25th June 2017 | by Guest author
Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is a cosmopolitan city, and on the surface, a quintessential Asian city. But delve deeper and you will discover a unique metropolis with burgeoning art, entertainment, cultural and culinary scenes. In the shadows of landmark skyscraper Taipei 101, there are numerous museums, art galleries, pubs, bars and historical quarters, and within the city’s vicinity are lush mountains and picturesque countryside. These remain elusive to tourists who do not take the time to discover the city beyond a few famous sights. We've put together a few suggestions for those looking to uncover the secrets of Taipei and experience it like a local.
Shop & explore Taipei
Taipei’s MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) is Taiwan’s first metro system and consists of five main routes that cover the metropolitan city, as well as the surrounding towns and countryside, making it one of the easiest and cheapest way to explore Taipei.
There are many shopping malls in Taipei, including Pacific SOGO and Taipei 101 Mall, but locals in the know avoid these malls with their ubiquitous international brands. Instead, they take the metro and head to Zhongxiao Xingsheng Station and visit Huashan 1914 Creative Park to shop for innovative creations by one of Taiwan’s edgiest designers. The bustling weekend markets at the Park are full of stalls selling trendy clothes, handicrafts and funky gadgets. The pedestrianised shopping area of Ximending in Wanhua District, which is popular with bright young hipsters, is located near Ximen Station, and at Houshanpi Station is Wu Fen Pu, a wholesale clothing market where you can find excellent bargains.
Visit Taipei’s Wanhua District
A shopping trip to Ximending is an opportunity to discover Taipei’s oldest district and learn about Taiwanese history. Formerly called Monga or Mongka, Wanhua District was the city’s first settlement, and formerly the most important economic and trade centre in all of Taiwan.
The district’s numerous temples are attributed to its prosperous past, and the most famous of these temples is the Buddhist Longshan Temple, built in 1738 by settlers from China’s Fujian Province to honour the goddess Guanyin. Just around the corner from the temple is Herb Alley where you can try one of an incredible selection of Chinese herbal drinks and medicinal teas, or head to Snake Alley sample speciality dishes made with snake meat…
Many streets of Wanhua have interesting and significant historical origins. Guiyang Old Street is Taipei’s oldest street, and although it is now a shadow of its former self, there are still entire rows of shophouses that will provide a quick glimpse into glory days. Free guided tours are available if you want to gain a deeper understanding of this street and its rich history.
Conquer the Four Beasts
Why queue and pay to go up to the Observation Deck of Taipei 101 when you can conquer the Four Beasts and be rewarded with fantastic views of the city and Taipei 101?
The Four Beasts of Taipei are the Tiger Mountain, Elephant Mountain, Leopard Mountain, and Lion Mountain, a collection of mountains in the eastern part of the city. The four overlook the metropolis, and there are several hiking trails to reach the summits, which are great spots for taking photos of the impressive Taipei 101.
Many of the trails are lit at night, enabling people to visit the mountains (particularly Elephant Mountain) after dark, to see the sunset over the city and view the fantastic nighttime scenery. One of the best trails starts Fengtian Temple, close to Houshanpi MRT Station. The trail follows the edge of a cliff up to a scenic stop for sunset viewing before continuing to the viewing platform at the top. The vistas stretch beyond the city as far as Yangmingshan National Park, and it's truly worth the effort.
Explore Sileng Wild Springs
Located a short drive north of Taipei near the border with Taiyuan and Yilan counties, Sileng Wild Springs is an adventurer’s dream escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Springs comprise a 10 metre waterfall of hot spring water cascading down a deep wooded gorge into a fast-flowing river, in which the hot spring water is mixed with pure river water to create a sulphurous but relaxing place to soak – much needed after the strenuous trek required to get there!
Sileng Wild Springs are reached by a steep trail down a ravine, and best avoided after heavy rain, as the river can be dangerous. It is best to have a local expert guide to take you to give proper instructions and lead the way. And avoid visiting on the weekends, because this natural wonder is not a secret to the locals.
Cycle the Taipei Circle Trail
The Taipei Circle Trail is a 58.8km round-the-city cycling path boasting numerous trails that allow cyclists to explore the city’s perimeter without having to cross busy intersections. The path offers different road conditions, from flat pavements to roads with some steepness, as well as many scenic riverside trails.
Beginning on the east side of the city near the Xizhi and Nangang intersection, the trail goes as far as Taipei Zoo to Daonan Riverside Park in the south, and travels along the shores of Keelung, Tamsui (Danshui), Xindian and Jingmei rivers. The final section of the trail cuts through the mountainous part of Taipei.
One of the most interesting places to stop for a wander is Tamsui (Danshui), a seaside district which sits at the confluence of the Taiwan Strait and Tamsui River. Near the river is a bustling old street lined with street-food stalls, shops selling local specialities, and interesting temples. On the hilltop sits San Domingo Fort, which was founded by the Spanish and revamped by the Dutch and British.
Enjoy local arts & entertainment
Taipei after sunset loses none of its daytime energy, and a nightlife scene emerges with a diverse offering that ranges from cultural shows, trendy bars and nightclubs to the brash and bawdy bars of the Combat Zone. There are many options for a chance to let your hair down amongst the locals.
Those in search for a traditional and cultural experience should head to the Taipei Eye to see a classical Chinese opera performance. If you arrive early, you can also go backstage to see the actors put on their make-up and pose for a photo with them.
Music lovers can enjoy jazz at Brown Sugar or Sappho, rock at The Wall or Revolver, or listen to new talents at Riverside Live House. Anhe Road presents you with lively bars and you can dance the night away in the downtown area at nightclubs around Taipei 101 and City Hall. The Taiwanese also love karaoke, so you can get even closer to the locals by singing your heart out at a karaoke bar!
Ready to explore Taipei for yourself?
Get in touch with our Taiwan Destination Specialists to discuss your travel plans.