Taiwan is a small country that has so much to offer from temples, historical landmarks, food and the list goes on. I like this country a lot and I can imagine living here for long term. The reasons are it is the only country I have been with very clean night markets. People are disciplined to hold their trash until they find a garbage bin. Their public transportation is so easy and convenient too. My friend and I enjoyed tapping our Easy Card in their MRT stations and buses. Oh, did I mention how their bubble teas taste so good and they’re just everywhere? Bubble tea was my new water the whole time of our stay there. But what I love the most in Taiwan are the people. They are so warm, hospitable and helpful. Even though English is not widely spoken locals are kind enough to gesture to direct you to the right station in MRT. Some would even barge in to translate your questions or what you want to say to the cashier at a convenient store. Even our Taiwanese friends who showed us around went too far on their hospitality, not only guiding and driving us to tourist sites but also talking to the receptionist of our hostel to check us up if everything is fine. I really appreciate their effort to make our stay comfortable, experience the real country and enjoy the place like a local. I would also credit them for editing our itinerary and taking us to places where most local people enjoy. So, here is the list of places to visit in Taipei according to locals.
XIANGSHAN TRAIL (ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN)
For those who are active and looking for some work out this place is for you to sweat out those bubble teas you sip. A 15-minute hike to see the view of Taipei City, the highlight of this hike includes the full view of Taipei 101 and other buildings. It is best to hike this trail in the late afternoon to catch the sunset. Although it is a crowded place, it is still fully recommended and totally worth it.
Entrance Fee: Free
Used to be the highest building in Asia until Lotte Tower in Seoul, Korea opened in 2017. But still the highest building in Taiwan with 101 floors. Its 88th floor serves as an observatory with huge glass windows to see the different views of the city. It also has museums, souvenir stores and cafes. Its 91st floor is an open area with high fences to view the city without glass however the area has a limited space so you can’t really stay there long.
Entrance Fee: NT$ 600 (Php 1, 044)
Known as the most nature scenic spot in Taipei to drink quality, locally grown tea, Maokong is a quaint village located at the top of a mountain providing breathtaking views of Taipei City. Tea lovers will love this place for its wide variety of teahouses and high quality selection. While others are here to experience the village and their tea, my friends and I came here to ride a cable car going to Taipei Zoo.
The best way to reach Maokong is to take the Maokong Gondola scenic cable car up the mountain from MRT Taipei Zoo Station, but in our case we did the opposite. We drive on top of the village and went down using a cable car to Taipei Zoo. It was at first nerve racking experience to ride a crystal clear glass cable car but it is also mesmerizing to see the view of the forest down below and the city on the window.
Maokong Cable Car Rate:
Maokong Station –Zhinan Temple Station: NT$ 70
Maokong Station- Taipei Zoo South Station: NT$ 100
Maokong Sation- Taipei Zoo Station: NT$ 120
Easycards are given a 20% discount on weekdays, and also NT$20 discount when also used for zoo entry.
Obsessed with pandas? Might as well pay a visit to Taipei Zoo where you can view the pandas and koalas on a glass room. The largest zoo in Asia and home to Yuan Zai,the first giant panda cub born in Taiwan. It may take an estimated four hours to complete your animal journey but it is not your average type of zoo with its forest like atmosphere and structure. Rare and endangered species animals are also housed in the zoo. For animal lovers this is a must visit, easily accessible by public transit at the end of the MRT Brown Line.
Entrance Fee Adults: NT$: 60 (Php 105) Kids: NT$ 30 (Php 53)
SANXIA OLD STREET
For architectural viewing, street food and souvenir shopping, you can find them here in this less than 1 kilometer street. The architecture consists of red brick buildings with hallways connected by small lanes. The streets were lined with shops that sold dyes, manufacturing materials, tea and of course Taiwanese street food. P.S. Love their stinky tofu.
This park is a great getaway from the city. Its riverfront park is home to large choices for food, wide variety of restaurants, park amenities, as well as paddle boat rentals and is a great place to relax. Spanning over the Xindian River is the 200 meter long Bitan Suspension Bridge connecting the two neighborhoods on the east and west side of the creek, making it one of the landmarks of New Taipei City. My friend and I had a great time paddling a two-seaters boat along Xindian River feeling the cold breeze of that late afternoon. I even had some short nap while on the boat. Lol! To my opinion this is a romantic place for couples because at night the colorful lights are turned on in the bridge and its west side with live music on the alley of restaurants on the east side. Who wouldn’t say “Yes!” if somebody proposes here?
HUASHAN 1914 CREATIVE PARK
Originally built as a winery, the complex has been transformed into a multipurpose park and creative space for Taipei’s youthful art scene, and is home to multiple exhibitions and shows. When we were there the beauty cosmetic brand Shiseido is having their exhibit or product launch. We also checked out some wooden products and organic products on display. I think if you are on a hunt of something unique and creative products for souvenir this place is for you.
CHIANG KAI-SHEK MEMORIAL HALL
The most prominent historical landmark in Taiwan, search “places to go in Taiwan” and it will pop first on your feed. It was built in honor of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the former President of the Republic of China. The name of the square is officially Liberty Square, as seen above the front gate, however the name change was politically motivated and most people in practice still refer to the entire complex as CKS Memorial Hall. The octagon-shaped white building rises 76 meters and is covered with blue tiles with red accents. The eight sides represent the Chinese cultural symbolism of the number eight which is traditionally associated with fortune and wealth. The two sets of 89 steps represent Chiang’s age of death and lead up to main hall housing a large bronze statue of Chiang protected by military personnel that change hourly. And mind you, they’re not moving at all. Below the hall is a museum documenting Chiang’s life and career, as well as exhibits about Taiwan’s history, pan-Chinese culture and history, and the ROC’s development after moving to Taiwan. Besides the main hall, the large complex includes the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Park, National Concert Hall, and the National Theater.
