30 Must-Visit Attractions in Taipei

Raohe Night Market, Taipei
Raohe Night Market, Taipei | Photo by Vernon Raineil Cenzon on Unsplash
Ciaran McEneaney

Taipei 101 and night markets are attractions that come to mind when you mention Taiwan’s capital city. But there’s so much more to this vibrant city than the former tallest building in the world. From arty hubs to steaming craters, here’s our guide on where to go in Taipei.

1. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Memorial, Building, Park

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Photo by Christie Chau on Unsplash
The 1970s monument to Taiwan’s former military and political leader Chiang Kai-shek is set in a quiet central city park on the east side of Memorial Hall Square. Most tourists come to see the changing of the guard in the main hall, where there is a large statue of Chiang Kai-shek. The ceremony happens on the hour from 9am to 5pm.

2. Dr Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

Memorial, Park

Dr Sun Yat-sen was the former leader of the KMT party and the first president of the Republic of China. The park surrounding the memorial hall is a nice place to relax in the afternoon, while the hall itself houses some of Sun Yat-sen’s personal items, as well as exhibitions about his life and the revolution he led in 1911.

3. Elephant Mountain

Hiking Trail

This is by far and away the best Taipei tourist spot from which to get a bird’s eye view of the city and the Taipei 101 skyscraper in particular. It’s a short and not too taxing hike to the top, which is a perfect location for taking a few snapshots of the city skyline. The peak, Xiangshan in Chinese, is 183m (600ft) high and has a 1.5km (1mi) hiking trail through the trees and ferns.

4. Bopiliao Old Street

Museum

This historical street, once part of a shipping centre during the Qing Dynasty, has been restored to its former glory. At the Heritage and Culture Education Center of Taipei City, now a museum, you can wander through reconstructed buildings, including a Chinese medicine shop and a school, complete with historical photographs. Bopiliao Old Street features on the Taipei Private Custom Tour with a Local.

5. Grand Hotel

Hotel

The most famous hotel in Taiwan has hosted many foreign dignitaries, including Nelson Mandela and several former US presidents, although Eisenhower was the only one to visit Taiwan while he was in office. It’s a wonderful building with an historic feel. Even tourists who are not staying at the hotel come to enjoy afternoon tea and take photos of the impressive structure. Grand Hotel features on the Taipei City Tour.

6. Martyrs' Shrine

Shrine

Just short walk from the Grand Hotel is the Martyrs’ Shrine. It’s a memorial to more than 390,000 war dead, including those who died in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) and the Chinese Civil War (1927-1949). You can also watch the changing of the guard here.

7. Shilin Night Market

Market, Bubble Tea Shop, Street Food

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Photo by Max Oh on Unsplash
You can’t visit Taipei without taking a trip to a night market, and Shilin is the most famous of the lot. Its brightly-lit stalls offer everything from local street food and sweets to cheap clothing and kitchenware. There is a market hall with food stalls in the basement and the rest of the stalls cover a triangular area, with the Ming Chuan University Taipei Campus on one side and Bailing Senior High School on the other.

8. National Palace Museum

Museum

Home to the world’s largest collection of Chinese Imperial artefacts, the National Palace Museum is impressive with its permanent and visiting exhibitions. This is one of the only Taipei attractions where you can find rare Chinese ceramics, jade carvings and paintings dating back hundreds of years.

9. Danshui Old Street

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

A wonderful street in the old fishing village of Danshui (which is now more of a town), Danshui Old Street ticks all the boxes for quaintness, food and souvenirs. One end of the street opens on to a wharf which is one of the nicest Taipei tourist spots to take in the sunset.

10. Fort San Domingo

Building

Originally built in wood by the Spanish in 1628 and then rebuilt by the Dutch in 1644, Fort San Domingo is a relic of Taiwan’s colonial past. The Dutch were known as red-haired people by the Han people at the time they built the fort, which was fittingly nicknamed Fort Red Hair. The Qing Dynasty made repairs to the fort and it was leased to the British, who used it as an unofficial embassy on and off until 1972. It has been open to the public since 1980.

11. Hobe Fort

Building

Not too far from Fort San Domingo lies Hobe Fort. This solid military structure, finished in 1888, was never used in a war, but it is nevertheless an impressive building and has stood the test of time very well.

12. Lover's Bridge

Bridge

Also in Danshui, you’ll find the Lover’s Bridge by Fisherman’s Wharf. The bridge, opened on Valentine’s Day 2003, is a nice place to take some photos and enjoy a spot of lunch in one of the many local seafood restaurants.

13. Longshan Temple

Buddhist Temple, Shrine

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Photo by Ricky LK on Unsplash
Arguably the most famous temple in Taiwan, Longshan Temple has been either completely or partially destroyed by several earthquakes, fires, and a few wars, including World War II, when it was damaged by bombs. Each time, the building has been lovingly restored by the local community, although historic artefacts have been lost. The original temple was constructed in 1738 by settlers from Fujian, China, but was rebuilt between 1919 and 1924.

14. National Taiwan Museum and 228 Memorial Park

Building, Memorial, Museum, Park

The National Taiwan Museum is two separate buildings: the main wing is located in 228 Memorial Park, while the second building is across the street in a former bank. Both buildings are filled with interesting exhibits on the natural history of Taiwan and its indigenous tribes. When you’re finished here, you can take a walk through the park.

15. The Presidential Palace

Building

The Presidential Palace, now known as the Presidential Office Building, was built between 1912 and 1919, during the Japanese colonial period, and is an impressive feat of architecture. It houses the day-to-day working office of the president but you can tour parts of it, including exhibitions on democracy in Taiwan.

