Winding Trails, Stunning Temples, and Epic Eats: The 4-Day Weekend in Taipei

Taipei, Taiwan city skyline at twilight
Taipei, Taiwan city skyline at twilightShutterstock

There are countless reasons travelers from across the globe fall in love with Taipei, the multifaceted capital city of Taiwan (officially the Republic of China). A gripping combination of Chinese culture, Japanese tradition, and even pops of Western influence, the sprawling metropolis has flourished since splitting from the mainland 70 years ago. In the decades since, Taipei has become one of the trendiest, most whimsical destinations in Asia, drawing well-heeled jet-setters, intrepid epicures, and outdoor enthusiasts hoping to discover its countless charms.

In Taipei, it’s common for worlds to collide, and reminders are everywhere. Old meets new, East meets West, frenetic energy meets moments of reflection, and over-the-top opulence meets laid-back sensibility. With world-class museums, electrifying night markets, pristine natural wonders, architectural attractions, and a jaw-dropping collection of temples, it’s no wonder travelers can’t seem to get enough. Here, your handy guide to help navigate the bustling, colorful capital.

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When to Visit Taipei

Locals recommend planning a trip to Taipei between October and January. During this window, the weather cools down as temperatures hover between the mid-50s and low-80s. Taiwan’s rainy season kicks off in April and lasts until October. It’s also the most humid time of year to visit and temperatures can soar into the 90s. Typhoons are most likely to occur between July and September, so you’ll want to plan accordingly (and don’t forget to pack your umbrella and waterproof shoes―on average, it tends to rain at least some portion of the day for 165 days per year).

Where to Stay in Taipei

The city of Taipei is divided into 12 different districts, each with its own personality and flare, with several popular districts for tourists:

Zhongzheng: The centrally located heart of the city is home to Taipei Main Station, one of the busiest commuter hubs in Asia.

Wanhua: An effortlessly cool district, this area is known for its shopping and trendy Ximending neighborhood.

Da’an: A laidback escape from chaotic city life, the district is home to lots of serene green space.

Xinyi: You’ll find luxury hotels, modern restaurants, and key sites like the Taipei 101 at this tourist haven.

Zhongshan: This is another classic tourism district known for its more traditional Taipei experiences.

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HOTEL PROVERBS Taipei Courtesy Image

Kimpton Da An Hotel: Nestled smack-dab in the middle of the relaxing Da’an district, this newcomer offers weary travelers an urban oasis in top-notch style. The sleek boutique property marks the Kimpton brand’s first Asian opening, and oozes a contemporary-chic aesthetic. There’s no spa or pool, but the service is impeccable. Don’t miss checking out their culinary concept, The Tavernist (helmed by NOMA alum James Sharman), which showcases a playful and unpretentious menu.

HOTEL PROVERBS Taipei: For a unique stay, book a room at the recently opened HOTEL PROVERBS, overlooking the Eastern District. The four-star property features a fun steampunk-esque vibe, with dark wooden accents, copper-plated façades, and crystal chandeliers. Take advantage of perks like the cozy rooftop pool, complementary (and well-stocked) minibar, and free WiFi.

Grand Hyatt Taipei: Standing tall in the vibrant Xinyi district, an indulgent stay at the larger-than-life Grand Hyatt Taipei puts guests right in the middle of all the action. Nestled next to top attractions like the world-renowned Taipei 101 and two MRT stations, it’s primed for business and leisure travelers alike. Plus, the award-winning, 850-room property recently received a handsome makeover―so expect impressive amenities, lots of marble, and expansive balconies with sweeping city views.

Shilin Night Market in Taiwan
Shilin Night Market in Taiwan Food Travel Stockforlife / Shutterstock

What to Do in Taipei

Museum Hopping: Taipei’s museum scene is remarkably diverse and bursting at the seams with spellbinding exhibitions, but it’s virtually impossible to visit them all during one visit. Some of the top-rated attractions include the National Palace Museum (one of the city’s most important museums and home to more than 700,000 Chinese Imperial artifacts, including the priceless carved jade cabbage and meat-shaped stone); the Taipei Astronomical Museum (perfect for the space-obsessed); the Taipei Fine Arts Museum (the country’s first museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art); the quirky Miniatures Museum of Taiwan (teeming with a fascinating collection of mini replicas of iconic buildings, food items, toys, airplanes, and more); and the outdoor National Center for Traditional Arts (a key tourism attraction in Yilan County spread across 24 hectares where visitors can learn the art of indigo-dyeing, watch live performances, and shop for handmade wares).

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Snacking at Night Markets: No trip to Taipei would be complete without spending a few hours strolling through the city’s famed night markets. They’re a pillar of Taiwanese culture and offer curious holidaymakers the chance to experience Taipei’s more fanciful side. The Shilin Night Market is one of the largest in the city, and visitors can easily spend hours playing carnival-inspired games and sampling authentic street food like fried chicken (or the notorious phallic-shaped waffles). Ningxia Night Market is another popular hot spot, famous for its culinary delights like oyster and egg omelets. Or venture to Jiufen Old Street, a former gold-mining settlement that gained popularity for its striking resemblance to the town depicted in the critically acclaimed anime film Spirited Away.

