Whether you have 1 day or 1 week, our ultimate Taipei Travel Guide has you covered – from attractions & food to accommodation & transport find out everything you need to know about visiting the vibrant capital of Taiwan!
Top 6 Things to do in Taipei
#1. Elephant Mountain
Here at DIY Travel HQ we rate Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan) as the top spot for the best views of Taipei.
It’s a very sweaty climb in Taipei’s unrelenting heat via steep stairs all the way. Thankfully it only takes 15-20 minutes to reach the viewing platform.
Here the panorama of the skyline is very nice, with green trees in the foreground & mountains in the background. This is the reason why Elephant Mountain is the #1 attraction in our Taipei Travel Guide – and also one of the top places to visit in Taiwan.
Taipei 101 looms over the landscape, which obviously you don’t see from the Observatory itself.
Another 5 minutes climb will take you to the very summit of Elephant Mountain. There are a couple of huge boulders here that are popular photo spots, if you can get yourself up there.
I visited during sunset which I would recommend, it was beautiful & you’re not climbing in the hottest part of the day. I regret not staying longer & waiting for the city lights to turn on, the night shots I’ve seen from Elephant Mountain are stunning.
Elephant Mountain: Free
Closest MRT Station: Xiangshan
#2. Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is in the most Chinese of all places in Taipei – a massive square that feels like Tiannamen Square & the Forbidden City though the memorial itself looks more like the Temple of Heaven.
There are 89 steps to the top, representing CSK’s age when he died as the 2nd president of China (after Dr Sun Yat-sen). Inside there’s a huge statue of the man, flanked by a guard of honour.
The National Theatre & National Concert Hall are also on the same grounds. The palace-like structures & gardens are beautiful.
Directly opposite is the Gate of Great Centrality and Perfect Uprightness.
Together all 4 monuments form an imposing plaza that’s high on our list of attractions in this Taipei Travel Guide!
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall Entrance Fee: Free
Opening Hours: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm daily (park is open from 5:00 am to midnight)
Changing of the Guard: Every hour, on the hour from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Raising of the Flag: 6:00 am in summer, 6:30 am in winter
Lowering of the Flag: 6:10 pm in summer, 5:10 pm in winter
Closest MRT Station: CKS Memorial Hall
#3. Taipei 101 Observatory
It’s a given that you’ll be visiting Taipei 101, the world’s 8th tallest building. In fact it held the top spot for a few years when it opened in 2004.
The elevators still display a plaque from the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest in the world but it was overtaken by the Shanghai Tower in 2016.
Still, going up from the 5th to 89th floor in 37 seconds at 1010 m/min is pretty impressive even though my ears didn’t pop!
How to get discount tickets to Taipei 101
When you reach the top of Taipei 101, you’ll be glad if you didn’t pay full price – it’s just an observation tower after all.
Taipei 101 costs NT600 / $20 to visit but download the Klook app for a NT610 / $17 e-ticket – most hostels will also have a promo code to bring it down to $510 / $13.70.
Arrive early to Taipei 101
Taipei 101 is also huge shopping complex – don’t make my mistake of getting lost, go straight up to the 5th floor for the observatory. That’s our Taipei Travel Guide top tip!
You should be there 1 hour before you want to be at the top as you have to line-up for tickets (or to exchange e-tix) & then lined-up for the elevators. I wasn’t expecting this & almost missed sunset.
How to get around Taipei 101
1st to 4th floors – Taipei 101 Mall
5th floor – Buy tickets to Taipei 101 Observatory
89th floor –Indoor Observatory, the elevator will stop here
91st floor – Outdoor Observatory where you can view the sprawling Taipei skyline without glass windows. There’s also a small indoor theatre showing the annual NYE fireworks display from Taipei 101.
88th floor – Check out the largest & heaviest mass damper in the world. This giant sphere stabilizes the tower against movement caused by high winds. Here there’s also a large art & jewellery gallery, specializing in red coral gemstones.
