Whether you're looking for a break from pretentious drinking establishments or a proud boozing cheapskate, these popular Shanghai dives are definitely worth checking out. One night in one of these grimy taverns will leave you with a story of a lifetime.
The first place that comes to the minds of Shanghai residents when the words ‘dive bar’ are uttered. Usually frequented by college-aged punters with not-so-deep pockets for bottled beers and mixed cocktails served in steel buckets the size of your head. Graffiti is encouraged so it’s good to have some permanent markers handy.
Where: Helen's, 49 Wuchuan Lu, near Wan'an Lu
Basically Perry’s with a woman’s name. Same price, same décor, same scribbles of male private parts on the ceilings. Rumor has it that this place is so divey, you can get a table with somebody else’s leftover beer tower and the fuwuyuan will get you a glass for it. A good place to meet some locals.
Where: Windows Scoreboard, 11/F, 527 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Chegdu Lu
Now, there are several Windows in town, but the Scoreboard specifically gets a mention here just for the awesome 80s/90s music playlist that just gets everyone in the mood for some cheesy old fun. There’s a beer pong table which is great if you like your beer dipped with bar-floor-flavored ping pong ball.
Where: Harley's Underground, B1, 265 Nandan Dong Lu near Caoxi Lu
As far as dive bars are concerned, Harley’s is probably too nice to be one. Well, at least after the heavy renovation in 2016 but the dive spirit lives on. Located in the basement by the busy Nandan Dong Lu, one room is a live bar with stage and a DJ deck, and the other is for bar games i.e. pool and darts. Patrons are known to take the party outside on the sidewalk whilst enjoying convenient store beers – an added-value Harley’s experience.
Where: My Place Ruin Bar, 3rd Floor, 1788 Xinzha Lu near Jiaozhou Lu
When I Love Shanghai bar was unexpectedly shut down, two of its regulars decided to recycle what’s left of their favorite spot and opened their own dive. They renamed it (aptly), made it into a creative hub complete with open mic night, and apparently more women show up on men’s night than ladies’ night. EDIT: I Love Shanghai bar relocated to Tianzifang.
Where: C's, 685 Dingxi Lu near Fahuazhen Lu
The granddaddy of Shanghai dive bars. Located in a grimy basement, check. Marker pen Picassos, check. Bathroom in post-apocalyptic state, check. C’s has been here since the beginning of time and it’s a dive paradise for expats and locals. Dirt-cheap drinks and torn-up sofas, the house is full almost any night of the week. When you see some dude wobble his way on Dingxi Lu at 8am, you know it’s been a good night at good ol’ C’s bar.
B&C keeps it simple. Great for a quiet night, great for a rowdy night, drinks are cheap, hugs are warm, couches are comfy. Yes, they give hugs. Because hugs are nice. And it’s good to have nice things. Simple.
Where: The Shed, 698 Shaanxi Bei Lu near Kangding Lu
Import taxes be damned at The Shed because they do Kronenberg and Guinness pints for super-low prices somehow. One of those laidback, friendly neighborhood pub-n-grub, The Shed is also known for their incomparable Wednesday Night Wings, Chicken Parma Thursdays and Friday nights sausage fest.
Where: The Beaver, 28 Yueyang Lu, near Dongping Lu
One of those bars where you go for one quiet drink but end up dancing to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” on the bar at 6am. It’s easy to strike up conversations as the bar is horseshoe shaped. A big screen hangs high on the bar for you to gawk at and pretend your team is playing the third round play-off if you’re not feeling very social. Great bar name, by the way.
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