Shanghai – one of the most vibrant, forward-looking and modern cities in China – is also home to the countries biggest gay scene.
While still much smaller than you might expect for a city of its size, the Shanghai gay scene is finally flourishing after years of police harassment and state repression, and if you know where to look, you will find a burgeoning Gay Shanghai community. While gay rights in China – and LGBT visibility – have a long way to come still in a culture where traditional values are still held in high-regard, queer travelers to China are unlike to experience any discrimination – just don’t expect to see the rainbow flag flying high.
Public displays of affection in China are uncommon, though becoming increasingly normalized in modern Shanghai, yet surprisingly enough Chinese people are far comfortable showing affection with members of the same-sex in public. Therefore don’t be surprised when you see men with arms draped over each other’s shoulders or girls walking hand in hand.
Shanghai Pride has been held and growing annually in June here since 2009, and while it contains a great many events throughout the week, no parade has yet be allowed due to the ban on protest and political expression in China. In the next few years, it is expected Shanghai will play catch up to the rest of the world, and we will talk about the gay scene here like that of Sydney, San Francisco or Medellin.
Whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but in this city that is constantly growing, redefining itself and looking to the future it is not hard to imagine. The nightlife and bar scene here is exploring, and it seems gay venues, in particular, are opening faster than we can keep a track, with many drawing a diverse crowd of expats and young thing from all over China who migrated to modern Shanghai to just be themselves.
Still, the epicenter of the Gay Shanghai Triangle is in the French Concession neighborhood centered around Lucca 390, and filled with plenty of creatively designed and eccentrically themed bars and lounges calling to Shanghai’s ever-growing, and an increasingly cosmopolitan gay crowd. While other parts of China are still rather conservative – in most parts of Shanghai gay travelers can feel entirely at ease in this forward-looking society.
[alert style=”warning”]Blued and Grindr are the most popular hook-up app currently used by gay men in Shanghai. You will not be able to access many Western websites in mainland China, so we strongly recommend you set up a high-quality VPN on your phone before you go to protect your privacy, to remain anonymous and to keep access to your favorite websites and apps. [/alert]
Gay Shanghai Guide: The Essential Guide To LGBT Travel In Shanghai China
In this article we will cover...
- Gay Shanghai Guide: The Essential Guide To LGBT Travel In Shanghai China
- Attractions in Shanghai China
- Gay-friendly and Gay Hotels in China Shanghai
- Gay Nightlife in Shanghai China
- Man Massage and Gay Spas in Shanghai China
- Gay Spas & Gay Saunas in Shanghai China
- Gay Shanghai Map
Attractions in Shanghai China
Obviously being gay does not define which attractions most of us will want to see in each city and most queer travelers will simply want to check out the top things to see in China during the day!
There is so much to do here – but we found our favorite memories were wandering along the Bund, making use of the cities extensive bicycle lanes (and promptly getting lost) and brunching in modern cafés before wandering through design studios. Still – it helps to have some kind of idea what is going on, so we have put together a list of the most popular attractions in Shanghai according to gay travelers.
One of the best tips we can give you for exploring Gay Shanghai is to pre-order a travel SIM card for easy airport pickup and activation the moment you arrive so you will not pay a fortune in international roaming charges. Get restaurants recommendation and reservations on the fly, public transport instructions up to the minute, bar opening hours and if it is your thing – access to gay hook up apps to find out more about the local scene.
Mobile data is fast, cheap and available almost everywhere in Asia so it is no wonder most travelers chose to stay connected and to get off the beaten track (without ever worrying about getting lost). So why wait? Pre-order the best local SIM card now to have it waiting for you in Shanghai when you arrive.
- The Bund – Easily the best thing to do in Shanghai, a walk along this historic waterfront area offers a glimpse of old Shanghai on one side and modern Shanghai on the other. A microcosm of China and particularly beautiful in the evenings – this is one view you will never forget.
