Top Things to do in Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei is the capital and largest city on the island of Taiwan. It is quite commonly the entry and exit point for many travelers on their trip around Taiwan. However, Taipei is much more than just a gateway destination.
While Taipei may seem like yet another Asian city metropolis, there is actually far more to experience than meets the eye. Taipei is a diverse city surrounded by mountain ranges, stream and hot springs. It is a city made for the outdoors.
Daniel from Dan’s Travel Guide has traveled to Taipei so many times over the past six years that he is effectively a local abroad. Here are his tips pm the 10 top things to do in Taipei and the surrounding areas.
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Hike the Mountains
Taiwan’s mountains are not just in Hualien’s Taroko Gorge. Two of the most beautiful mountains to visit in Taipei are Yangmingshan Mountain and Elephant Mountain.
Yangmingshan Mountain offers a wide variety of scenic points, hot springs, and hikes. It is definitely a half to full day activity with numerous places to explore. The best way to get to Yangmingshan Mountain is to take the MRT Red Line to Jiantan (exit 1), followed by either R5, S15, or S17 bus up the mountain. At the main bus stop you can find a map and information on where to go once you’re up there.
Elephant Mountain is another beautiful mountain to hike near Taipei. It is a relatively simple hike (20-25 minutes) to get to the main scenic lookouts and has some of the best panoramic views of Taipei. Along the way, you will find a few vendors selling freshly squeezed orange juice for 50NT (less than $2) which is definitely worth a try!
Beyond the main lookouts, there are numerous paths take you to one of the other “Four Beasts” mountains. Tiger Mountain is just another half hour hike from Elephant Mountain!
Elephant Mountain is located at the last stop of the Red Line going to Xiangshan. Once you exit Xiangshan, follow signs until you see the pathway leading up to the mountain.
Relax in Taipei’s Hot Springs
Taipei is home to many natural and private hot springs situated in the Beitou and Xinbeitou districts (Taipei’s MRT Red Line). These hot springs are perfect for a soothing and rejuvenating the body, especially after a long day hiking through the mountains.
The Beitou Hot Spring Musuem in Xinbeitou is free and worth checking out for some interesting hot spring information. Walk a few minutes further and you will find the largest public hot spring in Taipei on your right – the Beitou Hot Springs. You will need to wear a swimsuit which you can also buy there if you do not have your own.
The Beitou Hot Springs were my favorite destination for an authentic Taiwanese hot spring experience. It is clean, as everyone must shower before entering. It is cheap. And there are 4 different levels (literally) from the cold to super-hot natural springs.
If you’ve never tried going from hot to cold, you need to try it. It is unexplainably therapeutic.
Public springs are just 30NT (about $1 USD) and private springs start at around 400NT (about $12).
Beitou Hot Spring Opening Hours:
Enjoy the View from Taipei 101
Taipei 101 is the second tallest building in the world and offers an incredible view over Taiwan’s largest city. Taipei 101 is also known for its hundreds of shops downstairs, which attract millions of visitors each year. If you want to get some shopping done in Taipei then this is the place to go.
Right outside Taipei 101, you will find the popular sculptures of large block letters spelling “Love” and “Heart.” This exactly describes Taiwan’s friendly and welcoming culture.
You can take an elevator straight to the top or shop in the hundreds of high-end stores located inside 101. To get a great view of Taipei 101, you can get a bird’s eye view of the beautiful building from Elephant Mountain (off Xiangshan station off the Red Line).
Visit the Famous Night Markets
Taipei’s night markets come to life with visitors and locals looking to eat some of the best local dishes. Night markets are also with fun games for all visitors and plenty of inexpensive shopping for clothes, toys, and gadgets.
- Shilin Night Market
Shilin is a popular night market in Taipei. Here you are bound to find something interesting to eat. Hundreds of stalls sell seafood, hot foods, and Taiwanese favorites like shaved ice, stinky tofu, oyster omelet, and fried noodles.
You’ll also inevitably run into the gigantic fried chicken – one of my favorite things to get at Shilin. The chicken is bigger than my head!
Aside from local cuisine and delights, there is also a huge range of carnival styled games which cost around 100NT ($3 USD) to play and of course endless stalls that sell little trinkets, gifts, electronics, and clothing.
The easiest way to get there is to take the MRT Red Line to Shilin or Jiantan station. Most shops and restaurants open as early as 4:00pm but people usually start going around 5:00-6:00pm.
- Raohe Night Market
A smaller, local, and arguably better night market to visit is Raohe Night Market (Xinyi Anhe on Taipei’s MRT Red Line).
