Easily the most popular (and the most populous) city in Taiwan, Taipei is a maze of adventure waiting to be explored by travellers seeking a unique food and cultural experience in Asia. It’s the main hub of transport for visitors coming in and out of Taiwan, and offers plenty of activities for the curious-minded adventure seekers and places for people to stay and travel around the northern region.
When you’re visiting Taiwan, you can easily traverse the entire west coast via their HSP (high speed rail), which is similar to Japan’s Shinkansen service, with trains traveling up to the speed of 300km/hr, or fly to Taitung the bottom of the east coast within 60-minutes.
It’s a small enough country that, with proper planning and organisation, you can jam-pack your holiday with activities from all corners of its land without burning a hole in your pocket or taking too much time out of your itinerary, and yet each county in the country offers a unique perspective of Taiwan, with special local foods, gorgeous sunsets and beautiful scenery.
However, to do Taiwan does not necessarily mean you need to experience both the north, the south, the east, and the west. Taipei City is actually a Pandora’s box the first time you visit; it’s city is broken up into wonderful sections full of amazing foods to try and night markets to explore, and surrounding the city are many activities that involve you getting to see a side of Asia that doesn’t quite fit in with the tropical vibes of south-east Asian countries nor the the raw historical and traditional atmosphere of northern Asian countries.
It’s a country that seems as though it’s stuck in a charming period of history and yet is trying different ways to invigorate its identity through such attractions as the One Piece Café, the Taipei 101 Tower, and the ever-developing and vibrant district of Ximending.
But before to dive in our list, we will recommend 2 places to stay in Taipei.
Where To Stay In Taipei
Uinn Travel Hostel
Uinn Travel Hostel is the ultimate budget traveler’s destination for those who value maximum entertainment value at minimum price. With a common game room reminiscent of a bar you’d gladly spend all your weekends at with friends, complete with a futsal table, darts machines, and an on-site bar serving alcoholic drinks and even offering happy hour, you’ll find that it’ll be difficult to break the cycle of exploring Taipei by day and hanging out by here every night.
It takes up the sleeping arrangements a notch by offering private guest rooms, dormitory rooms with bunk beds, and space capsules. However, regardless of which option you decide to go with, you’ll be provided with air-con and your own flat-screen TV (yep, even in the capsules!). With the bus stop only minutes away, and various attractions just a few stops away, this option is almost a no-brainer.
Why Guests Love It: “Excellent place to stay. Rooms and beds are really comfortable, absolutely clean and tidy. Breakfast is included. It’s about 10-min walk from the train station.”, “The rooms are spacious and have a separate lounging area with a door so you don’t disturb other tenants. The facilities are secure and the staff are wonderful. I have nothing negative to say, all the facilities are fantastic.”
Book It Now: Uinn Travel Hostel
For more options, you can also check this blog post: Taipei Hostel.
Taipei H Imperial
Whilst you can get quite a decent hostel and guesthouse accommodation in Taipei for a fraction of the price you’d pay in many other countries with superior levels of comfort, it simply can’t be matched by the quality and luxury of that of a hotel, and the Taipei H Imperia is a prime example of how hotels in Taipei just get it right.
As one of the top picks in all of Taipei, its contemporary décor, ultra convenient location, and luxurious furnishings at incredibly affordable prices, it’s no wonder this place is always on the brink of being booked out. Tasteful additions such as pot plants, extra cushions, simple artworks and flowers make it seem like you’re in a 5-star accommodation, and yet you would have hardly made a dent in your wallet.
Why Guests Love It: “Super prime location. Near shopping mall. Surrounded by MRT and HSR. Staff very friendly. Design-wise very cosy.”, “Location is excellent. A lot of restaurants near hotel. Very close to MRT.”, “Everyone at reception was prompt, friendly, and helpful. Free coffee service is great to have early in the morning before we set out for breakfast, or buy breakfast to eat in the open seating area.”
Book It Now: Taipei H Imperial
The 10 Coolest Things To Do In Taipei
Now that you know where to stay, let’s start the virtual visit with our 10 best things to do in Taipei:
- Mingle with the Youth at Ximending
- Visit Shilin Night Market for Delicious Street Food
- Head to the One Piece Café for some Whacky Food and Drinks
- Spend a Day at Jiufen Old Street
- Eat Your Weight’s Worth at Keelung
- Climb The Elephant Hike
- Make a Wish in Pingxi and Release a Latern in the Sky
- Marvel at the View at Taipei 101
- Eat JianBing for Breakfast
- Eat Out Of a Toilet Bowl at the Famous Modern Toilet Restaurant
1. Mingle with the Youth at Ximending
If you’re a first-timer in Taiwan, or you’ve landed on an afternoon/night flight and have just settled down in the city, the first thing you should do is head to Ximending. Located smack-bang in the middle of the city, it’s the greatest introduction to the City of Taipei you can ask for.
