpíng Lù) and Pudong (Wéifang Xī Lù/Pǔdōng Nán Lù). Australian-owned, it's certainly your best bet for watching football, rugby and cricket, but American sports are well represented. If you want to watch a particular match, just ask one of the wait staff and they'll put it on the nearest TV for you.
  • The Big Bamboo has 3 branches in the city: one in the city centre (Nányáng Lù/Tóngrén Lù), one way out west in Hongqiao (Hóngméi Lù), and one out east in Jinqiao (Hóngfēng Lù/Bìyún Lù). These guys are by far your best bet for American sports.

Cocktail bars

Popular cocktail bars as voted by /r/shanghai include People 7, speakeasy specialist Senator Saloon and the three Japanese whisky lounges making up the Bar Constellation franchise.

Not all bars will be armed with a varied selection of different cocktail options and knowledgeable mixologists staffing the bar. Some direction may be needed when ordering; luckily Western liquor brands can be easily approximated using Chinese phonemes.

Be careful about what you drink and where you drink it. Sadly, lots of spirits and even some wine in Shanghai bars are faked using ethanol and other non-lethal-in-low-dosage substitutes. Some sources estimate [as high as 80% of the Shanghai supply is not what it claims to be. The only way to avoid this completely is to stick to higher-end, reputable bars (wherever these may be!).

If only briefly visiting Shanghai or new in town, the ritzy rooftop bars along the Bund such as Bar_Rouge, New Heights and Horizen are recommended for the view alone and serve serviceable cocktails for around 50 - 110 RMB that, given the price, should ensure you avoid fake booze.

Dive bars

Classic dive bars Windows Too, C's, and Perry's are all centrally located and will have a varied crowd of mostly expats and students. Expect cheap drinks (15-30 RMB for draught beers and house pours), dirty bathrooms, and the constant sound of dice rattling in cups.

Craft / Trappist Beer bars

The two Boxing Cat Brewery bars, the The Shanghai Brewery bars and Belgian bars such as Trappist aficionados Kaiba have quality hops bottled and on tap. Unless there's a Happy Hour special on, expect to pay over 50 RMB for a pint of fresh beer and at least 35 RMB for a bottle of craft beer.

Laowai lingo

  • 酒单 - jiǔdān - drinks menu
  • 啤酒 - píjiǔ - beer
  • 扎啤 - zhāpí - draught (tap) beer
  • 葡萄酒 - pútáojiǔ - wine
  • 烈酒 - lièjiǔ - spirits
  • 请给我一杯... - qǐng gěi wǒ yībēi... - Please give me one glass of...
  • 请给我一扎... - qǐng gěi wǒ yī zhā... - Please give me one pitcher of...
  • 请给我一瓶... - qǐng gěi wǒ yī píng... - Please give me one bottle of...
  • 莫吉托 - mòjítuō - Mojito
  • 曼哈顿 - mànhādùn - Manhattan