A Food-Focused Taipei Itinerary
Taipei tends to be under-rated, compared to Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong or Singapore. But it shouldn’t be. One of Taipei’s greatest attractions is that it is a food city. I’ve found that a lot of the social life in Taipei revolves around it, and any Taipei itinerary will include lots of foodie stops. So wear something with an adjustable waistline, and come hungry!
You can start the first day of your foodie itinerary right at the famed Taipei 101, which until 2008 held the record for the tallest building in the world (overtaken by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai). Before you soar into the sky in the world’s fastest elevator, get in line for Din Tai Fung, in the foodcourt at the basement level of Taipei 101. This outpost of the famed soup dumpling institution opens earlier (at 10 am), and therefore has less chance of a wait than the other locations. Since breakfast in Asia oftentimes includes dumplings anyhow, this is a stellar option.
After what I’m sure will be one of the most memorable meals of your life, proceed to the 5th floor to buy your ticket ($500NT) to the Taipei 101 Observatory. Since Taipei is surrounded by mountains, the views are truly striking, combining city and nature. Furthermore, the views are unobstructed on all sides. Don’t forget your camera!
From there, you can stroll down Xinyi Road, past DaAn Park towards Yongkang Street – another foodie stop and perfect for lunchtime. If you weren’t able to make it to the Din Tai Fung location at the Taipei 101, this is where the original is located. There’s also some of Taipei’s best beef noodles and mango shaved ice, which is a warm weather staple. Yongkang Street is also a good place to pick up some Taiwanese souvenirs.
After Yongkang Street, you can either rent a YouBike or take the MRT to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. This is a huge complex known as Liberty Square, and is popular for public gatherings. The architecturally pleasing complex includes the National Concert Hall and National Theater. The lighting is quite beautiful, especially around nightfall.
Shilin Night Market is the largest and most well-known market in Taipei. It’s located a little bit outside of the city but is well worth the trip. Take the MRT to the Jiantan stop (right before the Shilin stop). You can wander for hours among the labyrinth of food stalls, clothing shops, and games. Save plenty of room for snacking on popular Taiwanese street foods like dumplings, oyster omelette, caramelized tomatoes and almond tea.
Start your next day off on a spiritual note and head to Longshan Temple. Prayers are held several times a day, so if you arrive at one of these times you’ll witness the rhythmic chants. You can grab a quick breakfast at one of the shops on virtually every street, or if it’s a Sunday, roam the nearby market for food stalls.
After your morning you can head towards the Ximen walking street, or Ximending. Located in the Japantown area of Taipei, it has a definite Japanese influence, and can be compared to Takeshita Street in Tokyo with it’s infamous Harajuku girls. Ximen is the area where teenagers come to hang out on the weekends. Ximen walking street is full of the bright lights and exciting sounds of Asian pop culture.
No visit to Taipei would be complete without a visit to a themed-restaurant, and you won’t get funnier photos than at Modern Toilet. Your food will be served in a fake toilet bowl, and you can opt to have your drink served in a urinal. Just remember that the food is not the draw here so much as the ambience, so you don’t necessarily have to try everything on the menu!
If you’re into museums, the National Palace Museum is world class, and some say it has the finest collection of Chinese art in the world. Because of the breadth of the collection, it takes a full day to see, so if you wanted to do the place justice you’d have to sacrifice some other stops in this list. The National Palace Museum is a subway plus a bus ride outside of Taipei City.
Instead, if you’re an outdoorsy person, you can opt to hike Elephant Mountain. There are pretty staggering number of very steep stairs, so be careful. While this is another activity that will probably require you to drop other things from your Taipei itinerary, it’s worth it for the views of the city. It’s also a great way to experience one of the best aspects of Taipei – it’s proximity to the mountains and nature.
Some things to note about Taipei:
- It rains a lot, but don’t worry because cheap, strong umbrellas are available almost everywhere, and most sidewalks are covered.
- I recommend renting an Airbnb in Taipei. This is often much cheaper than a hotel room, especially with the taxes and fees that hotels add on. The Airbnb selection in Taipei is great, and you will have no problem finding a centrally located option.
- The transportation system in Taipei is extremely efficient and easy to navigate. Each line has a color, and there are no local or express lines, so it’s very straightforward. A countdown tracks each arriving train, and I’ve found that a train never takes longer than three minutes to arrive.