Last October, I took my first trip to Taipei and absolutely loved it! Independent from China, Taiwan boasts a perfect combination of modern living with the traditional culture you would expect from a trip to Asia. With only three days to explore, I planned us a thorough itinerary to best take advantage of our time there.
Here is a day by day breakdown of how we divided our time to help you plan your trip. I’ve also starred my favourite things (*) so you know how to prioritize your time if needed!
BEFORE YOUR TRIP:
If you are looking to use your phone in Taipei, I highly recommend getting a pocket wifi for your stay. There are a few stands in the arrival hall of the airport (turn left as you exit customs, just pass the Subway sandwich shop) that rent them out with no advance reservation for a great price, 24h a day. We paid about $9US for a three day rental and the battery lasted all day! Even more so, we could connect 5 devices to it so that $9 was actually divided by 4 people!
- Elephant Mountain
- Taipei 101
- Raohe Night Market
- Ciyou Temple
Views of Taipei 101 from Elephant Mountain
Elephant Mountain is a beautiful walking trail/hike that takes about an hour total, even when stopping multiple times for photos. It’s not a difficult hike but there are quite a few stairs.
It’s also got some very scenic and instagramable photo spots of Taipei. Definitely worth a visit if you like the outdoors and just a touch of physical activity!
About a 20 minute walk from Elephant Mountain, Taipei 101 is a skyscraper that offers gorgeous panoramic views of the city below. Tickets cost about $20 USD and include an elevator ride to the top, where you can buy souvenirs and Taipei specialities, as well as enjoy the views from observation decks inside and outside.
RAOHE NIGHT MARKET*:
My absolute favourite things in Taipei were the night markets. We explored Raohe Night Market but there are so many to choose from, you could get dinner from a different one every night. This night market took place, for the most part, on one long road where you could buy food and even do a bit a shopping. We spent most of our evening there, sampling directly from the cart, delicacies like grilled octopus, dim sum dumplings, sugar apples and pork on a stick just to name a few.
*The next night, we tried the Shilin Night Market, which was less impressive but still delicious. A more informal vibe, it is on a bigger, more open street and feels much less chaotic.
Casually standing at one end of the Raohe Night Market sits the Ciyou Temple. Built in 1753, it raises 6 stories high and is dedicated to the deity Mazu. I would recommend visiting it at night when it is lit up with beautiful colours.
- Breakfast at Golden Flower
- Ximen Red House
- Liberty Square Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
- Elite Bookstore
Golden Flower is a delicious sandwich shop tucked behind the Ximen Red House courtyard. They serve bubble tea (a Taiwanese classic) and unique sandwiches filled with gooey cheese and peanut butter. Everything is served from two separate shop windows (one for drinks, one for food) but are divided by a different store front, making it look like two separate restaurants. There are also tables outside, in front by the road. I would recommend getting the gourmet sandwiches on their menu; they are comparatively better than the regular meals.
XIMEN RED HOUSE:
Right behind Golden Flower is the Ximen Red House. A giant red brick building, this little spot boasts many little booths showcasing products of various designs made by local artists. Every section seems to have its own theme, some of my favourite being home goods with the theme “happily ever after” and clocks made out of melted glass bottles.
This district is also the center of Taipei’s LGBQ community, an important locale supporting Taiwan as the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage. We happened to visit the day after their pride parade took place and the courtyard was littered with bottles and pride flags!
LIBERTY SQUARE CHIANG KAI-SHEK MEMORIAL HALL*:
About a 25 minutes walk from the Red House, this was one of my favourite things we did over our three days in Taipei. Not only does this memorial hall have major historical significance being named after the man who ruled Taiwan for 50 years, it is also one of the most impressively beautiful architectural structures.
It is much bigger than I had anticipated, with a few buildings facing the inside of the courtyard and a humongous gate at the entrance of the compound. I would highly recommend visiting on the hour, when they do the changing of the guard in the main hall.
A huge bookworm, I had read about Elite and wanted to check it out for myself. The Dunnan location specifically spans 5 floors high, selling everything from novels to notebooks and planners to cds and home goods. There are also multiple coffee shops within the bookstore, encouraging the working traveller to pull out their laptops for a bit of work. What makes this bookstore worth mentioning however, is its opening hours: 24 hours a day! The perfect place to hit up after binge eating at a night market!
On day three, I was on my own so I opted to do an excursion that I bought through Klook. It was only about $20USD and consisted of an 8 hour tour visiting many of Taipei’s day trip locations. The bus and tour guide picked us up at the Taipei Main Station at 8 am and we headed for our first destination.
* This is the tour I used, but I would highly recommend browsing Klook before your trip to see what else is available at the time of your booking!
- Shifen Street
- Juifen Old Street
- Yehliu Geopark
- Taiwanese pastries at Shu Shin Bou Wagashi Museum
Our first stop was to Shifen street, a small town built on either side of a train track, selling souvenirs and local products. In one of the shops, we painted whatever we wanted onto a giant red lantern, and then went out to the tracks to light it and send it flying. It’s a super charming little street, that I thought was worth visiting, even if only for a few minutes.
JUIFEN OLD STREET*:
Juifen Old Street was a definite highlight on day three that I would 100% recommend. A small narrow road lined with boutique style shop fronts, the rain gleamed on the cobblestone street as I went from shop to shop, sampling Taiwanese delicacies like bubble tea, pineapple cake and various chocolates.
The street itself takes about 30 minutes to cross, though it took me longer as I stopped for lunch along the way at a dim sum restaurant. However, the best part of this experience is definitely the vibe along the road.
Small lanterns hang off every roof and corner, adding a calm luminescence to the crowded narrow alley. The road itself is also somewhat like a tunnel, with no obvious exits along the way.
It definitely gives the impression that the only ways in or out are at both ends. It is exactly what you would expect of a historical, Taiwanese old street while at the same time exceeding your expectations in every way.
Our third stop was the Yehliu Geopark, a giant landscape near the water that shows off impressive rock formations. It is home to the Queen’s Head, a rock shaped to resemble the head of a woman. Though accessing the park only requires an entry fee (mine was included in the tour), there were long lines to get photos with some of the more well known rocks. If you enjoy the outdoors and a more scenic moment, I would recommend stopping here. If that is not your style, it might be better to skip it.
TAIWANESE PASTRIES (AT SHU SHIN BOU WAGASHI MUSEUM):
Our last stop was one that I believe is only available through pre-booked tours. After a quick walk through of the Bou Wahashi Museum, our tour guide led us to a room where we used square moulds and the few ingredients needed to make our very own pineapple cakes! While we waited for our treats to come out of the oven, we also sampled various cakes and candies they sell at the museum.
SHOUT OUT MOMENT!
On my last night in Taipei, I stayed at Work Inn, an adorable hostel right next to Taipei Main Station. The location was great and the hostel itself was clean, comfortable and affordable. The whole area has a very rustic styled industrial design, perfect for backpackers, friends and solo travellers. Even better, the bunk beds in the shared rooms each have tvs, headphones and thick curtains to add a stronger sense of privacy. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re taking an early morning tour from the station!