There are plenty of locals and tourists mingling on the streets, rubbing shoulders at the street eateries and wandering the markets in search of the next bargain. On the weekends, and often on weeknights as well, there will be street performers trying their luck at busking or simply just putting on a good show in the middle of the street, and given the demographics of the crowds from youth to the elderly, there will always be an audience forming around them to appreciate their display of talent.
Likened to being the ‘Harajuku’ of Taipei, Ximendeng is also home to many fashion stores, electronic shops, and trendy restaurants and clubs. On the weekends there will be crowds of youth on the streets heading to the latest ‘in’ place. If you’re keen for a wild night of partying, look out for the hosts who stand in front of such places handing out fliers, and of course, the lines of people standing outside are also a good indicator. Some bars and clubs sometimes offer deals such as waived entrance fees for females on certain days, so that’s something to look out for!
- Address: Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
- Access: Take the train to Taipei Station, and continue on the MRT to Ximen Station. You can also walk 10-minutes from Taipei Station to Ximendeng.
2. Visit Shilin Night Market for Delicious Street Food
One of the largest and most popular night markets in Taiwan, Shilin Night Market is pretty much a must-do when you’re in Taipei. Taipei is all about the food and night markets, and Shilin is the epitome of both. It’s easily accessible via public transport, opens longer hours than most, and offers a plethora of food options as well as clothing, toys, electronics, and various other stalls selling random merchandise you can spend some time exploring.
For those who want an introduction to Taipei street cuisine and/or Taiwan night markets, Shilin is the best place to start. It offers almost all the traditional Taiwan foods across multiple vendors eager for your to try their traditional recipes, from gigantic fried chicken pieces to oyster omelettes, ‘sausage in a sausage’, or even the simple recipe of stir-fried beef and pork in pepper, but with a Taiwanese twist.
For the ultimate Taiwanese meal, finish off your food with a massive cup of bubble tea; you’ll be able to locate a bubble tea shop every couple of metres there!
It’s marketed as being open until 1:00am, however, most vendors would have packed up by midnight, so if it’s a midnight snack you’re after, keep your fingers crossed there’s still one open and willing to grill up some squid for you!
- Address: No. 101, Jihe Road, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111
- Access: Take the train to Jiantan Station. Use Exit 1, and you’ll see the beginning of the market across the road.
- Hours: 3:30pm – 1:00am
If you have extra time, before to go to Shilin Market, we recommend you to pay a visit to Beitou thermal valley which is not too far from Shilin Market. You will find a complete guide about this area here: Beitou Hot Springs.
3. Head to the One Piece Café for some Whacky Food and Drinks
One Piece fans, this one’s for you. This café located in the middle of Dua Hua Street in Taipei City is a gobsmacking paradise for those who follow the anime and manga. The entire place is decked out in life-size figurines, models of bars and restaurants from the anime, the interior décor resembles that of the ship in the anime – and this is all before we’ve even begun on the food and drinks you can order.
One can say that the reason why people come to this place is to marvel at the decked-out restaurant as a whole, but we believe that it’s the totally aesthetic-looking food that draws people in. Before we get started, we just want to put it out there that the food here is probably not the greatest food you’ll have in Taiwan.
But then again, as a themed café more focused on providing a memorable experience as opposed to Michelin-star level cuisine, that’s to be expected. Also, there is a minimum spend of $250 TWD per person.
The menu comes in both Chinese and English, making it easy for foreigners to order, and the options are surprisingly varied – you can choose from a savoury rice bowl topped with spring onion, or sweet waffles with cream for dessert. The highlight for us though, would be the coffee (which is a must!).
Whether you get the hot or cold version, it doesn’t matter, as you will receive a free print of the One Piece anime character on your coffee. It just looks so amazing! Just think about how you’ll be the envy of all your friends as you sip on Luffy’s head.
On the way out, grab some exclusive souvenirs and take a picture with the boat model and figurines, because you’ll be hard-pressed to come across this opportunity again!
- Address: No. 8號2樓, Lane 169, Section 1, Dunhua South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
- Access: From Zhongxiao Dunhua Station, it is a 3-minute walk to the café.
- Hours: 12:00pm – 10:00pm
4. Spend a Day at Jiufen Old Street
In our humble opinion, Jiufen Old Street is one of the best day trips you can possibly do from Taipei. It’s a wonderful mix of cultural charm and gastronomic delights that will keep you on your toes for the hours that you spend there.
Whilst there are many ways to explore the alley ways itself, we’re inclined to suggest that you and your party arrive here on an empty stomach and full wallets, because walking through the main strip is like walking through a five-star buffet – your heart is going to want to say yes to everything, but your stomach is going to have to say no to many things (unless you’re a competitive eater in which case you’ll love it here!), so to make the most of Jiufen Old Street, make sure you have enough room to fit in multiple main meals and many more desserts.
