Taipei is, to me, a great mix of markets, traditional temples and vibrant Asian life, surrounded by beautiful nature. I have created a list of 11 things to do In Taipei to help you out navigating this city.
The city itself is super easy to get around, with the underground metro system and the train system both extensive and inexpensive.
Getting to Taipei from The Airport
Firstly, to get from the airport Taoyuan to Taipei, the easiest and most affordable way is by bus. Buses run to and from the airport to Taipei Main Station. The buses leave from the ground floor, one floor down from the arrivals hall (just take the first escalator downstairs and you will see the bus ticketing counters. My ticket to Taipei was $140 NTD and it dropped me at the first sight I wanted to see, Taipei 101.
To return to the airport from Taipei, take the MRT back to Taipei Main Station, and then walk to Taipei West Bus Station. Important to note that this is not the Taipei Bus Station or the Taipei Train Station, but they are all in the same area to one another. The West Bus Station is behind the Rail Train Station (a bright green building entrance).
Update: There is now also even a more convenient way which is using the MRT (Metro) system that connects to Taipei Main Station. This is very quick when you use the Express line which takes a total of 39 minutes. There is no need to buy a ticket, they use contactless payment with the fare being $160 NTD.
*Another important note, there are two airports in Taipei, Songshan Airport which is in the city (I believe this services mainly cargo planes), and the Taoyuan Airport, which is 1 hour outside of the city and services international flights.
11 Things to Do in Taipei
Here are the top 11 things to do in Taipei, I have included instructions of how to get there.
1. Shilin Night Market
This market kicks off around 6 pm, although many stores are open at around 4 pm. Its a great way to spend a night or two. There are a huge variety of stalls, shops, and roaming street vendors, selling everything from clothing, shoes, accessories, bags, gifts, souvenirs, cakes, biscuits, toys and candy.
The street food vendors sell a large range of things, from kebabs, wraps, fish balls, rice buns, doughnuts, barbecued corn, hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled meats, waffles, smoothies, fresh fruits and drinks. There are many vegetarian options here also. Below the market, there is a large basement food court, where you can sit down and choose from a variety of meals or snacks. In one section of the market, you can find an arcade of carnival games and even fishing games for children where they use real live fish (no I am not kidding).
To get to the Shilin Night Market take the red MRT line to Jiantan station, and you are there!
2. Longshan Temple
If you take an interest in local culture when you travel then the Longshan temple will offer an insight into the daily lives of the local Taiwanese people. The temple itself is a hub or activity, with many locals visiting to pray throughout the day. I learnt that this is the oldest temple in Taipai – being built in 1738, it is known by the locals as “the temple of the gods” and it was also hit by an American bomber plane during the second world war!!!
The temple is located in the district of Wanhua, which is also the oldest district in the city. The temple is open to Buddhism, Taoism and other traditional Taiwanese beliefs. Wander around the temple and see the beautiful detail in its structure. The location is nearby to the Huaxi St Night Market.
To get to the Longshan Temple take the MRT blue line to Longshan Temple Station.
3. Raohe Street Tourist Night Market
This market is a great mix of small local eateries, heaps of street food stall vendors selling something to please everyone. Something I found interesting was that this market started when I was born, in 1987! There are clothing stalls, shoes, bags, toys, and souvenirs. Similar to that of the Shilin Night Market, although on a much smaller scale.
This market fills the length of one street, but it is still worthy of a visit and is very inexpensive to both eat and shop. Although unlike the Shilin Market there are no games or a carnival-like atmosphere so if you have small children then the Shilin Market would be far better suited to visit.
To get to the Raohe Street Night Market, take the green MRT line to Songshan Station and follow the signs.
4. Hike up To Elephant Rock Mountain
A hike up to Elephant rock mountain to get a great view overlooking Taipei city. The Taipei 101 tower dominates the skyline and if it is a clear day you can see the mountains surrounding the city in the distance. The hike itself does not take a long time, 20-30 minutes to reach the top, although this is completely made up of only paved stairs continuing constantly to the top. The start of the hike is easy to find, beginning at a temple located near Taipei 101.
To get to the hiking trail, take the MRT train to Xiangshan MRT Station on the red line.
The Ximending shopping district is an inner-city, large and modern shopping area in Taipei. Although many of the shops are open during the day, the area comes alive in the evening when many roaming stall vendors and food carts set up along the roads and lane-ways. This area is less of a market when compared to other markets in Taipei, and more of a shopping district.
Here you can find many large chain stores, such as Nike, Adidas, and many large chain food stores such as KFC, Mc Donalds for example. This area is great for older children and adults, I did not see any younger children at this area during the evening (as mentioned in the Shilin Night Market section, the Shilin Market would be better suited due to games aimed at young children and the friendly bright market atmosphere).
The Red House is also in the Ximending district, an old red brick building where inside are many small boutiques where you can find mainly clothing, accessories, crafts and souvenirs. Behind the Red House is where you can find many open-air bars and restaurants lining the large paved area. The Red House is best visited in the evening.
To get to Ximending Shopping area take the blue MRT line to Ximen Station and follow the signs.
