Taipei is an exciting and vibrant city in Asia that’s often overlooked by travelers. Here’s a look at some awesome things to do in Taipei, Taiwan, a complete travel guide!
On my short trip to Taiwan, I celebrated the milestone of reaching my 100th country. This trip was a particularly special one as I got to travel with my best friends from back home in Singapore. It was a whirlwind trip to the capital city of Taipei, but we had a ball exploring the vibrant city, eating lots of street foods and wandering around its night markets.
Taipei is a big cosmopolitan city, but it’s small enough to see in a weekend. The oriental metropolis is packed to the brim with historical landmarks, traditional temples, neon-lit malls, buzzing street markets — great for those who want to soak in Taiwanese culture and get to know its present-day self as well.
Things to Do in Taipei, Taiwan
First of, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the city and Taiwan, here are some facts I’d love to share. Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan and can be found in the northern part of the country. Taipei is an administrative area with twelve districts and over 2.6 million residents. The Greater Taipei Metropolitan area is home to over 7 million residents and is the financial, cultural, and governmental center of the country.
The city is an excellent tourist destination, with several districts dedicated to providing unique experiences for travelers. Visit the many temples, museums, parks, hot springs, shopping malls, buildings, and many more places all over Taipei. I share places I got to visit during my short trip as well as other famous spots.
1. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
The first stop on every visitor’s itinerary in Taipei is the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, a national monument erected in memory of Chiang Kai-shek, former President of the Republic of China. The hall and square became the hub of events in the 1980s that ushered Taiwan into its era of modern democracy. Of the many pro-democracy demonstrations that took place at the square, the most influential were the rallies of the Wild Lily student movement of 1990.
How to Get There:
The landmark can be accessed from the Chiang Kai Shek Station, a station crossing the Green and Red line. The Memorial Hall has no entrance fees, and you can tour the entire building in 40-60 minutes. Visit this as part of a day tour.
2. Longshan Temple
With most of the population being Buddhists and Taoists, Taiwan has a plethora of Buddhist temples that are rich in history and heritage. The Longshan Temple in the heart of Taipei is particularly interesting for visitors as it’s often packed with believers and pilgrims here to send prayers. Built in 1738 by settlers from Fujian, Longshan has always served as a place of worship and a gathering place for the Chinese settlers.
How to Get There:
To get to the temple, take the metro’s Bannan line or Blue Line to get to Longshan Temple Station. The station is a short walking distance from the temple. The temple has no entrance fees and you can get free incense on the right side of the entrance.
3. Taipei 101
What used to be the world’s tallest building (2004 to 2009), Taipei 101 measures over 508m high and is definitely the most iconic landmark of Taipei. It’s a busy tourist spot but well worth visiting if you’re keen to catch a bird’s eye view of the city from above. I also highly recommend hopping over to 44 South Village (Si Si Nan Cun) just across the street. It’s a major military family quarters that was built right after the Chinese Civil War and has since been converted into a museum and vintage flea market area.
How to Get There:
The closest station to Taipei 101 is Taipei 101 / World Trade Center MRT Station. Located along the Red Line or Xinyi Line, the northeast exit of the station opens to the basement of Taipei 101. The Observatory Deck is the highlight of Taipei 101; you can purchase a ticket to ride the fastest elevator from the 5th floor. The ride from the 5th floor to the 89th floor will only take 37 seconds. Book this as part of a sightseeing tour.
4. Maokong – Verdant Nature on the Outskirts of Taipei
I’m not a fan of big cities, so I was eager to explore the greenery and natural side of Taipei. Located on the hill top at the edge of the city, Maokong is a great place to soak in some fresh mountain air and drink in panoramic views of the city. Tea aficionados will enjoy Maokong for its wide variety of teahouses and high quality selection.
