Taoyuan Airport to Taipei: Airport to City Center Guide

So, you’ve booked that Taiwan trip, decided where to stay, picked out all the best things to do in Taipei: now it’s time to figure out how to get from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei city center!

Frankly, I was a little nervous about how I was going to get from the Taipei airport to the city center, because it was my first time going to a country that uses Chinese characters in its signage.

I had been to Japan before, so I wasn’t altogether unfamiliar with a character-based alphabet.

Then again, Japan is renowned for its organization, and I wasn’t sure how Taiwan would be in comparison.

I was worried that with the language barrier and not even being able to read basic signs, it’d be a nightmare to get into the city center from Taipei airport.

Luckily, it was pretty easy!

the skyline of taipei seen at night with beautiful colors lighting up, taipei 101 seen from elephant mountain in the city outskirts

It actually was quite simple to get from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei Main Station,

From there, I then was able to take the MRT to my hostel, since I was staying in Shilin.

While I was worried at first, I shouldn’t have been: Taipei is an ultra-modern city with fantastic infrastructure!

There are multiple ways to get from Taipei Airport to the city center without any hassle or fuss — let’s get into them all!

Before Leaving Taipei Airport

aerial view of the city of taipei seen from the taipei 101 view

Let me remind you of one thing to note before leaving the airport.

In Taipei, it is important to always bring cash with you!

Upon arriving at Taipei airport, you can withdraw money from ATMs at the airport (for the best rate) or exchange currency (at a much worse rate).

I found that my credit card and debit card often didn’t work in Taipei, even at some convenience stores, as many systems only accept local cards.

Plus, you’ll want cash on hand for buying any street snacks that catch your eye!

A Few Notes about Taoyuan Airport

a white building with navy blue roof in downtown taipei with people walkinga round

Taoyuan is a rather large airport due to the high demand for flights in and out of Taiwan.

Originally there was only one passenger terminal at Taoyuan, which was Terminal 1.

Eventually, the huge number of passengers streaming into Taipei Airport made them decide to build Terminal 2, a newer terminal.

They were planning to open a third terminal by 2020 due to the huge volume of passengers — but the pandemic derailed that, and the timeline is now set for 2025.

Taipei Taoyuan International is a large airport for such a small country: T1 hosts 18 boarding gates, and T2 hosts 20 boarding gates.

It is also the main hub for airlines like China Airlines and EVA Air, which handles many flights from the USA’s West Coast, especially SFO and LAX.

In terms of how to get from Taipei airport to your hotel, your options depend on your time of arrival.

Depending when your flights lands at Taipei Taoyuan Airport, you’ll have to decide the best mode of transportation to take, which could be either a train, bus, taxi, or a Taipei airport transfer.

We’ll go into all of those options now!

Getting from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei Main Station by MRT

the mrt train in taipei on the way to the taoyuan airport near the city of taipei

One simple way to get from Taoyuan airport to Taipei City Center is to take the Airport MRT, which started its operation in 2017.

It took a whopping 20 years of work to finish (the landscape around it is no joke — see the photo above!)!

Still, it’s worth the effort as it’s made getting into Taipei city center a breeze compared to previous options.

It’s also significantly reduced travel times during peak periods when buses would inevitably experience traffic delays.

Plus, the Airport MRT trains have spacious areas where you can place your luggage, and it is accessible for passengers with disabilities.

To get to the MRT station, it takes about 15-20 minutes of walking from immigration.

It is a bit of a walk, but once you arrive at the station, it’s all a breeze!

The cost of the fare is NTD$ 160 (equivalent to about $5 USD) from Taoyuan airport to Taipei Main Station.

However: the trains are not available 24/7, so this is not an option if you arrive late at night and don’t want to wait at the airport until the morning.

The MRT only operates from 6 AM until the last train at midnight, and it takes about 35 minutes on the express line.

Getting from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei by High Speed Train

close up of architectural detail on a cloudy day in taipei

If you want to get to the city center in the fastest way possible, the MRT is the slightly better choice, as it takes only 35 minutes vs. 40 minutes.

It takes 20 minutes for the bus from the airport to get to the HSR station, since it’s a few kilometers away from the airport.

Then, it takes 20 minutes on the high-speed train. So really, even though it’s considered “high speed”, it’s actually not the quickest way to get to downtown Taipei from the airport.

However, some people get excited to experience a high-speed train, and it’s quite easy to take without much of a price difference (plus if you’re staying in Banqiao, it’s the fastest way to get there).

From the airport, you would need to ride the U-Bus to the THSR, which takes 20 minutes.

If you’re traveling during a busy season, this can be a good way to avoid the crowds on the MRT!

Once you arrive at the station, you can board the THSR which will bring you to Banqiao or Taipei HSR station.

If you are looking to experience the THSR, first you need to purchase U-Bus tickets for around NTD $25 (less than $1 USD) so you can board the bus that takes you to the THSR Taoyuan Station.

From there, you’ll need to buy a ticket on the THSR for around NTD $180 (around $5 USD).

All in all, you will spend about NTD $185 (around $6 USD) for the total trip via high speed rail!

Getting from Taipei Airport to City Center by Bus

five arches at a famous taipei landmark, a white gate with a blue roof

It is very easy to get to the bus station from the airport (just a short walk from the arrival hall).

It is also the cheapest option to reach the city center, making it the best choice for light travelers and budget-conscious ones.

This is how I personally got into Taipei when I visited, as I didn’t want to walk all the way to the MRT!

Make sure that you carefully note the bus numbers, because each one has different stops!

I will list the ones that can drop you near the heart of the city, Taipei Main Station.

It’s the easiest, but it’s not the fastest way: it will take you about an hour or more of travel, due to traffic and several stops made along the way.

Two buses can drop you near the Taipei Main Station – Bus 1819 and 1961.

Only the Kuo Kang Bus 1819 is available 24/7, making it one of the two choices you have between midnight and 6 AM.

There are roughly 15 to 20-minute intervals between each bus. Bus 1819 has a fare of NTD$ 140 (around $5 USD).

If you arrive after midnight and are wary of taking public transit, I would suggest that you take an airport transfer instead. I’ll explain that in a bit!

This way, you’ll be met at the airport, picked up smoothly, and dropped off right at your hotel’s door.

Meanwhile, there’s also the CitiBus West Bus 1961, but it only operates until 1 AM.

The West Bus 1961’s last stop is in the Ximending area, which is one of most popular areas to stay in Taipei.

Bus 1961 has a fare of NTD $100 (around $4 USD), so it’s the cheapest way to get from Taipei Airport to the city center.

If your final destination is in Xinyi District, East Bus 1960 is a good option, especially if you are staying near the Taipei City Hall area and Taipei 101.

The fare costs NTD $145 (around $5 USD) and the last bus is at 1 AM, but it only departs every 20-40 minutes.

Getting from Taoyuan Airport to Your Taipei Hotel by Airport Transfers

a temple in the middle of taipei with traditional style

For someone who wants a smooth arrival option on a budget, airport transfers are easily the best choice.

You have the convenience of having privacy in your own ride and also the efficiency as you reach your hotel!

They are a little more pricy than getting a taxi right at the airport, because the driver will wait for you, help you with your luggage, and drop you off directly with your hotel.

That said, it’s the best way to guarantee a quick and seamless transit from Taoyuan airport to Taipei, so it’s worth the price for many!

Book your private airport transfer here!

Getting from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei City Center Hotels by Taxi

trails of headlights from passing cars and traffic at night in taipei

Airport taxis are available just outside the arrival halls, and you can also ask the Tourist Service Center if you have trouble finding it.

Taxis are available 24 hours and this is one of the only methods of transportation if you arrive later than midnight, because most of the buses (except Bus 1819) and the trains are no longer available.

Just a reminder, that taxi prices have a minimum fare of NTD $1100 (around $36 USD) and often ends up costing about NTD $1500 ($48 USD) with traffic.

During night hours, the taxi price can go as high as NTD $1500-2000 (around $48-64 USD).

The average Uber fare is about the same, ranging from NTD $1,200 to NTD $2,500 during surges.

The fare is based on the meter, and there is also 50% surcharge for travel at night, plus highway toll fees are also not included in the fare but will be addded on at the end.

Generally, taxi drivers in Taipei are pretty honest, but I always recommend you find the actual taxi line-up rather than going with someone trying to get you to their taxi.

The fare differential between a taxi and an airport transfer is rather minimal, so I think airport transfers are the way to go.

I would recommend a taxi or Uber only if you didn’t plan in advance to book an airport transfer, which is about the same price and less stressful.

If you are: arriving late at night, are traveling with a family, have heavy luggage, stressed about navigating the transit system, or traveling for business — take an airport transfer or a taxi.

Otherwise, if you don’t mind a more leisurely way into the city, the MRT or bus is your best budget bet.

Getting an eSIM Card at Taoyuan Taipei Airport

a phone with a sim card being taken out of it

If you are the type of person who always likes to book their Uber anywhere, then the best thing I would suggest is to get an eSIM!

Even though Taipei Airport has free WiFi, you might want an eSIM for being around the city center or exploring without racking up international fees.

The eSIM is valid in 10 Asian regions, is inexpensive, and is easy to activate with a simple QR code!

Book your eSIM before your trip here!

One Day in Taipei: Your Quick Taipei Layover Guide

Taipei is a place where rich culture and history are woven together with a very modern cityscape and excellent infrastructure.

There are a lot of great places to visit in Taipei – so much so that I’ve outlined a five-day Taipei itinerary here.

But if you only have one day in Taipei, don’t worry!

Even if you only have 24 hours in Taipei, you can still see quite a bit of the city with this streamlined itinerary.

I’ve curated this itinerary to be specifically designed for people on a layover in Taipei or who just have a short stop in Taipei for one day, before exploring the rest of Taiwan.

Allison Green enjoying a day in Taiwan with a pink cup of coffee in her hand, smiling while wearing a green hat and purple long sleeve shirt in winter in Taiwan.

I have organized this one-day Taipei itinerary so that you can visit these attractions easily via the ridiculously well-organized MRT (so no need for a guided tour!) in a logical fashion.

Most of the locations I have chosen are free, though some have entry fees and to save time, I’ll recommend a few skip-the-line options for some popular sites.

Every place on this list is within a short walk of the MRT, so it’s really easy to get from place to place!

Getting into Taipei from the Airport

the mrt train in taipei on the way to the taoyuan airport near the city of taipei

I’ve written a detailed guide to getting from the Taipei airport to the city center, which you can read here.

I’ll recap your option briefly here so this can be an all-in-one reference.

MRT: The most popular way to get into Taipei and the fastest (and nearly the cheapest!).

It takes 35 minutes on the express line. Note that the MRT only operates from 6 AM until midnight. 

The cost of the fare is NTD$ 160 (around $5 USD) to Taipei Main Station.

Bus: The best way to get into Taipei if you’re on a budget or are traveling after midnight and before 6 AM.

There are two buses can drop you near the Taipei Main Station – Bus 1819 and 1961.

Only the Kuo Kang Bus 1819 is available 24/7, making it one of the two choices you have between midnight and 6 AM.

You’ll need to wait around 20 minutes between each bus. Bus 1819 has a fare of NTD$ 140 (around $5 USD). 

Airport Transfer: The best way to get into Taipei if you’re pressed for time and don’t want to stress public transit.

You can pre-book an airport transfer shuttle online here so you don’t have to stress about your transit — someone will be waiting for you to greet you and help you to your hotel.

One Day in Taipei Itinerary

Start the day at Longshan Temple.

A woman lighting a candle at longshan temple in taipei

Longshan Temple is a fantastic place to start your one day in Taipei, as they are open as early as 6 AM.

It’s a 10-minute transfer from Taipei Main Station, where you’ll likely arrive if you have a Taipei layover, to the Longshan Temple MRT on the blue line, or you can take a 30-minute walk if you want to get your steps in.

Once you exit at the Longshan Temple station, keep an eye out for the signage which tells you which exit you should take to arrive at Longshan Temple easily.

Longshan Temple is over 300 years old and was originally built as a gathering place for settlers from Fujian, China; now, it’s one of the most visited temples in Taiwan.