16. Huashan 1914 Creative Park

Bookstore, Park, Winery

Set in a former winery that opened under Japanese rule, this creative park is now home to a variety of shops, cafes, restaurants, and exhibition halls. Here, you’ll also find a lot of local craft and artworks for sale, such as wood sculptures and paintings. Writers, theatre producers and film directors have used the park to showcase their talents.

17. Miramar Ferris Wheel

Park, Building

The Miramar Ferris Wheel, which is 70m (230ft) tall, offers a wonderful view of the city. It’s on the roof of the Miramar Entertainment Park, giving an extra boost to the vista. The park itself contains a department store and an IMAX theatre with a massive screen.

18. Yangmingshan National Park

Park

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Photo by Chi Lok TSANG on Unsplash
If you ask people in Taipei where to go for fresh air and dramatic scenery, they’re bound to recommend Yangmingshan, just outside the city. It’s a wonderful day trip. The park has plenty of hiking trails and there are even some fumaroles where you can see steam rising from vents in the ground.

19. Taipei 101

Building

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Photo by Timo Volz on Unsplash
We couldn’t name the top attractions and leave out Taipei 101. It held the title of the world’s tallest building from 2004 to 2009, and it’s still the tallest in Taiwan, at 509m (1,670ft) with an observation deck at 449m (1,473ft). A trip to the top is well worthwhile.

20. Chiang Kai-shek Shilin Residence

Memorial, Building

The former president’s official residence is set within beautiful botanical gardens and is now open to the public, after years of restoration work. The building is full of interesting items that once belonged to both Chiang Kai-shek and his wife Soong Mei-ling, who was known as Madame Chiang.

21. The hot springs at Wulai

Swimming Pool

Wulai is a small village located outside the city but well worth the trip. This place is famed for its hot springs, and there are several hot spring hotels where visitors can book a room for a few hours and relax in privacy. For the more adventurous, there’s a public hot spring located on the riverside. There’s also a cable car ride that takes visitors to a wonderful waterfall as well as a village where they can enjoy local cuisine and buy some handicrafts and souvenirs.

22. Maokong Gondola

Architectural Landmark

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Photo by Pourya Gohari on Unsplash

Maokong is a tea-growing district on the outskirts of the city not far from Taipei Zoo. Ride the MRT to the zoo and then take a cable car up over the mountain into Maokong. Here, visitors can sit and enjoy locally grown tea while taking in the views of the city in the local tearooms and restaurants . Try to visit in the late afternoon so you can enjoy the sunset in the early evening and get some great night shots of the city.

23. Eat street food anywhere

Market, Taiwanese

Taiwan is well known for its incredible cuisine, and while there are many amazing restaurants to visit in the city, some of the tastiest treats can be found on the side of the street. Street food in Taipei is nothing short of world class, and the choices available beggar belief. Head to any local night market or simply walk down any street, and you’ll soon find vendors selling everything from the infamous stinky tofu to fried chicken on a stick. Enjoying a pancake stuffed with beef from a paper bag doesn’t sound too enticing a prospect, but it really is an experience worth trying. Join a street food tour to find the best places to eat.

Unusual Things to Do in Taipei

Eat from a toilet bowl

Eating food that looks like the chef has produced it in the most unhygienic way is actually a thing in Taipei. In fact, the restaurant that started it all, Modern Toilet, has three branches. All the menu’s delicacies (not quite the right word) arrive at the table in miniature toilet bowls, cisterns, and even urinals. And to say the chocolate ice cream is a sight to behold is something of an understatement.

Stroke a cat at a cat cafe

Taipei is a city full of rented apartments, many of which have landlords that enforce strict no-pet rules. So the animal-loving city dwellers have no option but to turn to cat cafes for a few stress-relieving hours in the company of felines. At these cafes, cats enjoy a life of privilege with customers eager to shower each with attention and treats from the menus.

Enjoy 5-star karaoke

The karaoke bars in Taipei have lobbies that would put a five-star hotel to shame. These luxury 24–hour establishments offer rooms with large screen TVs, private bathrooms, and an endless songbook of cheesy sing-a-long tunes. They even provide food and alcohol around the clock, and many see them as the perfect place to finish off a night of clubbing.

Let a bird tell your fortune

Taipei’s Longshan Temple is one of the first stops on many a tour of the city, but it is not the only attraction in this neighbourhood. This is where many locals come to have their fortunes told – and quite often it’s a feathered friend that’s doing the telling. Birds hop along tables choosing slivers of bamboo or picture cards that indicate the paying customer’s future luck or lack thereof. A strange custom and one that has to be seen to be believed.

Escape down a slide

There were always rumours that Taipei’s most iconic hotel, The Grand Hotel, had a secret escape route designed for the former president, Chiang Kai-shek. A fire and subsequent safety check at the hotel in 1995 not only revealed its existence, but also the fact that one tunnel had an escape slide. The hotel sometimes offers tours to the public, but these are few and far between, making this a once-in-a- lifetime experience.

Buy a book at 1am

Reading is a popular pastime in Taiwan as is evident by the many small comic libraries and stores dotted around Taipei. But perhaps the most telling sign of their affinity with books is the fact that one of their largest bookstores, the Dunhua branch of Eslite, is open 24-hours a day. 1am book cravings are now a thing of the past.

Go shrimp fishing

Fishing is an activity usually associated with flowing rivers or large bodies of water. Not so in Taipei where there’s a range of 24-hour shrimp fishing establishments. Yes, that’s right, customers sit around a large man-made pool and fish for their dinner which they then throw on the barbecue by their side. Fun? Perhaps. Odd? Definitely.

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