Things to Do in Taipei
Taiwan’s tallest skyscraper, Taipei 101, enjoyed the title of world’s tallest building from 2004 until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai was completed in 2010. It remains the world’s largest and tallest green building. The 1,667-foot (508-meter) structure consists of 101 aboveground floors and five underground floors and houses a mix of offices, a multilevel shopping complex, food court and restaurants.
Perhaps more impressive than the total height of the building is its structural integrity. The skyscraper was designed to withstand earthquakes and typhoon-level winds thanks to a massive damper sphere, the largest in the world. The building’s exterior is meant to resemble bamboo, a symbol of longevity.
You can spot the Taipei 101 from nearly anywhere in Taipei, but the best way to experience it is by riding the world’s fastest elevator to the eighty-ninth floor observatory. Take a self-guided audio tour in the indoor observatory before climbing to the outdoor deck.
Rare hoodoo stones, rock spires and sedimentary formations make Yeh Liu Geo Park, located on a cape in Wanli, a popular destination among travelers. The well-known “Queen’s Head” at the furthest end of the park offers impressive views and close proximity to a tiny cave that’s slightly less crowded than the main visitors area. Spend several hours wandering the natural landscape while snapping photos of this park that travelers say looks “other worldly”. The park’s popularity means there are often crowds, so it’s recommended to arrive early and leave before lunch, or arrive later in the day, when larger groups have already dispersed.
The incomparable collection of Chinese art in Taipei's National Palace Museum makes it the city's number one tourist attraction. Many of the exhibits were once displayed in Beijing’s Forbidden City, and were moved to Taiwan in 1933, during the Chinese Civil War. Their new home is modern echo of that complex, sitting in lush gardens at the base of a dramatic hillside.
Items on display represent millennia of Chinese artistry and ingenuity, with highlights including an important calligraphy collection, landscape paintings and a huge range of jade, bronze and ceramic artifacts.
Travelers flock to Alishan National Scenic Area for its breathtaking views and incredible sunrises. Thick white clouds cover the valley below and towering mountaintops look like tiny islands in a never-ending ocean.
Thick forests and well-kept hiking trails lead to the incredible views that are the main attraction at this scenic area. But visitors interested in more than just a pretty view can stop at nearby Ziyun Temple, Alishan Hotel and Alishan Rail Station—one of just three mountain rails in the world.
The Taiwanese people's reverence for the first President of the Republic of China and the icon of Chinese Nationalism is very much in evidence in the monumental Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
Chiang died in 1975, the hall opened five years later and since then the huge white structure, with its octagonal blue pagoda-style roof, has become a symbol of Taiwan.
You approach through a white ceremonial gateway on a similarly overwhelming scale. Once inside you'll find yourself immersed in Chiang’s life, with relics to bring alive his military and political career, including a slightly eerie dummy of the late president sitting in a recreation of his office.
Shifen Waterfall is located in the Pingxi District of Taipei and is one of the most famous falls in Taiwan. At just 20 meters it’s not remarkably tall, but it is the widest waterfall in the country – it spans some 40 meters across – and is both incredibly powerful and majestically captivating. Torrents of water plunge into a deep pool, raising a shroud of mist that creates a dazzling rainbow effect on sunny days. The waterfall’s rocks slope in the opposite direction to the flow of the water in a cascade style similar to that of Niagara Falls, earning it the nickname, “Taiwan's Little Niagara.”
It is a scenic walk from Shifen railway station to the waterfall, with many choosing to extend the hike by alighting the train from Taipei at Sandiaoling and taking three or four hours to complete the Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail.
Tucked in the hills, just beyond Taipei city limits, lies popular Elephant Mountain—a natural network of trekking trails and walking paths that lead to some of the area’s most epic views.
Travelers willing to climb the dozens of steep steps along the Xiangshan Hiking Trail will be greeted by an uninterrupted look at the city skyline, including the towering Taipei 101. Visitors agree it’s one of the best in the area, and easy access from downtown makes it a perfect day trip for visitors looking to escape the urban jungle while still keeping it within view.