- Propaganda Poster Art Centre – An eclectic museum hidden in the basement of an apartment block in the gay triangle of Shanghai showcases the unique art and posts of the Maoist period of China. A must-see piece of socialist history.
- Tianzifang Neighbourhood – A historical jumble of laneways and newly renovated boutique shops, bars and restaurants. You can lose hours wandering through window-shopping and rubbing shoulders with trend setters, designers, yuppies, and expats. Don’t miss the newly opened ‘Big Pink’ claw game arcade, it might take some looking around to find, but it’s like nothing else you have ever seen.
- Yuyuan Gardens – An extensive garden and temple complex of a government officer of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that gives a stunning glimpse into Old Shanghai.
- Shanghai Maglev – Ok, it’s not really an attraction but forget taking a taxi or subway, and instead opt for the Shanghai maglev from Pudong Airport covering 19 miles in 7 minutes with a top speed of 268 mph (431 mph!). Tickets are relatively cheap, and you will save around an hour over other options.
- Shanghai Museum – A world-class museum of ancient Chinese Art and one of the best museums in China with eleven galleries and three exhibition halls covering an astounding 3,000 years of history.
- M50 – A thriving contemporary art district housing over hundred artists who have thrown open their studios door to the public. Comparable to New York’s SoHo or Kaohsiung’s Pier-2 Art Centre.
- Century Park – The largest park in Shanghai and a local favorite with beautifully manicured lawns, woodland areas, and lakes. A great spot to view magnolias, cherry blossoms and fields, and flowers especially in spring – and to see local Chinese families enjoying nature.
- Shanghai Roastery – The world’s biggest Starbucks at (double the six of its second-largest store, the flagship roastery in Seattle). Completely different from a typical Starbucks, the interior design is a work of art and will have you Instagramming for days. A temple to coffee and modernity – Even if you hate Starbucks, you really should take a peak inside.
- Power Station of Art – The first state-run museum dedicated to contemporary art in mainland China, this museum is housed in an old power station that was used for the pavilion of future in the 2010 Shanghai Expo. Similar to London’s Tate Modern – though it’s budget does not quite match yet.
- Time Acrobatic Show – A breathtaking showcase of traditional Chinese acrobatics combined with martial arts, special effect and just a touch of magic.
- Shanghai Tower – The highest observation deck in the world – in the world’s second tallest building. Towering over the already skyscraper packed Pudong, the view is simply breathtaking and the best way to truly see modern China glittering around you. As with most observation towers, sunset visits are crowded but the best.
- Shanghai Disneyland – The newest and possibly best Disneyland Resort in the entire world – as well as the cheapest, you should not miss this incredible park with a distinct Chinese twist. Expect the latest tech, the best amusement park rides in any Disney like the TRON Lightcycle Power Run and world-class shows. Entrance lines are long – though not at all bad inside – so be sure to book your Disney Shanghai ticket in advance for the best price and simply show your passport at the entrance! It’s so simple!
Gay-friendly and Gay Hotels in China Shanghai
Gay-Friendly Hotels in Shanghai
- W Hotel @ The Bund ☆☆☆☆☆ – Bold, ambitious, loud. Shanghai and the W Hotel compliment each other perfectly, and this is our favorite gay-friendly stay in Shanghai bar none. A global luxury brand famous for its local approach, cheeky attitude and insanely high standards. In Shanghai, their electric night skyline views, frenetic nightlife at their popping bar, chic restaurants, and designer POP Art stye – as well as a killer location – will leave you breathless!
- Hotel Indigo On The Bund ☆☆☆☆☆ – Uniquely decorated rooms with views of Pudong and the Bund. This popular hotel bends Chinese and Western influences seamlessly and is smack on the south Bund riverfront. Welcome cocktails are offered on arrival, and its rooftop bar is simply breathtaking.
