1. Go to a night market
Yes, markets and especially famous Taiwanese night markets, are basically one of the biggest attractions in Taiwan. When I was asking my Asian friends about tips and recommendations about Taiwan, number one reaction from everyone was “You need to try Taiwanese food!”. Taiwan is known to be the food paradise of Asia, so a trip to Taiwanese night market is a must! It’s an awesome unique experience, you can try a lot of different things, and I assure you, that you will see tons of eatable stuff that you didn’t even know existed ;). Plus if you’re interested in photography and looking for a uniq Asian scenery, colourful, busy markets are the prefect place, my favourite pictures that I took in Taiwan are the ones from the markets. Some of the most popular markets in Taipei are Shilin market and Raohe market, Ning Xia market or Shen Keng Tofu Street (day market).
2. Wonder around old Taipei
My favourite ares in Taipei were the “traditional” ones, the modern part of the city is great, but I feel like as a turist, exploring Taiwan for the first time, you want to get a taste of the old before discovering the new. Dadaocheng and Dalongdong are the two districts I would recommend, they are both located only 10 minutes walk from Taipei Central Station. They are full of colours, chinese signs, cute little cafes, local shops, restaurants, markets, street food and temples. Great place to just wonder around the streets and experience the more traditional and old- school side of Taipei.
3. See Mengjia Longshan Temple
Mengjia Longshan is a beautiful and interesting temple, definitely worth visiting. I personally love visiting temples wherever I travel to Asia, I feel like it’s always a unique and positive experience. They are full of colours, people, monks, flowers, fruits and burning candles, and Mengjia Longshan temple is no different. It has interesting architecture, the whole complex is very colourful, well-kept, with a great attention to every little detail. It was also quiet crowded, with people praying, burning candles, offering fruits and flowers, playing children and monks. It’s something you honestly can’t miss 🙂
4. Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial is a Taiwanese national monument located in Zhongzheng District. It’s an impressive building, surrounded by a nice little park, and accompanied by National Theater and National Concert Hall. So basically a lot of important, great, big, traditional buildings in one place 😉
5. Taipei 101
No visit to Taipei can be completed without a trip to famous Taipei 101, the biggest building in Taipei and also whole Taiwan. Taipei 101 used to be the second tallest skyscraper in the world, and now is probably still somewhere in top 5. The weird and cool thing about Taipei 101 is that it’s literally the only really big skyscraper in the city, but somehow its shape of traditional Chinese pagoda makes it look pretty cool and gives a uniq touch to the city’s skyline. There is a huge shopping center inside Taipei 101, and if you like heights as I do, on the top of there is an observatory, where you can see the city from above.
6. Eat the famous dumplings at Din Tai Fung restaurant
Din Tai Fung is probably the most known Taiwanese restaurant chain, you can find it on the bottom floor of Taipei 101, or many other places in the city (or other Asian countries). The restaurant offers a lot of traditional Taiwanese dishes, but it gained its fame from xiaolongbao, the soup dumplings, and let me tell you, THEY ARE FREAKING DELICOUS. I used to eat them all the time when I lived in Shanghai (xiaolongbao are actually originally from Shanghai, or Hangzhou as some people from Hangzhou told me 😉 ) They are super delicate, warm, and so tasty, and you can get them with all kinds of different fillings, also a lot of vegetarian options.
Good restaurants in Asia are often very crowded, but also very big, and they use number system, which means that you have to take a number when you come and wait for a free table. Don’t fear if you see that you have 40 other people in front of you, the line goes quiet fast, and they came up with a really good system. You get the menu while you’re waiting, so you can choose all your food while you wait and hack it off on a peace of paper and than just hand it in to the waiter while you get the table, after 5 min all your delicious Taiwanese dishes will slowly arrive, one by one. It’s Asia so remember to share 😉 you order a lot of different dishes and keep it all in the middle of the table. The prices at Din Tai Fung are also very deacent.
Ximending is a well known shopping district, and the first and biggest pedestrian zone of Taipei. It’s also called “Harajaku of Taipei”, because of its mix of Japanese and Taiwan subcultures. It’s a young and more hip area, with tons of shops, bars, clubs and restaurants. Good place to get some souvenirs, try modern Taiwanese snacks and people- watch 😉
8. Get Taiwanese bubble tea and shaved ice
Both of these things are super popular not only in Taiwan but also in other Asian countries and all around the world. Bubble tea is something young Chinese people are crazy about. In Shanghai I had it a couple of times (it’s hard to avoid it, Shanghai has a bubble tea place on every corner) but never fully understood thi craziness, until I went to Taiwan. Now I can officially say, Taiwanese style bubble tea is the best. What I like about it, is that it’s quiet simple, just milk tea, not much suger (or no suger at all, you can ask about no suger option), jelly and a lot of ice. It’s a nice, cold, refreshing drink, very needed during the summer, when Taipei feels like one big oven. Shaved Ice is another very well known Taiwanese dessert, available in many different variants, with different toppings as fruits, jelly, beans or nuts. This summer I’ve tried it for the very first time, and it was really good, not too sweet, refreshing, and quiet different from European style ice cream. Trust me, you stay in Taiwan is not completed without trying bubble tea and shaved ice 😉
Dan Shui is a sea- side district in New Taipei city (easily accessible by metro, and the 40 minutes ride through different neighbourhoods of Taipei is quiet interesting as well). It has more of small town vibe, and it’s a good place for a walk by the water, or to explore the popular food market with traditional Taiwanese food and also some modern Taiwanese snacks.
Yehliu Geological Park is not in Taipei, but it’s still pretty close, about 40 min by car, and is definitely worth a visit. It’s one of te most popular destinations in Taiwan. Yehliu is known for its weirdly shaped rock formations, which are one of the most famous wonders in the world. They are really weird, and super cool, nothing like anything I ever seen before. It felt like being on a different planet. A huge plus are also green hills, forests, rocky mountains, blue water and white sand beaches surrounding the park, and the drive there from Taipei, thought small towns and villages, was already a great experience.