I love Taipei! How about you? I'm sure that some of you who follow my blog for a while now know how much I love it here. Giving the fact, that I've been quite a bit around, I decided to write my own travel guide for those of you, who plan to visit us. And if you're one of those undecided travelers, who is considering various destinations in the region, I hope that my visual appetizer will sway you towards Taipei, because to put it simply: Taipei is awesome!
Taipei 台北 (or 臺北) is a modern East Asian metropolis and the capital city of Taiwan (a.k.a. Republic of China). It's home to roughly 6 million people (source). That might not be that big compared to Asian megacities like Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul or Shanghai, but it's definitely big for a European guy like me. Taipei is located on the northern part of the beautiful island of • Taiwan and its Chinese name literally means "Taiwan's Northern City". Taipei is like a big pie cut into smaller pieces by the rivers Tamsui, Xindian and Keelung laying in the Taipei basin and surrounded by beautiful mountains of Northern Taiwan also known as Xueshan range.
Taipei will amaze you: You'll see some of the most amazing sights in this bustling city, eat some of the most delicious food in the world, shop till you drop, meet friendly people and see the most beautiful women you'll ever see in any other city (in case you're a male reader). Taipei will fascinate you with the old and new side by side, with the modern at one corner and the traditional at another. In one day, you can see Taipei 101, the former tallest building in the world and the National Palace Museum, in recent years one of the most visited museums in the world, full of precious historic artifacts representing the history of China at its best. Want to know more? Read on.
First you'll need a map. And I made a great one for you. Click on it to enlarge.
The red dots ● ● ● mark Taipei's center. The Western part (on the left) consists of old districts • Wanhua, • Datong and • Zhongzheng, the Eastern part (on the right) is the modern part and consists of new districts • Daan and • Xinyi.
Once you have a map, make a plan. Decide what you want to see in the days you have available. I recommend you to spend at least 7 days in Taipei City or 14 days in Greater Taipei. Of course the more days you can stay, the better. If you truly want to get a grasp of the city, stay 30 days, you won't regret it. But that will acquire a big budget and a lot of time. If you have plenty of that, you'll have tons of fun in Taipei.
This post is meant to introduce some of my favorite spots in Taipei and show you around the city. I hope I can give you great ideas about where to go and what to do, if you decide to visit. Taipei is a great place for young and old, for Westerners and Easterners and welcomes people from all over the world. If you keep on reading, you will see Taipei through my eyes and get a glimpse of the awesomeness that awaits you.
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The best way to explore Taipei is by using the Taipei MRT, the city's subway. The trains are quick, extremely clean and not so crowded like in other big Asian cities such as Seoul or Tokyo. Eating and drinking is not allowed. You can buy a token for a single fare or a one-day pass, but I recommend you to buy the EasyCard, it's a smart card system, that enables you to pay for train and bus fares as well as for purchases in convenience stores. To get more info, check • my list of means of transportation in Taipei.
First thing you need to do, when you arrive in Taipei, is to see one of the most incredible buildings the metropolis has to offer: • Taipei 101. It's not only my favorite attraction, it's also the skyscraper that put Taipei on the map in 2004 by becoming the tallest building in the world and remained so for 6 years. Despite the rapid construction of much taller structures in China and the Middle East, Taipei 101 will always be worth to see, because of the unique design and the huge number of innovations. The 509m tall bamboo-shaped skyscraper is located in Xinyi, Taipei's modern district. You can go to the [observatory on 89th floor] or dine in exquisite restaurants on floors 85 and 86.
One of my favorite parts of Taipei is • Xinyi, also referred as the East District. You don't only have Taipei 101 there, but plenty of shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants and clubs, that will take many days and nights to discover. Xinyi is Taipei's modern architecture at its best. It's a big, clean and a pedestrian friendly area full of glitz and glamour. You'll see a lot of middle and upper class Taiwanese shopping and eating there. It's something like • Seoul's modern district • Gangnam, only smaller and somewhat more pleasant to walk around, because the buildings are not as tall and as intimidating as the ones in Korea's sparkling capital.
Another awesome area is • Ximending, which is the biggest pedestrian area of Taipei and the place to be for young people. It's loaded with cinemas, themed restaurants, shops, pubs and street art. You'll see all kinds of youngsters with unique fashion styles passing by, from fab to weirdo. Ximending is the place to be in Taipei, even, if you're not from the young generation anymore. Young people love to have fun, but there won't be any drunks bothering you. Ximending is very safe as well.
And then there's • Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei's main boulevard, that connects the West with the East, it's the bridge between Zhongzheng and Xinyi. It's Taipei's fashion street, full of high-class boutiques and shopping malls, pubs and clubs, fitness centers, spas and shops that sell branded watches. The richest of the rich can be seen there and the people always dress extremely well, especially the women. Do you want to see the prettiest Taiwanese girls? Go to Zhongxiao East Road!