- JW Marriott Hotel @ Tomorrow Square ☆☆☆☆ – The flagship hotel of the famous gay-friendly Marriot Chain, this hotel may not ‘pop’ like the W, but you can still expect beautiful rooms with views all around, indoor and outdoor pools, fantastic service and a location second to none. Right in the heart of Shanghai with the subway station below, you can easily access everything in Shanghai in minutes.
- Campanile Natural History Museum Hotel ☆☆☆ – Newly opened and very stylish, with excellent guest reviews. This hotel is one of the best bang for your buck in Shanghai and pretty centrally located with a French-inspired breakfast to boot!
- Dorsett Shanghai ☆☆☆ – Beautifully funky interior design, next to the stunning Century Park and relatively low price, this hotel is our top option for those on a Shanghai transit as the closest hotel options to the Airport Maglev train which is 6 minutes from Pudong.
- Captain Hostel ☆☆ – The best hostel in Shanghai by far, the Captain Hostel is practically on the Bund, has a weird yet stylish ship-theme and is full of progressive, international travelers. If you’re on a budget, want people to go out and explore Shanghai with (by day or by night) and don’t mind a bank mate we recommend you check this out!
Hotels In The Gay Shanghai Triangle
Located around 20-30 mins by subway from most of the main attractions in Shanghai, these hotels offer better value than those more centrally located and are walking distance to all the gay bars in the French Concession neighborhood known as the Gay Shanghai Triangle. Most are nothing special but since the subways don’t run all night in Shanghai the appeal of stumbling home rather than an across-town expensive taxi – not to mention the language barrier – is highly appealing.
- Radisson Blu Plaza Xingguo Hotel ☆☆☆☆☆ – A compounded hidden in the heart of the historic French Concession, the Radisson Blu offers a complete retreat from the noise and chaos of Shanghai. This 1930s boutique hotel is one of the cheapest Radisson Blu we have seen worldwide, but does not skimp on the details with beautiful tree-lined streets, heritage gardens, and indoor pool and delightful French brasserie onsite. All this and only a 5-10 minute walk to most of the gay Shanghai nightlife spots.
- Crowne Plaza Shanghai ☆☆☆☆ – An international 5-star hotel with an indoor pool and in-house spa. Plain and safe with large rooms, the Crowne Plaza Shanghai is only a 2-minute walk from the biggest LGBT hotspot in Shanghai, Lucca 390, so location is a big drawcard here.
- @ Gallery Suites Hotel ☆☆☆ – A gay-popular hotel offering stylish, artsy rooms in a renovated heritage building. Quiet and cute, rooms here are excellent value and it’s only a short 15-minute walk to most of the Shanghai gay bars and clubs
- Kailun Hotel ☆☆ – The cheapest hotel in the Gay Shanghai triangle we could find. Mixed reviews from past guests – and at the very least it needs a decent refurbishment, but its a private option. We recommend splurging a bit more if you can.
Gay Nightlife in Shanghai China
For a city of its size, Gay Shanghai has a relatively limited array of nightlife – though still enough to satisfy queer travelers no matter what they are looking for. It was only around 1995 that Shanghai’s gay male population moved from cruising spots of ‘fishing holes’ in parks and public restrooms into bars and clubs, and while the Shanghai LGBT scene is still growing it has yet to find it’s feet completely.
Depending on your mood you can find anything here from a relaxed cocktail in an upscale bar to an all-night dance rave surrounded by your queer family! If you’re not sure where to start head to the quaint French Concession area for evening drinks and conversation, or Changning District around the gay bar/club Lucca 390 to find all the action.
Many of the gay bars in Shanghai are hetero-friendly and have a mixed crowd because of how ‘cool’ they are, but likewise don’t be surprised to walk into a luxurious bar and find guys playing computer games on their laptop.
One event to look out for is Shanghai’s most successful gay dance party series, ANGEL which hosts gay-themed events all year and their particularly famous HEAVEN party series. These events are well worth planning a trip to Gay Shanghai around, but new gay club events in Shanghai are always taking place, so it pays to ask around when you arrive (hook up apps are the best place to get information).
