There’s a reason you’re hearing more about Taipei, the dynamic capital of Taiwan. Sure, Taipei lacks the sweeping vistas of Hong Kong, the supersonic-pulse of Tokyo or the futuristic skyline of Shanghai. But what Taipei does, it does well. And travellers are finally starting to take notice.
I can’t promise that it’ll be love at first sight. You shouldn’t visit Taipei expecting it to wow you instantly. You need to dig a little deeper, even if just below the surface, to find the travel destination in East Asia you’ve always imagined.
Not sure where to start? Let’s get started looking at everything Taipei has to offer in this Taipei travel guide…
Why visit Taipei
Even with its slightly rugged exterior Taipei is an easy city to love. I could think of hundred of reasons to visit Taipei, but one stands taller than all: night markets.
Night markets have popped up all over Asia, but no city does them better than Taipei. Night markets in Taipei are more than just tourist attractions; for Taipeiers, they’re a way of life.
Although you won’t be the only foreigner wandering about, you’ll be seriously outnumbered by locals at these smashingly cool hotspots. In them, you’ll find more delicious Taiwanese food than you can shake a squid-stick at. All at prices that can make your local McDonald’s menu look like the Ritz.
Other than night markets, Taipei’s prime location in Northern Taiwan means you’re never far from your next destination. The sheer number of awesome day trips from Taipei will ensure that you’ll never have any downtime (unless you want it!)—even if you extend your stay in Taipei longer than most guidebooks would advise.
Add onto that a handful interesting temples, vertigo-inducing views atop Taipei 101, and loopy hiking trails with thrilling skyline vistas.
Yep, Taipei isn’t so bad.
When to visit Taipei?
Although you can (for the most part) get away with travelling to Taiwan anytime of the year, the best time to visit Taipei is November. After a hot, humid & wet summer, the weather of November is a welcome change in Taiwan. It’s one of the driest months of the year and bears witness to some of the finest scenery as the leaves begin taking on their fall hues.
Alternatively, October and April are good months to travel to Taipei. Both are warm and relatively dry for Taiwan and are great times to hit up the outdoors including tackling some of the best hiking trails around Taipei.
When you’re first introduced to Taipei, it’ll likely be Zhongzheng. Home to Taipei Main Station and some of Taipei’s star tourist attractions, Zhongzheng is possibly the best place to base yourself while visiting Taipei.
As a whole, Zhongzheng is safe, easy to walk around, and well-connected to the rest of Taipei by public transportation like the Taipei MRT.
The most cosmopolitan corner of Taipei is Xinyi, home to Taipei’s most famous landmark, Taipei 101. In Xinyi, you’ll uncover some of Taipei’s best up-scale shopping, restaurants, and accommodations.
Looking to splurge on accommodations? Xinyi is the best place to snag one of the top luxury hotels in Taipei!
Like Xinyi, Daan is one of Taipei’s more upscale neighbourhoods. The biggest attraction here is Daan Forest Park, the so-called “Lungs of Taipei,” and the yummy Tonghua Night Market.
Taipei’s oldest district and home to a couple of Taipei’s most popular night markets including Guangzhou Night Market and Huaxi Street Night Market.
In northern Wanhua, you’ll stumble upon Ximending, Taipei’s answer to Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing. Around it are some of Taipei’s best late-night restaurants and non-night-market street eats, and shopping.
Want to explore one of Taipei’s most interesting districts in depth? Stay in one of these top-rated hotels in Ximending to check it out up close day or night!
The second oldest district in Taipei. Datong can feel a little rougher around the edges, but a few incredible temples like Confucius Temple and Bao’an Temple, and old historic sights like Dihua Street, make Datong worth a visit.
The northern part of central Taipei. Zhongshan was once the centre of Taipei tourism until the building boom took the newer developments elsewhere in the city. The district still offers some excellent accommodation options, beautiful parks along the river, and a few interesting temples.
Technology and financial sector north of Xinyi. Songshan is somewhat less important for travellers than many of the other central districts, but has one of the city’s best night markets: Raohe Street Night Market.