How to Get There:
The best way to reach Maokong is via the Maokong Gondola scenic cable car which is fitted with see-through glass bottoms. You can get to the Gondola Station from MRT Taipei Zoo Station (Brown Line). A good tip is to visit the zoo as well as Maokong on the same day. Explore the zoo in the morning, have lunch, get up to Maokong for an afternoon hike, and end your day eating world-class dumplings and green tea in the Maokong Teahouses. Learn tea culture in Maokong on this daytrip.
5. Ximending – the Hip Shopping District
Known as the hippest shopping district in Taipei, Ximending has been called the “Harajuku of Taipei” and is the source of Taiwan’s fashion. The well-known Ximending Pedestrian Area is the largest in Taiwan. You’ll find huge fashion stores, restaurants, quirky souvenir shops and lots of street food. Get your walking shoes ready as you’ll spend days exploring Ximending!
How to Get There:
Ximending can be accessed via several bus stations in the district as well as the Taipei Metro Ximen Station which is a crossing station of the Bannan Line and Songshan-Xindian Line.
6. Visit the Numerous Night Markets
Food was the central theme of our trip (my friends are huge foodies!), so we spent most of our time scouring night markets for the best street foods in town. Taipei is best known for its night markets, so you really can’t come here without visiting at least one. These night markets are packed to the brim with brightly lit food stalls serving up the city’s most delicious oyster omelets, pig’s trotters, deep-fried pork cutlets and bubble tea. Here’s a look at three of the best night markets in Taipei:
Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market is the oldest and largest night market in Taipei. It’s a 70-meter walk from the Jiantan Station along the Tamsui Line. The market offers over 500 restaurants and eateries serving a wide variety of cuisines, street foods, snacks and more. Enjoy the many unique dishes and flavors that in one of Taipei’s most famous night markets. Shilin is also home to several karaokes, nightclubs, and bars perfect for a night out.
Bangka (Mengjia) Night Market
Mengjia Night Market is close to the Longshan Temple; it’s a good idea to visit the temple to start your adventure in the market. Some of the best local foods to try here include the oyster vermicelli, handmade noodles, deep fried dumplings and soya beancurd. The Huaxi Night Market is a two-block long night market in Wanhua District, one of the oldest districts in Taipei. The Longshan Temple station on the Banqiao Line is the closest MRT Station.
Ningxia Night Market
Nicknamed the “stomach of Taipei,” Ningxia Night Market is one of the best places for foodies to visit in Taipei. The food scene in Ningxia is crazy, streets are lined with food stalls, eateries, restaurants, and more. Taiwanese delicacies, snacks, and meals are plentiful and you need to pace yourself so you can get to taste as many as you can. You can reach the market from Shuanglian Station or the Zhongshan Station along the Red Line.
7. Taipei Underground Mall
Taipei City Mall is a one level underground mall running along the stretch of Civic Boulevard. Over 800 meters of stalls, stalls, and even more stalls. If you’re looking for a bargain deal whether its bags, clothes, gadgets, jewelry, or souvenirs the mall has something for you.
The underground mall is well-known for anime merchandise. There are a lot of bargain deals you can take advantage of, perfect for buying souvenirs for friends and family back home. Have fun at the many arcades, and enjoy delicious meals at the many restaurants and eateries in the mall.
8. Visit A Maid Cafe
Visiting a Maid Cafe is a must if you want to have a unique experience and a story you can share when you get back home. Maid Cafes are a uniquely Japanese style cafe where waitresses dress up and serve you as barmaids. Moe Hime Cafe in Ximending Shopping District is a well-reviewed cafe you could try out for yourself.
Additional Things to Do in Taipei Taiwan – Day Trips!
1. Get Lost in Old Town Jiufen
If you’ve got extra time on your hands, head on a train ride east and visit Jiufen for the day. A mountain town in northeastern Taiwan, east of Taipei. A Santorini-themed old town packed with teahouses, street-food shacks, museums, tourist spots, and souvenir shops. Jiufen is one of Taiwan’s most visited towns and highly worth a visit if you want to experience more of the traditional side of Taiwan.
