With a population of 2.6 million people, Taipei is the thriving capital of Taiwan where old and new collide in a perfect balance. When I booked my flights to Taiwan I hadn’t heard much about it as a travel destination, but I was more than impressed. It is a melting pot of food, culture, and history, with a modern transport system, fantastic accommodation and all the amenities you need for travel.
My first destination was Taipei, which I thought would just be an in-and-out place to catch my flights, but I ended up staying for five amazing days. There were way more things to do in Taipei than I had initially anticipated, and a lot more that I didn’t even have time to experience! After a few days exploring the capital, here are my Top 10 Things To Do In Taipei, Taiwan. And the best part? All of these are free!
CLIMB ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN
Want the best view of the Taipei skyline without having to fork out $30AUD to go up the Taipei 101 observation deck? Climbing Elephant Mountain is the best way to go. This 20 minute walk takes you to several viewing points providing panoramic vistas over Taipei and the world’s previously tallest building, Taipei 101.
VISIT SHILIN NIGHT MARKET
Taipei’s night markets are an iconic part of the city, and none is more well-known than Shilin Night Market. The sprawling market with almost 400 stalls starts at 4pm but erupts into life after sunset. There are so many fantastic Taiwanese foods to try here and watching them be prepared is downright fascinating. The crowds here swell and you really are shoulder-to-shoulder with people, but there is beauty in this chaos so just embrace it! Foods to try are the extra large fried chicken from Star, fried dumplings, the famous Taiwanese double hot dog, and the chopped mushrooms (pictured above)
BROWSE THE SHOPS AT XIMENDING
Ximending is the youthful shopping district of Taipei complete with flashing lights, a pedestrian-only zone, and copious amounts of bubble tea. A visit to Ximending is reminiscent of Myeongdong in Seoul and is a lot of fun. Whether you want to people-watch or browse some of the hilarious stall items, there is plenty to keep you occupied here. And, as with a lot of places in Taipei you’ll come to learn, Ximending transforms into a street market at nightfall.
WANDER THROUGH THE WARES AT DIHUA STREET
Dihua Street in the Datong District of Taipei is a place I stumbled upon accidentally on a walk but ended up finding pretty fascinating. The street marketplace extends around 800m – 1km on both sides and sells lots of traditional Chinese products. Foods, fabrics, and trinkets are aplenty, and there are a lot of interesting things for sale. You will probably have to brush up on your Chinese before visiting however, because as interesting as all the products looked, I still have no idea what most of them were!
GAWK AT LIBERTY SQUARE AND CKS MEMORIAL
Liberty Square is an expansive public space in Taipei’s Zhongzheng District and is where many large-scale events are held. The square has several important buildings and monuments which are fantastic to explore. To the sides are the National Theatre and National Concert Hall, to one end the guard-flanked Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, and to the other an imposing gate. There is plenty to keep you occupied around Liberty Square, make sure you read up on the history of Taiwan before visiting to make these monuments more meaningful.
RELAX AT BEITOU HOT SPRINGS
Visiting Thermal Valley in Beitou was one of my favourite things to do in Taipei and a bit different from night markets and temples. These natural sulphuric hot springs give off an eerie steam which looks marvellous against the bright blue water. On the way to Thermal Valley, you can stroll alongside the Beitou stream too which is also a peaceful and beautiful place.
Although in these publicly accessible pools in Thermal Valley you cannot swim, there are several spots in Beitou on the way to Thermal Valley which you can bathe for a fee. This would be a relaxing thing to do in Taipei and something I would’ve done if I remembered to pack my bathers!
VISIT RAOHE NIGHT MARKET
Lantern-clad Raohe Street Night Market was one of my favourite Taipei night markets. The red glow over the bustling street vendors was atmospheric and the food was incredible. This market also gets pretty busy and crowded but it adds to the atmosphere. The further into the market you go, the crowds thin out and it becomes easier to look around.
SEE LONGSHAN TEMPLE
Although there are dozens of beautiful temples in Taipei, if you have to see one, it should be Longshan. This is Taiwan’s most loved temple and is a place where worshippers and visitors brush shoulders in a peaceful appreciation. The temple was initially built in the 1700s and survived many natural disasters but was badly damaged in WWII. The peaceful atmosphere, grand scale, and stunning architecture at Longshan Temple make it a worthwhile place to visit. I especially enjoyed stepping back and watching all the rituals unfold.
STROLL DOWN BOPILIAO ROAD
Taipei has several ‘old streets’ which have been renovated/maintained as cultural areas for people to learn about Taipei’s past. Of the old streets, I particularly enjoyed Bopiliao Old Street which runs right next to Longshan temple. The terracotta bricks and mismatched windows were quaint, and the atmospheric tea houses and art galleries were incredibly interesting to visit. Many of the spaces here are used as galleries and exhibition spaces, when I visited there was an exhibition on the Taiwan Film Festival which was fascinating!
EAT UP AT YONGKANG STREET
Yongkang Street near Dongmen Station is a thriving street with some famous and delicious Taipei eats. The street, adorned with flashing lights, is far more relaxed than the bigger night markets so it’s a different feel. Yongkang was next to my second hostel in Taipei, so I spent a fair bit of time sussing out the offerings here. Din Tai Fung is the most famous place for soup dumplings (xiao long bao) and the queue can be substantial, I ended up not waiting here and went to some street stalls instead. For $25NTD I grabbed a scallion pancake (pictured) from Thanh Ky’s which was hand-made to order and absolutely mouth watering. There’s a line for these pancakes but it moves quickly and they’re worth it! Shaved ice with mango from Mango Snowflake Ice is the perfect dessert to top off a meal — look for the yellow building buzzing with activity.
AND GO ON DAY TRIPS!
Taiwan is easy to get around and organising day trips is simple. Some destinations I visited which are accessible from Taipei and absolutely amazing are:
PIN FOR LATER AND FOR OTHERS!
MORE TAIWAN GOODNESS BELOW
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Have you been to Taipei? Let me know in the comments below!