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.
If you are heading down south, also check out this Kaohsiung and Tainan itinerary.
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.
Day 1 – Quintessential Taipei
Tip: If you are landing in Taoyuan International Airport and wish to buy a local sim card for data needs, the airport does sell these but the queue tends to be quite long (not to mention it can get quite long at immigration as well). A way to circumvent this is by buying your sim card beforehand and just collect at the airport. I usually pre-order here to avoid the queues.
The National Palace Museum (tickets available here) 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
Tip: Buses run aplenty in Taipei and is the best mode of public transport for those who want to minimize walking to their destination. It’s also the cheapest with fares at TWD 15 per ride. Do note that drivers don’t provide change and for some reason, some buses require payment upon boarding while others require payment upon alighting. You can easily tell these buses apart through the sign board on top of the driver seat. 上 means you pay upon boarding while 下 means you pay when you get off.
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. If this is your first time in Taipei, you need to check out Ximending. Alternatively, you can also check out this handy guide on Taipei for first timers. 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
Day 2 – Excursion to Yehliu and Jiufen
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. Alternatively, take the train to Pingxi and launch a sky lantern.
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. Alternatively, you can also take a shuttle bus from Taipei Ximen Station which brings you to Jiufen and Shifen and back within a day. You can find out more information here.
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. Alternatively, you can also head up to the observatory of Taipei 101 itself (discounted tickets here). In my opinion, this iconic building is better appreciated from afar.
For a truly special dinner experience, head to RAW (301 Lequn 3rd Road), the restaurant of one-Michelin starred chef, Andre Chiang. The cuisine is a fusion of Taiwanese and French cuisines. It gets booked out easily and online reservations are required.
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
Day 3 – Modern and Hipster Taipei
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
While you are in the general vicinity, check out Heiankyo (165 Shida Road, open 12:30PM to 9PM except Mondays) for some traditional and modern matcha-based desserts. My personal favorites are the matcha canele (the first time I’ve seen one) and the rich and flavorful match ice cream. The venue is highly authentic, replete with a mini Japanese rock garden outside and interiors mimicking a traditional tea house.
Even those who have no interest in reading will probably be awed by the interiors of the Koo Chen Fu National Library (inside the National Taiwan University). Designed by Japanese architect, Toyo Ito, the reading room is made up of over 88 white columns that creates something like a forest out of minimalism. Admission is free but do note the library closes slightly earlier, at 5PM, during weekends.
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
Getting to Taipei from Taoyuan International Airport
- Available 24 hours. Taxis cost roughly TWD 1,000 to 1200 from the airport to the city center. Alternatively, you can book here for private car transfers at around 15 to 20% cheaper than taxis.
- The relatively new Taoyuan Airport MRT gets you from the airport to Taipei in roughly 37 minutes. The price is TWD 160.
- You can also take one of several airport buses that stop in Taipei’s main station. In case you’re arriving in Taipei past midnight and don’t wish to spend on taxis, take the #1819 Kuo Kuang bus. It costs TWD 125.
Travel Tips for Taipei
- Best time to visit Taipei: It is between October to March when the days are relatively cool. Even during the “depth of winter” in January, temperatures rarely fall below 10 degrees celsius. Summer is between June to September and it can get really humid in the city. That being said, summer is the best time to visit the city if you wish to see the city with sunshine. This is especially helpful if you wish to climb Elephant Mountain for instance and witness a nice sunset blanketing the city. Taipei is notoriously known for its prolonged cloud cover. It’s one of the least sunniest capitals in the world!
- Travel Insurance: If you foresee yourself doing a tour around Taiwan and experiencing the best the island has the offer, it may be advisable to buy travel insurance to cover for unforeseen circumstances such as personal accidents, health issues and even lost luggage. When I buy travel insurance, I would typically compare for the best insurance plan for my needs. Aggregator sites such as Singsaver allow you to do this while also providing freebies and discounts for any plans purchased through them.
- Changing Money: If you come from Singapore and are armed with Singapore Dollars, you might find the rates in DBS (the local Taipei branch) quite competitive. For folks from elsewhere who are bringing in USD, you can change money in the airport. The spread is slightly less than 1%. In the city, it is advisable to change money at large banks such as Bank of Taiwan.
- Transport Passes: If you foresee yourself taking buses and the subway in Taipei, it is advisable to purchase their local transport pass – the Easycard. You get 20% discount for public transport rides in Taipei. It also works in Kaohsiung’s public transport system as well as for supermarket, convenience store and other places. At the end of your trip, you can refund any unused amount with a mere TWD 20 service charge.
Where to stay in Taipei
Taipei has a plethora of accommodation options but the city is most well-known for its boutique hotels – some of which have “branches” throughout the capital. I personally enjoyed staying at citizenM Taipei Northgate with its high-tech rooms and beds situated just next to the window with panoramic views of the city. The property is also 5 minutes walk to the airport MRT station and 15 minutes walk to Ximending. Alternatively, the Shangri-la’s Far Eastern Plaza Taipei offers the best panoramic views of the iconic Taipei 101. You can also check out more Taipei hotels HERE to compare for the best prices.