24 Aug Guide to Taipei
Taipei is a glistening gem of a metropolitian city whose beauty lies in its Chinese heritage infused with Japanese, American and Southeast Asian influences. In many ways, the 300 year old city is like a living museum. From Japanese-era mansions to traditional tea ceremonies to military barracks reworked into shophouses, Taipei is a city that takes fierce pride in celebrating its history.
One of the many wonderful things about Taipei is their food! In fact, dining out is so popular that many studio apartments do not have kitchens. Eating is cheap, casual and tasty, a fun social activity for the Taiwanese. When you’re in Taiwan, you mustn’t miss a visit to the fantastically noisy night markets to sample great snacks, where wonderful smells of greasy and tasty food wafts through the air!
Taipei bustles around the clock, but things really get fun when the sun goes down. Our best advice would be to peruse museums and do your indoor shopping during the day, leaving you time to explore the streets and markets for local eats and nightlife as it gets dark!
Taipei’s transport system is highly reliable. The Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) System is clean, safe and convenient. Signs and ticket machines around stations are in Mandarin and English. Supplementing the train system is the widespread bus network.
Buses are flat rate of 15NT$ regardless of distance. Transferring from the bus to the MRT (or vice versa) gives you a discounted rate (20%) as well.
You will pay in change or swipe your EasyCard, either when you get on or when you disembark the bus. A red sign above the bus driver’s head will indicate UP or DOWN. UP (上) means you pay when you get on. DOWN (下) indicates that you pay when disembarking.
Easycard can be purchased at all MRT stations and convenience stores such as 7/11 or FamilyMart. If purchased at 7/11, the card costs NT$100 and contains no balance, so be sure to recharge the card with some credit. All credit can be later refunded at MRT stations.
Scooters and cars can also be rented in Taipei. Just make sure you bring your International Drivers License! You can rent these from rental shops around Taiwan.
What to do
1. Taipei 101
Towering above the city, Taipei 101 is impossible to miss. Standing in the Xinyi District of Taipei, it is a model sustainable skyscraper development and an impressive tourist attraction.
Nearly every aspect of the building’s design is steeped in symbolism. The number 101 represents January 1, the first day of the year. As such, the building has become a central component of New Year’s celebrations in Taiwan.
In the basement is a decent food court, and the first five floors are taken up by one of Taipei’s swankiest malls. For views of Taipei 101, one may climb Elephant Mountain or head to WOOBAR at the W Hotel.
You can also send postcards home or to friends from the top of Taipei 101 as they sell special postcards and stamps there.
Price: adult/child NT$500/450
Opening hours: 9am-10pm, last ticket sale 9.15pm
Directions: Take MRT to Taipei 101 stop
2. Night Markets 夜市 (Shilin士林, Raohe 饶河, Shida 师大)
Shilin, Raohe and Shida night markets are the most popular, most crowded and traditional night markets in Taipei. One night is definitely insufficient to cover all the scrumptious, mouth watering delicacies in each night market! Each market has a number of unique dishes that makes it a must-visit. Some of the best food items include black pepper pork buns, herbal pork rib soup, fresh oysters on the half shell, and more.
Shilin Market 士林夜市: Largest Tourist night market in Taipei
Speciality foods: oyster omelets, wrapped biscuits, stir-fried cuttlefish, shaved ice, fried chicken, stinky tofu, fried buns, spare ribs stewed in herbal soup
Opening hours; 11am – 2am daily
Directions: Take MRT to Jian Tan station
Raohe Market 饶河夜市:
Speciality foods: Fuzhou Pepper Buns, Fukushima Yaki, Cheng Herbal Pork Soup, Tongfa Oyster Vermicelli, Pong Stinky Tofu
Opening hours: 5pm – Midnight
Directions: Take MRT to Songshan MRT
Shida Market 师大夜市: Smaller crowd, less stores, more for fashion apparel and little knick knacks
Opening hours: Noon – Midnight
Directions: Take the Green Line 3 to Taipower Building Station. After leaving Exit 3, make a right turn, then make another quick right to reach Shi-Da Road.
3. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall 中正紀念堂
If you’re interested in Taiwan’s history, the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall is the place for you! The national monument and landmark was erected in his memory as the former President of the Republic of China.
