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What to See and Do in Taiwan (Taipei and surrounding area)

Thankfully, living in Japan means that travelling to other Asian countries is quick and relatively cheap. I visited Taiwan right before the pandemic began, and as travel is slowly starting to open up around the world, I felt now was the right time to share some highlights of my trip with you. Let's take a look at some of my recommendations in Taipei and the surrounding area!



Taipei 101


Taipei 101 from street level with cloudy sky in background. Taipei, Taiwan.
Taipei 101 from street level

A true icon of Taiwan, this building was officially the world's tallest from 2004-2009, when it was overtaken by the completion of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The top of the building has an amazing view over Taipei, although I didn't have any luck seeing the view with my own eyes! The first time I tried to visit the staff told me there was zero visibility due to the bad weather. On my second attempt a couple of days later, the line was absolutely massive and I gave up soon after arriving. Nevertheless, it gives me an excuse to visit again :)



The tower contains a shopping mall, restaurants, and office space. On new year's eve the building holds a fireworks display that's part of the cities new year festivities. I was there for New Year in 2020 and was able to see the fireworks for myself. Although the display was definitely impressive, I was surprised that the fireworks only lasted for a few minutes.


A truly beautiful building during day or night.


Click the photos to expand.


Address in English: No. 45號, City Hall Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110

Address in Chinese: 110台北市信義區市府路45號



Jiufen Old Street


Any anime fans here? This place might looks familiar. This town is said to be the inspiration for the movie Spirited Away.


As you can see from my photos, this place was crammed with people even on a cold and rainy New Year's day. There are many small streets to wander and explore where you can find snacks, drinks, tea houses, souvenirs, bubble tea, jewelry stores, whatever! It was a little tricky to take photos in this area due to the amount of people and the rain, but hopefully my photos give you a bit of an idea of what to expect.


Depending on the timing of your visit, public transport may be extremely busy. A friend of mine also visited Jiufen around the New Year's break and wasn't able to board to bus from Taipei to Jiufen. After hearing his story I chose to book a driver from Viator who picked me up from my hotel and took me to Jiufen, Shifen, and Yehliu Geopark in the one day. I highly recommend it if you're short on time, or don't want to deal with public transport.


Click the photos to expand.


Address in English: Jishan St, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224

Address in Chinese: 224新北市瑞芳區基山街



Shifen Old Street and Shifen Waterfall


If you've been researching a Taiwan trip for a while you've no doubt come across photos of people standing on a railroad setting their lanterns off into the sky. That area is known as Shifen Old Street and is located in a gorgeous mountainous area of Taiwan. The tracks are still in use today, so caution is advised when visiting. The railroad was originally built long ago to transport coal, but these days the railroad is used purely for commuting purposes.


In the old times, this area was a coal mining village and it's said that the lanterns were originally used as a system to signal safety. A lot has changed since then! These days when you buy a lantern, you write your wish and set it off into the sky with the hopes that your dreams may be answered by your ancestors.


Despite its remote location, this area was surprisingly busy on the day of my visit. The lanterns are popular with tourists due to the Instagrammable nature of the photos, so you'll likely see plenty of people posing for photos on the tracks with their lanterns before letting them go.


Shifen Waterfall is an impressive waterfall with a height of only 20 metres, but a width of 40 metres, making it the widest waterfall in Taiwan. It is free to visit, however it's located in a municipal park, so be sure to check the open hours. If you're planning on visiting Shifen Old Street, then I definitely recommend you stop by this waterfall while you're in the area. It's about a 30min walk between Shifen Old Street station and Shifen Waterfall.


Click the photos to expand.


Address in English: 226, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Pingxi District

Address in Chinese: 226新北市平溪區



National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall


This memorial hall is dedicated to the memory of Chiang Kai-shek, who served as a leader of the Republic of China, and in later years as a leader of Taiwan. The construction of the memorial hall began in 1976, a year after his death, and was officially opened in April, 1980. The design of the building is by architect Yang Cho-cheng, whose design was chosen in a memorial design competition run by the government.


There are 89 steps leading up to the memorial hall, said to represent Chiang Kai-shek's age at the time of his death. In the memorial hall itself is a large state of Chiang Kai-shek where you can see the changing of guards ceremony at certain hours of the day.


