From the second my plane set down on the runway to that brief moment I hugged my friend Allison goodbye on the metro as I set off back to the airport, my stay in Taipei was a whirlwind of delicious food, night markets unforgettable day trips and outdoor adventures. My stay in Taipei was incredible, so I thought I’d share my 7 days in Taipei itinerary with you so you can see what I got up to for over a week in this super charged Asian capital.
If you simply wanna do some of the more quirky things to do in Taipei, this article lists the weirdest – from UFO villages to toilet restaurants.
By far the most surprising travel destination I’ve been to in over a year, Taiwan, and Taipei in particular, made me realize that the lesser visited destinations really are the ones we should all be going to. Even though I had actually been to Taiwan once before, back in 2011 I think, this trip couldn’t have been more different and made me fall head over heels in love with Taiwan.
This bustling capital offers visitors a chance to escape to nature and get away from it all or to immerse themselves in some of the most modern experiences available. Plus, it’s home to arguably the best night markets in Asia so you will never go hungry after your daily adventures.
I spent over a week exploring the best this city has to offer and would highly recommend you check out as many of these places as you can on a trip to Taipei.
Taipei Itinerary – 7 Perfect Days
Day 1: Arrival and Shilin Night Market
As I didn’t arrive in Taipei until quite late at night, my first day simply involved making my way from the airport to my hostel and eating my way around the Shilin Night Market. While in many countries going for food is simply something that needs to be done to give you energy for other more exciting endeavours, eating in Taipei will quickly become one of your favourite activities! We intentionally booked a hostel located just around the corner from Taipei’s largest and most popular night market, which meant we were in food heaven that first night.
The choice of food at the night markets can be overwhelming, and my favourite way to tackle this problem was to walk through the entire market once to see what was on offer and then slowly make my way back to the stands that I liked the most.
I started off with some traditional dumplings (you can’t go to Taipei and NOT eat dumplings!) and then tried some (not so traditional but equally popular) Taiwanese Fried chicken. I also munched my way through some extra long potato sticks and joined a very long queue to buy some friend mushrooms – simply because joining the queue seemed like the right thing to do! I also bought one last small snack to try, probably my favourite of the night at located at the far side of the market, a mouth-watering pulled pork wrap covered in all sorts of delicious secret salts and flavours!
If you don’t want to go alone, or don’t have a clue what you should or shouldn’t eat, then I suggest signing up to a food tour of the market which includes lots of delicious tastings!
How to get here: Take the metro to Jiantan MRT Station and walk across the road.
Where to stay: We stayed at a hostel right next to the market and it was a great base for 2 nights. Here’s a choice of 6 hotels right next to the market, all under $100 per night.
Day 2: Cafes, Cartoons and Creative Parks
On my second day in Taipei, my friend Allison and I set off in search of some (very random) cartoon cafes and to check out the creative parks that Taiwan is apparently quite famous for. I purchased a metro card (definitely do this…makes life so easy) and then we jumped on the metro to Dongmen MRT station which is the nearest metro to the super funky Yongkang Street – known for its small boutiques and souvenir shops, cute cafes and umbrella shops (people here LOVE umbrellas!). After an hour wandering, doing a little shopping and stopping to chat with some shop owners over a coffee, we walked around the block, sort of just getting lost and taking it all in.
LUNCH: We had lunch (more dumplings, thank you!) at Kao Chi YongKang Main Restaurant on Yongkang street – super cheap and delicious food so I definitely recommend it!
How to get here: Take the metro to Dongmen MRT Station and simply walk around the next corner to the right.
We then hoped back on the metro and headed to Huashan 1914 Culture and Creative Park. Creative parks are a relatively new addition to life in Taiwan and provide a fun and safe place for local families and visitors, especially those with young children, to hang out for a few hours.
