The capital of Taiwan is between the Central Mountains and the Yangming Mountains. It is undoubtedly the administrative, economic and cultural capital of the whole country.
There are seven central districts and five suburban districts in Taipei.
Things To Do In Taipei
Taipei is rich in cultural heritage, so take out some time to visit some of the famous temples, such as Longshan Temple, Baoan Temple, and Xingtian Temple.
Next on your visit list should be Taipei 101, which is the 9th highest tower in the world. Other landmarks are National Theatre Hall, National Taiwan University, Sun- Yat Sen Memorial Hall and the Grand Hotel.
Ranging from basic natural pools to plush spas at five-star hotels, there are many hot springs in the Greater Taipei area. That said, the top three of all places are:
- Yangmingshan National Park
The basic free ‘rub and scrub’ type public baths are run by the city. Most hotels offer the option of a large sex-segregated bathing area that generally consists of several large baths of various temperatures, jacuzzi, sauna and steam bath and also private and family rooms.
Some hotels also have outdoor baths, which offer restful views over the surrounding countryside.
The law in Taiwan states that for safety reasons, individuals are not allowed to bathe in the private rooms, and there must be at least two people.
Etiquette requires that bathers thoroughly wash and rinse off their bodies before entering public baths, do not wear clothing (which includes swimwear, though this is not the case for mixed-sex public areas) and tie up their hair so that it does not touch the water.
Note: People with high blood pressure, heart disease or open wounds should not enter the baths.
The mountains around Taipei make hiking is a popular exercise in the city. The main hiking spot closest to the city is the Four Beasts Mountain which border Xinyi and Nangang.
One of the most rewarding walks is on Elephant Mountain, where steep steps lead up to several different viewpoints that give a striking contrast between Taipei 101 and its neighboring low-rise buildings, especially against the orange hues of sunset.
Continuing on separate trails will head towards the remaining ‘beasts’ of Leopard, Lion and Tiger, and Nangang mountain and Jiuwufeng beyond them.
Yangmingshan National Park
A favorite destination, located just north of Beitou, during spring when thousands of calla lilies, peonies, and cherry blossoms bloom in the valleys.
Besides that public hot springs, as well as hot sulphur blow holes and sources are equally worth the visit. There are dozens of hiking trails in the park, most marked out on maps from the visitor center.
Qixingshan is the highest peak in Yangmingshan and looks out over the Taipei Basin and the north coast.
There are a few amusement parks around Taipei. One is the Children’s Recreation Center in Zhongshan, great for younger kids, though a little old-fashioned. The Taipei Water Park is also a good place to spend time during summer, with its water slides and swimming areas.
Festivals and Events
Taipei hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, but as many follow the lunar calendar the dates according to the Gregorian calendar are inconsistent. Check the Taiwan Tourist Bureau’s events section before planning to attend an event.
The Lantern Festival
A dazzling display of lanterns and lasers which runs for several days around the fifteenth day of the lunar new year. While the main city event is held at the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall and Taipei City Hall grounds, Renai Road perhaps offers the most elegant display, with the whole tree-lined boulevard transformed into a delicate tunnel of lights.
Pingxi in New Taipei City celebrates the festival with the release of huge lanterns that float serenely across the night sky, carrying with them the dedications and aspirations of those who release them.
Dragon Boat Festival
It commemorates the death of the Chinese patriotic poet Qu Yuan (born 340 BC), who drowned himself in a river out of despair that his beloved country, Chu, was being plundered by a neighboring country as a result of betrayal by his own people.
The festival is marked by races of colorful dragon boats held at various locations throughout the island, with one of the best places to view a race in the Taipei area being the Bitan River in Xindian. Special sticky rice balls called zongzi (pronounced like “dzongdz”) are also eaten on this day. The festival falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.
Golden Horse Film Festival
Often referred to as the Oscars of the Chinese film world, while films in the awards section are all in Chinese, they have English subtitles and there is also a large non-competition foreign language section.
Taipei Film Festival
An international festival with two award sections – Taipei Award Nominees and International New Talent Nominees. Films are shown at several venues throughout the city.
Several memorial halls like the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Zhongzheng District and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Xinyi commemorate the most recognized leaders of the Nationalists to the lesser known war dead in the Martyrs’ Shrine in Zhongshan District.
All three have honor guards which change at set hours, demonstrating military precision and solemn respect for the ROC leaders and soldiers before them. Built in the middle of large parks, the memorial halls are also good places for some quiet reflection.
