If you are planning a trip to Taiwan for the first time, there are several areas worth visiting to make the most of your trip. While there are several beautiful and historical areas, the following are my personal favorites for traveling to Taipei. Feel free to use this as a kind of personal Taipei travel guide when planning your Taipei vacation.
- Taipei 101
We started our Taipei tour at Taipei 101. This is a skyscraper located in the Xinyi district. In 2004, it was listed as the tallest building in the world at 1,671 feet. It held that title for 6 years until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai eclipsed Taipei 101 in 2010. The tower has 101 floors and features an open-air observation deck on the 91st floor as the Empire State Building in New City. York, where you can see beautiful views of the surrounding areas.
The lower five floors of Taipei 101 feature a luxury shopping mall with exclusive stores such as Burberry and Louis Vuitton. In the indoor observatory on the 88th floor, you can see the 730-ton mass damper, basically a giant ball that acts like a pendulum to counter the swaying of buildings during high winds. Without this buffer, people on high floors can get dizzy due to the constant swaying of the building. Taipei 101 is a city icon that is visible for miles from the city. Every New Year, Taipei 101 attracts tens of thousands of visitors to see its spectacular fireworks display.
- Ximending Shopping
If you love shopping, you can’t go wrong with Ximending. This is the commercial area of the Wanhua District of Taipei and is considered the fashion capital of Taiwan. On weekends, the streets of Ximending are closed to traffic and turned into a pedestrian mall. The area is popular with street performers of all stripes, and because it is a hotspot, you can see celebrities putting on small outdoor concerts, album releases, and other events.
Ximending is also famous for its “Theater Street”, where there is a concentration of various films along Wuchang Street. However, for history buffs, the most famous theater in the district is the Red House Theater, which was built in 1908 during the Japanese occupation and is still an operating theater with regular performances.
- Yangmingshan National Park
If what you are looking forward to when traveling is a beautiful view then I cannot recommend Yangmingshan highly enough. It is the largest natural park in Taipei. Yangmingshan is ideal for hiking and has numerous trails that can last a whole day or just a couple of hours. Popular trails include Seven Stars Peak, which will take you to the highest peak in Taipei at 1120 meters (3600 feet) or see the impressive waterfall from the Juansi Waterfall Trail.
From February to March, Yangmingshan is the site of the Yangmingshan Flower Festival, when various varieties of flowers, such as azaleas, camellias, and especially cherry blossoms, reach their peak of flowering. Every night of the festival, the cherry blossoms are illuminated for a particularly romantic sight. Visitors can also have lunch and dinner at one of the many restaurants such as The Top or Grass Mountain Chateau to enjoy the spectacular views of Taipei below.
Between the beauty of cherry blossoms and city views, Yangmingshan is a well-known romantic spot for lovers from all over Taipei. From April to May, when the lilies reach full bloom, you can pick your own lily flowers for just a few dollars at one of several flower farms.
Lastly, don’t miss Yangming Shuwu, also known as Yangming Villa, the beautiful summer retreat of the late President Chiang Kai-shek. Yangming Villa’s house and gardens are kept as they were when they were occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Chiang. The house is a traditional two-story Chinese house, with reception rooms and offices on the first floor and Chiang’s personal residence on the second floor, where his paintings and personal photographs are still on display. The gardens are especially beautiful in spring, when the flowers are in bloom. As a curiosity, it has been noted that several shrubs are planted in clusters of five, to symbolize General Chiang’s “5-star” rank.
- National Palace Museum
Next, we meet at the National Palace Museum, which opened in 1965. If you like history, this is the place to be! The National Palace Museum has a huge collection of 700,000 permanent exhibits of the history and art of the Chinese Empire spanning more than 2,000 years, in addition to prehistoric Chinese artifacts and art dating from the Neolithic era, or better known as the “Stone age”.
The most popular item in their collection is the jadeite cabbage. Carved during the 19th century, it is a piece of jadeite that has been molded to resemble a head of Chinese cabbage and has a lobster and grasshopper camouflaged in its leaves. Legend has it that the sculpture is a metaphor for female fertility, with the stem of the white cabbage representing purity, the green cabbage leaves representing fertility, and the insects representing children.
- Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall
Another historically significant landmark on our walk to learn about the history of Taiwan is the Chiang Kia-shek Memorial Hall. This is a national monument that was built in honor of the former President of the ROC, Chiang Kia-shek. The monument marks the geographic and cultural center of Taipei. It is the most visited attraction by foreign tourists. The pagoda-style memorial hall has a presidential library and museum on the ground floor.
The main hall features a large seated statue of Chiang Kai-shek, much like the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. The memorial hall and the surrounding Liberty Square covers 60 acres and includes many ponds and garden spaces. The square is also home to two of Taipei’s performing arts buildings, the National Theater and the National Concert Hall.
- Beitou Hot Springs and Public Library
My favorite place to visit while in Taiwan is an area called Beitou. Beitou is a mountainous district north of Taipei City and is best known for its hot springs and magnificent public library. The mineral waters of Beitou’s many natural geothermal springs are famous for their healing and therapeutic properties. A whole industry of thermal baths and hotels has sprung up in Beitou offering aromatherapy, massages and hydrotherapy. There are many places where tourists can dip their feet in the hot spring stream. Be sure to visit the Hot Springs Museum. When it was built in 1913, it was the largest public bathhouse in Asia at the time. Today, the museum offers a glimpse into its bath facilities and the history of Beitou.
Next, visit the Beitou Public Library. Its wooden structure that fits perfectly into its surroundings Beitou Park. Using eco-friendly features and design, the library is Taiwan’s first “green” building. The library opened in 2006 and was built to reduce the use of water and electricity. To do this, the architects used large windows to let in natural light and a roof of solar panels to provide the electricity needed for operation. In addition, the library collects rainwater to store and use it to flush its toilets.
- Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf
Our last stopping point is Tamsui. Tamsui is at the western end of Taipei and our favorite place was Fisherman’s Wharf. We learned that the restaurants that dot the Fisherman’s Wharf boardwalk not only provide the freshest seafood available, but also provide stunning sunset views. Fisherman’s Wharf still functions as a port for local fishermen and they pride themselves on providing a port for 150 vessels. Our favorite walk is across the “Lover’s Bridge” pedestrian bridge, so named because it opened on Valentine’s Day 2003.
Its architecture resembles the masts of a sailing ship. It was a 3 minute walk across the bridge, which at sunset is magnificent. Lover’s Bridge is also a great place to see the fireworks show and the annual concert that the city organizes each year to celebrate Chinese Valentine’s Day (which occurs in August and not February 14). Another way to experience Tamsui is to take a ferry from Tamsui Ferry Pier and disembark at Fisherman’s Wharf. The ferry is an inexpensive way to enjoy great views of the Tamsui waterfront. A one-way fare is only $ 2 USD and only takes about 15 minutes.
Although our Taiwan vacation seems to be over in the blink of an eye, it was amazing! While there is so much more to see, we feel like we made the most of our trips in Taipei. I hope your trip is as educational and comprehensive as ours.