Taipei claims to be the heart of Asia and truly is the heart of Taiwanese culture. It is a bustling, international city and a great place for foreigners to visit and explore. Planning to visit Taipei? It is by far the easiest city for getting around in Taiwan, thanks to the MRT subway system, and is quite accommodating to English-speakers. There is plenty of things to do in Taipei, but I’ll use this post to highlight some of the top destinations.
The last stop on the MRT red line heading north from Taipei is Tamsui. The train station lets you off right on the river walk, overlooking the river and surrounding mountains. The view is stunning! All along the river, there are endless amounts of arcades, souvenir shops, and market food vendors. It is busy, hot, and crowded, like most places in Taiwan, but it is a lovely place to spend an afternoon nonetheless. You can do some shopping, eat delicious snacks, and take a little boat tour across the river to see thousands of little crabs scampering around the river shore. We knew nothing about Tamsui before we went but decided to stop there after a recommendation from a fellow foreigner. It ended up being one of our favorite spots in Taipei!
The Taipei 101 is easily the most iconic part of the Taipei skyline and the third tallest building in the world! If you visit Taipei, the Taipei tower is a must-see! It’s dramatically taller than anything else in Taipei and can be seen from just about anywhere in the city. It costs about $14 USD per person to go up to the observation deck on the 89th floor. And $400 NT is a fortune in Taiwan, so we opted to just enjoy the view from below. The first five floors of the 101 is a very swanky mall, so you can take a walk inside, but don’t expect to be able to afford anything!
Makong Gondolas & Taipei Zoo
The Taipei Zoo is ridiculously cheap and is a great little afternoon trip. The zoo is easily accessible from the MRT (it has its own station) but is just enough outside the city to get some great mountain views. Just a short walk from the Taipei Zoo Station, you can hop on the Makong Gondolas and ride them up into the mountains for a great view of the city and some mountaintop tea.
National Palace Museum
Even if you are not particularly interested in Chinese art, the National Palace Museum is still a must-see destination in Taiwan. It has the largest collection of Chinese art in the world – 650,000 pieces that are displayed on a rotation. The National Palace Museum is ranked as one of the top 4 museums in the world. Plus, it’s absolutely massive, and the building is beautiful. Along with the Chinese art, the modern art section was awesome and had a lot of really cool interactive pieces. The garden outside of the museum was also really nice and is free to enter with a museum ticket. Many buses run from the Shilin MRT station to the museum, so just check the signs at the bus stop for which numbers head that way.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial
The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial is beautiful and grandiose and is a breath of fresh air in the middle of the city. There is a museum inside that is free to enter and some beautiful gardens on the grounds. It has it’s own MRT stop and is hard to miss, as it’s about the size of an entire neighborhood. Chiang is a Taiwanese hero, and that is made clear by the many ways he is honored throughout the country.
Beitou Hot Springs
Beitou is a part of Taipei known for its hot springs! These are probably the easiest hot springs to get to in Taiwan. You can find them by taking the Xinbetou line that transfers from the Beitou station. Most of the hotels in Beitou also offer private hot spring baths in your room, and these rooms can be rented for a night or just a few hours.
Thermal Valley is a place where you can enjoy the sulfuric smell and uncomfortably hot steam of the 90 degree Celsius (nearly 200 degree Fahrenheit) hot spring pool. You obviously can’t go in this one, since it would burn your skin off, but it is nice to look at and worth a visit.
The must-do activity in Beitou is taking a dip in the public hot springs, of course. You have to wait in a mob (the Taiwanese don’t really do lines) and pay a small fee. Then you’re free to grab a spot in one of the hot spring baths! They vary in temperature from comfortably hot to scalding. They also have some cold springs to help you cool off. At these hot springs, you have to wear a swimsuit. Many hot springs in Taiwan require you to bathe in the nude, so if that makes you uncomfortable, Beitou is for you.
But don’t think you can just dip your toes in. There is actually an enforced rule against it! All or nothing. If the crowd and fee don’t interest you, there is also a lovely little hot spring creek running through the park. We discovered a spot that seemed to be a popular local hangout. And dipping your toes is definitely allowed there!
Ximending (Modern Toilet)
A really cool area in Taipei is Ximending. It’s right off the Ximen MRT station and could be called the “Times Square of Taiwan.” It’s an area of bright lights, stores, restaurants and street vendors, and is closed off to vehicles for easier walking. (But cars and scooters do whatever they want in Taiwan.) It’s great for people watching and hanging out.
It is also near the world famous Modern Toilet toilet-themed restaurant. Taiwan takes its themes seriously, and the Modern Toilet does not disappoint. And while the over-the-top theme is definitely this restaurant’s draw, the food was delicious, too.
Another seriously themed restaurant is the Barbie Café. It’s right in between two stops on the MRT blue line, but is just a quick walk from either. If you happened to be a Barbie fanatic as a child, you will definitely enjoy the experience! And while, like most of Taipei’s themed restaurants, you pay for the experience, the food was great and the brunch menu is reasonably priced.
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