Home See & Do Best Things to Do in Taipei - A Beginner's Guide
Home See & Do Best Things to Do in Taipei - A Beginner's Guide

Best Things to Do in Taipei – A Beginner’s Guide

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Taipei, the capital city of Asia’s largest liberal democracy, Taiwan, has an alluring charm all its own. Yes, its customs and architecture are distinctly Chinese, but the Taiwanese way – of easygoing friendliness, emphasis on harmony, endearingly corny humour – suffuses everything with a unique vibe that many have fallen in love with.

Even within Taipei City itself, there’s so much to see, do, taste and experience – and it is this dynamic plurality that makes Taipei a beloved holiday destination for many.

If you’ve yet to take the plunge, here’s our recommended list of best things to do in Taipei. But be warned, you just might it difficult to stay away after that!

Best Things to Do in Taipei – Enjoy Lip-smacking Local Cuisine

Sublime Chicken Soup – Ji Yuan, G Woo

Ji Yuan Szechuan Restaurant: 324, Section 1, Dunhua South Road, Da’an, Taipei, 110, Taiwan

G Woo: No. 63, Lane 81, Section 2, Dunhua South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106

Trust me, do yourself a favour and seek out chicken soup in Taipei.

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But not just any chicken soup. You’ll want to look for restaurants that adhere to traditional recipes that calls for hours and hours in a claypot on the stove. The result? Sublime, silky smooth chicken soup like you’ve never had before. Nourishing and satisfying – best on a chilly evening.

Personally, I swear by Ji Yuan Szechuan Restaurant (驥園川菜), with its medley of traditional dishes and humongous chicken soup serving. This restaurant is always full so be sure to make a reservation, the earlier the better!

Another popular option for Taiwanese chicken soup is G-Woo Restaurant (鸡窝), said to serve up chicken so tender, you can easily separate it with your chopsticks.

Bubbling Hot Pot and Shabu-shabu – Wang Jiao Hotpot, Orange Shabu Shabu

Wang Jiao Mini Stone Hot Pot: No.74, Sec.1, Zhonghua Rd, Wanhua Dist, Taipei 108, Taiwan

Orange Hot Pot: No. 135, Section 1, Da’an Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106

Hotpot restaurants are a dime a dozen in Taiwan, so what makes Wang Jiao Mini Stone Hot Pot (旺角迷你石頭火鍋) any different?

Well for one, you can have your own individual hotpot, which the restaurant will get going in front of you by sauteeing the meat of your choice with some onions. After a good sear, your juicy and tenderised meat is scooped up and replaced by fresh broth so you can continue cooking your meats along with other hotpot ingredients.

If that somehow didn’t whet your appetite, the restaurant’s shacha sauce (the de facto Taiwanese hotpot dipping sauce – made of brill fish, shrimp, garlic, shallot, soy bean oil and chilli) will, especially once tweaked to your personal preference with cilantro, spring onion, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, fresh chilli and garlic.

For an elevated take on this quintessential Taiwanese social and dining activity, make a reservation at Orange Shabu Shabu (橘色刷刷锅).

Known for the freshness and quality of its ingredients, matched by shiny copper hotpots and service so attentive you’re bound to get a little embarrassed, Orange Shabu Shabu will give you a taste of upper-middle class Taipei.

Be warned: The seafood is so fresh; it arrives still alive and kicking. For those that can’t bear to see their food suffer, you might wanna tell the service crew beforehand. I did, and their solution was to behead the offending prawns, and deep fry the heads before presenting them to me. They were delicious, but I’m not sure I felt any less guilty.

Be sure to leave some room for their signature porridge, which they cook up right in your hotpot at the end of your meal.

Orange Shabu Shabu is pricey, but an experience well worth sharing, especially as a special celebration.

Traditional Taiwan Comfort Food – Yong He Soy Milk King, Jin Feng Braised Pork Rice

Yong He Soy Milk King: No. 102, Section 2, Fuxing South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106

Jin Feng Braised Pork Rice: No. 10, Section 1, Roosevelt Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, 100

Quintessentially Taiwanese, soy milk breakfasts and braised pork rice are two steadfast staples that will provide a full and satisfying instruction on the character of comfort food here in Taiwan.

