Taiwan’s capital is a busy city that never sleeps.
It’s a popular layover destination, so you may have a few hours to kill before you continue your journey or, like us, you might just be stopping there for a night before heading elsewhere in the country.
We spent a day and a night in Taipei on our way to the much quieter Magong Island, which is just off Taiwan’s west coast.
Here, I’ve compiled a list of my experiences in this crazy city so that you can use your 24 hours to the max!
The first thing to note is that the main international airport is quite far out from the city itself, so if you do only have a few hours between flights, it’s important to plan accordingly; it may not be worth the trip out and the stress of getting back in time.
Taipei Confucius Temple
This is one of the more popular temples in Taiwan, modelled on the original Confucius Temple in China, and is part of the Dalongdong Cultural and Historical District.
The original temple was built here in 1879, but was demolished during the Japanese era, so the temple that stands now is much newer, rebuilt in 1930.
Unlike other temples in Taiwan, this one is not too intricately decorated, staying true to Confucius’ humble beliefs.
However, the temple is still beautiful, and is the only Confucius temple in Taiwan to be decorated with southern Fujian-style ceramic adornments.
Once you have passed through the gates, you will find many information boards on the temple history and Confucius himself.
Every year on 28th September, Confucius’ birthday, there is a memorial ceremony and celebration held at the temple.
We found the whole place beautiful and interesting, and spent about an hour there.
To get there: take the Red Line on the MRT to Yuanshan station and take Exit 2, continue walking down Kulun St and turn right onto Dalong St.
A trip to Taiwan’s capital is not complete without a visit to Taipei 101; it was the tallest building in the world until Dubai’s Burj Khalifi took the title in 2010, and it dominates the city’s skyline.
At 509.2 m (1,671 ft), it is not for the faint of heart, but if you can stomach the height, the panoramic view from the top is not to be missed.
Taiwan can be subject to typhoon winds and earthquakes, and this was not forgotten in the design of the building.
Once you are at the top you can enter the chamber that houses a huge damper sphere, designed to sway like a pendulum to offset the building’s movements in a storm or an earthquake.
It is the largest of its kind in the world and weighs 660 tonnes!
If you happen to be in the city for New Year’s Eve, don’t miss the fireworks from the tower, which are world famous and are broadcast internationally.
To get there: take the Blue Line on the MRT to City Hall Station. From here it is about 15 to 20 minutes walk to the tower, located on Hsinyi Road
Entrance: Indoor observation deck – Adult NT$350, Concession NT$320, Children under 100cm in height enter free
Outdoor observation deck costs an additional NT$100 on top of the indoor observation deck fee
Personally, I have to admit that I am not a big fan of zoos; however, I once took my little sister, Jasmine, to Taipei Zoo when she was about 4 years old and would recommend it to anyone who DOES like zoos.
The main attraction is the Giant Panda House. Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan were gifted by the People’s Republic of China in 2008, and have since given birth to Yuan Zai, the first panda cub to be born in Taiwan.
Luckily for us, the pandas were out and about in their enclosure, and we enjoyed watching them playing on the swing and relaxing on the platform in the trees.
There are many different sections including animals from Taiwan, Australia, Africa, Asian Tropical rainforests, temperate zones and the desert.
Jasmine’s favourites were the Giant Panda House, the Koala House, the elephants, giraffes and hippos!
The zoo is huge, which means that you will be doing a lot of walking if you want to see it all: I had a very tired and slightly irritable little one by the end of the day, although it was nothing a stuffed toy from the gift shop couldn’t fix!
All in all I would say you need a good few hours here, which may not suit for a short stop in Taipei, but the admission fee is very reasonable in my eyes, and probably worth it just to see the giant pandas, even if you don’t manage to see much else!
To get there: take the Brown Line on the MRT to Taipei Zoo Station
Entrance: Adult NT$60, Under 18 or Student NT$30, Preschool or Handicapped enter free
Shilin Night Market
If you only visit one market in Taipei, make it Shilin Night Market.
Being the largest and probably the most famous of the city’s markets, you can expect to find anything and everything here.
The stand-out point for us was the indoor food court.
As I have spent a lot of time in Asia, I’m familiar with the crowded, noisy food courts and the staff who thrust menus into your face to tempt you into their establishment amidst cries of “Sir! Miss!”.
But this was Theo’s first experience, and it was adorable watching him politely decline each one, while I ignored them until I saw something I liked.
We eventually decided to stop at a small dumpling stand which, like all of them, had plastic tables and chairs crammed into a small dining area.
It seems to me that, once the promoter outside has succeeded in catching your attention and has ushered you to a seat, they promptly forget about you, their work being done.
Once we had each chosen a dish from the laminated sheet of photographs on the table, we finally caught someone’s attention to order, and the food then arrived promptly. And it was delicious!
The streets outside are full of cheap clothes, jewellery, toys and gadgets, as well as karaoke bars and cinemas.
The market opens at 4pm and operates well into the night. It is extremely easy to spend a good few hours wandering around.
Tip: wander down Taipei’s back streets and you will stumble upon some delightful little bars. We did this after visiting the market, and found the tiniest bar selling some delicious craft beer!
To get there: take the Red Line on the MRT to Jiantan Station, Exit 1 (NOT Shilin Station).
Entrance: Free (but bring some pocket money!)
Ready to go?
Taipei is a great city to help you get a taste of Asian culture; from the crazy chaotic streets to the calm and quiet of the temples.
If you get through all of these activities and still have time to spare, there are plenty of other temples, markets and little coffee shops around the city and, if you have time, I have heard that the changing of the guard at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is well worth a watch!
Have you been to Taiwan yet? Is it on your list? Let me know in the comments!
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