How to Spend a Day in Taipei
Taipei is a fascinating city with a lot to see and do, but there often isn’t time to give any place the thorough exploration that it needs.
I was lucky enough to have a few days to explore the city with my delightful friend, Doreen, but with a day trip out to Jiufen and wanting to eat all of the things with another friend – we had to cram most of the city’s more iconic spots into a single day tour.
Below, I’ve put together a pretty achievable day trip for those wanting to see the best Taipei has to offer in a single day.
It might have been bright and sunny when I woke up, but Taipei's weather took a less welcoming turn as the day wore on. After getting drenched on my way to Taipei 101 for a view of the tops of clouds, it cleared a little in time for my visit to 228 Peace Park. Commemorating the February 28 Incident of 1947, the park stands as memorial to the 10,000 – 30,000 Taiwanese citizens who lost their lives in the uprising against and resulting massacre at the hands of the ruling Chinese. A powerful symbol of Taiwan's continued independence from the mainland, the park itself is a place of beauty and serenity.
Early Taiwanese breakfast
You didn’t come all this way to eat your hostel’s free continental breakfast or hit up the McDonalds’ breakfast menu!
Traditional Taiwanese breakfasts are heavily influenced by northern Chinese cuisine, so you can expect to see some familiar sights like youtiao (fried bread), dan bing (a delicious savoury pancake), and the ever popular dim-sum.
Wash it all down with some cold or hot soybean milk if you’re feeling adventurous, or take the safe option and get a bubble tea or fruit tea.
You can read more about Taiwanese breakfast over at Pretty Hungry.
This one is a fairly easy stop, and I didn’t spend more than half an hour here.
There’s a saying that if you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all – so if you’ve got temple fatigue, Longshan is the obvious one to cut from your itinerary.
Built in 1738 and something of a ‘local’ area despite its popularity with tourists, it’s a good place to see a side of Taipei you might not otherwise see in the modern metropolis.
We also grabbed lunch in one of the nearby eateries, but that’s because we’d had to skip breakfast due to getting a later start than anticipated.
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
Another quick visit, we actually caught this one during a later evening tour and still found it quite nice.
In the morning, it’s a popular place for older citizens to gather to do tai chi, sing songs of the glory days, and generally socialize. In the evening, the same area becomes popular with a younger crowd practising hip-hop dancing in one of the more surreal ways to celebrate one of the country’s founding fathers.
Stick around for an hour or so to soak in the ambiance and see the changing of the guard.
National Palace Museum
By now, you should have had some lunch. You don’t want to be paying overs for food at the museum cafe, and the museum isn’t something you can rush through.
The National Palace Museum is an exhaustive collection of artefacts dating back to the glory days of China before Mao and his Cultural Revolution – and is actually the largest collection of its kind in the world. If Chinese history does it for you, you’ve come to the right place.
Paid a visit to Taiwan's world-famous National Palace Museum today. The world's biggest collection of Chinese artefacts, this massive collection is so huge that only 1% of it is on display at any given time. It's an exhaustive collection of jades, bronzes, artworks, and other examples of ancient Chinese culture that we barely scraped the surface of. Is it wrong that my favourite part was the interactive art exhibit for kids?
Spread out across multiple buildings and divided into styles rather than eras, the National Palace Museum has large exhibits on bronzes, jades, porcelain, calligraphy, and a lot more.
Truth be told, we spent two hours here and had had enough, but we’d barely scratched the surface.
If you’re a completionist or a history buff, you’re in for a treat.
National Martyr’s Shrine
We had to give this one a miss after spending too much time in the National Palace Museum, but the National Martyr’s Shrine comes highly recommended – especially by those with an interest in Taiwanese military history.
The architecture is impressive and they also do a changing of the guard ceremony here, so it’s worth a look if time allows or if you missed the changing of the guard at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial.
Maokong Gondola/Taipei 101
You’ve got two choices here, and both of them afford you a remarkable view of Taiwan’s largest city.
Taipei 101 is obviously the better known option, but at a relatively expensive $500 NT, it’s a pricey prospect for those wanting to ride to the almost top of the world’s eighth tallest building.
If the weather is good, you’ll get a fantastic panorama of the city. If it’s not, give it a miss.
Alternatively, take the train out to Taipei Zoo and take the cheaper Maokong Gondola for a unique perspective of the city. This one isn’t open on Mondays, so don’t trek all the way out there like I did.
Shilin Night Market
If you’re feeling like you need guidance, you can always take a Taipei food tour like I did.
If you’re feeling adventurous, head to the bustling Shilin Night Market and get lost amidst the swirling chaos of this smorgasbord of tastes and scents.
You’ll find everything from infamous stinky tofu to fried chicken to steaks to burgers to oyster omelettes to pearl tea to fanciful icecream creations here. It really needs to be experienced.
Not only is there a huge variety of delicious food to try here, but it’s also a good place to do any last minute souvenir shopping you might need to.
It's only taken two and a half years of life in China, but I finally wrapped my laughing gear around its infamous stinky tofu last night here in Taichung. I kept smelling its distinctive 'hint of baby shit' all evening, but finally found it just as I was about to leave the Fengjia Night Market. My verdict? Not nearly as bad as it smells, and definitely an improvement on durian pizza.
Taipei, like any modern city with a tourism focus, has a wealth of options when it comes to accommodation.
You can go to the high-end luxury apartments all the way down to quaint little B&Bs.
I chose to stay at Space Inn, which was a more upmarket hostel. As I get a bit older, I need my hostels to have a bit more than just a bed and a smelly common room, and this sci-fi themed hostel certainly fit the bill.
Smaller room allocations (I was in a four bed dorm), a huge common area with fast WiFi, the cleanest hostel bathrooms I’ve ever seen, and super friendly staff. I spent four nights here and never once felt my usual “I hate hostels” rage.
Looking for more inspiration?
True Nomads has a great guide to what to do in Taipei that has even more ideas.
What are your favourite things to see and do in Taipei?
My stay at Space Inn was complimentary, and I want to send them a huge thanks for helping to make my visit to Taipei possible. All opinions are, as always, my own.
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