10 fun facts about Taipei that you need to know
Yes, this Asian destination is an urban metropolis - but there are many unexpected sides to Taipei, from the city to the jungle to the sea. We unravel its mysteries
- August 2019
This populous city will surprise you with its curious mix of old and new architecture, natural attractions and unique cuisine.
It is an easy city to get around
Taipei has one of the most extensive public transport networks in Asia, which makes getting around relatively convenient, cheap and hassle-free. The newly constructed Airport MRT has reduced the commuting time between the city and Taoyuan International Airport to a mere 35 minutes, while the High Speed Rail (which travels as fast as 300 kilometres per hour) will get you to regions such as Kaohsiung, about 350 kilometres south, within 96 minutes.
There's a lot of culture and heritage
Despite its relentless pursuit of modern technology, Taipei continues to make concerted efforts to preserve its historical sites. Visit Longshan Temple, constructed in 1738 during the Qing Dynasty, to admire impeccable architecture that has withstood the test of time and learn about the Buddhist and Chinese deities worshipped here. You can also watch the changing of guards at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, an octagonal building in Liberty Square.
It’s not just an urban jungle, there is actual jungle!
Natural landscapes perfectly complement the urban skyline in this modern city that is home to numerous green spaces such as the Taipei Botanical Garden and Daan Forest Park, where you can take leisurely strolls through lush greenery. Located just a 40-minute drive from the city centre, Yangmingshan National Park offers panoramic views of mountains, which are clad with cherry blossoms or snow, depending on the season.
You can do it on the cheap
With numerous free or cheap activities and attractions, this city is easier on the wallet than you’d think. Explore the gardens of Shilin Official Residence, honour the war dead at the National Revolutionary Martyrs Shrine, admire the architecture in Dalongdong Bao’an Temple and hike up nearby Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain) for picture-perfect views – it’s all free. Savouring braised pork rice and hot bean curd from market stalls while enjoying the sea breeze at the Danshui waterfront (about an hour from Taipei), is another treat that won’t break the bank.
Electronics aren't the only shopping here
Yes, this is the home of many global tech companies, such as Acer and Asus, so it makes sense that Taipei has become synonymous with affordable electronic goods. However, there’s plenty more shopping to be done here – from some of the finest jade in the world to oolong tea cultivated in the mountainous highlands. Bags, jewellery and wooden carvings handmade by indigenous tribes also make for great souvenirs.
There are some amazing beaches
While it’s more famous for its mountains, Taipei has several beaches and resorts at its doorstep. A quick metro ride will whisk you to the north-eastern coast of the island, where you will find the unspoilt Fulong Beach. A range of water sports such as sailing and windsurfing are available here and, if you are visiting between April and July, the annual International Sand Sculpting Festival will be on. Other nearby beaches include Baishawan Bay and Shalun Beach, which are both along the northern coast.
There is more to eat than just dumplings and rice
Yes, the locals eat a lot of rice (and the dumplings are delicious) but there’s so much more to the cuisine here. The food is distinct, with influences from the native Austronesian tribes and foreign dishes such as Japanese mochi and tempura having been adapted to local tastes. Visit Taipei’s night markets and you’ll find xiaochi – substantial snacks comparable to Spanish tapas – such as stinky tofu and moon shrimp cakes to try.
The city is full of night markets
Every day, more than a dozen markets across the city spring to life after dark. The most popular ones include Shilin Night Market (near Jiantan MRT), Raohe Night Market (near Songshan MRT) and Huaxi Street Night Market (near Longshan Temple MRT). Come hungry and ready to feast on local delicacies such as oyster vermicelli soup, deep-fried chicken cutlet and bubble milk tea.
The locals are friendly
Known for being some of the friendliest people around, the locals will always give you a warm welcome and a helping hand – whether you need directions to landmarks or to find the most delicious dumplings, don’t be shy to approach them.
Taipei thinks green
Locals take the Three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) extremely seriously. Fees are imposed on plastic bags and recycling bins can be found almost everywhere. All single-use plastics are planned to be phased out by 2030.