A shoppers’ paradise packed with cultural heritage and modern landmarks
Cradled by mountains in Taiwan’s north, Taipei is a vibrant metropolis packed with towering skyscrapers, heritage landmarks, absorbing museums, bustling markets and ancient shrines. Whether you’re a culture vulture, a nature lover, a foodie or a shopaholic (or all of the above!), you’ll find plenty to occupy yourself.
Like most big cities, Taipei can be enjoyed on any budget. Its famous street food is cheap and delicious, but if you feel like splurging on haute cuisine, you can do that too. Similarly, its legendary shopping caters to all budgets and tastes.
Wherever you find yourself in Taipei, chances are the vertiginous Taipei 101 will be in your line of sight. Whether you visit its sky-high observation decks or just marvel at it from the ground, you can’t miss this iconic structure.
A short jaunt north, you’ll find the Yangmingshan and Xinbeitou hot springs, plus a range of hiking and biking trails. Southwards, the jaw-dropping Taroko Gorge National Park makes for an unforgettable side-trip.
Things to do: Taipei
Marvel at the wonders of the National Palace Museum
When it comes to displays of ancient Asian art and cultural artefacts, the magnificent National Palace Museum has no rival. The bulk of its collection (some 700,000 items accumulated by generations of Chinese emperors) was moved out of Beijing in 1949. Spanning paintings, porcelain, lacquerware, jade, ceramics, tapestries, calligraphy and other antiquities, and taking in thousands of years of Chinese history, it’s a must-see. Ever-changing exhibitions, a diverse array of permanent exhibits, a children’s gallery and lovely gardens combine to make for a fabulous (and fascinating) day out.
Admire the views from Elephant Mountain
A short stroll from the bustling Xinyi district, Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan) is one of Taipei’s most visited attractions. And no wonder: not only is it a welcoming green oasis within the concrete jungle, but the views from the top are incredible. Get your camera ready for a panoramic vista of the entire Taipei skyline, with the celebrated Taipei 101 skyrise presiding over the city sprawl. The hike to the summit is steep but short (15 minutes or so) and dotted with signage explaining the local plants and geography.
Visit the historic Lungshan Temple
One of Taipei’s most-loved attractions, the exquisite Mengjia Lungshan Temple has survived several natural disasters, WWII bomb damage and repeated renovations since its construction in 1738. Though it’s dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of mercy Guanyin, its lavishly decorated interior also features statues of many other deities, as well as exotic mythical beings such as dragons and phoenixes. After wandering around the temple, have your fortune told in the grounds or venture over to the night market next door for a meal.
Get your retail kicks in shopping paradise
Like Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo, Taipei is shopping heaven, with a mind-boggling mix of retail districts, mega-malls, markets and shopping streets to explore. Bursting with eclectic boutiques, street art and bars, the popular Ximending is a Japanese-style youth-culture hub. Dihua Street in the old port district of Dadaocheng is where you'll find traditional gifts like tea sets, lanterns, Chinese medicine and religious items. The famous Shilin Night Market has countless stalls and food stands to browse, while the Xinyi district around Taipei 101 is dotted with high-end malls.
Image credit: chingyunsong - stock.adobe.com
Get spirited away to Jiufen
An easy (and popular) day trip from Taipei, Jiufen is a picturesque former gold mining town, nestled between mountains and sea. As if it’s lovely old buildings, winding alleyways, quaint teahouses and shopping weren’t drawcard enough, Jiufen is also famously reminiscent of the town in the Studio Ghibli film, Spirited Away. Jiufen Old Street is abuzz with street markets, old-school cafes and souvenir shops. Qiche Road, Jishan Street and Qingbian Road are also worth exploring, with shops, bars and restaurants galore. Make time for the aptly named Golden Waterfall, a 10-minute taxi drive from town.
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE)
Distance to city centre 40km
Taxi A taxi to central Taipei will take 40-50 minutes and cost around NTD $1300.
Train The Airport MRT takes about 35 minutes into central Taipei and costs NTD $150-160.
Bus Local buses travel to and from the airport, taking from 50-80 minutes depending on where you’re going – these may be useful if you are staying out of central Taipei. Tickets cost NTD $120-150.
Rideshare Uber operates between Taoyuan Airport and Taipei city centre. The pick-up area is just outside the arrivals hall.Back to top
When to go
October to January is a good time to visit Taipei, being cool, comfortable, and generally not too crowded. However, expect huge crowds at Chinese New Year (around late January/early February). February to April tends to be rainy, and May to October can bring typhoons. July and August (peak tourist season) are extremely hot and humid.
Consider timing your visit to coincide with one of Taipei’s spectacular festivals. Closing Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival explodes with colour and light. The popular Dragon Boat Festival happens in June, while Ghost Month and the Moon (or Mid-Autumn) Festival, both steeped in ancient tradition, typically fall in August or September.Back to top
Between them, Taipei’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) network and bus system make it easy to explore the city. The rechargeable EasyCard works on both the MRT and city buses and makes getting around much easier and cheaper than single tokens. Get them from card machines at MRT stations and at selected stores. The Taipei Pass gets you unlimited trips on the MRT and city buses, and comes in one-day, two-day, three-day or five-day formats. Get one at any MRT station.Back to top