Longshan is Taipei’s oldest and most popular temple, dating back to the early 18th century, when it was first established by settlers from mainland China. In the meantime it’s expanded and contracted in times of war and peace, very much integrated into the life of the city while offering an oasis of reflection and contemplation within its heart.
Visitors are rarely unmoved by the amazingly ornate carvings and other decorative elements on display. The ceremonial gateways, elegant pagoda roofs and heady incense burners associated with traditional Chinese temples are all here. Also typically Chinese is the mix of faiths; Longshan is associated with Buddhism, Taoism and local gods.
After a relaxing soak in the thermal baths of Beitou Hot Springs, head to the nearby museum that shares a similar name. The Euro-Japanese-style building was built during Taipei’s occupation and once served as the main access to Beitou’s public bath.
In true Japanese style, visitors are asked to remove their shoes before exploring the network of 12 rooms that make up this popular attraction. Once the site of the largest bathhouse in Asia, the museum’s second floor is now home to an exhibition area that showcases articles, books, photographs and the history of the famous hot springs.
More Things to Do in Taipei
Weary travelers will love soaking in the steaming waters of Beitou Hot Springs. Deep in the heart of lush green forests and surrounded by breathtaking scenery, these thermal spas offers the perfect opportunity to wash away the stresses of mass transit and the chaos of busy Taipei streets.
Five pools of various temperatures—from crazy hot to lukewarm and even cold—mean there’s an ideal dip for every visitor to Beitou. Unlike other natural spas that sometimes require travelers to soak in the buff, Beitou invites guests to settle into its waters wearing bathing suits.
The Taipei Fine Arts Museum, the first of its kind in Taiwan, opened in 1983 in the building that once housed the United States Defense Command. The museum’s collection seeks to highlight work by Taiwanese and international artists from the late nineteenth century onward, picking up where the National Palace Museum’s collection ends. Exhibits run the gamut from photography and oil paintings to mixed media art. The Jewels of 25 Years Museum Collection highlights the best pieces of the 4,000 the museum has collected since its opening.
Besides the permanent collection, the Fine Arts Museum hosts special exhibitions throughout the year, including the prestigious Taipei Fine Arts Awards, an annual competition to unearth emerging local talent. The museum frequently exchanges collections with other international museums, so there’s always something new to see.
Since 2011 artists, creators and visionaries have gathered at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park—an old renovated tobacco factory—to showcase work, engage in arts education and inspire industry insiders.
Travelers can wander the grounds, which include five old warehouses, a design museum and lab, a restaurant, garden and ecological pond. Public maps point visitors in the direction of popular shops, like the Liuligongfang glass store, as well as exhibit halls showcasing contemporary art, handmade designs and other local goods often available for purchase.
Built up the side of one of Taipei’s many green hills, the Taipei Zoo is the largest zoological park in Asia with more than 222 acres (90 hectares) of exhibits open to the public. As you walk uphill through the zoo, you’ll pass through 12 outdoor areas and 10 indoor ones with ample space for picnicking.
The zoo was originally privately owned by a Japanese citizen until the Taiwanese government bought it in 1915, a year after it was built. It was relocated to its current location in 1986 to allow for expansion and larger animal exhibits. Today, a variety of domestic and international animal species, including over 130 species of birds, call the park home.
Make sure to visit the Formosan animal area to observe some of Taiwan’s native animals, including the flying fox, Chinese pangolin and Asiatic black bear. Also of note is the Giant Panda facility located just to the left of the entrance. Plan to head there just as the park opens to avoid the crowds.
Considered by some to be the Central or Hyde Park of Taipei, this brilliant green oasis tucked between narrow city streets offers locals and travelers alike a quick escape route from the urban hustle.
The park, which opened in 1994, is a hub for outdoor activities. The grounds include several pavilions where local acts put on public performances, as well as walking paths that weave between towering palm trees. The running loop is thick with recreational athletes in the early morning hours, while the amphitheater, playground and skating rink offer plenty of alternatives for travelers looking to connect with nature without leaving the city.