What to do in Taipei
Don’t let Taipei’s critics sway you. There’s more than enough to keep you busy here on your stay. In this Taipei travel guide, I’ve only included a handful of the most popular things to do in Taipei. If you need more ideas, check out this super-detailed guide on what to do in Taipei…
No image is more in-tune with Taiwan’s capital than Taipei 101. It’s an engineering marvel, formerly the tallest building in the world. If seeing it in a picture amazes you, imagine staring at it from below or scaling up to the top deck to soak up panoramic views of Taipei City.
Besides the observation deck, the lower levels of Taipei 101 host a slew of fast-food joints and restaurants including Din Tai Fung, serving up Taipei’s most famous dumplings. A meal here, despite the overwhelming popularity (i.e. endless line-up), could be one of the culinary highlights of your trip to Taipei.
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
You might argue with its founding premise or with its architectural design. Either way, you probably won’t be able to stop looking at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
It’s a beacon in Taipei’s Liberty Square, flexing from the western flank opposite the National Theatre and National Concert Hall. Whether or not you dig the neo-classical Chinese architectural style is up to you. But if you’re in Taipei, it’s hard to justify not sneaking a peek inside the building inspired by the most famous and controversial figure in Taiwanese politics.
Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Unlike the compact Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is a gargantuan space dedicated to Taiwan’s “National Father,” Sun Yat-sen.
The exterior of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall isn’t much to behold, other than witnessing its enormity. The real attraction here is timing your visit with the changing of the guards or wandering around in the well-manicured Zhongshan Park.
National Palace Museum
You’ll need to get a little outside of Taipei’s city centre to take in the National Palace Museum, one of the largest collections of Chinese relics and art in the world.
The artifacts here date back as much as thousands of years ago. With any passing interest in Asian or Chinese culture and history, you’d do well to take the trip up to Shilin and pop into the National Palace Museum.
National Museum Of History
Like the National Palace Museum, Taipei’s National Museum of History is a place for travellers to connect with the history of Taiwan. The National Museum of History doesn’t occupy the same space or importance as the National Palace Museum, but is still a worthwhile stop for history buffs visiting Taipei.
National Taiwan Museum
The third installment of Taipei’s national museums is the National Taiwan Museum in Zhongzheng. Built by the Japanese colonial government in 1908, the National Taiwan Museum is now the oldest museum in the entire country. Surprisingly, even with all the chaos faced in the twentieth century, the National Taiwan Museum survived in its original location.
Unlike the other two museums, National Taiwan Museum focuses on the evolution of Taiwan from the anthropological and scientific perspectives. Inside, you’ll find exhibits detailing Taiwanese aboriginal culture and Taiwanese flora and fauna, among an array of other things.
Of all the Taipei attractions that will jump out at you, none will be more striking than the temples you’ll find scattered around Taipei. There’s a multitude hanging about, and you’ll likely run across one nearly every time you step out of your hotel room. Here are three of the best temples in Taipei:
While visiting Taipei, you simply can’t ignore visiting Longshan Temple in Wanhua. Not only is the architecture of Longshan Temple wondrous, but visiting is an experience that will bestow a better understanding of Taiwanese religious culture.
Like many of the cities temples, Longshan Temple doesn’t adhere to a single religious prescription but a multitude of them. Worshipped here are Chinese folk deities rather than figures from more well-known Asian religions like Taoism and Buddhism. All of it makes for an interesting, eye-opening experience.
Equally as confusing to the uninitiated is Bao’an Temple in Datong. It’s the second most popular Taiwanese folk temple in Taipei among tourists, and arguably the most visually interesting.
Compared to Longshan Temple, Bao’an Temple offers a quieter and more relaxed temple-going experience. Here you can find enough breathing room to admire the stunning architectural details and worship with less distraction if you so choose.
Just down the street from Bao’an Temple, Confucius Temple is Taipei’s largest centre for Confucian worship. The traditional Chinese architectural details are a feast for your senses, and although simpler and less intricate than the nearby Bao’an Temple, Confucius Temple is well-worth the trip even on its own.