There are themed cafes and restaurants, shops and lots of exhibitions ranging from cartoon character Percy Pig to a Japanese portrait photographer. Most events and exhibitions cost about $6 to enter, but it’s worth the money if it’s something you’re very interested in. Otherwise feel free to roam the area, take some funny photos or visit the small brewery pub that sells delicious Canadian beers!
How to get here: Take Taipei MRT-Banan Line to Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station. Takes about 3 minute to walk to the creative park.
DINNER: We finished off the day back at the Shilin Night Market because why go anywhere else when you know that’s where the best food is!
Day 3: Shopping and Modern Toilet Restaurant
On my third day in Taipei my friend from Ireland and her work mate from Vietnam arrived. They were keen to do some shopping in Zhongxiao, which is home to many large department stories and shops like popular high street brands like Zara and H&M, so we headed to that area to do some shopping and explore the district.
While the main streets are where you will find the big department stores, the back streets are home to cute cafes, a great selection of restaurants and bars and some beautiful boutique stores.
LUNCH: Allison and I stumbled across a very small Korean restaurant for lunch which was quick, cheap and delicious. The perfect combination for a lunch stop.
How to get here: Take Taipei MRT-Banan Line to Zhongxiao Xinsheng Station.
Where to stay: A good option is to stay in Ximending shopping district so if you want to do late night shopping you won’t have to worry about missing the last metro home. This hotel is super fun and best of all, very cheap! Brave enough to try a capsule hotel?! Try this one!
We spent the afternoon in the Ximending Shopping district, shopping paradise if you’ve come to Taipei for some retail therapy. There’s also an insane amount of street food on offer here, and the area really comes alive at night. If you’re here in the evening be sure to queue up and buy some Hot-Star Fried Chicken, one of the most popular and famous Taipei street food and only available in this area.
Finally, we finished off our day of eating, shopping and cafe visits at the hilarious Modern Toilet Restaurant. I could tell you all about it…or you could just watch the video I made and laugh. A must visit on your Taipei Itinerary – you won’t find a toilet restaurant like this anywhere else!
Day 4: Hiking Yangmingshan National Park
If you’re looking to get back to nature during your visit, a hiking trip to Yangmingshan National Park should definitely be on your Taipei Itinerary.
This was one of my favourite excursions of our entire trip and I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get out of the city, especially considering what a huge metropolitan city Taipei is! We hopped on a bus (the R5 or R15 bus) just a 5-minute walk from our hostel and 30 minutes later we were inside one of Taiwan’s seven National Parks!
There are so many beautiful things to see and do here, but hiking to the top of Yangmingshan peak and admiring the view of Taipei is obviously the most popular. You can take a bus right to the visitor centre and start the hike from there. Takes about 2 hours to go up and down, depending on how fit you are how fast you hike uphill!!
We also visited the Lengshuikeng Hot Springs, and it was cool to deep our feet in the thermally heated water. The entire area is still active, which makes sense considering how many volcanos there are in Taiwan!
While we just used public transport and went hiking without a local or a guide, there are loads of day tours to choose from that will bring you to the park and the famous hot springs.
LUNCH: We ate some beef soup in the cafe close to the hot springs – it was pretty much your basic quick meal but wasn’t bad and kept us going until we got back into the city. It was freezing cold so warmed us right up which was a bonus. Bring snacks if you can!
We also hiked around near the Milk Pond and the Sulphur Lake (it stinks), crossed the beautiful Fenglin Suspension Bridge and enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine with the spectacular backdrop of the mountains in the distance.
How to get here: Take Taipei metro to Jiantan Station and then catch the bus outside on the main road. Buses $0.27 or $0.81 both go to the park, leaving about every 15 or 20 minutes.
Day 5: Day trip to Shifen Waterfall and Jiufen
The day trip we did to Shifen Waterfall and Jiufen Old Street was probably the best thing we did while in Taipei. If I could change anything about this Taipei Itinerary, I would actually try to stay a night in Jiufen as I could not believe how picturesque the area was.
