Welcome to Taipei, a vibrant and captivating city that serves as Taiwan’s cultural hub. In this comprehensive travel guide, we, as seasoned travel bloggers and storytellers, will take you on an immersive journey through Taipei’s rich history, diverse cultural heritage, top attractions, local cuisine, and much more. Get ready to explore the hidden gems, indulge in delicious street food, and immerse yourself in the warmth of Taiwanese hospitality. Let’s dive into the wonders of Taipei!
Historical Background and Cultural Significance of Taipei
Taipei’s history dates back to the early 18th century when it was settled by Chinese immigrants from Fujian Province. The area was originally known as Bangka, and it developed as a small trading village and fishing port.
In the late 19th century, Taipei came under the rule of the Qing Dynasty and saw rapid development due to its strategic location. It became an important administrative centre and grew in economic significance.
In 1895, following the First Sino-Japanese War, Taiwan was ceded by the Qing Dynasty to Japan. Under Japanese rule, Taipei underwent extensive urban planning and modernization efforts, transforming it into a modern city with improved infrastructure and industrial development.
After World War II, in 1945, Taiwan was returned to Chinese control, and Taipei became the capital of the Republic of China (ROC) under the leadership of the Kuomintang (KMT) government. The city continued to grow and modernize, attracting people from across Taiwan.
In the late 20th century, Taipei experienced significant social, political, and economic changes. Taiwan transitioned from an authoritarian regime to a multi-party democracy. Today, Taipei stands as a dynamic metropolis known for its modern skyline, vibrant street food culture, and rich history.
Planning Your Trip
Best Time to Visit Taipei
The best time to visit Taipei is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) seasons when the weather is mild and pleasant. Here are some factors to consider:
Spring (April to June)
Spring in Taipei brings comfortable temperatures ranging from 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F). It is an excellent time to explore outdoor attractions, enjoy the cherry blossoms at Yangmingshan National Park, and participate in cultural festivals like the Lantern Festival and Dragon Boat Festival.
Autumn (September to November)
Autumn is another ideal time to visit Taipei, with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 28°C (68°F to 82°F). The weather is generally dry and sunny, making it perfect for outdoor activities and sightseeing. The Mid-Autumn Festival, with its colourful lantern displays and mooncakes, is a highlight during this season.
Summer (July to August)
Summer in Taipei can be hot and humid, with temperatures ranging from 28°C to 35°C (82°F to 95°F). While it can be a bit uncomfortable due to the high humidity, you can enjoy various summer events and festivals, such as the Dragon Boat Festival and Taipei Fringe Festival. It’s advisable to pack light clothing and stay hydrated.
Winter (December to February)
Winter in Taipei is relatively mild, with temperatures averaging around 15°C to 20°C (59°F to 68°F). While it rarely snows in Taipei, you may experience occasional rainfall. This is a great time to explore indoor attractions, indulge in hot springs, and witness the festive atmosphere during Chinese New Year celebrations.
How Many Days to Spend in Taipei
When planning a trip to Taipei, the number of days you should spend in the city depends on your preferences, available time, and the experiences you want to have. However, to truly immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant atmosphere and explore its top attractions, it is generally recommended to spend at least 3 to 4 days in Taipei.
Within 3 to 4 days, you can cover the must-visit landmarks, sample the delectable street food, and delve into the city’s cultural offerings. This duration allows you to visit iconic sites such as Taipei 101, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, and Longshan Temple. You can also explore vibrant night markets, such as Shilin Night Market or Raohe Street Night Market, where you can savour delicious local delicacies and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere.
Additionally, spending a few days in Taipei gives you the opportunity to venture beyond the city centre. You can take day trips to places like Jiufen, Yangmingshan National Park, or Beitou Hot Springs to experience the natural beauty surrounding Taipei.
Visa Requirements and Travel Regulations for Taipei
Visa-exempt entry: Citizens of many countries are eligible for visa-exempt entry, allowing them to stay in Taiwan for a certain period without a visa. The duration of stay varies depending on your nationality. For example, citizens of the United States, Canada, most European countries, Australia, and New Zealand can stay for up to 90 days without a visa.
Some nationalities are eligible for visa-on-arrival, allowing them to obtain a visa upon arrival in Taiwan. This is applicable for a shorter stay, typically up to 30 days. However, it is advisable to check the latest information from the Bureau of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan, for the most accurate and up-to-date visa requirements.
