With an official population of 25; and an unofficial population of 35; million people, Shanghai never fails to impress and deliver an amazing experience on every step. The city and its energy had me mesmerized the first night I spent there, and the following 4 weeks were one of the best times of my life. Being one of the most developed cities in Asia, this place should definitely be on everyone’s bucket list.

Here are 8 things I recommend every person does while in Shanghai, especially if it is your first time there. And why 8? Because 8 is the Chinese lucky number.

1. Immerse yourself in the culture

Shanghai is one of those places which can broaden your horizons to show you a whole new sight. Coming from Slovenia, a small country in Europe, it was huge change to live in a city like Shanghai.  Asian culture is amazing and China is no exception. It can teach you about spirituality, tranquility or how to enjoy peace in every moment and everything you do, while at the same time keep you in awe of the speed at which everything is evolving.

So talk to locals, be open to new traditions, have a tea ceremony, learn some of the language and try to attend a calligraphy class, or go to a Chinese garden. And while you do that, don’t forget to stop by the business and financial districts to be amazed by the rapid development!

2. Visit the fake market.

China is famous for being one of the biggest manufacturers in the world – »Made in China« is the phrase. The fake market is a place where you can get almost anything you see in stores, for about one fifth of the price. Just remember to negotiate for the price, otherwise you will be stripped of your money quicker than you can say »tai gui la«! (Chinese for too expensive)

And remember, the locals enjoy bargaining, so the harder you bargaing, the better deals you will get!

3. Experience the French concession

Established in 1849, this part of the city was governed by the French. Furthermore, they left a big imprint on it’s architecture and culture. Today it is one of the most beautiful places in Shanghai. It is a popular tourist destination; home to many bars, restaurants, and treasure-filled stores. Stroll along alleys decorated with beautiful tree avenues and building with a mix of european and chinese design.

4. Optimize your phone

The chinese digital market is a fast evolving environment and today you have an app for everything. Make sure to download WeChat, the chinese social network and messenger app. Everyone uses it today and practically all of texting and calling goes through the app. If you ask a person for contact information, they will ask you if you have WeChat.

The second thing to get in an app called DiDi, the chinese version of Über, which will enable you to order a ride or even just a taxi or you can also contact to get  #1 limousine services in Mesa from anywhere! And because you order it and give it information where to go, you will not have problems with telling the driver where to go, as many of the locas taxi drivers speak very little english.

Beside these too, it would also be very wise to download the metro app and the local map. Have fun and explore which apps would best suit you and your experience.

5. Visit a rooftop bar, experience the night life

If you could describe Shanghai in one sentence, it has to be »Work hard, play harder!«. The rooftop bars offer an amazing view over the city. They are great for chilling during the day or in the evening. Once you are done, check out one of the clubs – they are unlike anything you experienced before! Everything is in excess and the locals are never afraid of spending too much.

From sharks swimming over your head to unbelivable light shows wth energeting music, it is also a great way to meet the locals and expand your network, you never know who you will meet!

6. Visit the Bund promenade.

The main promenade by the Huangpu River, it offers an amazing view of the downtown on the other side of the river, called Pudong. Be sure to check it out for yourself in the evening to be part of a spectacular light show!

The view never ceases to amaze.

7. Get lost


In a city as big and as populated as this, you have an opportunity for new experiences on every step. Go on the street and start walking in a random direction, or take the metro and get off at any stop. Even better, when you are at one of the tourist destinations, stray a few streets away and you will be met with undiscovered gems. Stumble upon hidden stores, markets and some of the best places to eat. And in a city this big, there is always something new to see.

In my case, I stumbled upon a wonderful wedding photo shoot!

8. Try the food

The Chinese cuisine is present in almost any part of the world, but you haven’t tried the real chinese food until you have been to China. Go for some handmade noodles and I guarantee they will be one the best you ever had.

There are many cafes/restaurants to check out, and one of my favourites is a called The Lost Bakery, a very nice place with good pastry and even better coffee. Its an ideal meeting point or space for working on your laptop. Right next to it is a restaurant called The Lost Haven, a very good place and an ideal atmosphere for a dinner date.

A couple extras:

If you have an entrepreneurial mind, want to see or work with interesting start-up companies, head over to X-Node, the Shanghai start-up accelerator. You will meet a lot of interesting and open-minded people, who are always happy to talk and collaborate.

Last but not least, go to parks – they are incredibly well-maintained and beautiful.

Written by: Luka Smajila @luka.smajila

For more tips, guides, and student experiences in China, click here!

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