Taipei is one of the most underrated destinations in Asia. If you are a language lover, a foodie, or a nature nerd then you should definitely check out Taipei and Taiwan!
We recently spent two weeks on a Chinese language learning holiday in Taipei. I was attending classes for 2 hours each morning and in amongst studying, going to school and Lingo Bubba’s naps, we’ve been exploring Taipei.
Here are some of our favourite spots we’ve been to.
What to see and do in Taipei
Din Tai Fung is a Taipei foodie institution and makes sensational Xiao Long Bao 小笼包。 We went super early around 4.00pm to beat the crowds to the original Din Tai Fung on Xinyi Road, which has been here since 1972. So good and so worth it even if it is more expensive than other places.
We are staying right in the heart of the university district in Taipei – between National Taiwan University 台大 campus and Taiwan Normal University 台式大 。 Both the campuses are great to walk through and give you a break from the cars and motorbike traffic.
Taipei 101 is often listed as a must-see attraction in Taipei. It was the tallest building in the world until 2011 and promises views across Taipei and beyond (on a clear day!) We didn’t go up (maybe my fear of overcrowded lifts…) but we could see it from almost everywhere in the city.
We got our creative on at a couple of venues in Taipei. Firstly the Huashan Creative Park which was opened in 2007 in a former winery. It’s a large site with exhibition spaces, bookshops, an arthouse cinema and plenty of shops and cafes.
Songshan Cultural Park is in a former tobacco factory and Lingo Bubba and Lingo Dada had a great time exploring the mostly creative arts space.
Lingo Dada was craving space and greenery so headed to the Taipei Botanic Gardens. It’s about 15 hectares large and was established under Japanese rule in 1921. Not quite the gardens he was expecting but he did encounter a large group of U3A type seniors out photographing with their serious length lenses!
Not far from my school (Taiwan Mandarin Institute) is the Hakka Cultural Park. The park is a large space with heaps of information about the Hakka peoples who migrated from southeastern provinces in China and make up about 15-20% of Taiwan’s population. 莉莉 (Lingo Bubba) made some little friends here and did some dress ups too! After class, we met up for a coffee and headed to Da’an Forrest Park. It’s not a far walk from where we are staying and Lingo Bubba practised her walking in the park.
Dada and Bubba used the MRT for the first time on Wednesday (it is super easy) and went to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and the Office of the President building. They saw the changing of the guard. After class we met up and found this amazing kids cafe near our apartment Bear Family Cafe which we hung out in for a bit – the coffee was pretty average but the set up for kids was terrific.
Early Thursday morning Lingo Dada and Lingo Bubba set off for Treasure Hill, but it was closed and didn’t open until 11.00am so they checked out the area and headed back to our apartment. I spent some time reading and studying at Pica Pica cafe, and then we met up with an old classmate of mine from Melbourne.
Bao’an Temple and the Confucius Temple were the stops for Lingo Dada and Lingo Bubba on Friday morning. Bao’an Temple was founded in 1760 by migrants from Fujian province. The Confucius Temple was a good opportunity to brush up on Confucian history.
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall remembers the founding Father and first provisional president of the Republic of China (Taiwan). His mausoleum is actually in Nanjing, Jiangsu, China – which is the city I spent 9 months living in.
After nap time we headed across town again to Dihua Street – a long street full of old buildings, mostly selling herbal medicine and touristy gifts. We did buy some very tasty 红豆饼 red bean pancake things. Sooo good! A quick sushi train dinner before heading back home.
Taipei Night Markets
In the evening we have walked over to the Shi Da night market 师大夜市 which is super close to our place. It mostly has small clothing and accessory type stalls, and one amazing stationery shop. If you love cutesy notepads, pacers, stickers etc you could go crazy there!
The LiaoNing Night Market seemed a bit more low key and relaxed to me, with less tourists and a wider street. Most of the stands also had a few tables and chairs so you could eat sitting down. Lots of seafood stalls too. We chowed down on some stinky tofu (although not the maxed out stinky tofu) and some watermelon juice.
Gong Guang night market is not far from our place and we walked there on Saturday night dying to find some Gua Bao. We finally had our first Gua Bao and it was delish. (More on our favourite Taipei snacks in a future blog!)
We jumped on the MRT and headed north to Shilin. 士林夜市 Shilin Night Market is a busy night market in a leafy suburban area and we tried a few 小吃 (small snacks) before getting sick of the crowds and heading home!
Taipei Day Trips
We had planned a few day trips for our weekend in Taipei and went to Tamsui (also called Danshui 淡水）on Saturday. It’s the end of the metro line, around a 45-minute ride from our place and it was great! It gets super busy on the weekend though so we arrived reasonably early. Our day trip here was a quick history lesson on all the foreign influences on Taiwan.
Tamsui is home to European colonial, Fujianese, Japanese and Taiwanese architecture and influences. The Spanish arrived here in 1629, but were ousted by the Dutch in 1641. Not long after the Han Chinese began to settle in the area and Tamsui became a major port. A British consulate was opened here in the mid 1800s. Taiwan was ceded to Japan after the Sino-Japanese war in 1895. After the end of WW2, Tamsui returned to being a small fishing village. With the extension of the metro line here in the late 1990s, it is now a major tourist destination and weekend getaway.
We also spent a morning at the Taipei Zoo on Sunday (not strictly a day trip but thought I’d included it here anyhow!) It was crazy hot already by 9.00am but it was good to get there early and we went first up to the panda enclosure. We mostly looked at the children’s zoo area (donkeys, pigs, miniature horses, alpacas, chickens) and at the Formosa animals (rock macaques, brown bears, clouded leopards) I hadn’t realised that Taiwan had so many interesting and native species.
Have you visited Taipei before? Or are you planning a visit?
Let us know if you’ve got any must see places or things to do and what your favourite Taipei destination is.
We’d love to know!