My husband, Louie, wanted us to go to Taiwan during the Holy Week, and he told me this one month before the Holy Week! Primary reason? He was craving for some Taiwanese street food. Thoughts swirled through my head, but three questions stood out in my mind: Where to go? What to eat? What to do? I’ve been to Taiwan two times before, and I don’t like going to the same places again. (Read this post for the top 10 attractive places we visited in Taiwan in 2015.)
Deciding where to visit and what food to eat are always an important part of our travels. This trip to Taiwan was no exception. We had to make the most out of our stay and explore the city’s exciting food scene and historical sites as well. Taipei may not be a huge city, but it makes up for its size with astonishing food options and rich history. It can be daunting to choose the best ones, so in a week’s time, we finally narrowed down our list to 20 tourist spots and things to do. If you’re planning a trip to Taiwan soon, this can be your guide.
Back in Taiwan: 20 Tourist Spots to Visit and Coolest Things to Do
1. Have a fun food trip and shop for souvenirs in Shilin Night Market
Shilin Market (士林夜市) is one of the largest and most famous night markets in Taipei. It’s a must-visit attraction if you’re hunting for bargain goods and Taiwanese street food. We stayed in an Airbnb nearby and we did purposefully so. Filled with a variety of local, traditional, and international merchandise like clothes, gadgets, and souvenirs, this night market is bursting with energy every single night. And yes, even when it rains! The fun doesn’t stop until midnight. There’s A LOT of tempting food in Shilin Night Market, so it’s wise to get there early to avoid the massive crowds.
2. Taste and compare different milk tea and bubble tea
Bubble tea must be Taiwan’s unofficial national drink, because there’s plenty of stalls selling bubble tea everywhere. We ended up drinking bubble tea every day when we were in Taipei. We’re such fans of this milky delight! How to spot the best ones? It’s easy. See lines extending around the block? Head for it and don’t miss out. Our best bets are CoCo 都可茶飲, 珍煮丹, and Milk Shop. Tiger Sugar is another must-try.
3. Go mall hopping in Xinyi District
I’ve been to Taipei three times, and the Xinyi Shopping District (信義區) is always a good choice for shopping. This is where you can find the famous Taipei 101, ATT4FUN, the flagship Eslite bookstore, Neo19, Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Xinyi Place, Breeze Songgao as well as other entertainment, shopping, and dining complexes. If you have a loose itinerary, visiting Xinyi District is certainly a good way to explore Taiwan’s remarkable range of shops.
4. Explore the Beitou Library
We booked via Klook for the first time for the Beitou and Yangmingshan day tour. We met at Taipei Main Station and drove to the first stop: Taipei Public Library Beitou Branch. Located within Beitou Park in Beitou Hot Spring area of Taipei City, Beitou Library is Taiwan’s first green library. The surroundings look clean and green.
What’s notable here is that the library is fitted with eco-friendly features and settings. The building is made entirely of wood. With large windows that allow natural light to substitute interior lighting, ventilation that reduces the need for fans and air-conditioning, and roof covered by photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into electricity, Beitou Library is one of the most energy-efficient and environmental-friendly architecture in East Asia. If you want to also book through Klook and avoid the hassle, click here and get P150 when you sign up.
5. Visit the Beitou Hot Spring Museum
Beitou Hot Spring Museum (北投溫泉博物館) is another attraction just within a short walk from Beitou Library. Built during the Japanese colonial era, this museum is a Tudor-style building with a brick and wood façade and black tile roof set picturesquely in the surrounding greenery.
Exhibits inside include the discovery of hokutolite, the geological landscape and development of the Beitou Hot Springs, stories about the reconstruction and preservation of the museum, some posters displaying Beitou’s impact on Taiwanese cinema, the youth of Beitou, and a multimedia auditorium. If you’re interested to learn about Beitou’s rich hot spring culture and history, this is your place to be.
