Taipei is a modern world-class metropolis with great shopping, amazing food, and highlighted by the 509 meter Taipei 101 skyscraper. What’s more? The people in Taipei are some of the friendliest you will find anywhere in the world.
The culture here is an awesome blend of influences from Chinese, Japanese, and American sources.
Most people in Taiwan take English in school, and their major street signs all have English on them. Even if you don’t speak a word of Mandarin you should still be able to get around the city just fine!
You can eat unbelievably well for very little money in Taipei. The restaurants don’t look like the high end restaurants you see in the West, but the food quality is amazing. However, hotels here are as expensive as ones in big North American cities like Chicago, LA, or Toronto.
There are tons of great activities to do in Taipei, but here are our five favorite Taipei attractions that never seem to get old.
1. Taipei Zoo
Welcome to the largest zoo in Asia, and one of the best things to do in Taipei.
We have been to zoos all over the world, and the Taipei one is in the top three – especially if you love giant pandas! The Taipei zoo has been open for over 100 years, and has some stunning displays such as the Formosan Animal Area, Asian Tropical Rainforest, and Bird World.
You can easily spend a full day here so don’t try and rush it.
2. Taipei 101
When you think of Taipei attractions, you will likely have the image of this stunning building in your mind.
The Taipei 101 is the crowning jewel of Taipei’s skyline. At one point this was the tallest building in the world, but it has since been displaced and is now one of the 20 tallest buildings in the world.
This incredible building has a plethora of high end shops, delicious food, and an observation floor where you can check out the amazing view as well as the seismic ball – which helps the building balance during earthquakes.
To get to the observation deck on the 88th and 89th floors you get to take an advanced pressure-controlled lift that goes at over 1000 meters per minute. It only takes about 40 seconds to get from the ground floor to the 88th floor. In our own office building, getting from the ground floor to the 20th floor takes almost 30 seconds so this thing is fast!
3. National Palace Museum
For the Chinese history buff, this is the best thing to do in Taipei.
The National Palace Museum is one of the most important museums in the world, and we need to understand a bit more about Taiwan’s history to understand why the museum has so many important Chinese artifacts.
After World War II, there was a power struggle between the democratic KMT and communist CCP in mainland China. The KMT had an overwhelming military advantage to start since they were the official government, but numerous missteps resulted in the CCP gaining popularity (and troops). Eventually, the KMT were defeated and forced to retreat to the island of Taiwan.
During the retreat, the KMT packed up all of the valuable artifacts they can get their hands on and moved them to Taiwan. This means that all of the important pieces in Chinese history up until the 1950’s are basically in Taiwan. Since then, mainland China has had numerous archeological finds including the terracotta warriors. However, some of the most prominent pieces of Chinese history from Imperial China are still in Taiwan – at the National Palace Museum.
There are so many pieces available for display here that only a fraction of them are actually put in the galleries at any one time. The museum rotates the displays frequently so you’re likely to see something new every time you go!
4. Night Markets
Taipei has some of the best night markets in the world, and you cannot leave Taipei without visiting one! These night markets have amazing food, stylish apparel, and fantastic street performers.
The food here is so unique because it blends a lot of the different regional flavours from mainland China. As previously mentioned, the KMT retreated to Taiwan after their defeat to the CCP. During the retreat, people from all over China went to Taiwan and brought the knowledge on how to make the comfort foods from their hometown. The result is some of the best food in the world.
The two night markets that we recommend checking out are Ximending and Shilin.
5. Beitou Hot Springs
Due to where Taiwan is location on the tectonic plates, the island has a plethora of hot springs. The Beitou hot springs are located right in Taipei, and can be easily reached through public transit.
You can take a stroll through Beitou’s Thermal valley before hitting up a hot spring pool to relax in. There are good public hot spring options where you’re basically in a swimming pool with hot spring water piped in. If you want a bit more privacy, then you can stay at one of the hot spring resorts and enjoy the calming waters there.
If you still have more vacation time left after you’re finished with Taipei, then we highly recommend that you check out Penghu – the Hawaii of Asia that is a 30 minute flight from Taipei.
Pro Tips for Visiting Taipei
1. Bring hand sanitizer. For some reason, the public washrooms in this modern metropolis do not typically carry soap. We found out the hard way, and immediately went to a corner store to buy some sanitizer.
2. Use the Taipei Metro System. This underground subway system is one of the best in the world. You can get to most of the places around Taipei within an hour by using it. It’s fast, clean, and has free wi-fi. We recommend going to a 7-11 or family mart to buy a metro pass for the duration of your stay.
3. Carry cash. None of the street vendors will take your debit or credit card so make sure you have some cash on you! We typically carried about $200 USD equivalent in Taiwan Dollars, and usually only spend about $50 USD equivalent per day – and we ate very well for two people.
4. Stay in Beitou. By Taiwanese standards Beitou is in the boonies (since the whole country is on a small island). However, it’s only a 20 minute subway ride to the downtown core and you’ll cut your hotel costs by 50%. If you have hotel loyalty points, then you should seriously consider using them here in Taiwan as there are very few places in the world where you’ll get more bang for your points!