Destination Guide: Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei, the Capital of Taiwan, is an interesting city few people have on their travel radar. It has a turbulent, rich history that is well documented and today is one of the most open & progressive cities in Asia. My first trip to Taipei was a convenient stop-over from the US to South East Asia – and I have returned many times since. Find out why you should visit Taipei, how to get to & around Taipei, where to stay in Taipei and what to do! Read my destination guide Taipei to find out all you need to know to plan your visit on one page, in five minutes!

Why you should go, Things to See & Do: I’m always interested in the history of a place and Taipei had a turbulent history like many other cities. You are able to see artifacts and treasures of its long Chinese heritage, learn about the Japanese colonial times, war times and violent post-war history. Unlike many other cities, Taipei is embracing its history, dark spots and all, giving visitors an opportunity to understand the history of their hosts! And you can see what was born from that history anywhere you go – a thoroughly modern, open minded and welcoming city!

You’ll find some of the most impressive sights at the center of the city, like Liberty Square Arch, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial and the National Concert Hall.

If you want to see artifacts from China’s empire, you won’t find them in Beijing’s Forbidden City, but at the National Palace Museum. The museum has a collection of nearly 700,000 pieces of Chinese artifacts covering over 8,000 years! 
The National Taiwan Museum is much smaller and covers Taiwan’s natural history. It’s conveniently located in 2/28 Peace Park!
If you don’t have much time – check out the Museum of Contemporary Art – it’s quite though provoking and a great representation of modern Taipei!

The most recognizable landmark of Taipei is the iconic Taipei 101. The high-rise is inspired by a bamboo stalk and 101 floors stretch into the sky, with an observatory at the top to give you stunning views over Taipei. Conveniently, there is a huge mall at the base, so you can accomplish all your shopping tasks!

But some of the most fun shopping, as well as nice cafes, restaurants and bars are found in my favorite neighborhood – Daan.  North of Zhongxiao Boulevard (near Zhongxiao Dunhua metro station), you’ll find lots of little streets with funky, one-off boutiques that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s a refreshing break from the endless chain stores all over Asia’s malls and reminded me more of Paris’ Marais then your typical Chinese neighborhood! I didn’t go into the “Bad Ass Babes Club” myself, but I do know a few ladies who would qualify…

Unique to Taipei are the looooong underground walkways that make up a whole underground city. Below Zhongxiao Boulevard, they connect several metro stations and have countless stores, food places and even government offices! There are similar underground shops around Taipei Main Station!

The most exciting thing about Taipei when I returned after more than 10 years was how much Taipei had opened up and modernized. It’s probably the most progressive and open minded city in Asia. Walking through the bustling streets of Ximending Walking District let’s you experience a young and open minded city. The shops are fun and the bars around the Red House are a great place to people watch!

For an equally fun, but more traditional and local experience, make your way to the Shilin Night Market. It’s a crowded place that serves great street food and sells anything under the sun. Some items are more authentic than others and you’ll find plenty of bing.. ahem bling…

Where to stay: Taipei has very good public transportation, making it easy to get around. If you are first time visitor and want to see all the sights, I’d recommend to stay somewhere South of Taipei Main Station. You can take the airport train into town, have easy access to three subway lines and countless buses. The HighSpeedRail will connect you with other places in Taiwan. You’ll be able to see key sights on foot and have lots of shops and restaurants around you. Everything else, you’ll be able to reach by public transport. The citizenM Taipei North Gate is a funky hotel that fits to Taipei and is in a convenient location.

If you want to dive into the local life, stay somewhere near my favorite neighborhood Daan and you are in the middle of it. The new Kimpton Daan is the new kid on the block and one of the more upscale hotels in the area.
If shopping is high on your list, than you’ll find a number of high-end Western chain hotels around Taipei 101, like the Grand Hyatt or the W Taipei.
If you are on a budget, consider one of the local hotels that occupy a few floors in an office building, like the Eastin Taipei or the apause inn. Be aware that they often have rooms without windows to the inside and ceilings might be a little low, but you’ll get good value close to the action.

You can find some of my favorite hotels in Taipei in the table below – click on the link for current prices:

HotelCategoryLocationChain/RewardsGreat for
W Taipei5*XinyiMarriott BonvoyStyle, Luxury, Rewards
Grand Hyatt Taipei5*Taipei 101World of HyattLocation, Luxury, Rewards
Novotel Taipei Taoyuan Airport5*AirportAccor ALLLocation, Luxury, Rewards
Kimpton Da An4*Da AnIHG Rewards ClubStyle, Location, Rewards
CitizenM Taipei North Gate3 1/2*Main StationLocation, Style, Service, Value
CityInn Hotel Plus Ximending3*XimendingLocation, Value
Eastin Taipei3*Da AnLocation, Service, Value
Apause Inn3*Main StationLocation, Value

I may receive a small fee, if you decide to book through the link, at no cost to you – thank you for supporting my blog! You’ll be able to compare hotel prices across different sites to find the best deal! 

Where to Eat, Drink & Party: You’ll never be far from food in Taipei and a great place to find street food, up close and personal, is Shilin Night Market. It’s packed with people, food stands are busy and everything is made fresh right in front of you. I had some barbeque beef – it was the fastest bbq ever, courtesy of a blow torch to speed the grill along – yummy!

You’ll also find plenty of good restaurants in Daan. You’ll find lots of local food, but also good international choices. I enjoyed the outdoor, beergarden-like setting of Plan B and the cosy garden atmosphere of de PLACE (ok, their spelling, not mine). Abrazo Bistro has good food and cocktails in a stylish setting. If you stay long enough (we didn’t), it turns into a bar & club later at night. If none of that sounds very appealing to you – don’t worry, just walk around and I’m sure you’ll see something that looks inviting to you!

Explore More: To get a “lay of the land” and see where all the hotels, restaurants and sights are, check out my map below and plan your visit to Taipei! Click on the box in the upper right corner for a full map! Where are you going to stay? What’s your number one thing to do? Or have questions – feel free to comment below and I’ll help with your trip!

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