Getting to Jiufen from Taipei is relatively easy. You will need to take a train ride to Ximen and from there taking a bus to Jiufen. The bus leaves the station from Ximen every morning and returns in the evening. Many visitors explore the town for a day, this will help you avoid the expensive hotels in Jiufen.
Get in character when you visit Jiufen, rent out a traditional Qipao and get dressed for your day in Jiufen. Enjoy taking pictures of family and friends while walking the small and winding streets. The architecture in the area has a strong Japanese influence, many of the buildings were built during the Japanese occupation of the town. Famous activities in Jiufen include hiking on Mt. Keelung, drinking Chinese tea at the City of Sadness Restaurant, visiting the Gold Museum, picture taking in the beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean, and visiting the coastal mining town Jinguashi.
2. Soak in Beitou Hot Springs
If you’re about to end your trip to Taipei, visiting Beitou Hot Springs can be the perfect last page of your adventure. The relaxing hot springs will give you the chance to recharge as you get back from your vacation. Getting to Beitou is quite simple, get to the Red Line of the MRT and get off at Beitou Station. Once at Beitou Station get on the Pink Line and get off at Xinbeitou Station. The hot springs are a 5-minute walk from the station.
Before getting to the hot springs itself, start the day tour by visiting some local landmarks. The Beitou Hot Springs Museum, Plum Garden, and Beitou Public Library are great places for a quick visit. The Museum showcases the history of the area and the many developments and services of the hot springs. The Public Library is active and is a perfect place to read a book. The Plum Garden is not an actual garden but another museum that has many more artifacts and exhibits.
The Thermal Valley is a jade colored pool of water sunken into a crater. The pool maintains a temperature of around 80 to 100 degrees Celsius, gaining the name “Hell Valley.” The pools here are too hot to swim in but offer excellent views of a natural wonder along the many smoldering pools in the area. The Thermal Valley provides the heat for the many hot springs, bathhouses, spas, and hotels in the region. If you’re coming to Beitou Hot Springs on a day tour, the Millennium Hot Springs is your best bet for a relaxing and hot swim.
3. Climb Mount Keelung
Mount Keelung is a day tour perfect for adventurous travelers willing to take a mountain trek to see amazing views of Taipei. The climb starts from Jiufen and is a great addition to your itinerary if you are planning to visit the old town. Mount Keelung is the massive landmass you will see when you get to Jiufen. The mountain is exactly 588 meters tall with a challenging mountain trail you can take to get to the summit.
The trail is composed of stone steps built along the mountain trail. The steps lead to three pavilions that are perfect rest stops to catch your breath, appreciate the views, and take pictures. Do not let the stone steps deceive you, you need to have the right clothes, water bottle, and climbing shoes to make the climb.
4. Light up Sky Lanterns at Pingxi
The Sky Lantern Festival in Pingxi is one of the more well-known events in Taiwan. The festival is a famous event that attracts many tourists into the area. Writing your wishes, hopes, and dreams into lanterns and letting them fly along with thousands of lanterns is an exciting experience. The lanterns slowly rise to the sky creating a spectacular view of lights visible for miles. The festival is held annually at the 15th day of the first lunar month to mark the end of the Chinese New Year. If you are traveling to Taipei during the festival, experiencing it for yourself will be well worth the trip.
The best way to get to Pingxi is through the train line. Start off by getting to Ruifang, a transportation town that connects to many of the old mining towns in the area. The Pingxi train line is accessible from there. Besides the Sky Lantern Festival, another activity you can enjoy in Pingxi is hiking. Several hiking trails lead to the Pingxi Crags, the path is lined with ropes to help visitors, but expect a challenging climb.
5. Hike in Yangmingshan National Park
The Yangmingshan National Park is a nature reserve north of the Taipei City. The park is famous for its cherry blossoms, hot springs, sulfur deposits, wildlife, and hiking trails, including Taiwan’s tallest dormant volcano, Seven Star Mountain. To get to the park, ride the 260 bus from outside Taipei Main Station. If you are looking for an outdoor adventure you can enjoy with the family; this park is the perfect venue for you.
