Taipei had been on my “To-Go List” for a really long time, and I’m so glad I finally went! I’d heard nothing but great things from people, between the amazing food at the night markets, to the unique cultural towns on the outskirts!
I only had a couple of days in Taipei because I was squeezing it in before heading back to the US from the Philippines (slight detour), plus had water contamination one of the days, but I still managed to see and do a lot!
WHERE TO STAY: I purposely stayed at a very central hotel called City Suites Nanxi so that all of the things below were walking distance or a short uber! It was a really nice place, and where I showed my sweet patio deck, so I’d highly recommend staying there!
Here’s some of my favorite things that I’d recommend!
1. Drink All the Boba Tea
Did you know that Boba Tea was invented in Taiwan? Did you also know that apparently some young people, especially Taipei YouTubers will go on a “Boba Tea diet” and only drink two teas a day instead of eating? I don’t know which fact is more interesting.
Anyway! There’s tons of Boba Tea shops and stands, but the most famous is Tiger Sugar and Xing fu Tang. Strangely though, at Tiger Sugar, there’s no tea in the drinks…just flavored milk, the tapioca bubbles, and a ton of sugar.
The current trendy Boba Tea flavor to get is Burnt Brown Sugar, and yes it is as delicious as it sounds! Essentially what they do is simmer the tapioca bubbles in warm melted brown sugar, so when they’re dropped into the milk, they make dark brown legs down the sides of the cup. Then you’ll be told to shake it 30 times to properly mix it all together!
2. Shop Around Tattoo Street
There’s a famous street in Ximen area called “Tattoo Street”, which as you can probably imagine, is lined with tattoo parlors.The front of the parlors are all open, so you can see people getting inked up as you walk by!
There’s also a lot of clothing shops on and around Tattoo Street, where you can buy local fashion for relatively cheap! If you’re from the U.S. and you think the styles there are a little off, buy it anyway because I guarantee you it will be popular in the States in 3-6 months (yes, we are actually the ones who are always behind).
3. Have a Drink in the LGBQT Area Behind Red House
You don’t have to be gay to go to the bars in the LGBQT area behind Red House. It’s a fun experience for everyone! Reminiscent of West Hollywood in Los Angeles, there’s a small strip of colorful, music-filled bars that always have great drink specials!
4. Check Out the HandiCrafts in Red House
If you are in Taipei on a Sunday, definitely head to the Red House because there’s a small handicraft market outside of it! There’s some really cute (but expensive) handmade jewelry, fragrant soaps, unique art, and even a tarot card reader!
There’s also shopping stalls inside the Red House every day which are also unique…but again, expensive. By the way, the Red House is a staple site to see in Taipei, so be sure to snap a photo in front of it!
5. Have Brunch at Alice in Wonderland
It rains a lot in Taipei, and on one of the days it rained on me, I looked for indoor activities and found this epic Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant called Alice is Coming! It’s decked out like an amusement park ride, with human-sized playing cards leading you upstairs into the real life scene of the Mad Hatter’s tea party!
You can even sit in a giant tea cup! But before you take pictures, be sure to order something, otherwise you’re not allowed!
The menu was actually extremely impressive! It has whimsical tasting and looking drinks, like the Queen of Hearts Rose Tea, complete with Oreo cookie crumbs on top! For food I had to get the delicious stacks of pancakes, which I tried in red bean, and strawberry flavors!
6. Have Lunch at the Modern Toilet
If you want to go somewhere really weird, check out the Modern Toilet! It’s exactly what you’re probably thinking; a restaurant where everything is toilet themed, and there’s some sort of gross reference to poop on the food menu.
There’s two floors of the toilet-inspired funkiness, with tables that have porcelain thrones as seats. I couldn’t bring myself to actually eat there, but I did catch a glimpse of a chocolate ice-cream desert served inside a mini-toilet bowl that definitely looked like they were eating crap. Yumm.
7. Eat Sushi off of a Choo Choo Train at Da Che Lun
There’s a popular sushi spot for locals in the Ximen area that was packed the entire time I was there. It’s called Da Che Lun and is basically one massive u-shaped sushi bar, with train tracks and an actual choo choo train that tugs plates of food around it.
The sushi was actually really good and reasonably priced! So if you’re craving sushi, or maybe are just sick of the Night Market street food, I’d definitely recommend this place! But speaking of which…
8. Try the Staple Street Foods at the Night Markets
There are tons of night markets in Taipei, some better than others, but all have the same types of food. You may be a little wary or reserved about eating street food in another country, but don’t be.
Actually, some of the food stalls have Michellin Stars! I’ll get to that next though as well as which night markets are best and for what.
But in general, there are a few staple, traditional street foods you should try at the Night Markets. The first one is a bit of a stretch and only for the bold; it’s called “Stinky Tofu”, and yes, it really does smell. Really bad. Like you won’t be able to un-smell it and when you get random wafts of it you might cringe.
