Asia collides in spectacular fashion in Taipei, a city that’s had one eye on the future for some time now.
While its identity remains a controversial subject, the years of political back and forths have gifted the city with a wondrous blend of Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asian, and even Western culture. It’s evident in the people, the architecture, and most importantly on any Taiwanese visit, the food.
Oddities abound in this often overlooked urban jungle that deserves far more appreciation than it gets compared to its better-known neighbors.
Welcome to Taipei.
5 things you can’t miss in Tapei
Visit the Taipei 101 Tower
The Taipei 101 skyscraper is easily the most iconic feature of the city’s skyline. But towering above the ultra-modern city, 101 is more than just a vantage point.
Once the tallest building in the world, the 101 is easily the biggest tourist attraction in Taipei. The viewing deck itself is worth the entrance fee alone, offering stunning views of the entire valley and city below. But visitors should set aside an extra hour or two to enjoy everything the tower has to offer.
Different exhibits detailing Taipei’s history and development, as well as a look at some of the most innovative architectural feats that are part of 101’s design, round off a trip to the top viewing deck. An outside viewing deck is also open now on the very top floor. It was once closed for private events and VIPs, but the general public is now able to enjoy the 360 views of the city.
Explore the National Palace Museum
For the history buffs among us, the National Palace Museum is one of the best in the world to visit. Visitors can enjoy the largest collection of Chinese art in the world by detailing thousands of years of Chinese history and tied tightly to Taiwan’s own identity in the past century.
Detailing artifacts from as far back as the neolithic era and chronicling the dynasties through the ages, a full day could be spent submerged in Chinese history.
The museum itself was founded back in the twenties with the most valuable possessions of the last Royal family and extended when the nationalist government fled Beijing. It retains close ties to the Forbidden City in the Chinese capital and is often viewed as a kind of sister museum.
If you’ve time for more museums, Taipei has a vast selection. Quirkier choices like the Miniatures Museum, the Paper Museum, and the Museum of Drinking Water (seriously) make for a change of pace from the more traditional Fine Arts Museum or Taiwan History Museum.
Hit the trail
Taipei may seem like a concrete jungle, but it’s surrounded by staggeringly beautiful landscape, ripe for a morning hike. It’s rare to have such wonderful hiking opportunities so close to the city, so take advantage while you’re there. The trails range from easy walks to tough climbs, so there’s something for every level.
At the tougher end of the scale is Wu Liao Jian. This full-day hike is definitely not for the less active among us. A steady uphill climb is punctuated with daunting ropes and ladder climbs, making the hike a full-body affair. Of course, the views are worth the exertion. And you’ve earned an extra few dumplings.
The Four Beasts, despite its intimidating name, is an easier option with just as rewarding views. The four actually refer to the mountains located close to the city, and day hikers are rewarded with stunning skyline views. It’s far easier than Wu Liao Jian and one of the best intros to the region’s beauty.
Soak in some hot springs
Thanks to its position between two tectonic plates, Taipei has one of the highest concentrations of thermal hot springs in the world.
A favorite of both tourists and locals alike, the Beitou Hot Springs are located just outside the city.
Beitou has many springs to choose from, including boiling waters and cool water swimming holes. The most popular hot springs are the Japanese-style ones which are sex-segregated and don’t allow for swimsuits to be worn. If that’s not your thing, the public section of the springs is mixed sex.
For a budget-friendly option, you can enjoy the public pools for a small entrance and locker fee. If you have more time and money, you could choose to tour both the springs and the Yangminghsan National Park. The park includes Mount Qixing, the tallest dormant volcano in the city.
Take a stroll through one of their creative art parks
Taipei has a bevy of creative parks. For those wondering what a creative park is, it’s essentially an urban museum.
Though there are many impressive parks to choose from, we recommend the Pier-2 Art Center. What was once an abandoned warehouse has become a park brimming with detailed murals and visionary sculptures.
This handy map even shows you all the art pieces you don’t want to miss like a gargantuan Transformer or an upside-down house.