Last April my family and I decided to travel to Taiwan. It was a short trip but nonetheless, my heart was satisfied and so was my belly. The entire stay was pretty much a giant food trip, so if you’re a foodie like me you’re definitely going to enjoy it here. If you’re on a diet, let me tell you now, your diet probably isn’t going to last. You might even gain a couple of pounds after this trip (I know I did).
There are so many sites you could visit within the city for free and all you’d have to worry about is food and transportation. So here are the things you should do if you plan on visiting Taiwan as well as a sample itinerary and some tips to get you along.
Visit the old streets of Jiufen and Shifen
Jiufen and Shifen are two of the most iconic places in Taipei. Both of these towns are situated outside the city and closer to the mountains, which I loved because on your way there you will be able to drive through the mountains and see the nature and also get a magnificent view of the ocean. Jiufen is well known for its teahouses, must-eat street foods, and souvenir shops. It is also said to be the inspiration behind Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.
When you enter its narrow alleyways, you will be greeted by the different scents and smells of good food… Taiwanese sausages, beef noodles, deep-fried seafood… all the good savory stuff. Don’t forget to save space for dessert cause they’ve got a ton to try out, such as giant cream puffs, mochi, ice cream rolls, and milk tea! We literally just spent the day eating at Jiufen and looking at souvenir shops. Pretty sure, we stopped every few feet just to buy more food. Its a guarantee you’ll be leaving here a size bigger.
They also have a variety of souvenir shops that sell a lot of different things. Things like your own personalized stamp or traditional Taiwanese clothing. Their ocarina shops were my favorite because you could hear the store owners playing different melodies that’ll surely enchant you.
If you start seeing lanterns floating in the distance you’ll know you’re near Shifen. My favorite part about this place is the fact that it’s located right where the train tracks are, a remnant of it’s past, which gives the place even more character. Back in the Japanese era, they used these tracks for transporting coal. Today, you’ll find many tourists taking pictures here and flying lanterns in hopes that their wishes come true. These lanterns truly are magical, it’s even more dreamy if you get to see them at night. Just remember to jump out of the way before the train passes by (I’m serious).
How to get here:
To get to Jiufen from Taipei Main Station take the train to Ruifang Station, once you exit the station you take either bus no. 827 or 788 which go to Jiufen.
To get to Shifen you go back to Ruifang Station and switch to the Pingxi Line and take the train to Shifen Station.
Appreciate the beauty of nature
When Taiwan was discovered by European sailors they named it Ilha Formosa or the beautiful island and one thing is for sure, it truly deserves that title. Taiwan is a great place for nature lovers, listed below are the different nature attractions in and around Taipei that is definitely worth seeing.
1. Yehliu Geopark
- Unique and unusual rock formations (such as those above)caused naturally by erosion
- Best view of the sea
- Best for nature lovers and for those who are interested or just have an appreciation for geology
- Great photo-ops
How to get here: If you’re coming from the city go to Taipei Main Station and look for the Taipei West Bus Station. There is a window for KuoKuang where you can purchase a ticket that goes directly to the Geopark itself.
Note: An easier (but probably more costly) alternative would be to take a day tour. Usually, these tours will bring you to Jiufen Old Street, Shifen Old Street, and Yehliu all together. Some will even bring you to the Shifen waterfall, old mining facilities, Golden Waterfall and Yin-yang sea as well.
2. Elephant Mountain
- Offers one of the best views of the Taipei skyline (Taipei 101 included)
- The best alternative to see the entirety of Taipei if you aren’t willing to line up and pay 600NTD per person at Taipei 101
- Relatively easy climb (the majority of people who climb this mountain are seniors so… If they can do it you probably can)
- Best for those looking for an adventure (and for those who need to burn off the extra pounds they just gained after eating all that food)
How to get here: Take the metro to Xiangshan Station, you will see signs that’ll point you to the direction of the trail.
3. Shifen Waterfall
- One of the widest waterfalls it’s about 20 meters tall and 40 meters wide
- Just a short walk from Shifen Old Street
- There are food markets near the waterfall as well where they sell really good stinky (fermented) tofu
- It’s free to enter
How to get here: (Same route you take to get to Shifen Old Street) Take the metro to Ruifang Station switch to the Pingxi line to Shifen Station. From Shifen Station walk 20-30 minutes to the Shifen Waterfalls.