Transportation Options in Taipei
Taoyuan International Airport (TPE): Located approximately 40 kilometres west of Taipei, Taoyuan Airport is the main international gateway to Taiwan. It offers a wide range of international and domestic flights, connecting Taipei to major cities around the world.
Songshan Airport (TSA): Situated closer to downtown Taipei, Songshan Airport primarily handles domestic flights and regional flights to neighbouring countries like Japan and South Korea. It is a convenient option if you are travelling within Taiwan or prefer a shorter commute to the city centre.
Public transportation in Taipei is efficient, extensive, and well-connected. Here are the main modes of public transport:
Taipei Metro (MRT): The Taipei Metro is a reliable and convenient subway system with several lines covering the city and its outskirts. It is the preferred mode of transportation for many locals and tourists due to its efficiency and affordability.
Buses: Taipei’s bus network is comprehensive, covering a vast area and reaching destinations not served by the MRT.
Taxis: Taxis are readily available in Taipei and can be hailed from designated taxi stands or booked through ride-hailing apps.
We also recommend using 12Go Asia for your transportation needs in Taipei and throughout Taiwan:
Local Currency and Payment Methods in Taipei
Currency: The official currency of Taiwan is the New Taiwan Dollar (TWD). The currency is commonly referred to as the “NTD” or simply the “dollar.” Notes come in denominations of NT$2000, NT$1000, NT$500, NT$200, and NT$100, while coins are available in NT$50, NT$10, NT$5, and NT$1.
Cash Usage: While Taipei is becoming increasingly card-friendly, it is still advisable to carry some cash, especially when visiting smaller shops, local markets, and street vendors. Cash is widely accepted and preferred in many establishments, particularly those outside of tourist areas. ATMs can be found throughout the city, and major credit cards are accepted at most hotels, restaurants, and department stores.
Credit Cards and Debit Cards: Credit cards are widely accepted in Taipei, particularly in larger establishments, hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls. Debit cards with international networks (such as Visa or MasterCard) can be used at ATMs for cash withdrawals. However, it’s important to note that some smaller shops, local markets, and street vendors may not accept cards, so having cash on hand is still recommended.
Different Areas to Stay in Taipei
Taipei offers a diverse range of neighbourhoods to stay in, each with its own unique characteristics and attractions. Here are some popular areas to consider for your stay in Taipei:
Located in the heart of Taipei, Xinyi District is a modern and upscale neighbourhood known for its towering skyscrapers, luxury shopping malls, and vibrant nightlife. It is home to Taipei 101, the iconic landmark that offers breathtaking city views. Xinyi District is an excellent choice for those seeking a dynamic and bustling atmosphere, with easy access to shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
Da’an District is a trendy and cosmopolitan area, renowned for its leafy streets, stylish boutiques, and hip cafes. It is also home to several prestigious universities and cultural institutions. Da’an District offers a mix of residential and commercial areas, providing a balance between tranquillity and urban vibrancy. This district is a great choice for those who enjoy exploring local boutiques, and art galleries, and experiencing Taipei’s cafe culture.
Zhongshan District is a bustling neighbourhood that combines business, shopping, and cultural attractions. It offers a mix of modern developments and historical sites, making it an intriguing area to stay in. The district is known for its shopping streets, night markets, and the vibrant Ximending area, which is a hub for youth culture, shopping, and entertainment.
Wanhua District, also known as the historic heart of Taipei, is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. It is home to the famous Longshan Temple, historic buildings, and vibrant street markets. Wanhua District offers a glimpse into Taipei’s rich history and cultural heritage, with a mix of traditional and modern attractions. It is a great choice for travellers interested in exploring Taipei’s historical sites, sampling street food, and experiencing a more local atmosphere.
Located in northern Taipei, Beitou District is renowned for its natural hot springs and beautiful mountain scenery. It offers a tranquil escape from the bustling city centre. Beitou is a popular choice for those seeking relaxation, wellness, and rejuvenation. Visitors can enjoy soaking in hot spring baths, exploring lush parks and gardens, and visiting the Beitou Hot Springs Museum.
Songshan District is a vibrant area that seamlessly blends residential, commercial, and cultural elements. It is home to the Raohe Street Night Market, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, and Taipei Arena. Songshan District offers a mix of traditional and modern attractions, making it an appealing choice for those looking for a diverse range of experiences.
Accommodations in Taipei
When it comes to accommodations in Taipei, you’ll find a wide range of options to suit every budget and preference. Here are three categories of accommodations commonly found in Taipei:
Best Luxury Hotels in Taipei
Grand Hyatt Taipei: A renowned five-star hotel located in the Xinyi District, offering luxurious rooms, multiple dining options, a rooftop pool, and a spa. It provides top-notch service and stunning views of Taipei 101.
