Overshadowed by megacities such as Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokio Taipei can easily be considered one of Asia’s most underrated cities. With only 7 Million habitants it is relatively small according to Asian standards. It is also one of Asia’s best kept secrets. For how much longer is everybody’s best guess given its unexplored diversity.
My image of Taipei was that of a gigantic electronics warehouse and I was therefore positively surprised by this flourishing city which offers a number of cultural sights, mystical temples and a variety of shopping malls and markets all easily reachable through one of the most modern and efficient metro systems in the world.
With a number of bustling night markets full of food and shopping temptations it is also every insomniacs dream. To top it all off Taipei is surrounded by green and lush mountains, home to hot springs and endless hiking trails.
What to see:
2-28 Peace Memorial Park
Built in 1908 the park was originally called Taihoku Park and later was renamed Taipei New Park under the KMT regime. It’s current name has been chosen in memory of a massacre called the 2-28 incident during which thousands of demonstrators were killed. Today the park is one of Taipei’s integral landmarks representing its versatile history. Exit Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall Station
Built in 2006 as the world’s tallest building Taipei’1 101 Tower was overtaken by the Burj Khalifa in 2010. Nevertheless, it still boast the world’s fastest elevator which will take you up to the 89th floor in a few seconds. As Taipei’s skyline isn’t very impressive the view is somewhat underwhelming however it is the experience that counts. Exit Taipei City Hall Station
Palace Museum – the museum hosts an impressive selection of Chinese art including the famous jadeite cabbage and the meat shaped stone. Not to be missed! Exit Shilin Station and take a taxi to the museum
Laoshan Temple: Built in 1738 this temple is one of Taipei’s prime religious sites. It has been rebuilt various times due to earthquakes and typhoons. Get there at 5 pm to experience the temple’s most mystical time of the day when it is filled with worshippers chanting and lighting joss sticks. Exit Laoshan Temple Station
Where to eat
The original – Ding Tai Fun:
This dumpling restaurant has gained international faim for its xiaolongbao, dumplings filled with soup. The restaurant was founded in Taipei and has branched out to other cities such as Shanghai and New York. Their Honk Kong branch was awarded a Michelin star. You can’t reserve and it is therefore recommendable to go there for an afternoon snack when the waiting time is shorter than in the evenings. Nevertheless, count with a minimum 30 minute waiting time. Once you are there make sure to order their truffle dim sums which are godly and end your feast with sweet sesame or taro buns. Xinyi Road, Taipei (Exit Dongmen Station)
Indulge with a view – YEN Restaurant at W Hotel
W hotel’s Chinese restaurant YEN is situated on the 31st floor and offers a breathtaking view and a great selection of dim sums. You can chose amongst steamed and fried dim sums filled with everything from shrimps to truffles. Try their signature cocktail with Oolong tea or their W beer which is only available at the W hotel in Taipei. Refreshing!
Taiwan is a tea country. To get a taste of local produce treat yourself to a tea ceremony at Tea & Tea Arts and indulge in local highland teas expertly prepared and served with a choice of Taiwanese sweets – delicious!
Tea & Tea Arts, Yangchang Road No 88, (close by Yongkan Street/Dongmen Train Station
Yongkan Street a variety of small, local clothing boutiques and tea shops.
To get their exit Metro Station Dongmen
Eslite is a book store turned department store which offers everything from clothing to decor and yes..they have books too.
Ximen offers a variety of affordable clothing stores. It is popular with Taipei’s youth. This is a good place if you’d like to explore the local fashion scene.
Rahoe’s night market offers an endless street filled with snack booths and shops. Snack your way through the bustling market. You will find everything from oyster crepes to fried octopus. For the very brave (or those who have just lost a bet) try stinky tofu. And yes, its called stinky tofu for a reason.
Where to stay
The W hotel is Taipei’s most trendy hotel. The futuristic building hosts beautiful, modern rooms with a spectacular view. Try scoring a room on the 29th floor where the view is simply stunning. The service is impeccable. In the evening the hotel fills with a crowd of Taipei’s fun loving elite. Join the crowd for a glass of champagne at the bar and indulge in the amazing view of Taipei’s 101 tower.