Taipei is probably not the most popular tourist destination. The reason is simple: not many people know something about it. When i came i knew only about Taipei101 and some historical facts. This made exploring it even more exciting as there much not touristy spots and most of the things are made for life and for people who live in the city.
Here is my list of best and most interesting things to do in Taipei when you visit it!
(and at the end i will also give a list of things to skip while in Taipei)
Enjoy your epic cup of coffee at Starbucks in Taipei 101
How was your coffee today? You could answer «Epic» if you had your regular cup at the highest Starbucks in the world, which is located at Taipei101 building!
Visiting it is the experience of it’s own: it is located inside the business part of the building on the 35th floor. To get there you need to make a reservation at least 1 day in advance and there was only 1 slot available when i made it. There is also a minimum charge per person, but the rest is just like in any other Starbucks.
It is small and nothing special by itself, but it’s definitely one of the most interesting places to visit, because it shows some casual thing from a different angle.
Hike Elephant mountain for the views
The first stop to get the view to Taipei from the top is usually observation desk at Taipei101. It is quite hight, got a view to the surroundings and costs around 20$. The place is pretty crowded, if it’s cloudy you would literally see nothing as it’s very high and also, obviously, you can’t see the building itself.
The best thing is that couple kilometres away from it is the Elephant mountain, which is more like a hill in the city. This place is definitely the best spot to get the view to Taipei101 and the city. The hike is very organised with stairs, places to have a rest and if you are not in a hurry, it would be easy and you don’t need anything special to do this hike. The best part: it’s free and there are much less people there as it still requires a bit of workout.
Hot springs in Beitou district
Taipei is not only green and comfortable city with lots of hills around, but it’s one of the few cities in the world (i will name another one: Budapest, Karlovi Vari and Tbilisi) which have some hot springs inside the city. That’s the best benefit of being in such geo active area where Taiwan is located. These springs are considered very good for the health. Most of the older people in Taiwan, who use it regularly, looks much younger and healthier than we can expect.
Getting here is very easy as the MRT have a stop exactly in this district and it’s just 20 minutes ride from the city centre. When you exit – you feel like you are in a absolutely different place: there is no rush or buzz of a big city, lots of greenery and literally smoke from the geothermal activity on the streets.
You can see a small geothermal park here to see some really super hot water springs and visit couple of museums, which tells the history of the area. But the best thing to do here is bathing in the hot springs themselves. The most affordable way to do it is to visit Millennium open air hot spring, which is a bit more than 1$ for a visit. The only disadvantage is that it is packed so you will be like in subway during rush hour.
Around the area of springs there are several other places to have a bath with much less people. Most of the hotels in the area have got common and private spaces with the price around 20$/hour (for several people) or 40$ per person with unlimited time. It depends on the place. Also there is really small bath without open air area for 5$ with little people there. Most of the bathes require having a swimwear, but some are more traditional and you visit it totally naked.
Explore Zhongshan district
Zhongshan is a trendy and stylish area of the city with lots of very cool cafes, shops, eateries and beauty saloons. Getting here is easy as there is an MRT station with the same name. There is a historical movie theatre and lots of nice street art here and there. All the side streets are casually pretty and very nice. It’s kind of great mix between residential area and hip district with numerous opportunities for the street photography.
It’s better to visit this place after 5pm as most of the places opens only in the afternoon. During the day there are only couple of coffee shops and cafes, but the main action starts around 5pm. Just browse around, check small cute shops, have a lunch at the Japanese cafes, which are very good. Spot a place with a line there, maybe it’s worth to visit.
Have a breakfast in a local way
Breakfast in Taiwan is a bit special meal as there are a lot of places, which works and specialised only on breakfast food. Usually they work from 5am till 12-30 and serves food like taiwaneese omelettes, which is traditional dish for the breakfast. Also they usually serves hamburgers and sandwiches as locals are much influenced by this kind of american food and prefers to have it for the breakfast.
