I may consider myself a Hong Konger as I grew up in this city, but what you might not know is that I was born in Taipei and visit at least 4-5 times a year. While I’ve touched on one of my favorite aspects of traveling to Taiwan (Read on: Top Things to Eat in Taiwan: A Totally Unbiased List), I realized that I haven’t yet put together a guide of some of the best things you should do in the capital city. It is an incredibly vibrant city with tons to see and do (and eat) – if you are visiting this part of the world then Taipei is a city not to be skipped!
Things you should know before you visit Taipei
While I firmly believe that Taipei is best explored over 4-6 full days, it is possible to cover a lot of ground in just a few days because it has a fantastic public transportation network. If you are flying into Taipei, chances are that you will be arriving at Taoyuan International Airport (there is another smaller airport downtown called Songshan Airport, make sure you differentiate between the two).
When you land at the airport you can buy a 3-day Taipei tourist SIM card for about US$10. When you exit customs turn right at the arrivals hall and you’ll find a few different counters operated by different phone companies – all of the companies have similar prices and connectivity, so just pick one with the shortest queue.
The fastest and most efficient way to get into Taipei from the airport and around town is via the MRT subway system, which connects up with the intercity railway system as well. Buses and taxis are also plentiful, safe, clean and very budget friendly, and Uber can be used anywhere within the city.
You can buy a 48 hour Taipei tourist MRT pass for NTD280 (around US$9) which allows you to take as many metro trips as you like. There are other multi-day passes available, just ask the counter or refer to the photo below!
Taipei is a sprawling city but is fairly walk-able if you have the time; while it may be hard to cross the entire city on foot, it isn’t hard to get from, say, Taipei 101 to Ximending.
More: There are tons of great accommodation options in Taipei – if you want to stay somewhere central look into hotels and AirBnBs in the Xinyi and Zhongzheng districts. Click here for more accommodation options!
Top 10 things to do in Taipei
Only have 2 to 3 days in Taipei? Here are the top places you need to add to your Taipei itinerary!
1. Check out the view from the observation deck at Taipei 101
The observation deck is one of the best places to get a 360-degree view across Taipei city, and is a must-visit if you’re not too terrified of heights. The entrance is on the 5th floor of Taipei 101 building: you will need to purchase a ticket before stepping into a high speed elevator which will take you up to the 89th floor. You can also visit the building’s cutting-edge damper which keeps it steady during typhoons and earthquakes.
2. Hike up Elephant Mountain or Tiger Mountain
You will find the entrances for both Elephant Mountain and Tiger Mountain just steps away from Taipei 101. Both places are fantastic places to watch the sunset over Taipei and offer an easy hiking trail which will take you to the top in just 20-30 minutes. Just make sure you spray on tons of mosquito repellent, as they do come out in full force at dusk.
3. Stuff your face at Raohe Night Market
This my absolute favorite thing to do when I’m in Taipei. Taiwanese dishes are extremely unique and delicious, and you don’t often find high quality Taiwanese food anywhere else in the world. Often imitated, rarely replicated! Wondering where to eat in Taipei? Raohe Night Market is, IMHO, the best night market in Taipei because there are tons of food options and lots of shopping to be done as well.
Make sure you stop by the Ciyou Temple at the end of the market to see it all lit up in the evening. Wandering what to eat in Taipei? Click here for some of the top things to eat in Taipei!
Taiwanese night markets are out-of-this-world and offer more than just incredible street food. Click here for 6 reasons why you have to add visiting a night market to your Taiwan itinerary!
4. Get cultured at the National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum is one of the best in the world, housing approximately 700,000 pieces of artifacts from ancient China. I’ve visited multiple times, and because they have rotating exhibits I’ve been able to see new slates of artifacts during each visit.
Two key things to see while you’re here include a piece of green jade sculpted to look like cabbage, and a piece of agate sculpted to look like a piece of pork. The best time to visit is before 11 am (when all the tour buses arrive), or in the late afternoon after the crowds have left.
5. Get spirited away at Jiufen Old Street
Jiufen Old Street is one of the most popular day trips from Taipei. Jiufen is an old gold mining town that is now famous for its tea houses – don’t miss Ah Mei Teahouse and the gorgeous Chinese lanterns hanging outside (made famous by the Japanese animation, Spirited Away).
