Best things to do in Taipei, Taiwan. A quick overview:
- Taipei 101
- Rainbow Crosswalk
- Peace Park
- The Red House
- Beimen Station
- Tianhou Temple
- National Taiwan Museum
- Lungshan Temple
- National Palace Museum
- Zhishan Garden
- Beitou Thermal Valley Day Trip
- Chang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
- Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
- Elephant Mountain
- Knife Massage
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How to Get to Taipei
Taipei is the capital of Taiwan, a tropical country just off the coast of China. The main international airport in Taipei is Taoyuan International Airport, abbreviation – TPE. Taiwan is a popular destination, and so, many American airports offer direct flights to TPE. My direct flight from JFK in NYC was about 12 hours. Taiwan’s international airline, EVA is well known as one of the best airlines in the world.
Check ticket prices from your local airport to TPE:
Taiwan (Taipei) tour packages:
How Many Days Do You Need in Taipei?
Taipei is a large city and you can easily spend weeks exploring this area. However, if you are like most US-based travelers, you do not have weeks. If you are traveling to Taiwan for roughly one week, spend three days in Taipei. You should be able to do many of the things on this list within just three days and shouldn’t have to rush to fit it all in.
How To Get Around Taipei
Getting around Taipei is very easy with public transport, a combination of metro (MRT) and the bus network. To pay for entry, you can buy one-time-use plastic tokens or an Easy Card. The Easy Card requires a one time fee of 100 NT$ (about $3 USD). Although I initially bought tokens, I quickly found that using an Easy Card is much more convenient. On the days when I knew I would travel a lot, I purchased a one day pass from my hotel. This pass grants you unlimited metro, bus, and bike use for 100 NT$.
The cost of a subway or a bus ride in Taipei ranges from about 65c to $2.50 USD.
Taipei Travel Tip:
Buy an Easy Card as soon as you land. Keep in mind that you need cash to pay for transportation around Taipei and Taiwan.
Taipei City Mall
A unique feature in Taipei is the Taipei City Mall that connects Main Station with Beimen Station. The mall extends 825 meters and is ideal if you need to walk a few blocks but it is either too hot or raining outside. Although the City Mall is the biggest, there are other, smaller malls that also connect other major streets. In a country where the weather sometimes alternates between torrential downpour and almost deadly heat, the malls can provide an easy route around the city.
Where to Stay in Taipei
The most convenient area to stay in Taipei is next to the Main Station (located in Zhongzheng District). From Main Sation, you can easily explore the city in all directions. In addition to being the most convenient transportation hub in Taipei, here you’ll find great restaurants, night markets, and major attractions. Main Station is sometimes alternatively called “Taipei Station” or “Taipei Main Station.”
The History of Taipei
Today, Taipei is a thriving metropolis and the seat of the government of Taiwan. However, this was not always the case. Up until the 17th century, Taiwan was mostly populated by native (aboriginal) tribes. At that time Taipei did not exist. It was not until the 18th century that new immigrants from China founded the capital. By the 19th century, the city established itself as an important center of trade and the regional capital.
When the Japanese acquired Taiwan after the First Sino-Japanese war in 1885, the new owners build many administrative buildings you will find here today.
Taiwan briefly reverted back to China’s ownership in 1945. At the time, a fierce civil war erupted on the mainland, and the retreating Chinese Nationalist Government left China to establish a separate country in Taiwan – with the capital in Taipei.
Since then, Taipei expanded to more than 2 million people. Today, Taipei is one of the most densely populated capitals in the world.
Things To Do in Taipei
Taipei 101 – Things To Do in Taipei
Perhaps the best-known attraction in Taipei, the Taipei 101 building is a major tourist destination. When you initially enter the building, you’ll find yourself in a large, and very expensive mall. The path to the observation deck is well hidden. To save time, ask someone who works there for directions. Upstairs, you’ll find brilliant views, a souvenir shop, and a restaurant. Here, you can also view an interesting feature – the wind damper – a huge weight designed to counter sway in strong winds. The damper ensures that Taipei 101 can withstand the strongest typhoons.
As you are leaving the observation deck, you will have no choice but walk through a huge shop peddling jewelry made from red coral. You’ll notice many signs encouraging you to make a purchase. Some signs claim that “red coral is not endangered,” and therefore ok to harvest and sell. This is not the case, red coral is endangered. You can learn lots more about the efforts to protect Red Coral here.
Rainbow Crosswalk – Things To Do in Taipei
In a country obsessed with social media, The Ximen Rainbow Crosswalk is perhaps one of the most popular places to take pictures. This easy to find attraction is located right outside of Ximen station. The best time to visit here is in the early morning before the big crowds show up. The second best time is during sunset. Although later in the day the area does get crowded, the views are brilliant. And even though many tourists are waiting for pictures, the entire process is organized and orderly. In Taiwan, people are good at waiting for their turn and being respectful of those around them.
Peace Park – Things To Do in Taipei
Although today, Taiwan is a democratic country, this was not always the case. In 1947, right after the Nationalist Government established in Taipei, a group of protestors took over a radio station. That take over led to a series of events in which the Nationalist Government of Taiwan began what is known today as the “White Terror Period.” By the time it was all over, three to four thousand people were executed for their opposition to the government.