Taipei is full of awesome pubs and clubs, that can be found all over the city. Best website for finding a night club of your preference is [Taiwan Nights], but if you wanna see, how people party in Taipei, check [Steven Vigar's photography]. One of the most famous night clubs is [Luxy]. Besides Luxy, I recommend you to visit [Roxy], which is a reggae and blues bar and two cool clubs to dance your night away: [Legacy] and [The Wall]. Of course there are so many other clubs in Taipei, but I'll only mention few here, so you can get an idea. Steven Vigar, one of the best photographers in Taiwan, allowed me to share some pics from various clubs with you. I chose the ones that will catch your attention instantly. Do you wanna see hot local and foreign girls and guys dancing until dawn? If yes, then come to Taipei and experience the crazy night life.
You have shopping malls literally all across central Taipei. Most of them are located in Xinyi, around • Taipei Main Station and along the famous Zhongxiao East Road. If you want a very good overview, check • my list of shopping malls in Taipei. I would like to take this chance and introduce to you some very specific malls, that are different a bit different. If you take the train to Jiannan Road MRT Station, you'll come to • Miramar Entertainment Park, which is an area full of big shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants and with a big Ferris wheel, one of Taipei's famous landmarks [their homepage]. Would you take your lovely lady for a spin? If yes, come to Miramar!
Speaking of big shopping malls, one of them is called the • Living Mall, that comes with a very unique design. The main part is a sphere and it's really cool to walk around there and explore all the shops. The basement floor is a food court with some yummy and affordable food. There are also great cinemas, where you can watch 3D movies.
The • Guang Hua Digital Plaza is a paradise for all fans of computers, peripherals and accessories. It's not only the shopping mall itself, the whole surrounding area is dedicated to computers and photo camera equipment. You can easily spend few hours here and get a good bargain on your favorite gadget or computer.
Of course you won't only come to Taipei for shopping (even though that could be reason enough to visit this amazing city), you will also come to try the incredible food. Taiwanese food is definitely one of the best in the world. Food in Taipei is abundant, you will see restaurants literally on every corner. There are small ones like noodle shops or big ones like hot pot restaurants. In order to have a better understanding what awaits you, please check • my list of types of restaurants in Taiwan. If you don't have budget restrictions, I highly recommend you to go to one of the xiaolongbao restaurants Taipei is famous for. The number one choice is usually the world famous • Din Tai Fung, which originates in Taipei, but there are cheaper and less crowded alternatives such as • Golden Chicken Garden or the • Hanzhou Xiaolong Tangbao restaurant. A different kind of exquisite Chinese food is offered at the • Longdu Dragon Restaurant. If you want a very unique setting, dine in the former Mayor of Taipei's art salon at the • La Mairie Café or rise high and go up on Taipei 101 to the 85th floor. You can combine amazing food with an equally amazing view in • Diamond Tony's 101 Observatory Restaurant.
If you're adventurous, then the toilet-themed restaurant • Modern Toilet is definitely something for you. How about a piece of • Gayke? If you need more restaurant recommendations, check • my list of restaurants in Taipei.
If you're looking for traditional Taiwanese food in Taipei, the best place to go are the numerous night markets all over the city. Night markets are full of traditional Taiwanese snacks called 小吃 (lit. little eats) and most of them will become your favorite, but some might appear strange, perhaps even pose a challenge. Would you dare to eat the • frog soup or • chicken testicles? I tried it, it's not bad, but it's certainly not everyone's treat. These types of dishes seemingly strange to Western tourists are just a small part of what you can find in Taipei. The city probably has the most night markets in the world, eating street food in the evening is part of the culture and you have to experience it.
It's full of uniquely Taiwanese food, such as the stinky tofu, Taiwanese sausages, oyster omelettes, steamed and fried dumplings, buns, fried chicken cutlets and much much more. The popular night market so famous, that it doesn't only attract people from all over Taiwan, but also from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.
Some other famous night markets are • Raohe night market in Songshan district, which is usually the second most popular right after the one in Shilin. There is a popular night market near universities: • Shida night market. There's also the less touristy • Tonghua night market, which is worth to mention, because it has some unique foods and • Ningxia night market, one of the oldest traditional night markets in Taipei.
