The nightlife scene is Nanjing is modelled on Western nightlife, but the process of adaptation is sometimes vague and confused, as though the characteristics of foreign nightlife have been conveyed to Nanjing through some gigantic game of Chinese whispers. For this reason, the night clubs aren't quite nightclubs, the dance floors aren't quite on the floor, nor do they host much dancing, and various other customs and traditions are absent (most tragically, the lack of kebab vans). Happy hours, then, are not quite the same animal as we might come to expect. Despite this, there are a number of opportunities for the eagle-eyed drinker to take advantage of in the city of Nanjing.
1) Ellen'sView In Map
Ellen's is a centrally located bar which, over recent years, has proved a roaring success with the international crowd. Its close proximity to Nanjing University has contributed to this above all else. One other major factor though, is the once-weekly Thursday happy hour. From 20:00-21:00, all Tsingtao beer comes free. This is the most recommended happy-hour in the city, simply because it attracts a huge proportion of the expat crowd, and because it actually offers a completely free product. Rumour has it that they used to also offer free cigarettes, but stopped when it became clear various customers were stocking up on a year's supply for free.
Having said that, more people means less space, so arrive early if you want to have a cat in hell's chance of sitting down. In the winter months the harsh Nanjing climate means that 'outside' is a decidedly unpopular alternative to standing crushed against the bar. However, when it is warmer (which is for around eight months a year), Ellen's happy hour provides the chance to head outdoors, Tsingdao in hand, and wantonly socialise.
There are few things in this city that beat spending a warm summer's eve sitting on steps along the Guangzhou Lu, watching a stampede of traffic belligerently exhaust itself. As well as this happy hour, Ellen's also holds a raffle every Tuesday, which simply involves picking a piece of paper out of a jar and taking whatever drink is written on the paper, for free. Some pieces of paper have nothing written on them (understandably), but others show great promise, including the much-lauded 'free jar of whiskey and coke'.
Where: Ellen's Bar, 132-133 Guangzhou Lu, Gulou District, Nanjing
Tel: 025 8364 1119
When: Tuesday and Thursday evenings
2) BlueSkyView In Map
Bluesky does not have a traditional 'happy hour' as such. As one of Nanjing's most treasured and quirkiest institutions, however, it has its own traditions which one could conceivably place in this category. Bluesky sometimes hosts 'mystery free drinks' which largely occur at special times in the year, or on anniversaries of certain things. These happy hours are themselves a product of the community which has risen up around Bluesky, and the wide range of social activities it provides and endorses. In this sense, these happy-hours are genuinely fuelled through some kind of happiness, rather than simply a loss-leader, planted as a means of making money (which, for all its glory, is what Ellen's Thursday extravaganza amounts to). Recommended for precisely this reason, although too sporadic to be relevant for the short-term visitor to the city.
Where: 77 Shanghai Lu, Gulou District, Nanjing
Tel: 025 8663 9197
When: Sporadically throughout the year
3) Nanjing University Coffee Shops
The Nanjing University area in central Nanjing, near Shanghai Lu and Hankou Xilu, is widely regarded as one of the nicest areas in the city, managing to still retain some of the old city that existed before the devastation of WWII. This area is home to a number of tiny, quaint coffee shops. Unfortunately, their prices are neither tiny nor quaint, with a mere Espresso, the humblest of all the coffees, often exceeding 20 RMB in price. Be sure to hit this area in the early evening (16:00-19:00) when many establishments offer considerable discounts on their coffee and (some) alcoholic drinks, often reducing the prices by as much as half.
4) C Lounge Ladies' NightView In Map
If you are lucky enough to be a woman, C Lounge Bar offers a great range of deals. Every Thursday, this relatively new but effortlessly stylish bar offers women free cocktails before 22:00, and unlimited cocktails after 22:00 for only 30 RMB. As if this weren't enough, the bar also holds a raffle, the prize for which is a free happy-hour which can be taken in the bar whenever the lucky victors so wish.
C Lounge, modelling itself on a cocktail bar, has an excellent range of drinks on offer, so a happy-hour here is a bright prospect indeed. Whilst the men may feel hard done by at all this positive discrimination, there is always the possibility of either slyly disguising oneself as a woman, or hassling a female friend into accompanying you and forcing her into buying your drinks. Both these approaches, as well as the bar itself, comes highly recommended. If the hustle and bustle of the Thursday Ellen's rush for free beer is too stressful, opt instead for the dulcet tones of C-Lounge.
Where: 1/F, Central Hotel (Zhongyang Fandian), 237 Zhongshan Donglu, Nanjing
When: Thursday evenings
5) 1912 VIP Card
This is the closest the mass of bars and clubs known as 1912 comes to a happy-hour. Present yourself as a foreigner at one of the many bars and purchase (or even simply demand) a VIP Card which will give you a considerable number of discounts that will, over a long time, save you a huge amount of money.
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Keywords: happy hours Nanjing nightlife in Nanjing expat hangouts Nanjing drinking in nanjing best bars Nanjing
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