8 Must-See Attractions and Activities in Vibrant Taipei
8 Must-See Attractions and Activities in Vibrant Taipei - Explore the Vast National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum in Taipei houses one of the world's most impressive collections of Chinese art and artifacts. With nearly 700,000 pieces spanning over 8,000 years of Chinese history, you could easily spend days wandering its vast halls and galleries. Even if you only have a few hours to spare, a visit to the National Palace Museum should be at the top of your Taipei itinerary.
The museum originated in Beijing's Forbidden City in 1925 under the last emperor Puyi. When the Imperial Palace was facing invasion during the Chinese Civil War, the most precious artifacts were packed in crates and transported to Taiwan. Today, the National Palace Museum displays these national treasures along with artifacts added over the decades.
Walking through the museum feels like stepping into a treasure box filled with China's imperial past. Exquisite jade carvings, delicate calligraphy scrolls, and glazed porcelain dishes reveal the finest examples of Chinese craftsmanship. Don't miss the Jadeite Cabbage sculpture with its translucent leaves carved from a single piece of jade. Marvel at the Meat-shaped Stone, an intricately carved piece of banded jasper in the shape of a hunk of pork. Gaze in wonder at the Beauty Reclining on a Stone Pillow sculpture depicting a Tang dynasty court lady.
Beyond the artwork, you'll also find historical artifacts like bronzes from the Shang dynasty and terracotta soldiers. Walk through rooms decorated like interiors from China's Imperial Palace to add context. With every turn, you'll uncover new facets of China's rich history and gain insight into dynasties long past.
While the sheer volume of items can feel overwhelming, visiting the museum with a plan helps maximize your time. Focus your visit by picking a few highlights in advance like the Jadeite Cabbage or Meat-shaped Stone. You can then explore other galleries at a more leisurely pace. Planning your route through the museum also helps minimize backtracking through its four extensive floors.
It's easy to work up an appetite while wandering the vast museum. Grab a bite in one of the two cafeterias serving both Chinese and Western cuisine. There are also small snack kiosks throughout the museum for drinks and light snacks when you need a quick break. Don't forget to stop in the museum shop filled with books, souvenirs, and Chinese crafts.
Insider's Tip: The museum can draw big crowds, especially on weekends and holidays. Beat the lines by arriving when it opens at 8:30 am or visiting later in the day after 4 pm when it's often quieter. Purchasing tickets online in advance is another smart strategy for skipping long ticket queues.
"I was completely blown away by the collection at the National Palace Museum in Taipei. As someone who loves Chinese history, I was enthralled for hours and feel like I've only scratched the surface of what's here."
"Don't be intimidated by the massive size of the museum. Just focus on a few highlights you really want to see. It's impossible to view the entire collection in one visit anyway."
"Even if you only have a couple of hours, it's worth visiting the National Palace Museum. You can easily see the highlights and experience a sliver of its incredible collection."
What else is in this post?
- 8 Must-See Attractions and Activities in Vibrant Taipei - Explore the Vast National Palace Museum
- 8 Must-See Attractions and Activities in Vibrant Taipei - Savor Night Market Delights at Shilin Night Market
- 8 Must-See Attractions and Activities in Vibrant Taipei - Ride the Maokong Gondola for Stunning Views
- 8 Must-See Attractions and Activities in Vibrant Taipei - Visit Taipei 101 for City Views and Shopping
- 8 Must-See Attractions and Activities in Vibrant Taipei - Walk Along Zhongshan Road for Historic Buildings and Sites
8 Must-See Attractions and Activities in Vibrant Taipei - Savor Night Market Delights at Shilin Night Market
Of all Taipei's famous night markets, none rivals the enormous size and vibrant energy of Shilin Night Market. Located next to the city's central Shilin metro station, this sprawling market transports you into Taipei's bustling nightlife scene. Wander crowded lanes lined with food stalls serving up Taiwanese street food specialties. Shop for clothes, accessories, and knick-knacks at the many vendor stalls. And soak up the lively atmosphere of this quintessential Taipei nightlife experience.
Shilin Night Market first opened in 1909 next to the local Shilin temple. Over the years, it gradually expanded into the massive market you'll find today. Now spanning multiple city blocks, it's easy to lose yourself in Shilin's maze of narrow alleys and lanes crammed with food stalls and vendors. Arm yourself with patience as you navigate the crowds jostling for counter space at the hottest food stalls. Don't be afraid to point at menu pictures or food items to place your order if needed.