While the temple is in fantastic condition today, it has been through a lot — it even survived a bombing raid during World War II.

Location: No. 211, Guangzhou Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10853

Cost: Free! (Donations are accepted to help maintain the facility)

Visit the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.

Colorful gardens, many Taiwan flags, and white pagoda building with blue roof at the chiang kai shek memorial hall in downtown taipei

The next place to visit on this one day in Taipei itinerary is Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (it opens at 9 AM, so grab breakfast beforehand if you’re too early).

By public transportation, it’s only 15-20 minutes away from the Longshan Temple MRT Station.

To get here, go to the Ximen MRT Station where you’ll transfer to the green MRT line — that’ll take you right to the CKS Memorial Hall Station.

The architecture is colorful and elaborate, with vibrant gardens that are spectacular to walk around.

Enjoy the temples, gardens, and public areas — there are so many great photogenic angles to snap pictures here!

Tip: The vending machines around here serve ice cold milk in a can with flavors like papaya, watermelon, and chrysanthemum – perfect to quench your thirst if you visit during the summer!

Location: No. 21, Zhongshan S. Rd., Zhongzheng Dist., Taipei City, Taiwan

Cost: Free!

Visit the Buddhist Shandao Temple.

a rather plain looking brown building with a pagoda in the front that shows the entrance to a temple in downtown taipei
Photo Credit: 大摩 Bigmorr, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From CKS Memorial Hall, you can quickly drop by the largest Buddhist temple in Taipei, Shandao Temple.

Just take the red line at CKS Memorial Hall back to Taipei Main Station, then transfer to the Shandao Temple MRT Station.

All in all, it will take you around 20 minutes of travel.

This temple is not the most scenic, admittedly, as it’s more about function over form.

That said, it is worth seeing the three statues of Buddha inside — you will be surprised by how big they are!

Location: No.23, Section 1, Zhongxiao East Road, Taipei, Taiwan

Cost: Free!

Check out the majestic Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall.

a beautiful reflecting pool showing back the colorful orange arched architecture of sun yat-sen memorial hall

The beautiful Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall was created in tribute to commemorate the Father of the Republic of China, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen.

This is located on the same blue line from Shandao Temple MRT Station, so it’s quite easy to get to.

In the memorial hall, many items related to the life of Dr. Sun are on display.

As you walk around, you will see beautifully landscaped gardens as well as a gorgeous reflecting pool.

You can really take nice photos and selfies here, so you better get your cameras or smartphones handy!

Fun Fact: There is also a Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall in Guangzhou, China that it is really similar to the one in Taipei.

Location: No.505, Sec. 4, Ren’ai Rd., Xinyi Dist., Taipei City 110, Taiwan

Cost: Free!

Go up, up, up at Taipei 101.

aerial view of the city of taipei seen from the taipei 101 view

Your Taipei layover will not be complete if miss out on a visit to the Taipei 101, located just 8 minutes from Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall Station by MRT.

This building is an icon of modern Taiwan: its blue-green glass walls look like a bamboo pole with eight nodes (this was intentional, as eight is a lucky number in Taiwanese culture).

The view from the observatory is breathtaking — and it should be, considering it used to be the tallest building in the world before Dubai’s Burj Khalifa unseated it!

There are self-service lanes in the location — just be prepared for long lines if that’s the way you choose to go about it.

But since you only have one day in Taipei, I strongly recommend you book a skip-all-lines express access ticket.

There is a surcharge compared to booking the regular ticket, but it can save you an hour — or more — in line.

For me, I think it’s worth it (paying about $20 USD for to get back at least an hour of my time on vacation is well worth it!), but your opinion and budget may vary.

If that’s too expensive, you can still pre-book your ticket to Taipei 101 but it won’t let you have access to the fast track elevator.

You’ll just skip the line to buy the tickets, which is usually not so long since it’s all automated, but can occasionally get expensive.

Location: No. 7, Section 5, Xinyi Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110

Cost: A basic admission ticket to the Taipei 101 is around $20 USD when booked online (about $NTD 600). The fast-pass, skip-all-lines access is around $40 USD (about $NTD 1200).

Climb Elephant Mountain for a stunning view.

a view of the taipei 101 from elephant mountain and the boulders that you can climb up on for an extra-good view of the city

The best view of Taipei City and the Taipei 101 building is from Elephant Mountain!

I generally recommend going for sunset (both because of the afternoon heat and because the views are more impressive).

That said, if you have only one day in Taipei, I don’t recommend going back and forth and wasting your time in transit, so you might as well go while you are close by.

Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes for this one day in Taipei itinerary, as the path up to Elephant Mountain is steep and also has many stairs!

It only takes about 20 minutes, but it is straight up, so it can be quite tiring especially if it’s particularly hot out. I promise that it’s worth it, though!

The view will make you feel like you have conquered seeing Taipei in a day successfully!

Pro Tip: There is a spot on top of the boulders if you walk up a little higher from the viewing platform, which is a beloved photo spot in Taipei where you can get the best Instagram photos!

Location: Lane 150, Songren Rd., Taipei, Taiwan

Cost: Free!

Visit the charming Lin An Tai Historical House & Museum.

a brick building with overgrown foliage and a pond in a scenic part of downtown taipei

Now that you’ve seen Taipei’s most touristic spot, let’s get off the beaten path a bit.

Very few tourists know about Lin An Tai, but this historical gem is a fantastic photo spot.

The entrance is free and there aren’t many visitors as well, so you will really have time to appreciate the serene scenery.

This house is over 200 years old, done in the Fujianese-style, and is oriented in a beneficial position in the city according to the principles of feng shui.

It’s quite interesting to see it and understand a bit more of what life was like for the wealthiest people of Taiwan two centuries ago.

Location: No.5, Binjiang Street, Taipei 10491, Taiwan

Cost: Free!

Marvel at the treasures of the National Palace Museum.

beautiful architecture of the national palace museum with teal green roof with gold accents, many tiers, with mountainous lush background.

On the same red line, you can go to the Shilin MRT Station where there are minibuses (No. 18 and 19) that can take you to the National Palace Museum.

You will see a spectacular view of its architecture, as well as some relics that were once in the Forbidden City of China in Beijing and were moved during the Kuomintang’s retreat to Taiwan.

Some of the popular artifacts are the Boat Carved from an Olive Stone, Jadeite Cabbage, and the Meat-Shaped Stone.

There are also beautiful gardens nearby that you can stroll around as well and snap some great photos

Location: No. 221, Sec 2, Zhi Shan Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan

Cost: The entrance fee is $NTD 320 (around $10 USD)

Have an early dinner at Shilin Night Market.

a busy, bustling scene at shilin night market, all lit up at prime eating hours

If you want to pickup a souvenir from your Taipei layover or just grab some street food, Shilin Night Market is the best place to go.

Once you arrive at the Shilin MRT Station (you can take the same minibuses back), just follow the directions from the street signs — it’s a quick 10-minute walk.

Does frying milk sound strange to you? Not in Taiwan! It is one of the more popular sweet street foods in Shilin, and you ought to try it!

There are other great dishes to try: crispy and savory pork paper (slices of very thin pork that looks like jerky), pepper pork buns cooked in a clay oven, oyster mushrooms seasoned to perfection, and so much more.

Get the stinky tofu if you’re an adventurous eater! (My Taiwanese girlfriend swears it tastes like blue cheese, even if it smells strange!)

Location: No.101, Jihe Rd., Shilin Dist., Taipei City 111, Taiwan 

Cost: There is no fee to enter the night market. Dishes range in price but are generally under $NTD 100 ($3 USD).

Relax and unwind at a Beitou hot spring.

 a man with short hair in a private hot spring area in beitou

If you feel that you are tired from walking all day – especially after hiking Elephant Mountain – you can try the hot springs at Beitou (which is especially nice if you’re visiting Taipei in winter, my favorite time to visit Taiwan!).

It’s still along same red line of the MRT, going to XinBeitou Station (you have to transfer at Beitou as the line will continue onwards to Tamsui if you don’t get off).

You can enjoy dipping in the warm spring waters either at the public hot springs or by purchasing a day pass from one of the hotels.

The most affordable option is to go to the public hot springs, known as Millennium Hot Spring or Beitou Public Hot Spring. It’s open until 10 PM, so it’s a viable late-night option!

It costs $TWD 60, or about $2 USD, to access the pools. You must bring a bathing suit!

In terms of private hot springs, the fanciest hot spring is the one at Grand View Taipei, which was designed by the famous architect of the Taipei 101.

It’s a wonderful alternate way to see Taipei all lit up at night while everyone else is at Elephant Mountain or Taipei 101!

In some hot spring resorts, there are airport shuttles provided, which can make it very convenient for you to get back to whichever terminal you are bound!

Cost: Varies depending on the hot springs

Optionally, make a final stop at the Ximending Shopping District & Night Market.

lit up view of the red house theatre in ximending area

An additional place you can visit if you would love to purchase some unique finds or souvenirs before you leave Taipei is Ximen.

It’s a perfect final stop if you’re on a Taipei layover, because it’s only 5 minutes from Taipei Main Station where you’ll begin your journey back to the airport.

You can shop till you drop (of exhaustion) because the Ximending Night Market and the big brand stores are generally open a little bit past midnight!

You may also check the Red House (a former movie house with two floors) which is one of the top sites to see in the area.

Inside, you can find unique clothing and jewelry, as well as delicious desserts!

Location:  No. 14, Emei Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108

Cost: No fee

Where to Stay in Taipei

If you just need a place to crash for a night, here are my suggestions for Taipei hotels, all near Taipei Main Station for easy commutes.

Shifen Waterfall & Old Street: How To Do a Day Trip from Taipei

The gorgeous Shifen waterfall

It’s hard to get sick of Taipei: the city is electric, full of activity and excitement!

Whether you’re exploring the urban architecture or snacking at one of the many night markets in Taipei, it’s nearly impossible to get bored of all the great things to do in Taipei.

However, you can get a bit tired of the constant flow of traffic and go-go-go atmosphere of city life anywhere, and Taipei is no exception.

Luckily, one of the most amazing things about Taipei is just how accessible this city of nearly 3 million people is to such green, beautiful nature.

Even better, Taiwan’s excellent transit system makes it pretty easy to get just about everywhere you’d like to go — an epic Taipei day trip is always within reach.

Like Yangmingshan National Park – a mere 40 minutes from central Taipei!

I was initially a bit nervous to try to traverse Taiwan’s public transportation given that I neither speak nor read Chinese: turns out I shouldn’t have worried at all!

Like I learned while navigating the Taipei airport, the public transportation here has excellent signage with plenty of English language directions.

And in my few moments of confusion, Taiwanese locals have always proven to be extremely friendly and ready to help!

(That said, one of my top Taiwan tips is to have a SIM card and to use Google Translate’s camera feature to help you translate Chinese characters when needed — it always is handy to be self-sufficient when possible!).

Tours, however, can make the experience incredibly easy: this day tour even picks you up and drops you off at your hotel, including stops at Pingxi, Shifen Old Street, and Shifen Waterfall.

Book your Shifen Waterfall & Shifen Old Street Tour here!

Getting from Taipei to Shifen

Via Public Transportation

the mrt train in taipei on the way to the taoyuan airport near the city of taipei

There’s a reason why Shifen is among the most popular Taipei day trips: not only is it beautiful and interesting, but it’s quite easy to get to Shifen from Taipei independently.

First, you’ll want to to take the MRT to Taipei Main Station.

From there, you can board any northbound train except a Keelung-bound train and then get off at Ruifang (note: the express trains are called Tzechiang, and I believe those cost a bit more).

As of 2023, the cost of the trip is 49 TWD from Taipei Station to Ruifang Station, which is about $1.50 USD.

This is the only place I found the signage a bit confusing, as it wasn’t immediately apparent which trains were going to stop at Ruifang.

You might want to ask a local to be sure you’re getting on the right train if you don’t read Chinese!

At Ruifang, transfer to the Pingxi line and ride that all the way to the end.

The best deal is to buy a day pass for the separate Pingxi line. As of 2023, it costs 80 TWD ($2.60 USD).

