Shanghai’s Kee Club is set in a 1920s villa and styled like a private home.// © 2014 KEE Club
When the stars come out in Shanghai, the fast-paced, entrepreneurial energy of the city takes over local clubs and bars, which stay open as long as the spirits and renminbi keep flowing. And with venues grouped close together along select drags and in popular nightlife districts, bar hopping is the norm rather than the exception.
Over cocktails at the elegant Kee Club — set in a 1920s villa on Huaihai Road, the Rodeo Drive of Shanghai — I solicited the experienced opinion of Shanghainese socialite Tsunjen Chang for tips on where to go after-hours in her city of 24 million. Before my high-end pub crawl commenced, Chang insisted I finish my Kee Chi Chi, the club’s signature cocktail based on a mojito. No need to twist my arm with that request.
On the eastern bank of the Huangpu River, Chang recommended ascending more than 50 floors to Flair at The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong. The bar offers indoor and outdoor seating, plus incredible views of the Bund across the water. The Flair Experience is Chang’s drink of choice — a cocktail comprised of mango puree and whiskey. After that, it was time to traverse the river to find a different scene.
As I continued my exploration of Shanghai after dark, other locals and ex-pats put in their two cents. For most, M on the Bund belongs on the must-visit list. Opened in 1999, the sophisticated venue rests at the pinnacle of the Nissin Shipping Building, which dates back to 1921. Gastronomes and budding mixologists can relish in a menu of international fare and drink while taking in the twinkling lights of the surrounding city.
Nearby, Lost Heaven features Yunnanese cuisine, and its Lost Heaven Lounge serves cocktails blended with Yunnan tea. These pair well with the hypnotic beats of DJs, who are often mixing creations inspired by Tibetan, Dai, Bai, Yi and Miao culture.
Other late-night hangouts along this historic embankment include Long Bar in the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund and Vue Bar in the Hyatt on the Bund Hotel Shanghai. At Long Bar, a reproduction of a once-famed Shanghai club, dark wood panels and furnishings welcome cocktail and Cuban cigar aficionados. Vue Bar, located on the 32nd and 33rd floors of the Hyatt, is known for the mesmerizing vistas it offers — there’s even an open-air terrace with daybeds and a hot tub, should guests want to unwind here, cocktail in hand.
Karaoke, Jazz and Beyond
Shanghai has rediscovered its jazz heritage in recent years, and the JZ Club has emerged as the go-to venue for live performances. Every sub-group of the genre, from classic blues to big band, swing tunes and Latino jazz, is welcome to the stage here, and the club boasts a show every day of the year.
Travelers into the electronic music scene will also find plenty of worthy destinations in Shanghai. Often times DJs mix their magic at clubs such as M1NT, an upscale, singular establishment with uniformed waiters and a glowing shark tank. For something more casual, large-scale concert halls such as Mao Livehouse host international and local talent.
For those who want to make their own music, or at least attempt it, they can join the throngs of locals that sing their hearts out at the hundreds of Karaoke TV clubs — also known as KTVs — that dot the city. I recommend enjoying libations elsewhere first. Taking the stage alongside Shanghai’s formidable party-goers might require some liquid courage.