Guide to Taipei: A Metropolis in the Jungle

Advisor - Bria Rosenberg
Curated By

Bria Rosenberg

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  • Taiwan

  • City Travel

  • Taiwan

  • Food & Wine

  • Arts & Culture

  • Adventure Travel

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • Digital Nomad Travel

  • Architecture

  • Hiking

  • Mountains

a narrow residential city street
Curator’s statement

Taipei is my favorite city on the planet, yet is not as big a tourist destination as many other Southeast Asian cities. It is a sprawling metropolis built in the middle of a jungle, and there is nowhere else on earth like it. Taipei has got it all: unique and astonishing nature, impressive architecture, delectable food, and a rich, enticing culture. I lived there for a summer for an internship, and I didn't want to leave. Everyone should visit Taipei!

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Where to stay in Taipei

Éclat Hotel Taipei

Located in the trendy Da-An district of Taipei, this art-forward boutique hotel is city sanctuary.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & late check-out whenever possible.

Grand Hyatt Taipei

Taiwan’s first luxury hotel, this palace-like resort sits mid-mountain overlooking the Keelung River.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Welcome amenity

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Regent Taipei

Taipei luxury high-rise boasting a rooftop pool with expansive city views.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

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Things to do in Taipei

a multi arch structure in the distance with taiwanese traditional buildings at the end of a long mall with green space on either side
  • Taipei 101: It is the most recognizable building in the Taipei skyline, and at the time of its construction, was the tallest building in the entire world. It’s still the tallest building in Taiwan. Make sure to visit the Taipei 101 Observatory to see stunning 360 views of the entire city and learn more about its history. The best time to go is late afternoon and stay a few hours so you can see the city in the daylight, watch the sunset, and see the beautiful lights of the city at nighttime. Beware of getting dizzy on the elevators, some of the fastest in the world! At 38mph, the elevators get you from the bottom to the observatory in about 37 seconds.

  • Night Markets - Full of bustling street vendors and the delectable aroma of amazing foods, night markets are an absolute must if you visit Taipei. Some of my favorite night markets include Raohe, Ningxia, Gongguan, and Shilin. Shilin and Raohe are two of the biggest and busiest, and I highly recommend visiting at least one of these two. Ningxia and Gongguan are a little smaller and more intimate, but still full of delicious foods! These are just four that I love, but there are many many more across the city - it’s hard to go wrong with any of them. More details about what to get at night markets in the eat & drink section below.

  • Elephant Mountain Hike - This hike is definitely a leg workout, and honestly more of a giant staircase up a mountain rather than a traditional hike, but the views are well worth it! It is steep, but short, and you get rewarded with some of the most phenomenal views of the entire Taipei skyline. It’s also a nice break to be in nature amongst the city. Don’t forget your bug spray, the mosquitos are brutal!

  • Liberty Square - This historically significant square contains Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, the National Concert Hall, and the National Theater. With beautiful architecture, this is a must see part of Taipei, and a great place to learn more about the city’s history. On top of being a popular tourist attraction, Liberty Square is still a popular public meeting place and an important symbol of democracy in Taiwan.

  • Ximending - If you want to go shopping, Ximending is the place to do it. Full of bustling shops and boutiques, as well as restaurants, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon! It’s pretty affordable, too.

  • Temples - Taipei is full of colorful and ornate temples, each with its own cultural and historical significance. One of the most popular ones is the Mengjia Longshan Temple, a Buddhist Temple and Shrine. There are also the beautiful Baoan and Qinshan Temples, however my personal favorite is the Hongludi Nanshan Fude Temple. Situated up in the mountains, it has lovely views of the Taipei skyline and is full of intricate statues of dragons and gods.

  • National Palace Museum - If you love museums like I do, this is the best museum in Taipei! The museum is full of Chinese and Taiwanese historic artifacts, some dating back nearly 8,000 years. The history of the museum itself is also quite interesting, with the political tensions between Mainland China and Taiwan, and disagreements about which country actually owns the items.

  • Yangmingshan National Forest - If you’re looking for a nature escape from the city, Yangmingshan is the place to go. Filled with some of the most stunning and unique nature I’ve ever seen, a visit to this National Park is well worth the trek. In the park, some must-sees include the Beitou Thermal Springs, the Yangmingshan Flower Clock, and the Datun Waterfall Hiking Area. The most spectacular, however, are the sprawling fields of blue and purple hydrangeas in the Zhuzihu area of the park. These are only in bloom from April through June, though, so plan accordingly. There are many other hiking trails and gorgeous views to explore as well, you could definitely spend a full day here if you wanted.

  • Maokong Gondola - Offering stunning views of Taipei, take the Maokong Gondola up to the town of Maokong! It takes about 30 minutes to get to the top, but it is a relaxing and beautiful ride up. On top, you’ll find teahouses and tea gardens, temples, and nature trails. I recommend heading up in the early afternoon, enjoying lunch at a traditional tea house, spending the afternoon exploring, and then riding the gondola back down at sunset.

