Taiwan’s capital is famed for its food but that is just the beginning. Whether it’s traversing a 3000m peak, getting lost in “Asia’s answer to Santorini” or exploring one of the region’s largest LGBTQ areas, Taipei is a city that has more than it lets on. Here are 10 things to do in Taipei.
1 – GORGE AT THE NIGHT MARKETS
Taipei’s night markets are like nowhere else in the world. Nearly every district has it’s own night market and every one has its own specialties and its own unique vibe. My top three night markets not to be missed in Taipei are: Raohe (the second biggest and with some absolutely unmissable dishes including the incredible and famous pepper steak bun), Tonghua (one of the smaller markets but with a much more pleasant and relaxed vibe than the others, not to mention much better value), and Shilin (the biggest and most famous in Taipei, more expensive but such a crazy experience that it’s well worth a visit). If you have time, Huaxi and and Nanjichang also have plenty of unique dishes to try too.
2 – SEE THE SKYLINE FROM ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN
The best view of Taipei isn’t from the top of the 101 – something I’m not going to mention in this list because it’s just too obvious – its from Elephant Mountain, just 30 minutes away by train and then a short hike. It’s well worth the trip and the weather is kind you’ll be treated to an unbeatable view and photo of Taipei. Go around sunset to catch the sun going down over the city and the lights coming on.
3 – LEARN ABOUT TAIWAN’S HISTORY AT 228 PEACE MEMORIAL PARK
When a group of protestors took control of a government radio station in 1947, the government responded violently, leading to the “February 28 Incident”, one of the most violent periods in Taiwan’s past. In 1995, the government issued a formal apology and the park was designated a historic site, dedicated to compassion and peace. Today the park is home to regular cultural performances, and is well worth spending an hour or so to wander around.
4 – WANDER ALONG BOPILIAO OLD STREET
Once one of Taiwan’s most prosperous trading areas, Bopiliao, in the heart of Wanhua and along the Tamsui river, is a rare chance to see the Taipei of the past. Beautifully rehabilitated red brick buildings house art studios, museums and performance spaces, and the cool thing about the area is that it feels real – lived and worked in – rather than a mere tacky and over-commercialised representation of the past, something many Asian cities are guilty of in areas like this. If you particularly like history, check out the fascinating Heritage and Culture Education Center of Taipei at the far end of the street.
5 – EXPLORE JIUFEN
Taipei has so many worthwhile day trips I’m not sure where to start. One of the most popular, but certainly worth a visit, is Jiufen. Many sites describe it as “The Santorini of Taipei” which to be honest, is a bit of a stretch, but it is a charming hill-side town. Eat your way through the busy old street in the centre of town, hike up to the top of Mount Geelung for a great view of the surrounding hills (you’ll even see Taipei 101 in the distance if you’re lucky) and if you have time, check out Shifen waterfall which is nearby.
6 – SEE TAIPEI’S ARTISTIC SIDE AT HUASHAN 1914 CREATIVE PARK
Originally a winery, Huashan 1914 is a sprawling collection of converted warehouses that is now home to arts spaces, exhibition halls, performance spaces and lots of independent stalls selling all kinds of cool locally made clothes, jewelry, food, art and souvenirs. It’s one of the best places to buy unique local gifts and reminders of Taiwan that you won’t find anywhere else.
7 – ATTEMPT TAIPEI’S TOUGHEST HIKE: WULIAOJIAN
In Taiwan, hiking trails are the perfect balance of wild and accessible. Even in and around Taipei you’re spoiled for choice and my favourite hike is one not for the faint of heart. Getting to the top of Wuliaojian involves clambering over boulders, abseiling down near-vertical rock faces and clinging to the side of cliff-faces. And it’s only around 90 minutes travel time from the centre of Taipei. Read my post on this amazing hike here.
8 – SHOP, EAT AND A WHOLE BUNCH OF OTHER STUFF IN XIMENDING
Ximending has been the hippest area of Taipei since the 20s when it was a theatre district, and today, as well as being home to the standard bunch of cosmetic and clothing high street chains, it’s where you will find one of Asia’s largest LGBTQ districts lots of restaurants and bars, a 300-year-old temple (Tian Hou), and one of Taipei’s most iconic buildings, the aptly named Red House, which now houses a great weekend arts and crafts market (2pm – 9.30pm Sat & Sun) and showcases local artists during the week.
9 – TAKE A BREATH AT LONGSHAN TEMPLE
Built nearly three hundred years ago and since destroyed multiple times by earthquakes, fires and American bombers, Longshan Temple has been rebuilt and refurbishes countless times, almost always by the local community, and is a testament to the resilience of Taiwanese people. It’s also right next to Bopiliao so it’s a good next stop on a walking tour of the city.
10 – TAROKO NATIONAL PARK
More of an overnight or ideally two/three day trip if you really want to see the best of the park, Taroko is the deepest marble canyon in the world, and is home to some of Asia’s most dramatic scenery and some stunning and very accessible hiking trails. Read my post on things to do in Taroko if you really want to make the most of this awesome region.
If you have time in Taipei, take a trip out to Beitou and relax in the hot springs for a few hours. It’s great value and the water is amazing, but I suggest trying to avoid weekends as it can get very busy. While you are out there, pop to Tamsui. It’s a lovely seaside town and feels a million miles away from the frenetic city. Although like Beitou and Jiufen it can also get very busy on weekends.
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