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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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Yugong Yishan, Beijing

Rock-'n'-rollers hang out at this relaxed, grotty dive, known as the city's best spot for live music. The cheap beer, pool table, rickety stage, and empty...more

see the Beijing guide
Editors' Pick
Yucca

Brash, bold, and colorful, just like modern Shanghai, David Laris's Yucca evokes elements of a Frida Kahlo dreamscape, a 1960s Latino movie set, and a...more

see the Shanghai guide
Editors' Pick
YongFoo Élite, Shanghai

A magical garden aglow with paper lanterns surrounds this grand French Concession villa, at times home to the Russian, Vietnamese, and British consulates. The...more

see the Shanghai guide
Editors' Pick
Xiu, Beijing

If you're looking to hobnob with Memoirs of a Geisha actress Gong Li or Tom Ford, head to the super-luxe Park Hyatt's Xiu, which steamrollered Beijing's...more

see the Beijing guide
Editors' Pick
World of Suzie Wong, Beijing

Inspired by the 1960s film of the same name, Suzie Wong's attracts a late-night crowd of guys and gals on the prowl. The slick multilevel bar and lounge has an...more

see the Beijing guide
Editors' Pick
White Rabbit

It's all about the music at this sparsely decorated underground club. Forget posturing superstar DJs and starchitect design: White Rabbit is a serious...more

see the Beijing guide
Editors' Pick
Vue

Designed by in-demand Japanese firm Super Potato, Hyatt on the Bund's top-floor lounge bar is exotically styled as an upscale vineyard. Dressed in blond woods,...more

see the Shanghai guide
Editors' Pick
Volar, Hong Kong

Lan Kwai Fong, Central's entertainment district, is chockablock with clubs and night owls—but the sprawling, subterranean Volar sets itself apart from the...more

see the Hong Kong guide
Editors' Pick
Top Deck at Jumbo, Hong Kong

An open-air lounge with pale wood and all-weather Dedon furniture, Top Deck is (surprise!) the top deck at Jumbo, a floating Chinese...more

see the Hong Kong guide
Editors' Pick
Stone Boat Bar, Beijing

This tiny, tranquil watering hole on the edge of an artificial lake in Ritan Park is the perfect place for a summer-evening cocktail. Grab an outdoor table,...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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