From the historic facade of the Bund and the leafy former French concession, through to the glittering futuristic Lujiazui skyline, Shanghai has a reputation as a city that never sleeps, with a nightlife that’s at once nostalgic and vibrant; local and international.
And what better way to sample the city at night than by relaxing in a bar with a glass of wine, a beer or a cocktail?
A pleasant drink and a fantastic view form the perfect combination, and it’s true that the higher you climb in Shanghai, the more majestic the skyline becomes.
Most of the rooftop bars in town are found in five-star hotels offering a quiet and private ambience.
Hotel bars seek to stand out from the crowd through extensive drinks menus. From wines picked by sommeliers to cocktails by creative mixologists, serious whisky to a thirst-quenching beer, you’re sure to find something to suit everyone’s tastes.
That extends to food too, with wider menus on offer than at many bars.
And last, but certainly not least, while they can’t compare on price to a dive bar, five-star hotel bars are not as expensive as many people imagine — provided you go at the right time and take advantage of promotions.
This week, we visit five Shanghai hotel bars offering different drinking experiences — from an American-style sports bar to a watering hole that boasts an impressive champagne and whisky cocktail menu; from a live performance of Shanghai jazz to a rooftop bar offering one of the most spectacular views in town.
Room with a view
The Panorama Bar at JW Marriott Hotel Changfeng Park features — as the name promises — panoramic windows offering a 270-degree view.
At sunset, patrons can enjoy the view of Changfeng Park, its lake surrounded by thick forest. And when the sky darkens, the night view of the Hongqiao skyline becomes the main attraction.
The bar is known for its classic cocktails, fine wines and cigars. Its three latest cocktails include Fly Beyond (88 yuan+15%, US$14) — featuring a fruity flavor and floral note, and aimed at female customers. A more masculine option, say bar staff, is Stone Lions (88 yuan+15%), a mix of gin and vodka, while Gilded (88 yuan+15%), mixes whisky and vermouth.
For that added touch of luxury, the bar offers a cigar and wine pairing service.
And if you’ve a sweet tooth, the sweet box (188 yuan + 15%) includes nine different desserts.
Pay 128 yuan for free flow of selected wines, cocktails, mocktails and snacks every Friday from 5:30pm to 8pm.
Venue: Panorama Bar, JW Marriott Hotel Changfeng Park
Opening hours: Mon-Sat, 5pm-11:30pm
Address: 33/F, 158 Daduhe Rd
This rooftop terrace bar provides a place where you can watch sunset and then take in the night view of the Lupu Bridge spanning the Huangpu River.
A diverse drink list covers wines from world-famous producing areas, numerous beers and 30 whiskies.
“Cocktail menu highlights include Marriott Fire (88yuan+15%), made from my home recipe, and a classic Bloody Mary,” says bar manager Yeely Zhao.
“I add a personal touch when making cocktails — bridging life with spirits,” adds the bartender.
The bar offers signature homemade Indian vegetable samosa (48 yuan+15%), cheese platter (98 yuan+15%) and pizza (98 yuan+15%).
The bar is open with happy hour every day from 5pm to 8pm , offering “buy one get one free” promotions.
Venue: Yu Bar, Shanghai Marriott Hotel Luwan
Opening hours: Tue-Sat, 5pm-1am
Address: 28-29/F, 99 Jiangbin Rd
Xuan Bar, at Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai, opened last year and prides itself on offering a vibrant, fun experience. Its concept is inspired by English writer GK Chesterton, who says, “drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable.”
To encourage this, the ambience and decor echo the bar name “Xuan” — which means bright colors with a touch of vibrancy in Chinese — with glass and acrylic contrasting with old timber.
“It’s a comfortable place with energy, somewhere sophisticated but not pretentious,” says manager Sammie Liu.
The most popular seats are on the outdoor terrace, where guests can watch the Xintiandi street scene.
The bar offers a long menu of whisky-based cocktails — 11 in all — made from 18-year-old Chivas Regal Scotch whisky. The most popular is Chivas sour (95 yuan+15%), mixing whisky and lime juice for an intense and vibrant experience.
Champagne cocktails are another Xuan specialty, all featuring Perrier Jouet Brut as the base.
The bar also offers authentic British roast. Its three-course set (88 yuan) is good value, including a daily soup, a roast main course from three options, and a hot dessert.
Females with a thirst should head along on Wednesdays, for between 5pm and 9pm there’s ladies night (or rather evening) with free flow of two selected whisky cocktails.
Xuan also has among the longest happy hours in Shanghai — offering two-for-one drinks from 5pm to 9pm daily.
The Jazz Bar in the Fairmont Peace Hotel is the only place in town where you can still catch Shanghai jazz — a distinctive local musical genre created in the 1930s that combines Dixieland with Chinese folk music.
The nostalgic performance by six veteran musicians is complemented by a selection of classic drinks, epitomized by two cocktails — Shanghai and Peace — created 50 years ago by renowned mixologist Jin Bao Lin.
The former (158 yuan+15%), inspired by classic cocktail Martini, features gin and orange liqueur Cointreau. Its creator described the target customer as “a high-class gentleman in an elite cigar lounge.”
Peace (158 yuan+15%), inspired by the famous Manhattan cocktail, is said to offer a more feminine option, featuring Chinese osmanthus wine to give a floral fragrance and subtle sweetness.
This is the place to go with a lover, dance to local jazz and experience a fleeting glimpse of 1930s Shanghai.
Venue: The Jazz Bar, Fairmont Peace Hotel
Opening hours: Daily, 5pm-2am
Address: 20 Nanjing Rd E.
Champions Bar, at Shanghai Marriott Hotel Hongqiao, claims that it’s a winner every time with sports fans, offering a place where they can sup draught beer and other drinks while catching live events.
And to ensure that there’s plenty of choice of viewing, there are 34 big-screen TVs broadcasting national and international fixtures.
Sports memorabilia, plus a billiard table and foosball table create a relaxed and playful ambience. Highlights in a long list of draught beers include Franziskaner Dark (78 yuan+15%) and Weihenstephan Original (78 yuan+15%).
Signature cocktails Cosmopolitan (vodka, lime and cranberry juice) (78 yuan+15%) and Mojitos (rum, lime, soda and fresh mint) (78 yuan+15%) are also popular.
Bar tender Alex Teng is a sports fan who likes to talk with customers about his favorite teams.
Meal highlights include the stone oven baked pizza and Tyson’s Burger (288 yuan+15%) named after general manager Tyson Bae— a beefburger weighing 2kg and standing 35 centimeters tall.
Those brave enough to tackle this gargantuan meatfest needn’t pay if they finish it within two hours.
Happy hour is from 5pm to 8:30pm, during which customers buying a glass of house wine and a tiger burger and get one free food and drink.
Venue: Champions Bar, Shanghai Marriott Hotel Hongqiao