This post is all about fun/interesting things to do in Taipei. If you’re planning a trip there, or just passing through looking for things to do, I hope this post gives you some ideas! Taipei has so much to offer, from hiking, to urban exploring. There are so many street markets to visit, temples, shrines… I really can’t say enough good things about it!
So without further delay, here are my top things things to do in Taipei, Taiwan!
1. Climb Elephant Mountain
Elephant Mountain is a small to medium-sized mountain nestled right in the city. It’s a pretty easy climb (with a paved stairway path the whole way) and it has a beautiful view of the city and Taipei 101 tower at the top. Me, Cruise, and our friend Zack from the hostel set out one day to climb it and explore the nearby area.
The Elephant Mountain Park also has a lot of surrounding land to explore besides just the main mountain hike. We stumbled across many paths that shot away from the main one for exploring. We came across little groves of statues and shrines down one of them that was neat to see.
We also came across a few public “fitness centers” or gyms where you could practice pull ups, dips, etc. One of the outdoor gyms even had some free weights! We had fun playing with all the various workout equipment, doing pull ups, deadlifts, you know… 🙂
One of the more interesting things you’ll come across is a rock garden, in which you are supposed to walk across without shoes?… At least, this is what we think we were supposed to do.
Well, it hurt like heck and Cruise had a grand old time filming me during the process of walking and stumbling my way across! Let the record show that he struggled with it too though!
Overall this nature area was really fun and scenic to explore. The view at the top is definitely worth it as well. It overlooks most of the city and it’s a great place to take some photos. Just try not to get too far off the beaten path, as we almost got lost in the forest doing so!
2. See Lungshan Temple
The Lungshan Temple of Manka is a Buddhist temple in the Wanhua District of Taipei. I recommend a visit here because it’s a very beautiful place!
I’ve always been someone who appreciated architecture, and the structure, decorations, and decor of this temple is stunning. From the pillars, to the roof tops, stairways, gates, alleys, and shrines, everything about this place is beautiful.
The main area has a smoke pit where you can pray and “cleanse your spirit.” There are also various shrines/alters to walk up to and pray at (if you choose to do so). The walkways are lined with colorful lanterns and various tables for people to leave offerings and gifts to the temple.
I think this is a very worthwhile place to see, and definitely the most beautiful temple that can be found in Taipei.
3. Visit Jiufen
For those who are a fan of the Japanese animated movie Spirited Away, visiting Jiufen is a must-see! Often referred to these days as “The Spiried Away Town”, Jiufen is a small village a few hours outside of Taipei by train and bus that was the inspiration for the set design of the Spirited Away movie.
It’s a quaint little mining town tucked high up in the mountains that overlooks the ocean. It’s very cute, and definitely a neat place to see with your own eyes! Especially if you are a fan of the movie. It definitely brought back memories to me of one of my favorite films while I was there.
Since the movie came out it has become a pretty popular tourist destination. So while it is generally pretty crowded with people these days, I still recommend it as a place to see once in your life. There are a few ways to get there, Cruise and I opted for the train and bus combination. It’s about a 2 hour trip one way, but again, well worth it! From the Taipei Main Station, take the train north to Ruifang Station. Once there, you’ll have to walk a short ways (3 minutes) to a bus station, to purchase a ticket that will take you to Jiufen.
“Old” Jiufen, or “Historic” Jiufen is the part of the town you’ll want to go to once you get there. As soon as you turn down the main alley to get there you’ll be surrounded by cute little shops and stalls that wind through tight alleyways, steep stairs, and eventually take you to the some amazing lookouts over the ocean.
All of the streets are lined with those adorable red paper lanterns. The whole vibe of this place was just so cute, I didn’t want to leave! Also, beware some of the alleyways that may take you through creepy underground murder tunnels!
… Though this particular tunnel actually took us to an adorable hidden coffee shop!
Cruise and I wanted to rest our feet for awhile, so we stopped at a little dessert cafe and had these sweet potato/bean balls in ice while looking out over the mountains and water.
I realized while typing that out ^ that the dessert we had doesn’t sound too appetizing… But trust me when I say it was delicious! Beans and lentils are used often in traditional Asian-style desserts. It can be an acquired taste for some, but I’ve come to love it. You can read more about my food diary for Taiwan in my posts Eating vegan in Taiwan part 1 and Eating vegan in Taiwan part 2!