It’s famous for having a quaint old street with lanterns hanging off all the shops, and lots of old-style tea houses, but no one tells you about the amazing views from the town, how close it is from the ocean and about the incredible hikes nearby.
Let me rewind though, as our first stop of the day was Shifen Old Street and Shifen Waterfall – two must visit places in Taipei and Taiwan. Taking the train here was all part of the adventure and reminded me how much I love travelling my train. Shifen Old Street is most famous because of this train…which runs right down the main street of Shifen. When the train arrives in town, all the tourists on the streets have to quickly get off the tracks and start waving at all the new tourists. Once off the train, there are lots of delicious street food options and you can pay a few dollars to paint your own sky lantern and let it off into the sky.
You don’t need more than an hour in Shifen town itself, but we then rented an electric scooter and drove down to Shifen Waterfall. You don’t actually need the scooter, you can easily walk in about 20 minutes, but the scooter was fun and worth the money. Shifen Waterfall is spectacular. I was blown away by how beautiful it was – one of the nicest waterfalls I’ve ever visited!
How to get here: Take the Keelung-bound train to Ruifang (a ticket cost 78 Taiwanese dollars, or about US $2.50) then transfer to the Pingxi line and ride that all the way to the end. A day pass for this line costs about US $2. There are also organised day trips that take in Shifen Waterfall, Old Street and Juifen which are deffo worth the money to avoid the public transport headache.
Day 6: Hot springs and Elephant Mountain
On our 6th day we decided to relax in the morning with a late breakfast and decided to put off any sightseeing until the afternoon.
We then hopped on the metro to an area famous for the Beitou Hot Springs, with the water in the stream running through town boiling hot and heated from the local volcanic mountains. I absolutely loved visiting the Beitou Hot Springs, and thought they were one of the most unusual things to see in the city. They were WAY more impressive than I thought, briefly transporting me back to Iceland!
Once we had seen the stream, the village, the hot springs and even tipped out toes into the public hot baths right near the station, we hopped back on the metro and headed to Elephant Mountain, a hill in Taipei famous for its sunset views of the city. it was a pretty easy climb up, taking maybe 30 minutes, and the views were spectacular. If you put just one amazing sunset on your Taipei itinerary, make it this hike!
How to get here: To get Beitou, hop on the metro and get off at Beitou Mrt station. To get to Elephant Mountain, get back on the same metro and go right to the very last station on the line, getting off at Xiangshan station and walking out of exit 2. You’ll see signs to the walk from here. You can also do a tour with a local to the hot springs, but honestly it’s super easy to go by yourself.
Where to stay: I actually recommend staying in the area and checking into one of the famous spa hotels which have hot springs INSIDE the hotel!
Day 7: City sightseeing and Tamsui Old Street
On our final day we decided to see as much of the top attractions in Taipei as possible. If you want amazing views of the city during the day, head to Taipei 101, a building that was once the tallest in the world and is now the 5th tallest in Asia, and head right on up to the Starbucks on the 35th floor, said to be the tallest Starbucks in the world. You can also do what I did the first time I visited and buy an observatory ticket like most tourists do – that will set you back almost $20.
Next be sure to visit one of the most famous buildings in Taipei, the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. Taiwan has actually been tied with the legacy of Chiang Kai-Shek since the beginning of the revolution and this memorial hall seeks to immortalize his memory while also promoting the teaching of true history in the country. In 2017, the government announced plans to focus the information presented within the memorial hall on history, suffering, and human rights. Themes that tie together the like of President Kai-Shek and these ideals are already being explored through various exhibits and presentations within the hall.
The beautiful Lungshan Temple, which dates back almost 300 years, is the most well-known one in all of Taiwan and is an interesting place to visit in daytime or the evening. The temple showcases traditional Chinese architecture and was built to honour both Buddist and Taoist beliefs. The temple has long been a meeting place for those new to the city.
Wondering where to EAT while in Taipei? Read my Taipei food guide or check out the video below.