Mandarin Oriental Taipei: A luxury hotel known for its elegant design, exceptional service, and world-class amenities. Situated in the Da’an District, it offers spacious rooms, fine dining experiences, a spa, and a rooftop pool.
Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel: A five-star hotel towering over the city in the Da’an District. It boasts stylish rooms, multiple dining options, a rooftop pool, and breathtaking panoramic views of Taipei’s skyline.
Best Mid-Range Hotels in Taipei
Green World Hotels ZhongXiao: Located in the Da’an District, this hotel offers comfortable and well-appointed rooms with modern amenities. It provides a convenient base for exploring Taipei and is within walking distance of shopping areas and the MRT.
amba Taipei Ximending: Situated in the vibrant Ximending area, this trendy hotel offers contemporary rooms, a rooftop terrace, and a convenient location surrounded by shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.
CityInn Hotel Plus – Ximending Branch: A boutique hotel in the Ximending area, known for its stylish design and cosy rooms. It offers great value for money, a convenient location, and easy access to the MRT and Ximending’s lively atmosphere.
Best Hostels in Taipei
Taipei Backpackers Hostel: Located in the Da’an District, this hostel offers a budget-friendly dormitory and private rooms. It provides a relaxed atmosphere, communal spaces, and friendly staff, ideal for budget-conscious travellers and backpackers.
Flip Flop Hostel Garden: Situated near Ximen MRT Station, this hostel offers a laid-back ambience, clean rooms, and a charming garden. It features shared spaces for socializing, and a kitchenette, and is within walking distance of Ximending’s attractions.
Meander Taipei Hostel: Located in the Zhongzheng District, this hostel combines affordability with a stylish design. It offers a cosy dormitory and private rooms, a communal lounge, and organizes social activities for guests.
Top Attractions and Landmarks in Taipei
Taipei is a city that offers a rich blend of cultural heritage, modern marvels, and natural beauty. Here are some of the must-visit attractions, famous landmarks, and scenic spots in Taipei:
Taipei 101: One of the most iconic landmarks in the city, Taipei 101 is a towering skyscraper that held the title of the world’s tallest building until 2010. Its unique design and observatory offer breathtaking panoramic views of Taipei’s skyline. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the shopping mall at the base of Taipei 101.
National Palace Museum: Home to one of the world’s most extensive collections of Chinese artefacts, the National Palace Museum is a treasure trove of ancient Chinese art and history. It houses over 700,000 artefacts, including exquisite jade carvings, delicate ceramics, and ancient calligraphy scrolls.
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall: This majestic memorial hall is dedicated to the former President of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai-shek. The hall features classical Chinese architecture and is surrounded by tranquil gardens. Witness the changing of the guard ceremony that takes place hourly in front of the main entrance.
Longshan Temple: A significant religious and cultural site, Longshan Temple is one of Taipei’s oldest and most revered temples. It showcases beautiful traditional architecture and intricate artwork. Visitors can witness religious ceremonies and immerse themselves in the spiritual atmosphere.
Beitou Hot Springs: Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and indulge in the soothing hot springs of Beitou. This geothermal valley offers a tranquil retreat where visitors can relax in various public and private hot spring facilities, surrounded by lush greenery and serene landscapes.
Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan): For breathtaking views of Taipei’s skyline, head to Elephant Mountain. A short hike up the well-maintained trails rewards you with panoramic vistas of the city, including Taipei 101. It’s especially stunning during sunset and at night when the city lights up.
Yangmingshan National Park: Located just outside the city, Yangmingshan National Park is a nature lover’s paradise. It features volcanic landscapes, hot springs, hiking trails, and stunning flower fields. The park is particularly famous for its cherry blossoms in spring and Calla lilies in summer.
Shilin Night Market: A visit to Taipei wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the vibrant atmosphere of a night market. Shilin Night Market is one of the largest and most popular night markets in the city, offering a plethora of street food stalls, shopping opportunities, and a lively ambience.
Outdoor Activities and Adventures in Taipei
Taipei not only offers a bustling cityscape but also ample opportunities for outdoor activities and adventure. Here are some thrilling options to explore during your visit:
Hiking, Trekking, and Nature Trails
Taipei is surrounded by lush mountains and scenic landscapes, providing excellent hiking and trekking opportunities. Some popular hiking trails include:
Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan): Enjoy a short hike up Elephant Mountain for panoramic views of Taipei’s skyline, especially stunning during sunset.