Inside, there’s an exhibit to Confucius himself, a man who had a vast influence on the cultures of East Asia. Visiting during the school year, expect some company as the temple and museum are a popular field trip destination for local youngsters.
For a city as sprawling as Taipei, it’s surprisingly green. I’d guess that wasn’t always the case. Today, you’ll find parks and greenery scattered all throughout the city. None are better than these three best Taipei parks.
Daan Forest Park
Surrounded by some of the swankier areas of Taipei, Daan Forest Park is a blissful escape from a city that doesn’t seem to rest. Walking around in Daan Forest Park, dubbed “The Lungs of Taipei,” you’ll be joined by a stream of Taipeiers grabbing fresh air to unwind from their daily grind.
Don’t be surprised if you also run into some wildlife while wandering among the park’s greenery and ponds. For relaxation within the city, Daan Forest Park is a must.
2-28 Peace Park
While its size doesn’t match Daan Forest Park, 2-28 Peace Park is a quick green escape with a snap of history. Not to fall too deep into a history lesson, the park currently serves as a memorial to the 2-28 Massacre, a sombre moment for modern Taiwan.
If you wanted to brush up on Taiwanese history including the incident, the 2-28 Memorial Museum and National Taiwan Museum are both on within the grounds of 2-28 Peace Park.
Taipei Botanical Garden
Next to Daan Forest Park, Taipei Botanical Garden is one of the top choices for relaxation within Taiwan’s capital. It’s more than just a park, but a living research centre.
In Taipei Botanical Garden you’ll wander among over 1,500 plant species spread throughout over a dozen different mini-ecosystems.
What to eat in Taipei
Any fan of East Asian food will get a kick out of Taipei’s food scene. Taiwanese food blends flavours from throughout East Asia into combination that all to its own.
Not everyone will find love at first bite. But those who ply Taipei’s night markets and restaurants with an open mind and empty stomach will be rewarded with some of the most unique flavours in the region.
Walk along any street in Taipei with a food stand or two and you’re bound to catch a whiff of Taipei’s most infamous street food. Stinky tofu doesn’t cater to everyone’s taste. But once you push past the less-than-fresh smell (the stinkier the better!), the taste is not so bad, even pleasant.
As an introduction to stinky tofu, try out some deep-fried stinky tofu at a popular night market like Ningxia Night Market or Shilin Night Market.
If you simply can’t stomach the smell of stinky tofu, lock your tastebuds onto oyster vermicelli, an easily-palatable and popular Taiwanese snack in Taipei. The brilliance of oyster vermicelli comes from its simplicity.
It’s often little more than oysters and misua (salted wheat flour vermicelli) served in a tasty broth. You can find some of the best oyster vermicelli in Taipei at Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle near Ximending in Wanhua.
Although xiaolongbao is associated more with Shanghai, no other city in the world has mastered the art better than Taipei. Xiaolongbao is dished out with a variety of fillings, ranging anywhere from minced ginger pork or crab roe to cooked cabbage or cucumbers.
Two of the best restaurants to eat xiaolongbao in Taipei are Hangzhou Xiaolong Tangbao in Da’an District or any Din Tai Fung location in Taipei.
Not technically a Taipei, but a Tamsui delicacy, a-gei is hollowed-out bean curd (tofu) stuffed with cellophane noodles and seasoned with a special spicy sauce. Compared to the usually subdued heat of Taiwanese food, a-gei packs a slight punch. In a good way, of course.
Even though the texture of isn’t something that will appeal to everyone, a-gei‘s a must-have food if heading north to Tamsui. The best place to get your fix is at the original a-gei stand, located on Tamsui Old Street near the main entrance.
Where to stay in Taipei
With the awesome Taipei MRT always at your beck and call, there are plenty of options abound in choose your Taipei accommodations. Among the best places to stay in Taipei for travellers are Ximending, Zhongzheng, and Xinyi. All of these districts offer an excellent selection of high-quality accommodations with plenty of things to do in the vicinity.