My photos show the front gate, memorial hall, and main chamber.

Click the photos to expand.


Address in English: No. 21, Zhongshan S Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan 100

Address in Chinese: 100台北市中正區中山南路21號



National Palace Museum


The National Palace Museum houses around 700,000 pieces, many of which were originally displayed in Beijing. The large collection shows visitors a variety of items including carvings, lacquerware, ceramic, jade, books, and embroidery to name a few, with some items dating back 4000 years.


This museum was recommended to me by many of my friends who had visited Taiwan, and I was on the edge about whether I should visit or not. Let me tell you that I'm extremely glad I visited! The museum was honestly one of the most interesting I've ever seen. You can easily spend a morning or afternoon wandering around, possibly longer, so be sure to set aside some time during your stay in Taiwan. You can easily access the museum by bus.


No photos of the inside, sorry! You'll need to visit and see the collection for yourself :)


Click the photos to expand.


Address in English: No. 221, Sec 2, Zhi Shan Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111

Address in Chinese: 111台北市士林區至善路二段221號



Yehliu Geopark


Rock formations resembling candlesticks at Yehliu Geopark, Taiwan.
Candlestick rock formations at Yehliu Geopark

Yehliu Geopark is located in the Northern part of Taiwan and is known for its natural rock formations. The shapes have been formed over many years due to sea erosion and weather conditions such as wind and rain. As you walk around the park you may notice some of the rocks resemble certain shapes, such as a queen's head, candle sticks, a heart and so on. Maps in the area will show you where you can find specific shapes, but its also fun making your own discoveries.


Click the photos to expand.


Address in English: 207, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Wanli District, 港東路167-1號

Address in Chinese: 207新北市萬里區港東路167-1號



Night Markets


Taipei was full of night markets. I visited some of the famous ones such as Raohe Street and Shilin, but I also stumbled upon a couple I had no idea existed while I was out walking in the evening. No trip to Taiwan would be complete without a visit to a night market, so be sure to put one (or two!) on your list for your visit, and arrive with an empty stomach.


The photos I've included are from a few different markets. By the way, I took a photo of the famous "stinky tofu," as proof that I did actually try it. If you're unsure of what stinky tofu is, it's a type of fermented tofu. You'll be very familiar with the smell once you've visited a night market. Despite the strong smell, the taste of the tofu wasn't as strong as I was expecting. Definitely a dish for the more adventurous eaters though!


Click the photos to expand.



Where I Stayed


Building covered in neon signs advertising tenants including Smile Inn Hotel, Mc Donald's, Sushiro etc. Taipei, Taiwan.
Smile Inn Hotel is located on the 6th floor

During this trip I stayed at Smile Inn - Taipei Main Station, which can be booked via Booking.com. The room was expensive for the size, but we need to keep in mind that I was travelling during peak season, which affected the price. The room was small, simple and clean, although there was barely enough floor space to open a suitcase without having to step over it on the way to the bathroom.


To be honest, this room was big enough for me as I was travelling alone, but would be a tight squeeze with two adults. It had everything I needed for my short stay, and I'm not the type to spend much time in my room anyway. If you're anything like me and only use the room for sleeping and storing items, then it'll probably be fine.


The location was really good - very close to the subway, restaurants, shopping etc. I'd likely stay here again due to the good location, however would try to avoid peak travel times if possible, to save a little money on the room cost.



That's It!

This is of course by no means an extensive list of things to do in Taipei, but a good place to start planning your trip. I had a great time at all of the places mentioned here, and highly recommend them to a first time visitor. The food in Taiwan was amazing, and really reasonably priced. I also found some superb cocktail bars and craft beer bars during my stay. I really loved my short time in Taipei, and would have visited again by now if it weren't for the current pandemic. I hope you can visit some day and enjoy Taiwan as much as I did!



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Personal recommendations for booking accommodation, day trip tours and related travel needs.


Accommodation: Agoda.com, Booking.com, HostelWorld.com

Short tours, activities and day trips: GetYourGuide.com, Viator.com

Reviews (restaurants, accommodation, local attractions etc.): TripAdvisor.com

Travel Insurance: VisitorsCoverage.com

Learn the lingo: italki.com

Cheap travel essentials: Daiso, Amazon.com



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