Shanghai Gay Travel
wolfyy’s trusted information for the best Shanghai gay travel experience. Discover local gay bars, restaurants, where to stay & China gay life.
The Gay Travel Experience: Shanghai, China
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Shanghai Gay Travel: Local Gay Scene
If you’re wondering why online information about gay things to do in Shanghai is so sparse, there are a number of reasons for this.
Gay Shanghai: Hotels & Where to Stay
With more than 20 million people living in Shanghai’s central area alone, you’ll discover that neighborhood and hotel choices are numerous. Before deciding where to stay in Shanghai, consider the below bits of advice.
Should I Book a Hotel or Airbnb in Shanghai?
Secondly, be cognizant that Shanghai taxis are not always easy to obtain. This is due to both the language barrier as well as restricted pick up/drop off locations.
If you stay at a large hotel, this shouldn’t be an issue since they will surely order a cab for you. If you’re staying in an Airbnb or private accommodation without such services, then I suggest you position yourself near a metro stop for more accessibility.
Best Neighborhoods for Shanghai Gay Travelers
The area around Nanjing Pedestrian Street is a more culturally authentic neighborhood to stay in Shanghai. Here you’ll find a ton of shopping and restaurants. It’s kind of like the Times Square of Shanghai, except everything is impeccably clean.
The part of the Jing’an neighborhood closest to People’s Square is also a great area to stay. Hotels like the JW Marriott Tomorrow Square and the Ritz Carlton Shanghai are here. I stayed at the Sukhothai Shanghai, one of the best hotels I’ve experienced in terms of overall design. They have an amazing steam room and sauna that I happily used just about every day!
Is There a Shanghai Gay Neighborhood?
Some gay travel sites classify the eastern part of the Changning District or the French Concession as the Shanghai gay neighborhood. This is quite a broad generalization though. Both Changning and the French Concession are huge districts by themselves.
The gay bars are within this above-mentioned area of Changning, an area called Xinhua Road Residential District. You may classify this as the Shanghai gay neighborhood.
Shanghai Gay Travel Experiences
There are so many things to do in Shanghai, both during the day and night. While the city is huge, transportation is so inexpensive that taking a taxi or the metro between attractions is not cost prohibitive. Here are some of my Shanghai gay travel recommendations.
Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street
Walking down Nanjing Road was one of my most memorable Shanghai experiences. Everything here is frenetic, yet happy. There are hundreds of markets, small restaurants and other stores to explore.
It’s one of the busiest areas of Shanghai, popular with both locals and tourists. You’ll get to see families and friends spending free time out and about.
You can pretty much do any activity imaginable on Nanjing Road. Browse luxury watches, get a massage, try local desserts, you name it!
Definitely get some sweets at one of the window shops. They’re oily and delicious. I grabbed some packaged black bean treats too as a present for my mom in one of the market halls.
People’s Square & People’s Park
People’s Square is a large public green space in central Shanghai. There are vast stretches of gardens with colorful flowers and lush patches of grass. It’s beautiful to wander through here.
Many people spend some time in Peoples Square to see the fountain show. Peaceful music plays while the fountain shows off different effects.
Take the Shanghai Maglev to the Airport
Don’t miss out on taking the Shanghai Maglev, the fastest commercial train in the world! The Maglev links Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) to the greater Shanghai city area.
The train has an impressive speed capacity of 431 kilometers per hour. The train usually tops out around 350 km/hour during normal operation.
The most important thing to know about the Shanghai Maglev is that the terminus is at Longyang Road Subway Station, which is not in the center of Shanghai. You will need to either take the subway or a taxi from here. Overall, I recommend taking the Maglev for the experience, even if you have to shift modes of transport. It does save a good chunk of time.
The Bund: Iconic Skyline Views
Shanghai Urban Planning Museum
I was actually interviewed for a short clip about the museum while walking around. The woman interviewing me mentioned that the museum could temporarily close to install a new, updated city model (hard to believe, right?) and perform building upgrades.
If the museum is open, definitely go. Just make sure it is not closed for renovation.
Sichuan Citizen Restaurant
Mercato Shanghai by Jean-Georges
While it’s not Chinese, or even Asian food, I recommend Mercato Shanghai for unmatched city views and top of the line service. For anyone who wants a night of western food in a friendly atmosphere, this the best restaurant for it!