6. Check out the Thermal Valley
When the Japanese took control of Taiwan, they brought with them a rich and well-developed Hot Spring (onsen) culture in Beitou and sought to develop Taiwan’s various hot spring locations into popular destinations for rest and relaxation. One of the coolest attractions is the Beitou Thermal Valley or “Hell Valley” (地熱谷). The lake here is one of the primary sources of hot spring water for the resort area. The emerald green color of the water is probably that of the year-round sulphuric steam that rises up from the water and blankets the valley in a haze of extremely humid fog.
7. Enjoy the surroundings near the Yangmingshan Flower Clock
When exploring Yangmingshan, you can’t miss out on the Flower Clock in Yangming Park (陽明公園, 花鐘). It’s the centerpeice that’s located near the western entrance to the park. The landscape is adorned with many types of flora and fauna. Best time to visit is during the flower festival in Taipei.
8. Visit Yangmingshuwu (Zhongxing Guesthouse), one of Chiang Kai-shek’s official residences
Yangmingshuwu (陽明書屋) served as a place where the late President Chiang Kai-shek received guests from around the world and spent his summer vacations. It was the only residence Chiang Kai-shek chose to build in Taiwan, hence it became one of the culturally and historically significant buildings in the Yangmingshan National Park.
9. Learn the volcanic history of Xiaoyoukeng
Xiaoyoukeng (小油坑) is a post-volcanic geological park located on Mt. Qixing’s northwestern foot. This place is known for the fumaroles, sulfur crystals (smell of sulfur is very intense), hot springs and spectacular “landslide terrain.” Most people are surprised when they hear just how close Taipei City is to a dormant volcano. Here you can see streams of fumes coming from fumaroles in the distance. As you get closer, you can feel the geothermal heat and you will even see bubbling puddles by the side of footpath.
10. Take a hike in Qingtiangang Grassland in Yangmingshan National Park
After the eruption of Mt. Zhugao, the lava flowed north towards the area, creating this unique landscape. During the Japanese occupation, Qingtiangang (擎天崗) was established as a ranch for cattle to graze. The park is still home to cows and other wildlife to date. We thought we could see the clouds due to its elevation. Unfortunately, there was too much fog when we got to the top. Anyway, if you’re into hiking, include Qingtiangang Grassland in your itinerary. It’s the most popular hiking destination in Yangmingshan National Park, with a foot path impressively lined with undulating grass and stumpy shrubs.
11. Dip your tired and sore feet in Lengshuikeng
Lengshuikeng (冷水坑) was our last stop in our Klook trip. Why it’s called “cold water pit” when translated into English is that it’s cooler than the hot springs in the area. So visitors are invited to soak their feet into the hot spring for a quick hot spring experience. It’s a popular rest spot for those hiking or touring Yangmingshan National Park. It also houses a visitor center, small restaurant, and a formal hot spring building (where visitors are separated into genders and must enter nude). Access is free for all.
12. Satisfy your palate with hotpot dining
Taipei City is dotted with hot pot restaurants, so make sure to try one. Some feature all-you-can-eat deals, some cater to single diners, while there are also those that specialize in certain, high-quality ingredients like imported beef. In spite of the dizzying variety of Taipei’s hot pot options, what they all offer are intimacy, fun, and bubbling vats overflowing with food. We had lunch in Little Mongolian Hot Pot in Xi Hu with my aunt and cousin.
13. Go furniture shopping in IKEA
We visit IKEA with sheer excitement whenever we can, outside the Philippines. Since we planned to go food tripping in Raohe Night Market, we might as well check out IKEA Dunhua North Road Store in Songshan District. Located diagonally across Taipei Arena, it’s only two metro stations away from Songshan station. While it’s not the biggest IKEA branch in Taipei, it’s also worth the time to go as it offers reasonable prices, tasteful design, and delicious food. First-time visitors may feel lost, confused, and overwhelmed, and that’s fine. The store has directions everywhere and customer service assistance can help find things you’re looking for.