While night markets throughout Taiwan serve up similar street food fare, each has its own specialties too. At Shilin, you'll find two hundred food stalls serving a dizzying array of classic Taiwanese eats. Cool off with refreshing cold noodles tossed with vinegar and chili oil. Crunch into Gua bao, fluffy steamed buns stuffed with savory braised pork belly, pickled greens, and powdered peanut.
Dig into fried chicken cutlets the size of your face, tender oyster omelets, and stinky tofu topped with sweet chili sauce. You can't leave Shilin without trying the market's specialty – giant chicken steaks. These hearty slabs of fried chicken leg and thigh meat were first created here. Choose original or spicy flavors and grab a plastic glove to tackle these mouthwatering but messy monster chicken chunks.
In between bites, browse the market's many vendor stalls. Shop for quirky toys and souvenirs, fashions and beauty products. Marvel at the sheer variety of items for sale from phone cases to luggage and trinkets to t-shirts. Don't be afraid to haggle - bargaining is expected. You can often score significant discounts off initial asking prices. Just be sure to keep an upbeat, friendly tone to your negotiations.
Insider Tip: Shilin Night Market is busiest from 6 pm to midnight, especially on weekends. Beat the biggest crowds by going on a weekday or earlier in the evening around 5 pm. This will make navigating the narrow lanes much easier. Also, go with an empty stomach - there are hundreds of tempting food options here so come hungry and ready to feast.
"Don't make the mistake of having a big meal before coming to Shilin Night Market. You'll want to save your appetite for the amazing street food, from fried chicken to cold noodles and all sorts of classic Taiwanese eats."
"I had one of the best meals of my life hopping between food stalls at Shilin Night Market. The energy and atmosphere was so fun too - it's a must-do when visiting Taipei."
"Come with patience as Shilin gets extremely crowded, especially on weekends. But the food is totally worth fighting the crowds for. Just take it slowly and dive right into one of Taipei's best nightlife experiences."
8 Must-See Attractions and Activities in Vibrant Taipei - Ride the Maokong Gondola for Stunning Views
Glide above the lush hillsides south of Taipei on a scenic ride aboard the Maokong Gondola. This aerial cable car transports you high above the city to the quaint Maokong tea region, delivering breathtaking vistas along the way. As the gondola climbs from the Taipei Zoo station, the cityscape unfolds below you. Watch urban Taipei transition to mountains clad in emerald forests. Soak up panoramas of the Keelung River valley as you gently sail over temples, parks and tea plantations.
The Maokong Gondola opened in 2007, creating an easy link between Taipei and Maokong’s historic tea culture. The gondola route stretches 4.3 kilometers across four stations. Cars depart every 10-15 minutes, completing the full 30 minute journey from Taipei Zoo to Maokong Station at the end of the line. You can also hop off at any station along the way to hike and explore. Just scan your electronic ticket when boarding again to continue your aerial ride.
Don’t miss disembarking at the Zhinan Temple stop halfway through the journey. Here you’ll find the beautiful Zhinan Temple perched on a hillside overlooking the gondola route. First built in 1891, this serene Buddhist temple complex houses shrines, pagodas and gorgeous mountain vistas. Spend time wandering the temple’s many halls and courtyards before catching the next gondola to continue onward.
Insider Tip: For unobstructed views on your gondola ride, try to get a window spot on the right-hand side headed towards Maokong. This side has the best vantage points of the route’s landmarks.
When booking your tickets, opt for the crystal cabins if available. These futuristic pod-like cars have glass floors and panoramic windows for maximum sightseeing. The capsules only hold six people, making for a more intimate experience than the larger standard gondola cars. Your feet may sweat holding back vertigo as you seemingly float over the forest! But the crystal cabins provide thrilling transparent views straight down to the valley floor.
At the last stop, you’ll arrive in quaint Maokong, famous for its superb teas. For centuries, the lush mountains here have offered ideal growing conditions for top-quality oolong and other teas. Stop at one of the area's many teahouses to experience traditional tea service while soaking up the mist-shrouded mountain scenery. Savor freshly brewed pots of fragrant tea paired with snacks like mochi, dried fruit and tea eggs. Listen to the calming sound of wind chimes and flowing water features as you relax above the city.
