10 Best Things to See and Do in Taipei, Taiwan

Located in the north of the island of Taiwan, the capital of the country, Taipei, is one of the most modern cities in Asia. When the Portuguese first sailed to Taiwan in the 1500s, they called it Ilha Formosa, which means the beautiful island. With its mountainous national parks and incredible scenery, this name still rings true today. The country's beauty along with its amazing culture and food makes Taiwan a must for any avid traveler.

Taipei is a popular tourist destination for solo travelers. If you are looking for delicious street food, amazing nightlife, beautiful temples and old cities with rich culture, Taipei is the best destination for you. AND the people from there are insanely friendly and generous. AND, since the island is small, you can get to other cities and sites really easily by taking the train. How could you resist? Definitely a place to visit if you're traveling solo.

While you’ve probably heard of this island in the news, it’s still not as popular as its East Asian neighbors, with just 400,000 Americans visiting annually, most of whom are of Taiwanese decent. Although it’s not as traditional and its sites and cities aren’t as old as in other Asian countries, there is still plenty of reason to visit.

Though some islanders still maintain a homogenous mentality, the people are still friendlier and more likely to speak English. The island also has some of the stereotypical Asian “rules”, but they aren’t as strict as in the other East Asian countries. By far the island’s best quality is its safety and amazing public transit system, which means of its finest temples and nature reserves can easily be visited on a day trip, no matter where you stay. And with no shortage of attractions, it is a great alternative to some of the more popular and pricier east Asian countries.


Below are the best sites and activities in Taipei:

1. Stroll Through Shi Lin Night Market

The night markets have become the main attraction of tourists visiting Taiwan. Taiwan is full of incredible five-star international restaurants that offer a variety of delicious food. However, to truly experience Taiwan's culture through their food (and get a little adventure in) head to one of their night markets. There are over 30 night markets in Taipei, New Taipei, and Keelung (and over 70 night markets across Taiwan).

If you're not sure which one to choose, here is a compiled list of the best night markets in Taiwan. Popular markets include Shilin, Keelung, and Raohe Street in Taipei. Visiting one of these markets is a must when in Taiwan as they make you feel as though you've been transported into another world with all the hustle and bustle andamazing smells.

They give tourists a chance to step outside their comfort zone and have a more authentic and local experience. Most night markets serve similar dishes, so no matter which market you visit, here are a few things you should try. Xiao long bao (soup dumplings) are a favorite of the Taiwanese people. They are made out of a thin pastry folded into a type of bag that is then stuffed full with a meat-and-vegetable mixture.

A small amount of soup is also added and the dish is then garnished with raw ginger and soy sauce. Xiao long bao is an explosion of flavors. Plenty of street vendors at night markets offer fresh xiao long bao for around $2 USD for a basket of 10-12. There's really no reason not to try them!

Other dishes worth trying include:

- Beef noodle soup

- Deep-fried chicken

- Coffin bread (a sweet bread bowl shaped like a coffin)

- Tian bu la (a type of fish cake fried with coriander with a dash of pepper and spice)

- Pig's blood cake (It's made from pig’s blood, sticky rice, and soy broth and tastes much better than it sounds)

- Shaved ice

- Zhen zhu nai cha (Taiwanese bubble tea)

- Taiwan Beer (it's the most popular local beer)

These night markets offer an incredible array of food and promise to keep your belly full while your wallet remains relatively unscathed. You’ll be amazed at what you can buy for dinner for just $5 USD plus the experience of strolling through a night market is truly unforgettable.

Shilin night market is the largest of its kind and also the most visited by students to buy clothes and food at affordable prices in the city of Taipei.

2. Hike the Qi Xing Shan Trail in Yangmingshan National Park

As Taiwan is home to over 200 mountains, it is one of the best places in the world to hike. One of the more popular hikes is the Qi Xing Shan Trail as it covers the highest peak in Taipei. At 1120 meters, this hike offers surreal panoramic views of the Taipei Basin, and even glimpses of the north coast.

Moreover, this trail is a part of the Yangmingshan National Park, so there is plenty more than just the trail to experience. For instance, the trail passes the Xiaoyoukeng, which is a massive crater that continually lets off steam and sulfur. Moreover, because Taiwan's thick forests cover over two-thirds of the country, the views and vegetation on this trail are surreal.

If you can, try to visit in late spring because, after the plum rain, the Qi Xing Shan trail is covered with flowers and butterflies, making it the ideal time to visit. Luckily, this trail is marked suitable for beginners so anyone can enjoy its unique natural landmarks and incredible heights.

However, there is no shade for the majority of this hike as most of the actual trail is covered by grasses, so hikers should still come prepared and with plenty of fluids. Yangmingshan National Park is located north of Taipei, in the central area of Datun volcanic areas.