14. Try delicious Taiwanese street food in Raohe Night Market (饒河夜市)
After visiting IKEA, we went straight to Raohe Night Market (饒河夜市) to get Taiwan street food for dinner. With 600 meters of shopping space, this place is packed with fun and interesting food, quaint shops and entertainment stalls, and carnival games with prizes. We’re surprised that it’s as crowded as Shilin Night Market when we went there. But unlike Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market is easier to navigate and browse through. Traverse two straight lanes and you can find yourself out pretty satisfied. Taiwanese sausages, beef noodles, pork rib noodles, Fu Zhou Shi Zu food stall’s Black Pepper Buns, and monga fried chicken fillet are up for grabs! Read my post here to learn the top 20 Taiwanese street food we tried and recommend.
15. Have a relaxing and soothing foot massage
After hours of walking, we couldn’t help but feel excited when we saw the foot massage center near Raohe Night Market. A well-deserved foot massage helped our feet feel better. If you have sore and tired tourist feet and your feet are screaming for mercy, take time to indulge in a massage; it’s the perfect pampering experience while traveling!
16. Be mesmerized with geological formations in Yehliu Geopark
There’s a limited number of buses that drive to Yehliu Geopark (野柳地質公園) every day, so I booked another Klook tour for our convenience. Yehliu Geopark is home to a number of unique geological formations including the iconic “Queen’s Head” (女王頭). It’s located along a cape stretching out from the town of Wanli.
Part of the Daliao Miaocene Formation, the cape stretches around 1,700 meters, formed as thousands of years of geological movement forced the Datun Mountains to change their shape, jutting out into the ocean. Besides the Queen’s Head, other remarkable formations include Sea Candles (燭台石), Fairy Shoe (仙女鞋), Ginger Rocks, Elephant Rock, Ice Cream Rock, Kissing Rock, and Princess’ Head. Come and enjoy before it morphs into another nature wonder piece. 😛
17. Discover the old streets of Taiwan in Jiufen
When in Taiwan, you can’t have enough street food. Jiufen is another town known for Taiwanese street food. Popular food to try are glutinous rice cakes, peanut ice cream rolls, and meat ball soup.
Originally built by the Japanese, Jiufen is now a maze of lanes and alleyways with rich history and culture. Many buildings in the town remain unchanged to this day, reflecting the Japanese influence. Here you can feel “spirited away” as this was the inspiration for the Japanese fantasy anime, Spirited Away. It was also featured in the Taiwanese historical drama, A City of Sadness.
18. Feel closer to nature at Shifen Waterfall
Shifen Waterfall (十分大瀑布) isn’t the biggest waterfall but it’s a beautiful sight. The 20-meter tall cascading waterfall is a great background for taking photos. It creates a rainbow as water splashes into the lake.
19. Write your wishes and fly your own sky lantern at Shifen Old Streets
Shifen Old Streets is a lively place for people who want to get a glimpse of an old railroad town still retaining the charm of the past. It features a collection of lanes and alleys in and around the Shifen railway station area. Originally built to transport coal during the Japanese era, the station and track runs straight through the village. Today, it’s more popular for flying sky lanterns so you can let your wishes come to life.
It’s interesting to know that the sky lanterns were used as a signaling system for those living and working in the railroad industry. We wrote our wishes with calligraphy and released them into the sky. This was certainly one of the coolest things we did in Taiwan.
20. Try the famous misua and original hot star chicken in Ximending
To make our trip complete, we went to Ximending to have our share of the Ay Chung Flour Rice Noodle. I’ve had it a few years ago and it still has the same savory taste. Prepare to queue but don’t be discouraged because it moves quite fast. Note that there are no tables and chair at Ay-Chung Rice Flour Noodles. Place your order, get your bowl of “mee sua” noodles, add condiments, then stand on the street and start slurping…before it gets cold. 🙂