8 Things you should do when you’re in Taipei
- Bopiliao Historic Park & Longshan Temple
- Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
- Din Tai Fung
- Taipei 101
- National Palace Museum
- Night Markets
- Red House
- Baoan Temple (UNESCO!)
Oh, how we have been looking forward to this journey of ours! Taiwan, folks!
Taiwan is a destination that we have had on our radar for a very long time and unfortunately haven’t been able to travel there yet.
So, it was really about time to change that!
On the 5th of March ‘19 we landed in Taipei, full of anticipation of the things to come over the next few weeks.
You may have read how we got from the airport to our accommodation, and a few more useful tips in our first Taiwan blog “First tips on Arrival in Taipei.”
In any case, we didn’t do much on the first day after we landed. During our first evening, we just walked around and took in our neighbourhood, discovered the famous Taiwanese pancakes, and ate a delicious Ramen in a hole in the wall place called “Odaka“ which we found at the Night Market.
The next few days we had a few more things planned.
Even though it unfortunately poured down rain, we managed to at least do some things that should be on your list!
Why? Because it’s a small mix of everything and worth doing!
A little bit of culture, a little bit of food, and a little bit of just roll with it.
1.Bopiliao Historic Park & Longshan Temple
We discovered the Bopiliao Historic Park by chance on our way to the Longshan Temple.
We had already read about the park but didn’t know that it and the temple were so close together. Located in the Wanhua District in Bangka, both sites are within easy reach of each other.
Bopiliao Park is, in fact, a single “old” street that was once Taipei’s first commercial area and is now part of Taipei’s best-preserved historical sites.
The houses, which are aligned in a row, are now home to a Cultural Center and some wonderful exhibitions.
We found some beautiful postcards that made their way back to Germany and to the US. We were also introduced to Taiwan’s composer Deng Yu-shian while strolling around Bopiliao. Deng Yu-shian lived from 1906 to 1944 and is still quite well-known and popular today.
In Taiwan, we have been pleased to find that there are many volunteers in the parks and attractions who can tell you all about the country and its people. So it was that in this small music museum a volunteer led us through the rooms and brought us closer to Deng Yu-shian’s life. A highlight for us was when he started to sing one of Yu-shian’s songs. Afterwards, he told us that the song he sung was Yu-shian’s best-known song, a love song.
Even though this music is unknown to us, we could tell from the eyes of our new friend how much these lines and this music meant to him (and, as he told, all of Taiwan).
A truly unforgettable moment!
The Longshan Temple in the Manka District is the oldest temple in Taipei. Built in the 18th century, it is full of artistic details, woodcarving skills, and stone sculptures.
Festivities are still held here throughout the year.
We took our time and marvelled at all the artwork.
2.Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
The former President Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall came as a huge surprise to us.
It is beautifully situated between the National Theatre and the National Concert Hall, and the entire area is lined with fragrant flowers and is really inviting.
Walking between these enormous buildings is already so much fun and there are many motives for awesome photo opportunities. The Memorial Hall is very impressive, and you can see tourists posing everywhere in front of it. But it is also a popular place with the locals, who like to have wedding photos taken there.
In the Memorial Hall itself you can see a huge bronze statue of Chiang Kai-Shek that is guarded by two soldiers, neither of whom even blinked an eye.
On every hour, there is a changing of the guard ceremony, which of course we did not want to miss.
Can you imagine remaining completely still for a full hour? It remains a mystery to me how they can do this.
3. Din Tai Fung
Taiwan is THE country where we have both tried the most new food that we’ve never tried before. Only Din Tai Fung was familiar to us from our trip to Hong Kong a couple years ago, where the famous restaurant has a Michelin star.
So it’s pretty obvious that we also wanted to eat here- at least once. Especially because the original restaurant is based here.
Din Tai Fung did not start out as a restaurant, but rather as a shop that sold cooking oil in 1958. It wasn’t until after 1972 that it became a restaurant, famous for its steamed dumplings and noodles.
Since these humble beginnings, there have been many restaurants that have opened all over the world. And the food is simply divine.
We’ve found that some things taste slightly different in some locations, but the classics are equally MEGA good everywhere.
Number 1005, the Spicy Shrimp and Pork Wontons
Number 66, the Pork XiaoLongBao
And the Pork Chop Fried Rice (we must eat there again to find out the number for you ?)
Unfortunately, we haven’t tried everything there yet, because we always take the number 66.
