Out of all the typically scurrying capital cities in Northeast Asia, Taipei the capital of Taiwan is arguably the one that gets forgotten about the most. With competition from cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai, Taipei is the quaint option that goes under the radar.
This ultimately creates a more personal experience when roaming around in Taipei, with everything seemingly a little more connected and a little more fulfilling. Few visitors’ leave Taipei not feeling satisfied largely because of the lesser expectations the city evokes.
But with a beguiling culture scene, incredible street food, spirited city life and stunning mountainous backdrops, Taipei is a city full of sass and perfect for a city break. If you plan things right, you’ll fit plenty into a trip to Taipei. City breaks are meant for early starts and late nights, that way you make the most of your time.
Culture & History
Taipei has many past and present cultural attractions that are dotted across its suburbs, all be it with a little influence from the Chinese. For temple trips, Lungshan Temple should arguably be the first to take a wander by, standing out with its decorative appearance on Guangzhou Street in Wanhua. Built back in the 1700’s this is one of the most popular temple attractions in the city.
For a further in-depth look at the historical past of Taipei, take a wander to Bopiliao Old Street and get a fascinating insight by visiting the Story, Medical and Education Halls – all showcasing displays such as the Taiwanese imperial system to old-age medical practices. In addition if you’re a history fanatic then take a visit to the National Palace Museum showcasing the historic achievements and remnants about previous Chinese dynasties and several collections from past emperors.
Hit The Streets
Taipei has its own boardwalk area, Tamsui Old Street is located on the riverfront of Danshui (Tamsui) River. Like you’ll read a lot in this article, Taipei is one for the foodies and Tamsui is no different. Full of local delicacies, snacks, restaurants and cafes Tamsui always attracts foot-traffic.
Walking by the water will give you the fresh air you need from downtown and you can even take a ferry cruise across to the several piers that operate along the river. For a more cultural experience, Fort San Domingo is in Tamsui and worth a visit if you’re spending some time in the area.
Wulai Old Street is somewhere you should take notice of as it boasts a proud culture of Taiwanese aboriginals, the Atayal people. This is epitomised by the authentic handicrafts and rich local cuisine on offer – make sure you try the millet wine and wild boar sausages!
On most postcards of Taipei, you’ll see the modern landmark skyscraper Taipei 101, that is over 400m tall and by far the most standout attraction in the city. Looking up will get you as dizzy as you will looking down, it’s quite a height!
With your feet firmly on the ground, the majority of Taiwan’s interesting attractions are affiliated with its history and authentic features, so the Taipei 101 is a contrast. Still, if you want a cool photo or two, head to the top and view the city in all its visual glory from above!
Taipei’s Markets & Food
A main draw to visit Taipei is that it is famed for its markets; especially its delicious street food. Wherever you go, you have to try the soup dumplings xiaolongbao – available in most food-orientated areas.
Shilin Market is the most famous market in the city. You won’t be the only tourist down here so expect crowds searching for interesting Taiwanese food and souvenirs. Down Snake Alley, Huaxi Night Market attracts the hoards of tourists in a convenient location, right next to Lungshan Temple. There are lots of authentic shops still here persevering since they opened, whilst the novelty down here is to eat snake soup, hence the alleys name.
For a more local market, Raohe Street Market is the spot. Just like on every market you’ll be eating something but at Raohe the atmosphere feels more personable. Nibble on some pork peppered buns or stinky tofu whilst sipping the ever-addictive bubble tea – it doesn’t get much better than that down Raohe!
The Times Square of Taipei: Ximen
Funky, glamorous and flashing lights with good energy, Ximen is a must visit in Taipei. Here, you can shop until you drop whether it’s fashion or food. Emei Street is full of boutique goodies whilst Cinema Street lives up to its name with several theatres, equipped with VIP comfort.
Wandering in and around its glossy streets eating is paramount here too. Whilst buskers perform on the streets, make sure you look out for cheesy rice noodles to quick-fire barbecue pork sold at local street vendors. For a few night caps to wash down all the food you’re going to eat, head to Ximen Beer Bar for good vibes and eccentric drinks.
Yangmingshan National Park
The green lung of Taipei inbetween Taipei and New Taipei City, Yangmingshan National Park is home to several walking trails and peaks. A contrast to city life, it’s best to spend a day here to enjoy it without rushing. Hiking Mount Qixing is an adventure as reaching its peak is the highest in Taipei.
Not only that, you’ll pass the fumaroles in Mount Qixing too, wafting with Sulphur; hot tip, pinch your nose! If Sulphur doesn’t bother you and you’re keen in indulging in something more relaxing, visit one of the Bayan Wild Hot-springs.
Not technically in Taipei but only an hour away is the majestic town of Jiufen in the mountains and is as quant and cosy as it gets. Lit up by its old town with bundles of teahouses, street food vendors and colourful souvenir shops, Jiufen is a popular day out for visitors and locals alike.
Jiufen was once a prosperous mining town under Japan’s control still reflected with the Japanese architecture in place today. Popular attractions to re-look into the past are the Wufan Tunnel, Songde Park and Jiufen Gold Museum. If a day isn’t enough stay at a ‘minsu’ a new homestay accommodation style in Taiwan.