All the locals suggest just to spot the breakfast spot next to you and go to any local place. I have done it several times and think that it’s really a good advice.
The most famous breakfast spot in Taipei is Fu Hang. There are literally hundreds of people standing in line each day to have a breakfast here. The reason is the dish, which is prepared there and is called «thick bread». It is definitely super unhealthy dish and goes with deep fried Chinese dohnut and an omelette inside. Personally i don’t like it that much, but there are some other nice omelettes and sandwiches there, that were really good. The prices there are very affordable, kind of 1$ for a dish. Big part of visiting, of course, experiencing this kind of breakfast and big number of people, who are ready to spend an hour waiting for it.
Have a dinner at Michelin star fast food
Taipei got one of the most famous affordable Michelin star restaurant in the world. Din Tai Fung is located on the ground floor of Taipei101 and there is always a line of people standing there. I wouldn’t call it a classical restaurant as it is very big, popular and crowded place, so it feels more like a fast-food place. Still the service is nice, some of the dishes are really good and it wouldn’t break your bank. Dumplings are definitely a thing not to miss as they are amazing and the main reason to come here. They will teach you how to eat them properly and also the restaurant have open kitchen, where they make it which is super interesting to see as it’s so busy.
To get there firstly you need to come to a nice hostess, who will give you the number and approximate waiting time. Usually the line of the table for 2 goes very fast, so it won’t take too long even though it could look very busy.
Use public transportation
I love how Taipei is made to be effective and comfortable for life. There are so many little things here and there, so much details and smart decisions how to make life a better and easier. SmartCard is one of them. It’s a card, which can be used to pay for many things as transport or food at chains.
Public transportation is simple and very effective and experiencing that if it is made in a good way it could be something positive is kind of unique. It’s not only about nice sounds or crowd control during rush hour, but also about the way people act. I was amazed that everyone just acts the way to be comfortable for others: at the subway people are staying at the organised line to get to the elevator, if the train is full – noone will push to enter, they simply will wait for the next train.
One of the surprises was to find really trendy mix of shops at the subway underground. Here and there there are lots of small cute places and lots of nice a bit childish pictures works as advertisement. On one of the station i have noticed an automatic library, another – very interesting art and Dean park station became an attraction because of it’s interesting design.
Where to stay in Taipei
amba Hotel is a small chain of smart hotels in Taipei. I stayed at the amba Taipei Zhongshan, which is located in a cool and hip area of the city with lots of nice cafes, great places to eat and 15 minutes walk from the famous food night market.
The place got cool modern design with a minimalist Swidish style. Everything is just right: comfortable, stylish and works great for a city stay. Feels like your own personal space in the city. I especially love some smart decisions for the travelers here: compliment laundry room and lockers for those who want to leave some of the stuff for a few days while traveling around.
Have you ever thought that taking away some toiletries or slippers away from the room is forbidden? At amba Hotel they give you good stuff and encourage to take flip flops and pro gum health toothbrushe, that they provide, with you to re-use and avoid extra waste. Good for everyone!
And the last, but not least:
my list of famous places in Taipei, which were not so interesting. These are experiences, which were nice, but i can easily skip them and have the same good time in Taipei.
What to skip in Taipei:
- I would say that some traditional architecture and museums in Taipei are boring and not too interesting. They are nice to check, but nothing more.
- Very famous food chain “Modern toilet”, which serves food inside the toilet shaped bowls is fun, but in terms of food quality and service is above average. Definitely don’t go there for the food, only for the experience.
- Night market is usually recommended as the best place to eat, but for me it was just ok. Most of the stalls sells deserts or weird looking bejesus, fried duck head, chicken legs etc. Still there are something better, but i wouldn’t say that it was exceptional.
- Ximen district is also said to be the best shopping area in the city, but it’s very crowded and don’t feel like very interesting place. If you miss it – no big deal.
- Bars and party in Taipei are also very average as locals don’t drink much and usually do it at home. So most of the bars works for tourists and i wouldn’t call them too exciting.