When I lived in Shenzhen, I spent a lot of time in bars.
A combination of an eclectic mix of places to drink and the cheap price of alcohol made going out a few times a week very easy. When I first moved to China, I found that going out was ultimately my bread and butter. I had a very minimal grasp on the Mandarin language, and I was getting tired of simply studying it all the time. So, I started going out a lot, and making friends with locals as I went. It proved to be exceedingly lucrative in learning the language with ease. Within a few months, I went from a very low grasp of the language to having a pretty wide vocabulary. I had an excellent group of friends, both foreign and Chinese, to share in these experiences with. Because in China, going out to the club is not just about partying and having a good time – there is a lot more there to experience, and some of it directly benefits you if you are a foreigner, especially if you are trying to learn more about the culture and language. So I decided to compile a list of my favourite places in Shenzhen to spend time drinking at. (And, as always, excellent places to make new friends.)
- Feeling Club (now closed)
If Feeling Club were a person, they would be the one you run into randomly at a bar at one in the morning, whom you barely know, spend the rest of your night with, and end up partying until six in the morning. It’s not fun all the time, but sometimes it’s exactly what you’re looking for.
Feeling Club (菲林酒吧) is situated right in the middle of Coco Park in Futian district, on Zhong Xin Er Road. It’s bright, flashing lights can be seen streets away, and you can watch with… well, whatever feeling you personally might get, as attendants park luxury cars out in front. Walk inside and you will be confronted with dance floors, sometimes free to dance on yourself, and other times huddled with choreographed dancers. There are singers, drink deals, fruit, and fantastic club music, both Western and Chinese. You can buy a bottle and sit at a table, or you can simply buy a drink and sit at one of the two bars inside. The music doesn’t stop until around five in the morning. Regardless of how you feel about clubs, this is an excellent one to end up at around two in the morning.
- M1 Bar
Located in central Guomao (国贸) M1 Club (pronounced M Yi Jiu Ba) is quite similar to Feeling, except that it is more entertainment based. It has one long, wide dance floor (the moves up and down!) in the middle of the club. Most of the time, at least on the weekends, there is some sort of performance going on, be it dancers or a singer singing their best Bon Jovi cover.
The drinks here are a little pricier than some other bars, averaging on 55 kuai per glass. But like Feeling, it is certainly a place worth checking out later in the evening, around one or two in the morning. Tell ’em Mulan sentchya. They’ll know.
- La Casa
La Casa is the perfect place to go regardless of what your plans are for the evening. Just want to sit and have a quiet drink? Perfect place to do that. Want to stay a bit longer and get a little rowdy? Perfectly plausible. Found right in the central boardwalk area of Coco park in between Club Viva and Zhong Xin Er road, La Casa boasts an excellent and cheap drink menu with food to match. It has both indoor and outdoor seating, and heat lamps for those damp, Shenzhen winters. It caters mores to Westerners due to it’s friendly, English speaking staff, but there are Chinese menu’s available as well.
Sometimes it’s own, quieter rock music gets overshadowed by the surrounding clubs, but that doesn’t usually happen until later in the night around nine or ten. It’s certainly somewhere you could eat dinner and end up spending the entire night at.
Additionally, during the week, La Casa boasts live music and open mic nights for anyone to come and join in, or simply sit back, relax, and enjoy.
- Brown Sugar Jar
I have mentioned Brown Sugar Jar before in another blog post, but I felt it necessary to give it a double mention. This place is amazing. Especially if you are feeling a bit homesick and just want to go somewhere that isn’t loud, this is a great place to get together for a quiet drink with friends. The drinks are on the cheapish end, ranging from 15 kuai to 50. The ambiance is well worth getting lost trying to find it – there are two locations, one in Luohu and one in Futian. It is equipped with lounge chairs, couches, dart boards and chill, ambient music. If you just want to get out of the house and go somewhere to have great conversation, this is the place. They also boast open mic nights and live music. Genius!
The Brown Sugar Jar in Luohu is located near Yijing metro station. Go out exit C, take a 180, cross the intersection, and turn right down Huang Bei road. It is about a two minute walk down that street.
The other location in CheGongMiao is difficult get to from the metro, so here is the address in Chinese: 车公庙泰然九路皇冠科技园2栋G9
- Le Nest
There are two Le Nest locations to my knowledge in Shenzhen. There is one in Coco park right near the boardwalk, and another in Luohu near Dongmen/Guomao area. Both of them are set up the exact same. Overwhelmingly large buildings with exquisite lamps and tables set up as if it were a dining hall line the club. A large dance floor is located at the back of the bar. You can buy a bottle for a table or you can buy a drink at the bar. Much like some other large clubs that want you to buy a bottle of alcohol, it can be rather expensive to buy just a glass at the bar – around 55 kuai just for a Gin and Tonic, for example. But like some of the other large clubs I have talked about, this is a perfect place to end up, rather than spend the whole night there. It’s also a great place to go and dance and play dice with strangers.