Again, I highly recommend a trip out here if you’re ever in Taipei. Jiufen is definitely a “whole day” adventure, so plan on this being the main thing you do for the day. But the travel time to get there is well worth it to see the stunning views, and explore these cute streets that inspired Spirited Away. The train ride there and back also goes through some pretty countryside, so it was a peaceful and pleasant way to spend time.
4. Relax In A Hot Spring
If you enjoy relaxing, being pampered, and de-stressing, then visiting a natural hot spring should definitely be on your list of things to do in Taipei!
There are a lot of public hot springs scattered throughout Taipei. Cruise and I picked one of the hot springs in the older part of the city and just soaked for a few hours, relaxing.
I will admit, you may want to plan ahead when you go to one of these, because they can get quite crowded at peak times of the day/night. If you have the chance to go to one in the middle of the day, when it’s less likely to be busy, I recommend it. Though I thoroughly enjoyed our time there, it was quite crowded, with kids around, and lots of people. It will be nice to go again one day when it is more peaceful! We came in the afternoon and stayed all the way until night. There were many different “pools” to soak in, ranging from ice water, to boiling hot! I pretty much stayed in one of the “medium” ones, it was plenty hot for me!
Also, you will need to wear a bathing suit when you go. Not underwear, not sports clothing, not regular clothes, a bathing suit. And yes, if you don’t wear a swim suit you will get caught and have someone blow a big angry whistle in your direction while pointing at you and telling you to get up and leave (Sorry Cruise!). But often times they sell swim wear at the front desk, so you can purchase something when you get there if you didn’t bring a suit of your own.
5. Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
One day while wandering Cruise and I found our way to the government, or memorial part of the city. I wasn’t expecting this area to be as pretty or interesting as it was, but I do recommend it now as a place to see!
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is a landmark that was built to honor Chiang Kai-shek, the former president of the Republic of China. It’s located within the Zhongzheng Distric of Taipei, and has some beautiful buildings and architecture to see.
First there are these huge arched gates to walk through. When you do, you’re in a massive courtyard lined by various government buildings that lead to the main hall. Inside the main memorial is a statue of the former president (which made me instantly think of the Lincoln Memorial). And if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see a “changing of the guards” ceremony take place!
The grounds around the memorial have tons of pretty gardens to walk through as well. Overall, it was just a nice place to walk around and I’m glad we stumbled across this place!
6. Explore The City
Finally, and this is an obvious one, explore the city! As far as things to do in Taipei go, seeing the city really is a lot of fun. There are so many street markets and night market with unique food to try. I wrote multiple posts on all of the amazing food I had in Taipei. If you haven’t yet, you can read them here: Eating in Taipei part 1, Eating in Taipei part 2.
Walk The City By Day and Night
It may sound dull on paper, but just walking the streets (in whatever random direction you choose to) is always something fun to do a new city. You never know what you’ll stumble upon! When Cruise and I were in Taipei it happened to be the very start of the Chinese New Year (Year of the Rooster!) So there was an extra amount of buzz and excitement throughout the streets and things to see. This was especially true at night, since we came across so many live performances and stages throughout the city (it felt like a week-long city-wide festival was going on while we were there!). So as far as things to do in Taipei goes, “wandering” should definitely be on your list.
See The Street Art
There was a lot of graffiti and street art throughout Taipei, but not in an bad way. I was actually really impressed by the quality of street art I saw throughout the city. Some of the murals were really incredible! As I wandered the city, I really enjoyed coming across the various forms of graffiti art.
Relax At Your Hostel
Vacations, and particularly trips abroad, always end up being a balancing act for me; between relaxing and exploring/having adventure. I love the thrill of seeing new places, and getting wrapped up in all of the excitement they bring. I also like relaxing and doing absolutely nothing from time to time. Don’t feel bad if you take a whole day (or multiple) while on vacation to just chill at your hostel or hotel.
My mornings during this trip usually looked like the following: Waking up, going to the nearby gym (which was close to being free, just had to pay for a towel), getting a good workout in (I like to maintain a fitness routine, even if it’s a simple one, while I travel), eating the free breakfast provided by the hostel (oats, toast and fruit), and getting some work in. I set my laptop up at a nice window spot, with a mug of tea, and felt so relaxed that whole week while I worked.
