Taiwan, with its metropolis of Taipei and its diverse attractions, is worth considering as an Asian tourist destination. The combination of tradition and modernity, harsh nature with mountain peaks up to 4000 m high and excellent futuristic skyscrapers make this region as rich in contrasts and exciting as any other country.
In the capital Taipei in particular, you can experience these contrasts up close: for a moment, you stand somewhere between neon advertising and smelly tofu in the center of one of the world’s most vibrant areas, but just a few kilometers from the city, taipei’s borders lead into a dense forest with hot springs, tea fields and high mountains that offer the most beautiful views of Taipei’s impressive skyline. that you can only imagine.
What’s most striking about Taipei is that there is no single city center that we know from European cities, for example. Taipei’s attractions are scattered throughout the city right into the New Taipei area. But don’t worry, Taipei is a very orderly Asian city, everything is easily accessible by public transport.
From this article you will learn what highlights and attractions you should definitely visit in Taipei, as well as give some (more or less secret) culinary tips. Let’s go!
Taipei 101 is a symbol of the city. The 508-meter-high skyscraper was the tallest building in the world until 2007, when it was replaced by the Burj Khalifa skyscraper with a height of more than 800 meters in Dubai. The skyscraper is built on the model of a bamboo pipe, Taipei 101 today is the tenth tallest building in the world.
On the lower floors is the largest shopping center in Taipei, otherwise it is a purely office building. Only 101 floors (hence the name), on the 89th floor there is a closed observation deck for visitors. It offers an incredible view of Taipei and all its surroundings, which is not to be missed.
The elevators that take you to the top of the tower are also completely gone: at 16.8m/s, you’ll eject upwards in just a few seconds, but the air pressure is so cleverly balanced that you won’t feel anything at all. Until 2013, taipei 101 had the fastest elevators in the world: in itself, a trip on them is already an unforgettable experience.
By the way, on the 89th floor there is a huge gilded steel ball that acts as a pendulum and compensates for vibrations caused by earthquakes. From the same floor, a staircase leads to the 91st floor to a small open observation deck, which offers a beautiful view down.
Best dumplings in Taipei
The next event awaits you on the ground floor at the Food Mall of Taipei 101: Din Tai Fung restaurant, which specialises in dumplings. Wait up… dumplings – won’t you find them on every corner in Asia? True, but not these! Din Tai Fung has so-called Xialongbao, Taiwanese soup dumplings that are not served in soup as one might expect, but are actually filled with soup and steamed.
Ding Tai Fung has perfected the process of making these dumplings, and you can watch them cook through the large glass façade. Each dumpling has exactly 18 folds and weighs exactly 21 grams.
The restaurant has turned into a franchise that you will primarily find in Asia. Some affiliates have even been nominated for Michelin stars. And what can I say… delightfully! Surely you will find it very tasty, and Din Tai Fung is definitely a culinary highlight in Taiwan.
Skyscrapers are always the same: standing on top is nice, but in fact even more impressive to observe the horizon from afar. In Taipei, this is best done from Elephant Mountain, so it is rightfully one of the main attractions of the city. You’ve probably already seen pictures of Taipei with people sitting on a cliff and Taipei 101 in the background, right? So, Elephant Mountain is exactly that place!
A single mountain 180 m high, also called Xiangshan, offers incredible views of Taipei 101 and the surrounding horizon. The starting point on Elephant Mountain can be reached by public transport from Xiangshan Subway Station. The ascent leads to more than a few hundred steps and can be completed in 15 minutes on foot.
It’s definitely going to be a bit tedious due to the frequent tropical temperatures, but you don’t need sportswear or particularly durable shoes. The mountain is freely available and free of charge.
My advice: the best time for a mini hike to Elephant Mountain is late at night. At sunset, the sky over Taipei turns pink if you’re lucky and you’ll be able to take great photos. But expect that you may have to stand in line at the photo platform on the rock.
Ximending District: an excess of impressions and the best bubble tea in the city. For someone who is already familiar with major Asian cities, Taipei’s Ximending area is probably not new. However, if Taiwan is your first Asian country, Ximending will be a complete excess of sensory experiences for you.
You can easily reach the lively entertainment district from Ximen Subway Station. As soon as you step upstairs, you’re already standing in the middle of a sea of piercing neon signs, countless smells from the many street food vans, loud music from all sides and all sorts of curiosities like ‘Giant Cock Cake’ (yes… that’s right, it’s a cake in the shape of a huge penis).
