I’m excited to share a new travel guide with you today with lots of info on things to do in Taipei! 🇹🇼 Taipei is the perfect stop over for a three day weekend if you’re hopping around Asia. I visited right before going to meet my family in Japan, and it’s only a two hour and forty minute flight from Tokyo, so it was pretty perfect. ✈️
MY FAVORITE THINGS TO DO IN TAIPEI
When I was in Taipei, my friend Francesca showed me around. She was the most amazing hostess I could have asked for and was the perfect travel guide, showing me all of her favorite spots and things to do in Taipei. Francesca studied and lived in Taipei, and has just recently moved back with her hubby. So she obviously knows her way around Taipei, all of the best spots for their famous local cuisines, and it doesn’t hurt that she’s fluent in Mandarin. I felt so spoiled getting to see Taipei through her eyes! She also taught me a ton about Taiwan’s politics. If you’re like me you may be wondering, “Is Taipei part of China?” The reason you may be confused is because it can depend on who you ask. While the People’s Republic of China may consider Taiwan to still be part of their territory, many Taiwanese would likely disagree, as Taiwan has its own democratically-elected government, currency, and economy. An added bonus for tourists from the U.S. is that you do not need a visa to visit Taipei (while you do need one for China).
I’ve been to China before (Beijing and Hong Kong), and before going to Taipei I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and if Taipei would feel similar. It was really fascinating to see that Taipei has a culture that is uniquely its own, and very different from Chinese culture. In Taipei, people were friendly and would smile and say “nihao.” They were polite and queued in an orderly fashion (very much not the Chinese way, ha), and I constantly saw people on the metro trying to give up their seats to someone else who was standing. It was very sweet and I quickly found myself feeling very comfortable. And while it certainly helped that I was traveling with a local, a lot of people in Taipei speak English, or at least enough for you to communicate what you need, and the metro is super easy to use. It feels very tourist-friendly and accessible.
Ok, so without further ado, here’s my three day travel guide with all the deets on things to do in Taipei! Feel free to also use my custom Google Map of Taipei with pins on all the top sights and places to eat. A huge thank you to my gracious host Francesca for showing me around her second home (you can also check out her recently launched travel blog here)!
Things to do in Taipei – Day 1
- Traditional Taiwanese Breakfast at Fu Hang Dou Jiang. You have to try traditional Taiwanese breakfast at least once when you’re in Taipei, and Fu Hang Dou Jiang is the place to do it. The line wraps around the building, especially on weekends, so be prepared for a wait. I ordered the doughnut and soymilk, as well as the egg sandwich. The thin bread is deliciously warm and flaky, with a touch of sweetness.
- Chang Kai-Shek Memorial. After breakfast we went over to see the Chang Kai Shek Memorial, where my education in Taiwanese politics continued. Similar to the U.S., there are two main political parties—the Green Party and the Blue Party. Their main difference being that the Green Party strongly asserts that Taiwan is not part of China, whereas the Blue Party has a softer stance and wants to continue economical and business ties with China. Currently, the Green Party is in power, and since Chang Kai-Shek was part of the Blue Party, the memorial has been renamed to Freedom Hall. The memorial is great for a photo opp and there’s also a small museum inside.
- Din Tai Fung. The OG Din Tai Fung was on my foodie bucket list! I was so excited to eat here and it did not disappoint. If you go, you MUST get the xialongbao (soup dumplings). There are tons to choose from, but they recently added pork truffle ones to the menu, so that’s a no-brainer. The eggplant was delicious, as was the shumai. Honestly I wish I could go back right now and eat there again. We went during off hours for a late lunch around 2pm, so the wait was only about 25 minutes. However, the line can get really long (1 – 2 hours) if you visit during peak times. Pro tip: If there’s a long wait, put your name in and then head up to the top of Taipei 101.
- Taipei 101. You’ve gotta go up Taipei 101 when you’re in Taipei. From 2004 – 2010 it was the tallest building in the world, until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai beat it. Still, it’s really impressive and worth a visit to the top. Be sure to check out the massive internal dampener inside to see how the building controls swaying during high winds or an earthquake. Pretty crazy! You can also purchase a postcard from the gift shop and a stamp, and send it off from one of the mailboxes at the top of Taipei 101.