Taiwan is also famous for having some of the best deserts and tea in the region. Something I really recommend to you are two famous ice creams. One is the • Snow King's ice cream, which is famous for having all kinds of crazy flavors such as wasabi, chili, pig's feet, tomato, carrot and basil. Another ice cream I highly recommend to you is • Shin Fa Ting, a famous shop selling shaved ice cream, that consists of very thin layers and melts in your mouth instantly. So tasty! When it comes to drinks, you have to try Taiwan's most famous beverage: • Bubble tea. There are aplenty of shops everywhere, but the best ones are at night markets. A similarly-looking and popular drink is called • Frogs Hit In Milk - it's my favorite and I highly recommend it. For those, who appreciate high-quality teas, Taiwan offers one of the best in the world: Don't miss the • Oolong green tea and if you have a chance, see a traditional tea ceremony.
Taipei is a relatively young city with its 300 something years, nevertheless it has a very rich and often tumultuous history, which is still visible on the facades of famous historic buildings. Generally, the history of Taipei can be divided in four significant periods: Qing Dynasty, Japanese occupation, Cold War KMT rule and Democratization period. The following list is a collection of Taipei's most notable historic sights, places you should not miss, if you come to visit this amazing city.
Most of these buildings were constructed during the Cold War KMT rule (1949-1987) and are based on the idea of a Chinese cultural revival under Chiang Kai-shek. A lot of them imitate classical Chinese landmarks in Beijing or reinterpret the architecture from old glorious Chinese dynasties, especially Tang.
These buildings were constructed between 1895 and 1945 during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. The colonial architects were inspired by classical European styles and loved to incorporate the neo-Greek and neo-Baroque elements in their design.
Taipei's roots date back to the early 18th century, one could say the city was born under Qing Dynasty. A lot of the original Taipei is sadly lost today, however the former city gates, numerous temples and residences are still preserved and worth a visit.
Taipei is home to some of Taiwan's oldest and famous temples, that attract people from all over the country. Most of them are dedicated to several deities: mixing Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and folk religion is a common practice in Taiwan.
Taipei is not famous for religious landmarks outside the realm of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, nevertheless, the city boasts with an impressive mosque and aplenty of smaller yet highly interesting churches, mostly Presbyterian.
One of the nicest places to hang out in Taipei are the old university campuses from the early 20th century - there are a plenty of them scattered all over the city and they offer a peek into Taiwan's vibrant student life.
Taipei is famous for museums, that cover Chinese, Taiwanese and aboriginal history, art and various other things. There are a lot of interesting niche museums to explore, check my • List of Museums in Taipei and pick the ones, that seem interesting to you.
If you need a break from your sightseeing, then visiting one of Taipei's parks is a must. Check • my List of Parks in Taipei to see which one is best suitable for you.
Taipei is famous for hot springs, the culture was first cultivated under Japan. Beitou with its volcanic waters is one of the best places to experience it. If you want to know how that looks like check • my hot springs guide.
The local government has invested a lot of efforts to revitalize areas, that were for too long in decay. This includes old factories and neighborhoods, that were transformed into venues for cultural activities and culinary delights.
If you want to see Taipei from above, you have several options. From visiting the top of • Shing Kong Life Tower and • Taipei 101 to several mountains, that surround this amazing city. Here is my list of the ones, that offer the best views.
The urban Taipei offers so much to see and to experience, that one might wonder, if there's time to leave the city at all. Nevertheless, every passionate traveler will be eager to explore a city's hinterland, you can't keep a tiger trapped in the cage too long, can you? It so happens that there are numerous hidden treasures to explore in Northern Taiwan. Most of these places are accessible by bus or regular train and can be combined into very interesting day trips, if one knows how to plan well.
This is a list of 6 interesting places very close to Taipei, but still far enough to be considered outside Taipei's core urban area. You'll need maximum 1 hour to reach there and another hour to come back, which means that you can combine it with other places.
• Tamsui: This historic small town near the sea is famous for great views, magical sunsets, tasty food, and a lot of historic buildings. Don't miss the Hongmao Castle, the Old Street, the Lovers' Bridge, and a bowl of Ah-Gei. Accessible with the Taipei Metro, it will take you about 45 minutes to reach there from the Taipei Main Station. You can easily spend one whole afternoon there.
• Sanxia: This lovely small town is famous for an Old Street from Japanese times, the magnificent Zushi Temple, and delicious croissants. You can enjoy the atmosphere of a century ago, eat tasty snacks and explore hidden treasures. Accessible with the bus, it will take you about 30 minutes to reach there from the Taipei Main Station. You can spend 3-4 hours there.
• Yingge: This small town is famous for pottery. There is an Old street and a pottery museum, that I highly recommend to visit. If you want to buy some good quality souvenirs, Yingge is a great place to be. Accessible with the regular train, it will take you about 30 minutes to reach there from the Taipei Main Station. You can spend 2-3 hours there.