Starbucks Reserve Shanghai
Shanghai Gay Bars & Parties
Lucca 390 & Telephone 6: Shanghai Gay Travel Musts
Firstly, 390 Café & Bar is an old name for the current Lucca 390 gay bar. The bar’s name changed in the mid-2010’s, however they kept the number 390 in the name. This just comes from the building’s street number.
Since so many gay travel websites list mention Lucca 390, this is one of the few gay bars where you’re likely to find another gay travel buddy. Solo travelers are usually out and about exploring what the Shanghai gay scene is like.
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Happiness 42 Shanghai (New Location)
A short walk from Lucca 390 is another Shanghai gay bar called Happiness 42. The busiest nights here are on weekends as well. Happiness 42 has a good mix of foreigners and locals. They host RuPaul’s Drag Race viewings and play all the pop song favorites.
The location of Happiness 42 may be difficult to find and/or incorrect on most travel websites. Note that the bar is no longer in the same location it used to be. If the name “Shanghai Studio” appears, then the address is wrong. Here are the exact coordinates of the bar, so you can bookmark it!
Angel: Biggest Shanghai Gay Dance Party
Angel is a huge gay dance party in Shanghai attended mostly by locals. It has a powerful, circuit party feel. The club venue changes and may not be near the center of Shanghai.
I did not get to attend the Angel Party for myself, so if you attended, send wolfyy an email talking about your experience there. I’d love to know!
Shanghai Gay Travel Tips for Visiting Bars
Shanghai gay travel is certainly more challenging than travel to other cities. This can become quite clear if you don’t find what you’re expecting.
Some traveler friends of mine mentioned that gay bars in Shanghai were much less crowded than anticipated during their trip. Manage your expectations and just go with your gut!
Shanghai Travel Tips
Does Google Maps Work in China?
One of the biggest challenges with travel in China is not having the wealth of information on Google Maps. Directions via public transit as well as information for establishments in China is largely unavailable on Google. This makes finding things pretty difficult.
I use a free app called VPN 360. All the nonsense online hype about not being able to access your Gmail and such is annoyingly incorrect.
Taxis in Shanghai
Getting a taxi in Shanghai was probably the most difficult and frustrating thing about my visit. This is true for a number of reasons, many of which have been experienced by other world travelers.
Next, the attitude of almost every cab driver of mine was quite poor. The language barrier was one thing, but aside from that, I often sensed a rude impatience. I was once refused a ride by a Shanghai taxi without reason and I still have no idea why.
Do Shanghai Taxi Drivers Speak English?
Shanghai taxi drivers rarely speak any English at all. Many also are not interested in trying to figure out where you want to go either. To deal with this, get your destination address written in Mandarin and have it ready before you enter the vehicle.
If they see English, they will hand your directions back to you. On a couple of occasions, the driver became frustrated while I attempted to find the address translation. Lastly, attempting to point to a location on your phone map doesn’t work in my experience.
Shanghai Taxis: Don’t Get Ripped Off
Taxis in Shanghai are supposed to be inexpensive. Often, rides around thirty minutes cost the equivalent of 3 to 4 US Dollars! Make sure you understand this fact, because many drivers will assume you do not know the fair price. Insist that they use the meter by pointing to it.
Some taxi cabs will try to take advantage of tourists. While exiting a cab with my boyfriend Michael, one driver tried to charge us more than 30 times the fair price! We knew he inflated it, so we yelled at him and walked away after giving a fair sum.
Homosexuality in China: Past & Present
Interesting LGBT Rights Milestones in China
Also noteworthy is a recent Lunar New Year advertisement in China. In January of 2020, the gay community applauded the inclusion of a gay couple on a Chinese online shopping site. This barely ever happens, so LGBT Chinese citizens were happily surprised.
Is It Illegal to Be Gay in China? A Background for the Shanghai Gay Traveler
Homosexuality in Ancient & Imperial China
Homosexuality in ancient China was tolerated very well. Continuing later into Imperial China, things began to change. The Shang, Zhou and Han dynasties kept the status quo with homosexuality being completely normal.
Female homosexuality was first mentioned during the later Han Dynasty (a Chinese golden age 206 BC to 220 CE).