Taiwan’s capital was everything we expected, busy, traditional, yet young and vibrant. Taipei is truly one of the most bustling capitals in Asia and it’s packed with things to do. Our Taipei itinerary is a sum up of the best places to visit in Taipei, what to do and where to stay there, pus some essential travel tips for anyone visiting Taiwan and Taipei for the first time.
When is the best time to travel to Taipei?
During the Spring and Autumn is the best time to visit Taipei, it’s not too hot neither too cold. From July to August it’s the high season and the city is packed with tourists and the same happens during the Chinese New Year celebration. We were in Taiwan in the first week of October and it rained a lot, mostly because of a typhoon that was passing near the island.
When planning our first trip to Taiwan we did a big research about what to do in Taipei and we decided to stay for 8 full days in the city. Time enough to rest from our 4 days cycling trip on Taiwan’s East Coast, to catch up with work and to do some serious sightseeing. Out of our 8 days in town, 4 days were fully dedicated to visiting Taipei tourist spots, searching for unique experiences and eating local food.
Before heading to our 4 days Taipei itinerary, let’s talk about visas, transportation and where to stay in Taipei. Some practical stuff you need to sort out before the trip!
How to get to Taipei and around
The Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport is outside of town but it’s connected with the metro and shuttle buses, making it easy to get in and out of the city. Before leaving the arrival area stop at a phone company stall to buy a phone SIM card.
The tourist prepaid card gives you unlimited 4G internet service for the duration of your trip. They will help you set the chip, easy peasy.
When leaving Taiwan consider arriving at the airport at least 3 hours before your departure. They have a baggage scanning procedure that slows down the check-in process and the huge queues at immigration are also a big problem.
Getting around Taipei is easy, the metro system is efficient and most of the attractions and things to do in Taipei are close to a MRT station. You can buy single tickets or top-up cards at any metro station. Taxis and Uber also work pretty well in the city.
Do you need a visa to Taiwan?
To travel to the Republic Of China – Taiwan you might need a visa. So before start planning your Taipei itinerary visit the Taiwan Bureau of Consular Affairs website to check if you need to apply for the Taiwan Tourist Visa or if your country is eligible to get 30 or 90 days visa-free.
Best places to stay in Taipei – hotels and budget accommodation
Do you want to stay in a peaceful area or in the middle of the action? Do you want a 5-star hotel or a budget accommodation in Taipei? Follow our tips for the best areas and places to stay in Taipei and I’m sure you’re gonna find the best hotel for your trip.
Grand Mayfull Hotel Taipei, luxury in Zhongshan District
This was our heaven on Earth after the cycling trip in Taiwan’s East Coast. The Grand Mayfull Hotel Taipei has everything you need for a luxurious stay in a quiet and posh area of the city. But even being a bit far from the bustling downtown, the hotel is close to a metro station and in 30 minutes you can be at the famous Taipei 101 Tower or at the busy Ximending shopping district.
No doubt Grand Mayfull is one of the most luxurious hotels we’ve stayed and one of the best hotels in Taipei. From the moment we stepped in until our last goodbye the service was impeccable. It is the perfect hotel for any traveler seeking comfort, a first-class dining experience, relaxation and a romantic atmosphere. If you are traveling as a couple don’t think twice, book your room at Grand Mayfull and enjoy a romantic bath with bubbles.
While I loved our Executive Suite and the hotel amenities, Rob couldn’t get enough of the Haagen Dazs ice cream buffet for breakfast.
Sheraton Grand Taipei Hotel, comfort in the heart of the city
Sheraton is one the best places to stay in Taipei because of its location, the delicious breakfast buffet and the comfort of an international hotel chain. We stayed in a Deluxe Non-Smoking Suite and to be honest the decoration was a bit outdated, but the room was spotless clean and spacious. From the hotel you can walk to some of Taipei’s tourist attractions and to the Ximending shopping district.
