The Top 10 Best Places to Visit in Taipei

 Pakhi Sen   December 17, 2015
Asia

Taipei is one of the world’s up and coming cities of the future.  Yet at the same time it’s steeped in history.  Taipei is a great place to visit and the people are very friendly and open to tourists.  Better yet, it’s one of the safest cities in the entire world to visit. There’s no need to worry about pickpockets or gangs that prey on tourists.  However, Taipei is famous for its terrible weather.  For half of the year it is scorching hot, while the other half it is pouring rain.

Taipei is a 24 hour city that never sleeps, even on the holidays.  It is a shopper’s paradise and a food lover’s heaven.  Taipei quite possibly has over 10,000 restaurants. Thus no matter where you are, you are never far from food.  Furthermore, no matter where you are in the city, there is a Hi-Life, a Family Mart or a 7-11, making Taipei the world’s most “convenient” city.

So without further ado, here are (in no particular order) the best things to see in and around Taipei.

Danshui

Danshui

Danshui

Situated at the mouth of the Danshui River, Danshui, Tamsui, Tamshui, spell it how you want is one of the oldest areas of Taipei.  As well, it’s the last stop on the red line of Taipei’s MRT (metro system).

What to see?  Hmm…. How about beautiful mountains and river views? How about nice old lanes that can take you back in time over 200 years? How about delicious mouthwatering seafood and snacks?  Are you ready to visit here, because I am.

If the weather is nice and it’s a weekend, Danshui is extremely crowded.  Both locals and tourists come up to Danshui to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Although once you get here, it’s almost the same.  However, if you come here during the weekdays, life is considerably slower.

Due to its immense crowds, Danshui has also become a busker hotspot.  Sometimes you might be able to catch a cool show when you’re here.  There’s always something interesting here.

Danshui has old churches, fortresses and houses.  You can learn a bit about the past when visiting the old sites.

Some people (well, actually many people) come up here to see the views.  Danshui has many postcard perfects vistas where you can snap as many photographs as you like.  As well, Danshui has ferry boats that you can take to visit Bali (no, not that one) or Fisherman’s Wharf.  Both are nice places to visit for an hour or two.

But there’s one thing that everyone comes to Danshui for – the food!  Everywhere in Danshui, there is food cooking all around you.  There are restaurants, cafés and stalls where you can devour some of Taiwan’s most delicious foods and bust your gut.  Along the boardwalk, there are dozens of seafood restaurants and stalls selling the freshest that Taipei has to offer.  You could also pick up the world’s tallest ice cream cones if you feel like you’re roasting in Danshui’s roasting hot summers.

Danshui-come for the views, take in some history, and stay for the food.

Taipei 101

Taipei 101

Taipei 101

Formerly the world’s tallest building, and the permanent symbol of the city, 101 is a mega-structure like no other.

Taipei 101 is a beautiful turquoise-green building that can be seen from almost all areas of the city.  The architectural design is based on a bamboo stalk that reaches forever into the sky. (Well, not forever, but pretty darn close.)

Taipei 101, for the first six floors (B1 to the 5th floor) is a shopper’s paradise with the finest shops and brands from all corners of the world.  There are also many restaurants in the giant food court on B1 and on floors 4 and 5 for the gourmand in you.

Giant Office Building

Giant Office Building

The rest of 101 is a giant office building.

But the best thing about Taipei 101 is on the 90th floor.  That’s where the observation deck is.  From here you can see all of Taipei.  And the view is amazing.  If you’re interested, you can pick up one of the headsets that will enlighten you about the history and geography of Taipei from the front desk.  They are available in Chinese, English, Japanese, German, Korean, Cantonese, Spanish and French.  If you decide to walk up to the 91st floor, you can go outside and see some of the most heart-stopping views you’ll ever see in your life.  Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

In the middle of the 90th floor is the world’s largest damper ball.  And it’s painted in a glittery disco gold.  It’s kind of cool to look at it.

But if you can, come visit here on New Year’s Eve.  This is when you and 800,000 of your closest friends can watch Taipei 101 explode as you count down the New Year.

Shilin Night Market

Shilin Night Market

Shilin Night Market

Located between Jiantan and Shilin MRT stations is Taipei’s giant feeding and shopping extravaganza know as Shilin Night Market.

It is here that 100,000 of your closest friends and family members join you night after night in making your belly so fat that you’ll have to buy a whole new set of clothing at one of the many cool and trendy shops in the area.  To say that this area is crowded is an understatement.  Shilin Night Market is to people as the Sahara is to sand.