Overall I was not too impressed by Taipei 101. Don’t expect much more that an observatory & you won’t be disappointed.
Taipei 101 Observatory Entrance Fee: NT$600 / $20
Hours: 9:00 am to 10:00 pm daily
Closest MRT Station: Taipei 101
#4. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Dr Sun Yat-sen was the 1st president of China but interestingly he’s also revered in Taiwan.
The Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is a huge complex with exhibitions on his life & revolutionary accomplishments.
The centerpiece is a massive seated statue of the “Father of the Nation” flanked by a guard of honour. These soldiers do not move. It happens every hour on the hour but you may want to get there 5-10 minutes before as it started early when I was there.
The Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is also the place for many social & cultural activities. There was some kind of red carpet event when I visited.
Our Taipei Travel Guide recommends a visit as it’s also surrounded by a large park with a lake, flower gardens & sculptures.
Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Entrance Fee: Free
Hours: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm daily
Changing of the Guard: Every hour, on the hour
Closest MRT Station: Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
#5. Maokong Gondola
The Maokong Gondola is on the outskirts of Taipei, easily accessible by MRT.
It’s a 4.3 km cable car line that takes you up to the top of a mountain village where there are some of the nicest views in our Taipei Travel Guide.
The Crystal Cabins called “Eyes of Maokong Gondola” have glass bottoms – try to ride in one of these in at least 1 direction. There are several more regular gondolas to every crystal cabin. When I visited the queue for the crystal cabins was shorter going up than going down.
Besides the cable car journey, Maokong Gondola is popular for the tea houses at the top of the mountain. They seemed quite commercialized & overpriced to me.
You can also see workers on tea plantations and besides grabbing a bite from one of the many food stalls, there’s not much to see or do.
Extend your visit by checking out the Zhinan Temple, one gondola station away from the summit.
Maokong Gondola Ticket Options
There are 4 stations on the Maokong Gondola: Taipei Zoo (start), Taipei Zoo South, Zhinan Temple Station, Maokong (finish).
Riding from start to finish costs NT$120 / $4.00 each way. Additional stops cost extra.
- 1 Station: NT$70 / $2.30
- 2 Stations: NT$100 / $3.30
- 3 Stations: NT$120 / $4.00
If you plan to visit Zhinan Temple, purchase the TaipeiPass for NT$350 / $11.60 – this gives you unlimited rides on the gondola, MRT & buses for the day.
If you’re on a budget, don’t visit the temple. Take the Gondola one-way to the top then take the bus down for around NT20 / $0.65.
Maokong Gondola Ticket: NT$120 / $4.00 each way to the summit
Hours: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm Tuesday to Friday, 8:30 am to 8:30 pm Saturday & Sunday, closed on Monday except for the 1st Monday of the month 9:00 am to 9:00 pm
Closest MRT Station: Taipei Zoo
#6. National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum has one of the world’s best & largest collections of Chinese art & artifacts. In fact many works come from the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City.
The most famous pieces are:
- Jadeite Cabbage – jade carved into the shape of a cabbage head with a grasshopper body
- Meat-shaped Stone – jasper carved into a likeness of a piece of pork cooked in soy sauce
You’ll have to google the images to see what you think!
I went to the National Palace but decided not to go to in – there were too many people & I wasn’t in a museum kind of mood. It was still worth the visit to get a sense of the place so it makes the list of attractions in our Taipei Travel Guide.
National Palace Entrance Fee: NT$250 / $8.30, students NT$150 / $5.00
Hours: 8:30 am to 6:30 pm Sunday to Thursday; 8:30 am to 9:00 pm Friday & Saturday
Closest MRT Station: Shilin then bus R30; Dazhi then bus B13; Jiannan Rd then bus B20
Best Night Markets in Taipei
#1. Raohe Night Market
There are several night markets in Taipei. Raohe Night Market is the locals’ favourite & I preferred it to the Shilin Night Market too.
