My Favorite 23 Things to do Taipei
My Favorite 23 Things to do Taipei - Understand
Taipei is the capital of Taiwan - a tiny island with 23 million inhabitants. You guessed it - it is crowded - but Taipei still manages to feel like a big suburb. It's the Houston of Asia, just more crowded.
The Taiwanese are easily the friendliest Chinese-speaking folks you will ever encounter - polite and amiable. However, English skills are often minimal, including in many restaurants.
Expect Taipei to be slightly cheaper than most US cities. Street food can be VERY cheap and the more 'western' you go, the higher the prices rise.
The city does not have too many sights - it's more of an adventure to be here and spend time here. There isn't a lot of drama and most things work just as you would expect.
Taipei is always very humid and summers can be VERY hot, with a heat index easily exceeding Dubai or Doha's heat indexes in summer. While ACs are abound here, don't expect huge AC'ed neighborhoods or shopping malls à la Dubai.
Taiwan feels much more like Japan than mainland China and it will constantly remind you of this.
My Favorite 23 Things to do Taipei - Get Around
Taipei locals swear by their mopeds and scooters and can't live without them. I prefer Uber here and after a short service disruption, it is back in Taipei. I found drivers friendly and the cars to be very new and clean. Most drivers don't speak a word of English but the Uber app easily takes care of destinations.
Another local favorite is the Metro, which I did not use once. Subway stations are spaced out a lot, making long walks in the absurd heat necessary. It's also crowded and with all the escalators it's often not a good idea for short trips.
Despite the many motorbikes, Taipei is walking friendly, with lots of shaded sidewalks that also protect from the rain.
My Favorite 23 Things to do Taipei - Safety
Taipei is generally VERY safe - similar to Seoul, Busan and most Japanese cities. I did not worry about crime at all. There are way too many motorbikes and mopeds wherever you go, including sidewalks and in the middle of markets. Generally, motorists watch out for pedestrians and each other but it still feels unsafe.
My Favorite 23 Things to do Taipei - Sights
Taipei isn't rich in sights - it is more a city for discovering food and culture than ticking sightseeing boxes.
中正紀念堂 (Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall)
Chiang Kai-Shek was the founding father of Taiwan and was the univocal leader of the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975. The Memorial Hall is a joy to walk through to admire its architecture and the history presented.
台北101 (Taipei 101)
Taipei 101 is world-famous, as it was briefly one of the tallest structures in the world. It is a fine piece of architecture but better marveled at from the outside. The observation deck is a bad, crowded tourist trap and overpriced.
Taipei night markets
Taipei is full of night markets that serve all kinds of snacks and offer everything under the sun (no pun intended). It's a great way to spend an hour or two.
大稻埕碼頭 (Dadaocheng Wharf)
This river walk area is a fine piece of urban rejuvenation that is rather rare in the Taipei grid. Thanks to the roads and freeways hidden behind a big wall, you can enjoy the river walk in peace and quiet and see magnificent sunsets.
華山1914文創園區 Huashan1914 (Huashan 1914 Creative Park)
This old factory area has gone mainstream entertainment and you will see a forest of selfie sticks. However, there is something interesting about this place that makes it a great way to explore.
淡水河 (Tamsui River)
Tamsui is the closest to a seaside resort in the Taipei area. It is a nice break from the city but also very touristy.
地熱谷 (Beitou Thermal Valley)
Beitou is famous for its hot springs. It is a great way to pass a few hours and you will swear that you have been transported to a Japanese onsen.
My Favorite 23 Things to do Taipei - Eat & Drink
Taipei has a huge number of local and not so local places to eat and drink. In general, the quality is high and there is rarely anything that feels like a rip-off. Street food can be fantastic value but more 'western' options cost as much as back home.
Expect portions to generally be on the small side and anticipate a lot of food you have likely never tasted before.
Woolloomooloo WXY and Woolloomooloo Out West
Woolloomooloo is a local mini-chain, inspired by Australian coffee shops. It is hipster, urban and spacious - something that is rare to find in Taipei. The coffee and food are excellent but the staff aren't exactly helpful, with a huge language barrier and lots of confusion. However, there is fast WiFi and the coffee shop even has a discount for remote workers who show up every day - awesome!
The Out West location is in a former factory and the whole area has superb design - but it also has a ton of mosquitoes!
創咖啡 (TRUST CAFÉ)
Despite its name, TRUST CAFÉ is NOT a place for coffee but for a set lunch that is served every day between 11.30AM and 3PM. It is great value at around $5 and delicious, as well as high quality.
Smith & Hsu
Smith & Hsu is the place to 'Instagram' your afternoon tea experience. It looks fantastic. When I visited, all seats were taken without reservations.
沛洛瑟珈琲店 (Peloso Coffee Roasters)
Peloso is a small spot that feels like your grandparents' living room. There is the obligatory bike (every coffee shop in Taiwan must have an old bicycle!) and lots of memorabilia. I wasn't blown away by the coffee or the vibe or by the rather high prices.
Despite its name, expect good, hearty lunch options here; some of them are downright delicious. It has a pretty setting and allows you to escape the boiling heat.
上引水產 (Addiction Aquatic Development)
No, this is not a swimming pool but rather a gourmet temple with everything seafood and beyond. It likely started as an upscale supermarket but now has many eateries and takeout options. Fantastic spot to explore!
ラーメン凪 (Ramen Nagi)
Ramen Nagi is the definitive place for ramen in Taipei. And it really delivers. You will not be hungry when you leave this place.
米凱樂台灣 (Mikkeller Bar)
Mikkeller is a surprisingly global chain of craft beer bars. This outlet is superbly clean and the staff are friendly. It's also pretty expensive for a 0.2l beer, at $7.
米朗琪咖啡館 (Melange Cafe)
Melange Cafe is likely the most snobby affair in Taipei. There is serious attitude but also unmatched dessert waffles and fantastic quality espresso drinks. It is not cheap but it IS very good.
小器食堂 (Xiaoqi +k / xqplusk)
Upscale, refined Japanese cuisine at a low price point is what this place is all about. Come here for lunch and be amazed.
旅沐豆行 Coffee Remus
Coffee Remus probably has the best coffee for the lowest price ($2.50) in Taipei. The staff are wonderful, the small sitting area is cozy and the WiFi is fast.
杉味豆花 (Cedar Douhua)
The pudding desserts with all kinds of toppings from this place are just heavenly. They are very sweet and only cost $1.50 but they WILL make you happy!
Gabee is rated number one for espresso in Taipei but I have no idea why. The coffee is just OK and the atmosphere is too loud and oddly too modern. I did not like it much.
京鼎樓 (Jin Din Rou)
Jin Din Rou is THE institution for dumplings in Taipei. 10 shrimp dumplings can be had for $7. I loved the quality of the food here. Keep in mind that the menu/order sheet are in Chinese and the staff are all Chinese - not English.
爭鮮迴轉壽司 (SUSHI EXPRESS)
SUSHI EXPRESS is a local chain with good value conveyor belt sushi. Only a few items are good but once you have dialed it in, it delivers sushi rolls for $1 all day long - heaven!