In Ximending: just let yourself go with the flow and be surprised! So that you do not get lost there completely, below are 4 places that are worth looking at:
Xing Fu Tang is known for the best bubble tea in the city. The store is visible from afar on a long line of people and you will surely become curious what everyone is waiting for. Without further ado, take the queue and you will not be disappointed. Xing Fu Tang bubble tea tastes a lot better than the bubble tea that suddenly filled Europe a few years ago and just as suddenly disappeared again – no wonder bubble tea was invented here in Taiwan. Be sure to give it a try!
If the impressions are not enough for you, it is worth a look at the modern toilet restaurant. There food is served on the toilets – from the toilets. As brown pile, if you will. Enjoy your meal!
Those of you who are fond of street art will find what they need on the outskirts of Ximending in the alleys. Navigate Google Maps at Taipei Cinema Park and The Walls , where you’ll find the corner you need.
If you want peace and quiet, there is still a temple in the noisy Ximending (it is worth noting that temples can be found everywhere in Taipei or Taiwan). Tianou Temple is almost invisible between all the hustle and bustle, but a short visit to it is definitely worth it.
Speaking of temples: as already mentioned, there are many temples in Taipei, and each of them is impressive in its own way. One of the temples that is worth recommending to you is the Menngjia Longshan Temple in the west of the city. It is over 250 years old and is one of Taipei’s oldest and largest temples.
At the entrance to the territory of the temple, you do not know where to look in the first place – everything is colorful, lush and richly decorated, and an incredible number of people visit this place. This may be due to the fact that each god in the Longshan temple has a kind of separate site. Unlike smaller temples, there is not one common god, but a god of love, a god of marriage, or a goddess who gives children. Each visitor to the temple can turn to God, “responsible” for his specific problem, which is currently bothering him and to which he is looking for answers.
Longshan Temple, in particular, is a mystical but lively place to go for people who are purposefully looking for answers to their questions. It is always a pleasure to observe what is happening and absorb the atmosphere of this place.
Good to know: very close to the Longshan Temple there is something like a shopping center with many fortune tellers. Yes, you heard right. In Taiwan, contrary to our culture, divination is taken very seriously, so it is also not cheap entertainment.
Two soothsayer birds are especially famous. For about 25 euros, you can ask the birds a question and they will choose a card that will give you the answer to your question.
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
As an island nation geographically located between Japan and China, Taiwan has suffered from a prolonged conflict over the rights to belong to one of these two countries. Until 1945, Taiwan was under the rule of the Empire of Japan and only came to the Republic of China after World War II (not to be confused with the People’s Republic of China, which is now widely known as mainland China and was founded only in 1949). The Republic of China consists mainly of the island of Taiwan and several small adjacent islands and was under the rule of then-President Chiang Kai-shek from 1949 until his death in 1975. Alspite being guided by an authoritarian regime, he also made a significant contribution to the development of Taiwan as an independent country and is therefore still respected.
In 1980, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and the surrounding park with its buildings were completed in his memory.
Exactly 89 steps lead to an impressive hall 70 meters high – the age of the president on the day of his death. In the hall itself stands his statue, which is guarded by the military – the changing of the guard is now one of the biggest tourist attractions in Taipei.
If you want to learn more about the history of Taiwan, then it is worth visiting the museum, which is located in the basement of the Memorial Hall.
Shilin Night Market
What should definitely be in your program in Asia is a visit to the night market. Taipei has different night markets depending on the area in which it is located. For example, the Night Market Shilin, the night market on Zhaohe Street.
If you are limited in time, stop your choice at the largest night market in Taipei – Shilin Night Market. Here you will also meet all sorts of curiosities, and not only in cooking. In particular, a lot of junk, you can eat cakes with a penis, catch live shrimp or just spend hours feasting on a variety of authentic street food.
And please don’t be alarmed, the Shilin Night Market is very crowded and sometimes you make your way through the alleys like in the Christmas market. Next to the temple Shilin Cicsian becomes really cozy. But it’s worth it!
Shida Night Market
Shida Night Market or Huasi Street Night Market (also known as Snake Alley because snakes do live there).
