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Planning a trip to Taiwan? I have the perfect Taipei itinerary that I tried and tested during my trip. From shopping to cityscape views, nature, history and culture, I’m confident it has it all!
Taipei is a city that I tried to make sense of by comparing it to other places. It has the quirky culture of Japan, the language of China, the clean and efficient subway of Singapore and the affordable prices of Malaysia.
It’s new and modern, yet the retro housing blocks and long-serving tea stands are a throwback to several decades prior. With Mandarin shop signs lit up against neon backgrounds, it feels like a smaller and calmer Hong Kong.
Why is it that we need to compare places to make sense of them? For whatever reason, I do it all the time. I hit the streets of Taipei in search of sights, sounds and smells that would familiarise me with the city and allow me to someday say ‘this reminds me of Taipei.’
Because really, Taipei isn’t quite like anywhere and that’s what makes it so special. This urban hub of 2.7 million is Taiwan’s capital city, blending ancient Taoist temples with the bright lights of Ximending, the city’s answer to Harajuku.
Read next: 25 travel tips for Taiwan
How long to spend in Taipei?
Like many cities, you could rush around the sights in a day or so. However, many of the best things to do in Taipei are actually in the surrounding countryside: thermal landscapes, national parks, hot springs and scenic ex-mining towns will keep you busy.
I would suggest spending at least 3 days in Taipei. You can see a lot during this time and explore three different night markets during the evenings. To help you do exactly that, I’ll share my Taipei itinerary for 3 days.
For me, 5 days in Taipei was optimum. I took most of my day trips by public transport to reduce my Taiwan budget and allow me to spend a full day in each place.
If you have 3 days in Taipei or less, day tours are a good idea. You could see 3 places (which took me 3 days to visit on public transport) in just one day. I recommend GetYourGuide and Viator for these.
Stay connected with a Taiwan SIM card
SIM cards in Taiwan are relatively affordable so, to stay connected on the go, order one in advance for airport pick-up. You can get cards for 3, 5, 7 10, 15 or 30 days with UNLIMITED(!) data starting from US$8.
Getting around Taipei
Taipei is an easy city to get around with excellent public transport. Your best options are…
MRT – the Metro network is efficient with over 80 stops, serviced by six lines differentiated by colour. Not only is the Metro map easy to follow but the trains are clean and regular. My one word of warning? There’s a strict no-food policy. I once got told off for taking a sip of water. Yikes!
Tip – get an EasyCard before you begin your Taiwan itinerary. You’ll get a discount on MRT, bus and ferry journeys plus you can pre-load them to save time on buying individual tickets. Buy yours now to pick up at the airport.
Taxi – yellow taxis are easy to flag down and not too expensive, or there’s Uber. You can even call taxis from ibon machines inside 7-11 stores.
For a fun and touristic way to get around, there’s also the Taipei sightseeing bus tour stopping at all the top attractions like Taipei 101 and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
Pick up a $5 Taipei fun pass for unlimited public transport and Maokong Gondola.
Where to stay in Taipei
- Hostel: For a top-rated hostel in Taipei centre, it doesn’t get much better than Flip Flop Hostel Garden. This spacious hostel is filled with natural light and includes a shared lounge, sun terrace, tour desk and kitchenette. Check availability from $21.
- Budget hotel: for a clean and conveniently located budget hotel in the heart of Taipei, stay at If Inn. Rooms come with daily housekeeping, coffee makers, a desk and a TV. Check availability from US$45.
- Mid-range: Just 5 minutes from Taipei Main Station and the Artist Village, K Hotel Tianjin features air-conditioned rooms, a 24-hour front desk, delicious breakfast, and facilities for disabled guests. Check availability from US$72.
- Splash-out: With a fabulous outdoor pool, lounge area, fitness centre, terrace, bar, and restaurant, the views alone make a stay at Hilton Taipei Sinban worth it. Each modern room has a city view and includes an abundant buffet breakfast. Check availability from US$222.
Taipei itinerary for 3-5 days
There’s so much to do in Taipei and some amazing attractions in the surrounding region. I would suggest beginning with a city day to get your bearings before heading out on a few day trips.
Wander Ximending, Taipei’s coolest hood
Ximending is called the Harajuku of Taiwan for good reason: it’s colourful, neon-lit, busy and extremely quirky. Wandering around this neighbourhood is a good way to get to know it.
There are countless bubble tea cafes and food stands around Ximending. It’s a place for young people to hang out with friends, shop and eat.
Things to do in Ximending:
- Shop or catch a show at the Red House – this red-brick venue is packed with quirky stores in the day and cool bars at night, plus there’s a theatre where you can catch cultural shows
- Watch street performers – there’s always something weird and wonderful going on in Ximending!