6. Taipei 101
Taipei 101 is Taiwan’s tallest building and held the record for being the worlds tallest building between 2004 and 2010. The tower dominates the skyline (you can see this from many areas of Taipei, and is especially beautiful at night). In the basement of Taipei 101, you can find a large food court, souvenir stores as well as a large Jason’s Supermarket, it’s a great place to have lunch as there is a large variety of cuisines to suit any preference.
Inside the tower itself, the first few levels are filled with high-end stores, and you must continue up the escalator for 5 floors or catch the lift to the ticketing counter. To take the lift to the observation deck costs around $500NTD. If you are not looking to spend this for the view from the highest level you can opt for visiting the Starbucks on the 35th level – still a nice view over Taipei city.
To get to Taipei 101, take the red line MRT to Taipei 101 Station!
7. Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is an impressively large structure built as a memorial to Chiang Kai-Shek who was once the President of Taiwan (Republic of China). Inside the memorial hall, you can see many paintings of Chiang Kai-Shek, as well as clothing, chairs that were his as well as two large black classic cars. If you visit on the hour you can watch the changing of the guards’ ceremony, which is where the guards put on a march and impressive almost dance-like performance.
The building itself is bright white, and I learnt that there are 89 white painted steps leading up the entrance to represent Chiang’s age when he died! In the park surrounding the area you can also visit the National Theatre and the National Concert Hall, both are large impressive traditional-style buildings.
To get to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall take the green or red MRT line to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall Station and follow the signs.
8. Hot Spring Street – Xing Yi Road
This area is a small road with many hotel buildings dotted alongside. Here you can find many hot springs as well as a river. There is the option of the public hot springs, or many of the hotel owned hot springs. If you eat at any of the restaurants in the area you can be given a free complimentary coupon to visit a hot spring The area gets busy on weekends and during the holidays.
There is also a park in the middle of the street, where you can visit a museum or just sit and people watch. The strange smell is normal, this is due to the volcanic sulphur (so I was told). Remember to bring your bathing suit and towel (or you will be charged to purchase these at the hot springs – you are not allowed to enter without these). Also, bring or buy water to bring into the hot springs with you if you plan to stay for a long soak.
To get to the hot springs street you will need to catch the MRT to Shipai Station on the red line. You will need to then take bus No. 508 or 535 to Xing Yi Road 3.
9. Huaxi Street Night Market
This market is unlike that of the Shalin Street Night Market. I found it to be more of a local market with a large concentration of seafood and Taiwanese street food sit down open-air restaurants.
This is the market where you can see snakes in many glass and wire cages. The very large snakes are for display, while the smaller sized brown and green snakes sit in cages alongside liquor shot glasses. People actually come to this market to pay to drink snakes blood – where people choose which snake is killed for them to drink the blood. It is a belief that it cleanses ones own blood. I am not kidding. I still feel sick from learning this.
The street leading up to the Huaxi Street Night Market become filled with street vendor food carts during the evening and the road is blocked off to traffic.
To get to the Huaxi Street Night Market take the MRT blue line to Longshan Temple Station.
10. Presidential Office Building, National Taiwan Museum, Peace Park
The Presidential Office Building, National Taiwan Museum and the Peace Park are all within the same area as one another so if you are visiting one of these, you can, and without any extra effort, visit all three.
The Presidential Office Building is a huge and impressive building, with a large 10 lane road leading right up to the front of the building creating an “all roads lead to” type of feel.
You cannot take a photo of the building from the front on, due to this road, although when the traffic slows you can try your luck at running out to the middle of the road to take a snap and running back to the sidewalk. It is important to note that you cannot visit the building outside the hours of 9 am-11.30 am. The security around the building is actually the Taiwan Military, and are a little bit blow happy with their whistles.
The National Museum is set within the grounds of the Peace Park, and entry is just a mere $30NTD (under $2US dollars). Inside you can see exhibitions of traditional Taiwanese life, clothing, shoes, weavings and artefacts. There is also a museum cafe. Within Peace Park, you can also find a separate memorial museum at the opposite end of the grounds. The Park itself offers a beautiful stroll through the gardens among the pigeons and the small squirrel-like animals that dart around the lawns.
To get to these sites, take the MRT red line to NTU Hospital Station and follow the signs.
11. Hello Kitty Gondola
If you want to escape the city and get some beautiful views of the Taipei surrounding mountain range, you can take a gondola ride up the mountains surrounding the Taipei Zoo. The gondola cabins are Hello Kitty branded, with the option to take a normal cabin or a glass floor cabin. There are four stops, or gondola stations along the way, where you can stop off to the zoo, or continue to the top to the Maokong Gondola Station.
I travelled to the gondola solo, and I did not want to visit the zoo, so I only rode the gondola to the first station and then returned on the gondola back to the first station, as I was a little bored and uneasy from the very windy day rocking my gondola cabin! If you have a family or are travelling with another person then travelling to the top station would be more fun.
To get to the Gondola take the MRT brown line to Taipei Zoo Station and follow the signs along the road (a short walk) to the Gondola.
I hope this post inspires you to go visit Taipei. Stay tuned for my next post on vegetarian street food in Taipei.