Taipei, the metropolitan capital of Taiwan, is merely a two-hour plane ride from Manila. It is a good destination to consider when looking for a quick getaway with amazing Chinese food, bustling night markets, and immersive cultural centers.
Taipei has a relatively hot and humid weather between May and October, which peaks at July and August. However, there can be seasonal rains every now and then. When I was in Taipei just a few days ago, it can be very hot one day and another day, there can be intense rain.
The best way to go around the city is via the Taipei Metro train (MRT). It currently has five lines so getting around is easy to get used to. Riding taxis is also okay as drivers are generally safe however most have poor command of English so you might need to have someone translate for you or better yet, have your destinations written in Chinese so you can simply show it to them.
Known for having one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world, Taipei 101, here are some of the popular spots you should put on your Taipei trip itinerary.
7. Taipei 101
One of the world’s super-tall skyscrapers, Taipei 101 was known as the world’s tallest building when it opened in 2004. It held the title for about six years before relinquishing it to Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It is 509m high, which makes it the first skyscraper in the world to break the half-kilometer mark in height. Still, it is an multi-awarded engineering marvel designed to withstand strong typhoon wind and earthquake tremors.
Occupying the bottom floors of Taipei 101 is a shopping mall while the higher floors are mostly offices. Google Taipei is located in the higher floors of the building.
Although most tourists decide to go up to Taipei 101’s viewing deck, I decided against it as I think the skyscraper looks best from the outside, when you’re actually a bit far so you can see it stand tall the Taipei skyline as background. In case you decide to go up, there is a fee of about NT$ 500 (~PhP 750).
To go here: Take the Tamsui-Xinyi line and alight at Taipei 101/World Trade Center station.
6. National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Near Taipei 101, the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall gives a good view of the skyscraper especially if you go look at it and its reflection by the Lake Tswei. The hall is named in honor of Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China. The hall has exhibits that show revolutionary events in China at the end of the Qing Dynasty.
Today, many locals go there especially late in the afternoon to jog around the hall grounds, to fly kites, and to hold concerts and cultural shows.
If you visit this hall, schedule it during the changing of the guards.
To go here: Take the Bannan line and alight at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall station.
5. National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Another commemorative site in Taipei, the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is a famous landmark named after one of the former presidents of the Republic of China, General Chiang Kai-shek. The memorial hall is situated between the National Concert Hall and the National Theatre. It appears a bit more grandiose due to its white walls and blue roof.
Similar with the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, you might also want to stay awhile here to see the changing of the guards.
To go here: Take the Tamsui-Xinyi line and alight at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall station.
4. Shilin Night Market
When in Taipei, stinky tofu and fried milk should be on your food bucket list. The best place to get both is from Taipei’s night markets dispersed throughout the city. The biggest and most popular by far is the Shilin night market.
Although it is a night market, it opens at around 4PM so if you want to avoid the large dining crowds at night, you can go there a bit earlier just as the stores open and have an early dinner (or late lunch).
Aside from stinky tofu and fried milk, there are other dishes you can try there so long as you don’t get bothered by a little stench. Deep-fried flattened chicken breast similar to the one you can get from Hot Star Large Fried Chicken (which originated in Taiwan), is popular to diners. People line up for a serving of chicken to go.
To go here: Take the Tamsui-Xinyi line and alight at Jiantan station.
3. Din Tai Fung
A Michelin-starred restaurant (Hong Kong branches) that has many international franchises in various countries (sadly, none yet in the Philippines), Din Tai Fung’s crowning glory is its scrumptious and perfectly handmade xiao long bao (soup dumplings).
The meat to wrapper ratio is perfected by this restaurant such that every serving is a masterpiece. The wrapper are thick enough to prevent the meat and soup from leaking but are thin enough that they are somewhat translucent so you get a glimpse of what’s inside.
Aside from xiao long bao, Din Tai Fung has other dim sums you can try. They also make great buns (mantao with fillings). I highly recommend the taro bun and if you want it a little sweeter, the red bean bun.
Din Tai Fung has many branches in Taipei. One of the most popular branches is the one at the foot of Taipei 101. The original branch that started it all still stands along Xinyi Road.
Prepare to queue when you go to Din Tai Fung as it is loved by both tourists and locals. Always packed even a few minutes after opening. Reservations are not allowed.
To go here: (Original branch) Take the Tamsui-Xinyi line and alight at Dongmen station.
The shopping district of Taipei, Ximending to Taipei is what Harajuku or Shibuya is to Japan, only a little toned down. It is a small collective of shops and restaurants, the first pedestrian zone in Taipei. It is the source of Taiwan’s fashion and subculture.
There are also several clubs around the area and food carts are also aplenty. Moreover, the area is also a popular theater street with many performers showing off their talents to the walking crowd.
One of the best ways to explore Ximending is with milk tea on one hand and Hot Star chicken on another.
To go here: Take the Bannan line and alight at Ximen station.
1. Elephant Mountain
A little trek is worth it to see Taipei 101 and the city’s skyline in a different perspective. The Elephant Mountain is a train station and few steps uphill away from Taipei 101. It is a popular destination for tourists and locals. Some say that the Elephant Mountain gives one of the best views of Taipei.
The best time to hike is late in the afternoon so you can wait and see the sun set over Taipei. Wait a little while longer to see the night lights of the city before you trek down.
Since it is a popular destination, it may get a bit crowded especially during weekends. I went up one Saturday, it wasn’t as packed as I expected it to be. I can say the view is really stunning from up there.
Don’t worry if you think you’re not fit enough to hike because there are a lot of resting areas along the way.
To go here: Take the Tamsui-Xinyi line and alight at Xiangshan station.
Bonus: Maokong Gondola, a gondola lift between Maokong and Taipei Zoo, also gives a great view of Taipei especially at night. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go there due to intermittent thunderstorms, which suspends the gondola’s operations. In case you go, let us know how was it.
Any other spots in Taipei you can recommend?