What we learned is that you don’t just eat the XiaLongBao! First you make a small hole in the dumpling so that the broth can run into the spoon. Then you sip the broth before dropping the entire dumpling into your mouth!
The broth is really very good! And compared to other dumplings that we have tried, Din Tai Fung just tastes the best.
The service in each location is excellent and very accommodating. There is free bottomless Jasmine Tea, and you can also watch how the dumplings are made!
My mouth is beginning to water just thinking about it…
4. Taipei 101
The landmark of Taipei definitely is the Taipei 101, which we didn’t want to miss either.
Take Exit 4 out of at the subway station of the same name and you are right there (there is also a Din Tai Fung restaurant there by the way!).
Through a very luxurious shopping mall, you finally get to the main entry and from there on to the high-speed elevator, which beams you up to the 89th floor in just seconds.
At 508 meters tall, Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world until 2007.
For anyone who wonders why the building is called Taipei “101”, it’s because that is the number of floors. This is how the building came to its (not so creative) name.
Bring a lot of time, because the queue is immense.
When we arrived at the entrance and saw the waiting time (and the price of about 17 EUR pP), we decided against it.
Nevertheless, it is a very clear recommendation from us, even if you don’t go to the top. For anyone who loves world-record buildings, is not afraid of heights, and does not prefer to save their money for golf (?), it is a must!
5.National Palace Museum
Those who like to visit museums will surely have the National Palace Museum on their list.
We really liked the antique books, paintings and the calligraphy displays.
We even found old travel guides that were on display.
Beware however, that there are many tour groups that visit the National Palace Museum! But, the antique book room was actually the only room that wasn’t visited by the groups, which was great because we could look at all the old books in peace and quiet.
But, at the same time we also found this a little sad, because we love both books and couldn’t understand why no one was here looking at these treasures. Such a pity.
6. Night Markets
Who doesn’t love them! Night markets are a paradise for those who like to munch and try out all kinds of new things to eat. And Taipei is literally jam packed with night markets! But because of all the rain we experienced during our first days, we did not stay at the night markets for long. But we really made up for it while touring the island.
Check them out! There are even night markets that have stands that are listed in the Michelin Guide!
We haven’t tried the Raohe Night Market yet, but it is definitely on our list. We will be back in Taipei again soon, and hopefully will have better weather.
The Raohe Night Market is one of the oldest night markets in Taipei. While it is not as big as the Shilin Night Market, it is known as a gourmet’s paradise.
Why? There are a whopping five (!) stands that are recommended by Michelin!
Some vendors don’t speak English, but you can always manage to communicate what you want to eat somehow. And help is always available and can be found everywhere! Have we mentioned that the Taiwanese people are super friendly?! Everyone is eager to help, and if they don’t understand a word or your question, we found that a nice phrase always comes back to you that we’ve heard many times: “You can try!”
7. Red House
Built In 1908 as a market building, the Red House in Ximending is now as a beautiful tourist attraction.
Inside there are many small and unique boutique shops, with handmade items, organic clothing, decorations, etc.
And creative workshops, theatre performances and exhibitions also take place here often.
For us, this was THE highlight during our stay in Taipei!
Not only is it a UNESCO World Heritage Site (and the only UNESCO in Taiwan!), but it is also a temple that stands out for its uniqueness and beauty.
Built in 1805, it took a full 25 years for the temple to be completed.
The temple is dedicated to Paosheng, the God of Medicine and Healing.
Chinese temple architecture is omnipresent with detailed dragon columns and colourful woodwork.
And lovers of paintings should not miss this place either!
It was very strange to us that the temple was so empty. There were hardly any tourists, and no tour groups. Maybe we were just really lucky the day that we visited, we don’t know.
We are in love with Taiwan!
Even though our first few days were more troublesome due to the amount of rain which made touring more difficult, we really enjoyed Taiwan from our very first moment. This beautiful island really offers a lot! Stay tuned to read more about how our travels continue.
What we particularly liked:
The kindness and the hospitality of the people that we experienced everywhere
The good food
It’s so easy to get around with public transportation
It’s a very safe country
Many people speak English, so it’s relatively easy to communicate
What we didn’t like:
Sometimes the attractions are unfortunately very crowded –bus loads full of tourists are brought in, so we could see little to nothing of some sights.
Unfortunately, many things are only written in Chinese- it would be nice to have the cultural sights to be also written in English.