Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, offers everything you expect from a modern East Asian metropolis, a sprawling city where contemporary meets colonial architecture, and busy shopping streets are lined with stores, market and street food stalls. And as you’ll hear visitors and locals alike report – the food here is to die for! People literally live to eat, and not vice versa!
Taiwan holds a special place in our heart since it’s where we first launched DOKO. If you’ve lined up a trip to Taipei, you can find plenty of inspiration for things to do, see and eat in our app, all curated in fun-to-read Zines published by locals. But in summary, here are 10 essential things to see, eat and do…
Things to See in Taipei…
A stunning example of traditional Taiwanese architecture, the Bao’an Temple was founded in 1760 and restored between 1995 and 2002, when an intensive renovation project renewed it to its original glorious state. Inside are some exquisite traditional decorative arts and it plays host to the Baosheng Cultural Festival, an annual folk arts festival that runs between March and June to showcase some of the region’s best-known performance arts, including lion dances, parades, Taiwanese opera performances and Chinese medicine clinics.
The Sunset at Elephant Mountain
It takes about an hour to cover the Nangang District Hiking Trail, so you’ll have to be in relatively good shape to make the distance, but it’s well worth the effort once you reach the observatory. Here you can enjoy the views out over the city, including the best view you’ll get of Taipei 101, the tallest building in the region. Consider making it to the top before dusk to take in the spectacular sunset views.
National Palace Museum
Taiwan’s National Palace Museum houses arguably the world’s finest, and certainly the world’s largest, collection of Chinese art, most of which was brought over from the mainland in the last century. On display are traditional paintings, calligraphy, statues, bronzes, ceramics, religious objects and jade. The famous jade cabbage is the museum’s most popular (and bizarre!) artefact, so be prepared to stand and wait in line to get a glimpse of it.
Yangmingshan National Park
One of nine national parks in Taiwan, Yangmingshan National Park has miles and miles of well-maintained hiking trails straddling open grasslands, alongside streams and waterfalls, offering the opportunity to see some of the country’s most stunning natural beauty. If that’s not enough, the park is actually an active volcano, so you can visit any number of hot springs and sulphur pits. It’s so beautiful it makes up for the fact it smells like rotten eggs J
Things to Eat in Taipei…
Braised pork rice
Braised pork rice, or lurou fan, is a traditional Taiwanese dish of finely chopped, but not quite minced, pork belly, that’s slow-cooked in an aromatic mixture of soy sauce and spices, before being spooned over hot rice. One of the country’s most down-to-earth dishes, the slightly sweet and salty taste of lurou fan makes it perfect both as a meal or a comforting snack and is easy to find and readily available for even the lowest budget travellers.
Beef noodle broth
No trip to Taipei would be complete without trying the city’s famous beef noodle broth – if you want an indication of just how much this dish means to the Taiwanese capital, it has its own festival where awards are given for the best traditional spicy broth, best clear broth soup, and most creative take on the recipe. A simple, classic comfort food, the slow cooked and seasoned beef is served on top of soft noodles, which are swimming in a tasty broth.
Part-sweet and part-savoury, pan fried buns are made with Chinese bread, stuffed with a moist pork filling and then fried on the bottom. It’s a perfect snacking dish that combines the sponginess of cake and the crunchiness of crisps.
Tip: If you’re vegetarian and none of the above dishes appeal, have no fear! Taiwan has a large population of strict vegetarians and non-meat and non-dairy options are available everywhere.
Things to Do in Taipei…
Ride the elevator and check out the view from Taipei 101
Once the world’s tallest buildings, the 508 bamboo-shaped metres of Taipei 101 towers above the rest of the city and is a landmark that’s literally impossible to miss. The first five floors are home to one of Taipei’s best shopping malls, with both high street and high-end shops and restaurants, while the tower’s observation decks are on the 88th and 89th floors.
You’ll have to take an elevator ride to get to the observation decks, which offers an experience all of its own – the pressure-controlled lift travels at 1,010 metres-per-second, taking you from ground level to the 89th floor in just 40 seconds.
Eat at the Addiction Aquatic Development
The fresh fish in Taipei is some of the best on offer anywhere in the world, and there’s no better place to try the local fruits of the sea than in the (admittedly oddly-named) Addiction Aquatic Development. Housed in what used to be Taipei’s fish market, the development is now a collection of stalls and restaurants, including sushi bars, outdoor grills and even a lifestyle boutique, where you’re guaranteed the freshest and best seafood around. You may have to queue for your food though, as you can’t book tables in advance.
Ride the Moakong Gondola
The Maokong Gondola, is a spectacular three-mile cable car ride that takes you up to Maokong, a mountain-top village famous for its tea-making and offering breath-taking views of the city. The gondola has two types of car, one of which has a glass floor so you can have a 360-degree view of the scenery as you scale the mountain. If the car has “Eyes of the Maokong Gondola” written on its side, it will have a glass bottom – look out for it! Combine your sightseeing with some tea-tasting at the picturesque Bagua Tea Plantation.
Have we missed anything? Have you a favourite Taipei restaurant? Or something you’re planning to do that’s not made our top 10? Let us know in a comment…