In the 1990s, a newly democratic Taiwanese government create the Peace Park. Part memorial and part symbol of reconciliation, today’s Peace Park is a notable Taipei Attraction.
The best time to visit the Peace Park is in the late afternoon, as the sun is setting. Wander over the serene and shaded pathways, and check out the important buildings – Cui Heng Chambers, the 228 Memorial Monument, and the Peace Bell.
The Red House – Things To Do in Taipei
Constructed by the Japanese, the Red House was the first government-built public market in Taiwan. The red house incorporates a unique octagonal-shaped display hall and a more traditional “back market” area.
In the grand hall of the Red House, you’ll find historical displays and a traditional Taiwanese tea cafe. In the back, an expansive mall that only carries high-quality handmade crafts and unique gifts. The Red House is a great place to visit during mid-day when you need to hide out from the oppressive heat outside.
Beimen Station – Things To Do in Taipei
While all the metro stations in Taipei are beautiful, the Biemen Station is also unique. Here, you will find an archeological excavation exhibition build into the floor. In the 1960’s as the workers constructed Taipei’s metro system, they dug up many items from Taipei’s past. Ranging from 16th to the early 20th century, discoveries from all over the city were brought to Beimen. Here, they remain on display in this free underground museum. As you walk around the area you can both view the discoveries and read about them.
Tianhou Temple – Things To Do in Taipei
Sometimes called Ximending Mazu Temple, the Tianhou Temple is a small house of worship in the Ximending district. Tianhou Temple is well known for the unusual lantern display decorating its ceiling. Constructed in 1746, this is a quick but picturesque stop on this list of things to do in Taipei.
National Taiwan Museum – Things To Do in Taipei
The National Taiwan Museum consists of two buildings. The first is a traditional museum that holds exhibits that explore Taiwan’s native tribes and recent history. But the second, the Land Bank Exhibit Hall, is a converted bank. Once you enter here, you are in for a real treat. Inside, you’ll find exhibitions that dive into Taiwan’s prehistoric past, including dinosaur and insects exhibits. The two halls are located across the street from one another, so many people miss the second building. When you purchase the tickets, buy the ticket that allows you to enter both halls.
Lungshan Temple – Things To Do in Taipei
The Bangka Lungshan Temple in the Wanhua District is one of the largest temples in Taipei. Reconstructed several times, including after WWII, the Longshan temple is a major tourist attraction. The temple is at its most beautiful after dark. Show up after sunset and you’ll find hundreds of tourists and worshipers. The temple is large and it takes 30 minutes or more to explore.
National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum focuses on the history of China rather than that of Taiwan. On display here, you’ll find various treasures from the mainland, including furniture, jewelry and clothes. Most of the exhibits are from the Qin and the Ming dynasty, both preceding the settlement of Taiwan by the Chinese. Because this museum is away from the center, I would only recommend you visit here if you are interested in the culture of the mainland. If you are looking to explore the history of Taiwan, the National Taiwan Museum is a better choice.
Zhishan Garden – Things To Do in Taipei
You’ll find the peaceful Zhishan Garden right outside the National Palace Museum. The entrance to the garden is hidden. Therefore, before you leave the museum, ask an associate for directions to the garden. Most people miss the beautiful conservatory, and its a shame. Well maintained, free of crowds and traditional, the place is absolutely worth exploring. In fact, I have to confess – I enjoyed my visit to the garden more than I dd to the actual National Palace Museum.
Beitou Thermal Valley Day Trip
The Beitou Hot Springs is a complex located on the outskirts of Taipei. Many traveler rate Beitou as the best day trip from Taipei, and once you get here you’ll see why. First, walk around to the spectacular Hell Valley to view the lake, a clear aqua color with sulfur clouds rising above. Next, study the history of the region in the Hot Springs Museum and the Plum Gardens, both free to enter. And finally, spend a few hours soaking in the hot springs pools for a nominal fee. You can easily spend hours exploring Beitou Thermal Valley. An ideal day trip here lasts about 4 hours.
Chaing Kai Shek Memorial Hall
A visit to the CKS Memorial Hall is another great thing to do in Taipei. The large open-air complex is dedicated to modern Taiwan’s founder, Chiang Kai-Shek. After ascending several dozen stairs, you’ll enter a large, open-air area. Here, you’ll find an enormous statue of Kai Shek, comfortably seated in a giant armchair. It is clear to anybody who’s been to DC that the design is strongly influenced by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
However, the most interesting part of the memorial lays under the statue. Although the building was originally constructed to honor one man, it has evolved into something far bigger. The vast space beneath the statue still hosts a museum dedicated to Kai Shek’s life. However, in addition, you’ll also find dozens of permanent and rotating art exhibits. The exhibits celebrate modern artists from all over the world. Altogether, the hall hosts several thousand exhibits every year. This means that every time you come to Taipei, you can see something new at the Chaing Kai Shek Memorial Hall.