Yong He Soy Milk King (永和豆漿大王) no doubt built its fame on the strength of its soybean items, but it is the store’s skillful rendition of the perfect accompaniment – you tiao (fried dough stick) – that seals the deal.

Popular as a breakfast meal, the many combinations of bean, curd, pudding and dough found in Yong He’s menu also make for comforting, satisfying snacks anytime of the day. Just as well that the store is open 24/7.

And then there’s Jin Feng Braised Pork Rice (金峰魯肉飯), a culinary marvel that you truly must taste to believe. At first glance, there’s nothing particularly alluring about the dish, a simple bowl of white rice, topped with minced fatty pork braised in soy sauce.

But if that description got you salivating, then you very likely already have encountered the beauty of this simple dish done masterfully. If not, it’s surely a sign you’ll like this dish – once you finally give an authentic version a try.

Jin Feng is widely acknowledged as Taipei’s best seller of the dish, but don’t be afraid to drop into any local store and order up a bowl. This beloved dish is universally enjoyed throughout Taiwan, so you won’t go wrong.

Seafood Feast – Addiction Aquatic Development, San Wei Shi Tang

Addiction Aquatic Development: No. 18, Alley 2, Lane 410, Minzu E Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 104

San Wei Shi Tang: No. 116, Section 2, Guiyang St, Wanhua District, Taipei

With its geographic position and historical ties to Japan, it’s no wonder there’s a strong appreciation for fresh seafood among the Taiwanese. Which is great news for seafood lovers around the globe.

Despite its rather odd-sounding name, Addiction Aquatic Development (上引水產) is a must-visit if you’re looking for a seafood feast. The sprawling seafood market is made up of distinct dining and shopping areas, each specializing in their own styles of cookery.

There’s everything here – from fresh sashimi and sushi bowls, to seafood grills, hotpot and bentos. There’s also a merchandise area, but the prices tend to be marked up, so you might wanna be a bit more discriminating with your purchases.

Another great option for fresh seafood is San Wei Shi Tang (三味食堂), a neighbourhood Japanese sushi restaurant that shot to fame on the size of their sushi and sashimi. We’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

While you’re here, don’t skip the yakitori items – the chicken skewers and the lamb chops are unexpectedly good for a sushi place.

Late Night Eats – Night Markets, Ah Tsai Milkfish

Night Markets: various locations

Ah Tsai Milkfish Belly: 53 Neijiang St., Wanhua District, Taipei City

While Taipei has a relatively laidback character, you’ll find the city is no sleepyhead, with shops, cafes and eateries staying open way past bedtime. With the sheer amount of options available, there’s no excuse not to end every day in Taipei with a round of supper.

For late night eats, there are really no better places than the night markets of Taipei, especially on the weekends. There’s something irresistibly vibrant and electrifying when its pushing midnight but the crowds are still milling about looking for bargains, even as hawkers loudly declare their dwindling stocks. It makes you want to dive right in.

With its unruly, colourful character, every night market is worth a visit, by definition. Pick one nearest to you, or schedule a visit to one of the famous ones; chances are you’ll find a feast, if not for the stomach then surely for the senses.

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Deferring to the wisdom of the local crowds for this next one, we found Ah Tsai Milkfish Belly (阿財虱目魚肚) well worth the queue. Milkfish is a favourite crop fish in parts of Southeast Asia, with the tender, flavoursome belly being the prized cut.

Here at Ah Tsai, milkfish belly is the headliner, which you can have deep fried, braised in gravy, or in a clear soup. The last option, light and tasty, is especially good for a light supper.

Ah Tsai opens only at 10pm, but the queue starts forming as early as 9pm.

