A veritable paradise for foodies, Taipei is heaving with street markets, vibrant fashion boutiques and little laneways that are ripe for exploring. Take a weekend or a whole week to explore this low-key city’s best offerings.
From Shida to Shilin, Raohe to Tonghua, Taipei’s streets come alive at nightfall, launching into a colorful world of freshly cooked food stalls, temples all aglow with lanterns and even some carnival game and clothing vendors for good measure. Shilin night market is arguably the most famous, but we would steer you towards Raohe market, which is actually the oldest market in downtown Taipei and easy to get to from the MRT. Though only about 600 meters long, Raohe is packed with authentic local eats like quail’s egg, stinky tofu and beef noodles—all happening around the gorgeous Song Shan Fu De Temple.
Song Shan MRT Station, Exit 5.
Beitou Hot Springs
North of Taipei you’ll find a district that’s devoted to hot springs and stinks of sulfur. Sure, it might attract a lot of Taiwan’s elderly population, but it’s hard to argue with these steamy natural spas. You can enjoy the geothermal goodness in the public baths (separated by men and women) or plump for a private bath all your own at one of the dozens of day villas, most of which are off on the lanes past the tourist attractions and to the east of leafy green Beitou Park.
Xinbeitou Station MRT Station.
Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Perhaps the only political figure beloved across Asia, founding father has been honored in Taipei with the gigantic Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall towering above the urban landscape. Under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education, the hall also acts as a symbol of academic research, arts and culture playing host to a library with over 40,000 books. In addition to revolutionary artifacts, visitors will also see various performances and exhibitions on the grounds or in the enormous lecture hall.
505 Ren’ai Road, Section 4, Taipei, (+886) 2-2758-8008.
Shop in Shida
The little lanes around the Shida district make for great fashion discoveries and indie buys. Look for floaty feminine numbers, great coffee shops, vinyl record stores and more along the narrow lanes like Pucheng Street and Shida Road. The Shida night market is also a colorful place to find some cool clothes and accessories, while downing a good meal at the same time.
Tea on Maokong Mountain
About an hour outside of the city sits some of Taipei’s lushest tea plantations. The easiest way up to the top of Maokong Mountain is a long gondola ride, which passes over picturesque tea growing areas. At the top, a road will lead you to a cluster of tea houses, most of which specialize in tie guan yin oolong tea and serve some local food. Honestly, they’re all good, so don’t sweat your choice. It’s especially beautiful at sunset when you can look across all of Taipei on a clear day. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can hike up the mountain starting at the National Chengchi University footpath.
Board the gondola from the Wenshan MRT Stop.
Din Tai Fung
We don’t care if you’ve been to DTF in Hong Kong 1,000 times. You have to make the pilgrimage to the quaint little diner that started it all. The tiny two-story shop churns out thousands of xiaolongbao a day and, yes, you’ll have to wait in line but it’s worth it to taste the original dumplings first-hand in the cozy, frills-free environment on Xinyi Road. Take a ticket from the waiting list and then explore the little lanes in the neighborhood. Come back in about an hour and it’ll probably be time to indulge in the best bites of your life.
194 Second Section, Xinyi Road.
Yong He Dou Jiang
Considered the best breakfast in Taiwan—if you don’t count DTF, that is—Yong He Dou Jiang specializes in fried cruller donuts that have been dunked in soya milk. There are also more savory options on the menu, like pork dumplings and egg wraps. Order one of each and enjoy.
102 Fuxing South Road, Lane 151, Section 2, Da’an District, Taipei.
East District Pearls
It’s not a trip to Taipei without a signature shaved ice. Try the creative flavors at East District Pearls, which has been open since 1984 and is home to more than 30 different types of toppings.
MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua Station Exit 3, (+886) 2-2777-2057.
Grand Hyatt Taipei
The stately Grand Hyatt Taipei recently underwent a total overhaul, unveiling gorgeous new rooms that take a contemporary spin on Chinese aesthetics. Expect clean white interiors with pops or red in the throw pillows and pretty textured walls. The food and beverage options here are endless—think teppanyaki, high tea, classic Chinese, grilled steaks and bar bites all under the same roof—and some rooms have incredible views of Taipei 101 that practically peer right into the skyscraper’s office windows.
2 Songshou Road, Xinyi District, Taipei, (+886) 2-2720-1234.
Taxis are super cheap in Taipei and the MRT is easy enough to use, but one of the most pleasant ways to get around is by bike. The city actually offers a sharing YouBike service, where you can grab a bike from one of 160 outposts using an EasyCard (same card you use for the MRT) and then cycle through the city’s matrix of dedicated biking paths.