Night Market Tip: If you’re not sure what food to order, look out for the long lines & join the queue!
Closest MRT Station: Songshan
#2. Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market is the largest & most popular one but I was disappointed – there wasn’t as much food as I was expecting, plenty of clothes & junk vendors instead.
I ate in the food court which was quite average though there was plenty of choice.
Closest MRT Station: Jiantan
Taipei Eats Food Tour
On my 1st day in Taipei I hit the streets for a walking food tour with Taipei Eats.
I met up with their guide Sophia & a few other foodies at an MRT station before venturing over to a nearby market. Here we tasted some tropical fruits & an amazing sesame seed scallion pancake.
Next we hit up a local restaurant for guao bao, which was a delicious bun filled with braised pork, pork belly, preserved mustard greens, peanut powder & coriander.
Then we walked over to a betel nut stall, which I didn’t realize was popular in Taiwan. I had tried it in Myanmar before & several years later, it’s still not my thing… I’ll take a coffee buzz or beer to relax any day over betel nut!
Stinky tofu on the other hand is right up my alley, I love it! We went to a specialized stinky tofu restaurant (didn’t know they existed) & tried a couple of varieties. The raw stinky tofu with a fermentation level of 13 was a bit too strong for all of us though we all loved the level 11 stinky tofu, stuffed with pickled cabbage!
What better way to wash down stinky tofu that with Taiwan’s iconic bubble tea! We ordered from one of the most popular stores in Taipei, it hit just the right sweet spot.
Moving along, we were then treated to yum cha at the locals’ version of Din Tai Fung. This is the best place for xiao long bao in Taipei & I can’t imagine finding any better. We also tried the fried version but I preferred the traditional steamed soup dumplings, dipped in ginger & soy sauce.
Dessert was up next with a German pudding from Taiwan’s most renowned bakery.
I was seriously full at this point but I soldiered on, devouring a bowl of sticky rice with pork floss, pickled vegetables & peanuts.
We finished the Taipei Eats tour on a sweet note with a variety of sorbets from a local favourite – the lychee flavor was a big hit with everyone!
In 4 hours we made about 10 foodie stops, doing a little sightseeing & learning about Taiwanese culture along the way.
The scallion pancake, guao bao & xiao long bao were among the best things I ate on my travels around the whole of Taiwan.
If it’s your 1st time in Asia or Taiwan, our Taipei Travel Guide recommends the Taipei Eats tour as a fantastic introduction to a new culture where food is the integral ingredient.
Taipe Eats Xinyi Tour Price: $70.00
* Thank you to Taipei Eats for hosting me & introducing me to so many delicious things to eat in Taiwan!
Top 5 Day Trips from Taipei
The old streets of Jiufen were the inspiration for the much loved animated movie Spirited Away but I didn’t feel anything special from being there. It’s just one long, narrow, commercial street of restaurants & shops crowded with tourists.
I did like it’s scenic mountain top setting – the views are lovely.
The Golden Waterfall was also very nice but it’s a small site away from the town centre. If you are coming from Taipei, ask the driver to drop you off at the closest stop to the falls. From there, it’s a 15 minute downhill walk. Then you can take a bus back to Jiufen Old Street.
Houtong Cat Village
Houtong was once a rich coal mining town but it’s been overrun by cats since a local started taking in strays in 2008. She started posting photos online & it all went viral from there…
Houtong has since reinvented itself as a cat village which has been a boon for tourism as evident by all the cute cat signs & shops.
Apparently there are more than 200 cats that live here but I only saw a few on a rainy day that was enough to keep me amused & satisfied!
Shifen is worth a visit for the Shifen waterfall – you can walk or take a bus from the train station.
At 20m high, it’s apparently Taiwan’s biggest waterfall. You can view it from the bottom & the top.
Shifen Old Street runs along the railway track, lined with food stalls & vendors hawking lanterns. It’s popular to buy a lantern, write your wishes on it & release it on the train tracks, even though trains regularly pass through!
