Chongqing, dubbed the Chinese city for Chinese people, perhaps unsurprisingly plays host to a much smaller community of expats than one would expect from a city of this size. Hence, expat-frequented venues are fewer and further between. Even so, Chongqing's scene still presents a good variety. Expat bars constitute the glue that holds together Chongqing's small, tightly-knit community, serving as community hot-spots, places to network, good compromises for nights out with Chinese friends, and places to blow off some cultural steam. As such, Chongqing's expat bars range from high-end and exclusive (and yes, sometimes clique-y) to open and budget friendly (and sometimes a bit off the cuff). While it definitely won't be nominated for an award for most vibrant expat nightlife any time soon, Chongqing's foreigners have eked out a scene that can definitely lay claim to its colourful personality. Without further ado, Chongqing's Best of: Expat Bars Part I.
1) Best Cultural Mix: NUTS坚果俱乐部 View In Map
NUTS is... not quite nuts. But it is a bit of a mystery. How this little smoky hole in the wall was discovered by foreigners and became the culturally mixed yet unpretentious hotspot that it is—that's a question for the ages. It's also Chongqing's only true music venue. While the music can range from neighbourhood college boys rapping badly in Chinese to decent DJing and the occasional headliner (never anyone you've ever heard of), NUTS remains a Shapingba institution. Added bonus: it's probably among the cheapest nights out you can have in Chongqing (if you can avoid the cover charge). Be sure to check out the shaokao next door — it's one of CQ's finest. Other highlights: Friendly bar staff and beer starting at 5 RMB.
Add: 1/F, Chongqing University Technopark, Shazhong Lu, Shapingba District, Chongqing
Tel: 023 6659 3676
Opening hours: 19:00 – 24:00
2) Best Club: True Color本色 View In Map
Since splashing onto the scene in last fall, True Color has become the club of choice for expats seeking a Chinese-style night out. Replacing the notorious Club 88 in the annals of weekends out with Chinese friends, True Color offers a more foreigner-friendly experience. Among the staff is a "Foreign Management Crew" dedicated to taking care that English-speaking expats have recourse to lodge complaints such as "I asked for a cold one!" To make it legit, sandwich a night at True Color between going to an arcade and KTV — the surrounding Deyi World entertainment district is filled with them.
Add: 51 Minquan Lu, Deyi World, Jiaochangkou,Yuzhong District, Chongqing
Tel: 023 6111 187; (Call 137 5293 0225 to reserve a table in English)
3) Best Food: The Cactus and The HarpView In Map
Until the Harp and the Cactus opened, the Outside Bar (literally some umbrellas on a corner) was your best bet for finding cold beer and Western food on the same menu. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. The Harp and The Cactus are an odd couple of sort, the former being Chongqing's only Irish pub (with a nice array of Western comfort foods to boot) and the latter the only place in Chongqing where salsa doesn't mean a kind of dance. Both menus are excellent. Happy hour is Mon-Thurs, 16:00-19:00 with specials every night except Saturday. Be sure to check out Taco Tuesdays and buy-one-get-one cocktails for the ladies on Wednesdays.
Add: 9th Floor of Hongyadong, Yuzhong District, Chongqing
Tel: 023 6303 8655; 139 838 73702
Opening hours: 11:00 – "The Wee Hours"
Website: www.HarpIrishPubCQ.com; http://www.cactustexmex.com/
4) Best Late-night Hangout: Da RastaView In Map
Co-owned by a youthful Western-Chinese team, newcomer Da Rasta has quickly become Shapingba's local "expat dive." The crowd is largely Western but the Chinese patrons and bar staff speak English, are usually interesting and friendly, and are very helpful (almost like free neighbourhood guides). This very social hangout is not for everyone though. As one foreigner who shall remain unnamed put it, it can sometimes feel "a bit like a crack den without the crack." That is, the environment feels similar to a college house party but more expensive. While it's rumoured that the staff will let you run up a multi-visit tab if they think you're good for it, if you're on a budget stick to the 10 RMB Taiwanese beer or ask for "poor man's brandy" for 15 RMB (you'll get what you paid for). However, for the quality and convenience — there aren't a whole lot of options in Shapingba — the prices are reasonable. All said, after a night of NUTS and shaokao this is the place to chill if you're not ready to head home yet.
Add: Youpai Youth Apartments B Complex, Hanyu Lu, Shapingba District (Back gate of Chongqing University A Campus near Three Gorges Square), Chongqing
Tel: 186 2336 4003
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Keywords: Chonqing expat bars part 1 best expat bars Chongqing chongqing nightlife best expat bars Chongqing
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