There’s also the famous A-Mei Tea House to explore within Jiufen Old Street itself, as well as multiple sightseeing spots along the way to Jiufen such as the Golden Waterfall and the Yin and Yang Sea. More info here: Jiufen Taiwan.
- Address: 224, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Ruifang District
- Access: To get there via public transport, from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT, head outside to the Sogo department store and take bus no. 1062 (Keelung-bound to Jinguashi), and alight at Jiufen. This should take roughly 60-minutes, and will cost around $98 TWD.
To get there via taxi, it will cost you roughly $1,200 TWD and take between 30-40 minutes. If you are traveling in a group of 3-4 people, and you’re not on a tight budget, this might work out to be the best option.
5. Eat Your Weight’s Worth at Keelung
Along the north-east coast of Taiwan sits Keelung, a port-side village whose gift to the country is incredibly fresh seafood in great abundance. If you’re planning to visit Keelung, know that you will absolutely need to carve out a few hours to eat your way through its night market, known as the Miaokou Night Market.
What makes this night market so different from other markets is the sheer number of fresh seafood available here, as well as the variety of different seafood dishes you can get here. Whilst most night food markets offer delicious oyster omelets and fried crab in garlic and chilli, Miaokou market takes it up another level.
Here, you’ll find sea critters deep fried in hoards and sold by the plate; you’ll find cockles steamed and seasoned with Asian spices; you won’t be able to resist the whole steamed or fried fish dishes that stalls hype up with their ridiculously cheap prices and abundance of flavor choices. Many places will offer you a place to sit down and relax if you choose to dine at their stall, so you can enjoy your food without having to worry about being jostled by the crowd. Of course, no Taiwanese night market is complete without bubble tea and fresh fruit, which you’ll find in abundance here, and is the perfect way to wash down all the seafood you’ll be consuming.
- Address: No. 20, Aisi Road, Ren’ai District, Keelung City, Taiwan 200
- Access: From Taipei Main Station, take the local train to Keelung Station. It’s a short walk from the station.
6. Climb The Elephant Hike
The Elephant Hike in Taipei, also known as the Xiangshan Hiking Trail and/or the Nangang District Hiking Trail, is one of, if not the, most popular hiking trail in all of Taipei. It’s easily accessible from the city (quite close to Taipei 101!), which is a big plus for tourists who are staying within the confines of the concrete jungle but want to explore a bit of the greener side of Taipei.
Now, just because it is super popular, does not mean it is super easy. In fact, even though it’s only a 15-20-minute hike to the top of the mountain, it’s quite a hike. It’s mainly made of a number of steep stairs that might sound as though they’re easy to conquer but trust us when we say you’ll be working your legs more than you realize! However, some people have been known to cruise straight to the top without any issue so it really depends on your fitness level.
Once you get to the top, the gorgeous view over the city will be worth it, we promise. Our advice would be to start off in the late afternoon so that you reach the top just before sunset. The colourful splashes of reds and oranges of the sky contrasting with the grey skyscrapers is a stunning sight, and will make for a great Instagram picture.
As expected, if you are doing this hike in summer, please remember to carry along a lot of water, as the incredibly humid weather and hot sun beating down on your whilst you climb the stairs will take a toll on your body and you’ll need some proper hydration!
- Address: Alley 342, Lane 150, Section 5, Xinyi Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
- Access: Hop on the MRT to Xiangshan, the last stop on the red line. Use Exit 2 and it is a rough 10-minute hike to the beginning of the hike.
7. Make a Wish in Pingxi and Release a Latern in the Sky
Many would argue that this activity is now being overrun by tourists, but if you’re about the simple things in life, then learning to appreciate what the symbol of what this activity means will bring you much happiness. This activity was developed in the 19th century to pray for good luck, and has carried on to becoming an activity for those hoping for an opportunity to bring these well wishes to their family and friends.
Pingxi is a tiny village where you can make a wish by writing it down onto a massive paper lantern and then burning it up and letting it float away into the air. As you can imagine, the scene is quite magical when it unfolds before your eyes.
The lanterns are massive, and are made with paper instead of iron wires and bamboo laths in order to completely burn out before hitting the ground again. The activity takes part right next to the old railway tracks that run through the village, giving the setting quite a nostalgic feel, although you’ll have to try and ignore the hoards of crowds there to really get into the nostalgic mood.
All you need to do is flag down someone and request for a lantern. You’ll be giving four sides to write whatever you want on with a paintbrush, and once you’re done, you can let them know and they’ll take you to the middle of the railway to take some photos and then burn it up to be released into the sky.