Stinky Tofu smells bad because it’s fermented, and honestly doesn’t taste as bad as it smells…IF you can hold your nose while eating it. It also tastes better the more toppings you put on it. I personally am still scarred from trying it though.
Other staple foods to try are: Gua Bao (filled steamed buns), sausages stuffed into rice sausages, oyster omelets, and shui jian bao.
Here’s a list of the best Night Markets in Taipei by popular vote:
- Shilin Night Market
- Raohe Night Market
- Ningxia Night Market
- Nanjichang Night Market
- Huaxi Night Market
- Ximending Night Market
9. Wait in Line Forever at These Michellin Star Food Stalls
As I mentioned, there’s a couple food stalls in the Taipei Night Markets that are so good, they have Michellin Stars! That also means the lines are always extremely long for them, so either get there early, or get something to eat while you wait!
Here’s a list of the current Michellin Star food stalls in Taipei, you’ll need to look them up to see which markets they’re in though!
- A Nan Sesame Chicken
- Stinky Tofu Boss
- Liu Yu Zi
- Rong’s Pork Liver
- Chen Dong Pork Ribs Medicinal Herbs Soup
- Fuzhou Black Pepper Bun
- Shi Boss Spicy Tofu
- Hai You Pork Ribs
- Liang Ji Lu Wei
- Luo Ji Xiao Chao
10. Shop at Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market is one of the bigger ones, and also one of the “tourist ones” along with Raohe. It has endless rows and side streets with food stalls, clothing shops, and pretty much anything else you can think of. I even tried almond tea there and picked up a few new outfits!
There’s also a carnival-game type area if you’re into that. With games like throwing darts at balloons….and fishing for goldfish and shrimps…
11. Hike Elephant Mountain for the Best Views of Taipei
Right now as you’re reading this, I am channeling my good weather energy to you so that you have a clear, sunny day in Taipei. At least one! That way you can get the stunning aerial views of Taipei that I got when I climbed Elephant Mountain!
To get there I would suggest just taking an Uber since you can easily enter “Elephant Mountain” as the destination and they’ll take you right up to the trail entrance. You can also take the subway which is cheaper, but slightly more confusing and a bit of a walk away.
The hike consists of a never-ending flight of stairs, but I promise it’s not a bad climb at all! I actually did it in a dress, flipflops, and with a 20lb purse filled with cameras, so if I can do it, you can too.
Most photos you see of Elephant Mountain are of people sitting on the giant boulders overlooking the city around sunset. That’s lovely and all, but my favorite views and shots were from the first viewing deck where there was a clearing in some bushes, and the very top viewing deck that has the highest view.
I actually would honestly recommend doing the free Elephant Mountain hike over going up to the Taipei 101 Observatory (the giant skyscraper in the middle of the city), if you have to choose one. You get a better skyline view with Taipei 101 in it from the hike!
12. Taipei 101 Observatory
If you have time to go up to the top of the Taipei 101 Observatory as well as the Elephant Mountain hike, I’d say do it too. I actually went up there first before heading over to the hike since they’re in close proximity to each other.
Lines are long to go up to the Observatory, so be sure to get them in advance. You can buy them in advance and for a discount of 15% off on KKDay! Their website also has discounts on a lot of other activities, and even transportation to and from the airport!
13. Relax in the Hot Springs in Beitou
When I heard there was a natural hot springs area of Taipei, I immediately booked a spa day at one of the hotels! I actually found a really good deal on KKDay for one of the nicer hot spring hotels called The Gaia!
It was $50 for a full day at The Gaia, which included a locker, robes, towels, access to the two female-only hot spring pools, and also high tea!
You can easily take the train up to the Beitou area, then walk, cab, or Uber to the hotel. However, for the sake of time and extra-ease, I just took an Uber for about $15.
14. Take the Hop On/Off Tourist Bus to Cover All the Main Attractions
Whenever I get to a city that I’m unsure of what the top sites to see are, or how to get around, I take the touristy Hop on Hop Off buses. With no shame at all, might I add.
They’re relatively affordable considering it provides transportation all day, a recorded guide, and maps! Plus you don’t have to research how to get to the main highlights!
15. Take a Tour of the North Coast of Taipei
Before I even got to Taipei I had people saying, “You have to get out of the city and see more than just central Tapei”! So to avoid FOMO and getting told I missed something, I booked a private tour to the North coast!
I’m SO glad I did, because I’m more of a nature and old-culture person, and that’s exactly what I found. From stunning coastal views to an ancient tea house, every part of it was impressive!
So much so that I did an entirely separate post for it! Be sure to check it out as it highlights these destinations in full detail: Northern Coast of Taiwan Gems