Poor Taipei often gets overlooked in favour of its bolshy neighbours (the likes of Shanghai and Hong Kong in particular) but Taipei has plenty to offer too! Make sure you check it out too.
Personally, I’m a bit of an obsessive over-planner and, having booked my Asia trip several months in advance, I’d foolishly only allocated a week to visit Taipei. And I didn’t even plan to visit other parts of Taiwan! I’m still feeling the regret! But I managed to squeeze a lot into a week plus it just gives me an excuse to visit again soon 😉 Here are my top 10 favourite things I did in Taipei:
1. Elephant Mountain
I’m a sucker for a mountain-view sunset. Whether you stay for the sunset or not, make sure you head up Elephant Mountain (or ‘Xiang Shan’/象山) for stunning views over the city. The hike isn’t terribly hard but please bring plenty of water! (And your camera).
2. Taipei 101
You can’t come to Taipei and not visit Taipei 101! Personally, I didn’t think the views were anything spectacular compared with other cities but it’s a pretty unique building and worth a visit for the peculiar giant damper ball which prevents the tower toppling over during natural disasters! The building also has an extensive shopping mall on the lower levels with plenty of eateries too.
3. Longshan Temple
It’s true, I’m a temple nerd but I think most people would enjoy a break from the hectic city to enjoy some traditional Taiwanese/Buddhist culture. I highly recommend taking the free evening tour of the temple by Tour Me Away – it’s fun and you’ll get a handy practical lesson in Buddhism 101!
4. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
A controversial building but an important icon from Taiwan’s 20th century. Politics aside, it’s a beautiful piece of architecture. Who knows how much longer it’ll be around for in its current form so see it while you can…! While you’re there, make sure you check out the nearby picturesque National Theater and Concert Hall.
5. National Palace Museum
Perhaps not for everyone but if you’re a lover of history then you’ll love that the National Palace Museum boasts the biggest collection of Chinese artefacts in the world. For a very small entrance fee you can see Buddhist relics, ancient Chinese pottery, jewellery, books, paintings and more.
6. Visit a market
The go-to thing to do in any Asian city. There’s plenty of good ones but I particularly liked Shilin Night Market where a friend and I saw the world’s most chilled cat. I also went to the Huaxi Night Market as part of a Longshan Temple free evening tour.
7. Shop in Xinmending
Think of it as the Shibuya of Tokyo or the Oxford Street of London. You can buy pretty much anything in Xinmending, plus it’s got a great lively atmosphere. It’s where all the cool arty kids hang out too.
8. Visit ATT Fun Building
Sure, it’s just another shopping mall but they have a cool selection of shops, especially more unusual one-off shops on the upper floors, plus the top floor has a tantalising selection of restaurants and clubs with some impressive city views if you choose wisely.
9. Take Free Walking Tours
Honestly, my visit to Taipei wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t have found Tour Me Away. They offer a variety of themed walking tours throughout the city all in exchange for a donation and a smile. A genuinely friendly bunch of people who can tell you so much about Taipei and Taiwan in general! Especially the history. If you’re in Taiwan to work or study for a while I’d recommend them even more so you can really get your bearings of your new home at the beginning.
10. Eat yourself into a coma
No explanation needed. Who doesn’t go to Asia and attempt to eat their weight in food?? Check out my post on top Taiwanese snacks to get your started. I also recommend fresh sushi at the Addicted Aquatic Development and the Western comfort-food you’ll find at Mia Cucina. Mmmmm.
11. Take a day trip outside of the city
A sneaky number 11 here but if you fancy a break from the city, Taipei’s transport system is well connected to other parts of north Taiwan and you can easily hope on a bus for a trip to somewhere a little quieter or more scenic. I recommend the coastal town of Jiufen.
What would you recommend doing in Taipei? Have I missed anything off the list? Let me know in the comments below!