The Pingxi line can be quite crowded and you may have to stand – but try to look out the window as you go because you’ll cross some really beautiful scenery!

Via Tour

Allison Green standing at the Shifen old town waterfall bridge
Me on the suspension bridge walking to Shifen Waterfall!

Alternately, you can skip the headache of navigating public transit and take a tour, as many of them are quite reasonably priced for a day trip.

This is a good idea if you have limited time on your Taipei itinerary and really want to make the most of your time.

This day tour includes hotel pickup and drop off and includes the town of Pingxi, as well as Shifen Old Street, and Shifen Waterfall.

There are also full-day tours that include several epic Taipei day trip spots in one, like this Yehliu, Shifen, and Jiufen tour that ticks off 3 day trip-worthy spots in one single day!

Book this half-day Shifen + Pingxi tour or this full-day Yehliu + Shifen + Jiufen tour here!

Things to Do in Shifen Old Street

Watch the train go by!

Shifen Old Street - the train goes through the center

Originally built during the Japanese colonial area for the purpose of transporting coal, the Pingxi railway runs right through the heart of Shifen, and the Old Street clusters around that.

The train still runs through the middle of the street today! Watching it pass by is a unique experience that you can’t find in many other places — though Shifen Old Street does remind me a bit of that famous Train Street that goes right through a market in the center of Hanoi. 

As you pull into town, the bell will ding manically, telling the people standing in the train tracks taking selfies and sending lanterns into the sky to get off the rails.

This train ritual is a well-oiled machine though (pun fully intended — I can’t help myself), and plenty of conductors are present to direct the selfie-stick wielding crowds off the tracks in a timely and safe manner.

You’ll cross the tracks and immediately, you’re in the heart of Shifen’s Old Street, where plenty of delicious and tempting Taiwanese street snacks await you.

Eat all the delicious snacks along Shifen Old Street.

delicious dumplings on Shifen Old Street

Some personal favorites are Taiwanese fried chicken and xiao long bao (pork soup dumplings — look for steam rising from bamboo baskets!).

My Taiwanese girlfriend’s favorite street snacks are stinky tofu (she swears it tastes like blue cheese — I’ve yet to confirm it!) and pork pepper buns, so keep an eye out for those while you visit Shifen Old Street.

You can also look for delicious taro balls and grilled sausages, and a variety of tasty fried goodies!

For a sweet treat, keep an eye out for peanut ice cream rolls — they’re another one of my girlfriend’s favorites.

Light a lantern and make a wish.

The quintessential thing to do in Shifen is light a lantern for good luck and send it off into the sky.

It has an interesting history and isn’t just a tourist trap — it actually has rich cultural history to the region as reported on by Al Jazeera.

This tradition goes back to the 16th century, and the original purpose is thought to be to deliver messages during wartime, or to let outsiders know the village was being invaded.

The lantern was used as a method of protecting the candle or oil lamp within from getting blown out with the wind while their message was being delivered.

With phones and the internet, lanterns are no longer necessary to send out such alerts, but the artistry of the tradition continues.

And tourists are welcome to join in on the fun!

It costs 150 TWD (around $5 USD) for one color, or 200 TWD (around $6) for 4 colors; each color is symbolic and represents a wish you’d like to come true.

Ever the narcissists, we chose attraction and popularity (in reality, Janet just wanted a pink one!).

Jury’s still out on if it’s working yet.

Jokes aside, while touristy, I’ll admit it was a fun experience!

It was a cool experience to write our wishes (and our blog names, because again, #narcissists) on the lantern, light it up, and watch it go careening into the sky to disappear somewhere over Taiwan’s green mountains.

Getting from Shifen Old Street to Shifen Waterfall

The gorgeous Shifen waterfall
Shifen Waterfall’s nickname is “Little Niagara” – you can see why!

Once you’ve snacked to your heart’s content and sent your wishes skyward, it’s time to visit the stunning Shifen Waterfall.

We were able to rent an electric bike for an hour for 200 TWD (about $6 USD), which carried two people — barely.

At some points, I thought I was going to have to get off and let Janet scoot her way up the hill, as all the xiao long bao I’ve consumed over the past few days certainly wasn’t helping our center of gravity.

To be honest, though, the electric bike ride was so short that I don’t even know if it’s worth it unless you’re really in a rush.

I think it would have only been like 30 minutes walking to the parking lot (signs say it’s one hour, but that includes the walk from the parking lot).

You have to walk about 20 minutes once you’ve reached the parking area anyway, so an e-bike only saves you about a 30-40 minute walk… but it is rather fun!

Visiting Shifen Waterfall

On the way to Shifen Waterfall near Taipei

The walk to the waterfall is a real beauty, passing two suspension bridges, an insanely turquoise river set into luscious green mountains, and countless photo spots.

It struck me when I was there that this is a side of Taiwan that too few people know about.

Most people who haven’t been to Taiwan probably just think of Taipei and Chinese food (if they think about it at all, to be frank).

They don’t think about the verdant green mountains, stunning landscapes, or ease of access to an abundance of different natural wonders within a maximum two hour train ride from the city.

The walk to Shifen Waterfall is easy, and there’s also some cafés here in case you get peckish (though after visiting Shifen Old Street, I’d doubt you are!).

The offerings here looked a little less interesting and fresh than on the Old Street, so I’d recommend eating in the town first.

Make sure you go to the Observation Point Trail past the first major viewpoint of the falls.

You can walk nearly all the way to the bottom of Shifen Waterfall where you’ll get the best view and photos (that is why you came, no?).

Shifen Waterfall is probably Taiwan’s most famous and has been nicknamed “Little Niagara” because the horseshoe shape mimics North America’s most famous waterfall.

It’s not as tall nor as wide, at 20 meters high and 40 wide — though it is incredibly powerful. It is, however, insanely beautiful!

Tips for Photographing Shifen Waterfall

To get the best photos of Shifen Waterfall, I recommend using a manual camera where you can change the settings.

I set mine to f/22 (as high as it could go, to let in less light), 0.5 seconds shutter speed (to keep the shutter open longer), and my ISO to 100 (to decrease light sensitivity).

I balanced my camera on the fence to reduce my hand shaking, as I have perpetually caffeinated twitchy fingers.

As you can see, there’s a slight blur on some of the foreground, but I don’t think it impacted the shot negatively.

If you’re super prepared, which I am never, you’d bring a tripod and maybe some filters to let you take an even longer exposure.

But I found with these settings, I was able to get that silky smooth waterfall look I was aiming for.

What Else to Do on a Shifen Day Trip

If you’ve finished up in Shifen and are looking to add something else to your day trip from Taipei, I have two suggestions.

One is to visit Houtong Cat Village, a village packed with stray cats that’s now become a tourist attraction in its own right.

The location is super easy to add on to your Shifen day trip as it’s right on the Pingxi line on the way back to Taipei from Shifen.

We didn’t get a chance to visit here, as we ran out of time, but I’m hoping to have a chance to visit on an upcoming trip to Taiwan!

What we did instead was return to Ruifang and then catch a bus to Jiufen in time for sunset.

As soon as you step off the bus in this hillside town, you’re treated to epic views of Taiwan’s beautiful, temple-studded coastline.

Climbing up through the Old Town, you’ll get even better views which you can enjoy with a sunset cup of (overpriced) coffee or dessert.

Once the sun is down, thousands of orange paper lanterns light up the streets and it becomes incredibly crowded — even on a normal-seeming Monday night in the middle of winter.

Still, even with all the crowds, it’s beautiful and quite easy to combine Shifen and Jiufen into a one-day trip from Taipei.

We did this independently with public transportation (and then shared a taxi back — there are several shared taxis that wait around at the overcrowded bus stop!)

If you are concerned about figuring out the transportation systems in a country with Chinese-language signage (which admittedly can be a bit tough to navigate), you can always pick a tour that includes Shifen and Jiufen together, like this one.

What to Pack for a Shifen Day Trip

sign in front of train in taiwan
  • Mosquito repellent: As per my Taiwanese girlfriend… the mosquitos in Taiwan are bad enough to leave you traumatized years later, especially in the summer coming off the end of the rainy season. She recommends lathering up in Picaridin and treating your clothes with Permethrin before you go.
  • Bug bite treatment: … And since a few bites are inevitable, the best way to help is with immediate heat treatment ASAP. My girlfriend is both traumatized by mosquitos and very into tech, and she discovered this awesome product called heat it that works with your smartphone! Basically, you open the app, plug the little treatment wand into your phone, let the phone’s power heat it, then you press it on your bite until the app notifies you. I’ve tried it and I can admit it is mildly painful, but it does relieve the itching significantly! Read about it and check it out — we’re truly living in the future!
  • Rain jacket: Since you never know if a rain shower is in the forest while you visit Taiwan, even in the so-called ‘dry season’, be sure to have a jacket at hand just in case. I love the Marmot PreCip jacket because it has zippered underarm vents (to keep you from getting overheated in hot summer rain, if you’re visiting Taiwan at that time of year!)
  • Comfortable walking shoes: I love Hoka shoes for travel — I’ve never worn a more comfortable walking shoe in my life! They’re a bit chunky, but apparently that’s the look and they’re very trendy in the Bay Area right now — I literally see almost every other person at my gym wearing them these days! Trendy or not, I’ll always wear them now, because they’re just that comfortable.

Ultimate Taipei Itinerary: 5 Days in Taiwan’s Lovable Capital

From the absolutely incredible street food to the mountain of wonderful easy day trips from Taipei thanks to their excellent public transit, there’s no shortage of things to do in Taipei.

I stayed in Taipei for nearly two weeks and never got bored!

Of course, most people have to maximize their vacation time, and so I’ve created this 5-day Taipei itinerary traveling at a leisurely pace.

However, if you only had 3 or 4 days in Taipei, you could certainly use this Taipei itinerary as a framework for planning the rest of your trip by picking and choosing what is most essential to you — not every day needs to be included.

And if you want to see even more, you can combine some of these days into one and then add a few of these excellent day trips from Taipei.

the old town of jiufen with mountain, tea shops built into the hillside

I’ve previously written about some of the best things to do in and around Taipei so feel free to substitute items out from this 5 day Taipei itinerary with other ideas from my list.

Also, you can combine this with my 2 day Taichung itinerary in order to plan a perfect full week in Taiwan!

Now let’s get into it: here’s my ideal Taipei itinerary, with five days of fun and food all planned for you.

Taipei Itinerary, Day 1: Arriving & Eating

a perfectly round arch, with a pagoda-style building visible in between the arch, perfectly centered. taipei skyline view.

I’ve purposely kept day 1 of your Taipei itinerary quite light on activities as I’m assuming you’ll be tired from your flight or arriving in the afternoon or evening.

Alternative: If you want to see all the highlights of Taipei in one day so you can then do a bunch of day trips, read my one-day Taipei guide here.

Get into the city

First, decide if you want to pick up a physical SIM card or eSIM in the airport before you leave, to make life a little easier.

I recommend this cool eSIM that is valid for 10 Asian destinations, including Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, and Malaysia!

Simply activate it with an easy-to-use, scannable QR code!

Check out eSIM details here!

Now, time to get into the city.

Normally I’m all about the MRT, Taipei’s lightning efficient and ultra cheap subway system, which is probably the best metro system I’ve ever used in the world.

an aerial view of the mrt on an elevated platform making its way through the taiwan landscape on its way to the largest airport on the island

But if you are arriving at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, which most flights arrive into, the bus is actually the better option.

You will want to look for bus 1819, which runs 24/7 every 15-20 minutes or so (and every hour between 2 AM and 6 AM). The bus will take you all the way to Taipei Main Station, where you can easily catch the MRT to take you to wherever you are staying.

The airport bus cost 125 Taiwanese dollars, which works out to be about $4 USD, and it took about an hour to go from the airport to the center.

Need more info? I’ve written a full guide to getting from Taoyuan Airport to the city center here.

If public transit stresses you out – especially where you don’t speak or read the language – you may want to opt for an airport arrival transfer. These transfers are highly rated and inexpensive for the quality of service.