• Shenkeng: This little town preserved a very beautiful Old Street, which is famous for selling all kinds of tofu. In fact, Shenkeng is known to be Taiwan's tofu capital, and it's attracting a lot of hungry visitors from all over the country and beyond. Accessible with the bus, it will take you about 45 minutes from Taipei Main Station. You can spend 2-3 hours there.
• Bitan: The scenic area consists of a suspension bridge over the Xindian River, that turned into a small lake. You can rent a paddle boat with your loved one and enjoy the beautiful landscape. Accessible with the Taipei Metro, it will take you about 30 minutes to reach there from the Taipei Main Station. You can spend 1-2 hours there.
• Wulai: Wulai is a small town in the mountains south of Taipei. Located deep in aboriginal Taiwanese land, it's full of natural beauty, and famous as a hot spring resort. Don't miss the impressive Wulai Springs, and a walk through the Old Street, that offers a lot of delicious snacks. It will take you around 1 hour to reach Wulai. You can spend few hours there, perhaps even stay overnight.
This is a list of 6 places that are a little bit further away from Taipei, some of them are even located in another county, or in a rural area. You'll need to carefully plan these trips, and generally you'll only be able to visit one of these destinations per day.
• Keelung: This is Taiwan's second biggest port and one of the biggest cities in the northern part of the country. It's famous for the big port, great sea food, and the popular Miaokou Night Market. The city is accessible with the regular train, it will take you about 1 hour to reach there from Taipei Main Station. You can spend one afternoon there.
• Yeliou Geopark: Yeliou's unique rock formations are one of Taiwan's most amazing natural wonders. The small peninsula is famous for a Moon-like landscape and the iconic Queen's Head. Yeliou is accessible with the bus, it will take you about 1 hour to arrive there from Taipei Main Station. You can spend 2-3 hours exploring this beautiful spot.
• Jinshan: This small town in the very north east of the country is famous for hot springs and an Old Street. Jinshan is accessible with the bus, it will take you about 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach there from Taipei Main Station. You can spend 2-3 hours here.
• Jioufen, Jinguashi: These two old mining towns located side by side in Northern Taiwan's mountains are today famous tourist destinations attracting domestic and foreign visitors alike. A rich history, breathtaking views, and a plethora of exquisite teahouses make these two gems an obligatory stop. You can access them with the regular train to Ruifang and then transfer to one of the buses, it will take you 1h and 30 minutes to reach there. You can spend one afternoon or stay overnight.
• Shifen: Northern Taiwan's most popular and arguably most beautiful waterfalls are located in Shifen, a small village in Pingxi. The area can be accessed with the Pingxi Line, one of the smallest branch lines of Taiwan Railways. You have to go to Ruifang, where you transfer to the Pingxi Line, it will take you about 1h and 30 minutes to reach there from Taipei Main Station. You can spend 2-3 hours in Pingxi.
• Daxi: This small town in Taoyuan County is famous for a well preserved Old Street, a dojo from Japanese times and dry tofu. The Daxi bridge over the Dahan river is also one of the famous sights in the region. It takes 1h and 15 minutes to reach Daxi with a bus from Taipei City Hall Station. You can spend a whole afternoon there.
Taipei is also a great starting point to explore all of Taiwan. It's well connected with the biggest Taiwanese cities, such as • Taichung, • Tainan, • Kaohsiung and • Hualien. You can take the high-speed train and you'll be in the southern part of Taiwan in about 1.5 hours. Taiwan has so much more to offer than just Taipei: From the famous • Sun Moon Lake and • Alishan Mountain to the breathtaking • Taroko Gorge and the • East Coast, Taiwan is truly Ilha Formosa, an beautiful island full of treasures. Please check my • List of Taiwan's travel destinations and read all my travelogues.
I hope I made Taipei interesting to you, and I also hope that I gave you a plenty of good reasons to visit the city the future. I wasn't paid to promote Taipei by anyone, I just love to share my passion for this amazing city. I will constantly update this post, add new photos and information, if necessary. Please drop a comment below, if you have some questions or anything to say. If you want to know more about me, check my • About Me page. Thanks for reading and sharing!
OVERVIEW OF USEFUL LINKS
• My Greater Taipei Map: Use it to plan your Taipei trip and locate your favorite spots
• Transportation tips for Taipei: Get to know what options you have
• List of Museums in Taipei: See what Taipei offers to those, who love museums
• List of Shopping Malls in Taipei: Useful overview for those who love shopping
• List of Parks in Taipei: See how green Taipei can be and where you can take a rest
• Types of Restaurants in Taiwan: Understand Taiwan's eating culture better
• List of Restaurants in Taipei: Read my reviews about the best restaurants in Taipei
• List of Night Markets in Taipei: Find your favorite night market here
[Back to TAIPEI SIGHTS overview][This post was UPDATED on 21st March, 2013]