For unparalleled vistas day and night, visit Taipei 101 on the trip back towards the city. Formerly the world’s tallest building, this iconic skyscraper has an open-air observatory on the 89th floor. Gaze out at the sprawling urban cityscape from this dizzying perch almost 1,700 feet in the sky. On clear days, you can see all the way to Keelung Harbor. But visiting at sunset or after dark showcases Taipei 101’s engineering might with 360 degree views of twinkling city lights.
Tip: If heights make you queasy, stick to riding the gondola during daytime hours. The route and scenery is impressive enough to enjoy the experience without stepping out onto the dizzying observation decks.
Wherever you decide to start and end your Maokong Gondola adventure, gliding high over Taipei delivers an unforgettable perspective. This unique ride combines commuting and sightseeing, giving you a glimpse of Taiwan’s natural beauty just beyond the city’s edge. Visitors and locals alike appreciate the gondola’s scenic route and ease of transit.
“Don’t miss the chance to ride the Maokong Gondola when visiting Taipei! It gives you stunning sweeping views of the city and surrounding mountains that you just can’t get anywhere else.”
8 Must-See Attractions and Activities in Vibrant Taipei - Visit Taipei 101 for City Views and Shopping
No trip to Taipei is complete without heading to the iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper, once the world's tallest building. At 1,671 feet, Taipei 101 dominates the city's skyline and can be seen from nearly everywhere in town. Beyond its architectural significance and engineering feats, Taipei 101 also delivers fabulous city views from its indoor observatory and high-end shopping in the adjoining mall.
Travel up to the 89th floor indoor observatory for spellbinding 360 degree vistas across Taipei. Gaze out floor-to-ceiling windows for panoramic views of the city's expansive urban sprawl, ringed by mountains on all sides. On clear days, scope out even more distant landmarks like Elephant Mountain and the Tamshui River. The view deck’s informative displays identify the city's key buildings, neighborhoods, mountains, and more spread out before you. This helps bring Taipei's geography to life and gives helpful context to the vista.
For the full perspectives, climb up the stairs to the outdoor observation terrace on the 91st floor. Feel the sun and breeze on this open-air deck extending beyond the glass-enclosed indoor viewing area. Snap photos from this lofty height without any reflections or obstructions - though the dizzying height may give you a bit of vertigo! You can also head up to the highest vantage point, the Damper Baby on the 92nd floor. Here, stare down at the tiny streets surrounding the skyscraper and truly appreciate the enormity of this feat of engineering.
The best times to visit the observatory are at twilight and after dark when Taipei truly comes alive in glittering lights. Watch the city transition from day to night, with sunsets casting a warm glow across the horizon. Return at night to soak up the neon sea of urban energy, with Taipei 101’s own LED light show illuminating the tower with colorful displays. Avoid visiting mid-day when the heat and bright overhead sun can make outdoor viewing unpleasant.
Insider's Tip: Beat the long ticket queues by purchasing timed entry tickets in advance online for a small fee. Or opt for packaged tickets that also give you access to the 6D theatres or kids' creative workshops on the 5th floor. These combo deals deliver more value for under $5 more than general admission tickets. They also allow you to skip the main ticket lines and go right up to the attractions.
After soaking up those heavenly high-altitude views, spend time exploring the multi-level Taipei 101 Shopping Mall at the base of the tower. Covering over 1 million square feet, this upscale mall houses brand boutiques, top international designers, fine jewelers, and more.
Browse European luxury brands at shops like Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent, Gucci and Prada. Linger over high fashion at Emporio Armani, Cartier and Chanel. Treat yourself to premium beauty and skincare at SK-II, Estee Lauder, and Aesop. Discover chic Asian designers at boutiques like Shanghai Tang and Mikimoto.
Beyond luxury retail, Taipei 101 Shopping Mall also boasts leading bookstores like Eslite and food halls perfect for grabbing a bite. Search out the latest gadgets and electronics at Sony and Nikon showrooms. The mall connects directly to the Taipei City Hall metro station, making it a convenient shopping stop while already exploring downtown.