- Lili Marleen
I realise there seem to be a lot of loud clubs on this list, but this one is so loud and ridiculous I had to include it. Lili Marleen, whether or not it is named after the German love song or the film I have no idea, is right outside of the Shopping Park metro exit B. (There is another one near Grand Theatre, but I have personally never been there, so I wouldn’t feel right telling you how it is or how to get there.) It is a large, wooden building with loud bass music, that is open until late into the evening… or early in the morning, depending on how you want to look at it.
Much like any other large club of it’s kind, you need to buy a bottle to get a table.
With its almost obnoxiously loud music and extra fabulous decor, Lili Marleen is definitely a must experience at least once. Especially because the security dress up in military garb. It’s pretty great.
Dongmen market. Moving dancefloor. Dongmen market. ‘Nuff said.
Much like La Casa, Rapscallions is a restaurant and bar that caters more to Westerners. With an English language menu and English speaking staff, it’s an excellent place to go grab a burger and a pint of Tiger. Happy hour is until 9pm, and here, much like La Casa, they boast open mic nights and live music many nights of the week. (To learn more about the live music scene, you can also go to www.shenzhenlocalmusic.com)
You can find Rapscallions tucked away in a corner in Coco park, but don’t let that fool you. Much like the Tardis in Doctor Who, it’s bigger on the inside. It has inside and outside seating, and unlike some other pubs in Coco park, it plays football, hockey (yes, hockey!) and rugby on it’s television screens. It’s a great place to go to eat, drink beer, watch sports, listen to live music, and just have a great time. They also have the best fries. Just sayin’.
- Futian Kingway Beer Garden
Shenzhen is home to three official Kingway beer gardens. There is one in Luohu, Bao’an, and Futian. There is also an unofficial one in Nanshan, located in Baishizhou. I talked about the Luohu beer garden last time, so I thought that it would only be proper to shed light on a different one this time.
The Futian Beer Garden is located at Science Museum metro station on the green line – right outside of exit D. It’s the perfect place to take a group of twenty people, but it’s also fine if there are only a few of you. It has a menu (barbecue and other) that lasts until all hours of the night, and a big screen TV in which football is usually on.
The beer comes in pitchers and glasses, unlike other beer gardens. You can buy a pitcher for 18 kuai, or a glass for 9. It all depends on what you want. It is outside, so it can get kind of chilly during the winter because they don’t usually have heat lamps like other outdoor bars. There isn’t usually a lot of music, but that doesn’t mean it does not have character. By nine at night, the beer garden is usually full of loud patrons, accompanied by the sound of shaking dice and clinking glasses. It’s the perfect place to go with a group of people and make new friends.
- O! Garden
I saved my favourite bar and therefore best for last. O! Garden (后花园酒吧) was my second home in Shenzhen. Regardless of where I was going on any given night, I always ended up here at one point or another. A combination of the fact that it is a rooftop bar, has excellent drink deals, and the most amazing and friendly staff you will ever meet, made this my favourite bar in existence, anywhere. That’s my own opinion. Some people don’t like it as much as I do, and I can live with that.
Every night at midnight sparklers are lit on the sides of the bar. So there’s that. They also have a pool table, outdoor and sheltered seating, and excellent foreign and Chinese DJ’s on any given night. There’s a small dance floor, but O! Garden isn’t really a club in which one would go to dance. It’s more of a lounge with friends and listen to awesome house music bar. But that being said, there have been many a dance party there (they also have Salsa dancing lessons on Tuesday nights). And don’t even get me started on the bartenders. They are quirky, fun, and always want to be your friend. The staff alone is good enough reason to go to this bar. Because they are amazing. Here’s a personal tip, though: any bar is made better if you are friends with the staff. Any bar can be good, but what can really make your experience, especially in Shenzhen, great, is if you know and are friends with the people who work in the bars. So I highly recommend trying to make friends with them – it’s a great way to practice your Chinese, and it’s an even better way to make new friends.
Hope you enjoyed the list and can check out these places to get your drink on!
Until next time,
Jen Murray is a Canadian lass who lived, explored, and loved in Luohu, Shenzhen. For more information you can go to www.theglasseyeproject.com or visit her facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheGlassEyeProject