Taiwan. A country many people feel perplexed about. To be honest with you, we were no less puzzled when we travelled to Taiwan than those who have done so before us. The questions many travellers ask before visiting Taiwan for the first time are different compared to a trip to some other popular Southeast Asian countries.
Is it going to be easy for a foreigner there? Is it similar or different from China? Do they welcome tourists? Are they independent? It’s complicated… and the answer you’ll get will always depend on the person you talk to in Taiwan.
Nevertheless, Taiwan is experiencing a discovery boom among travellers. Apart from regular Chinese, South Korean, Japanese, American, and tourists from Hong Kong, you’ll find more Europeans there now. The word is spreading; Taiwan definitely won’t stay a “cloaked” land living in the shade of China anymore.
Stunning national parks, an incredible food scene, locals approaching you whenever they see you checking a map to help you, very affordable transportation, accommodation, Taiwanese admiration of Japanese culture and… more rain than you would expect during the wintertime. All this makes Taiwan a genuinely surprising destination in Asia.
Now, let’s have a look what’s in store for you in the capital. We’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Taipei with some pro tips on the best hotels, some tricks how to get around, and tips on a good 3G provider, too.
The best things to do in Taipei, Taiwan
We spent almost two weeks in Taipei and if not rainy cold weather we got there, we’d stay even longer (if you have limited time check this guide for a short stay). Here are some of the top things to do in Taipei starting from the food (oh yes, the food scene in Taipei is just unbelievable!) to historical and cultural places not to miss. Let’s start!
Get your stomach happy!
If Taipei is your very first destination in Asia, then you’ll feel like you’re in food heaven! Even if you are familiar with the street food scene in this corner of the world, you’ll feel like you’ve reached a new level of incredible. The smell of grilled mushrooms, stinky tofu, roasted sesame, or crazy amazing noodle soups will stupefy you at the night markets, where steam from the prepared food in the street stalls is thicker than the air in your mum’s kitchen on Christmas eve!
The prices are very affordable, and even if you won’t always find a table or a seat during peak hour at the markets, you’ll soon feel comfortable enough to mingle among hundreds of locals strolling around, savouring fresh snacks on the go.
Visit night markets in Taipei
It’s not the biggest one, but it’s certainly one of the oldest night markets in Taipei. It’s also one of our most favourites. We went back there three times (and I am confident it would be the first place we would head to if we went back to Taipei)!
Don’t miss out on a black pepper bun right behind the main entrance gate (a long queue will lead you to the stall) peanut and black sesame mochi and stinky tofu. Uff, I’m drooling just writing this!
Fortunetellers, tarot, “divine birds” (sparrows that fortune tellers use to predict the future), hand reading… yes, this is what you can expect in Raohe and other night markets in Taipei.
Getting there: Take MRT to Song Shan Station. Walk out at Exit #5.
Address: Raohe St. and Sec. 4, Bade Rd and Fuyuan St.
Open hours: 5pm – midnight
Tonghua Night Market (Linjiang St. Night Market)
This market is located in the residential area of Daan district where there are lots of offices; that’s why Tonghua is one of the busiest night markets in the town. Here you’ll savour local snacks, soups, or Japanese and Malaysian specialties. Or, as our friend Dominika who lived in Taipei for five years told us, you might find here an Italian who sells some delicious tiramisu here!
Getting there: MRT Station: Liuzhangli
Address: Lane 40, Linjiang St, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Open hours: 6pm – 2am
With more than 500 vendors, this is the biggest night market in Taipei. It’s famous for it’s huge fried chicken cutlet, shaved ice, and oyster omelettes. Here you can come not only to get some street food, but also to do some clothes shopping.
The area is massive, and if you want to see most of it, come before 6pm when there are less people.
Getting there: MRT Station: Jiantan. Walk from there for 5 min.
Address: the neighborhood of Wenin Rd, Dadong Rd., Danan Rd. and Jihe Rd.
Open hours: 5pm – midnight
Lehua Night market
Here you’ll find a vast range of street food stalls, tea sellers, small local restaurants, and a few stalls with clothes.
It may get full during the weekend.
Getting there: Chunghe MRT Line to Dingxi MRT Station. You’ll reach the Lehua Night Market within ten minutes by walk.
Address: Yongping Rd, Yonghe District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 234
Open hours: 3.30pm – 12.15am
Huaxi Night Market, a.k.a. Snake Alley
Labeled as the oldest international tourist night market in Taiwan, this place is popular for its nickname “snake alley.” As you can guess, here you’ll find restaurants where they serve snake and turtle dishes. (Honestly, the view of the animals captivated in glass prisons wasn’t as exotic as it might sound.)
Apart from lots of seafood and souvenir options, the market is famous for the spas, manicure & pedicure parlours, and massage shops.
Getting there: Blue Line, MRT Longshan Temple Station. From here walk for about 5 min. Or take a bus #231, 234, 245, 263, 265, 310, 628, 701, 702, Heping Road Express Line and get off at Wanhua Station.
Address: Hwaxi Rd., Taipei
Open hours: 4pm – midnight
For more night markets in Taipei, visit this website.
Get a cup of refreshing tea!
Despite the fact that there are only a couple of traditional tea houses in Taipei, and most of them have an overpriced menu made for tourists; you still will be able to drink as much various good quality tea as you want.
Just look around when having a walk in any district and look for a small shop or stall (usually with no seats or tables) and order your favourite tea with fresh fruits (green tea with with fresh red grapefruit is a top choice of ours) or jellies!
The prices vary from NT$40-70 ($1.30 – 2.20 USD) depending on the flavour.
Cuddle some cats at Cat Cafe
Taipei teems with great cafes! There’s a special one for those who love four-legged furry friends. The first ever cat cafe in the world still exists here, and you can come cuddle with some cats.
Invented in 1998, it was called The Cat Flower Garden. Nowadays you’ll find it under the name Cafe Dog and Cats.
The coffee is not the best one we had in Taiwan, but it’s worth the visit if you travel and you miss some meowing pets from home. Keep in mind that children under 12 are not allowed inside, and if you want to pet the animals, you’ll have to spend a minimum NT$100 ($3 USD) per head.
Getting there: Across from Zhishan MRT
Address: No. 129, Fuhua Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City
Open hours: 12pm-10pm
Learn about history and culture in Taipei, Taiwan
If you’re a history buff who loves digging into the history of countries while travelling, or if you’d like to see how the urban landscape has changed in big cities, and you can’t wait to spend your mornings and late afternoons watching locals performing traditional rituals at the temples, Taipei won’t disappoint you.
Bonus: the majority of signs at memorials, museums, and temples in Taipei are in English.
Sun Yat-sen Memorial
This is literally translated as the National “Father of the Nation” Memorial Hall. It was dedicated to Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a crucial Chinese revolutionary, first president, and founding father of the Republic of China.
Note: ROC or the Republic of China is the official name of Taiwan. China is officially called the People’s Republic of China.
If you like historical monuments with a pinch of “entertainment,” this is the place for you. Every hour, there is a ceremonial changing of the guards in the hall that is packed with tourists, cameras, selfie sticks, and yet is still worth the watch.
On the ground floor, there are displays of Sun’s life and the revolution he led. The building serves as a multi-purpose educational (a library with over 300,000 books!) and cultural center (the main Taiwanese film awards ceremony is held here yearly) too.
Getting there: Blue Line 5 to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Station (sometimes labeled as “S.Y.S. Memorial Hall”).
Address: No. 505, Section 4, Ren’ai Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
Open hours: 9am – 6pm
Official website: www.yatsen.gov.tw
National Palace Museum
Well, we’ll be honest with you. We haven’t visited the museum since we preferred to stay with our Couchsurfing hosts and went out with them, but from what we heard from other travellers, expats and locals, even if you’re not “I-need-to-see-all-museums-of-the-world” person, this place has a lot to show.
Just the fact that the museum portrays over 10,000 years of Chinese history, presented through almost 700,000 pieces of ancient artifacts says so much.
Getting there: MRT Wenhu Line to the Dazhi Station, then get the bus B13 (Brown 13) to the National Palace Museum, alighting before the Front Facade Plaza of the Museum.
Alternative: Take the Wenhu Line and get off at Jiannan Rd.
Address: No. 221, Section 2, Zhishan Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111
Open hours: Mon-Thur: 8.30am-6.30pm, Fri-Sat: 8.30am – 9pm
Entrance: NTD $250 ($7.70 USD)/person
Official website: www.npm.gov.tw
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Dedicated to Chiang Kei-Shek, an authoritarian leader who ruled the country after Sun Yat-sen passed away.
The territory around the memorial includes the National Concert Hall and the National Theatre; there is a huge area to walk around, and you can take some photos of the neo-classical Chinese buildings. The architecture of the landmark is not spectacular, but it’s nice to arrive there shortly before the blue hour to visually capture the monuments in a more interesting light. For a better view of the area, climb up the stairs of the memorial.
Getting there: Red Line 2 or Green Line 3 to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (sometimes labeled as C.K.S. Memorial Hall), exit 5.
Address: Address: No. 21, Zhongshan S Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100
Visit temples in Taipei
Intensive smell of incense sticks, irregular sounds of wooden Jiaobei blocks hitting the marmour floor, and Kau Cim sticks shaking in a Cim bucket. Locals waiting patiently for the answer on the questions they’ve asked, those who know, baskets full of goodies for deities, people on their knees, people standing, people bowing… When you observe them, you can see that some of them perform the ancient ceremony as a void rote, and some of them close their eyes softly, in pure devotion.
In Taiwan, people practice Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and the Chinese traditional or folk religion, so you’ll be able to observe different rituals all throughout the country.
Here are our personal picks of the “best” temples in Taipei, starting with the most impressive one:
Lungshan Temple of Manka
Geting there: Take MRT Bannan line: Longshan Temple Station.
Address: No. 211, Guangzhou St, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10853
Open hours: 6am – 10pm
Songshan Ciyou Temple
Getting there: MRT to Song Shan Station. Walk out at Exit #5
Location: Only a few steps from the east end of the Raohe market.
No. 765, Section 4, Bade Rd, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 105
Open Hours: 6am – 10.30 pm
Getting there: MRT to Yuanshan Station, Exit #2, walk for about 10 minutesin the direction of Kulun Street
Address: No. 275, Dalong St, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103
Open Hours: Tues – Sat : 08:30am – 09:00pm. Sundays and public holidays : 08:30am – 05:00pm.
Xingtian (or Hsing Tian Kong) Temple
Getting there: MRT to Xingtian Temple Station.
Address: No. 109, Section 2, Minquan E Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 104
Open hours: 5am – 11pm
Have fun and enjoy urban culture in Taipei
While visiting Taipei, you’ll notice that it’s a super clean, modern, and developed city. We couldn’t understand how the streets in Taipei (and in Taiwan in general) are without rubbish, if there are no rubbish bins!
Anyway, the city is growing, and if you observe Taipei from above, you’ll see many cranes peaking out from the city landscape.
Incredible 101 Tower in Taipei
As Gianni likes to say, some monuments are better to observe from afar. Well, this is exactly the case of the “one-o-one” tower in Taipei. We didn’t get the best weather when travelling in Taiwan (all December,) so we preferred to watch the majestic landmark of the capital from the distance rather than having a 360 overcast view from the top, where everything was in the clouds anyway.
But, if you visit Taipei on a sunny day, to pay NT$500 ($16 USD) for the fastest lift in the world, and some great views, it’s not a bad idea. By the way, in 2004, the observatory’s high-speed pressurised elevators broke the Guinness Record with a speed of 1010 meters per minute!
For more details about the tower, observatory deck, and pricing—visit their main page.
Rainbow Bridge over Keelung River
An S-shape 167m bridge only for pedestrians and cyclists. It is a cool place for a romantic stroll after or before your visit to Raohe market.
Secret tip: this is a great spot for watching the 101 Tower during the New Year’s fireworks!
Huashan 1914 Creative Park
A Japanese winery in the past, Taipei’s most significant creative arts center now. Check their website for more details.
Getting there: take the Nangang/Blue Line to Zhong Xiao Xing Sheng Station. After you take Exit 1, walk for three minutes until you arrive to underpass and a giant red diamond. From here you’ll see the park just across the street. Or go to Shandao Temple Station, take Exit 6, and walk 5 minutes.
Address: No.1, Sec. 1, Bade Rd., Zhongzheng Dist., Taipei City 100, Taiwan
Open hours: every day from 9.30am till 9pm
Songshan Cultural & Creative Park
Similarly to the previous one, this is a cultural hub of contemporary art and funky events.
Check out their official website for more information about current exhibitions.
Getting there: take the Banqiao Line (blue) to the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall Station, take Exit 5 and walk for about 5 minutes to Yanchang Road (the intersection of Civic Boulevard and Guangfu South Road). Or take the same line to the Taipei City Hall Station, take Exit 1 or Exit 2, walk for about 5 minutes to Lane 553, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road.
Address: No.133, Guangfu S. Rd., Xinyi District, Taipei, Taiwan 10072
Open hours: every day from 9am till 6pm
Have a walk in city parks in Taipei
Taiwanese are super active. Crowded hiking paths at the weekends prove it. During the working days all generations keep fit in urban parks. Did we say ALL generations? We meant it! We saw every age frolicking in the public parks!
That said, the parks in the capital are more for recreational activities than for picnics. At least this is was we saw during our visit in Taipei. Kids can run around on the playgrounds, young ones have plenty of jogging and biking paths, and elders can stretch out in the outdoor gyms.
2-28 Peace Park
Established by the Japanese, it’s one of the oldest parks in Taipei, named to commemorate an unfortunate incident of 228 in 1947.
Getting there: take the MRT to Taipei Main Station and take Exit 1 which will bring you directly to the park.
Daan Forest Park
The biggest urban park inside the city. There are lovely walking paths, a jogging loop, a playground; you’ll find many benches, two ponds, an amphitheatre, and a skating rink.
Getting there: Take MRT to Daan Park Station or Technology Building Station.
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Park
The park surrounds the memorial, and it’s a public area with ponds with koi fish, pathways, and trees. It’s also a space where martial arts like taekwondo and T’ai chi ch’uan are practiced.
Getting there: follow the directions written for the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Zhishan Cultural and Ecological Garden
It’s less known among tourists, even though it’s a part of the popular National Palace Museum (the entrance fee is included in the price of the museum ticket). The Zhishan park includes a lake, an ecological green house, Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, and Archaeology Exhibition Room.
Getting there: Take MRT Danshui line to Zhishan station. From there walk along Fuguo Road, walk through Zhongcheng park until you see the signpost of Zhongshan North Road, Section 6.
You can find some extended details of the urban parks in Taipei on this website.