Places to eat & drink in Taipei

a man makes food in a food cart at night with steam rising from hot plates and a large wok
  • Night Markets - As mentioned above, night markets are where you will find some of the best food in Taipei! Some of my personal favorites are scallion pancakes, grilled oyster mushrooms, quail eggs on a stick, and grilled meat skewers. You can also find tons of fresh fruit and juices, seafood, and the notorious stinky tofu. It is hard to miss stinky tofu, because you can smell it coming from a few stalls down. Personally, it was not my favorite food, but it is one of the most popular dishes in Taiwan, so I still do recommend braving the smell and trying at least a bite!

  • Xiao Long Bao - Xiao Long Bao are traditional soup dumplings, and is my personal favorite meal in Taipei. If you’re familiar with the popular food chain, Din Tai Fung, the original DTF is actually in Taipei! It’s one of my all-time favorite restaurants, and I frequent the one in Los Angeles, so I was thrilled to get to eat at the OG location. However, there are tons of delicious (and more affordable) Xiao Long Bao restaurants across Taipei. Another fantastic one, with a Michelin star, is Hang Zhou Xiao Long Bao.

  • Boba - Boba, bubble tea, pearl milk tea - whatever you want to call it - actually originated in Taiwan! You can’t visit Taipei without getting some boba. It’s hard to walk around Taipei and not see a boba shop, kind of like Starbucks in America. Some amazing options include Tiger Sugar (get the brown sugar boba), Chun Shui Tang, and Kebuke. However, my personal favorite - and I’m a little biased because I used to work there at one of their California locations - is Yifang. Get their fruit tea!

  • Mangos & Fresh Fruit - The streets of Taipei are always lined with fresh fruit stands. My personal favorite was getting fresh mango every morning. No other mango I’ve ever had in any country, including the rest of Southeast Asia, compares to how delicious and juicy Taiwanese mangos are. My mouth is watering just writing about these mangoes.

  • Scallion Pancakes - A popular treat sold by street vendors all over Taipei, and one of my favorite foods! I would recommend buying this from a street vendor, rather than ordering at a restaurant. My favorite way to eat it was with a fried egg on top, some veggies, and a sweet soy sauce for dipping. Scallion pancakes and mangoes were my go-to breakfast every morning on my way to work!

  • Hot Pot - Whether you already love hot pot, or have never tried it, it is a must eat in Taipei! It is such a fun way to personalize your food, since you cook it yourself at your table. You can get tons of different types of meats, seafood, noodles, vegetables and more to cook in a broth of your choice. Some of my favorites are Elixir Health Pot, Top One Pot and Mala Top Double Soup Hot Pot.

  • Beef Noodle Soup - A very popular dish in Taipei, Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup is made with tender beef and noodles in a typically spicy, dark broth. It is actually the national dish of Taiwan! In my experience, the flavors vary quite a bit depending on where you get it from, but all variations are delicious! Some popular restaurants for beef noodle soup are Yong Kang Beef Noodles, Liu Shandong Beef Noodles, and Niou Dien Beef Noodles.

  • Soy Milk - Soy milk is very popular in Taipei, and has a much stronger soy flavor than we are typically used to in America, however it is quite refreshing and delicious. You can substitute it for regular milk in your boba, or order it on the side of your breakfast to dip fried foods in! One of my favorite breakfast spots is Yong He Soy Milk King - get the fried bread sticks and dip them in the soy milk! Some other good spots are Fuhang Soy Milk and Sihai Soy Milk.

Need to Know

Except in the city center and at major tourist destinations like Taipei 101, English is quite uncommonly spoken in Taipei. I definitely recommend downloading Duolingo to learn some basic Chinese such as hello and thank you, and using Google translate. When ordering food, a lot of menus seem to have pictures on them, so I would commonly point at food items and hope for the best. It is very helpful as well if you can learn some of the words for basic food items that you do or do not like. I personally don’t eat pork, which is a very common meat in Taipei, so one of the few phrases I learned how to say in Chinese was “No pork please”.

I also want to add that Taiwanese people are incredibly kind and generous! One of my first nights there, I got lost trying to get back to my hotel. A group of Taiwanese people saw that I was lost and confused. They didn’t speak English, but we were able to communicate with hand gestures and facial expressions. I was able to type the address into one of their phones, and they walked me back all the way to my hotel to make sure I got there safely. All of the street vendors are very kind as well, I don’t remember any unpleasant interactions with any locals during my time there. As a woman, I also felt incredibly safe walking around alone.

Public transportation is great in Taipei. I recommend getting an MRT card and using the subways to get around. The buses are great too for shorter distances. Most of the city names and subway stops are written in both English and Chinese, so as a foreigner, it is pretty easy to navigate.

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Kersti Straub-Kuo's guide, A Culture-Lover's Guide to Taipei.

Advisor - Bria Rosenberg

Travel Advisor

Bria Rosenberg

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