[This post was first published in Rappler. See: 9 places to visit in Taipei]
Last August, I went to Taipei to participate in a cultural exchange program hosted by one of the student organizations of the National Taiwan University. During my 10-day stay, I went around the city and immersed myself in different aspects of Taiwanese culture.
Taipei is one of the busiest and well-developed cities in the region. Adding to the unique culinary scene are iconic infrastructure, heritage centers and cultural attractions that make the city a tourism spot.
If you’re planning to visit the capital of Taiwan, here are 9 places that you should not miss.
Historic and iconic sites
Taiwan or the Republic of China has a colorful history. Its capital features many historic parks and iconic infrastructure that tell the country’s story and those of its heroes.
The National Palace Museum is, perhaps, the top tourist destination of Taipei. It houses many Chinese historical artifacts, most of which were brought here from Beijing by the Nationalist Government during the Sino-Japanese wars. Because the nationalists lost the Chinese civil war, the artifacts never found their way back to Beijing.
Going to this museum is a good way for first time tourists to understand Taiwanese culture and history. The entrance fee is NTD160 for adults and NTD 80 for students with IDs. The museum is located in Taipei’s Shilin district.
Built in the memory of former Taiwan president Chiang Kai-shek, this memorial is a famous landmark and monument in Taipei. The buildings have elements of traditional Chinese architecture and hence, offer a good background for picture-taking.
The memorial is also famous as a recreational park for Taiwanese and tourists alike. People go here to exercise and do Taichi in the morning and the afternoon. For theater and music fans, the National Theater and National Concert Halls are also found in the park.
The memorial hall is found in Taipei’s Zhongzheng district.
To the north of Taipei is a smaller city facing the Taiwan Strait called Tamsui or Danshui. It used to be the shipping and commerce capital of the island in the 19th century, aside from being the seat of power of some Western colonial powers.
One must-see infrastructure is the Fort San Domingo or Red Hair Castle built by the Dutch in 1641. When the Dutch left Taiwan, the compound housed the British Consulate from the late 19th century to the early 20th century.
From the Tamsui station of the Danshui line, visitors need to take a bus to reach the fort.
Considered as the world’s tallest building from 2004 to 2010, Taipei 101 is definitely a must-see site in Taiwan. It is composed of 101 floors above ground and 5 floors underground.
The building looks like a bamboo stalk, a symbol of traditional Chinese values. For NTD 500, tourists can go to the 89th to 91st floor to get a 360-degree view of Taipei. A shopping mall is also located at the building’s basement.
Fun and recreational attractions
Aside from infrastructures, Taipei is also home to many attractions for the entire family. Here are some places that both children and adults will enjoy.
One of the largest in Asia, Taipei Zoo is a good place to tour around and explore the fauna and flora of Taiwan.
Divided into sections, the zoo is home to hundreds of animals including giant pandas, kangaroos, koalas and various African wild life. Different activities and shows are also held for all ages from time to time. It’s a public park so visitors only have to pay NTD 20 to enter.
Found in the Wenshan district of Taipei, Maokong highlands is the perfect place to be for tea enthusiasts. It’s the home of many tea shops and street stalls that offer traditional Chinese tea and food.
In order to reach Maokong, visitors will ride a gondola found beside the Taipei Zoo. It is recommended that tourists visit Maokong at night as it offers a beautiful view of the city. The gondola ride only costs around NTD 100.
Tired of walking around Taipei? Go to the hot springs in Beitou district to loosen up. With over 30 resorts, the district is a place where tourists and locals relax and unwind.
When visiting Taipei, shopping is imperative. Regarded as a fashion capital in East Asia, the city is home to shops that sell cheap clothes and shoes with good fashion sense and quality. Here are 2 places where you can start looking.
Perhaps the most famous shopping area in the city, Shilin Night Market is a one-stop shop for tourists – from souvenir items, to clothes and shoes, to Taiwanese food.
Milk tea shops and massage parlors are spread in the area so tourists who are tired of shopping have a place to stay. The prices in most shops are not fixed so haggling is a skill that will be useful here.
Ximending is a shopping district that attracts younger visitors. According to my Chinese friends, this is where most students hang out during their free time. It’s also a good area to shop for souvenirs and designer clothes.
Street shows and presentations are also held here so don’t be surprised when shoppers crowd in certain areas.
There are more places to visit and things to do in Taipei than these 9 suggestions as the city is a mixing pot of various cultures and traditions. When visiting Taiwan, make sure to also visit other places like Keelung, Taoyuan,Taichung and Kaohsiung as they have stories of their own.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!