Mid-range hotels in Taipei downtown
Here are some options for affordable hotels in Taipei with good location and good reviews:
Ambience Hotel Taipei – it’s a 3-star hotel with great reviews and friendly prices, especially for double or twin rooms. It only takes 10 minutes to walk from the hotel to the nearest metro station and 20 minutes to Taipei’s train station.
Just Sleep Ximending Hotel – you can’t be more central than this, the hotel is a 5-minute walk from Ximen MRT Station and the shopping area with hundreds of restaurants, street food and shops. No doubt this is the most vibrant and best area to stay in Taipei. The hotel has good reviews for its cleanliness and spacious rooms, and you get breakfast buffet included in the room rate.
NiHao Café Hotel – this boutique hotel has great reviews for its intimate décor, beautiful garden and good prices. NiHao Café Hotel is a good option for travelers who want an affordable place to stay in Taipei that’s close to the 101 Tower. Daan MRT Station is just outside the hotel door and you can walk to the busy Linjiang Night Market for a local dinner.
Cheap hostels in Taipei [dorms and private rooms]
Here are some of the best places to stay in Taipei for budget travelers:
Taipei Sunny Hostel – this hostel has great reviews and it’s close to some of Taipei’s tourist spots and to the Ximending shopping district.
Ximen Wow Hostel – for under 20 USD you can have a bed in a dorm, free breakfast, free wifi and stay in the middle of the Ximending District. This is the area where you can find affordable food and fun and the metro station is only 3 minutes away.
Airbnb in Taipei
As we wanted to experience the Ximending district we booked two nights in an Airbnb studio there. Traveling to Taipei with friends and family? Check out the Airbnb apartments in Taipei they might be a money saving option.
Taipei itinerary: what to do and places to visit
Our 4-day Taipei itinerary is packed with activities and places to go in Taipei. They are organized by regions so you won’t spend too much time on transportation. If you prefer you can add more days to your trip and explore the best things to do in Taipei at a slower pace.
> Taipei Itinerary Day 1
The first day will be dedicated to some of the most famous tourist attractions in Taipei. It’s a nice way to get to know the city and be ready to dive deeper into its culture and local life.
Visit the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Metro station: Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Bannan Line [blue line]
The Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall was built in 1972 in honor of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Republic of China – Taiwan. Inside the complex there is an exposition of his life story and you will see many Taiwanese paying respect to Dr. Sun’s statue there. The change of the honor guards happens every hour, from 9 am to 5 pm, be punctual to watch it.
What really surprised us at the memorial was how people use that space for leisure and sports. The area around the building and the park was packed with teenagers breakdancing, meditation groups, old ladies practicing yoga and even some artists painting the beautiful scenery around.
Get high at Taipei 101
Metro station: Taipei 101/World Trade Center, Tamsui-Xinyi Line [red line]
The Taipei 101 Tower is one of the top places to visit in Taipei. Built in 2004, it was the tallest building in the world for almost 6 years and now it is among the top 5 tallest skyscrapers. This 101-floor bamboo themed building is a reflection of the Chinese culture. Take the high-speed lift to the observation decks 382 meters above the ground, Taipei 101 Observatory is located on the 89th floor and it’s open from 9 am until 10 pm daily.
At the observatory don’t forget to visit the Tuned Mass Damper (TMD), a huge wind damper that is responsible for reducing the swaying of the tower during strong winds. I was impressed by the videos showing how the tower behaved during an earthquake that hit Taipei years ago.
After a bird’s eye view of the city, have fun at Taipei 101 Mall. There are five storeys of shops plus a basement packed with delicious Taiwanese food. Just keep an eye on your watch as you must arrive at the next Taipei attraction before the sunset.
Sunset at Xiangshan, the Elephant Mountain
Metro station: Xiangshan, Tamsui-Xinyi Line [red line]
Now it’s time to have the best view of Taipei 101 Tower and witness the sunset from one of the top spots in the city. Xiangshan Mountain, also known as Elephant Mountain, is very close to downtown and it’s always packed with tourists and locals.