- Try your luck at amusement arcades – in particular, claw machines are all the rage here. It’s very tricky to win at them, as I know after developing an unhealthy obsession!
- Eat at Hot Star – TFC (Taiwanese Fried Chicken) is what’s hot here. I devoured an enormous fried chicken slab bigger than my head. I was stuffed but had no regrets.
- Catch a movie – there are tons of cinemas packed into Ximending since it was once known as the country’s theatre district. If you’ve been travelling a while, sitting back with a good film might be just what you need!
- Eat EVERYTHING – there’s so much delicious street food in Ximending from straight-up delicious dishes to unusual specialities like stinky tofu. I dare you to try it!
Take a walking tour with TourMeAway (Saturdays, 2pm)
I’d recommend TourMeAway’s free Old Town Taipei tour for an informative explanation of Taiwan’s eventful history. From the ice age to Japanese rule, European involvement and Chinese martial law, they explained everything perfectly.
So rather than me try to fill you in, I suggest you take their Old Town Taipei tour which runs on Saturdays at 2pm. It’s free but you should pre-book on the Tour Me Away website.
If you’re more into food than history, consider their Hunger Game Tour focussed on the weirder and more wonderful foods on offer in Taipei. It’s a bit of an eating challenge (perfect for me!) with stinky tofu, sweet potato balls, chicken skin and feet, oyster noodles, herbal jelly milk tea and taro ball dessert. It’s a bargain at 700 TWD for 12 dishes shared with the group.
Visit National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Right in the centre of Taipei beside Liberty Square is the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall dedicated to the former President of the Democratic Republic of China. It’s 76 metres tall with a giant statue of him inside.
Learning about the history of Taiwan at the museum is a must for your Taipei itinerary, or you can just take a few moments to browse the iconic temple.
I wasn’t blown away by this Buddhist-Taoist temple but maybe that’s because I’ve seen so many around Thailand and Malaysia lately. It’s one of the places in Taipei to experience the culture so it’s worth a visit.
Longshan was built in 1738 and has survived numerous natural disasters and wars. There’s a pretty, manmade waterfall just across from the main temple building, and entrance is free.
Huaxi Night Market
Just around the corner from Longshan Temple is one of Taipei’s most vibrant night markets, Huaxi. Although the famed dish to sample here is snake soup, you’ll be forgiven for tucking into a less adventurous dinner like beef noodle soup, tempura, dessert waffles and more!
Head up Taipei 101 or see it from the Xiangshan Trail
I seek out a cityscape view whenever I can. In Taipei, many travellers pay to visit the Taipei 101 observation deck. If you do this, buy your ticket in advance to avoid queuing.
For a free alternative, the Xiangshan Trail is a steep climb made bearable by the fact you’re surrounded by nature as you go. From the top, you have a spectacular view of Taipei including Taipei 101, once the tallest building in the world.
Sunset is a great time to capture your dreamy Instagram shots, although prepare for it to be very busy.
Day 2 Taipei itinerary – Yangmingshan National Park and Beitou
Yangmingshan is one of Taiwan’s nine national parks and the closest one to Taipei. It’s just 11 miles from the capital and you can drive there in under an hour making it an easy day trip.
Popular sights are the Flower Clock that chimes on the hour, the hot springs and the Qingtiangang Grasslands walking trail.
Getting to Yangmingshan:
- Hire a car using Rentalcars.com
- Take a day tour with GetYourGuide
- Use public transport: catch shuttle bus #260 from behind Taipei Main Station, or the Red Line MRT to Shilin and transfer to buses #R5 or #260.
The benefit of driving or taking a tour is that you can add a second fantastic destination to your Taipei itinerary on the way home…
Beitou Hot Springs & Thermal Valley
To unwind in Taipei, swing by Beitou Hot Springs. This area is known for its bubbling thermal pools, created by the underground volcanos that pushed Taiwan out of the ocean in the first place.
Apparently, ancient people referred to the area as ‘witch’ and wouldn’t go near it, speculating that the water was bubbling straight up from hell.
During Japanese rule, the springs became a playground for wealthy colonialists. After the Japanese left Taiwan, this scene dissolved. Nowadays, Beitou is visited by tourists who marvel at the steaming Thermal Valley, and locals who wallow in the Public Hot Springs.
Continue your Taipei itinerary at the Hot Springs Museum which only takes a few minutes to look around, then check out the library next door, designed in the shape of a giant ship.
Afterwards, head to the Thermal Valley (no entrance fee) to get a sense of Beitou’s natural powers. Finally, visit the Public Hot Springs and soak with the locals. This costs 40 TWD, plus 20 for a locker. Bring your swimwear and follow the rules on the boards.
Getting to Beitou: I suggest you visit on the way back from Yangmingshan but, if coming from Taipei, take a 25-minute direct train from Zhongshan. From Beitou station, it’s a 15-minute walk to the springs or you can transfer one stop to Xinbeitou and be right there.
Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night Market is a great market to visit on your way back from Beitou. This is a modern and vibey night market where you can try everything from noodles to bubble tea and the national dish of stinky tofu (I’m not a fan).
Day 3 Taipei itinerary – ride the Pingxi Line
The Pingxi Line is a train line departing Ruifang (a station easily accessed by train from Taipei) visiting several fantastic locations. Once you’ve seen each one, hop back on the train to the next.
Shifen is the most popular destination along the line. Many people skip the rest of the line, just visiting Shifen and the cute town of Jiufen. I’ve saved Jiufen until tomorrow assuming you have time for a full 5 day Taipei itinerary. However, if you have just 3 days in Taipei, you could visit both Shifen and Jiufen today (more details to come).
Houtong Cat Village
If there’s anywhere in the world that would have a cat village, it’s Taiwan. People here love anything cute and quirky, fitting this village to a tee! You’ll find well-loved felines lounging around, being pampered by tourists and generally ruling the roost.
There are also cat-themed cafes, a lot of gift shops and stunning views over the Taiwanese countryside.
Getting to Houtong Cat Village: Catch a train to Ruifang and transfer to the Pingxi Line. You only really need an hour to look around so it’s a quick and quirky addition to your Taipei itinerary.
Shifen is set alongside an old-fashioned railway line that’s still in use today. When people aren’t dodging the train, they’re writing wishes on giant paper lanterns and releasing them into the air.
Later, continue further to Pingxi Old Street on the Pingxi Line. Here you can experience another cute village with traditional lanterns and tasty street food stands before heading back to Taipei.
Related activity: Pingxi sky lantern & Shifen Waterfall tour from Taipei
Day 4 Taipei itinerary – Jiufen
Jiufen is a hillside town overlooking the mountains and ocean with adorable teahouses and a thriving food market. As an old mining settlement, the village is a throwback days of colonial Japanese rule.
After exploring the village, why not soak up the surrounding area? Jinguashi region – easily accessible on foot – is full of treasures like old gold mines, waterfalls and shrines. Climb Teapot Mountain for beautiful views if you’re feeling energetic.
Getting from Taipei to Jiufen: the easiest way is a direct bus. The 1062 goes from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT while the 965 goes from Beimen MRT exit #2 to Jiufen Old Street. Alternatively, take the train from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang Station and board a bus to Jiufen.
The best option for a guided tour (great for meeting other travellers) is a Jiufen & northeast coast highlights tour inc Jinguashi for US$40.
Another option if there’s a group of you is a private transfer to Jiufen or Shifen for US$30.
Only have a 3 day Taipei itinerary or simply want more time soaking up the city? Save a day by combining days 3 and 4. Squeeze Houtong Cat Village and Shifen into the morning then catch the Pingxi Line train to Ruifang Station and board a bus to Jiufen Old Street. Follow my Jiufen & Shifen day trip guide.
Day 5 Taipei itinerary – Yehliu Geopark
The weird and wonderful scenery of Yehliu Geopark is totally different to anywhere I’ve been before. It’s not even similar to the Taiwanese countryside surrounding it. The rock formations and craggy landscape are straight out of Mars, peppered with 4,000-year-old fossils.
Meanwhile, the crashing waves are constantly reshaping the towering rock formations. Many of these are bizarre-looking, resembling the profiles of people or household objects. Don’t miss the Queen’s Head or the Fairy’s Shoe named after their resemblance to these things.
Read next: Visiting Yehliu Geopark from Taipei
Getting to Yehliu Geopark: Catch the 1815 bus from Taipei Main Station or take a day tour including Keelung Harbour ($40).
Time-saving tip – if you’re on a tight Taipei itinerary, there are tours visiting Shifen, Jiufen and Yehliu Geopark during the same day
Alternative day 5 itinerary
Since my suggested Taiwan itinerary includes several day excursions, I decided to insert an alternative day that you can follow instead of one of the day trips above. This will allow you to soak up more of the city if the idea of several day trips sounds tiring.
Here’s what I’d recommend doing during another city day…
National Palace Museum
Northeast of the city centre just past the Shilin district is one of Taipei’s best museums detailing 8,000 years of history. The number of artefacts and relics total over 700,000!
With so much to see, you could easily spend half a day here. Check the website to see events and exhibits happening during your visit
Entry is NT$350 or buy an e-ticket in advance to avoid queuing. Open from Tues-Sun, 9am-5pm.
For the afternoon, here are a few options:
Huashan 1914 Creative Park – this colourful creative park boasts vibrant street art, boutique shops and sculptures. Another similar one is Songshan Creative Park, an old tobacco factory converted into a modern art and design complex.