TAIPEI GRAND MOSQUE
The Taipei Grand Mosque is a center of worship for Taipei’s Muslims community. For me personally I have a thing when it comes to mosque architecture. I adore them so much that when I saw it on google maps I make it appoint not just to pass by, but also to sit, stare and stay at the place for a little while. I would love to enter however I think we are dressed inappropriately so we didn’t have the courage to do so. So, we just content ourselves to hang around in front of the mosque and take photos. When visiting Taipei Grand Mosque, please be sure to follow the mosque rules. Only Muslims are allowed to enter the main prayer hall and second floor prayer hall is for women.
Right across Taipei Grand Mosque is Daan Forest Park, a huge ecological park with a forest-like environment. The park is likened to be the lungs of Taipei with its park roads lined with trees. It is perfect for active people who love to jog and it has facilities for exercising such as cardio bikes that are also accessible in the park. Families enjoy the fresh air green space for picnics since benches are around the corner. Bushes and flower beds are planted throughout the park to help make the park into a lush, green space. And Oh! Bonus part, we spotted some squirrels too.
NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM
A fully modern museum using the latest digital technology to digitally preserve its ancient artifacts as well as high technology to improve the museum experience for visitors. It has four floors stretched with 2 exhibition halls. The museum’s exhibits continuously rotate, as only a small percentage of the museum’s collection can be displayed at a given time to prevent from being worn out. When we were there most of the things on display are lacquerwares, jars, bronze and metal decorations used during the ancient time. Those who are interested in Chinese culture and history are highly encouraged to visit the National Palace Museum, as it hosts the largest number of ancient artifacts.
Adult: NT$250 Student with ID: NT$150
TAIPEI CONFUCIUS TEMPLE
The Taipei Confucius Temple is modeled after the original Confucius Temple in Qufu, China. In keeping with the sober spirit of Confucianism, the building is made simple with southern Fujian-style ceramic applique. The main hall of the temple has a black plaque with gold lettering that reads “Educate without Discrimination.”
RAOHE NIGHT MARKET
One of the oldest night markets in Taipei, the Raohe Street Night Market is a must visit destination! The epitome of a traditional Taiwanese night market, this 600 metre path along Raohe Street in Songshan District is packed with fun and interesting street food and snacks, traditional shops and stalls, and carnival games with prizes. At the eastern end of the night market outside Songshan Station is the Ciyou Temple, built by local residents during the Qing Dynasty era. Tour groups tend to concentrate themselves around the eastern edge of the market while individual travellers are recommended to walk directly past these groups for a nicer experience.
SHILIN NIGHT MARKET
The Shilin Night Market in Taipei is one of the largest, most popular night markets in Taiwan with regard to food, and also one of the most popular points of Taipei’s night life among visitors. Located in Taipei’s Shilin District, the maze of alleyways is filled with a variety of local, traditional, and international merchandise that attract locals and foreigners alike. The night market consists of two major elements: general merchandise and local cuisine. Along the western edge of the market is the Shilin Night Market Food Court, an underground food paradise. Many of Taiwan’s traditional foods can be found and bought for reasonable prices from the friendly locals who are eager to let you taste the unique flavors of their traditional recipes such as Giant Fried Chicken Steak, Tempura, Bubble Tea, Oyster Vermicelli Oyster Omelet, Fried Buns and of course, the most notorious Taiwanese goodie, Stinky Tofu. Although the market usually begins bursting with activity every day in the late evening and doesn’t stop until past midnight, most food vendors will have left by midnight. So if you want to get a taste of this unique dish, get there early! The market showcases Taiwan’s culture with its vivid colours and general atmosphere, along with friendly shop keepers and plenty of delicious food and cheap clothes!
TAMSUI OLD STREET
Located along the riverfront in Tamsui (Danshui), Tamsui Old Street is a boardwalk-like area full of shops, carnival games, restaurants, cafés, and xiaochi snacks. The waterfront area is a great place to watch the sunset over the Tamsui River. Vendors will generally start in the afternoon and stay open until the last MRT train at 12 midnight. I prefer this place for shopping than Shilin because it is cheaper, spacious and not crowded. There are a lot of overrun high end goods here that are sold at a cheaper price. I also saw a shirt that is similar to what I bought in Shilin for a half price.
Jiufen is a popular day trip from Taipei. Made popular by the Japanese anime movie Spirited Away due to its huge resemblance. This mountain town was originally built by the Japanese and now a maze of lanes and alleyways with rich history and culture. Founded during the Qing Dynasty, this small town was a relatively isolated village until the discovery of gold during the Japanese occupation in 1893, quickly developing the town due to a gold rush. However it made a huge impact as my Taiwanese friend said the reason why Huangjin Waterfalls underlying rocks are color brown is because of mining. Many buildings in the town remain unchanged to this day, reflecting the Japanese influence on both architecture and culture on the island. After the war, gold mining activities declined, and the town today exists mainly as a tourist destination remembering and celebrating Taiwanese history and culture. I like this town a lot because it caters to wider Taiwanese cultural activities. One of my favorite cultural experience is making our own tea and eating some sweet desserts in A Mei Tea House, located in the tourist hot spot where famous red lanterns line the narrow stairways. This is where many tourists flock to snap their iconic Jiufen shots and where most pictures of Jiufen you see on postcards are taken. I also enjoyed writing my wishes on a lantern in Pingxi and flying it on the evening sky hoping that the heavens will grant my wish. My friend gambled on reading her fate through a stick that fall out when you shake the container. The stick that fall has corresponding drawer where your fate is written on a piece of paper. If it is bad try another round again or drop it on a box where in someone will pray for your luck to be better. Such a unique experience for travelers visiting this town.