- Address: Pingxi Street, Pingxi District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 226
- Access: From Taipei Main Station, take a north-bound train towards Ruifang, and alight there to transfer to the Pingxi line. You will need to purchase separate One-Day ticket for the Pingxi line.
8. Marvel at the View at Taipei 101
If you’re an avid traveller of Asia, you would have realised by now that majority of the cities in Asia have built a tall tower that overlooks the city and allows tourists to pay a small fee to get a stunning view. This is always a great activity, as one can never really get sick of the sight of a sprawling metropolis full of sky scrapers during the day, and glittering city lights at night.
Taipei 101 is Taipei’s answer to such tower. Located right in the city, it’s an enormously spectacular piece of art that’s both worthy of admiration from the outside and the inside. As dictated in Chinese culture, the number 8 is the luckiest number, and the main structure of the building is split up into eight stacked parts, representing prosperity and good fortune.
The top levels are reserved as observation decks, and when you visit, you will be able to access levels 88, 89, and 91. The 91st floor is particularly special as it allows you a 360 view of the Taipei City in an outdoor space, and is one of the highest open-air observation decks in the entire world right now.
Often, there are concerts held by famous Japanese celebrities at the top of the Taipei 101 tower, and there are always events within the building itself. If you’re in Taipei for New Years, then Taipei 101 is the place to be. It’s become a massive tradition to celebrate there every year, where each stack of the building lights up from the bottom up as the last 8 seconds of the year counts down, leading to a spectacular display of fireworks lighting up the sky when it hits 12:00am.
- Address: 110, Taiwan, Taipei City, Xinyi District, Section 5, Xinyi Road, 7號
- Access: Take the red line and alight at Xiangshan station.
- Hours: 9:00am – 10:00pm
9. Eat JianBing for Breakfast
Easily one of the best breakfast foods to come from Taiwan, ‘jianbing’ is a popular street food made by filling a wheat and grain thin pancake with numerous amounts of fillings such as egg, spring onion, pickles, some sweet and spicy sauce, and various other savoury toppings (a Chinese favourite would be adding a fried dough stick in the middle!).
One of the reasons why jianbing is so delicious is because it is made fresh to order – on the streets of Taipei City, you can find jianbing master chefs pushing their food carts around, and they’ll whip up a fresh pancake for you on the spot. They’re incredibly tasty, and incredibly filling.
In Taiwan, it’s considered one of the best and most popular breakfast options, and it’s slowly gaining traction around the world, as more and more travellers break open this well-kept secret whilst traversing Taiwan and spinning stories about it back at home to their families and friends.
Over the recent years, it’s been expanding to various corners of the earth, with specialty jianbing stores opening in cities like Sydney (Australia), and New York City (U.S.), but of course, for true authenticity, you will need to seek them out whilst in Taiwan. Taipei City is full of them, especially in popular areas like Ximending.
10. Eat Out Of a Toilet Bowl at the Famous Modern Toilet Restaurant
Asia is full of kooky and whacky eating experiences, but the Modern Toilet Restaurant in Taipei might just take the café for being the weirdest eating experience you’ll ever have. Easily accessible from the city, it’s a place where you’d probably go for lunch, but also have to work on stomaching your lunch, because the methods of delivering and serving the food is a tad unconventional.
Aptly called ‘Modern Toilet’, this café serves food in all sorts of styles spired by the *ahem* lavatory. Think food served in toilet bowls, drinks served in urine drainage look-a-like bottles, and poop-style ice cream. This may already turn you off going, but know it’s just all in good fun!
The place is always brimming with tourists who are after a memorable experience, from the young to the elderly, and you’ll find that the food served is not that bad! For those who are being dragged along but are adamant they don’t want to eat out of a toilet bowl (incredibly exciting stuff, but we also understand where you’re coming from), the menu also has completely normal food items that come out on normal plates, with normal cutlery, so this place really caters for people from all across the spectrum.
Taipei of course is an absolute beast of a food destination, but if you find that you want to take a break from traditional Taiwanese food and try something out of the ordinary, this is the place for you.
- Address: No. 7號, Lane 50, Xining South Road, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
- Access: Take the MRT Bannan Line to Ximen Station, and use Exit 6.
- Hours: 11:30am – 9:00pm
- Website: Modern Toilet Restaurant
As you can see, Taipei City alone is full of incredibly diverse and exciting experiences that can appease even the most assorted group of travelers. It’s a black hole of food adventures to embark on, it’s got natural landmarks that are worth the sweat and muscle aches, it’s got weird and whacky experiences that you’d love to hate but want to try, and its incredibly convenient location and transport methods eliminates all headaches involved with logistics. What more could you want from a holiday in a beautiful and highly affordable country?
And if you are planning to visit all the country, feel free to read our selection of the 9 best things to do in Taiwan.
PS: When you are in Taipei, you can also explore the city of Hsinchu located not too far from the Taiwan’s capital.