Taipei is the biggest and the most crowded city in Taiwan. Wait… don’t tell me that you’re bored to death with the city tours and the noisy crowd. Taipei has more places to offer than you expect. If you want to escape from the big buildings and shopping malls, you can visit a lively night market, climb to the Elephant mountain, ride an orange bicycle, or visit a local flower market, etc.
You may need this: 6 things you need to know before going to Taipei, Taiwan
If these activities are not interesting enough to you, let me show you my most recent experience in Taipei. You may change your mind!?
1. Visit Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
I visited this place every time I’ve been to Taipei because it’s really beautiful and culturally interesting. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is an enormous square which comprises national concert hall, national theater, liberty square center, liberty main gate and monument of Chiang Kai-shek, former president of Taiwan.
This place is not only a must-visit spot of the tourists in Taipei but also a favorite area of the locals. Many times I have seen some big groups of students or elderly gathering here to practice dancing and Tai Chi.
If you’re lucky enough, you may have a chance to see a flag lowering ceremony at 5pm every day in the main hall of the Chiang Kai-shek president status.
- How to get there: MRT station Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, exit 5.
- Cost: Free entrance.
2. Drink bubble milk tea
Nowhere in the world has better bubble milk tea than in Taiwan! If you are not a big fan of milk tea or tapioca pearls, simply try the tea only. When I was in Taipei, I drank at least 2 cups of milk tea per day. I love it so much! The sweet tea coupled with cold ice tasted so good together in the hot weather and the bubbles were fun to chew.
You can buy this amazing drink in any milk tea shops on the street in Taipei since they are all good. If you’re still wondering which one to choose, I will suggest you some milk tea shops which I really like and the Taiwanese are also fond of them.
- Names of the milk tea shops: 85°C, Coco, Qing Xin.
- Cost: from 35NT$-80NT$/cup (about US$1 – US$3).
3. Take a happy walk in Da-an district
Da-an (correct pronunciation: tà an) is a lovely district and it locates right in the city center. There are many things for you to explore in this area. Let’s follow me around Da-an with the photos below!
First of all, I arrived at the MRT station Dongmen (exit 5), from the exit walked about 50 meters and then turned right. From there I walked along this street to happily observe the colorful stores and cafes.
After around 20 minutes of walking here, I was a bit tired and felt so hot. Thus I took a rest in an ice cream shop and ordered a big bowl of ice cream. In fact, this kind of dessert is quite trendy and popular in Asia recently, especially in the summer.
You have 2 choices to eat ice cream in Da-an district. The first store is Smoothie House which is always busy and recommended by CNN. The second one is King Mango which is less crowded and the price is slightly lower than the first one. I tried both and there were both tasty!
On the way walking back to the MRT station, I stopped at a store to buy some pineapple cakes as the gifts for my family. I chose this one because it comes in a small bag that is handy to carry.
- How to get there: MRT station Dongmen (exit 5), walk about 50m and then turn right.
- Cost: Free to walk around but it costs me 200NT$ (about US$6.5) for the ice cream and 160NT$ (about US$5) for a small bag of pineapple cake.
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4. Explore the Jianguo Weekend Flower Market
After the happy walk in Da-an, my local friend wanted to buy some small plants, so I followed him to the Jianguo Flower Market. It turned out to be a great experience though I didn’t buy anything there. The flower market locates underneath a long overpass where the Taipei citizens usually come in the weekend to sell and buy all types of plants, flowers or even vegetables.
If you don’t need to buy any plants, you can come here to observe the colorful flowers and tiny cute succulents. This may be an activity for you to get to know more about the local life in Taipei.
- How to get there: MRT station Daan Park (exit 6).
- Cost: free entrance.
- Open hours: only Saturday and Sunday, 9am-5pm.
5. Eat yummy street foods at the night markets
Taiwan is famous for the night markets and Taipei is the best place where you can discover many night markets and eat until your stomach completely satisfied.
There are a lot of night markets around Taipei, but I would like to introduce to you the 3 biggest ones. Every evening, these places are unbelievably crowded and you will never get bored with the fun and bustling atmosphere around the streets.
Ximending Night Market
Ximending is a popular shopping district for young people and travelers. The name of this night market means the west gate of Taipei city and it has become well-known since the 1930s as a theater street. Nowadays Ximending has been called the “Shibuya of Taipei” because of the colorful brilliant lights from the buildings and the shops. Here you can find all the famous clothes and shoe brands. Moreover, the food stands in this area are also worthy to try.
