Even though it’s largely overshadowed by Tokyo and Hong Kong, there’s something special about Taipei – it’s really hard not to like it. It is a safe, clean and inexpensive metropolis with a unique combination of Chinese and Japanese cultures and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. This quirky city has plenty of heritage sights, contemporary buildings and lively street markets, so in case you’re staying only one day in Taipei, you’ll have to plan ahead. But no worries, even a short layover in Taipei will make your stay a great cultural experience.
What’s the best time to visit Taipei?
Taipei is a year-round destination that enjoys mild to warm temperatures throughout the year with significant amounts of rainfall during the summer months. Therefore, the period from April to September is better to avoid if you want to skip unpleasant humidity, rain and temperatures above 30°C (86°F). The rest of the year brings more enjoyable weather, which makes late October through early February the best time to visit Taipei in terms of climate.
However, spring has its special charm with the cherry blossom season that lasts from late February to March. One more reason to visit around that time is the Lantern Festival that takes place on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month. Other festivities include Chinese New Year (1st day of the 1st lunar month), Dragon Boat Festival (5th day of the 5th lunar month), Moon Festival (15th day of the 8th lunar month) and Taiwan’s National Day on 10th of October.
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A few facts about Taipei
Officially known as Taipei City, the capital of Taiwan is located on the northern tip of the island. The city is the cultural, economic and political center of Taiwan, so no wonder its metropolitan area is home to one-third of the country’s population. This is a melting pot of Chinese and Japanese influences, since the place was both a province of China and a colony of Imperial Japan throughout history. Following the surrender of Japan in WWII, Taiwan was given back to the Republic of China. In the 90s, Taipei was the center of mass democracy rallies that led to the end of the dictatorship and resulted in transition to multi-party democracy.
One Day in Taipei Itinerary
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in Taipei.
Start your day with a traditional Taiwanese breakfast
Food is a really big thing in Taipei, so don’t worry if you end up eating a lot while there. With so many different cuisines, street food stalls and restaurants, it would be a miss not to eat well. You should start your Taipei food journey with a traditional Taiwanese breakfast. Breakfast shops can be found literally everywhere around the city, so just find yourself a place close to your hotel that serves breakfast. The breakfast consists of mostly high-calorie dishes with lots of carbs and eggs, accompanied with soy milk. Make sure to try You Tiao (deep fried sticks of dough), Shao Bing (baked wheat cake stuffed with egg or beef), Dan Bing (egg with scallions and ham), Fan Tuan (rice rolls stuffed with shredded pork) and Soymilk (both savory and sweet).
Visit the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
After the breakfast, head to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, a grandiose neoclassical monument built in honor of Chiang Kai-shek, the former president of the Republic of China. Since it’s one of the most popular Taipei attractions, an early visit is advisable to skip the crowds that come later in the day. This remarkable hall is located at the east end of Liberty Square, a large plaza surrounded by beautiful parks and ponds. On your way to the hall, you’ll pass through the Gate of Integrity and slightly after it go by the National Concert Hall and the National Theater. Finally, to reach the hall, climb the 89 (Chiang Kai-shek’s age at the time of death) steps that lead to the entrance and the bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek. You can check out the artifact museum with documents and articles chronicling Chiang Kai-Shek’s life, at no admission fee. Another thing not to miss is the hourly guard change, from 9AM to 5PM.
Explore the Ximending district
Now it’s time for something quirky and fun. Even though you can easily reach Ximending by metro, take a 20-minute walk through the Peace Park instead. The famous Ximending district is the center of Taipei’s pop culture filled with trendy shops, electric cafes and bars and unique or rather bizarre restaurants. If you want to check one of them, head to the Modern Toilet Restaurant, an Asian restaurant with toilet and bathroom designs and accessories.
Ximending is a pedestrian zone, so it’s pretty enjoyable to explore it on foot. Make sure to visit the Red House Theater, an important cultural and art center built during the Japanese era, originally used as a marketplace and from 1945 onward as a theater. Today, the theater houses an artisanal shop where you can buy some souvenirs and items from the local artist. If you like the area, you can go back there at night, since this is one of the greatest party areas in the city, with many young people and an electrifying atmosphere.
Pay a visit to the Longshan Temple
Only a short walk from the Ximending district you’ll find the Longshan Temple – one of the city’s most famous temples originally built in the 1700s but rebuilt during the Japanese rule. The temple is known as a ‘meeting place of the gods’ since it honors Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian deities. This conglomeration of traditions can be seen in its architectural elements such as Buddhist motifs and those of ancient Chinese gods. The place is usually busy, and you can find many people worshiping at any time of the day. Seeing their rituals is something very interesting, especially for visitors from different cultures.