The most beautiful trips around Taipei
As mentioned at the beginning, Taipei is located in a kind of valley surrounded by mountains, and you don’t even have to leave the official city limits of Taipei to stand in the middle of nature. This unique combination also makes this city so attractive – with too much hustle and bustle, there are plenty of opportunities to indulge in silence in close proximity to nature. Below are three of the most beautiful excursions in the surrounding area.
Mao kong Tea Plantations
Tea cultivation in Taiwan has a long tradition. It produces some of the most expensive and best teas in the world, in particular oolong tea. On one of the mountains in southeastern Taipei is the village of Maokong, known for its extensive tea plantations and many tea houses where you can take part in a traditional tea ceremony.
You can easily reach Maokong by gondola from Taipei Zoo Subway Station. A roughly 25-minute gondola ride through green tea plantations is a highlight, but when you arrive at the top of Mao Kong, you’ll find a world that has nothing to do with restless Taipei, which is just a few kilometers away.
The view of Taipei is breathtaking on a clear day, and you can move freely through the tea plantations along the well-marked footpaths. To find a quiet traditional tea house, it’s best to walk a little to the right of the gondola lift station – hold a tea ceremony at nai Miao Tea House. English is not spoken there, but communication with hands and feet somehow works. Tea of its own production is of such high quality that it can be brewed up to 10 times, and it becomes more pleasant with each new infusion.
Even if you did not like tea before, then this tea will surely impress you very much. What can be learned from this? If you haven’t liked something yet, maybe you just didn’t try it well.
By the way, tea ceremonies in Taiwan are a social event, similar to wine tasting. You sit together for hours, talk and just enjoy.
Give it a shot!
Beitou Hot Springs
Not far from the center of Taipei are the hot springs of Beitou. Bathing in hot springs is part of the culture for Taiwanese, just like bathing in typical hot pots for Icelanders, and should definitely be on your tourist list as an authentic experience.
The easiest way to get to Beitou Hot Springs is by train through Xinbeitou Metro Station. From here it is only a few minutes walk to the thermal valley where you can admire the hot springs. However, these are not public places for swimming, as they are too hot.
You can swim, for example, for the equivalent of about 15 euros at the Spring City Resort. There are many pools with different temperatures, all of which are filled with natural thermal water. If you stay at a hotel, the use of the thermal complex, of course, will be included.
Day trip to Jiufeng Mountain Village
The mountain village of Juifeng in northern Taipei geographically still belongs to New Taipei. The journey takes a good hour, so you can plan Jiufeng as a half-day or full-day excursion.
In the early 19th century, Jüfeng was a gold rush city that developed under the influence of Japan – and that’s what it looks like today.
Tip at the outset: You can certainly explore Jufeng on your own, but getting there by public transport is a bit tedious. It’s also worth having a guide for the trip who can tell you something about the city’s history. In the north of Taipei there are other interesting places, so it is worth definitely recommending booking an excursion in advance!
Jiufeng consists of a long alley, the famous old Jiufeng Street, which will completely fascinate you. It is similar to the atmosphere of, for example, the Arab Quarter in Jerusalem – everywhere smells, strange sounds, noisy merchants offering you food, and every 2 meters things that you did not even know existed.
You can get lost here for a few hours, admiring and buying beautiful things, but nearby there is another place worth visiting – the A-Mei tea house.
A-Mei Tea House is a landmark and the most famous building in Jiufeng – no wonder because it’s just incredibly beautiful.
And, by the way, the food is very tasty – so if you have time, you can stop here and enjoy the peace, tranquility and fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean from the outside with warm tea and a small lunch.
Practical tips for travelers: how to get around Taipei
Although Taipei is a large Asian city where, according to the general opinion of tourists, chaos reigns, sticking to the plan you can find Taipei very calm, orderly and convenient for travel. To make it a little easier for you, here are some general tips and tricks.
How to get from Taipei airport to the city
The journey from Taipei Airport to the city takes a good hour, and the cheapest way is by MRT Airport Train. Alternatively, you can book a private transfer in advance for not very big money, which will certainly be a more enjoyable option after a long flight.
Travel in Taipei
In Taipei, you can get anywhere by MRT train, it even goes to the outskirts of the city to New Taipei. The chip system is very easy to understand: during registration, the chip is briefly brought to the reader and discarded when leaving the station. If you want to be more flexible, the UBER taxi in Taipei is also surprisingly cheap.