At Xiangshan MRT Station find exit 2 and from there follow signs pointing to the hiking trail. You will pass by some buildings, a park, a basketball court and a temple on your left-hand side. That’s where the toughest part of our Taipei itinerary starts, just after the temple you will see the stairs leading to the hiking trail, take a deep breath before start climbing it.
It took us 20 minutes to climb to the viewpoint. It’s a straight path all the way up and if you think you are not too fit, it might take you 30 to 40 minutes to reach the top. We went there just for the sunset and it was an unforgettable one. If you go to the Elephant Mountain early in the afternoon you can walk the whole trail, it takes an average of one hour to complete the 1450 meters path.
Start the night at Raohe Street Market
Metro station: Songshan, Songshan-Xindian Line [green line]
Raohe Street Night Market is one of the most traditional markets in Taipei. Built over 100 years ago it offers amazing food at cheap prices. Don’t forget to try the black pepper pork bun, a hot seller there. It opens at 5 pm and it’s busy until midnight.
More food at Linjiang Street Night Market
Metro station: Xinyi Anhe, Tamsui-Xinyi Line [red line]
After dinner at Raohe Night Market it’s time for dessert at Linjiang Street Night Market. The market dates back over 50 years and it’s open from 6 pm to midnight every day. The street is packed with food, electronics, clothes and shoes stalls. If you feel adventurous try the famous stinky tofu and don’t forget to wash it down with a traditional Boba Tea [also called Bubble Tea or Pearl Tea].
> Taipei Itinerary Day 2
The second day of our Taipei itinerary focuses on history, religion, interesting markets and the best food in Taipei. If you plan to visit Taipei during the weekend there are two markets you can’t miss, the Flower and the Jade markets. They are open only Saturdays and Sundays so add them to your Taipei itinerary as the first thing to do in the morning.
Jianguo Weekend Flower Market and Taipei Weekend Jade Market
Metro station: Daan Park, Tamsui-Xinyi Line [red line]
The sweet scent of flowers at the Jianguo Weekend Flower Market is unique. From fresh lilies to bouquets that would impress even a queen, anyone with an interest in plants will quickly find out that the market is home of some rare species of Taiwanese orchids. The market is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
The Jianguo Weekend Flower Market and Taipei Weekend Jade Market are actually connected, making it possible to walk through both of them in less than 2 hours.
At the Taipei Weekend Jade Market buyers have the chance to find souvenirs, hardwood carved decorative pieces, jade and other traditional handicrafts. The Jade Market is open from 9 am until 5 pm every weekend offering jewelry, religious icons, gemstones, pieces made out of clay, bones, and other interesting materials.
Visit the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial
Metro station: CKS Memorial Hall, Tamsui-Xinyi Line [red line]
The Liberty Square is located in Zhongzheng District and it’s home to some of Taipei’s top attractions: The National Theater, The National Concert Hall and the National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial. The monument is dedicated to a former Chinese president, but it’s also a reminder of the human rights violations that happened in the recent past.
The memorial opens at 9 am and closes at 6 pm every day. It was created in 1980 after 4 years of Chiang Kai-Shek’s death. Plan your visit to the Exhibition Hall and watch the changing of the guards ceremony that happens every hour from 9 am to 4 pm. The square is beautiful, take time to visit the memorial, stroll around the park and if you feel tired enter the National Theater for a nice coffee or even a meal.
Learn about Taiwan history at 2/28 Peace Park
Metro station: NTU Hospital, Tamsui-Xinyi Line [red line]
The park was created in 1908 as the first European style park in the city and since that it became one of the best places to visit in Taipei. The park is dedicated to the memory of almost 10,000 people who were killed on February 28th,1947 when they rose against a corrupt Chinese government that took on at the end of World War II. Visit the 2/28 Memorial Museum to learn more about this part of Taiwan’s history. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 5 pm.
In the park you can also visit the National Taiwan Museum, the oldest museum in the country. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:30 am to 5 pm and it houses artifacts from Taiwan indigenous natural history and biodiversity.
The 2/28 Peace Park is open 24 hours.