3. Visit the Tianhou Temple

Shopping is also popular in Taipei. Ximending is fomous for its shopping malls. It is often called as the Shibuya of Taiwan.

If you're near Ximending, it’s worth stopping by one of the oldest temples in the city, Tianhou. This is a perfect activity for those curious about the culture of Taiwan as the Tianhou temple holds much of Taiwan's history. The temple is also known as the Ximending Mazu Temple after the in-house deity Mazu, the goddess of the sea.

Since 1746, Tianhou has been one of three major temples in Taiwan from the Qing period. The impact of this period is still evident today as once you step through the entrance, this beautiful Taoist temple is filled with mythological, god-like creatures, smoky incense, and even lucky goldfish.

This surreal experience is amplified by the fact that the Taiwanese people still cherish this temple today and visitors often witness and people paying respect to the gods inside. Moreover, this unique oasis actually sits in one of the busiest areas of Taipei. In fact, people often miss the entrance because it does blend in with its surroundings at first glance.

However, the experience of going from the noise of a city to the stillness inside the temple is truly transformative and something every tourist should make a point of experiencing.

4. Appreciate the spirit of art in National Palace Museum

Considered one of the five most famous museums in the world, National Palace Museum houses more than 650,000 works of art from almost all periods of China's 5000 year history. The museum building is built in the style of the palaces of Beijing. It has unique works of the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, of painting, calligraphy, and all kinds of artistic objects that show the richness and beauty of eastern Asian culture and art.

It is a sanctuary of art that has become a must for anyone traveling to Taipei. There are places of rest and coffee shops, as well as two old-style Zhishan and Zhide gardens that make the visitor appreciate even more the spirit of Chinese art while travelling in Taipei.

5. View the surroundings from Taipei 101 Observatory

You can also visit Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world. The Taipei 101 skyscraper, until recently was the tallest building in the world. The observatory in the 85th floor offers an unparalleled panoramic view of Taipei and its surroundings. Despite its height, it gives the impression of great flexibility, and it is a harmonious blend of traditional eastern Asian architecture with typical elements of Taiwan.

The 101 skyscraper shopping center houses several banks, shops of the main international brands, bookstores, several Asian and Western restaurants, as well as small coffee shops and tapas and refreshment stands. It is located in the center of the commercial area of Xinyi, and being surrounded by the World Exhibition Center, the International Congress Center, financial centers, five-star hotels, department stores, cinemas, nightclubs.

6. Visit the National Chiang Kai Shek Memorial

All tourist attractions can be reached via train, with no entrance fees. Visit the National Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall, Longshan Temple, Sun Yat Sen, Martyr shrine, and hike elephant mountain all for free. National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial building is a majestic construction built in memory of the late former president.

7. Visit Confucius temple

The Confucius temple honors the most famous master of China.

The Jianguo Flower and Jade Market, located under the overpass of section 3 of Xinyi Avenue and Jinan Avenue, remains open only on weekends and holidays.

8. Visit thermal springs in Beitou

Famous for its thermal springs, Beitou is an area north of the city of Taipei, surrounded by green hills and close to the Shamao Mountain.

9. Experience the vibe of Shifen

If you want to experience the vibe of old Taiwan, visit Shifen and Jiufen. It is also a popular tourist destination in Taiwan. Light a lantern in Shifen for good luck and visit the old city of Jiufen! From Taipei Main Station, you can go to Songshan Station and from there take the train to Jiufen Old Street.

The journey is 1 hour and 30 minutes. Jiufen is a small town in the mountains of northeastern Taiwan, known as the little Hong Kong. Its charm is its mountainous landscape with views of the Pacific, traditional buildings, and the hundreds of lanterns that are scattered throughout the town.

Walk (and eat) on Jishan Street, go to one of their teahouses, and admire the landscape from a high point. It has unique surprises of this city, such as peanut ice cream wrapped in dorayaki or a kind of pancake.

10. Take Part in the Pingxi Lantern Festival

One of the most unforgettable activities any visitor can take part in is the Pingxi Lantern Festival. This festival involves releasing hundreds of paper lanterns into the sky. This is typically done in celebration, for example, it is common for newlyweds to include this meaningful tradition as a part of their wedding.

It is such a powerful yet peaceful image to watch all the lanterns rise into the night's sky together. Pedestrians often stop for a moment and take it all in when they encounter one of these celebrations. However, if crowds are not for you, you can easily purchase a lantern and light one on any of Taiwan's beautiful beaches.

It is important to note that Taiwan is very environmentally friendly, so make sure you go with the eco-friendly paper lantern options that disintegrate, leaving no residue, and don't cause fires. The company My Taiwan Tour also currently offers biodegradable paper lantern tours in Shifen.

Kalyan Panja