New gay clubs and bars in Shanghai are continually opening and closing, but at the moment these are the most popular nightlife spots, gay bars, and gay clubs in Shanghai for travelers and locals.
Gay Bars & Clubs in Shanghai
- Lucca 390 – An upscale and international gay club in Shanghai which is always pumping on the weekends. Live DJ’s, a crazy dance floor, and friendly staff – Lucca 390 is the standard go-to gay club in Shanghai and for a good reason. Check their social media for upcoming themed nights, shows and events – They are even a pretty good hangout spot in the weekday evening with food and drinks specials. The nearest subway station is Jiaotong University.
- Telephone 6 – Upstairs from Lucca 390, this cute British themed bar is often less crowded, has better cocktails and a less crowded dance floor. If you want to escape Shanghai and enter into a kitsch London-esque world, this is the place for you. Women get free entry and a drink on Friday’s and Saturday’s and is becoming a bit of a Lesbian hotspot in Shanghai.
- Lollipop Bar & Lounge – Still finding it’s groove, the newly opened candy-themed Lollipop gay bar has soft lighting, eclectic music, and some interesting decorations. The signature Lollipop cocktail is a must try, and Thursday offer’s topless bartenders to draw in the crowd. Out pick for the best place to meet up and hold an intimate conversation.
- Rice Bar – A cute bar with Japanese theming that offers delicious cocktails, a mixed foreign and local crowd and generally chilled vibes. Great place to strike up a conversation before a bigger night out, and close to the Shanghai LGBT hotspot, Lucca 309.
- Asia Blue – Marketing itself as a gay bar, the interior decoration was great… But drinks were expensive, the staff disinterested and the bar was filled with laptops and gamers on a Friday night. Just around the corner from Lollipop Bar so maybe stop in and see if it gets any better?
- Lai Lai Dance Hall – Not really a gay nightclub but worth a mention as a discreet meeting place for older Chinese men from a time when being openly gay was highly Taboo. Foreigners are welcome, and it’s an interesting experience and kind-of adorable if this seems like your scene. Super local and cheap, visit this historic landmark for China’s underground, gay scene between 7 and 9.30 pm on Friday’s and Saturday’s up in the Hongkou area.
- Roxie – The only real lesbian bar in Shanghai, with decent prices drinks and a packed dance floor at the weekend. Gay boys are welcome in the weekend as well as LGBT supporters, so there is a bit of a mix but during the week this lesbian bar is all low-key conversations and relaxing with chilled music. Don’t miss the weekly burlesque show on Thursdays!
- Moon Bar – One of the newest gay bars in Shanghai in the middle of Xujiahui, you can enjoy delicious cocktails on their large terrace or tucked away in their intimate booths.
Gay-Friendly Bars & Clubs in Shanghai
- The Parrot – A funky LGBT-friendly disco bar which spills out into the alley on the weekends when it gets crowded. They also run the popular Thursday “Thirstation” night from 9 pm, a mid-week queer party series for those who just can’t wait for the weekend.
- Glam Bar @ M On The Bund – A gay-popular but very mixed bar serving swish, upscale cocktails with prices to match. This is ‘the spot’ to see and be seen so bring your A game though Glam Bar can get ever-popular late at night so maybe consider heading downstairs to the restaurant ‘M On The Bund’ for cheaper cocktails in the more relaxed setting (and the food is just as incredible as the view).
- Sunshine Bar @ Captain Hostel – A liberal international hostel with a very swish rooftop bar and stunning views of the Bund. We just had to include as this is the cheapest bar with Bund views we found and is one of Shanghai’s hidden gems. Between 5-7 most nights they have a Happy Hour with half-price cocktails making it even cheaper, and seemingly nobody knows about it ..yet!
- People 7 Bar – Our favorite cocktail bar in the French concession – and often called one of the best bars in the world – catering to a mixed crowd. It might look flashy, but the prices are not too bad, there is an intriguing range of Asian-fusion cocktail, and you get an electric mix of people, foreign and expats.
