The wonders of this island nation off the coast of China are almost too much…
Wondering What the Best Things to Do In Taipei are?
As world travellers, we perhaps shouldn’t be too biased. One thing you learn when travelling the globe is that no country is perfect; every country has its beauty and its problems. However, we can’t lie and say we don’t have a favourite country in the world, and that country is Taiwan. The paradise of an island nation that is Taiwan combines everything there is to love about the cultures found in China and Japan, and blends them together in a Southeast Asian climate to form a country we are aggressively addicted to. Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, has a hundred hidden secrets for you to discover and enjoy when you visit Taiwan, and here are ten of the best things to do in Taipei.
If you want to learn all about the history of Taiwan, and find more incredible things to do in Taiwan outside of Taipei, you can click here to do that. And, if you want to read some amazing literature and history books before you visit Taiwan, you can learn about those right here.
Jiufen and Shifen
For anyone who’s seen, and more than likely fallen deeply in love with, Studio Ghibli’s most celebrated film Spirited Away, you can visit the teahouse which inspired the aesthetics, atmosphere, and grand majesty of the bathhouse setting of Spirited Away for yourself. The teahouse is at the heart of a large village north of Taipei called Jiufen. To get to Jiufen, we recommend taking a tour, since it’s a little complicated to do by yourself. We went with a wonderful tour group called MyTaiwanTour, and we documented the entire journey, which we can’t recommend highly enough, right here.
Jiufen old street, the Spirited Away teahouse, and all the wonderful food stalls you’ll find in between, make for one of the most magical experiences and best Taipei attractions. If you take a tour, you’ll also be able to easily get from Jiufen to Shifen, and in Shifen you can take a short class on how to make your own traditional Chinese lantern. You’ll decorate it yourself and let it fly! And, because Taiwan is Asia’s most eco-friendly nation, the lanterns are safely collected and returned so as not to destroy the landscape. Visiting Jiufen and Shifen is, we guarantee, one of the great unmissable things to do in Taipei.
Head here if you’d like to find more day trips from Taipei.
One of the more unique things to do in Taipei is to visit a café themed around a depressed and lazy Japanese egg. Gudetama is one of the newer mascots from Sanrio, creators of Hello Kitty. These days, Sanrio is rather woke and tuned into the millennial plight of rising depression and rage against the corporate machine, hence their new mascots Gudetama and Aggretsuko. And one thing you should know about Taiwan is that its relationship with Japan is very long and very intimate. Hence the existence of Gudetama Chef in the heart of Taipei. Here at one of the more unusual Taipei attractions, you can get a coffee, a sundae, or a burger themed and styled around the hilariously dark and adorable little depressed egg that everyone loves so much. If it’s a rainy summer day or a cold winter afternoon and you’re wondering what to do in Taipei, consider a relaxing lunch at Gudetama Chef.
Read More: If you’d like to get a tattoo while in Taiwan then here are our favourite artists!
One of the most magical differences between China and Taiwan is that Taiwan still holds the traditional spiritual Chinese way of life known as Taoism very close to its heart. That can be seen in the temples dotted around all of Taiwan. These temples are, in our opinion, the most visually stunning in all of Asia, and Taoism is one of the most enlightening and fascinating ways of life you’ll ever learn about.
Longshan Temple (meaning Dragon Mountain Temple) is one of the most important places to visit in Taipei, built in 1738 by migrants from mainland China. You’ll find it in Taipei old town, and the history of the place is amazing. It has suffered destruction from fires and natural disasters several times, and each time it has been rebuilt by the people of Taipei. When you visit Longshan Temple, you’ll see the peaceful prayer and wish-making of Taoists visiting the temple for yourself. The Taoist belief is where the concept of Yin and Yang – balance between all things – comes from.
Beitou Thermal Valley
One of the best things to do in Taipei is not actually in Taipei city, but rather just on its fringe. But don’t worry, you can get there on the subway within thirty minutes. Beitou Thermal Valley, one of the most naturally beautiful Taiepi attractions, is tucked away in the mountains, surrounded by dense forest, and far away from the bustle of Taipei city centre. We recommend you book yourself a single night in a hotel (we stayed at the Phoenix Pavilion Hot Spring Hotel) The train from Taipei to Beitou will bring you to a small town, and from there we recommend you take a five-minute taxi ride to your hotel, then unwind and explore the neighbourhood. The hotels in this area have been built into the rock itself, and so most of them have their own natural hot springs inside, all connected to the mountain. The main thermal valley itself is also in the same small area as the hotels, and easy to explore for free (be warned: it does smell like rotten eggs).