The Japanese influence during the mining era is still very much present today. The mines have been decommissioned, but some are still available for tourists to visit. Hiking is one of the major attractions of the park, with many trails leading to beautiful summit views of the surrounding area. Make sure to bring a good camera, dress ready for a long walk, and bring snacks and drinks. The paths are well-maintained, but the climb can still be a challenge.
How to Get to Taipei
The city has two major airports that handle the air traffic in the region. Taipei Songshan Airport is in the Songshan District with direct flights from Japan, South Korea, and China. Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport is a more prominent airport west of the city receiving international flights from many more countries.
Airlines that fly there from the United States include United Airlines, China Airlines, and EVA Air. Cost of a round-trip ticket for these flights can range from $1,300 – $2,000. You can take a connecting flight to Vancouver for cheaper airfare.
You can easily find cheap flights to Taipei from neighboring cities like Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
How to Get Around Taipei
Transportation in Taipei is like most major cities in East Asia (eg. Japan and Hong Kong). In general, it’s fast, efficient and well connected. The Taipei MRT is the most convenient form of transportation in the city and helps connect the many districts of the Greater Taipei Metropolitan Area. The Taipei MRT is well-maintained, clean, and more importantly easy to use. There are both English and Chinese instructions passengers.
When using the station, you need to remember that the lines are not normally referred to by their color coding but are instead identified by their terminal station name. The metro is integrated well with other transportation methods in the city, meaning most train stops have easy access to bus stops, airports, and other rail stations. If you need more information regarding the cost, types of tickets, and actual train stations, check out this guide: Taipei MRT Rapid Transit Subway.
Where to Stay in Taipei
Taipei is a densely populated city, and there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from, whether you are looking to book a cheap room or luxury suite.
Below are some of the best hotels in Taipei in terms of quality of accommodation and location. They are all located in Ximending, the vibrant centre of the city with lots of night markets, shops, restaurants and activities. I would recommend staying in this area as it’s walking distance from many sights.
This is the hotel we stayed at and a place I highly recommend. It’s a well-priced four-star hotel right in the heart of Ximending, within walking distance from the pedestrianized shopping streets. Rooms are medium-sized and very comfortable. Because of its excellent location, we walked everywhere from our hotel and often went back for quick breaks between explorations. Check the latest rates here.
Just Sleep is a business hotel chain with a branch in Zhongzheng District, Taipei City. The hotel offers lovely smart amenities, comfortable rooms, and convenient access to transportation. Ximending Station is a 2-minute walk from the hotel entrance, and you can request taxis from the concierge. The hotel is perfect for families looking for comfortable and relatively affordable lodging in Taipei. An excellent hotel especially for tourists planning several day tours around the city. Book here!
A well-reviewed premier hotel in Zhongzheng District, Taipei. Green World Hotel offers beautiful rooms, smart facilities, excellent amenities, convenient transportation, and delicious food. Friendly and accommodating staff are available 24/7 to help you with your needs. The hotel has a gym, business center, offers breakfast buffets, and laundry service. An excellent choice for families looking to stay in Taipei for a week or more. Book here!
Westgate Hotel is a sleek, modern hotel in Wanhua District, Taipei City. Conveniently located next to Ximen Subway Station, Westgate is one of the best places to stay in the city. Westgate Hotel has received many positive reviews from guests and has been awarded the 2018 Traveler’s Choice Badge from Tripadvisor. The hotel is a 5-minute walk from Ximending Shopping District; you can enjoy easy access to shops, stores, malls, restaurants, clubs, bars, and more. Book here!
A contemporary luxury hotel right in the heart of Zhongzheng District, Taipei City. citizenM Taipei North Gate is only a 5-minute walk from the Beimen Subway Station and a 6-minute walk from Ximending Shopping District. Rooms are modern with several smart amenities provided for guests to enjoy. The building has an excellent overlooking view of the North Gate as well as city views of the surrounding area. A modern hotel perfect for young couples and families looking for a comfortable hotel in Taipei. Book here!
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