New York isn’t the only city that never sleeps. It’s hard to pick your poison in Shanghai, which has an exciting, diverse nightlife. Most visitors automatically associate the best of Shanghai nightlife with the Bund, home to famous names like Bar Rouge and M1NT. But those stalwarts are starting to lose their luster. With exception of Unico, many party spots on the Bund lack the cool crowd, energy, and originality of smaller venues like Lola. Shanghai’s best nightclubs are actually low-key lounges that gradually crank up the volume and tempo throughout the night. Sometime after midnight, the intimate Monkey Champagne lounge transforms itself from a somewhat tame animal into a beast of a throwdown. Another night-owl favorite is the European nightclub Hollywood, which is known to stay open well after the sun rises. It’s a pity this list can’t include the recently-shuttered No. 88—the totally insane, quintessential Chinese nightclub complete with strobe lights, dance stages with hydraulic lifts and tables filled with rowdy locals rattling dice. Fortunately, you can still get a taste of the wildness at Richy or Rich Baby.
Lola is the place where you can take of your tie, stay late, and let loose with a very cool European crowd. Nights kick off relatively quietly in the tapas bar and lounge, but gradually pick up pace throughout the night. By midnight, the lounge evolves into a packed nightclub, especially when Lola flies in famous DJs to crank up killer dance parties with their state-of-the-art sound system.
Monkey Champagne is the recently revamped version of the once-secret Monkey Lounge. The old lounge had a hidden entrance down Donghu Lane; today visitors just beeline it straight to an entrance at the back of the restaurant Dakota. Monkey Champagne has over-the-top decor and wildly expensive drinks, including premium whiskies and of course champagne. With DJs spinning an infectious top-40 hip hop mix, this smaller lounge fills its private tables with a young, fun, cash-rich crowd of locals and foreigners.
Following the success of its inaugural Patong Beach club in Thailand, Hollywood opened its second “Italian-style discotheque” in Shanghai in 2011. Today, the popular nightclub is where late night revelers throw all caution to the wind. The small dance floor stays crowded with a young international crowd—especially students—until the sun starts to rise.
Co-owned by a floppy-haired DJ and purveyor of Shanghai’s oldest gay bar Studio, 390 is an energetic crossover venue that is part lounge, part nightclub and part live music venue. The crowd at 390 is also a mixed bag. While 390 is officially LGBT-friendly, it attracts an even split of gay and straight people who like its great music, easygoing atmosphere, and affordable drinks.