Be mesmerized by the beauty of Longshan Temple
Metro station: Longshan Temple, Bannan Line [blue line]
A Taipei travel guide wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a Buddhist Temple and of course, we chose one of the most beautiful temples to add to our Taipei itinerary. The Longshan Temple was built in 1738, in Qing Dynasty and it’s filled with Buddhist icons and traditional Chinese deities. The temple is seemingly untouched by the passage of time, even a bombing and natural disasters have not been able to change the traditional aspects of the building. If you want to tour the temple known as the “meeting place of the gods” you will be able to do so between 6 am and 10 pm.
Visit the Huaxi Street Night Market
Metro station: Longshan Temple, Bannan Line [blue line]
Be ready to see snakes, try snake meat and some other reptile bits. The area of Huaxi Street Market is known as Snake Alley and it is a great place to try traditional meals. As we are not a big fan of reptiles neither exotic food we skipped this Taipei attraction. But if you feel courageous and curious enough, go for it.
The market is open daily from 4 pm to midnight.
Din Tai Fung, the best meal in Taipei
Metro station: Taipei 101/World Trade Center, Tamsui-Xinyi Line [red line]
The best dinner we had in Taipei was at Din Tai Fung. They have 7 restaurants in Taipei and it doesn’t matter which one you choose, I’m sure your meal will be delicious. We tried Din Tai Fung at Taipei 101 Mall and the waiting time in the queue to get in was totally worth it.
The magic word is “xiaolongbao”, a dumpling that weighs 21 grams and it’s folded 18 times to keep it juicy inside even after the 4 and half minutes of steam cooking. The little dumplings are filled with happiness that comes in flavors such as pork, shrimp, crab and mushrooms. And don’t forget the sweet ones filled with red beans, chocolate and truffle.
Order dozens of xiaolongbao but save some space for the traditional noodle served with sesame and peanut sauce, some pan-fried dumplings and soups.
> Taipei Itinerary Day 3
The 3rd day of our Taipei itinerary is dedicated to attractions in the Shilin District and around. Despite being a bit far from downtown, this area has many interesting and fun things to do in Taipei, a mix of culture, religion and cats.
Taipei Confucius Temple
Metro station: Yuanshan, Tamsui-Xinyi Line [red line]
In Taipei you can visit a temple that has been copied from the original Confucian Temple in Qufu, Shandong-China. Taipei Confucius Temple’s motto is “Educate without discriminating,” a Confucian quote that showcases the dedication to educate anyone who is willing to reach for it.
The Taipei Confucius Temple is open from 8:30 am until 9 pm every day and it closes at 5 pm on Sundays. Explore the beautiful corners of the temple and don’t forget to stop by a lady that will be writing positive wishes in ancient Chinese calligraphy. Make your wish and she will write it down for you for free. If you travel to Taipei at the end of September aim your visit to the Confucius Temple for the 28th when the temple host the biggest festivity of the year.
Spend hours at the incredible National Palace Museum
Metro station: Shilin, Tamsui-Xinyi Line [red line], from there you will need to get a taxi or a bus to the museum. The bus R30 [Red 30] stops at the entrance of the museum and it costs NT$15, have your coins ready for it.
The National Palace Museum was open to the public in 1965 and it’s dedicated to the Chinese Imperial history. The museum has a collection of over 700,000 pieces, many of them coming from Beijing Forbidden City. Taiwan was chosen as a safe place to preserve the history and artifacts during and after the Chinese Civil War.
The National Palace Museum is open from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm and on Fridays and Saturdays it’s open until 9 pm. The museum is open every day [excluding some public holidays] and it offers multimedia guides in 13 different languages. There are also free guided tours in Chinese [daily at 9:30 am, 10 am, 2:30 pm and 4 pm] and in English [daily at 10 am and 3 pm, but you must make the reservation online before visiting the museum].