While Taipei is largely secular, the elaborate Taoist and Buddhist temples such as Longshan Temple and Bao’ a Temple in the older districts of Wanhua and Datong still draw locals who maintain the old rituals and traditions.
On the glitzier side of town, Taipei 101 may have relinquished its tallest building status but remains a very popular attraction for its architectural style and observatory deck. On New Year’s Eve, Taipei 101 becomes a beacon of lights and fireworks.
Points of Interest
The excellent rail system means that day trips are easy to make, and there are lots to see around the New Taipei and Keelung area, and as well as the eastern and western parts of Taiwan:
- Tamsui – an old port town northwest of Taipei
- Jiufen – a former gold mining town located on the northeast coast is now a popular tourist destination
- Banqiao – a town and administrative capital of the other city in the Taipei Metro Area, New Taipei City
- Fulong – a coastal town on the eastern coast of Taipei County with an excellent beach
- Yingge – famous for its high concentration of potters and ceramic makers
- Taroko Gorge – here the Liwu River cuts through 3,000-foot marble cliffs. The area around the gorge is also identified as Taroko Gorge National Park
- Hsinchu – a city with an old heritage and modern science park.
- Shei-pa National Park – it spans mountains and rivers and is in Hsinchu County has great hiking trails. Hsinchu County is also home to Leofoo Village Theme Park, Taiwan’s most popular amusement park.
- Sun Moon Lake – in Nantou County is a crystal clear lake embedded into lush mountains.
- Tainan – a laidback atmosphere and an in-depth look into the history of Taiwan.
Museums and galleries
Anyone with even the slightest interest in Chinese history should visit the National Palace Museum in Shilin, which holds the singular best collection of historical artifacts from China, expertly curated by its staff. It is large enough that only one percent of what it owns is displayed at any one time, chief among them ancient paintings, scrolls, books and ceramics that span over 5000 years. The National Museum of History in Zhongzheng also holds valuable relics. There are other quirky little private museums such as the Miniatures Museum and Museum of Drinking Water for more off-beat exploration.
Art in classical and contemporary forms can be appreciated too, in the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the Taipei MOCA. Local artists have gathered in various artist villages to find inspiration and cultural centers like Huashan Cultural Center are interesting informal spaces for a creative spark. Taiwanese auteurs dream of becoming the next Ang Lee, displaying their independent films in the Spot-Taipei Film House. All these can be found in Zhongshan.
Parks and outdoors
If the cityscape gets a little dreary, there are plenty of parks to escape to. Daan Park is one of the largest in the city, earning the moniker of Taipei Central Park. 228 Peace Park in Zhongzheng was named to remember the bloody 228 Incident of 28 February 1947 and also holds the National Taiwan Museum and the 228 Memorial Museum. A few green spaces can also be found along the banks of the Keelung River, such as Zhongshan District’s Dajie Riverside Park.
Visit the Taipei Zoo in Wenshan to see giant pandas, brown bears, and gorillas for a low, low price. It’s more akin to a walk in a leafy park, where animals are free to roam around in their open enclosures. Combine it with a ride up on the Maokong Gondola, which has a few special glass-floor carriages, to relax further in the hilltop teahouses.
Even though very little ancient architecture remains in Taipei, four of Taipei’s five original city gates still stand. The city walls which surrounded the old city and the West Gate were demolished by the Japanese to make way for roads and railway lines.
Of the four gates still standing, the Kuomintang renovated three of them in its effort to “sinicize” Taipei and converted them from the original southern Chinese architecture to northern Chinese palace-style architecture, leaving only the North Gate (beimen or more formally Cheng’en men) in its original Qing Dynasty splendor today.
Long obstructed by a busy elevated freeway, the freeway was decommissioned and removed in 2016, and a park has been built around the gate.
How To Get Here
Thirty Kilometers away from the city is the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, which is also known as the CKS after its old name Chiang Kai Shek International Airport.
The airport has various means of transports through which you can reach the city- there is a bus, high-speed train, shuttle, and taxis as well as sedans.
There is also an airport in Dunhua North Road, called the Songshan Airport which serves flights to and from China and Japan.
Best Time To Visit
The winter season is chilly for a semi-tropical climate in Taipei. And rainy season experiences typhoons in August and September. But during Fall, the temperature is pleasant, and the rain subsides.
Avoid May – July as the temperature is too high, and the humidity is uncomfortable.
