A shoppers’ paradise packed with cultural heritage and modern landmarks
The colours most closely associated with Taiwan as a whole may be forest green and sea blue, but its capital leans more towards multiple shades of neon and incandescent white. Cradled 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 mixed up 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 and teashops and the scenic views from its 4km cable car, makes for a great hinterland day trip.
Things to do
The palatial National Palace Museum opens in new window has no peer when it comes to displays of ancient Asian art and cultural artefacts. The bulk of the staggering array of paintings, porcelain, lacquerware, jade, calligraphy and other antiquities here – nearly three-quarters of a million items in all – was moved out of Beijing in 1949, and some say this is the world's finest collection of Chinese art.
At your mercy
A true Taiwan survivor, Mengjia Longshan Temple has survived natural calamities, WWII bomb damage and repeated renovations since its construction in 1738. Once you’ve marvelled at the lavishly decorated interior, including a statue dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of mercy Guanyin, have your fortune told on the temple grounds or venture over to the night market next door for a bowl of snake soup.
Buy and large
A bargain-hunter’s paradise on par with Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo, Taipei devotes a huge portion of its real estate to shopping. From the pedestrian-friendly fashion boutiques of Ximending and the high-end malls of Xinyi district around Taipei 101, to the countless stalls and food stands of maze-like Shilin Night Market, shopping options are virtually endless. Make sure you’ve booked plenty of checked baggage for your flight home!
One of the precious few positive outcomes of Japan’s WWII-era occupation of Taiwan was the development of the volcano-fed thermal hot springs in Beitou, about 30 minutes from downtown Taipei on the MRT. A resort area bursting with inns, tea houses, parks and even a hot spring museum, this paradise of pampering is the sure cure for just about anything that ails you.
Tall cool one
How high can you get? At the cloud-scraping Taipei 101 opens in new window, the answer is 509m. While Taiwan’s entry in the never-ending world’s-tallest-building competition no longer holds the number one slot, it’s still worth risking vertigo by ascending to the tower’s 89th- and 91st-floor observation decks to drink in sweeping views in every direction.
Distance to city centre 40km
Taxi A taxi to central Taipei will take 40-50 minutes and cost around NTD $1100.
Train The Airport MRT opens in new window takes about 35 minutes into central Taipei and costs NTD $160.
Bus Local buses opens in new window 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.
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When to go
The weather is cool and comfortable from late October to January and the city isn't too crowded, so it's a good time to visit (but remember that it will be jammed during Chinese New Year, which falls from late January to early February). February to April tends to be rainy, and May to October sees the occasional typhoon. The school holiday months of July and August, which tend to be very hot, are peak period for tourists.
The Lantern Festival marking the end of Chinese New Year is a colourful spectacle (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.Back to top
Taipei’s Mass Rapid Transit opens in new window (MRT) network makes it easy to take in the sights of the city. The bus system opens in new window goes everywhere the MRT doesn’t; it’s tougher to navigate but maps showing bus stops can be found at MRT stations, and signs on the buses indicate start and end points in both Chinese and English.
The rechargeable EasyCard opens in new window works on both the MRT and city buses and will make life much easier and cheaper than buying single tokens if you’re going to do a lot of travel; get them from card machines at MRT stations and at selected stores such as 7-Eleven, FamilyMart and OK. Unlimited single-day passes, valid only for the MRT, are also available.
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