- Club ALL – A popular queer-friendly nightlife spot with industrial vibes and plenty of techno, house, drum N bass and more. Club All is near Changle Lu in the Xuhui district.
- DADA Bar – Leave all your inhibitions and pretenses at home, DADA is *the* dive bar in Shanghai where everyone just goes to be who they are. Underground music fans who love big crowds and live DJs should head here.
- DKNSTRKT – A China-based collective of genderfluid drag lovers. They believe that a person’s gender is not limited to just male or female. They love drag. They believe in drag for all. They host workshops and shows. They do not run contests. China’s drag scene is growing. They want to create a diverse drag community. Whatever your sexuality or gender identity, if you want to try drag, or want to learn more, then don’t miss our launch event. Find their official WeChat account by searching DKNSTRKT.
The Gay Shanghai DKNSTRKT.ast-paced and always changing. Sadly the Shanghai institution Eddy’s Bar permanently folded in 2016 and as of 2018 Happiness 42 bar, the PinkHome complex and infamous Club Deep is closed – If the situation changes, please get in touch with us!
Man Massage and Gay Spas in Shanghai China
Don’t care about the sights or simply want to take advantage of affordable gay massages in Shanghai? Then why not get a sensual male massage in Shanghai – there are plenty of options! Here are top recommended gay spas in Shanghai and male massage Shanghai options (though there are other gay massage places in Shanghai, we have heard mixed reviews about the rest).
- Hero Man Spa – The biggest gay spa in Shanghai Hero man spa offering plenty of space, almost 20 treatment rooms, shows, wood jacuzzies and more. Cute guys with professional training, the staff can offer a range of services including aromatherapy and Balinese style spa. They even have a 24/7 call out service.
- Shanghai Thailand Health Club – Don’t let the name fool you, Bangkok’s gay spas are far better – but surprisingly this exclusively male spa does a pretty good job with VIP treatment rooms (although it really does depend on the masseuse you get on the day). Don’t bother with their call-out service as its overpriced and rather poor quietly.
- Ron Massage – If you are looking for a high-quality gay massage call out in Shanghai then you should go with Ron. A cute young guy with five years of experience, he offers a variety of massage treatments all at a high standard because it is his reputation on the line. Contact via email for an appointment.
- Shanghai Yi Massage – A modern gay spa in Shanghai with a cute selection of male masseuse. Plenty of treatment options including Thai-style, body to body oil massage and their popular Twin Dragon Massage with two boys.
Gay Spas & Gay Saunas in Shanghai China
- Lian Bang – A local gay sauna in Shanghai somewhat hidden with an unmarked door on the righthand side of the Lianbang Hotel (there is also a straight sauna here where pay). Very local and no frills (read filthy and sketchy), there is a sauna, steam room and private relaxation spaces – and normally a few rent boys hanging around. Open 24/7.
- Ding Lin Men’s Club – The largest and most popular in Gay Shanghai with the best amenities – though like all sauna’s here it’s pretty dirty. You will find a sauna, steam room, gym, TV room and some fun large open showers. Ding Lin Men’s Club is a private club so you will need to purchase a membership card on arrival and there is a mixed-age crowd of mostly locals, and many who do not speak English – but toned foreign guys can expect a lot of attention. Open 24 hours. However, only locals are allowed after midnight.
- Hawaii Gym – An newly opened gym for men only with sauna, steam room, lounge and new workout equipment. Probably the cleanest and less sketchy causing spot in Shanghai, though some guys are just here for the gym. Welcoming to foreign guys and some English is spoken.
- Huli Men’s Club / Mutual Benefit – A favorite amongst Shanghai local, the gay sauna and massage spa’s, Huli Men’s Club is clean and modern with a dark + steam room. The massages here aren’t bad either with full ‘body-to-body’ and body scrub options available.
H42 Sauna in the Changning District is closed as of April 2018 and remains chained up with a police order out front. Please update us if anything changes.