I have a lot of relatives in Taiwan and I also spent a month there traveling all of Taiwan. Recently, I’ve been back in Taipei so this guide will focus on the Taipei that I know. Taiwan is amazing and delicious and has tons of shopping. That month in Taiwan is what really sparked my whole obsession with trying new foods, especially bakeries. Taiwan’s snack/street food offerings are endless.
In Taipei, you should check out all the popular night markets and bargain with those sellers (they might not speak or have good English). Then, you should be careful and maybe stay away from questionable street food vendors whose treats are so utterly aromatically delicious – you might get sick; it was a hot dog stand that did me in. Restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and small shops/stores should be fine – employ your judgment accordingly. Don’t forget to check the conversion rate ($1 USD = ~32 NTD)
What to Do
1. Museums: Definitely check out the enormous National Palace Museum (NTD250, Shilin, National museum) filled with Taiwan’s treasures. Or, if you like art, try the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (NTD30, Zhongshan, Art museum).
2. National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (Free, Zhongzheng, Monument): Open daily from 9am-6pm, this Taiwanese national monument was erected in memory of Chiang Kai-shek, first President of the Republic of China, five years after his death.
3. Taipei 101 (Free/NTD500 for observatory, Xinyi, Building): Touristy but it’s the tall building everyone iconizes. A landmark skyscraper that is currently the fifth tallest in the world. It has a lot of attractions and shopping inside.
4. Nightmarkets: Shilin Night Market is the most popular. Bargain and be aware it’s probably a branded knock-off. Otherwise, buy all the non-branded to your heart’s delight. There are tons of night markets – list here.
5. Ximending: Shopping! Tourists + entertainers. Also for shopping is Wufenpu, the garment district.
6. Tamsui: Play some street carnival games and win prizes! Get the crazy high stacked ice cream or the spiral cut potatoes on a stick. Check out Fort San Domingo and take a river cruise.
7. Maokong Station for the Gondola ride: It’s a ridiculously long gondola ride for ~$3 USD. After you land, make sure to get the special tea ice cream with a little cat on it!
Fort San Domingo
View from Maokong gondola
8. Longshan Temple: Check out some interesting Chinese architecture at this temple.
9. Beitou Hot Springs: Relax and do a day trip to Beitou.
10. Foot Massage: Get a foot massage at a nice spa.
What to Eat Sweet
1. Snow Ice and/or Shaved Ice: Mango, strawberry, red bean, custard, and everything!
2. Boba: Drink so much boba! Bubble milk tea. Pearl milk tea still makes me smile anytime I think about it. Or try sugar cane juice.
3. Tropical Fruits: You must promise me to you’ll get the wax apple and some fresh guava slices. They sell them ready to eat at convenience stores.
4. Pineapple cakes: Probably the most popular Taiwanese souvenir. You may even want to try and/grab some sun cakes (suncakes) or wife cakes (sweet heart cake). I like those.
5. Sweet Rice Dumplings: A sweet soup with mochi-like dumplings.
6. Brick toast: A half loaf of bread carved out as a dish for ice cream, fruits, and sweet treats
7. Nougat candy: It’s Taiwan nougat candy! Unique and totally different from European nougat candy. Filled with almonds or peanuts or rose-flavored
8. Mister Donut: Pon de lion is the cutest character that has the donut ‘Pon de ring’ as his mane. Get the D-pop to try all the flavors (six donut holes!!!)
9. Convenience stores: So many snacks!!! Try the ice cream, try the savory chips and other miscellaneous goodies in here. Also, pick up a 5 spice tea egg while you’re there.
10. Afternoon tea: There is so much afternoon tea (European-style with cute Asian touch) that you have to do in Taiwan! It’s so beautiful and delightful – feels like heaven and looks like it too. Here is a simple list.
What to Eat Savory
1. Taiwanese breakfast: Familiarize yourself with this. You must get a Dan Bing (Taiwanese breakfast egg crepe). Congee (rice porridge) is amazing with pork sung (dried pork). Includes rice rolls, flaky scallion pancakes, Chinese doughnuts.
2. Beef noodle soup: Yum!
3. Spicy Hot Pot: Try the spicy one.
4. Fried chicken cutlet aka giant fried chicken steak: Looks like a giant flat chicken nugget but so much better than that. Seasoning is off-the-charts tasty.
5. Minced pork over rice: Drool, one of my favorite foods in the world.
6. Popcorn chicken: Seasoned to perfection
7. Dumplings and buns: For dumplings, try Din Tai Fung, a Michelin star dumpling house. Above a bookstore if I remember correctly. For buns, you should look for a Gua Bao, basically a Taiwanese version of a hamburger (pork belly with pickled vegetables).
8. Themed restaurants: There are so many weird theme restaurants in Taipei – check out Modern Toilet. Here is a list.
9. Taiwanese oyster omelet: Street food-style and delicious
10. Stinky Tofu: People love it. I’m not a huge fan
If you need more suggestions, visit this list.
Taipei transportation is amazingly friendly and convenient. Plus the bus systems are reasonable too (popular and thus possibly crowded at times). Taipei Metro!