Taipei is a bustling and welcoming city, packed with cultural opportunities. You may not be able to do everything in 36 hours, but you can certainly get a flavour of this fascinating place. Here are some tips for your whirlwind tour.
Saturday Morning – Maokong Gondola
The Maokong Gondola is a must. This 25-minute gondola lift ride will take you up through forest clad mountains, offering incredible views. There are 147 cabins, 31 of which are ‘crystal cabins’ with glass bottoms, so you can see in all directions.
Saturday Midday – Lunch at a Tea House
Maokong itself is a quaint village at the top of the mountain, with a wide variety of tea houses offering a tasty meal. Enjoy a spot of lunch before taking your return gondola. The Yaoyue Tea House is a popular spot, offering 22 different types of tea and dishes such as chicken with ginger and tea-fried spiced pumpkin.
Saturday Afternoon – National Palace Museum
After your morning’s activities, spend a few relaxing hours at The National Palace Museum. Situated in the Shilin District of Taipei, the sheer size of this building is awe-inspiring. Its permanent collection features 700,000 ancient imperial artworks which are definitely worth seeing.
Saturday Evening – Markets & Nightlife
Taipei is famous for its night markets, so combine a spot of retail therapy with dinner. Gongguan Night Market is one of the biggest and has lots of stalls selling accessories and clothing, as well as numerous bookshops and tea houses. Prices are reasonable and you can enjoy street food such as scallion egg pancakes and bubble milk tea.
When the sun sets, Taipei comes to life with a selection of clubs, bars and restaurants to enjoy. If you’re looking for high-end drinks and cocktails, the Marquee might be right for you. Or if techno and hip hop are more your thing, Luxy is the place to head to, then wind down at the Roxy Rocker, which is open until 3am.
Sunday Morning – Breakfast and Gallery
Don’t miss out on a traditional Taiwanese breakfast! There are lots of eateries that are famous for their morning meals, so ask around and see which one is recommended by the locals. Try the steamed pork dumplings and fried white radish patty; delicious washed down with a cup of hot or cold soybean milk.
After breakfast, hop on the train and head to Zhongshand Station, on the Tamsui-Xinyi Red Line, to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. It houses a fantastic selection of contemporary Taiwanese arts and regular visiting exhibits, all showcased within a delightful Colonial style building.
Sunday Midday – Bitan Scenic Area
Just a 40-minute train ride from Taipei Main Station is the riverfront park of Bitan. It’s an ideal spot for lunch, offering river views, an array of restaurants, park amenities and street entertainers. Other things to do include hiring a paddle boat; a fun way to while away half an hour.
Sunday Afternoon – Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Possibly the most famous landmark in Taiwan is the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. Built to honour Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, a former president of the Republic of China, it opened in 1980 as part of a national park. Aside from the spectacular buildings, you can visit the museum, which documents the Generalissimo’s life, as well as displaying exhibits that are pertinent to Taiwan’s history.
If you have time before you go, visit a local place of worship. The Hsing Tian Kong temple is one of the most famous and is devoted to Guan Yu, the patron god of businessmen. It’s an elaborate building with green and red rooftops and, surprisingly, is relatively new, having been built in 2014.
Although I’ve focused these activities around a weekend trip, Taipei is a bustling city that welcomes tourists, so you can visit any time and try out some of these top things to do. And if you’re planning to visit Taipei as part of a longer holiday, you can easily take a flight or ferry across to the interesting city of Macau with its Portuguese-Cantonese heritage.