While the high prices here generally cater to luxury shoppers, Taipei 101 still offers fun window shopping opportunities. The clean, modern architecture and pampering amenities like massage chairs make wandering the floors enjoyable. Grab bubble tea or souvenirs on the ground floor food court before heading home.
Insider's Tip: Sign up online for the Taipei 101 Premium Club before your visit. It's free to join and scores you significant dining, shopping, and spa discounts across participating mall vendors. Flashing your member card easily pays for the enrollment.
"Don't miss going up to the Taipei 101 observatory - the views are phenomenal! You really get a sense of how enormous yet well-organized the city is. We got some awesome photos day and night."
"Beyond the great city views, I enjoyed exploring the luxury shops at the Taipei 101 mall. While I couldn't afford most items, it was like visiting a high fashion museum with the incredible designs."
8 Must-See Attractions and Activities in Vibrant Taipei - Walk Along Zhongshan Road for Historic Buildings and Sites
Step back in time with a stroll along Taipei’s historic Zhongshan Road. This vibrant corridor traces the footsteps of the city’s past with a remarkable collection of preserved architecture. Wander tree-lined blocks showcasing buildings from Taipei’s centuries as a trading port under various global powers. Peek into a mingling of Chinese, Japanese, European and eclectic fusion styles as you walk.
Zhongshan Road offers an easily walkable route through significant eras in Taipei’s history. Start at Ximen Station in the west and head east to experience the progression. The road’s beginnings trace back to the late 1800s during the Qing Dynasty when Taipei was still a modest trading settlement centered on Bangka Harbor.
After the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, Japan claimed Taiwan and transformed Taipei into a modern city complete with new infrastructure, government offices and transport. Many of Zhongshan Road’s earliest surviving structures date to this period from 1895 to 1945 under Japanese rule.
Look for buildings exhibiting a blend of European and Japanese architecture. Check out the Hayashi Department Store with its distinctive green dome and Ionic columns. Continue past the North Gate of the former city wall built in 1884. Pop into The Red House, Taipei’s first public market constructed in 1908 featuring a octagonal shape inspired by Japanese design.
After WWII, the Republic of China regained control of Taiwan and became the governing power. This ushered in another wave of construction as Taipei continued evolving into a metropolitan capital. Walk further east to discover administrative structures and museums from this postwar era after 1945.
The most striking example is the National Taiwan Museum with its columns and rotunda dome borrowed from neoclassical style. Nearby sits the imposing National Concert Hall and National Theater adorned with additional classically inspired motifs.
In your last stretch approaching Zhongxiao East Road, you’ll find newer contemporary structures alongside the historic ones. Sleek modern towers housing offices and hotels cater to today’s Taipei. But look for remnants of the past sandwiched between the glittering new high-rises.
Hidden historic gems still await discovery for those who pay attention. Spot old three-story shophouses where ground floor businesses nestle under upper level residences. Look closely for ornate decorative details around windows, eaves and doors. Notice lingering wall advertisements faintly visible behind new signs.
Throughout your walk, duck down side streets and alleyways branching off Zhongshan Road too. Here you can find even more preserved architecture and get a feel for old Taipei neighborhoods. Drop into quirky shops selling teas, incense or antiques. Grab snacks from a local bakery or noodle stand to refuel along the way.
Most buildings lack plaques or descriptions, so having a guidebook or map helps identify eras and details. But you can still appreciate how the varied architecture tells the evolving story of Taipei. Open your senses as you stroll to feel the changing vibes through the centuries.
Listen to hear when conversations switch from Mandarin to Japanese and back again. Inhale scents wafting from old-world Chinese herbal medicine shops versus noodle shops selling ramen. Notice vehicles go from rickshaws to streetcars to modern cars and buses. Let the experience come to life based on what you see.
Zhongshan Road provides the perfect introduction to Taipei’s storied past. Unlike museum exhibits frozen in time, the living history here immerses you in the path Taipei has traced over the decades. This easily walkable route through the centuries right in the heart of the city delivers an enlightening glimpse into Taipei’s journey to the dynamic capital it is today.
“I loved exploring the varied architecture and historic buildings along Zhongshan Road. It really brought Taipei's complex history to life for me. I gained a much deeper appreciation of how the city has evolved.”
“Don't just rush through Zhongshan Road without stopping. Take time to look around at the buildings from different eras. Wander down some side streets too for a better feel for old Taipei.”