Yangmingshan National Park: Explore the extensive network of trails in this beautiful national park, known for its volcanic landscapes, hot springs, and diverse flora and fauna.
Maokong: Trek through tea plantations and verdant forests to reach the Maokong area, known for its stunning mountain views and traditional tea houses.
Water Sports and Beach Activities
While Taipei is not directly on the coast, you can still enjoy water sports and beach activities in nearby areas. Here are some options:
Fulong Beach: Located northeast of Taipei, Fulong Beach is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and beach volleyball. It also hosts the annual Fulong Sand Sculpture Festival.
Wai’ao Beach: Located in Yilan County, Wai’ao Beach is known for its beautiful golden sands and is a favourite destination for surfing and other water activities.
Wildlife Spotting and National Parks around Taipei
Taipei is surrounded by several national parks and nature reserves, where you can spot unique wildlife and immerse yourself in nature. Here are a few recommendations:
Yangmingshan National Park: Besides hiking, the park is home to diverse wildlife, including birds, butterflies, and even Formosan rock macaques.
Guandu Nature Park: This wetland reserve in northern Taipei attracts a wide variety of migratory birds, making it a popular spot for birdwatching and photography.
Adventure Tours and Excursions
For adrenaline enthusiasts, Taipei offers exciting adventure tours and excursions that allow you to explore the region’s natural wonders. Some options include:
River Rafting: Embark on thrilling river rafting adventures in nearby rivers, such as the Shuangxi River or the Wulai River.
Paragliding: Experience the exhilaration of paragliding in the scenic countryside around Taipei. Several paragliding schools and operators offer tandem flights for beginners.
Three Best Daily Trips from Taipei
Located about an hour’s drive from Taipei, Jiufen is a charming mountain town known for its narrow cobblestone streets, old-world architecture, and breathtaking views of the coastline. Some highlights of Jiufen include:
Jiufen Old Street: Explore the bustling lanes filled with shops, food stalls, and teahouses. Try local snacks like taro balls and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
Jiufen Teahouse Culture: Immerse yourself in the teahouse culture of Jiufen by visiting one of the traditional teahouses overlooking the scenic surroundings.
Golden Waterfall: Witness the beauty of the Golden Waterfall, a naturally occurring phenomenon resulting from mining activities that give the water a golden hue.
Located on Taiwan’s northern coast, Yehliu Geopark is a fascinating geological wonderland featuring unique rock formations shaped by wind and water erosion. Some highlights of Yehliu Geopark include:
Queen’s Head: Marvel at the iconic Queen’s Head rock formation, which resembles the profile of a queen.
Fairy Shoe and Mushroom Rocks: Explore the park’s other interesting formations, such as the Fairy Shoe and Mushroom Rocks, created by natural erosion.
Coastal Scenery: Enjoy stunning views of the northern coastline and the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Yangmingshan National Park
Just a short distance from Taipei, Yangmingshan National Park offers a retreat into nature with its volcanic landscapes, hot springs, and beautiful hiking trails. Some highlights of Yangmingshan National Park include:
Xiaoyoukeng: Visit the Xiaoyoukeng area, known for its active fumaroles and volcanic vents. Witness the intriguing sights of sulfur crystals and the natural hot springs.
Qingtiangang Grassland: Take a leisurely stroll or hike through the picturesque grassland, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and lush vegetation.
Flower Season: Depending on the time of year, you may have the opportunity to see blooming flowers, including cherry blossoms in spring or calla lilies in summer.
Local Cuisine, Dining and Night Markets in Taipei
No travel guide to Taipei would be complete without mentioning the city’s renowned culinary scene. Taipei is renowned for its incredible street food scene, where you can indulge in mouthwatering delicacies and experience the city’s culinary diversity. The streets come alive with the enticing aromas of sizzling meats, fragrant spices, and freshly cooked snacks. Here are some of the best street food night markets in Taipei that you shouldn’t miss:
Shilin Night Market
One of the most famous and largest night markets in Taipei, Shilin Night Market offers an incredible selection of street food. From oyster omelettes and stinky tofu to crispy fried chicken and grilled squid, the choices here are endless. Don’t forget to try the renowned Shilin Night Market Hot Star Large Fried Chicken, a must-try delicacy.
Raohe Street Night Market
Located near Songshan Temple, Raohe Street Night Market is a favourite among locals and tourists alike. The market stretches along Raohe Street, offering a wide array of street food options. Indulge in mouthwatering dishes such as pepper pork buns, beef noodle soup, oyster vermicelli, and grilled seafood. Don’t miss out on the famous Black Pepper Bun, a crispy baked bun filled with savoury meat.