A quick note about our Hostel, we stayed at the Meander Taipei Hostel in the Wanhua District. I highly recommend it! The rooms and bathrooms were clean, good price, it had a great common area for work to get done in (or to relax in), and the staff was friendly and helpful when it came to asking about places to see in the city. They even had a giant map downstairs in the common area that described some of the best places to see in the area (shoutout to Cruise’s bike in the corner of the photo). It was very helpful!
Visit The City Parks
There are multiple public parks throughout the city that are fun to walk through, and you never know what you’ll stumble across while exploring. Like, the Nike logo carved into a wooden statue??? I have to admit, Cruise and I CRACKED UP when we saw it!! Lol…
After walking through Daan Forest Park (You can’t spell “dangerous”… without…the “DAAN!” 😉 jk, it’s a safe park to walk around in – promise!), Cruise and I kept wandering the nearby area and eventually came across a local brewery called Zhang Men.
We had sooooo much fun there! Maybe too much fun… we drank a lot of beer, haha, but it was one of the best nights of the trip for me. We talked about so many random things, laughed so hard our sides hurt, and honestly it was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time. Nothing beats good conversation with a good friend!
If you want to see some highlights from that night, and some of the ridiculousness we got into, check out Cruise’s YouTube channel called Two Wheel Cruise, and his video on the hilarious night we had at the brewery – “Let’s Go Guys!”
Other Random Hilarious Things
So… the above photo needs some definite explanation!! Cruise and I had just finished buying some tea at a tea shop, and stepped outside to find this public photo booth. I actually work for a company that develops software and hardware solutions for photo booths, so I had to try it out! We took a silly picture, drew on it, swiped through the different scenes/overlays they had to choose from, and… BAM we were greeted with this IN YOUR FACE “SEX” overlay! Hahaha, we died laughing. It just came out of nowhere! I guess because it was Valentine’s Day, they had a “romantic” design to choose from for the booth? I don’t know, but it was awkward yet funny as heck!
I should clarify why this was funny to us – Cruise and I are really good, close friends – and that’s it! We’ve known each other since high school, and going on these trips together has been a blast. But we’ve never seen each other in a romantic way, or will we ever (we’re both in long-term relationships with other people!). So swiping through that photo booth and all of a sudden seeing that overlay was hilarious to us, and very unexpected, lol. Anyway, funny story over, but if you want to see a video of our reaction it’s below!
Things to do in Taipei: Conclusion
Anyways, I think that just about wraps up this post! I hope this list gave you some inspiration for things to do in Taipei. Each activity we did was unique and different from the next. It was also a good blend of exploring the city, and exploring nature. Then resting and relaxing, mixed with exploring and food-tasting. Then traveling to the ocean, and seeing some cultural/historical sites. We did a lot of different things, and I think it’s a testament to how much there is to see and do in Taipei!
My final opinion on Taipei is that it has a ton to offer. There are so many things to do in Taipei! I loved my trip here, and can’t wait to see what my next adventure in Asia will be. Thanks for reading! 🙂
Closing Thoughts On Taipei
- Taipei is very vegan/vegetarian friendly. I had no problem finding veg meals – especially since buffet-style restaurants are really popular in Taiwan. It was really easy to walk into a Taiwan buffet restaurant and make a huge meal out of all the vegetable side dishes – usually for very little money too.
- Taipei is very affordable – and most everything we did was very cheap. You can eat like a king/queen for just a few bucks!
- There’s a good balance of nature/outdoorsy things to do mixed with urban/nightlife things. So if you like one of those things, or both, you’ll probably like Taipei!
- There was definitely a language barrier at times – but we managed OK in the end too. It would be useful when you go here to learn a couple of key phrases to say to shop keepers/waiters/waitresses before you visit.
- Take your shoes off when entering a home!
- Fitness/staying active seems to be important to people here. Cruise and I saw evidence of this with how many public outdoor gyms and regular gyms there were all throughout the city. It was really nice to be able to have a gym just 5 minutes walking distance from our hostel. It was cheap to go to, and I used it almost every day I was there which felt great!
- You will not regret visiting it if you choose to. 🙂