Book yours today here!

view of taxis and a busy taipei street with lots of people walking about during the daytime

Check into your hotel or hostel

If you are staying in Taipei for 5 days, you’ll want to pick a location that is central. Here are my recommendations, broken down by budget.

I personally stayed in Shilin near the night market for my first 5 days in Taipei and then spent my remaining days in an Airbnb in Xinpu, which had a more local vibe.

Honestly, the neighborhood you stay in doesn’t matter that much in Taipei because of how excellent the MRT is. So as long as you are close to an MRT station, it is pretty much impossible to go wrong!

I’ve broken down where to stay in Taipei into three budget ranges, which can roughly be defined as follows:

  • Budget: Under $25 per night for a dorm bed
  • Mid-range: $50-100 per night for a hotel room
  • Luxury: $150+ for a hotel room
the classic grand hotel taipei Chinese style hotel - Grand Hotel in Taipei , Taiwan

Budget: For a super-affordable stay with excellent aesthetics and a good location, I recommend LuckyOne Hostel in Datong. The hostel is very well-designed in a way that I wish more hostels were — simple things like the top bunk being high enough that the person on the bottom bunk can sit comfortably, reading lights and outlets next to each bed, etc. have all been considered in the design. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Another great option is Ximen Duckstay Hostel which has an amazing central location in Ximen, one of the  most bustling areas of Taipei in the evening. The rooms are small but well-designed, with designated places to keep your luggage to keep the floor clear, privacy curtains, reading lights, etc. There’s also a hostel bar so it’s good for solo travelers who want to socialize, as Taipei doesn’t have the best bar scene. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Mid-range: Taipei is home of one of my favorite affordable hotel chains, citizenM! I love booking rooms with citizenM because I know that I’m going to get a well-designed room at an affordable price, without having to pay for a bunch of luxuries I won’t use. The design is fun and quirky, with a real sense of personality that is missing from many hotel chains. You always know when you are stepping into a citizenM and I love that. The location is also great. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Luxury: If you’re looking for luxury meets a dash of quirkiness, I highly recommend Eslite during your stay. Located in Songshan Creative & Cultural Park, this 5-star hotel is beautifully appointed with tons of amazing details like unending shelves of books in the lobby (swoon!). With perks like private balconies, enormous beds, sunken bathtubs, in-room sound systems, you can stay in style at Eslite without paying an insane amount. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Head to a local night market

a taipei night market with chinese script writing and a few motorbikes and people eating at the markets

What better way to introduce yourself to Taiwan’s foodie capital than by heading straight to a night market on your first night?

While night markets can be a little overwhelming to the uninitiated, they are simply a must-do in Taipei, even if you are a picky eater.

The reason why street food is so much better than other types of food is that vendors truly specialize in one single dish, preparing it to perfection night after night until it is the best version of itself it can possibly be.

In my opinion, Shilin Night Market is a must on any Taipei itinerary – whether you’ve got one day or five. I actually strategically picked my hostel to be in Shilin during my first 4 nights in Taipei (I’d later stay near the Xinpu metro).

This was perfect because I would take the MRT to central Taipei during the day, but when I’d go back to my hostel in the late afternoon to rest my legs before dinner, I wouldn’t have to get back on the MRT to get dinner – I could just stroll all the street stalls.

skewers of tofu slathered in a sauce in taipei night market

While Taipei locals and expats will tell you Shilin is the most ‘touristy’ night market, I think that term is a bit overblown. I visited in January, which is pretty off-season, and the crowd seemed to be almost entirely locals.

There are definitely more ‘under the radar’ night markets such as Raohe (check out a complete guide to night markets by a Taipei expat here) which may be more convenient for where you are staying.

For your first night market, I’d say pick somewhere close by your hotel – if you have 5 days in Taipei, you’ll have time to sample more than one night market.

So, what do I recommend you eat at the night markets?

While I’m far from an expert, here are a few of the dishes I enjoyed the most: suckling pork wraps, steamed leek buns, flame-grilled beef sprinkled with cumin, pepper pork buns, takoyaki (octopus ‘dumplings’ covered in Japanese toppings), and enormously long French fries dipped in wasabi mayo.

chicken served at a night market in taipei

Oh, and if you think you smell something funky, don’t fret — that’s just someone cooking up some stinky tofu, Taipei’s most notorious street food. I wasn’t brave enough to try it! Supposedly, it tastes better than it smells!

One thing to note about the night markets is that there is not always a ton of English spoken, but there’s usually enough English signage to understand what you’re ordering.

If you’re worried about a language barrier — or just want some guidance on what the tastiest things to eat are! — a night market food tour would be a fantastic choice.

This is the night market & bike tour I recommend!

If you want a more in-depth and private food tour experience, I recommend booking a private food tour, which you can set for any day or time during your trip as it’s customized to your schedule!

This food tour includes eight tastings and two drinks and you can schedule it at any point during your trip.

Check tour itinerary, prices, and reviews here!

Taipei Itinerary, Day 2: The Top Sights

If you have 5 days in Taipei, luckily, you don’t have to rush to see all the tourist musts in a quick manner. Rather, you can explore the city leisurely at your own pace.

I’ve included just a few of the main places to see in Taipei on today’s itinerary, so spread it out leisurely and feel free to walk between sights to get to know the city better (or hop on the MRT if your feet are getting tired!)

Not keen on walking? Alternately, you can opt for a private guided tour of Taipei by car

Otherwise, this day of your Taipei itinerary is mostly walkable (I’ll make note of where you may want to hop on the MRT), so put your most comfortable walking shoes on and let’s get to it!

Start in Taipei’s most famous square

a view of a giant pagoda-style building in taipei with skyline behind it and red flags of taiwan

Start the day at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall MRT station, which is a great place to start the second day of your Taipei itinerary with some of the most important sights in the city.

Take exit 5 to The massive Liberty Square is the nexus of several buildings, all of which are beautiful and crucial to understanding the history of Taiwan.

Standing tall above the square, you can’t miss the beautiful, imposing Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall.

The square’s most famous building – the eponymous Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall – is a stunning marble-white building standing 76 meters tall, towering above Liberty Square.

This building’s construction incorporates Chinese symbols, hence the reason for its unique shape.

For one, the white building is shaped like an octagon, as the number 8 has symbolism within Chinese culture as being associated with good fortune and wealth.

There are two sets of stairs, each with 89 steps – Chaing Kai-Shek’s age upon death – leading to a large statue memorializing Chiang.

Below the Memorial Hall, there is a small museum that shows the development of Chiang Kai-Shek’s life and political career.

It also gives information on Taiwan’s history and Chiang Kai-Shek’s role on the development of the Republic of China (ROC).

There are some other buildings that are also important to take note of (and are also quite photogenic) in Liberty Square.

You won’t be able to miss the ornately adorned National Concert Hall and National Theater, standing across from each other as if mirrors.

Lastly, you’ll want to stop by to photograph the scenic DaXiao and Dazhong Gates, located on the side entrances to Liberty Square.

Each is composed of 5 arches – the middle arch which frames the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall perfectly – these gates are popular amongst photographers and Instagrammers.

You’ll want to dedicate at least 1 hour to exploring and photographing this area, more likely 1.5 hours.

Have pork braised rice for lunch

braised pork belly on rice in blue and white bowls

One of the most traditional and beloved dishes in the Taiwanese kitchen, you can’t miss trying braised pork rice (lu rou fan, written 卤肉饭 ) during your time in Taipei.

One of the most well-known places in central Taipei to try pork braised rice is Jin Feng near Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.

Usually packed with a combination of locals and tourists, a bowl of pork braised rice costs around 30 Taiwanese dollars, about $1 USD.

You may have to wait, or you may get lucky and arrive at a time when there are no lines. If you don’t want to wait in line or you don’t eat pork, there are several other restaurants in the area.

Get some peace and quiet at the Taipei Botanical Gardens

white flowers with pink centers blossoming on a green tree

I’m a huge fan of botanical gardens in cities!

Back when I lived in NYC, I used to spend at least one weekend a month enjoying the peace and quiet of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

The great thing about Taipei’s Botanical Gardens is that it’s completely free to enter, and since it’s a mere 20-minute walk from Liberty Square and Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, it’s a nice detour.

I visited in January, so understandably, nothing that exciting was blooming in the middle of Taiwan’s winter (even though winters are relatively mild in Taipei and it’s actually a rather nice time to visit Taiwan!).

That said, even with the lack of blooming flowers, I still felt like it’s totally worthwhile to visit the botanic gardens.

My favorite part was the pond in the middle of the park – Lotus Pond – which has a great view of the water and the National Museum of History (which you can definitely add to your Taipei itinerary if you want!)

Marvel at the 18th-century Longshan Temple

a woman lighting a candle at the busy longshan temple

There are several traditional Chinese folk temples in Taipei, but Longshan Temple is one of the oldest and most famous.

It was built in 1738 by Fujian settlers, who arrived in Taiwan during the Qing dynasty.

However, it has been reconstructed several times: fires, earthquakes, and most recently WWII-era bombings have all done considerable damage to the original structure of Longshan over the centuries.

To this day, Longshan Temple is extremely active with locals who make prayers according to the local customs.

One unique custom I noticed is that Taiwanese people were throwing small painted pieces of wood to the ground repeatedly.

As it turns out, they were using something called jiaobei or “moon blocks”, which are small, painted pieces of wood that look almost like sections of an orange.

They are thrown in pairs and the way they fall to the ground as a unit is used to divine the future.

In addition to the jiaobei blocks, I saw people lighting candles in prayer and making offerings. It was a really unique experience for me as someone who has never experienced Chinese folk religion firsthand before.

Entrance for visitors is free, but please dress respectfully as you would with any place of worship.

Hang out in Ximending

the neon lights of ximending area which is a popular nightlife spot in taipei

Take the MRT to walk to the Ximen metro stop to get to the heart of Ximending.

Bustling, bright, and just a tad chaotic, Ximending is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Taipei.

Nicknamed “the Harajuku of Taipei,” this is where Taiwanese come to walk, shop, and eat.

Visually, it really reminded me of Osaka’s Dotonbori district, but that’s beyond the point!

If you’re hungry, follow the queues for a hint. You’ll likely see a line at Hot Star Fried Chicken or T.K.K. Fried Chicken, which are two of the most-loved foodie spots in Ximending.

This is also the neighborhood where you’ll find some of Taipei’s… quirkier eating options, like Modern Toilet.

I ate there purely for the novelty of eating out of a fake toilet bowl – and I was surprised that, for a gimmicky restaurant, my meal was actually not bad.

The ice cream, however, was another story – and seriously, how can you mess up ice cream?

If you’re not hungry, this is still a great place to stroll around and people watch, especially in the pedestrian area that is car-free.

Enjoy tea and scenic views on Maokong Mountain

Dusk landscape of Taipei cityscape from the MaoKong area

For this next place, you’ll need to hop on the MRT and make your way to the Taipei Zoo station.

To get there independently, just take the MRT to Taipei Zoo (last stop on the brown line) and then catch the Maokong Gondola to the top, which will cost 120 Taiwanese dollars (about $4 USD) each way.

Pro Tip: I actually recommend buying your ticket online here – it’s cheaper, allows you to skip the line, and includes access to the Taipei Zoo as well!

At the top of the mountain, you can have your choice of famous Taiwanese teas (no, not bubble tea!) as well as try dishes that have been seasoned with tea – certainly something unique you won’t find as easily in other places in Taipei.

Meanwhile, you’ll have amazing views as Taipei’s lights – including the beloved Taipei 101 – come to life after dark.

Taipei Itinerary, Day 3: Explore Taipei’s offbeat side

This day is all about immersing yourself in what Taipei has to offer by making the most of the city’s sprawling MRT system.

While it looks like you’ll be bouncing all over the map today, in reality, the MRT makes everything super fast and easily accessible.

Today is all about hot springs, boardwalks, street food, and creative parks!

Start the day at Songshan Creative and Cultural Park

palm trees and overgrown jungle style landscape in a park in central taipei

Creative parks are a uniquely Taiwanese phenomenon!

Somewhere between pop-up market, nature park, and selfie wonderland, you simply must put one of Taipei’s creative parks on your Taiwan itinerary.

