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The 10 best things to do in Taipei

Explore the best things to do in Taipei, from magnificent museums to gorgeous lantern-lit towns and much more

Written by
Tomas Zagoda

Taipei knows what it is doing. Okay, that initiates all sorts of conversations about the relative sentience of cities, but stick with us; this is a capital city that has embraced all of its influences and created something spectacular, a city that has thrown itself into the future while remaining defiantly proud of where it came from.

The best things to do in Taipei cover all this and much more, from observatories exploring the skies to the ruggedly beautiful national parks on the ground, via memorials, museums and a lantern-lit town that will take your breath away. Taipei is magnificent.

Best things to do in Taipei

Taroko Gorge National Park
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Paul Arps

1. Taroko Gorge National Park

What is it? One of Taiwan’s largest national parks, perfect for a refreshing day trip from Taipei.

Why go? To experience some of the most breathtaking scenery in Taiwan. Begin your adventure with an easy walk to Swallow Grotto for some of the best views of the gorge, waterfalls and the area’s namesake birds. The Baiyang Trail is your next stop. Bring a flashlight or use your phone to guide a path through long, gloomy, pitch-black tunnels that emerge at picturesque waterfalls and suspension bridges over bright blue water. On your journey home, get a photo in front of the beautiful and serene Eternal Spring Shrine. Designed to incorporate the year-round waterfall that runs through the complex, this shrine was dedicated to the 225 workers who lost their lives during the construction of the roads in this area.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Morgan Calliope

2. Jiufen

What is it? A magical, lantern-lit town that inspired the film ‘Spirited Away’.

Why go? Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli has often referenced Jiufen as the visual inspiration behind his Oscar-award-winning animation ‘Spirited Away’. Visit in the late afternoon to see the bright red lanterns switching on at the famous A-Mei Tea House, and then follow the winding cobblestone laneways dotted with shops and cafés for some fantastic photo opportunities. Hungry? Grab a cup of sweet and chewy tapioca balls at the famous Grandma Lai’s Taro Ball Shop.

Elephant Mountain
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jirka Matousek

3. Elephant Mountain

What is it? A fantastic vantage point and popular hiking trail that overlooks Taipei.

Why go? Watching the sunset over the city – with the illuminated Taipei 101 glittering on the skyline – should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s an easy 15-20 minute hike, suitable for most fitness levels, but prepare yourself for a lot of stairs. If you arrive in the early afternoon, you will have plenty of time to explore the many walking trails within the park.

Taipei 101 Observatory
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Roger Ho

4. Taipei 101 Observatory

What is it? The impossible-to-miss 508-metre-tall tower.

Why go? If you fear heights, it might be worth getting a sweet bubble milk tea and sitting this one out. Towering far into the clouds above the city is the awe-inspiring Taipei 101. Zoom up the express elevator to the 89th-floor observation deck for incredible views before visiting the giant golden steel pendulum suspended in the centre of the tower. It’s not just for decoration – the pendulum acts as a mass damper to the building’s natural sway during strong winds, typhoons and the occasional earthquake.

Din Tai Fung
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Alexandra Moss

5. Din Tai Fung

What is it? The Michelin-starred and surprisingly affordable dumpling restaurant spawned an empire that spans 13 countries.

Why go? While the original Din Tai Fung has a permanent queue, hungry dumpling lovers will happily occupy their time by watching chefs hand-fold each and every parcel of doughy goodness from their kitchen window. It’s all worth the wait when you have your first taste of steaming hot, juicy soup-filled xiaolongbao.

Xinyi Eslite Bookstore
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Ivan Chang

6. Xinyi Eslite Bookstore

What is it? An oasis for book nerds and stationery lovers.

Why go? Taiwan’s largest bookstore takes up a whopping four storeys and 8000 square meters. You’ll find a wide selection of books in English, Japanese, Korean and, of course, Chinese, as well as plenty of adorable stationery, Taiwanese design and gifts. When you have your new book, wine lounges and cafés within the centre make a great place to start reading.


Red House
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Chistopher Delaere

7. Red House

What is it? A cultural centre, weekend market, a hub for art and design and Taipei’s LGBT+ home all in one place.

Why go? The octagonal-shaped Red House in Ximending has had many lives. Originally constructed as a market in 1908, visitors and locals flock here these days for the weekend design markets, live theatre, art, and designer gifts at the various creative studios. In the square behind the Red House is Taipei’s tiny LGBT+ district, where plenty of welcoming restaurants, bars and speciality shops are conveniently crammed into an open courtyard. We suggest getting there early to snag an outdoor table for some flashy cocktails.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/FrankGruber

8. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

What is it? A large and ornate hall built to honour the former leader of the Republic of China, which sits within a huge cultural precinct and cherry blossom-filled gardens.

Why go? Every hour in front of an enormous bronze statue of the authoritarian ruler visitors can see the changing of the guard ceremony. Afterwards, we recommend taking the time to stroll around the 25-hectare precinct that includes the National Theatre, National Concert Hall, landscaped gardens and open space where small groups practice tai chi and traditional dance.

Shilin Night Market
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Spirosk Photography

9. Shilin Night Market

What is it? One of Taiwan’s many bustling night markets, where generations of Taiwanese families have gone to eat, drink and socialise.

Why go? The popularity of Shilin Night Market is well-founded, with countless Taiwanese food and drink stands selling affordable Xiaochi (substantial snacks). Local must-try specialities include “deep-fried milk”, which resembles fried custard on skewers, xiaolongbao soup dumplings, Taiwanese double hot dogs stuffed into sticky, glutinous rice, quail egg takoyaki, spring onion pancakes, and shaved ice desserts. To wash it down, you can’t beat the most famous Taiwanese drink – bubble milk tea.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Antonio Tajuelo

10. Ximending

What is it? Ximending (or Ximen as it’s known locally) is Taipei’s youth culture and alternative fashion centre.

Why go? Often dubbed “little America” and compared to Harajuku in Tokyo, this district is crammed full of international and local fashion brands, tattoo studios, beauty salons and hip restaurants. Keep an eye out for B-boy breakdancers performing along the main streets, or stroll down to nearby Taipei Cinema Park (a large street art-filled square) to see them rehearse.

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