Taipei Tianhou Temple is one of the oldest temple in Ximending, Taipei
Taipei Tianhou Temple is one of the oldest temple in Ximending, Taipei Charlesimage / Shutterstock

Exploring Temples: Taiwan is home to a staggering number of temples―approximately 15,000 in total. Ask anybody living in Taipei, and they’ll tell you that the must-see showstopper is Longshan Temple. Founded in 1738 by Han immigrants from Fujian, it still serves as one of the country’s most significant religious sites. Just be sure to plan a visit before 9 a.m. or after 7 p.m. to avoid the hordes of other tourists, or head to less-visited (but still impressive) sites, such as Songshan Ciyou Temple or Dalongdong Baoan Temple.

Souvenir Shopping: There are countless places to grab your souvenirs, from massive malls to side-street stalls. But the top shopping destinations worth paying a visit include the outdoor and easily walkable Ximending Youth Shopping District (which is jam-packed with one-of-a-kind shops and boutiques); Miramar Entertainment Park in the Zhongshan district (a shopping mall known for its brand name storefronts and gigantic Ferris wheel); and the Jianguo Weekend Holiday Jade Market (a giant marketplace under the Jianguo Overpass where vendors peddle jade, an assortment of other semi precious stones, and additional treasures like hand-painted teapots).

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Hit the Trails: Soak in Taiwan’s natural beauty by lacing up your hiking boots and hitting the trails. For a relatively easy ascent, follow the Nangang District Hiking Trail; a series of winding staircases that leads up Xiangshan (also known as Elephant Mountain) and provides the city’s most impressive skyline overlooks. For a longer, more challenging course, head to Teapot Mountain along the country’s verdant northern coast, with endless panoramas of the undulating Jinguashi area and the gold- and blue-tinted Yin Yang Sea. Or travel a little farther out to the tranquil Taroko National Park on the East Coast, where ramblers can trace the nearly 12-mile canyon.

Whisky Tasting: Many people are surprised to learn that Taiwan not only produces their own riff on whisky, but that it also happens to be some of the best in the world. Pencil in a day trip to Yilan County and schedule a tour of the Kavalan Distillery. Owned by the massive King Car Group, the distillery was founded in 2005 and their single malt whisky is now one of the most celebrated labels in the industry. Sip on their award-winning expressions and learn more about how the region’s unique climate and local ingredients (like subtropical pineapple and mango) have made Kavalan Whisky one of Taiwan’s hottest exports.

Xiaolongbao in a bamboo steamer at Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Taiwan
Xiaolongbao in a bamboo steamer at Din Tai Fung in Taipei, Taiwan SkyImages / Shutterstock

Where to Eat in Taipei

Din Tai Fung: With locations scattered across the globe, it’s safe to say Din Tai Fung is a bonafide international sensation, thanks to their outstanding range of xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. The original spot can be found in Xinyi, but other convenient locations can be found inside the Taipei 101 and in the Zhongshan District.

Yongkang Beef Noodle: A man named Mr. Zheng started a modest noodle operation back in 1963, and today it’s still serving one of the most sought after dishes in Taipei. Although beef noodle soup can be found throughout the city, patrons can’t get enough of Yongkang’s rich broth, which gets cooked down for hours, bursting with flavors like soy, ginger, star anise, garlic, and five-spice.

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Wulao Pot Restaurant: Eateries specializing in huo guo (or hotpot) are omnipresent throughout Taiwan. The Chinese cooking method entails combining a selection of ready-to-cook ingredients (like meat, veggies, and seafood) in large pots of simmering broth. Wulao is one of the most beloved hotpot restaurants in the city, and the staff is always ready to jump in and lend a hand to any struggling tourists.

Wu Pao Chun Bakery: Carb-lovers should head straight to this Xinyi district establishment, operated by one of Taiwan’s top bakers, Wu Pao-chun. Place an order for his signature treat, rose-lychee bread made with millet wine, rose petals, and dried lychee.

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Ice Monster: Treat your sweet tooth and stop by Ice Monster, a wildly popular dessert destination known for their shaved snow (ribbons of creamy, frozen flavored milk decked out with all sorts of toppings). You’ll most likely have to spend some time standing in line, but it’s well worth the wait.

Where to Drink in Taipei

Gabee Cafe: Opened by award-winning barista Van Lin back in 2004, Gabee Cafe is still one of Taipei’s most exciting coffee shops. Their menu is overflowing with options, such as milk teas, alcohol-spiked coffee concoctions, micro-lots, and more. For something different than your standard Starbucks order, give their signature Sweet Potato Coffee or Cereal Caffee Lattee a try.

Buckskin Beerhouse: Planning to sip on some Taiwanese suds? Then head to the Buckskin Beerhouse, a newly opened brewpub featuring a wide selection of German-style Buckskin beers. Visitors can also snack on an extensive food menu while soaking in the sophisticated, industrial-inspired decor.

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Wistaria Tea House: Once a treasured safe haven for Taiwan’s leading visionaries during the country’s transition into democracy, Wistaria is still a treasured mainstay. Located in the Da’an district, the tea house is currently closed for renovations but is set to reopen this autumn.

W XYZ Bar: Anyone looking for the perfect nightcap won’t want to miss out on W XYZ Bar, a swanky rooftop retreat atop the Aloft Taipei Zhongshan hotel. The eclectic escape features sweet vistas, neon-lit interiors, expertly crafted cocktails, and DJs that know how to keep the party going.

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Kavalan Whisky Bar: For one of the most exclusive experiences in Taipei, see if you can score a reservation at the brand new Kavalan Whisky Bar. The speakeasy-style watering hole is tucked away within Buckskin Yakiniku and not open for walk-ins just yet. But once inside, guests can help themselves by pouring a dram of Kavalan Whisky directly from one of the wall-mounted barrels, or order a signature cocktail from the bar.

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