After you’ve seen the Taipei 101 and shopped the city’s mega malls, get a sense of what Taipei was like decades ago with a visit to Dihua Street. The street that once served as Taipei’s major commercial center during the late Qing Dynasty still caters to more traditional tastes.
You won’t find any souvenirs or trinkets here, but you will see a wide range of traditional Chinese goods, like tea, medicinal herbs, dried mushrooms and seafood, beans, rice and sweets, and many locals coming to shop. Dihua Street gets particularly busy in the days leading up to Chinese New Year when families come to stock up on traditional holiday foods. During this time, the street becomes a solid wall of people haggling for their ingredients.
Food vendors, mom and pop restaurants, video arcades and karaoke bars are just part of the draw Shilin Night Market. This tiny Taipei district comes alive at night when the doors of some 539 food court stalls, and small shops selling items that range from electronics to dress shoes open for business. Bold scents waft through the air and bright lights fill otherwise darkened streets, making this the perfect place to explore what local city nightlife is all about.
Visitors in search of typical fare will find literally hundreds of options at Shilin Night Market. Cold bubble tea, strong and sweet coffee, fried buns, intestines and stinky tofu are just some of the delights awaiting adventurous eaters. Travelers should come hungry and ready to explore, since navigating the network of stalls can take an entire evening.
Taipei’s National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shine honors the men and women who died fighting on behalf of Taiwan in the second Sino-Japanese War, Chinese Civil War and both Taiwan Cross-Strait Crises among others. Around 390,000 names are listed on wooden plaques throughout the complex. The site has several structures, including a separate shrine for both military and civilian martyrs and a drum tower used during special rites ceremonies. Both the civilian and military martyrs’ shrines display profiles of some of the martyrs enshrined there and information about the conflicts.
The shrine was completed in 1969 and was inspired by the Hall of Supreme Harmony in Beijing. Plan your visit on the hour mark to witness the changing of the guard, an elaborate ritual similar to that seen at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. Memorial rites take place on March 29 and September 3 each year when the president and other government leaders come to pay their respects.
Taipei’s Presidential Office Building has housed the offices of the president and his staff since 1949. The stunning colonial-style building was constructed in 1919 to serve as the Japanese occupation headquarters but was severely damaged by bombing during World War II. The entire structure was rebuilt in 1946 in the same style as the original, and its distinctive brickwork is an excellent example of Japanese-era architecture in Taiwan.
The five-story red brick building has an eleven-floor tower at its center. At the time it was built, it was the tallest building in Taipei. On weekday mornings, the Presidential Office Building is open for tours, giving visitors the chance to see exactly where the president works. Even if you don’t take the tour, it’s worth stopping by just to see the building’s facade.
Modeled after the oldest and largest Confucius temple in the philosopher’s hometown in Shangdong, China, the Taipei Confucius Temple displays all the characteristics of traditional Chinese temple architecture, including intricately carved wooden pillars, brightly painted roof tiles and sculptures. Unlike other Chinese temples, the Taipei Confucius Temple houses no likenesses of Confucius and bears no inscriptions. According to local legend, no one can match the literary prowess of Confucius, making inscriptions inauspicious.
The temple was originally built during the Qing Dynasty but was subsequently demolished during the Japanese occupation. The temple as it stands today was erected in 1930, though it briefly served as a Shinto shrine during World War II until Taiwan was given back to the Republic of China government in 1945.
Visitors come from throughout Asia and the world to soak in the healing waters of Taiwan’s natural hot springs, many of which are located in the close vicinity of Taipei. One of Taiwan’s most famous collections of natural volcanic hot springs are clustered in Beitou District in an area known as Hell Valley, or Geothermal Valley.
Upon entering the valley, you’ll understand how it gets its name. An ever-present sulfurous mist permeates the air with billowing clouds of hot steam rising up from hidden cracks in the ground. The hot springs pools here reach up to 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), rendering it too hot to swim. Locals used to come here to boil eggs in the highly acidic waters. To experience the supposedly healing waters that generate in Hell Valley, visit the Beitou Hot Springs, a public hot springs that maintains pools at a much more comfortable temperature.
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