Beitou Public Library
While you’re in Beitou, another one of the unmissable Taipei attractions is the little-known Beitou Public Library. While Beitou is mostly mountains, forests, and hot springs, you’ll also find here an enormous public library made from wood and glass. Its style and aesthetic blends into the natural surroundings perfectly, in a Japanese shinto kind of way. It’s a wonderful and tranquil building to explore, and certainly one of the hidden gems when it comes to unique things to do in Taipei.
We’ve talked a lot about the more traditional and natural things to do in Taipei, but if you’re looking less for big Taipei attractions and more places to visit in Taipei where you can shop, eat, and relax with a coffee, that’s Yongkang Road. It’s a bustling little street tucked away behind a busy avenue, and everything here is fun and relaxing. There are traditonal Taiwanese restaurants here where you can enjoy bao filled with beef and chicken, or a ramen-style beef soup. There are also fantastic little artisan coffee shops where you can get some of the best flat whites in all of Asia. You’ll also find souvenir shops and places to get gifts for your family here. It’s a great place to spend a morning wandering and taking in the atmosphere before heading off for a hike.
Speaking of hikes, Taipei is so bloody spectacular that it has its own mountain within the city limits. Right beside the tallest skyscraper in Taiwan, the Taipei 101 tower (more on that in a moment), is Xiangshan (or Elephant Mountain). Xiangshan can be easily reached on the subway; it’s at the east end of Taipei city, and it takes an hour or so to hike up and back down again. From the top, you get a view of the entire city and the other mountains beyond the city limits, and you’ll also find that you’re more-or-less at eye-level with the Taipei 101 tower itself. For physical activities, you can’t go wrong with a good ol’ traditional hike up Xiangshan when you visit Taipei: one of the most natural and exhilarating Taipei attractions.
Taipei 101 Tower
Undeniably one of the most famous and iconic places to visit in Taipei is its massive, gothic-looking, almost intimidating skyscraper, the Taipei 101 Tower, which was actually designated the world’s tallest building until Dubai’s Burj Khalifa came along in 2010. Taipei 101 stands so ridiculously tall above the rest of the city and can be seen from almost any point in the city. Though, as I mentioned, the best view of the 101 Tower comes from the top of Xiangshan. Its name comes from its number of floors and, if you want a cheaper alternative to the observation deck, there’s a Starbucks on the 35th floor which offers phenomenal views of the city. Though it’s also a rather unique Starbucks in that it’s so popular you have to book in advance and you’re only allowed to stay for 90 minutes. If you’d rather visit the observation deck, they sell tickets on the 5th floor.
To really embed yourself in the charming, electric, peaceful, friendly, warming, welcoming culture of Taiwan, one of the best things to do in Taipei is visit the street food markets. While street food has been quashed in mainland China (along with countless other good things), it is celebrated and cherished here in Taiwan. The best street food market in Taipei is Ningxia Market, which comes to life in the evening, making for a very cheap and exciting dinner choice. Here, you’ll find every kind of food from Taiwan, China, and Japan that you can imagine. Savoury pancakes similar to Japanese okonomiyaki, yakitori chicken skewers, Chinese baozi and xiao long bao. I could go on. There’s so much to discover and love here at the street food markets of Taipei. They’re the lifeblood of the city, and Ningxia is one of the best places to visit in Taipei.
Taipei City Mall
Hidden beneath Taipei Main Station is a labyrinth of corridors. And lining those corridors are boutique clothing stores, souvenir shops, and most importantly an awful lot of video game stores and Japanese otaku merch shops. As I mentioned, Taiwan loves Japanese culture, and so do we. If you do, too, you’ll find so many great stores to explore in Taipei City Mall. Here, you’ll find shops selling the newest video games, anime t-shirts, toys, and plushies, as well as books and manga (though many of them will be written in Chinese). For the more underground (no pun intended) Taipei attractions, definitely visit Taipei City Mall. It might not be one of the most beautiful places to visit in Taipei, but shopping all the anime and game stores is certainly one of the most unique things to do in Taipei.
As a bonus, here’s a video showing almost everything we’ve mentioned here. It’s full of quality jokes and banter; we promise.