Shilin Market is lane after lane after lane of food, clothing, accessories and everything else under the moon that you can think of.

At Shilin Night Market, there’s something for everyone.  Young/old/cool/geeky, you’ll find lots to see and do here.

Yangmingshan (Mt. Yangming)

Yang Ming Shan

Yang Ming Shan

How many big cities in the world do you know have a national park right in the city?  Well Taipei does, and it’s called Yangmingshan National Park. Yangminshan is the highest point of Taipei.  If you’re thinking it can’t be that high, think again. Its highest peak (Mt. Datun) is 1120 metres high.

Yangmingshan definitely has Taipei’s most beautiful views, bar none.

Yangmingshan Hiking

Yangmingshan Hiking

Many people love to go hiking (or driving) up the mountain.  Yangmingshan is Taipei’s giant mountainous backyard.  There’s fresh air, beautiful flowers, and a steamy volcano too.

Due to its extreme height, it’s also possible to get snow here in the wintertime.  And if that happens, thousands of cars and people will ascend the slopes to see something that they will rarely if ever see in this tropical city.

Furthermore, many hot springs are located around Yangmingshan, including Jinshan, Qingshan, and the most famous of all of them, Beitou.  These are definitely the best places to go and relax after you have seen this beautiful place.

The best times to come here is during the spring time when the mountain blooms with sakura blossoms and calla lilies.

Compared to the rest of Taipei city, Yangmingshan is dead quiet.  It’s the perfect place to get away from it all.  Yet you’re still right in the city.

Ximending

Ximending

Ximending

Ximenting is the coolest area of all of Taipei.  There’s always something fun going on here.  It is very similar to Harajuku or Shibuya in Tokyo.  This is where most of the young people hang out.

Ximenting always has the latest styles and the coolest accessories.  Surprisingly as well, this area has a lot of great food.

This area is famous for its lively and fun atmosphere.  It’s also a place where many people like to show off their creative side at the art market in and around the Red House.  Interestingly enough, Ximenting Red House is also the site one of Taipei’s gay districts.

Every weekend there are shows and autograph sessions for everyone to see and meet their fans.  Many locals like to show off their coolest dance moves and styles when they come here.

Ximenting, it’s where Taipei stays young.

Pingxi and Shifen

Shifen

Shifen

Located in the mountains of New Taipei City just outside Taipei City are two quiet and small towns, Shifen and Pingxi.

For many years, these two towns and neighbouring ones supplied Taiwan with much of its coal.  However, the coal ran out and so did the people.  As a result, much of this area has been stuck in a time warp, and looks exactly the same from the early 1900s.

Like many other places in Taiwan, from Monday to Friday, these two cities are dead quiet during the week, while on the weekend, swarms of people come here to visit.

Sky Lanterns

Sky Lanterns

These two cities are also home to the sky lanterns.  Many people come here to write their wishes on the sky lanterns and launch them into the sky so that the Heavens will grant them their wishes.  If you decide to visit either of these two towns during the Lantern Festival in February (and you should), you will see a sight like no other.  During the evening of the Lantern Festival, over 50,000 sky lanterns are launched into the night sky.  It’s absolutely beautiful.

Shifen Waterfalls

Shifen Waterfalls

About a ten-minute walk from the old city of Shifen is Shifen Forest Park. This park is really quite nice and has three waterfalls. The first waterfall is nothing special.  The second waterfall is okay. But the third waterfall is really something.  Many visitors like to call this one Taiwan’s Niagara.  However, in order to get to see this giant waterfall, you need to pay the entrance fee. But it’s only 80NT (about US$2.50).

The coolest thing about these two towns is the train that runs right smack in the middle of the cities. When the trains are away, people are crisscrossing the tracks and the market is open.  When the train comes, everyone moves back and the market temporarily closes.  Thus, when the trains pass, the market re-opens, and everyone is back on the rails again.

Jiangguo Flower/Jade/Art Market

Lush intersection of JenAi and JianGuo Rd, Taipei, Taiwan

Lush intersection of JenAi and JianGuo Rd, Taipei, Taiwan

This is one of Taipei’s best kept secrets. (Well, not anymore)

The Jiangguo Flower/Jade/Art Market starts at the intersection of Jiangguo and Heping Roads (right across the street from beautiful Da-an Park), and continues about an entire kilometre right underneath the Jiangguo Road Highway.