Ningxia Night Market
Ningxia Night Market is a hidden gem known for its authentic local flavours. This compact night market is perfect for exploring Taipei’s traditional street food. Sample delectable dishes like oyster pancakes, braised pork rice, and Taiwanese-style tempura. Be sure to try the iconic Taiwanese dessert, shaved ice, topped with various sweet toppings.
Tonghua Night Market
Located in the Daan District, Tonghua Night Market is a popular spot for locals to satisfy their street food cravings. The market offers a wide range of culinary delights, including oyster vermicelli, barbecue skewers, bubble tea, and Taiwanese-style fried chicken. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the famous “stinky tofu” at Tonghua Night Market.
Huaxi Street Night Market (Snake Alley)
For adventurous foodies, Huaxi Street Night Market, also known as Snake Alley, is an intriguing destination. Here, you can find a variety of fascinating delicacies, including snake meat dishes and snake blood sake. If you’re looking to try something unique and out of the ordinary, Huaxi Street Night Market is the place to go.
Shopping and Souvenirs
Taipei offers a myriad of shopping opportunities, ranging from modern malls to traditional markets. We’ll guide you to the best shopping areas and help you find unique souvenirs:
Popular Shopping Areas and Markets: Discover Taipei’s most popular shopping districts, such as Ximending, Zhongxiao East Road, and the Shilin Night Market, where you can shop for fashion, electronics, and local products.
Local Handicrafts, Textiles, and Specialties: Support local artisans by purchasing traditional Taiwanese handicrafts, textiles, and specialities as meaningful souvenirs or gifts.
Language and Communication Tips
Mandarin Chinese: The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese. While English is spoken to some extent in tourist areas, it’s beneficial to learn a few basic Mandarin phrases or carry a translation app for smoother communication.
Common English: In more tourist-centric areas, you can expect some level of English proficiency among locals, particularly in hotels, restaurants, and major attractions.
Signage and Maps: Many signs and maps in Taipei are written in both Mandarin and English, making it easier to navigate the city and public transportation.
Local Customs and Etiquette
Politeness and Respect: Taiwanese people are generally polite and respectful, and it’s important to reciprocate these gestures. Use polite language and address others with appropriate honorifics, such as “xiānsheng” (Mr.) or “nǚshì” (Mrs./Ms.).
Queuing: Queuing is an essential part of Taiwanese culture. Always join the end of a line and wait for your turn, whether it’s at a bus stop, ticket counter, or food stall.
Dining Etiquette: When dining out, it’s customary to wait for the host or eldest person to begin eating before you start. It’s polite to try a bit of everything on your plate and to leave a small amount of food at the end of the meal to indicate you are satisfied.
Public Behavior: Public displays of affection are generally not common in Taiwanese culture. It’s advisable to be mindful of your behaviour in public places and to respect local customs and cultural norms.
Temple Etiquette: When visiting temples, dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering. Be respectful of worshippers and avoid loud conversations or disruptive behaviour.
Dos and Don’ts
Do try to learn a few basic Mandarin phrases and greetings. The locals appreciate the effort, even if your pronunciation is not perfect.
Do carry a copy of your passport and necessary identification with you at all times. It’s a legal requirement in Taiwan.
Do respect the local customs and traditions. Take off your shoes when entering someone’s home or a temple, and dress modestly when visiting religious sites.
Do try the delicious local cuisine, including street food at night markets. Be adventurous and sample popular dishes like beef noodle soup, stinky tofu, and bubble tea.
Don’t forget to have your passport or a copy of your identification with you at all times. Random ID checks by the police are not uncommon in Taiwan.
Don’t be excessively loud or disruptive in public places. Taiwanese people value harmony and considerate behaviour, so maintain a respectful volume and avoid causing disturbances.
Don’t use excessive physical contact or public displays of affection. While holding hands is generally acceptable, more intimate gestures are best kept private.
Don’t stick chopsticks vertically in a bowl of rice. This act resembles funeral rituals and is considered bad luck. Instead, rest your chopsticks on the chopstick rest provided.
As we conclude this travel guide to Taipei, we hope you’re feeling inspired and excited to embark on your own exploration of this captivating city. Taipei’s cultural richness, historical significance, delectable cuisine, and warm hospitality make it an ideal destination for every traveller. Remember to embrace the local customs, immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere, and create lasting memories. Bon voyage!
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