Best Things to do in Taipei – Shopping and Café-hopping

High-street Shopping: Taipei 101 and Breeze Xin Yi

Taipei 101: No. 7, Section 5, Xinyi Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110

Breeze Xin Yi: 110, Taiwan, Taipei City, Xinyi District, Section 5, Zhongxiao East Road

For the glitzy and glamorous side of the Taiwanese capital, head on down to Taipei 101 and its gleaming counterparts in the Xin Yi shopping district.

The world-famous landmark is not the only place to shop till you drop – within walking distance are a medley of shopping malls, offering everything from high-end luxury goods to the latest mass market fads.

When you get to Breeze Xin Yi, be sure to make a pit stop at Yon Shin tea house for an elegant afternoon snack and excellent cold-brewed tea (I recommend the Honey Red tea!)

Pen Lovers’ Haven: T Y Lee Pens

T Y Lee Pens: No. 76, Lane 78, Section 2, Fuxing South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106

Tucked away in the suburbs is a charming little shop that stands among global fountain pen hobbyists as a star attraction, and a visit will tell you why. The two-storey shop carries a range of fountain pens, inks, notebooks and other writing accessories extensive enough to stir the hearts of stationery lovers, and even convert budding pen nerds on the spot!

The shop staff at T Y Lee Pens are friendly and knowledgeable, and more than happy to help you find the ideal pen – whether as a gift or for yourself. The shop is slightly out of the way, but once you’re done with your shopping, exit the main gate, take a left and stroll down to find a smattering of quaint coffee shops and manga cafes for an idyllic stop.

Souvenirs, Snacks and Knick-knacks: Ximending

Ximending: No 6 Exit, Ximen MRT Station, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108

Taipei’s answer to Tokyo’s Harajuku, Ximending (西門町) offers up a heady mix of shopping, eats, fashion, pubs and hotels – all within a tightly packed cluster of walking streets and laneways.

It’s no exaggeration to say you’ll find everything here, making it the ideal place to shop for souvenirs and snacks – those you bring home and those you devour on the spot. Start at the Red House – a renowned cultural landmark with an indie market hawking the best of Taiwanese creations – that turns into the city’s premier gay-friendly hotspot for clubbing and drinking by night.

Then, explore the rest of Ximending, following your haunches to find karaoke outlets, bubble tea shops, catcher machines and capsule games, themed cafes and restaurants, all jostling shoulder-to-shoulder with some of Taipei’s best traditional eats (including the famous Ah Zhong Noodles, and Ah Tsai Milkfish Belly; see above).

Ximending is known for being touristy, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from visiting. The intoxicating and colourful district is best enjoyed past sundown on weekends, if only for the added delight of fly-by-night street stalls that appear after dark, turning the whole area into an impromptu night market.

Better yet, book a hotel or Airbnb stay here to really enjoy the district in all its mad, colourful glory.

Best Things to do in Taipei – Enjoy Art, Culture and History

History Hidden in Plain Sight: Four Four South Village, Da Dao Cheng

Four Four South Village:  No. 50, Songqin Street, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110

Da Dao Cheng: Section 1, Dihua St, Datong DistrictTaipei City, Taiwan 103

Part of what makes Taipei so charming is its unabashed embrace of the nation’s tumultuous history, resulting in gorgeous historic vistas hidden in plain sight.

One of the most startling sights in the city stems from the juxtaposition of Four Four South Village (四四南村) lying in the shadow of Taipei 101 – an incongruous, irresistible combination that warrants closer inspection.

Four Four South Village is one of the few surviving military housing complexes for soldiers of the banished Kuomintang army and their families. Today, the village houses a museum along with some delightfully kitschy cafes, and is the perfect stop for a coffee and Instagram break. Sometimes, on weekends and special holidays, you can find a crafts market here as well.

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For more beautifully preserved Taiwanese architecture, head over to Da Dao Cheng district (大稻埕), a walking and shopping district filled with history at every corner. Here, businesses over a century old carry on their operations still, alongside sleek modern coffee shops, gift shops, medicine halls, eating houses and pushcart food kiosks.

At its heart is Dihua Street, a narrow, ancient street anchored by a temple said to grant the lovelorn wedded bliss. Poke among the narrow laneways and you just might find a surprise café or two.

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