Not sure where to start? Check out a few of these best hotels in Taipei:
- Roaders Hotel: An interesting boutique hotel just minutes from Ximending and Taipei Main Station that forges its handsome looks on around the theme of the great American road trip. Rooms are sleek and smartly designed with city views available in their value-laden mid-range rooms.
- Grand Hyatt Taipei: A luxurious hotels staring down the dazzling Taipei 101. The spacious rooms feature a classy modern style blended with a classic Asian elegance. Views onto the city are simply stunning.
- W Taipei: The hippest hotel in Taipei featuring floor-to-ceiling windows shining in fantastic city views. Get the most out of your stay with a relaxing dip in WET® outdoor pool, a soothing massage at AWAY® Spa or a fancy cocktail at the cool Woobar Night Club.
Transportation in Taipei
Taipei is serviced by two airports: Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) and Taipei Songshan (TSA). Most flights from international destinations come in through Taoyuan with only a handful of shorter international flights using the more convenient Songshan (mostly from China, South Korea, and Japan).
Several major airlines fly to Taiwan including the Taiwanese flagship carrier EVA Air, China Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines.
As much as public transportation can be intimidating to some travellers, getting around Taipei will be one of the easier things you’ll do on your trip. Although you’ll find many options, the easiest way to get between most of the top Taipei attractions is by the quick & efficient Taipei MRT.
Ride prices vary between NT$20 to NT$65, getting more expensive for longer distances. If you’re spending quite a bit of time on the MRT (and are looking for a more convenient option), it might be worth it to invest in a Taipei Metro Pass. Several different durations are available including 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours.
If you’r planning to travel less frequently on the Taipei Metro, the Easy Card might be a better option. This popular smart payment card is reloadable and can be used on Taipei public transportation and at participating stores throughout Taipei.
Taipei to Hsinchu
Train: Local trains between Taipei and Hsinchu (NT$114) leave regularly from 5:00 until 23:05 and take about 1.5 to 2 hours. A better option is the Tze-Chiang Limited Express (NT$177), a quick trip of 1h8m on most runs throughout the day. Hsinchu is also on the high-speed rail line. If you want to spend a little more, Taiwan High Speed Rail does the trip from Taipei to Hsinchu in less than an hour.
Taipei to Hualien
Train: Trains from Taipei to Hualien depart sporadically throughout the day, leaving every 10 to 40 minutes. The two main trains are the Tze-Chiang Limited Express (NT$440) and Chu-Kuang Express (NTD$340). The Tze-Chaing Limited Express is the quicker of the two, making the journey from Taipei to Hualien in about 2 to 2.5 hours.
Taipei to Kaohsiung
Train: Regular trains from Taipei to Kaohsiung, including the Tze-Chiang Limited Express (NT$843) and Chu-Kuang Express (NT$650-658), depart frequently and take any from less than four hours to almost seven. To get from Taipei to Kaohsiung in approximately two hours, hop onto Taiwan High Speed Rail.
Taipei to Keelung
Train: Local trains from Taipei to Keelung (NT$41) depart every 20 minutes. The trip only takes about 45 to 50 minutes.
Taipei to Taichung
Train: Local trains from Taipei to Taichung (NT$241) take over three hours while the Tze-Chiang Limited Express (NT$375) and Chu-Kuang Express (NT$289) each make the trip in just over two hours. The quickest option for regular trains is the Tze-Chiang Limited Express (Puyuma), departing four times daily and making the trip in approximately 1h40m. On Taiwan High Speed Rail, the trip between Taipei and Taichung takes just over an hour.
Taipei to Tainan
Train: The Tze-Chiang Limited Express (NT$738) from Taipei to Tainan departs every hour on the the hour. The trip takes about 4h20m. With Taiwan High Speed Rail, the best option, you’ll zoom from Taipei to Tainan in about two hours.
Taipei to Yilan
Train: Local trains (NT$140) ply the route from Taipei to Yilan in most cases from 2 to 2.5 hours. The best option is the Tze-Chiang Limited Express (NT$218), completing the trip in approximately 1.5 hours or less. The Tze-Chiang Limited Express “Puyuma,” departing several times daily, does the run from Taipei to Yilan in just over an hour.