5 Hidden Bars in Shanghai

On a Friday night, after having sushi for dinner with my husband, we were wandering the streets of Jing An area. Originally we were going to an event, but on the way there, we saw this suspicious looking display of a very empty book shelf. The front door was wide open, several cases of alcohol on the side against the wall. My husband knew immediately that this was a hidden bar, and the bookcase opened, we walked into one of the hidden bars of Shanghai – Bar Flow. 

(during Prohibition) an illicit liquor store or nightclub.

During the years of 1920-1933, it was the prohibition era, which prohibited the sale, manufacturing, and transportation of alcohol beverages throughout the United States. 

Over the next week or so, I researched a bunch of Speakeasies, or hidden bars around Shanghai. We had aimed to visit 5 on a Friday, but that proved to be ambitious, so we ended up going to 4 more. The one we missed was called “Speak Low” which is also hidden behind a book case, but we’ll have to go another time. 


What’s amazing: the 2nd hidden entrance, the 1920’s spin to modern music, and the cocktails


By far our favorite, Barules was hidden behind a British style telephone booth. The booth itself was not hard to find, and no you don’t need to ring the phone to get in (damn it, I had my hopes up for that), you simply push the wall on the right of the phone booth itself to get in. 


To my surprise, the 2nd floor is another hidden bar. While the 1st floor is a standard pub, playing loud pop music, the 2nd floor is a whole other world. At the end of the staircase, you see nothing but a large white piano. To enter the bar, you need to press the correct key on the piano. The hint was a note that looked different on the sheet above the piano itself. Let’s hope one of you in the group plays the piano and can read a music sheet. It was hilarious once we got inside to hear the sound of people trying to play all 88 keys up and down the scale to hit the right key. 

The spacious 2nd floor had large comfy sofas and also a bar. Barules is known to be a very good cocktail bar, and their menu proved exactly that. They had a very extensive list of elaborately designed cocktails, both in taste and in its decoration. The bar shelf is lined up with all sorts of cups, mugs, jars, bottles, flasks.. one in a tiki shape, another looking like a chick. In the background you hear 20s style interpretations of well-known modern songs.

“Song About Jane”, I’d recommend to those looking for a soft girly drink. It tastes like a Strawberry smoothie and you’d never notice the alcohol. 

(Below) Song About Jane


(Below) Memories

Bar Flow

What’s amazing: the decoration, capturing past Hong Kong

This is the bar we walked into on accident, hidden behind a bookcase. This is in the style of the old days of Hong Kong, full of neon signs, mahjong tables and such. There are also vintage posters and figurines decorating the halls of the bar. 

This place has 2 floors, with the main bar on the 2nd floor. They had a good selection of cocktails, much stronger than the usual bar though. The bartenders were very friendly, and the waiter was also approachable and chatty. 

We got to the bar around 7:30pm or so but it started to fill up quickly, so go early if you prefer to avoid the crowds. 

Laundry Co

What’s amazing: the relaxing atmosphere in the actual bar 


Well done on this one, the entrance does not look like a bar at all. Styled as an American Laundromat, it took me back to my childhood where I’d go with my mom to put in quarters to wash our laundry. The bar was hidden behind the door on the left. The doorway looked like a hall inside of a Startrek spaceship, metal on all sides with 6 identical buttons at the end of the small narrow hall. Once inside the actual bar, it was again a completely different atmosphere. It was a small cozy, dim bar, lined with leather sofas on 3 sides and a long bar on the fourth side. The walls filled with cubicles of bottles of whiskies from regulars. 

The bar offers an extensive list of unique cocktails as well as a pretty good collection of whiskies, so there’s something for everyone. If you’re here early in the night, there’ll be plenty of space so it’s a great place if you’d like to have an actual conversation with the company you’re with. 


(Below) Escape From Las Vegas

Barber Shop

What’s amazing: the actual front door was a piece of wall 

The entrance to this place was the most well-hidden of all the bars. Even with the exact address, the door was just a cut out of the wall of a building. Someone who had just left the bar had to point me to it. After getting in, the small hallway disguised as a barber shop was very well decorated. A counter on the left with a receptionist, further in a single barber chair in front of a mirror, and to the left a counter full of alcohol bottles and a ceiling to floor mirror to the right. 

To get in, you press down on the correct alcohol bottle and the mirror to the right opens into a bar with 3 rooms. It’s operated by the same owner as Laundry Co so the look and feel as well as the menu are more or less the same.

When we got here, it was around 11pm and the bar was absolutely fully packed, every single seat occupied and the bartenders busy chucking out drink after drink. It was lively with conversations everywhere, with couples to groups of 6 or so people. It’s perfect if you like a lively environment. But since I haven’t seen this place earlier in the night, I won’t be able to say whether it would be quieter. It does have probably around 2.5 times more space than Laundry Co though, so would be more suited for bigger groups.


Must try: The cocktail inside a plush bunny called Louis

We were least impressed with this one, but it may just be a matter of preference. 

This bar used to be hidden behind a coke vending machine, but due to the popularity it had to move to a larger space. It’s now disguised as a café, and you just push a large wooden panel on the right side to get in. It was only around 8pm when we got there but the bar was completely full and was very warm on the inside, almost stuffy. The crowd was very interesting, a mixture of expat tourists to locals doing live streaming while they sat at the bar, and even local elderly tourists. It was loud, so was difficult to have conversation over a drink. 

Perhaps the gimmickiest drink from this place is called “Louis”. It was a stuffed toy bunny opened up in the back, with a flask in it. The drink was not bad, and the food menu looked good – stocked with famous Taiwanese night market snacks, not to mention they also serve Kavalan, Taiwan’s famous world #1 Whiskey. 

Do you have a favorite hidden bar? 

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