Songshan Creative and Cultural Park is located on the grounds of a former tobacco factory, and in its place a sprawling arts complex has arisen.

In the heart of the complex is Eslite, which hosts a trendy luxury hotel, a large bookstore, vinyl shops, and creative workshops.

There is also a huge garden at the heart of Songshan which is great for strolling around and enjoying Taipei’s usually-mild weather.

We had a spate of a lot of sunny, warm days despite traveling in January so it was a really lovely space to walk around.

One thing we noticed all over the place in Taipei is that dog owners love to carry their dogs in what look like baby carriers.

Apparently, this is because dogs are not allowed on the floor of many shops, but all that is moot when you carry the dog in a stroller!

See the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

a beautifully symmetrical concert hall with a reflecting pool in front

A brief walk from Songshan Creative Park, you shouldn’t miss the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, one of the most important buildings in Taipei.

Similar in style to the National Theater and Concert Hall, this building commemorates the “National Father” of the Republic of China (the formal name of Taiwan). 

It’s a real beauty, so wonder it’s one of Taipei’s most famous buildings to photograph!

Stroll around trendy Zhongxiao

one of taipei's creative parks with ivy-covered buildings and a few people walking out and about

Zhongxiao is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Taipei and it’s a great place to stop if you need to shop a bit while you’re in Taipei.

The area around Zhongxiao Dunhua is great for people with an eye for designer fashion, and there are also several delicious restaurants in this area.

I opted for delicious Korean fried chicken at Cheogajip. But of course, this being Taipei, good food is never hard to find!

Make your way slowly through Zhongxiao, stopping to shop, sip of coffee, or snack on your way over to Huashan 1914 Creative Park (or hop on the MRT if your feet get tired).

Oh, and if you’re obsessed with Hello Kitty, right by Huashan 1914 is where you’ll find the Hello Kitty themed café.

Like many themed cafés, there is a minimum spend per person — here, it was 300 Taiwanese dollars, about $10 USD.

Check out Huashan 1914 Creative Park

people walking a creative park with lots of ivy growing on the buildings and skyline behind

Overall, Huashan was really cool, but I was a bit sad to see that their upside-down houses display that was so beloved by Instagrammers had been dismantled!

So if that is one of the reasons why you want to go, be prepared that it is no longer there, as the parks rotate out their displays frequently.

However, we did stumble across a Canada-themed (I know, I’m confused too) pop-up craft beer bar with a lovely, super friendly bartender who kept us full of samples of different craft beers!

The creative parks are always changing their pop-up shops and featured galleries, so don’t go expecting any one particular thing or you may be disappointed.

They’re a uniquely Taiwanese experience though, so be sure to visit at least one!

Hop on the metro to Beitou Thermal Valley

Allison Green standing with her back to the camera and steam rising off the top of a spring that is very hot

Taipei is unique in that it is a capital city with actual volcanoes right in the city limits, including the largest volcano in Taiwan (Mt. Qixing).

Alongside those volcanoes are volcanic hot springs, which are beloved by locals and fun for tourists to experience.

To check out some hot springs without ever having to leave the comfort of the MRT, head out to Beitou on the red line. There, you’ll find plenty of geothermal activity to take part in.

For a local experience, head to Beitou Park and soak your feet in the free hot springs with all the locals (be sure to wash your feet first or you will rightfully earn their ire!)

From there, it’s a short walk to the aptly-named ‘Hell Valley’ where you will most definitely not want to rest your feet in – you’ll see what I mean when you see it!

Allison Green in Taipei at the Beitou hot springs in a red maxi dress walking towards the spring

The water is so hot it is on the verge of boiling, about 90 C, so it’s more of a geological curiosity than an actual hot spring to enjoy. The smell is also quite hellish, so be prepared!

From there, you can visit the cheap (about $1 for entry) public Beitou Hot Springs or check the local hotels in the area to see if they have any day passes available to their spas and springs.

The best hotel in town is Grand View Resort Beitou and they have a fantastic day pass deal which includes full use of outdoor their mineral water pools, traditional sauna, steam rooms, and stone spa.

It’s a great way to squeeze in some relaxation into your 5 days in Taipei!

End the night at Tamsui Old Street

bridge at sunset - Tamsui lover's bridge is one of the best things to do in Taipei

From Xinbeitou metro, take the MRT back to Beitou, then take the red MRT train to the end of the line at Tamsui.

From there, it’s an easy walk along the waterfront to enjoy the historic neighborhood of Tamsui on the edges of Taipei City.

All along the boardwalk, you’ll find classic Taiwanese street food on offer, from bubble tea to all the fried goodnness.

The boardwalk area is also extremely beautiful at sunset, overlooking the beautiful bridges and mountains in the area.

My favorite bridge is the Tamsui Lover’s Bridge, which looks beautiful silhouetted against the sky as it gets dark.

Taipei Itinerary, Day 4: Take a day trip to Shifen and Jiufen

Shifen Old Street - the train goes through the center

If you have a whole 5 days in Taipei on your itinerary, it’s not a bad idea to use at least one of them to do a day trip outside of the city to see some of Taiwan’s beautiful nature right at your doorstep. 

I’ve written a complete guide to visiting Shifen Waterfall and Shifen Old Street here, and I’ve also written a guide on how to get between Shifen and Jiufen using public transit.

While I found it all pretty easy to DIY, I know sometimes taking public transportation can be overwhelming in a foreign country, especially when there is a language (and reading!) barrier.

For people who prefer to take a guided tour, this affordable small group tour covering Shifen, Yehliu, and Jiufen will take you to all the top sights without the hassle and make sure you don’t miss anything along the way.

Save stress and time! Check out this small group Jiufen, Shifen, and Yehliu tour here.

Since I’ve covered these sites in more depth on the pages linked above (and also offered a tour option), I’ll just give a quick overview of today’s sights if you wanted to DIY it.

Take the adorable Pingxi Railway

a red and orange train in the hills or mountains near taipei on a curvy track

The Pingxi line is famous for its railway that goes right through the center of several towns.

Pingxi is also the location of the famous lantern festival that takes place each fall. There are several stops along the Pingxi line, which connects Ruifang with Shifen.

While I didn’t stop in Houtong, this village is easily accessed by the Pingxi line and is home to hundreds of cats that the town people take care of!

This small village has become somewhat of a tourist attraction so if you’re a cat fanatic I’d recommend a quick stop there.

Since you buy a day pass for the entire Pingxi line, it won’t cost you any extra to stop, and trains come about every 30 minutes.

Eat on Shifen Old Street

delicious dumplings on Shifen Old Street

There are plenty of delicious places to stop for a snack on Shifen Old Street, which is full of vendors.

There were lots of fried bits and bobs that I couldn’t recognize, as there usually are, plus other standards like grilled squid and sausages.

But of course, as usual, my eye was drawn to the bamboo steamers and the delicately-skinned xiao long bao that I am completely addicted to.

Let off a lantern for luck

Allison Green standing with a pink balloon giving two peace signs with her hands and smiling

One of the most touristy things to do in Shifen (but secretly also the most fun), I think you can’t miss a visit to Shifen Old Street without letting off a lantern for good luck.

To get a lantern, pick your colors (each represents a different meaning) and then paint your wishes on the sides of the lantern.

Or, if you’re a narcissist like me, you can paint your blog name in a desperate bid for new Instagram followers.

Admire the marvelous Shifen Waterfall

The gorgeous Shifen waterfall cascading with silky looking water into a turquoise pool below, with green trees around looking lush

Aptly called the “Little Niagara,” Shifen Waterfall is not nearly as large as the U.S.’s most famous waterfall – but it is insanely impressive nonetheless.

It earned the nickname for its distinctive, beautiful horseshoe shape that mirrors Niagara in miniature. At 20 meters high and 40 meters high, it is quite a powerful and awe-inspiring sight to behold!

The waterfall is certainly the main draw, but the walk to the waterfall is also beautiful – you pass two beautiful suspension bridges, a super-blue river against a backdrop of beautiful green mountains, and endless photo opps.

It’s common to rent a little electric scooter for $200 TWD (about $6 USD) for the hour.

However, it’s actually not that far and you definitely could walk from Shifen Old Street if you didn’t feel comfortable riding a scooter or you prefer to save money and walk.

Head to Jiufen

the famous lanterns of jiufen old street in a neighborhood not far from taipei

I’ve explained how to get to Jiufen from Shifen in depth in a dedicated post, so head over there to plan it out using public transportation if you’re not going on a guided tour.

Jiufen is supposedly famous for being the inspiration for Miyazaki’s famous anime movie Spirited Away, although I recently learned that that was just a rumor and the director has denied the claim! Still, visit Jiufen and you’ll see why the comparisons abound.

Jiufen is a haven for foodies and strolling along Jiufen Old Street you’ll likely be completely overwhelmed by all the delicious street food on offer here.

A few of the most famous offeirngs are the peanut ice cream rolls and the fish ball soups, but you can check a complete guide to the foodie must-eats of Jiufen here.

beautiful detail of a temple while visiting jiufen with a view of the taiwan coastline in the distance

Other than snacking on all the food, Jiufen has beautiful temples to photograph and a gorgeous coastline where you can see a beautiful sunset from one of many of the teahouses up on the hill.

Be warned though that Jiufen can be very crowded at night. Even when we visited in January – not close to peak season at all – we got stuck in a very slow-moving line of people descending the narrow streets, which was not fun for this claustrophobe.

Day 5: Finish off your Taipei musts

Eat xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung

the famous soup dumplings of taipei
Some inferior soup dumplings, because I suck at waiting and following my own advice and didn’t actually wait for Din Tai Fung!

One of the most famous dishes in Taipei is xiao long bao, aka soup dumplings. These delightfully fun-to-eat dumplings can be found everywhere in Taipei, but nowhere are they more famous than at Din Tai Fung, a Michelin-starred restaurant in central Taipei.

While there is a Din Tai Fung in the Taipei 101 tower, the original branch is supposedly the best – you can find it on Xinyi Road near the Dongmen MRT.

The wait at Din Tai Fung is always really long – usually at least an hour, unless you start your day there when it opens at 10 AM.

Pro Tip: If you don’t want to go right when it opens, I recommend purchasing a fast-track restaurant voucher, which can reduce your wait time from about 2 hours to closer to 30 minutes!

Alternately, you could do this in the evening with a Din Tai Fung dumpling & night tour alternative!

Explore Yongkang Street

a brightly colored shop with orange door, turquoise paint, with the word SOYO written above it

The intersecting street, Yongkang Street, is also really cute and well-worth strolling around after you’ve stuffed yourself silly with dumplings…

And there are also plenty of places to eat here if you’ve saved room after your dumplings or if you have a superhumaly-large stomach capacity.

There are several cute cafés serving quality coffee, street food vendors serving up fresh-to-order snacks, and plenty of cute accessory shops, including a perplexing number of umbrella-only shops (how that is a viable business model I have no idea…).

Walk over to Da’an Park

a bird standing on a branch in a taipei park, a moment of peace and serenity

Da’an Park is the largest park in Taipei and it’s worth visiting here to rest your feet for a bit and allow your stomach time to digest all the lovely dumplings you just force fed it.

Taking up 64 acres in the heart of Central Taipei, it’s a welcome respite from the at times relentless activity of the city.

Da’an Park (also called Daan Forest Park) was created with the intention of serving a similar function to NYC’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park.

It’s supposed to be the “lungs of Taipei,” offering locals a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown.

If the weather is nice, you can sit by the Ecological Pool and forget that you’re even in the heart of a metropolis of some 7+ million people!

Near the park, you can find the Grand Mosque of Taipei, the largest mosque in Taiwan.

It was completed in 1960 by Chinese Muslims who came over to Taiwan from mainland China and lacked a place of prayer. In a country with tons of traditional Chinese temples, it’s quite unique to see!

Head up to the top of Taipei 101

view of the taipei 101 towering in the sky looking beautiful over the skyline, like tiered boxes of blue glass architecture

I like to spread out some of the more touristy things over a couple of days, and to do some of the can’t-miss stuff last: which is why I’ve waited until the final day of this Taipei itinerary to tell you to go up to the top of Taipei 101.