The famous Golden Waterfall is also nearby Jiufen, and is worth a quick roadside stop for a photo – the water is a beautiful gold color as a result of the abundance of heavy metal deposits in the riverbed.
6. Head to Shifen Waterfall and Shifen Old Street
While you’re at it, head next door to Shifen to check out its Old Street along the train tracks and the massive Shifen Waterfall. Shifen is extremely popular as you can release paper sky lanterns here, but it isn’t necessarily the most environmentally friendly thing to do (and they sometimes fly into the electrical wires overhead
While you’re here you can also eat some local Taiwanese snacks like shaved peanut brittle topped with homemade peanut ice cream, all wrapped in a thin crepe.
You can get to places like Jiufen and Shifen via public transport, but there are no direct connections and you often have to change between a bus and a train. If you are short on time, want to make the most of your day trips from Taipei, keen to see a few different places in a day and don’t mind splurging a little, look into hiring a private driver for the day. DingTaxi is a travel booking website that offers different customizable tour packages (as well as airport transfers) from a number of local car companies; you can expect to pay approximately US$100 for a driver and car for a full day (8 hours).
7. Check out Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
Love a good puddlegram shot? Head to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, a popular photography spot in Taipei. The memorial hall is a national monument in memory of a former president of Taiwan and sits within Liberty Square in downtown Taipei. It is easily reachable by MRT or bus.
8. Take the Maokong Gondola up to the tea fields
Another popular day trip from Taipei, Maokong is a tea producing area high up in the hills that offers small tea houses and sweeping view below. The gondola ride is short and sweet and is just steps away from the Taipei Zoo MRT station. Once you’re there make sure you try a cup of local tea and also try the delicate tea-flavored soft serve ice cream.
To get back down either hop on the gondola or take a thrilling shuttle bus ride along winding roads (not recommended if you are prone to motion sickness, don’t say I didn’t warn you).
9. Go shopping at Ximending’s converted Red House
The Ximen Red House was built in 1908 and was Taiwan’s first public market before being converted into a theater in 1945. The building itself is stunning, and currently houses a design market that features products by local artists and designers. Afterwards, head next door to Ximending’s main shopping street to check out the plethora of quirky shops.
10. Explore Huashan 1914 Creative Park
Built in 1914, the site was once home to one of Taiwan’s largest wine producers throughout the 1920s. The space was later converted into a venue for performances and art, and today Huashan 1914 is a sprawling complex that serves as Taipei’s primary creative arts center and event hub for cultural exhibits and festivals.
Unfortunately the English website isn’t very well designed (how ironic) or user friendly, so I would recommend checking out the Chinese website for upcoming exhibits and events ahead of your trip.
The best area to stay in Taipei, Taiwan
There are tons of great accommodation options in Taipei – if you want to stay somewhere central look into hotels and AirBnBs in the Xinyi, Da’an and Zhongzheng districts. You’ll be close to most of the attractions in Taipei and these areas are well connected by subway.
Hotel HD Palace: Hotel HD Palace is conveniently located in Da’an District. The rooms are basic but clean and room rates are extremely reasonable. If you’re keen to explore the night markets, Tonghua Night Market is just a hop and skip away. Click here to book your stay at Hotel HD Palace!
Fullerton North: Fullerton North is conveniently located in Songshan District and was recently renovated. This hotel is perfect for people who prefer staying at boutique hotels. It is close to Raohe Night Market and Ciyou Temple as well. Click here to book your stay at Fullerton North!
The Sherwood: The Sherwood is an upscale hotel located in the heart of Taipei that has hosted the likes of Ang Lee, Rafael Nadal and even Margaret Thatcher. If you’re looking for a splash of luxury and want a spacious room, gym and spa then book yourself into this hotel. Click here for current rates at The Sherwood!
More: There are tons of great accommodation options in Taipei – if you want to stay somewhere central look into hotels and AirBnBs in the Xinyi and Zhongzheng districts. Click here for even more accommodation options!
What are some of your favorite things to do and see in Taipei? Share them with me in the comments section below!
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Feature image photo credit: FenlioQ / Shutterstock
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