Taipei probably has one of the highest densities of restaurants in the world. Almost every street and alley offers some kind of eatery. Of course, Chinese food (from all provinces) is well-represented.
In addition, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Italian cuisines are also popular. Basically, East Taipei, especially around Dunhua and Anhe Roads, and also the expat enclave of Tianmu are where to clash chopsticks with the rich and famous, whereas West Taipei offers smaller, homey restaurants.
The nightlife in Taipei runs from boisterous night markets to equally exuberant clubs and bars, and indeed the city comes alive with glittering lights after the last rays of the sun leave the grey buildings.
Xinyi is where the biggest and most flashy clubs are, especially the ATT4FUN Building which has an excellent view of Taipei 101, while smaller shophouses around the Taida and Shida university areas host live music gigs (although lessened after noise complaints).
The “Combat Zone” in Zhongshan used to be the go-to district for US soldiers in the Vietnam War and remains fairly gritty with quite the collection of dive bars. The area around Red House Theater near Ximending has a large number of outdoor bars which are generally known to be gay-friendly. Visit the Taiwan Beer Bar, also known as Taipei Brewery, in Zhongzheng if you fancy trying cheap and fresh brews of the local favorite Taiwan Beer.
Cover charges are usually required for entry, but these will include a free drink at the very least, with some places even offering free flow of house pours for the whole night after payment. Wednesday nights are ladies’ night in most venues.
Taiwan’s specialty tea is High Mountain Oolong (高山烏龍, a fragrant, light tea) and Tieguanyin (鐵觀音, a dark, rich brew).
The mountainous Maokong area of Muzha in the Wenshan district of the city has dozens upon dozens of teahouses, many of which also offer panoramic views of the city. Its especially spectacular on a clear evening. A Maokong Gondola (cable car) system services the Taipei Zoo MRT station to Maokong. The S10 bus comes up from the Wanfang Community MRT station.
While traditionally a nation of tea drinkers, the Taiwanese have really embraced the cafe culture, and all the usual chains can be found here in abundance. For cafes with more character, roam the back streets near National Taiwan University between Xinsheng South Road and Roosevelt Road in Gongguan.
More cafes are located in the area around Renai Road, Section 4 and Dunhua South Road. There are also some interesting and characterful places between Yongkang Park and Chaozhou Street, and in the alleys around Shida Road.
However, for a particularly impressive range of styles, visit Bitan in Xindian, where all the cafes offer restful views over the river and mountains beyond (though can be noisy during weekends).
The best way to find a good teacher is to visit a park at sunrise and check out the scene for yourself. If you spot a group that impresses you, approach one of the students and inquire about joining them.
Most teachers will be happy to have a new student, though some old masters may ‘play hard to get.’ In the latter case, persistence is required. Most teachers will expect some sort of fee for their tuition. However, as it is considered impolite to directly ask the teacher this question, use a fellow student as a mediator.
Furthermore, when offering the money on the allotted day, place it in a red envelope (hongbao – available at all convenience and stationery stores) and slip it to the teacher subtly. Offering cash openly to a teacher of a traditional art or religion is considered undignified and demeaning.
Most parks host tai’chi groups, but the most popular places are the grounds of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall as well as 228 Peace Park.
The free iTaiwan is available all over the city – for more information read the country article. You need to (freely and easily) register to use it.
Furthermore, Internet cafés are plentiful, especially in the maze of alleys between Taipei Main Station and Peace Park. However, you may have to wander around (and look up and down as many are on higher floors or in the basement) before finding one.
Some computers are coin operated. Internet cafes are known as wang-ka in Chinese (a combination of wang, the Chinese word for ‘net’, and ka an abbreviation of ‘cafe’).
How Safe is Taipei
Taipei is one of the safest cities you will ever visit, and violent crime is extremely rare. However, as in many large cities, pickpockets operate in crowded areas, and so you should be vigilant in night markets.
Local police are a resource you can turn for help, and many officers speak at least basic English.
Central Weather Bureau – In addition to giving 7-day forecasts for Taipei, this website also has detailed maps showing the path of an approaching typhoon and up-to-the-minute information of earthquakes, giving their location and magnitude.
- English-speaking police: +886 2 2555 4257 / 2556 6007
- Emergency numbers:
- Police: 110
- Ambulance, Fire brigade: 119
Type of Electricity
The electricity used in Taipei has a power of 110- 120 V, so if you plug in a Canadian or American appliance, then an adapter is all you need. The socket type is Type A and Type B, both of which support plug A.
September 22, 2018 9:43 pm
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