It’s also close to your next stop, Elephant Mountain, where you’ll hike for an incredible view over the city (and of Taipei 101 itself).

The Taipei 101 was the world’s tallest building for six years – until the Burj al Khalifa in Dubai, currently the world’s tallest building, came along.

While I generally find massive skyscrapers to be not that awe-inspiring, I was insanely impressed by the Taipei 101. It is unique and beautiful, inspired by Chinese pagodas yet uniquely Taiwanese.

Some people say it looks like a stack of Chinese takeout boxes, others, like a stick of bamboo – I saw a massive layer cake.

One of the most interesting things about the building is how green it is: it has a platinum certification in environmental-friendly design. Even more interestingly, it was built to withstands the typhoons and earthquakes that often rattle Taipei.

To give the insanely tall building structure, a massive 728-ton pendulum damper is inside, which allows the building to rock and sway in the event of strong winds and earthquakes.

a golden ball at the center of the taipei 101 that helps balance the building in case of earthquakes

Entrance to the Taipei 101 costs $600 NTD (about $20) so it is definitely one of the pricier activities in Taipei!

I suggest booking the ticket online via GetYourGuide. You can purchase the standard admission ticket for the same price as buying it in person, which allows you to conveniently collect your ticket at the self-service ticket machine and skip the ticket-purchasing queue.

Book your standard entrance ticket here and skip the ticket desk line!

However, you will still have to wait for the elevators, which can be up to an hour or so of waiting — some past guests have even said 2.5 hours!

For that reason, I’d strongly, strongly recommend a skip-the-line ticket to the Taipei 101, which allows you to skip all queues for about an extra $20 USD.

I don’t know about you, but I’d happily pay 20 bucks to not wait two hours on my Taipei trip!

Book your fast-track ticket here and skip all lines!

the view from the top of the taipei 101 of the entire city laid out at your feet

Whichever ticket you book, your entrance ticket allows you to go up to the impressive viewing platform on the 89th floor, using the world’s fastest elevator!

At 37.7 mph, this elevator takes an incomprehensible 30 seconds to go all the way up to the 89th floor – truly insane (and a bit stomach-dropping to be honest!).

If you’re a Starbucks fan, the world’s tallest Starbucks is here, but you have to apparently make a reservation — here’s how.

Visit Elephant Mountain for a sunset hike and amazing view

view of the skyline of taipei from elephant mountain, all lit up and beautiful

If you’ve seen iconic night shots of Taipei all lit up from above, there’s a 90% chance those photos were taken from Elephant Mountain, Taipei’s very own mini-mountain hike right off a metro line.

Simply take the MRT all the way to the beginning of the red line (Xiangshan). Try to time your arrival so that you get to the MRT station about 1 hour before sunset.

The walk to the hiking trail takes 10 minutes plus about 20 minutes to get to the viewing area at the top of Elephant Mountain (so about 30 minutes total).

This hike is extremely popular with tourists and Instagram lovers. It’s become quite popular to get a shot standing on one of the boulders overlooking Taipei, so if you want that Insta photo you’ll have to queue up (we waited about 20 minutes for our turn for a photo).

Hit one final night market

Of course, on your last night in Taipei, you can’t miss visiting a night market!

There are so many to choose from, but Shilin was my favorite, so I’d either head back here or check out a new one from your list.

I found that even though I went back to Shilin several times, I never got bored, as I was always trying new things each time!

What to Pack for Taipei

Allison Green giving peace signs showing her Eternal Arrival in Taiwan sign

Mosquito Repellent: According to my Taiwanese girlfriend’s personal experience, Taiwan’s mosquitoes are relentless and ruthless. Her advice is to generously apply Picaridin on your skin and pre-treat your clothing with Permethrin if traveling when mosquitos are prevalent (mostly summer).

Bug Bite Treatment: Despite preventive measures, a few bites are often unavoidable. The best way we’ve found to deal with mosquito bites is to apply immediate heat treatment. My girlfriend gets really bad reactions to bites, and she now swears by this device called heat it that works with your smartphone.

Launch the associated app, insert the tiny treatment wand in your phone charging port, and let the power from your phone heat it. Once heated, you apply it to your bite and hold it until the app signals completion. I’ve personally tested it and although it’s uncomfortable, it notably reduces the itchiness! Read about it and check it out — we’re truly living in the future!

Rain Jacket: Taiwan’s weather can be unpredictable, with sudden rain showers possible basically any time. It’s wise to always have a jacket on hand! I love the Marmot PreCip jacket. It comes with zippered underarm vents — a lifesaver when you need to keep dry, but it’s hot and humid summer rain!

Comfortable Footwear: I’m obsessed with Hoka shoes — they’re the most comfortable walking shoes I’ve ever worn! Admittedly, their chunky design might not appeal to everyone, but I personally love them, and their comfort level is unparalleled, so I’m a true fan.

Anti-Theft Bag: While Taipei is generally a safe city, pickpockets can be found in nearly any touristic destination. My approach to preventing pickpocketing is make yourself look like a difficult target. The PacSafe CitySafe backpack has interlocking zippers that lock into a metal clasp, sending a clear message to any would-be pickpocket that this bag isn’t an easy mark! Just make sure you store all valuable items in this secured area of the bag.

25 Delicious and Fun Things to Do in (and Around) Taipei

I went to Taipei curious and hopeful, but with low expectations. I expected a city more like Singapore: flashy, busy, crowded.

While Taipei is certainly busy, I found it so much more down-to-earth, calm, and easy to breathe in than other large cities in Asia I’ve visited.

To say Taipei was a surprise is an understatement. I didn’t imagine the amount of green spaces, even in bustling central Taipei.

I didn’t think I’d be able to hike amongst volcanoes or see sulfuric thermal valleys with steam rising skywards like a dense fog — all without leaving Taipei proper.

I certainly didn’t imagine pristine waterfalls and suspension bridges just a short train ride away, nor did I expect to meet some of the friendliest people of my travels (no small feat after visiting nearly 60 countries).

I spent about 2 weeks in Taipei, doing day trips from Taipei to surrounding areas, and honestly, I still didn’t even come close to running out of things to do in Taipei.

In short, Taipei is one of the most rewarding metropolises I’ve ever visited.

aerial view of the city of taipei seen from the taipei 101 view

Delicious, unpretentious food cooked in front of your eyes for a few dollars, the most orderly and efficient metro I’ve ever used, and the welcome smiles transcending language barriers — these are the things that stick in my mind after leaving Taipei.

While most of these things to do in Taipei are focused on the city proper, Taipei is so well-connected that I’ve included several side trips that you can easily do in case you’d like to get out of Taipei for a bit and see the beautiful surrounding Taiwanese nature. 

Taiwan is super well-connected by metro and bus, making getting around pretty easy for the most part, even if you don’t speak or read Chinese (I most certainly do not).

I’d at least recommend a trip to Shifen Waterfall or Jiufen (or both!), as both were huge highlights of my time in Taipei and easily doable as a half-day or full-day excursion.

Whether you have one day, five days, or a lifetime in Taipei, I doubt you’ll ever run out of things to do!

Getting into Taipei

Most likely you will fly into Taoyuan International Airport. There are three simple ways to get into Taipei from there


the mrt train in taipei on the way to the taoyuan airport near the city of taipei

Hop on the MRT from the Taoyuan Airport and you’ll arrive at Taipei Main Station in 35 minutes. This ticket costs 160 Taiwanese dollars, a little more than $5 USD. Be sure to select the express train to get there quickly.

From there, you can then transfer to the regular citywide MRT, where tickets are even cheaper (based on zone, but roughly 20-40 Taiwanese dollars per ride, less than $1.50 USD).

This is only an option from 6 AM to 11:30 PM, so if your flight is outside of those times, you will need to select another option.


There are two buses that take you downtown. #1960 will bring to to Xinyi near Taipei 101. It costs 145 Taiwanese dollars, about $5 USD.

The next is 1819 or 1961. Either of these bring you to Taipei Main Station where you can easily get to wherever you need to go by MRT. Bus 1819 is a 24-hour bus. The other buses, 1961 and 1960, only run from 6 AM to 1 AM.

But 1819 costs 125 Taiwanese dollars, about $4 USD, whereas 1961 will cost 90 Taiwanese dollars, about $3 USD.

Private airport transfer

If you get stressed out with airport arrivals (same) and have any compunctions about figuring out Taipei’s public transport system after a long flight, I recommend just booking a private airport transfer to make your life easier.

It’s inexpensive and easy as can be, since they personally greet you with a sign with your name, assist you with your luggage, and drop you off right to your door.

It’s a nice treat to yourself to make arriving in Taipei stress-free!

Book it easily online here!

25 Delicious & Fun Things to Do in Taipei

Eat your heart out at Shilin Night Market.

fried crabs at the night market - the top thing to do in Taipei!

If you only make time for one of the many things to do in Taipei, you’ve got to check out a night market.

Taiwan is famous for its delicious and inventive night markets, where street vendors specialize in a single dish and prepare it to perfection to long queues of salivating visitors.

For my first five days in Taipei, I stayed within walking distance of the Shilin Night Market, which is the most popular of the Taipei night markets.

It’s considered by Taiwanese to be the most “touristy” night market, but since I was visiting Taipei in the off-season (January), the crowd was mostly locals.

A few of my favorites: Japanese-style takoyaki (octopus balls covered in BBQ sauce, mayo, and bonito flakes), the flame-grilled beef sprinkled with cumin, the suckling pork wraps, the pepper pork buns baked in clay ovens until crispy, the steamed leek buns…

I’m drooling just typing this and a few seconds away from opening up Skyscanner just to fly back and eat ALL THE FOOD.

Check out the lesser-known night markets, too.

street sign for the raohe street night market

Shilin is fantastic, but it’s not the only Taipei night market worth visiting!

During my two weeks in Taiwan, I also went to Feng Shia Night Market in Taichung, which is said to be the largest night market in the world and supposedly, it’s where all the newest street food inventions are given a trial run.

On my last night in Taipei, I also went to Raohe Night Market, which is a slightly more local night market that was recommended to us by a local who worked at the pop-up craft beer bar at one of the creative parks.

The food was delicious (you can’t miss the pepper pork buns) to see another night market. Plus, it has a super central location, so you have no excuse to miss it!

Check out this great guide from Migrationology about the Raohe Night Market to help you plan your visit.

The sheer number of stalls at the night markets and the fact that a lot is written in Chinese can make this markets slightly more intimidating initially than the more tourist-focused Shilin Market!

If you prefer a guide to help you work your way through the night markets, this Taipei street food is a fantastic choice – it includes a bike tour around the city, some night market tastings, and a complimentary drink at the end of your tour!

Book your street food tour here!

Drink bubble tea in its home country!

a tall glass of bubble tea with reddish color on top and tapioca pearls at the very bottom

Aside from its night markets, Taiwan is also famous for having invented bubble tea (though technically in Taichung, rather than Taipei — but close enough!)

Bubble tea is basically an iced tea, usually quite milky and sweet, served with tapioca pearls called boba.

You use an extra-wide straw to suck up the boba, giving you something to chew as you drink. The boba don’t really taste like anything — the point is the chewiness.

The Taiwanese are obsessed with the texture of food, and chewy textures are one of their favorites.

Curious? Read all about the beloved “Q texture” found in Taiwanese food.

Taiwanese people drink bubble tea hot and cold at all times of the year!

Explore Taipei’s own Yangmingshan National Park.

volcanic fumaroles in yangmingshan national park with smoke and steam rising from the ground

How many capital cities can boast a national park within their city limits — let alone a national park complete with volcanoes, hot springs, and sulfur pits?

Taipei is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, which makes it quite geologically active. In fact, just two weeks after I left Taiwan, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake hit the country.

But the small risk of earthquakes is just part of the reason why Taiwan’s landscapes are so visually stunning, full of mountain peaks, waterfalls, and hot springs.

In Yangmingshan National Park, you can hike to the highest peak in the park, Mount Qixing, enjoy the hot springs all around the park, walk across the beautiful Jingshan suspension bridge, see the aptly-named “Milk Lake”, and so much more.

