Home to mammoth landmarks old and new, Taiwan’s capital is an urban paradise of malls and shopping streets, museums, galleries, parks and spas
The colours most closely associated with Taiwan as a whole may be forest green and sea blue, but the capital leans more towards multiple shades of neon and incandescent white. Embraced by mountains in the island’s north, Taipei is a major metropolis of three million people that’s packed with towering skyscrapers, heritage landmarks, bustling markets and ancient shrines. The city’s historic centre is home to the mammoth National Palace Museum and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall along with the venerable Mengjia Longshan and Baoan Temples. To the east is the eye-popping Taipei 101 and a vast array of other skyscrapers along with department stores, restaurants, teahouses and night markets. To the north are the Yangmingshan and Xinbeitou Hot Springs along with a range of hiking and biking trails, while Maokong with its temples, teashops and scenic views from its 4.3km gondola (cable car) lift makes for a great hinterland day trip.
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When to go
The weather is cool and comfortable from late October to January, which virtually coincides with the tourist low season. February to April tends to be rainy, and May to October sees the occasional typhoon. As is the case elsewhere in North Asia, Taipei becomes a virtual ghost town for about a week during Chinese New Year in late January or early February. The school holiday months of July and August, which tend to be very hot, are another peak period for travel. The Lantern Festival marking the end of Chinese New Year is a colourful spectacle that’s typically held in January or February. The Dragon Boat Festival happens in June, and Ghost Month and the Mid-Autumn Festival, both steeped in many centuries of tradition, are typically observed in August or September. The Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards, the Oscars of Asia (where films are subtitled in English) is held in November.
Taipei’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) network makes it easy to take in the sights of the city. The bus system is tougher to navigate but maps showing bus stops can be found at MRT stations and signs on buses indicate start and end points in both Chinese and English. Fares are NT$15 for most downtown routes. Stored-value EasyCards for both the MRT and city buses sell for NT$500 (NT$300 for children; in both cases the price includes an NT$100 deposit). EasyCards are available for purchase via the card machines at MRT stations and at selected stores such as 7-Eleven, FamilyMart and Starbucks.
Travel time 50 minutes
Taxi About NT$1,100-1,200
Bus journey takes about 50 minutes