A few years ago when I lived in Taipei, I went to this Ximen night market at least once a week. Needless to say, I really liked it there and it was the place where I and my friends often met up to eat or shop together.
A tip for the girls who would like to buy Korean cosmetics: there is a cute store (Paris Strawberry) which sells all type of trendy cosmetics. Walking around Ximending, you will see a big Uniqlo shop, turn left to a small alleyway next to the Uniqlo, and then walk about 100 meters. Here you can find the ‘secret store’ on the first floor.
If you would like to buy a typical Taiwanese food for friends and family, take your chance to buy it in this night market! I usually bought the sausages in a store named Black Bridge. My family members, especially the kids and myself, are addicted to this sausages, so I always had to buy an extra luggage for this food.
- How to go to Ximen night market: MRT station Ximen (exit 6).
- Open hours: every evening.
Raohe Night Market
Raohe is one of the oldest night markets in Taipei and it locates next to a beautiful pagoda. In this night market, I walked through the narrow alleys with more than one hundred food stands. I felt that Raohe market was less touristic then Ximending because I saw a lot of Taiwanese children with their parents were playing games and having dinner here.
I randomly bought a big piece of Taiwan style fried chicken and it was so delicious! Don’t hesitate to try any foods and drinks here to get your own street food experience in Taiwan.
- How to go to Raohe night market: MRT station Songshan (exit 5).
- Open hours: every evening
Shilin Night Market
Shilin night market is a bit far from the city center and it’s considered as the largest night market in Taipei. Like the other night markets, the local food stands and vendors start selling from 16:00 and closing around 1 or 2 o’clock at midnight. Food, drink, souvenir, cloth, jewelry, thousand stuff you can buy here. My favorite foods in Shilin are beefsteak and stinky tofu.
I randomly stepped in a pottery shop in Shilin night market. The plates of this shop are so cute and made in Japan. Without any intention in advance, I ended up buying 2 cute plates here (the blue and pink piggies at the left corner of the photo). Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of this shop or its address to share with you. So sorry!
- How to go to Shilin night market: MRT station Jiantan (exit 1).
- Open hours: every evening.
6. Climb to the Elephant Mountain
Would you like to get the best view of Taipei from a mountain? No worry, it only takes about 15-20 minutes to the top and then you can relax on a big stone and enjoy the stunning view of the city.
After eating too much food at the night markets, I decided to add a little bit of adventurous feeling to my trip in Taipei. I went to the MRT station Xiangshan to start my journey. After getting out of the exit 2 from this station, I turned left and walked about 500 meters through a park to the Elephant Mountain. There are many signs that help you to reach the right direction.
If you don’t like to get sweaty, you can visit the mountain in the evening. It’s safe, less hot and the view at night is also amazing.
Hiking on the Elephant Mountain is a favorite activity of many locals and tourists. It’s not so difficult and very cheery, refreshing for a city trip. So why not give it a try?
- How to get there: MRT station Xiangshan (exit 2).
- Cost: free entrance
- Time to the mountain’s top: 15-20 minutes
7. Ride an orange bicycle
After the easy hike to the Elephant Mountain, I took a ride on an orange bike near the MRT station Xiangshan (It seemed like a productive day of me :D!).
When you’re in Taipei, you may see the orange bicycles everywhere near the MRT stations. They’re public bicycles and you can easily rent them by an MRT card and a Taiwanese phone number. Remember to register at the machine near the bikes before your ride. If you don’t know how it works, ask the locals or people around for help ^_^.
If you’re wondering where to ride to with this bike, I suggest you a perfect route from the MRT station Xiangshan to the highest building of Taipei, Taipei 101. There is a route only for bikers, so you don’t need to worry about the other types of vehicles on the street. When you don’t want to ride anymore, you can return the bikes at any YouBike stations near the MRT.
- How to rent an orange bike: First, find a bike at any MRT stations. Second, register before your ride with an MRT card and a Taiwanese phone number. Finally, take the bike and enjoy your ride! (You may ask the locals around you for help on how to rent a bike)
- Cost: 5NT$ (about US$6cent) for the first 30 minutes, 10NT$ (about US$33cent) for each following 30-minute.
There are still many interesting things that you can do in Taipei. Let’s explore Taipei as a tourist who would like to understand more about the local life!