Taipei has long been an attractive travel destination for travelers from neighboring countries. While it has never really established itself in the backpackers’ trail, the city attracts plenty of midrange and high-end tourists looking to sample the local street food, shop in the night markets, soak in the hot springs and interact with the highly hospitable locals. Personally, Taipei is a feel-good place. I don’t go there expecting to see some mind-boggling sights. Like Tokyo, I go there time and time again for the wonderful ambiance.
Here is a well-balanced itinerary for Taipei that you can do in 3-days. It offers a fine mix between sights, eating and shopping and also has a few off-the-beaten path attractions thrown in.
The National Palace Museum is the farthest among Taipei’s attractions so might as well start here in order to devote the rest of your time in the city. When the Kuomintang fled from Mainland China and transferred their seat of power in Taipei, they brought with them plenty of treasured artifacts. These are now stored in the National Palace Museum. This is one of the – if not the – best places to see Chinese art. Good thing about this museum is that it opens at 8:30AM so you can have a relatively early start here. Opening hours: 8:30am to 6:30pm (Sun to Thurs); til 9pm (Friday) / Admission: TWD 250
I am not really a museum type of person but I do recommend heading over to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Taipei to see plenty of quirky art pieces. Honestly, this is one of the museums that I genuinely enjoyed and won’t hesitate to return to. Opening hours: 10:00 to 18:00 / Admission: TWD 50 / Nearest MRT: Taipei Main Station
Stop over at Jinfeng Braised Pork Rice (#10, Section 1, Roosevelt Road) for lunch. There’s often a long queue here for the rice topped with braised pork. I personally do not enjoy it due to all the fat but many people rave about it. Opening hours: 8:00 to 1:00 daily / Nearest MRT: Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall Station
Make your way to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall which is just a short walk from Jinfeng. The place is best visited in the afternoon since the façade faces the west. Before the Taipei 101 was built, this structure served as the city’s most iconic structure. While there, make sure to check out the changing of the guard ceremony which happens every hour on the hour. Opening hours: 9:00 to 18:00 / Admission: Free / Nearest MRT: Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall Station
From here, it’s a short bus ride to Longshan Temple, one of the most popular temples in Taipei and a great example of classical Taiwanese architecture. It also offers a good peek at local religious life. Opening hours: 6:00 to 22:00 / Admission: Free / Nearest MRT: Long Shan Temple Station
Depending on your pace, it’d be late afternoon by this time – just right to witness the lights turning on at the buzzing Ximending shopping area. This is equivalent to Taipei’s high street and you can find all sorts of brands here as well as several shops selling traditional delicacies and tea. The Red House is a symbol of the area and inside you can find plenty of independent stalls run by enterprising locals. Nearest MRT: Ximen Station
While you will find plenty of restaurants in Ximending, I recommend skipping these and heading straight to Ningxia Night Market instead. You can either take a short cab ride or walk the 2km stretch. Taipei is famous for its night markets with each having its own specialty. Ningxia Night Market is well-known for food and people from all over the world come here to eat oyster omelette and mochi. While there are a couple of stores selling these items here, the place you should try for oyster omelette is: 圓環邊蚵仔煎 (Roundabout Oyster Omelette) and for mochi, it’s: 林記燒麻糬 Nearest MRT: Shuanglian Station or Zhongshan Station
Start early in the morning and take bus 1815 to Yehliu GeoPark. The journey takes about 1.5 hours and depending on the weather and the crowd, you’ll find plenty of rocks jutting from the ground like mushrooms. It’s a pretty sight except when it gets too crowded. Avoid the weekends if you can.
Take another bus to Jiufen, an old seaside mining town that has developed into a tourist attraction filled with teahouses, cafes and souvenir shops. It’s a charming place to simply wander around or to spend an hour or two holed up in one of the teahouses. For history buffs, there are also museums showcasing the town’s mining heritage.
Try to leave Jiufen by around 3 to 3:30pm and head back to Taipei via Bus #1062. Make your way to the Elephant Mountain Trail, a viewpoint that you climb in order to see sweeping views of Taipei 101 during sunset. In my view, this is much better than heading to the observatory of Taipei 101 itself. This iconic building is better appreciated from afar.
End your day at the nearby Tonghua Night Market – one of Taipei’s smallest night markets but one that packs in a plethora of eats as well as ready-to-wear apparel. Nearest MRT: Liuzhangli Station
After two whirlwinds days exploring the city’s main attractions and also doing a day trip to Yehliu and Jiufen, your third day can be spent just chilling and exploring the more hipster side of the city. Taipei offers plenty for shopaholics out there and some up-and-coming neighborhoods offer a great counterpoint to characterless shopping malls.
Start your day with some coffee from Fujin Tree 353 Cafe in Fujin Street – probably the most hipster area in Taipei. You’ll find plenty of quirky restaurants and boutiques with equally quirky people patronizing them. Even if you are not looking to buy anything, this is also a great place for a stroll, being one of the rare tree-lined streets in the city. Opening hours: 9:00 to 21:00, daily
Continuing on with quirky things, head over to Huashan 1914 Creative Park. What used to be a winery has been converted into a creative space attracting writers, moviemakers and even painters. There is always an exhibition going on in here which is worth checking out. You’ll also find a lot of local crafts and independent stores within the vicinity. Do note that the park is actually quite spread out and you’ll find the stores and exhibition areas in different buildings within the complex. It may not be an ideal place to visit whenever it’s raining. For tech geeks, you can continue on to Guanghua Digital Plaza for all your IT needs. Taiwan is a major manufacturer of computers and hardware. Opening hours: 9:30 to 21:00, daily / Nearest MRT: Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station
Pause for lunch at the famous Lin Dong Fang (#274, Section 2, Bade Road) for some delicious beef noodles before continuing on to Daan Forest Park for some r&r. The namesake metro station – Daan Forest Park – is an attraction in itself with curved glass curtain walls and plenty of art installations. One metro stop away is the Kishu An Forest of Literature where you’ll be transported to another world with its Japanese style bungalow. Opening hours: 10:00 to 18:00, Tuesday to Sunday
Spend the late afternoon at Dihua Street, a colonial era part of town that has been rejuvenated with plenty of traditional shops. You’ll find Chinese medicine stores interspersing with cafes, antique shops as well as the odd art studio. Opening hours: 10:00 to 22:30, daily / Nearest MRT: Shuanglian Station
End the day at Shilin Night Market, undoubtedly Taipei’s biggest and most well-known night market. The place is known for local delights such as stinky tofu as well as oyster mee sua so make sure to come with an empty stomach. Opening hours: 15:00 to 1:00, daily / Nearest MRT: Jiantan Station