This is one of the world’s largest flower markets.  It’s got every kind of flower you can think of, and then some.  As well, it’s also got every kind of flower accessory.  You could even buy a pine tree here if you wanted, too.

Calceolaria Herbeohybrida

Calceolaria Herbeohybrida

Once you have finished circling the flower market, cross the street and head onto the jade market.  It’s here that you can find that beautiful jade bracelet or pendant or necklace or whatever to add to your jewelry collection.  There are also magnificent jade carvings and sculptures for sale here, too.

Jade Market

Jade Market

And… once you have finished walking throughout the jade market, cross the street again and head to the art market.

The art market is the perfect place to pick up a cool souvenir to take home.  There is so much to choose from here; from traditional Chinese calligraphy and wood carvings to modern Chinese art.

Even if you’re not into shopping for all of these things, just to take a walk around these three markets is like candy for the eyes.

Jiufen

Jiufen

Jiufen

Mountain and seaside views? Check!

Delicious mouth-watering food? Check!

Old laneways that date back over 200 years? Check!

Teahouses that will make you forget all of your daily worries? Check!

If all of the above sounds tempting to you, then welcome to Jiufen.  Located in New Taipei City, is a bit (but not too far) away from the hustle and bustle of Taipei City.

From Monday to Friday, Jiufen is a quiet and sleepy mountain village.  But on Saturdays and Sundays, the crowds can be as maddening as Taipei itself.

Jiufen is an old gold mining town that shut down its mine in the 1970s after many years of decline.  Thus, when the gold left.  The town went to sleep.  It didn’t wake up again until the 1990s when people started coming by the busload to see this quiet sleepy village.  If you wish to know more about the town’s gold mining history, go visit the gold mining museum in Jinguashi, only 5 kilometres away.

Jiufen

Jiufen

But when you’re in Jiufen, you’re going to need a good set of legs. Since Jiufen is situated on a mountain top, everything about this city is stairs, slopes, and ramps. Up and down, up and down.

Zhongxiao East Road Section 4

Zhongxiao East Road Section 4

Zhongxiao East Road Section 4

This is Taipei’s premier shopping district.  Chances are, you will find your way to street somehow or another.  Everything from off the rack to the best of the best can be found along Zhongxiao East Road.

This shopping district starts at the corner of Zhongxiao and Fuxing Road where the two giant Sogo department stores are located, and stretches until Guangfu Road where you can then visit Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall (if you still have strength in your arms and legs from all of that shopping).

It’s not just Zhongxiao East Road that you should check out, but you should also visit the back streets for even more cool stuff and places to go.  This is Taipei’s 24-7 area.  There’s always something to see, do, or buy in this area, no matter what time of the day.

If you’re single, this is probably the best place to meet someone, or at least to check out the eye candy that strolls on by.

  • Zhongxiao East Road is also the home of Taiwan’s most famous restaurant, Din Tai Fong. (Reservations are a must.)
  • Zhongxiao East Road even has a whole office building that is entirely restaurants.  Think about it-12 floors of food!
  • Zhongxiao East Road even has other cool theme restaurants where the servers dress like ninjas and serve you sushi or a Hello Kitty restaurant, a jail restaurant, and so on.
  • Zhongxiao East Road’s claim to fame is shopping, shopping, shopping.  Shop ‘til you drop.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (Liberty Square)

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall-a beautiful homage for an absolutely terrible person.  Chiang Kai-shek, the former “owner” of Taiwan who controlled the island with an iron fist, left behind quite a legacy.

First off, there is his very impressive Shilin Residence which was Chiang’s mansion and contains many beautiful floral gardens.  You should check it out, too.  It’s pretty cool.

Chiang liked to do things on a grand scale.  And after his passing, the Taiwanese government built a massive public square in his honour.  It is complete with two arts theatres (the National Theatre and the National Concert Hall), a giant archway, a park, and a giant house that contains a 30 foot tall bronze statue of him.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is the site of many large public events, gatherings, and protests.  It’s also the place where people just come to hang out in the square with their friends and family.  And a place where hundreds of students practice their dance routines before they perform their routine at one of the giant theatres.

Furthermore, you can watch the changing of the guards, every hour on the hour.

There you’ve got it.  The ten best of Taipei.

Come and visit Taipei. Rain or sun, there is always something to see, do and eat here.

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