We kind of bungled our day in Yangmingshan by sleeping in and getting there too late in the day to properly enjoy all the sights, but we still enjoyed our day out of Taipei.

However, if I did it again I would probably take a guided tour to make sure I saw all that I wanted to see, such as the sulfur fumaroles and all the best hot springs.

This tour of Yangmingshan National Park also goes to Beitou Hot Springs (next on this list) and makes it all easy!

Relax in Taipei’s Beitou hot springs.

Allison Green standing before a hot spring that is billowing steam on a winter day

Taipei is positively covered in hot springs — and you don’t even need to venture to Yangmingshan National Park to find them, as they are quite literally out in the open in the city for all to use and enjoy!

Just take the metro out to Beitou on the red MRT line and you’ll find plenty of hot springs available, including a free hot spring foot bath being enjoyed by all the locals in a public park!

But the biggest draw to me was “Hell Valley,” which you will most definitely not want to dip your toes into, considering the hot springs are nearly boiling!

It was gorgeous to see the milky, whitish blue water sending up a layer of mist towards the sky — the smell, though, not so much!

There are also a lot of hotels in the area that offer thermal waters and spa treatments if you’re looking for a bit of a getaway within the city, but I haven’t tried this personally.

Grand View Resort is one of the nicest hotels in the Beitou area and has a sauna, steam room, white sulfur waters, outdoor pools, stone spas, and great views, plus a shuttle service from the Beitou MRT!

Stroll along the Tamsui Old Street boardwalk.

seeing the sunset at Tamsui lover's bridge is one of the best things to do in Taipei

Tamsui Old Street is one of the coolest places to visit in Taipei. Simply take the red MRT train to the end of the line at Tamsui and walk along the waterfront to enjoy the historic neighborhood of Tamsui.

There are countless food vendors to enjoy, plus the area around the boardwalk is super gorgeous around sunset with the many bridges and mountains across the river.

It’s popular with families but I also really enjoyed walking around ordering from all the different street food vendors and drinking way too much bubble tea.

I recommend going at sunset so you can photograph the beautiful Tamsui Lovers’ Bridge, which is gorgeous silhouetted against the sky.

Drool over delicious xiao long bao.

delicious dumplings, steamed, with soy sauce and ginger and chili oil on the side

One of my favorite foods to eat in Taipei is the tasty xiao long bao, aka Shanghai soup dumplings.

I’ve yet to go to Shanghai, but I’d be willing to bet that Taiwan’s version of the xiao long bao gives Shanghai’s a run for their money.

Soup dumplings are usually either pork or a mix of crab and pork, filled with a piping hot dose of broth and wrapped up neatly in a pleated dumpling skin.

They are steamed to perfection and served with a soy and rice vinegar mixture as well as some thin ginger matchsticks which you place in the soy-vinegar sauce.

To eat a soup dumpling, dip it in the soy-vinegar-ginger combo, place it in your spoon, poke a hole or take a small nibble of the skin to slurp out the sauce, and then eat the dumpling all in one bite.

It sounds tricky, but by your second or third dumpling, you’ll have gotten the hang of it.

Din Tai Fung is the quintessential, Michelin-starred place to go, but lines can stretch up to two hours at peak meal times – hardly an enjoyable way to spend your Taiwan trip!

This tour includes a meal at Din Tai Fung as well as a trip to Raohe Night Market — without the crazy waits you normally have to endure!

Get a breath of fresh air at the lush Taipei Botanical Garden.

botanical garden in taipei with a red pagoda and buildings behind the garden.

Sure, there is tons of nature within a short distance of Taipei – from the waterfalls of Shifen to the mountains of Yangmingshan National Park to the hot springs of Wulai.

However, if you really want a quick hit of nature without even leaving the city center, it’s definitely worth taking a stroll through Taipei’s gorgeous botanical gardens.

The Taipei Botanical Garden is over 100 years old and is home to over 2,000 different species of plants and takes up a massive 82,000 square meters of central downtown Taipei – further showing how much the Taiwanese value being close to nature, even in their cities.

It’s just a short walk away from the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and entrance is free, so there’s really no excuse not to visit this lovely garden if you have time while in Taipei.

Go to the top of the Taipei 101 (and drink at the world’s tallest Starbucks, if you must).

aerial view of the city of taipei seen from the taipei 101 view

Formerly the world’s tallest building for 6 years (before being unseated by the Burj al Khalifa in Dubai), the Taipei 101 is the most recognizable icon of Taipei and even Taiwan as a whole.

It’s a beautiful skyscraper, inspired by Chinese pagoda-style architecture and looking — to my hungry eyes, at least — a bit like an ornately layered cake (others say it looks like a stack of Chinese takeout boxes, and I can’t disagree with that either).

The building is truly remarkable. It’s one of the greenest skyscrapers in the world, with a platinum certification in environmental-friendly design.

It’s also built to withstand both the typhoon winds and earthquakes that often shake Taiwan, thanks to the unique pendulum damper inside.

And in true Taiwanese form, apparently, this steel damper has even been given the adorable mascot treatment by Sanrio and now a “Damper Baby” mascot exists. You can’t make this up.

If you hate crowds and lines (which are usually about ~1-2 hours), you can buy this skip the line pass which will allow you to be at the top of Taipei 101 with no wait involved!

It’s a bit extra than buying a regular ticket in person, but waits to go up to the tower can be upwards of an hour.

Personally, for me on my vacation, a few extra bucks is worth it — your opinion may differ depending on budget, schedule, travel style, and patience!

 Book your skip the line ticket today!

Hike to the top of Elephant Mountain for sunset.

the beautiful night skyline of taipei with the taipei 101 visible all from elephant mountain

If you want a killer photo of Taipei 101, you can’t miss hiking up Elephant Mountain, one of the easiest but most rewarding hikes in Taiwan!

It’s more of an eternal staircase than an actual hike, to be honest.

Simply take the red line to its beginning stop and follow the signs for Elephant Mountain; it’s pretty hard to miss.

After about 20-30 minutes of huffing and puffing, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views over Taipei.

Try to get up there before sunset so you can have the best photography opportunities, although when the city lights up after dark it’s spectacular in a whole different way.

I recommend bringing a tripod if you want crystal-clear night shots!

Bask in the bright lights in Ximending.

the bright neon lights in ximending - one of the best places in taipei to visit at night

Ximending is one of the most bustling areas of Taipei, and it kind of reminds me of Tokyo’s Shinjuku or Osaka’s Dotonbori.

With neon lights everywhere, groups of friends out for nighttime strolls, and delicious restaurants everywhere, it’s definitely one of the best places to go out in Taipei after dark.

Oddly, though, there aren’t a lot of bars in this area — nor in much of Taipei, either.

It became a bit of running joke between my friend and me that we could never find a proper bar in all of Taipei (until we caved and researched a pub on our final night).

Still, even though we ended up beerless, we had so much fun wandering around Ximending at night and enjoying the energy of all the young Taiwanese out and about.

It’s also one of the best areas for LGBTQ+ travelers to Taipei to go out!

Taste your way through Taipei.

a bowl of pork braised rice, with pork belly served on top of white rice in a blue and white bowl. three bowls visible in the frame.

If you want to taste the very best of Taipei and suffer no FOMO, I’d recommend signing up for a Taipei tasting tour!

This tour lasts three hours and will cover 10 food samples, including scallion pancakes, sushi, meat pies, mochi rice cake, tempura, pork rice, and so much more.

While you snack hop, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about Taipei’s history and how the confluence of cuisines mixing over the years to create a uniquely Taiwanese food scene.

Book your food tour here!

On this tour, you’ll get to explore hole-in-the-wall eateries, local markets, hidden alleys, and other places packed with locals — yet not so well-known by tourists yet.

The price is super affordable for the amount of food it covers, so I’d highly recommend this as one of the top things to do in Taipei!

Check out Taipei’s unique creative parks.

the huashan 1914 creative park in taipei with ivy covered buildings and interesting art displays

Taiwan has several “creative parks,” which are an interesting combination of pop-up shops, handmade craft stalls, nature, and selfie “parks” where you can take photos with a variety of the cartoon characters the Taiwanese are so enamored with.

I had never seen anything quite like these, so I visited two in Taipei and one in Taichung. 

Huashan 1914 Creative Park was really cool, but I was a bit sad to see that their upside-down houses display that was so beloved by Instagrammers had been dismantled.

We also saw what looked like a really interesting color-themed selfie park that was in the process of being built, that we couldn’t visit.

Basically, these creative parks are in constant flux, so just go and prepare to be surprised!

We did, however, stumble across a Canada-themed (I know, I’m confused too) pop-up craft beer bar with a lovely, super friendly bartender who kept us full of samples of different craft beers.

We also visited Songshan Cultural Creative Park, which had more nature and was super beautiful to wander around but had fewer galleries and things to see.

Eat at a themed restaurant.

a building with a toilet sign and stick figures in taipei

Taiwan is well-known for its kooky themed restaurants, the most notorious of which being Modern Toilet, which is — you guessed it — toilet themed. I couldn’t help but join in on this hilarious gimmick.

I mean,  how often do you get the chance to eat out of a miniature toilet bowl while sitting on a toilet while people around you eat poo-shaped meatballs and pay $10 for the honor?

The food wasn’t great, and the price was definitely on the expensive side for Taiwan, but the hilarity was definitely worth it in my eyes.

However, it’s definitely a one and done experience, I’d say.

If the idea of eating at a toilet themed restaurant makes you squeamish, that’s understandable.

There’s also the more benign Hello Kitty cafe, a Lego cafe, and even an alpaca café (however, this is located way out of the center of Taipei and is quite a trek unless you are a huge llama enthusiast!)

Eat and shop your way down Yongkang Street.

Yongkang Street was one of those lucky finds!

I originally went here because it is the location of the original branch of Din Tai Fung.

When I saw the insane line, I decided it’d be better to eat elsewhere and had delicious xiao long bao and dan dan mien (another one of my favorite Chinese staples) at a small restaurant just down the street.

But Yongkang Street is great for more than just dumplings!

There are also lots of cute quirky shops just waiting to be explored, a great coffee shop, and an inexplicably large number of umbrella shops (which seem to be a thing in Taiwan for whatever reason!).

This was one of the cutest streets I found in Taipei, and it’s in a very central location between Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and Daan Park, so it’s definitely worth a wander if you’re starting to run out of things to do in Taipei.

Dine or drink in trendy Zhongxiao.

Allison Green smiling and holding a pink cup of coffee while outside at a trendy cafe in Taipei

If you’re in need of refreshing your wardrobe when you’re in Taiwan, Zhongxiao is the place to go! But this is also the best area to go out in Taiwan.

As I wrote above, one thing we found when we were in Taiwan is that there is a puzzlingly low number of bars in the city.

Drinking doesn’t seem to be that popular of a pastime for young Taiwanese — or if it is, the bars are quite well hidden away from the eyes of foreigners.

However, Zhongxiao is the exception to the rule. While there isn’t a proper bar area, there are a few good bars in Taipei if you look for them, most of which are clustered in Zhongxiao.

We enjoyed a night out at ON TAP, which was fun, unpretentious, and had passable Mexican food.

Long-suffering readers of this blog will know that I commit foodie sacrilege in basically every city I visit, which usually means eating Asian food in Eastern Europe, but in a major plot twist, this time involved eating Mexican food in Asia.

I’m a Californian who misses home, what can I say?

It’s also home to some delicious Korean food (again committing foodie sacrilege) and cute coffee shops and boutiques, so night or day, this is a great spot to check out in Taipei.

Snack on some Hot Star Fried Chicken.

a piece of hot star fried chicken, a flat-pounded piece of chicken that is breaded, seasoned, and fried
Photo credit: Alpha, Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

Taiwanese food is famous for its stinky tofu, soup dumplings, and bubble tea, but if you ask a young Taiwanese person their favorite food, odds are they’ll say — Taiwanese fried chicken!

This ain’t no KFC, though — it’s much, much better. Taiwanese fried chicken is different than any other chicken I’ve tried.

It’s pounded thin until it’s really flat and tender, breaded and spiced, deep-fried to golden perfection, and then coated with a little extra spices.