The characters behind Chiang’s statue read “Ethics”, “Democracy”, and “Science”, and the inscriptions on the side read “The purpose of life is to improve the general life of humanity” and “The meaning of life is to create and sustain subsequent lives in the universe”.
Address: 21 Zhong Shan S Road
Opening hours: 9am – 6pm
Directions: MRT – Take Red Line 2 or Green Line 3 to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, sometimes labeled as C.K.S. Memorial Hall.
4. Hello Kitty Sweets Café
This cute little Hello Kitty haunt is extremely popular amongst young girls and often crowded. To avoid the queue, one may want to make reservations prior to your visit. Every part of the restaurant is decorated according to the theme of Hello Kitty and not forgetting plenty pretty waitresses dressed in Hello kitty themed maid dresses to serve you.
Please note that there is a minimum of spending 300 TWD per person!
Address: 90, Section 1, Da’an Rd, Da’an District
Opening hours: 11.30am – 9.30pm daily
Directions: 5 minute walk from Zhongxiao Fuxing station Exit 3
5. Xi Men Ding 西门町 Shopping District
The “Harajuku” of Taipei, this pedestrian shopping haven is one of the city’s culture centres, hosting a massive variety of fashion clothing shops, eclectic restaurants, clubs, and bars.
Located just west of Taipei Main Station in the historic Wanhua District, Ximending was founded during the Japanese colonisation era as a recreation district, and today has grown into a cultural icon with inspiration drawn from its Japanese roots.
The historic Red House Theater is the main LGBT district in Taipei, with the outdoor area surrounding the theatre home to a large array of bars, shops, and meeting places. The area’s bars have a reputation for serving excellent drinks and welcome all patrons.
Note: some of these shops charge extra for plastic bags, so save the earth and your money, bring your own bags along!
Some of the famous shops along Xi Men Ding are
- The World of Curry
- 老王記牛肉麵大王(For Beef noodle soup)
- 50嵐 (50 Lan) (Bubble tea)
- 85度C (85 Degrees Cafe) (Cakes and tea)
- Ay Chung Mee Sua 阿宗面线 (Noodles and intestines)
- 鸭肉扁 Ya Rou Bian (Goose meat)
- 王記府城肉粽Wang Ji Fu Cheng Rou Zhong (Ba Zhang/Pyramid Glutinous Rice)
- 天外天火鍋 TianWaiTian Buffet Hotpot (Hotpot)
- 熊一頂級燒肉專賣 Bear 1 Yakiniku (Hotpot and grill)
- 10. 周记手工家常面 Zhouji Handmade Noodles
- Modern Toilet Restaurant
They are all along the same street of Xi Men Ding, so watch out for them!
Directions: Take Blue Line 5 or Green Line 3 to Ximen (西門).
6. Yong Kang Street 永康街
This street is full of Taiwanese restaurants, dumplings, noodles, street eats, boba milk tea and even cute dessert cafes and amazing sushi bars if you know where to wander off to find them. You could even put your name down at Din Tai Fung and explore and snack for half an hour to come back in time for your number to come up for xiao long bao.
If you want to eat like a tourist, you could just go to Din Tai Fung and mango shaved ice. But if you want to eat like a local, then you’ll have to dig a little deeper into this street of good eats.
Address: Yong Kang Street
Directions: MRT to Dong Men station, take Exit 5
6. Tam Sui 淡水
Tamsui is a sea-side district in New Taipei, Taiwan. It is named after the Tamsui River; the name means “fresh water”. The town is popular as a site for viewing the sun setting into the Taiwan Strait.
Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular shooting location for Taiwanese serial dramas. If you are a fan of Taiwanese television serial dramas, you may recognise locations around the wharf! Asian pop sensation Jay Chou. Mr. Chou even filmed his first movie “Secret” in Tamkang University at Tam Sui!
By train: After arriving at Tamsui Station (淡水), Red Line 2, take bus 紅26 (Red 26), 836, or 857 towards Fisherman’s Wharf (漁人碼頭).