It’s open similar hours to Shilin (starting around 4:30pm to 5:00pm each day) except it’s smaller and catered more for locals rather than tourists. Here you’ll comes across harder-to-find Taiwanese delights such as ice cream crepes, Taiwanese styled steak, authentic stinky tofu, and one of my favorites – cheap, teppenyaki styled grills where they cook hot Taiwanese food right in front of you!
Set off a Sky Lantern in Pingxi
Pingxi is the place in Asia to set off a sky lantern with friends and family. Walking through the old city you will find hundreds of street vendors selling snacks and sky lanterns ready to set off in the sky.
The origins of the sky lantern came from farmers who believed the gods would bless their harvest if they sent a lantern to reach the heavens. These days, some still believe that setting off a sky lantern at the beginning of the lunar year will bring prosperity. Many Taiwanese believe setting off a sky lantern symbolizes a wish to give birth to a boy. The Taiwanese Hokkien word for adding a boy sounds like the word for sky lantern.
Pingxi is a short 30-40 minute ride from the heart of Taipei. To get there, you can take any northbound train (except Keelung-bound trains) from Taipei Main Station towards Ruifang. Then transfer to the Pingxi line (Brown Line).
Alternatively, you can take the MRT brown line to Muzha, followed by bus 1076 to Pingxi. You can go anytime during the year! Most people go at night so you can actually see your lantern as it sets off.
Buying a sky lantern starts at just 100NT (or $3 USD) and is truly a unique Taipei experience you can share with friends or loved ones.
Eat Amazing Local Food (Dongmen Station)
Taiwan is known for some of the best food in the world. There is a wide variety of snacks, hot foods, and interesting dishes to try. Some of the common local dishes include Beef Noodle Soup, Oyster Pancake, Wontons, Hot Pot, Mango Shaved Ice, Boba tea and Stinky Tofu.
Popular breakfast items such as Soy Milk, Soup Dumplings, and egg pancake are must try while in Taipei.
Local tip: One of the best places to get authentic, local Taiwanese food is right outside of Dongmen Station (off the Red line on the MRT).
Walk along the seaside at the Tamsui River
The Tamsui River is located at Taipei’s northern tip, and is an area you do not want to miss.
Hundreds restaurants serve up fantastic local Taiwanese dishes by the river. One notable (yet non-Taiwanese) vendor you must check out is the Turkish Ice Cream. It is quite famous in Tamsui because it is uncommon to see Turkish people selling food in Taipei to begin with.
The Tamsui River is best to visit at night when the promenade is filled with vendors. However, on weekends is it great to visit at almost any time of the day!
Right opposite the restaurants is the seaside and Bali Island line. If you have the time, it is well worth taking the ferry across to Bali Island. The ticket costs just 30 NTD ($1 USD).
Explore Bali Island
Bali Island is beautiful and place to visit just outside of Taipei. Here you will find plenty of food stalls similar to the river walk along Tamsui, however there are a lot less people. It is a great escape from the crowds.
The best way to get around Bali Island is by renting a motorbike. You will find many bike shops in the area, which will required a form ID as a deposit for the rental. From Bali, there are trails that take you through some incredible scenic points along the bay.
It is easy to get to Bali Island from Taipei. Take the MRT Red Line to Tamsui, then walk to the river promenade where you will find pier with ferries going across to Bali Island. Tickets are just 50NT (Around $2 USD) and run from about 9am to 7pm.
Cycle Around Taipei
Cycling is very popular in Taiwan and there are plenty of places to rent bicycles all over Taipei. To accompany this, you will also find bike friendly trails stretching right across and around the city.
Along the popular trails, you will visit friendly neighborhoods, creative street arts, outdoor food markets, popular hotspots, and meet locals enjoying all kinds of outdoor activities.
Some of the best cycling routes are:
- Xindian (MRT Green line),
- Taipei Zoo (MRT Brown line) and,
- Tamsui (the furthest northern station on MRT Red Line).
Enjoy the Sunset
The last on the list is perhaps the simplest and most underrated pleasure that the locals get to experience everyday. Enjoy a beautiful sunset in Taipei.
Taipei is a mountainous city; therefore, it is easy to get a great sunset from a high viewpoint. Alternatively, if you are on the beach, relax in the soft sand and watch the sun dim its lights. Some notable places to enjoy the sunset are; Elephant Mountain, Tamsui River, Bali Island and Yangmingshan Mountain.
Are you continuing on a longer journey around the island of Taiwan? Be sure to check out our guide on what to do with 10 days in Taiwan. From hiking through the mountains to hanging out a surf beaches, there’s something here for every type of traveler.