Looking for things to do in Taipei? Local writer Theresa Ho shares her to 7 Alternative Places to Visit in Taipei, Taiwan
Things to do in Taipei
Located in Taiwan, formerly known as ‘Formosa’ meaning beautiful island, Taipei is a city much more modest and laid-back than its more well-known Asian cities like Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore.
Here you’ll experience an exciting modernized Asian city without the crowds and high prices while enjoying old remnants of cultural influences left by the Dutch, Japanese and Chinese.
The people here are friendly, sincere and humbly proud of being the land of xiaochi (‘small bites’ literal translation – Taiwanese version of tapas’ that can be eaten quickly and on the go), their efficient public transportation system, and continued independence from mainland China.
Things to do in Taipei – the Guide:
Standard Tour – Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, National Palace Museum, Taipei 101
- Climb up Elephant Mountain
- Morning Market – Shuanglian
- Visit Dihua Street
- Bao-an Temple
- 24-hour Bookstore
- Hua Shan Creative Park
- Taiwanese Hair Wash
A standard guide on what to do in Taipei includes Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, National Palace Museum, Taipei 101, visiting night markets and eating your heart out from trying various Taiwanese classics like stinky tofu, braised minced pork rice, oyster omelet.
If you are into history, museums, or a traveler who likes to tick things off the list seeing the most popular sights, these are worth a visit.
7 Alternative Things to do in Taipei, Taiwan
But if you want to be more local, skip some of the big sights and long lineups, and got a little more time – here are 7 things I would recommend:
1. Climb Up Elephant Mountain (XiangShan)
Instead of waiting in line to go up Taipei 101, you get a fantastic view of the building and the city hiking up Elephant Mountain.
It is a short hike and easily accessible by MRT. The trails are mostly stairs and well-paved but they are steep. If you are fit, it takes about 30 minutes until you are rewarded with a stunning view of the city. You can go further on the trail which takes about an hour.
Best time to go: Weekdays early morning to catch the sunrise or late afternoon or early evening when it’s not at as hot and you can catch the sunset.
How to get there: Take the Red line and get off at the last stop, XiangShan and follow the well-marked signs.
If you are feeling outdoorsy, you can check out the other three small mountains surrounding Taipei and its hiking trails. They are Tiger, Leopard and Lion Mountain. Together they are known as the Four Beasts Mountains.
2. Start your day at a Morning Market – Shuanglian
We all know Taiwan is known for its night market but morning markets have their own charm. Here you will find locals shopping for fresh produce, meat and fish doing their grocery runs.
Venture into the smaller streets and alleyways and you will find food stalls along with people selling souvenirs, daily household items, and clothes for half the price from what you will find at popular places like Ximenting or Shilin Night Markets.
Pick up some daytime street snacks here. I’d recommend the Taiwanese burrito (runbing) Inside the crepe you’ll find it packed with vegetables, some pork meat, sprinkled with shredded peanuts. There’s also a dessert version where you’ll find ice cream with shredded peanuts and cilantro wrapped inside the crepe.
How to get here: Take the Red line and get off at Shuanglian MRT Station.
3. Visit Dihua Street – Dadaocheng
This is the oldest street in Taipei and in the past, it was an important area for commerce. It’s about a 15 to 20 minutes walk from Shuanglian Market.
You’ll find historic buildings being renovated and preserved exhibiting the architectural styles of Qing dynasty and when the Japanese occupied Taiwan.
There are a mix of traditional shops that sell Chinese herbal medicine, fabric, teas, New Year and religious offering supplies alongside modern trendy local artisan studios and independent cafes and tea shops.
Step in one to sip and learn how to make tea in a traditional way.
As you wander along, you’ll see a temple called Xiahai Chenghuang Temple. This is where the Chinese Cupid resides. Many young people come here to pray to find a partner and a happy, loving relationship.
If you are a foodie, try and navigate your way to find one of my favorite street side snack called O-dei (A fried patty stuffed with cabbage and oyster). It’s located in an alleyway (Lane 36 YanPing N. Rd. Sec. 2). It’s just a stand and is closed on Mondays. You can get one for 45NT.