If you like creative parks and you’re heading down south, Pier Art 2 is one of the top things to do in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second-biggest city.
Take a walk in Daan Forest Park – dubbed the ‘lungs of Taipei’, this sprawling 26-hectare public park is the best place to get some fresh air and feel at one with nature. It’s free to enter and open 24 hours a day.
Visit Xingtian Temple – to delve deep into Taiwanese culture, visit some other temples. Although it’s built in traditional style, this modern temple is dedicated to the god of businessmen (and businesswomen too, I hope!). It’s an atmospheric place to glimpse local life.
Food in Taipei
Part of the joy of visiting Taiwan is all the fantastic food! From typical Asian dishes to unique Taiwanese dishes (some sweet and some savoury), it’s a food lovers paradise. Although this topic is too big to cover here, these are a few of my favourite places to eat in Taipei…
Read next: 22 best Taiwanese dishes to try
Try soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung
Moreish xiao long bao are best eaten in one mouthful as they contain juicy pork in a small serving of flavoursome soup. They’re famously served at Din Tai Fung which was voted one of the top 10 restaurants in the world.
There are a few different branches in Taipei but I tried them in the basement of Taipei 101, something you can time around a visit to the observation deck.
Tip – if you don’t fancy a long wait, visit at the opening time of 11am. This is what I did and it was getting busy when I left 30 minutes later.
Eat bizarre ice cream flavours at Snow King
For a quirky addition to your Taipei itinerary, head to Snow King for some of the best (and strangest) ice creams in Taipei. There are bizarre flavours including chicken skin and pork knuckle as well as normal ones like cherry and vanilla.
Then, there are some in the middle including basil, cinnamon, sticky rice, taro, beer and wine! I went with basil and it was surprisingly tasty.
Night markets in Taipei
The number of night markets in Taipei is crazy but it just reflects Taiwan’s fixation with food (not that I can talk!).
Apparently, when you greet someone in Taiwan, you say ‘have you eaten?’ rather than ‘how are you?’. I love this – it’s the real issue, right? The answer to ‘how are you?’ is always ‘fine thanks and you?’ which makes it kind of redundant. ‘Have you eaten?’ can result in being offered a snack, and there is nothing redundant about snacks.
Raohe Night Market – when you say ‘Taipei night market’, most people will think of Shilin but I preferred this busy local market with an emphasis on real authentic food. The pork pepper buns are to die for!
Shilin Night Market – the beast of Taipei night markets, it’s hard to tell where this one begins and ends. It takes up the whole central area of Shilin, and shops and cafes stay open late to join the party. You can shop for clothes, people-watch from a bar or stick to the street food stands.
Linjiang Night Market – I liked this market which is more like Raohe than Shilin, tightly packed with lots of authentic food stands. Here you can try dumplings, shaved ice, authentic Thai & Vietnamese food, fresh clams and lots more. It’s near Taipei 101 so you could combine both into one outing.
Huaxi Street Night Market – this is nearby to Longshan Temple and characterised by the giant Chinese archway. It’s the oldest night market in Taipei and also known as Snake Alley. Here you can sample famous snake soup any time of day or wait until sundown when the vibrant food market gets underway. Many Asian tourists visit for the herbal medicine products on offer.
Jingmei Night Market – this very local market in the south of the city is where I explored with TourMeAway during their Hunger Game tour. While I’d highly recommend this, you can also visit by yourself and get stuck into endless local delicacies. Here you’ll find unusual foods including stinky tofu and chicken feet as well as tasty treats like steamed buns and ice cream.
Thanks for reading my Taipei travel itinerary!
Check out my other Taiwan blogs:
- The ultimate 2 week Taiwan itinerary
- How expensive is Taiwan? Complete budget guide
- 17 Taiwan tips for travellers
- Guide to the Rainbow Village Taiwan
- The 20 best Taiwanese foods to try
- Taipei to Jiufen and Shifen
- How to plan a Taroko National Park day trip
- Things to do in Kaohsiung Taiwan
- 10 Taiwan facts to know before visiting
See you next time for more adventures,
Ps. Liked my 5 day Taipei itinerary? Pin it for later!
TAIWAN QUICK LINKS
Getting there – it’s easy to arrive by flight. I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates.
Stay connected with an unlimited 4G SIM card for 3, 5, 7, 10, 15 or 30 days.
In my opinion, Lonely Planet offer the best guidebooks. Get the latest Lonely Planet Taiwan.
Car hire – I recommend RentalCars.com for car hire in Taiwan and around the world.
For Taiwan High Speed Trains, use 12Go. The search feature allows you to compare prices and durations.
I use Booking.com for accommodation. They have the best range of hotels and self-catering apartments, plus you can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
For activities, I use GetYourGuide and Viator as they both have a huge range of affordable tours.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!