Check out the Bopiliao Historic Block
This historic area in the Wanhua district is only a block away from the Longshan Temple and therefore very hard to miss. One of the oldest preserved heritage sites in Taipei, known as the Bopiliao, dates back to the 7th century but actually retains most of its looks from 200 years ago. Recently, the Taiwanese government has restored the whole area, built the Heritage and Culture Education Center of Taipei (free to visit) and later invited artists to decorate the street with wall art. You can also find old-style shop houses with traditional stores such as a Chinese medicine store, a clock store, a barbershop and a few others. There’s not much to do in the area besides that, but overall it’s quite a charming place to see and a nice step back in time.
Get the sweeping 360º view from Taipei 101
Once the tallest building in the world, Taipei 101 is still this city’s icon and the greatest attraction for travelers. This mega skyscraper is 508m (1666ft) high, has in total 101 floors and was designed to resemble a bamboo stalk. In case you want to have a panoramic view of the sunset, make sure to get there at least one hour earlier, since you can expect long lines most of the time. Be prepared for the fastest elevator ride of your life reaching 89th floor in only 37 seconds. Once you reach the observatory deck, you’ll be enthralled by the sweeping, 360º city view. After seeing it from every possible angle, make sure to check out the massive gold damper, the construction element that keeps the tower stable in case of an earthquake or a typhoon. If you want to spend more time in this iconic tower, check out the luxurious Taipei 101 Shopping Mall on the first five floors or the huge food court area at the bottom floor.
Spend a memorable night at the Shilin Night Market
Like in many other Asian destinations, night markets in Taipei are the most popular places to spend your night at. While there are many night markets spread around the city, the Shilin Night Market is the biggest, the most chaotic and therefore the most exciting one of them all. Its lively and diverse street food scene is one of the reasons you should go there on an empty stomach because you will be faced with a never-ending supply of food to try at bargain prices. The things you should try while there include fried fish meatballs on a skewer, flame-torched beef, pepper pork bun and the ultimate star – Hot Star Fried Chicken. Besides food carts, you’ll find stalls selling clothes and other stuff, as well as game carts where you can try your luck (or skills) playing one of the funny games they offer.
Where to stay in Taipei?
A truly fascinating place, arTree Hotel is completely inspired by trees. From the walls to the furniture, everything is green and plant-shaped, so the whole hotel actually looks a lot like a forest. But don’t worry, there’s more than enough comfort for you here. Spacious bedrooms with modern bathrooms come with a fridge and a minibar, among other things, and provide a spectacular view of the city. You’ll love your stay here, that’s for sure.
The Tango Hotel Taipei Jiantan
Some rooms in The Tango Hotel Taipei Jiantan come with a wonderful view of the mountains, so if you’re going to stay here, try getting one of those if you can. They have nice terraces from which you can enjoy the scenery. But no matter which room you take, it will come with a flat-screen TV, plus the hotel has an outdoor pool and a fitness centre. You have a night market nearby, as well as a few fascinating temples, so you will have plenty to explore.
We Come Hostel
If you want a place where you can rest, read and learn at the same time, We Come Hostel is the place for you. With a library and a terrace, it really allows you to relax in this bustling metropolis. You will also get some toiletries (shampoo and body wash) and even slippers completely free from them. The hostel is located near Ningxia night market, plus you will not be far away from Ximending, Taipei’s shopping paradise.
Star Hostel Taipei Main Station
Star Hostel Taipei Main Station boasts a great location because it is close to Taipei Main Station, a public transport hub from which you can easily move on to other parts of the city. It is also located in Datong District, so you will easily be able to pop over to the night market for some delicious food. All rooms are soundproof, and you can even get a private room with a flat-screen TV. Not bad for a hostel.
Extra tips for visiting Taipei
Taipei has a very efficient metro system, so it’s easy (and cheap) to move around the city. Make sure to download the metro map here in order to get familiar with the lines.
Taxis in Taipei are also cheap, but most drivers do not speak English, so you may need to ask your hotel staff for some help with writing the address in Mandarin.
You can access free public Wi-Fi during your entire stay with hotspots around major tourist and transportation hubs, among others. You only need to register at Travel Service Centers, which can be found at the airport and all over the city.
Tipping is Taipei is not expected. Some restaurants add service charge, but other than that any tipping can be seen as a mistake, so you’ll usually get your money back.
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