Lanterns cost from NT$150 / $5.00 to NT$300 / $10.00 depending on the number of colours.
* Taipei Travel Guide Top Tip: I wouldn’t recommend Jiufen, Houtong & Shilin as individual destinations as they are all small towns – unless you have a lot of time in Taipei. However, they make an easy day trip by train from Taipei, in that order.
Wulai is a famous hot springs town close to Taipei. Unfortunately the public baths were torn down in May 2017 – I didn’t know this at the timWne!However many hotels in town offer hot spring spas from NT$100.
From the bus stop, continue straight ahead until you get to Wulai Old Street. This tourist strip is lined with food stalls & restaurants. Wulai is famous for its bamboo rice.
There are nice views of the cliff side houses from the bridge.
From here you can walk a further 20 minutes to the Wulai waterfall or take the log cart, which is a historic miniature train.
Wulai is pleasant but there’s not much to see or do.
* Taipei Travel Guide Top Tip: Visit Beitou instead if you’re looking to experience a free public hot spring in Taiwan.
Closest MRT Station: Xindian Station, then take bus #849
Yehliu Geopark is one of my favourite places not only in Taipei but the whole of Taiwan.
It’s a large area of the cape in the North with unique rock formations along the coastline.
The honeycomb landscape has been shaped over thousands of years, formed by weathering & sea erosion as the mountains were pushed out to the sea.
The Queen’s Head is the most famous of them all but there’s also Sea Candles, Fairy Shoe and Elephant Rock. Imagination required!
The landscape is very dramatic & the formations are remarkable. The park is very well-managed & maintained with boardwalks & viewpoints. I spent 1 hour there though you could extend your stay in Yehliu with a visit to the Yehliu Ocean World across the road & a meal at one of the many seafood restaurants.
Yehliu Geopark entrance fee: NT$80 / $2.65, students NT$40 / $1.32
How to get to Yehliu Geopark: KuoKuang bus from Taipei West Bus Station, NT$98 / $3.25
Festivals near Taipei
Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival
My time in Taipei happened to coincide with the Pingxi Sky Lantern festival, held every year during Chinese New Year & the Mid-Autumn Festival.
This was held at a school, where there were live performances & mass sky lanterns released every 15-30 minutes from 6:00pm to 8:30pm.
What I didn’t know at the time was that you could not only watch the lanterns but you could take part in the festival by releasing them.
Apparently you need to register ahead of time… ask a Chinese person for more information!
*Taipei Travel Guide Top Tip: If you plan to visit Taiwan around these holidays it’s definitely worth checking out the Pingxi Sky Lantern festival.
Where to Stay in Taipei: Space Inn
Location – Space Inn Hengyang has an excellent location, close to the Ximen MRT station and within walking distance of Taipei Main Station for all bus, train & MRT connections. Ximen is a lively area with a big shopping centre, night market & nightlife. Space Inn also has another branch in the Xinyi district.
Space Theme – Space Inn lives up to its name! The whole place is decked out in a modern intergalactic theme, including staff members in spacesuit uniforms! Check out some of these other space themed hotels around the world!
Security – The hostel is very secure with swipe card entry required to enter & access different sections of the hostel. I loved that the swipe card even works for your locker so you don’t require a lock.
Cleanliness – The rooms, bathrooms & common spaces at Space Inn are kept spotlessly clean at all times.
High quality – All the facilities, amenities & furnishings are of modern design & high quality. The design is futuristic-minimalist, everything is like-new & it’s very cool.
Open social space – The electronic door & black glass entryway leads into a large open space. A huge white centerpiece dominates the space, which also features a living area of couches, chairs, tv & books. There’s also plenty of other common spaces to relax in at Space Inn.
Shared Bathrooms – The bathrooms are huge with separate toilet, shower & sink area. It’s really impressive. The showers are amazing, with excellent hot water & water pressure. Soap & shampoo is provided.