By boat: The wharf hosts a ferry pier for ferries that operate the route along the Tamsui River. Ferries operate between the wharf and Tamsui Old Street, Bali, and Dadaocheng ferry pier (大稻埕碼頭) in Taipei City (located next to Daqiaotou MRT Station) or Zhongxiao Wharf in New Taipei City. Simply swipe an Easycard and board the boat. It’s a great way to avoid the crippling traffic of Tamsui during the afternoon rush hour, and a fun and unique way to return to Taipei.
What to eat
Taipei is a city that is known for its amazing street food – beef noodles, mee sua, stinky tofu, chicken cutlet, Taiwanese sausages, and more. But at the same time, it also has many good restaurants and trendy cafes that are worth checking out.
1. Din Tai Fung’s Xiao Long Baos
Din Tai Fung is the world’s most famous Xiao Long Bao (small steamed pork buns) 小笼包whose makers which originated in Taiwan.
Xiao Long Baos are essentially mini soup dumplings originated from Jiang Nan China and served in bamboo baskets; in our words, little dumplings of happiness. It is a widely coveted dim sum dish in many Chinese restaurants and has won countless hearts with its hearty soup base tucked within the confines of a thin skin.
Address: Basement 1F, No.45, Shifu Rd., Xinyi Dist.
Opening Hours: 11:00am – 9:30pm (Sun-Thu)
11:00am – 10:00pm (Fri-Sat)
2. Street Food: Flame Grilled Beef cubes
The raw beef on the grill may look very strange and you might just walk past it without giving it a try. But enter the fire torch and give it about 5 minutes, what you taste will actually change your thinking about them!
Succulent and sprinkled with rose salt seasoning, these once-dubious-looking beef cubes melt in your mouth and excrete beef juices you’ve never tasted before.
3. Street Food: Smelly Tofu 臭豆腐
Many people are turned off by the awful smell that 臭豆腐 produces, but crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, 臭豆腐 has a very unique taste and the smell really disappears once you eat it. A traditional Chinese/Taiwanese dish, the smell of 臭豆腐 comes from it being preserved and fermented from beancurd.
4. Street Food: Deep Fried Milk Balls
Frozen milk cubes dipped in batter before being deep fried, 炸牛奶 is a very unique to the Taiwan street markets and is absolutely delicious! It is extremely hot and you may have to take many tiny bites to finish one ball, but the tastes that come out of this milk ball is sweet and a must try!
5. Street Food: Oyster Omelette
Oyster Omelette in Taiwan comes drenched in a thick chilli that is slightly sweet and not spicy at all.
6. Street Food: Frog Egg tea
Frog Egg Drink is one of the most famous and popular drinks in Taiwan’s night markets. Don’t be put off by its scary name; its main ingredients are sugar water and tapioca pearls. The drink gets its name because when the tapioca pearls are cooled throughout they become white in the middle, thus giving it the appearance of a frog egg.
Frog Egg Drink can be adapted to personal taste — milk, green tea, black tea or lemonade can be substituted for the sugar water. It can be chilled for the summer or heated up for the winter.
Where to stay
Xi Men Ding District 西门町
Ximending is the area where there are lots of fashion shops, eateries and clubs. If shopping, eating and going to the clubs are your favourite past times, book a hotel near this area.
- Amba Taipei Ximending
No.77, Sec. 2, Wuchang St.,, Ximending, Taipei
- Hotel Midtown Richardson
No.4, Xiushan St., Ximending, Taipei
Xinyi District 信义区
Xinyi district has more fancy department stores, night clubs and fancy hotels. Taipei 101 is here.
- W Taipei Hotel
No. 10, Section 5, Zhongxiao E Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei City
- Grand Hyatt Taipei
No. 2, Songshou Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei City
- House Tango
No. 1-1, Lane 295, Section 5, Zhongxiao E Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei City
Zhongxiao East Road (Dongqu) District 东区
Staying on Zhongxiao East Road in Taipei is a fine option for those that like lively shopping areas with big malls and bright lights. This road is parallel to the blue line between the stops of Zhongxiao Xinsheng to Zhongxiao Dunhua with a lot of activity going on. Not only is there a plethora of name brand stores, but the food is very good as well.
- Royal Palace Hotel
No. 81-1, Section 1, Da’an Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City
- Eastern Star Hotel
No. 209, Section 4, Zhongxiao E Rd, Da’an District, Taipei City