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China nightlife

The nightlife scene in China is evolving quickly, absorbing and copying styles, fashions, and musical cultures from the around the globe—and sprinkling in a few uniquely Chinese characteristics. The nightlife capital is Shanghai, where sky-high lounges created by international designers and megaclubs with imported DJs cater to an affluent mix of locals and expats. Beijing, too, is rapidly developing its once moribund after-dark scene, with a swath of glitzy venues opening in the pre-Olympic period, many of them imported from Shanghai and Hong Kong. Beijing's own unique strength is its thriving live-music scene, ranging from indie rock to hip-hop and punk.

As disposable wealth increases across China's east coast and in inland centers such as Chengdu, Xi'an, Kunming, and Chongqing, new bars and clubs are opening (and closing) at a dizzying pace. And this is, in some way, the charm of a night out in metropolitan China: Shanghai and Beijing apart, the scene is still disarmingly immature, but infused with passionate energy and optimistic hedonism.

Some things are different in China, however. In many cities, bars demand a high reservation fee for tables, especially those in the best see-and-be-seen spots. The most popular bars are increasingly located in carefully planned bar districts, often adjacent to shopping malls. Karaoke is also an intrinsic part of an evening's entertainment, especially if you are partying with local friends. But wherever you are, avoid the temptation to join a bai jiu drinking session. This local firewater has been the ruin of many an unsuspecting foreigner.

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Apothecary

This lounge offshoot of the Beijing original reproduces classic and rare cocktails with reverential precision. All the bitters, tinctures, and fruit syrups are...more

see the Shanghai guide
Editors' Pick
Azure, Hong Kong

The 29th-floor penthouse restaurant at Hotel LKF feels like a Hong Kong power couple's living room, with velvety couches, lacquered low-slung tables, and plenty...more

see the Hong Kong guide
Editors' Pick
Babyface, Beijing

Beijing's moneyed hipsters congregate at this upscale nightclub, to swill Chivas-and-green-tea cocktails and groove to a techno beat. The see-and-be-seen...more

see the Beijing guide
Editors' Pick
Bar Rouge, Shanghai

Shanghai's classiest cocktail lounge draws a hip clientele with its sexy bordello-red decor and lively dancing. Behind the bar, skilled mixologists deftly toss...more

see the Shanghai guide
Editors' Pick
Bed Bar, Beijing

Set on a hutong alley in a traditional courtyard house, this softly lit bar and tapas restaurant is furnished with traditional Chinese kang beds (more like...more

see the Beijing guide
Editors' Pick
Cloud 9, Shanghai

Though the skyscrapers of Pudong hold little allure for visitors, they do have one major attraction: stunning views. Perched atop the world's fifth-tallest...more

see the Shanghai guide
Editors' Pick
Cotton Club, Shanghai

This informal candlelit venue is one of Shanghai's longest-running jazz and blues clubs, and it continues to showcase the tightest performers in town. The bar...more

see the Shanghai guide
Editors' Pick
Décolleté, Beijing

Secreted in a former machinery and electrical plant, Décolleté has added much-needed sophistication to Sanlitun. The first true champagne bar to...more

see the Beijing guide
Editors' Pick
Dragon-I, Hong Kong

It serves a tasty dim sum for lunch, but Dragon-I is better known as one of the city's plushest nightspots. Its rich red walls, banquettes, and...more

see the Hong Kong guide
Editors' Pick
Face

This sultry lounge and multicuisine restaurant is located in a refurbished school building. The stunning interior is infused with Southeast Asian spirituality,...more

see the Beijing guide
Editors' Pick
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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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