Kitchen – There’s a kitchen with free drinking water & coffee as well as a large fridge & freezer to keep things cool.
Coin-operated laundry & dryer
Computers & Business Centre
I stayed in an 8 bed orm at Space Inn & it was a very good experience. The bed was really comfortable & the bedding was of excellent quality.
Each bunk bed has complete privacy with their own wrap around curtain, light, outlets & even a mini-shelf/storage box.
The lockers are large enough for your backpacks & as mentioned, you access it with your swipe card. They even have an automatic light switch when opened.
* Taipei Travel Guide Top Tip: Choose a single-sex dorm if you want to be close to the shared bathrooms.
I stayed in 8 different hostels during my 18 day trip in Taiwan & Space Inn was easily the best one.
All the other hostels had their quirks but there was nothing I could fault at Space Inn. It’s actually one of the best hostels I’ve stayed in anywhere in the world.
Look no further than Space Inn for the best hostel in Taipei!
Space Inn: dorms from NT$400 / $13.25
Check Booking.com for the best rates & selection of rooms at Space Inn and throughout Taiwan. Make a booking with our link for 10% off your stay.
* Thank you to Space Inn for hosting me & the wonderful hospitality during my stay
Getting Around Taipei
To/From Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport:
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport has 2 terminals – free skytrain & shuttle bus services connect them both.
An MRT ticket from the airport to Taipei Main Station costs NT$160 / $5.30.
There are many airport buses to Taipei city centre. Choose a route that drops you off at the closest station or bus stop to your accommodation. My bus ticket from the airport to Taipei Main Station cost NT$130 / $4.30.
It’s very easy to get around Taipei using the MRT. Coming from New York City the cleanliness & efficiency puts the Big Apple’s subway system to shame!
There are 7 colour-coded lines across Taipei’s MRT system. All maps at the stations are written in Chinese & English (just like the street signs).
Fares range from NT$20 / $0.65 to NT$60 / $2.00 depending on the distance. Most attractions around Taipei are within NT$20-30 / $0.65-$1.00.
You can purchase tokens for single journeys or by EasyCard.
EasyCard is a swipe card you can use on all MRT’s & buses in Taipei.
It costs NT$100 / $3.30 which can be refundable at the end of your trip along with any credit remaining (minus NT$20 handling charge). Then top it up with credit as you swipe & go on all public transport.
Value can be added in multiples of NT$100 / $3.30.
The EasyCard gives you a 20% discount off single journey token fares & an extra 20% discount when transferring between bus & MRT.
It can also be used on the Kaohsiung MRT and some buses & trains through Taiwan.
I wish I had known about this on my 20 day trip around the island! Instead, I bought single journey fares each time. And on buses I always had to make sure I had the right change.
Our Taipei Travel Guide definitely recommend getting the EasyCard especially if you will be travelling around Taiwan or even if you plan to be in Taipei for a few days. It’s much more convenient & you’re likely to save money in no time.
Suggested 1-5 Day Taipei Itinerary
- Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
- Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall
- Taipei 101 and/or
- Elephant Mountain
- Raohe Night Market
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Taipei 101 & Elephant Mountain are all in the Xinyi district of Taipei & within walking distance of each other.
If you only have 1 night in Taipei, try to visit both Taipei 101 & Elephant Mountain.
- Maokong Gondola
- National Palace Museum
- Shilin Night Market
If you have 2 days in Taipei, visit both Taipei 101 & Elephant Mountain for sunset.
- Day trip to Jiufen, Houtong & Shilin
- Half-day to full-day trip to Yehliu Geopark
- Half-day trip to Wulai or Beitou hot springs
If you have 4-5 days in Taipei, you can spread out the city attractions & perhaps visit the night markets on days 4 or 5.
Whether you have 1 day or 5 days, enjoy your stay in Taipei!
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Visited in October 2017