I ate a piece of chicken that about twice the size of my face at Hot Star Fried Chicken in Ximending and adored every bite.

The sweet potatoes were also really delicious there — I highly recommend getting them too!

Visit Liberty Square and the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

the beautifully framed pagoda of the building in the chiang kai-shek memorial hall area, in between the sides of an arch

I won’t pretend that I understand the full history of the relationship between mainland China and Taiwan.

It’s complicated to a degree that I can’t even comprehend, let alone distill into a bite-sized informational nugget on a listicle of things to do in Taipei.

What I do know though is that Chiang Kai-shek ruled over Taiwan from 1945 to 1975 with an iron fist, placing the country under martial law for decades, making enemies of journalists and dissenters.

However, he was successful in keeping Taiwan independent from Communist mainland China, a thing for which many Taiwanese are grateful. 

detail of one of the buildings in the taipei downtown area in the memorial hall, with red pillars and blue detail

Today, his legacy is controversial – in fact, this monument will likely change its name and function in the future.

For now, though, it’s one of the most iconic areas of Taipei and a common meeting and gathering spot. With the National Concert Hall, the National Theatre,  and the DaXiao Gate all within walking distance.

Despite the complicated history, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial is one of the most beautiful feats of architecture in Taipei.

See the stunning 18th century Longshan Temple

a woman holding a candle to light other candles at the songshan temple

Longshan Temple is the most famous temple in Taipei, and it’s very active with local Taiwanese going about their prayers. Visitors are welcome (just dress respectfully, as you would in any place of worship).

There are some interesting customs that the Taiwanese observe when praying that I’ve never seen elsewhere.

For one, there are small, painted pieces of wood that are shaped somewhat like a segmented orange. It’s common for people to pick up the painted crescent-shaped wood, hold it in their hands, toss it to the ground, and pick it back up again.

They’re apparently called “jiaobei blocks” or “moon blocks”, which are thrown in pairs and used as a divination method — learn more here, as the custom is really interesting

I really love observing other cultures’ religious customs (especially as someone who is not particularly religious) and Longshan Temple is a great place for those curious about Taiwanese religious customs to learn more about them.

Things to Do Near Taipei (Within 2 Hours)

Admire the “Niagara Falls of Taiwan,” Shifen Waterfall

The gorgeous Shifen waterfall with cascading water falling into a blue pool surrounded by greenery

Shifen Waterfall is not technically in Taipei proper, but it is so easy to get there that it deserves a spot on this list.

Within about two hours and under 5 dollars, you can be walking in the beautiful park that is home to Shifen Waterfall.

I’ve written a complete guide to visiting Shifen Waterfall if you’re interested in making this trip, but for now, I’ll let the photos do the talking. Simply gorgeous!

Note: I recommend combining a trip to Shifen Waterfall, Shifen Old Street, and Jiufen, via a tour, which is easier than planning your trip out using public transportation and not much more expensive.

Book your tour of Shifen and Jiufen here!

Let off a lantern on Shifen Old Street.

Allison Green giving peace signs while standing in front of a pink balloon that says Eternal Arrival in Taiwan

Yes, this is a super touristy thing to do in Taipei (well, technically Shifen) but it was so much fun, so to hell with it.

For 100-200 Taiwanese dollars (about $3-6 USD) you can purchase a lantern, write your messages on it, take all the selfies, and set it off into the sky with all the other tourists on the train tracks.

It was pretty fun to photograph all the other balloons going up into the sky as well.

Aside from setting off lanterns, you can also eat at all the various street stalls selling fried and steamed Taiwanese snacks!

You should also check out the nearby suspension bridge, or rent an electric scooter (or walk, it’s really not that far) to nearby Shifen Waterfall.

Head to Jiufen Old Street.

the colorful buildings built into the hillside of jiufen, selling tea and other cakes and that sort of thing.

Jiufen is another trip well worth making while you’re in Taipei. I’ve heard it called “the Santorini of Taiwan” and honestly, I can see it!

The city of Jiufen is built on a hill overlooking the spectacular coastline, making it a perfect place to take in the sunset in one of the many teahouses on the hill.

The entire city is covered in orange lanterns and food stalls, and there are gorgeous tea houses dotting the mountainside overlooking the coastline at sunset.

In fact, the city is often cited as being the inspiration for Japanese director Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away (though that has also been debunked by the director) — and there does seem to be a kind of magic in the air.

orange lanterns with chinese characters on them with the night sky behind it

However… a place this beautiful is impossible to enjoy alone. Expect to share the magic with approximately 75,000 other people, all trying to cram down a few tiny staircases.

Claustrophobes and my fellow anxiety sufferers, be warned — descending the stairs after the sun sets is a neverending hellscape of people.

We got stuck in a slow-moving river of people for what felt like ages (but was probably 10 minutes). And we visited in January, which is about as off-season as it gets!

You could go with a tour to Jiufen, but that would just compound the chaos, in my opinion. It’s easy enough to go independently.

The buses are really crowded on the way back, so I’d suggest taking a collective taxi back to Taipei.

I believe it cost about 300 Taiwanese per person ($10) for the one-hour journey back to central Taipei. Well worth it.

See the rock formations of Yehliu Geopark.

funny rock shapes on the coastline in yehliu

I ran out of time in Taipei to get to do this, but it was on my list and it’s easily doable as a day tour so I figure I’d include it for you, anyway.

Yehliu Geopark is an amazing natural phenomenon located on the north coast of Taiwan, just two hours outside of Taipei — a perfect day trip.

Here, rocks have been carved away by twin forces of sea and wind erosion, leaving behind alien-esque rock formations including the famous Queen’s Head rock.

It’s perfectly possible to do with public transport, but you can also take a guided tour that will show you the port city of Keelung as well (see prices and availability here) and save you a bit of a headache with local transportation.

Book your Yehliu & Keelung tour here!

Go tea tasting and see the beautiful Thousand Islands Lake.

beautiful teal turquoise lake in between mountains and tea plantations in taiwan

If you really want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Taipei metro area, a day tour to Thousand Islands Lake is a fantastic escape.

It’s especially pleasant when combined with a trip to the Pinglin Tea Plantation where you can sample a few different Taiwanese teas while admiring views of turquoise lakes and terraced tea fields.

Again, transportation around Taiwan can be a bit tough to figure out if you don’t speak or read Chinese, so this is a place where a guided tour comes in handy.

Check out tour prices and availability here!

Visit Taichung’s adorable Rainbow Village.

the facade of a rainbow building in taichung painted by a grandfather who lived in this area

I believe Taichung is definitely worth at least a two day itinerary – especially since you’ve got to check out the largest night market in Taiwan at Feng Jia.

That said, if you only have a day and you want to visit Instagram heaven, check out the Rainbow Village just outside of Taichung.

This is easily done in a single day thanks to Taiwan’s high speed rail connections, which connect Taipei and Taichung in a mere 45 minutes — for a price (about $22 each way).

If you have more time and you’d like to save some cash, you can also take the regular train, which costs about a third as much and take twice as long.

From Taichung, it’s a cheap Uber or taxi to Rainbow Village, or you can work out the local buses (I’m lazy and took an Uber).

I’ll be honest, before I researched Rainbow Village, I thought it was just an Instagram gimmick.

But the story is so much cooler than that — it’s all the work of one man, nicknamed “Rainbow Grandpa,” who began painting the village where he grew up in order to prevent it from being bulldozed — and succeeded so far that it’s now a protected heritage site!

Making A Longer Taiwan Itinerary

red lanterns in the sky

If you’re planning to visit more of Taiwan than just Taipei, I’ve got you covered.

I’ve written a 5-day Taipei itinerary (including day trips from Taipei) as well as a 2-day Taichung itinerary that you can combine to make a proper week in Taipei.

Have more time? Tack on Tainan or Kaohsiung further down the west coast after Taichung (perhaps adding on Kenting National Park if it’s summer).

Alternately, or head the east coast and stay a bit in Hualien to be at the gateway to Taroko National Park.

Where to Stay in Taipei

the red hotel of the grand hotel taipei in the traditional chinese architectural style

Taipei is a vibrant, bustling city with so much to see. I spent about 12 days in Taipei, experiencing different neighborhoods along the way.

When I first arrived in Taipei, I stayed near Shilin, which was great for visiting the night market every single night! It’s also super convenient with the excellent Taipei MTR serving Shilin easily.

However, if you want a more central location, I’d recommend staying around Ximen or Zhongxiao. I also stayed in Xinpu and really enjoyed the vibe around that area – it is much more local-feeling but there were plenty of great restaurants and street food to be found!

Though to be honest, the MRT is so convenient and extensive that no matter where you stay, you are not far from anywhere in the city with the MRT.

I’ve broken down where to stay in Taipei into three budget ranges, which can roughly be defined as follows:

  • Budget: Under $25 per night for a dorm bed
  • Mid-range: $50-100 per night for a hotel room
  • Luxury: $150+ for a hotel room

Budget: For a super-affordable stay with excellent aesthetics and a good location, I recommend LuckyOne Hostel in Datong. The hostel is very well-designed in a way that I wish more hostels were — simple things like the top bunk being high enough that the person on the bottom bunk can sit comfortably, reading lights and outlets next to each bed, etc. have all been considered in the design.   Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Another great option is Ximen Duckstay Hostel (the name is hilarious, I know) which has an amazing central location in Ximen, one of the  most bustling areas of Taipei in the evening. The rooms are small but well-designed, with designated places to keep your luggage to keep the floor clear, privacy curtains, reading lights, etc. There’s also a hostel bar so it’s good for solo travelers who want to socialize, as Taipei doesn’t have the best bar scene. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Mid-range: Taipei is home of one of my favorite affordable hotel chains, citizenM ! I love booking rooms with citizenM because I know that I’m going to get a well-designed room at an affordable price, without having to pay for a bunch of luxuries I won’t use. The deisgn is fun and quirky, with a real sense of personality that is missing from many hotel chains. You always know when you are stepping into a citizenM and I love that. The location is also great. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

Luxury: If you’re looking for luxury meets a dash of quirkiness, I highly recommend Eslite during your stay. Located in Songshan Creative & Cultural Park, this 5-star hotel is beautifully appointed with tons of amazing details like unending shelves of books in the lobby (swoon!). With perks like private balconies, enormous beds, sunken bathtubs, in-room sound systems, you can stay in style at Eslite without paying an insane amount. Check rates, availability, and reviews here.

5 Things You Shouldn’t Forget to Pack for Taipei

view of taipei streets with colorful light trails at night

A guidebook: While I obviously love reading travel blogs, I also love traveling with a guidebook like Lonely Planet Taiwan – it is thoroughly researched and full of ideas that a lot of blogs haven’t covered.

Chinese-English phrasebook: The language barrier in Taiwan is still pretty large for English speakers, especially in places like small hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and then the different writing system adds another barrier as it’s harder to learn what certain words mean in a character-based language vs. an alphabet-based language. I recommend a Chinese-English phrasebook especially if you want to get a bit off the beaten path during your time in Taipei.

Rain jacket or travel umbrella: Taipei can be quite rainy year-round due to its subtropical climate. If you are traveling in spring, winter, or fall, you’ll definitely want a rain jacket. I traveled in Taiwan in winter with my Marmot PreCip rain jacket and it was perfect (though Taipei was pleasantly warm for January, with temperatures around 60 F / 15 C most days). In the summer, it will be way too hot for a rain jacket, so then I suggest a travel umbrella.

Mosquito repellent if traveling outside of winter: I traveled in winter so I had no problems with mosquitos but if you are there in spring, summer, or fall be warned that the mosquitos in Taiwan are notoriously vicious and can carry un-fun diseases like dengue. When I travel to mosquito-ridden places I tend to travel with both a mosquito repellent spray and mosquito repellent wipes that I carry in my purse for touch ups during the day/night, especially around dusk.

Travel insurance: While Taiwan and Taipei are both very safe, that’s no reason to skimp on travel insurance! I use SafetyWing Nomad Insurance whenever I’m abroad, as it’s affordable and comprehensive, at about $12/week of coverage.


So, if you’ve been to Taiwan, what are your favorite things to do in Taipei — am I missing anything?