- Gongguan Night Market. Night markets are huge in Taipei, so you have to go to at least a couple! Francesca took me to Gongguan to try her favorite boba (did you know boba originated in Taiwan?) and Taiwanese hamburgers. Both were freaking amazing!! The tapioca balls in the boba are warmed up, and they add carmel, so I really can’t think of a more delicious way to have boba. I hadn’t heard of Taiwanese hamburgers before, but you absolutely must try them when you’re in Taipei, because they’re delicious! They consist of fatty pork (you can choose how fatty you want it and I went with 50% lean 50% fatty) on a fluffy white bun with yummy garnishes like cilantro and peanut sauce. I was in heaven.
- Ximending. Known as the Harajuku of Taipei, this shopping district has a ton of fun, funky shops. The crowd is young and trendy and it’s poppin’ at night. Don’t worry, you’ll also find some food vendors too so you can keep eating while shopping. One of my favorite stores that we popped into was the Japanese store Miniso, where I got an adorable purse and a cute wallet for a total of $13.
Things to do in Taipei – Day 2
- Breakfast from a local shop. There are tons of little Taiwanese breakfast places around, and locals will pop in to grab a quick bite before heading to work. We grabbed a pork floss and egg sandwich (sounds weird, but it was yummy!), and delicious daikon radish cakes.
- Take the gondola up to Maokong. We started our day by taking the gondola up to Maokong, and soaking in the beautiful views on the ride up.
- Afternoon tea at a Tea House in Maokong. This was one of my favorite things that we did during my trip! Francesca took me to her favorite tea house, and it was so beautiful and serene. It wasn’t very busy when we were there, so you could probably just stroll in. After you exit the gondola, take a right down the hill and look for the entryway in my pics above. This tea house also looks really popular on Trip Advisor.
- Stroll up the hill for street food. For lunch, we just strolled up the hill to some of the street vendors to grab food. If you continue walking up the hill, there’s also a temple.
- Elephant Mountain. Another must-do in Taipei! This hike is ~40 minutes up some steep-ass stairs, but the views of Taipei 101 and the rest of the city are absolutely worth it! I’d recommend going just before sunset, so you can get views with late afternoon light, catch the sunset, and then see Taipei’s lights turn on and sparkle. At the “Six Giant Rocks” spot, you can climb on top of some of the boulders for an epic shot like the one I took above (just know there might be a line to get that perfect shot!).
- Shilin Night Market. Shilin is the biggest night market in Taipei, so you’ve got to hit this one up! You have to try Taiwanese shaved ice here (we shared matcha with red beans and a strawberry one and I still couldn’t tell you which was my favorite—they were both so good), and just stroll around trying whatever looks interesting to you. I also tried “fried milk” and it sounds weird, but it was so effing good. I think it was condensed milk that she had either frozen or made into a gelatinous cube, and then deep fried, and yeah, it was great. I was going to pass on this one because fried milk sounds odd AF, but you just never know what you’ll find at the night market that ends up being amazing!
Things to do in Taipei – Day 3
- National Museum of History. This museum houses over 690,000 artifacts and masterpieces that were evacuated from the Forbidden City over to Taiwan when Communists won the civil war in China in 1949.
- Dadaocheng Pier. This spot is popular for a relaxing stroll, photo opps, or watching the sunset. You can rent bikes and ride them along the river and pier.
- Jiufen. If you’re looking for a short trip outside of Taipei, Francesca recommended Jiufen. The animated movie Spirited Away’s design was inspired by the streets and buildings here. You’ll find lots of yummy street food and pretty tea houses. Climb all the way up the hill for a breath taking view of the ocean and hills. You’ll have to take a train and bus to get there: From Taipei Station, buy a railway ticket to Rui Fang (20 minutes). When you get off at Rui Fang, look for signage for Jiu Fen, and upon exiting the station, board the bus that goes to Jiufen.
We packed so much in to my quick trip to Taipei! I think 2 – 3 full days is the perfect amount of time for a visit, and while Taipei hasn’t really blown up as a tourist destination, I think it has a lot to offer in terms of culture, food and history!