4. Golden Waterfall
- Best for photo-ops
- Magical golden color caused by the excessive amounts of pyrite (a.k.a. fool’s gold) coming from the old mining facility, which flow all the way out into the sea causing the water to turn yellow (but only to a certain point) which created the beautiful yin yang sea, where you can see the delineation of the yellow and blue parts of the sea.
How to get here: (From Taipei) Take the metro to Ruifang Station. When you exit there will be a bus stop across the street beside Wellcome Supermarket where you will take the Keelung Transit bus towards Jiufen/Jinguashi.
Go on a city tour!
If you don’t want to go far, no worries. There are plenty of things to see within the city and many city tours you can join. If you don’t want to join a tour group and would rather do things at your own pace you can opt to take the metro or the bus and it’s not that hard to get around either.
1. National Palace Museum
- Has one of the largest permanent collections of Chinese imperial art (such as the Jadeite Cabbage and Meat-Shaped Stone)
- Its facade (that in itself is worth the visit)
- Zhishan Garden (free to enter if you have a ticket to the museum, if not just pay 20NTD).
How to get here: Take the metro to Shilin Station then take bus R30 to the National Palace Musem
2. Martyr’s Shrine
- Was built in remembrance of the soldiers and heroes who died for their country
- Solemn tourist spot (show respect when you visit here)
- Beautiful traditional architecture
- Changing of the guards that you can watch every hour
How to get here: Take any of these buses: bus no. 208, 21, 213, 247, 267, 287, 42, 646, 902, red 2, or red 3 to the Martyr’s Shrine Stop
3. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
- Learn more about the history of Taiwan and who Chiang Kai Shek is
- Appreciate its grand architecture (it’s like Asian Lincoln Memorial)
- Changing of the guards you can watch every hour
- Great for photo-ops
How to get here: Take the metro to Chiang Kai Shek Station
4. Taipei 101
- Bamboo shaped skyscraper; It’s the tallest building in Taipei (508m tall to be exact)
- Observatory at the 89th floor that gives a 360-degree view of the entire city
- Best place to shop for high end and luxury brands
How to get here: Take the metro to Taipei 101/World Trade Center Station
5. Ximending Shopping District
- You will find lots of weird and quirky stuff here
- FOOD! FOOD EVERYWHERE!
- They have a variety of stores that are low-end to high-end
- Interesting street performances
- Get to experience nightlife
- Sort of like a mini Shibuya
How to get here: Take the metro to Ximen Station
6. Shilin Night Market
- Can’t go to Taipei and not visit a night market.
- One of the most famous night markets in Taipei (although there are several)
- They have carnival games
- An endless road of street food
- Best place to buy souvenirs and gifts
- Highlight: Funky Fresh Bar (Bar full of good vibes where you can meet new people and drink authentic Taiwanese craft beer)
How to get here: Take the metro to Jiantan Station and cross the street diagonally to the left.
I feel like a lot of people underestimate Taipei. Many ask what’s so interesting here, well, as you can see, quite a lot! For foodies, nature lovers and city people alike, Taipei will surely charm you with its street food, shopping districts, night markets, and character-filled towns. It is definitely one of the top destinations for a quick getaway, a fun-filled adventure with friends or a solo trip. You could do a lot of things here in the span of just 3 days. It’s also one of the more budget-friendly places because of the number of sites you could visit here for free.
Day 1 (Arrival day) – Taipei 101 and Shilin Night Market
Day 2 (Outer city tour) – Yehliu Geopark, Golden Waterfalls, Jiufen Old Street, Shifen Waterfalls, and Shifen Old Street
Day 3 (City tour) – Elephant Mountain, National Palace Museum, Martyr’s Shrine, and Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
- Summer: Jun-Aug (35°C) – hot and humid
- Fall: Sept-Nov (20°C) – best
- Winter: Dec-Feb (10°C) – driest months
- Spring: Mar-May (20°C) – rain is most unpredictable
(Just bring an umbrella or a raincoat in case, rain can happen really any time of the year.)
- It would be a good idea to choose accommodation accessible to these places. My family stayed in Rich Garden Hotel in Zhonghua Road, Wanhua District which was just a few minutes away from a metro station and a couple of kilometers from Ximending Shopping District, Chang Kai Shek Memorial and Taipei 101.
- If you plan on going to Jiufen, Shifen, and Yehliu, it would honestly be easier to get there if you go on a tour (as mentioned above).