Located in the northern part of Taiwan, Taipei is the thriving capital city and the country’s financial, political and cultural center. Taipei is most famous for being a melting pot of Chinese, Japanese and other Southeast Asian cultures and one of the most open-minded nations in Asia. Many travelers cherish the city for the modern yet traditional architecture as well as the vibrant night markets and street food scene. Its convenient location in the East China Sea makes Taipei a great place to visit on a short getaway from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam or the Philippines. However, what fascinated me most when visiting Taipei was its modern infrastructure with reliable and efficient public transport, gorgeous public parks as well as the incredibly welcoming locals, who tried to help even though they didn’t speak much English.
While on a visa run from the Philippines, I spent about 3 days in Taiwan’s capital, which makes this a pretty basic travel guide compared to my other city guides, which I wrote after staying in each town for at least a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, I think this will give you some idea of how to experience Taipei in 2 days while making most of your time in the city.
I suggest staying at a hotel or hostel in the Zhongshan area as it is less expensive, yet very centrally located. I had a great experience at the budget hotel and hostel Hotel Fun – Linsen and may certainly recommend this place.
Go to your accommodation and grab a map upon check-in. That’s important because to make most of your 48 hours in the city, you have to take the MRT a couple of times, and without a rough idea what the city looks like, navigation might be very hard, especially since street signs are predominantly in Chinese.
If you are staying in the Zhongshan area of Taipei, make your way to Shuangchen Night Market where you’ll find food stalls that also offer dishes during the day. After a delicious bowl of noodle salad, take the MRT (underground) to Zhongxiao Xinsheng station, from where you can walk to the Huashan 1914 Creative Park. Here you’ll be able to shop Taiwanese handicrafts as well as funky accessories that no one really needs, but are fun to have. From there go to visit the nearby Shandao Temple. This temple looks pretty modern compared to many other temples around Southeast Asia.
Take the MRT to the famous Longshan Temple, one of the most gigantic and majestic Buddhist temples in Taiwan. While the interiors are usually packed with tourists, there are also many locals who light incense and say a prayer. The colors and dragon-like sculptures are absolutely stunning, and the temple’s size and beauty are sheer overwhelming. Admission to this site is free, but donations to maintain the upkeep of the temple are gladly accepted.
From Longshan Temple take a walk to the Red House, a building in the Wanhua neighborhood (believe me – that map comes in handy at that part of the walking tour). The Red House itself is a historic theater with a couple of small shops and a cafe on the ground floor. Be sure to check out the area around the Red House as well. It has lots of colorful, open-minded, lovely decorated restaurants clearly marking the gay-friendly attitude of the Taiwanese culture. Did you know that Taiwan is actually the first Southeast Asian country to have legalized gay marriage?
After a drink and a heart-shaped love waffle in the rainbow district, make your way to Huaxi Night Market next to Longshan Temple. This night market is one of the most famous in Taipei and full of stalls selling all kinds of food, including typical Taiwanese specialties, such as fried milkfish, clam soup, and fish offal.
Night markets actually have their roots in the Chinese culture and started with a couple of merchants getting together to sell their goods. Over decades, these small vendor meetings have turned into a night market scene, which is now predominantly found in Taiwan. At most night markets you’ll find street food, dried food, souvenirs, and clothes. The night markets in Taipei are considered some of the most colorful and most celebrated in the world.
Start your day with breakfast at your accommodation.
After breakfast, make your way to the most famous of all Taipei sights, the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. This massive and imposing building is Taiwan’s national monument and dedicated to the countries founding father Chiang Kai-shek. You can easily spend an hour taking pictures, climbing up the stairs to see both the Chiang Kai-shek statue and the change of the guards, and walking around the National Theater, National Concert Hall and the park that surrounds the whole area.
In the early afternoon, take the MRT to the last station of the green line: Songshan. Here you’ll find Ciyou Temple, a very colorful temple dedicated to the goddess Mazu. From there it takes about ten minutes walking to get to the curved Rainbow Bridge with the famous LOVE sign which, over the years, has become a well-known view and photo stop for tourists. On the way back to the MRT station, stroll around Raohe Night Market, which is considered one of the most authentic in the city.
Go back to the MRT and make your way to Xiangshan station, from where you can hike up Xiangshan, also referred to as Elephant Mountain. The hike (mostly stairs) takes 30-45 minutes and is totally worth the effort. From the top of Elephant Mountain, you’ll enjoy an amazing skyline view, which is probably the best one you can get as you may actually see and capture Taipei’s highest and iconic tower, the Taipei 101. I recommend waiting until the sun has set and the skyline lits up.
If you’re not too tired, head back to Raohe Night Market and enjoy some fried pork noodles or fish soup in the vibrant atmosphere of this iconic night market before going back to your accommodation.
Staying For More Than 2 Days?
Lucky you. That means you get to spend more time in Taipei. If you’re looking for other activities in the city, check out this guide. Also, consider heading out of the city and into Taiwan’s countryside. That’s something I would have loved to do myself, but I guess, I’ll just have to return to Taiwan some day. 🙂
Have you been to any places outside Taipei? What are your must-see places?
Traveling around Southeast Asia?
>> Be sure to check out my travel guides about the Philippines.