How to get to Dihua Street:
Take the MRT Green Line to Beimen and then walk up Tacheng Street.
4. Indulge in your Spirit – Bao-an Temple
If you are not “temple tired” yet and you want to avoid the popular and crowded Long Shan temple, check out Bao-an instead. This temple is intricately decorated and houses a free Chinese medicine clinic.
They also host various temple festivities and ceremonies. One of the most popular events is the Bao-Sheng Cultural Festival which happens on the 15th day of third lunar month (April or June) for about a month. It is celebrated with remarkable lion dances, fire walking rituals, parades and Taiwanese opera. For more information click here.
While you are there why not pick up some incense sticks, partake in praying and sending well wishes to your friend and family back home.
How to get there: Take the Red line MRT heading towards Tamshui and get off at Yuan Shan Station exit Kulun Street and walk about 10 minutes. Address: No.61, Hami St., Taipei City.
5. Escape the Crowd and Visit Taipei’s 24-hour Bookstore
If you’re not into partying, karaoke-ing and drinking your night away, go to Eslite Bookstore -Dunnan branch. This is the perfect place for bookworms and insomniacs, where you can stay and read for as long as you want without having to purchase anything.
It houses over 230,000 books of both Chinese and foreign languages.
How to get to Eslite Dunnan Branch – No. 245 Section 1, Dunhua S. Rd., Da’an district, Taipei. Take the blue MRT line and get off at Zhongxiao Dunhua.
6. Recharge and Support Local Artists at Hua Shan Creative Park
Huashan 1914 Creative Park is a nice open space that once was a winery and sake producing factory during the Japanese colonial era.
Now it has been transformed into an area for Taipei’s artists and creative sorts. This is where they showcase their indie creations from arts and crafts to fashion to photography.
The space is very Instagram friendly. Many of the old red brick courtyard houses and cement warehouse buildings are covered with vines and mural arts intermixed with green spaces.
Along with pop-up shops, art exhibits, cafes, restaurants and an indie movie theatre, you’ll find performances by local music, dance and theater groups regularly held here. Some are free and others you’ll need to purchase a ticket.
To know what events are going on check their website.
How to get there: Take the blue MRT line and get off at either Shandao Temple or Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station.
7. Pamper yourself and get a Taiwanese Hair Wash
One of my favorite things to do in Taipei is getting my hair washed (xi tou fa) and a scalp massage (tou bu an mou). This is a ritual many Taiwanese women love. It’s a blissful hour where most hair salons in Taipei offer this service.
The best part?! It is cheap. You don’t have to make an appointment. Often times, when I get the itch and spot a salon, I walk in to check the price and see if they have time. Cost ranges from $250 NT to $600 NT (between $8-$20 USD). Typically, the hole in the wall salons are cheaper than the professional salons.
The pampering begins with the stylist giving you a massage on your neck, back and scalp for about 10-15minutes. Then they’ll start to shampoo, condition and rinse your hair. During the whole process, expect the scalp massage to continue on your head. The fancier places will apply peppermint oil on the nape of your neck that will get you feeling… oh so relaxed! To complete the experience, they ‘ll blow out and style your hair leaving you with soft, clean hair.
For a professional hair salon, try La Belleza Hair salon – No.12, Lane 26, Section 2, Zhongshan North Road Closet MRT station is ZhongShan Station on the red line.
As a tourist, I always like to incorporate some touristy must-see places with insider tips from locals on where they go to eat and hang. What about you? Have you been to Taipei? What other off the beaten track places would you recommend? You can leave a comment down below!
Theresa Ho is the Founder of Happy Free Lifestyle.
She's a free-spirited, freedom-lovin', wellness travel junkie sent to help apprehensive go-getters reclaim their lives and grow into their most authentic self. Get ideas for your next getaway and tips on how to stay well HERE. For more inspiration visit her on Instagram @happyfreelifestyle and Facebook.
Do you have more suggestions for things to do in Taipei?