Taipei Travel Tip:
You can watch the changing of the guard in CKS Memorial Hall every hour starting from 9.00 am to 5:00 pm.
Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall
Dedicated to another founder of modern Taiwan, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall is similar to CKS Memorial. Here too you will find a statue with an honor guard, and a museum dedicated to the life of Sun Yat-Sen. Smaller than Chaing Kai Shek Memorial, this one does not host any art exhibits. Unless you are particularly interested in the subject, you may wish to skip this stop on your list of things to do in Taipei.
Of all the things to do in Taipei, a visit to the Elephant Mountain is perhaps one of the most rewarding. Located on the outskirts of Taipei, Elephant mountain is a park you can hike to see some of the best views in the country. The views from the top are extraordinary. In the foreground mountains and jungle, and in the background, the city with the Taipei 101 building rising far into the skyline. The best time to visit here is in the early morning or late afternoon. The hike incorporates hundreds of stairs, and this is difficult to do in the midday heat.
One of the quirkiest things to do in Taipei, a knife massage is an ancient Chinese practice. Deeper than a Swedish massage, it is administered with a dull knife and a firm hand. Although many locals seem to enjoy the longer version, I wasn’t that brave and tried it out for 10 minutes. It definitely works better and faster than a hand massage. You can try out this fun adventure inside the Taipei Metro Mall, at the massage place between exit Y12 and Y 13.
Where to Eat in Taipei
Huaxi Street Market
The Huaxi Street Market is a bit different from other night markets in Taipei. The covered streets here are ideal for rainy nights. So if you are up for a night market stroll but its raining outside, the Huaxi Street Market should be your first choice.
Linjian Night Market
The Linjian Night Market is relatively small – but big on experiences. Here you’ll find all the necessities, starting with strange foods – to massages and arcades. Faster to walk through then some of the bigger markets, Linjian is a good choice for days when you are tired or don’t feel like walking too much.
Ximending Street Market
The central Ximending Night Market is unusual for a variety of reasons. Its central location is just one. Although you’ll find most markets on side streets and off main roads, Ximending is right in the center of the district of the same name. Basically, Taipei’s version of times square. The bright lights compete with the scents of the market for an almost overwhelming experience. Zimending night market is a Taipei favorite and a must-visit.
Taipei Packing List
No matter what time of the year you are traveling to Taipei, it is good to prepare for rainy weather. The average rainfall here is 2,500 mm, and most of it comes from typhoons.
Dresscode in Taiwan is chick and stylish. Many local women really enjoy dressing up. To fit in you’ll want to wear fashionable items ideal for hot weather. “Hello Kitty” is very popular in Taiwan and even many older women wear cartoon-inspired items. Almost all women wear makeup. Here is my one week Taipei Packing list
- Light Rainjacket (1)
- Hiking sneakers (1)
- Bikini (1 to 2)
- Cute around the city sneakers (1)
- Ballet Flats (1)
- Tank Tops (2 to 4)
- Shorts (1 to 2)
- Day time dresses (3 to 4)
- Evening dresses (3 to 4)
- Short hiking pants (1 to 2)
- Jogging Bra (1)
- Hiking Top (1)
- A Light Backpack (1)
- A cute purse big enough to fit the essentials (1)
How to get to the hotel from the Taipei Airport (TPE)
There is a new, direct path on the metro from Taipei Aiport to the city. Simply board the MRT at the airport station and you will arrive in Taipei Central Station within 35 minutes. Keep in mind that you need cash to buy transit tokens and that the trains start running after 6 am. If you get to the airport before six, walk up to the fourth floor of the airport for the restaurants and cafes.
What are some free things to do in Taipei?
My favorite free things to do in Taipei:
- Climb Elephant Mountain
- Admire the art exhibits in CKS Memorial Hall
- Explore the night markets
- Take a day trip to the Beitou Valley
- Get brilliant pictures at Longshan Temple
- Up your social media game at the Rainbow Crosswalk
- Take a stroll in Taipei Peace Park
When is the best time to travel to Taipei?
For most people, October and November are the best months to visit Taipei. Temperatures hover around 60 to 70 degrees, and rainfall is reasonable. December through February are cooler, with an average of 50 degrees and the lowest rainfall of the year. In the spring, the temperatures average 60 to 70 degrees but rainfall can be heavy. The hottest and rainiest months are June through September. Keep in mind, that it is best to avoid visiting Taipei during the Chinese new year, as many major attractions will be closed.
What to do when it rains in Taipei?
Taipei has lots of great indoor spaces to explore when it’s raining. One of the best is the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, with its dozens of rotating art exhibits. Another great public space is in Taipei 101, and the large mall inside. And finally, stroll the Taipei Metro Mall with its quirky shops and restaurants, and enjoy the weirder side of Taipei.
Other places to visit near Taipei, Taiwan
If you are looking for more nature, check out Yangmingshan National Park. If, on the other hand, you prefer a second big city, Tai Chung is a great choice. And finally, the resort town of Sun Moon Lake is a charming place where many Taiwanese spend their vacations.
One last thing
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Viktoria Aka Traveltipster