Coffee break at Café & Cats 1998
Metro station: Zhishan, Tamsui-Xinyi Line [red line]
Did you know that Taipei has the title of having the first cat café in the world? The first cat café in the news was Cat Flower Garden that opened its doors in 1998 creating a ‘purrfect’ trend that took over the world. The first cat cafe in Taipei changed the name, now it’s Café & Cats 1998 and of course we went there for a cup of coffee and tons of cuddles. Café & Cats 1998 is a simple coffee shop serving local food and drinks along with 14 adorable cats and three dogs.
Shilin Night Market
Metro station: Jiantan, Tamsui-Xinyi Line [red line]
To wrap up our visits to night markets in Taipei there was nothing better than the famous Shilin Night Market. From 3 pm until 1 am each and every day, the market sells fresh food, dried food, electronic gadgets, clothing and anything else you could ever imagine. The market has been operating for over 100 years, it all started in 1909 when it used to sell fresh fish during the day. The market changed and now it’s one of the top places to visit in Taipei.
Dinner time? So go to the basement in the market for some food extravaganza. Consider having some seafood, Taiwanese dishes and the traditional stinky tofu, you can taste all of them there.
> Taipei Itinerary Day 4
Your fourth day in Taipei will have the best of both worlds: nature and urban landscapes, gourmet and street food. Relaxing, interesting and electrifying options, exactly how Taipei is.
Escape from the city at Yangmingshan National Park
How to get there: from exit 1 at Jiantan MRT Station [Tamsui-Xinyi Line – red line] walk to the bus station and get the S15 or the S17 city bus to the Yangmingshan station. The fare is about NT$15 paid by coins or Easycard. But if you prefer you can take a taxi or an Uber to the Yangmingshan National Park visitor center.
The Yangmingshan National Park is located in the northern part of the city and it’s a huge area with hiking trails, hot springs, viewpoints and mountain peaks up to 1,200 meters above sea level. At the Yangmingshan National Park visitor center you can find Chinese style gardens, elegant buildings and the flower clock. Around Beitou and Xingyi Road many hotels and resorts offer hot springs and spa day passes.
We went to the park on a rainy and cloudy day, so we didn’t enjoy the outdoors activities much. I believe that when the sun is shining those mountains must be incredibly beautiful.
Grass Mountain Chateau Restaurant
How to get there: you can take a taxi, a bus or walk to the restaurant, it all depends on where you are in the Yangmingshan National Park.
Fine dining meets history at the Grass Mountain Chateau Restaurant. Once the resting place of President Chiang Kai-Shek, the Japanese style chateau now hosts visitors from 10 am until 7 pm each day [except Mondays]. We went there for lunch and the food was superb. Take time to enjoy the meal and the place. Walk around and travel in time with all the antiques and paintings used to decorate the Chateau.
Retail therapy at Ximending Shopping District
Metro station: Ximen, Bannan Line [blue line] and Songshan-Xindian Line [green line]
What to do in Taipei on your last day? Get lost in the Ximending Shopping District one of the busiest areas in Taipei. Need to buy a souvenir? Want to drink your last Bubble tea and try some street food? Want to buy electronics, cameras or cosmetics? Well, you can find them all at Ximending District, a maze of streets, alleys and building packed with shops.
A visit to Taipei is not complete without an evening at Ximending, wait for the sunset and watch all the neon signs and the giant screens light up. Visit some of the Anime cafés, BBQ restaurants or cocktail bars in the area, it’s your last day in Taipei enjoy it to the last minute.
If you still have time, or if you decided to stay one more day in town, take the cable car from Taipei to Maokong. The South mountains are famous for the tea plantation and good food, not to mention the beautiful view you will have from the cable car ride.
Now you know what to do in Taipei in 4 days, pack your bags and get ready to explore this lively city. This Taipei itinerary is a mix of places to visit, the top things to do in Taipei, where to stay and eat. Follow our travel tips and I’m sure your first time in Taipei will be awesome. Don’t forget to book your flights and hotel in Taipei in advance and have fun!
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PS: our trip to Taipei was organized in partnership with Taiwan Tourism Board, but it doesn’t matter who paid the bill you always receive our honest opinion about the services and the destination.