Taipei, the political and financial center of Taiwan, is the island's most populous city. Taipei originated as a small trading port over two hundred years ago before becoming the administrative capital under the Qing Dynasty. During the last few decades there has been tremendous growth in the city. Now a sprawling metropolis, Taipei is an ideal place to visit for those who love the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Bei Tou (Peitou) Located in the northwest, Bei Tou is famous for its sulfur springs, spas and hotels. One of the more popular sulfur pits is Hell Valley . Bei Tou is in the middle of a small mountain range connected to Wellington Heights and Yang Ming Shan by public transport. Yang Ming Shan National Park is a great place to go hiking.
Shi Lin (Shihlin) The Shi Lin district covers both banks of the Keelung River and spills into the surrounding mountains. Shi Lin is best known for Shihlin Night Market , Taipei's largest night market. North of the market is the peaceful Tian Mu area which features a large expatriate community and several of Taipei's international schools. The Chinese Culture and Movie Center and the world-renowned National Palace Museum are also located within this district.
Da Tong (Tatung) Da Tong District was once home to European merchants who settled to trade with the Taiwanese. Walk through its old lanes and you will find numerous tea companies, a few European-style buildings and several temples including the famous Confucius Temple and Bao An Temple . Perhaps the most popular attraction here is Di Hua Street , one of Taipei's main trading centers during the 1800s. Today, the street is still lined with traditional shops selling dried goods and herbal medicines.
Zhong Shan (Chungshan) Running through the center of the district is Zhong Shan North Road, which divides the city into east and west. Zhong Shan was once the commercial center for Taipei, but now it is better known for its shops and bars. The area also has the dubious honor of being one of the major red light districts. The area also has several cultural offerings including the Taipei Fine Arts Museum , Lin An Tai House , the Grand Hotel , Xing Tian Temple and the Taipei Children's Recreation Center .
Song Shan (Sungshan) Home to Taipei's central business district and many company headquarters, this is one of the city's most international districts. Numerous foreign restaurants are on the streets and alleys off Dun Hua North Road and Min Sheng East Road. To the north, the Sungshan Domestic Airport provides a gateway to Taiwan's major cities and outlying islands. In addition, the Mandarina Crown Hotel , Hard Rock Cafe, the Taipei Municipal Stadium and the Asiaworld Shopping Center are also located on Dun Hua North Road.
Wan Hua The oldest district in Taipei, Wan Hua was once a thriving port. Located on the Dan Shui River , this area was built up by merchants from Mainland China. Religion played a major role in the lives of these Chinese settlers who constructed numerous temples in the area. Present day temples in the Wan Hua District include the Lungshan Temple (Taipei's oldest temple), Chingshui Zen Temple , and Ching Shan Temple. Other main attractions in this area are the popular Xi Men Ding shopping and movie district, Hua Xi Street (better known as Snake Alley ), and Taipei's Youth Park .
Zhong Zheng (Chungcheng) The political center of Taipei City, the Zhong Zheng District is home to numerous government offices, parks and museums. The 2-28 Memorial Peace Park , Taiwan Provincial Museum , Botanical Garden , and the Presidential Palace are all located in Zhong Zheng. Perhaps best known is the massive Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall which also houses the National Theater and National Concert Hall .
Da An (Ta An) Da An District, located in downtown Taipei, is a mix of residential and commercial buildings. Zhong Xiao East Road, Section 4 is the most popular shopping strip in Da An, with numerous boutiques and coffee shops as well as Sogo Department Store . The Da An District also has a thriving nightlife with many restaurants, bars and clubs.
Xin Yi (Hsinyi) Mainly a residential and commercial district, Xin Yi is home to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall , Taipei World Trade Center , Mitsukoshi and New York, New York department stores, and the new Warner Village movie complex. Over the last 100 years, Taipei City has been expanding eastwards towards the mountains and the Xin Yi District marks a new era of the city's development.
Nei Hu, Wen Shan, Nan Gang
These three districts are less populated than the city center and are great places to get away from the city. Nei Hou is popular with hikers and nature lovers. It is also possible to see some traditional culture by hiking up to Pi Shan Temple. Wen Shan is best known for the numerous tea houses dotting the hills in the Mu Cha area. However, the district also houses the Taipei City Zoo and the Chang Shan Temple. Primarily an industrial area, Nan Gang is home to Academia Sinica, the leading academic research institute in Taiwan.
Surrounding areas- Dan Shui, Keelung, Wu Lai North of Taipei is the old fishing village of Dan Shui . Once a main port, Dan Shui is where the Spanish landed when they arrived in Taiwan. Fort San Domingo is one of the few remaining relics from this period of Taiwanese history. Traveling east along the coastal highway will lead you to the seaport of Keelung. Well known for its food and numerous temples, many Taipei residents head to Keelung on the weekends for a change of scenery and a meal at its famous night market. Just south of Taipei is the mountain village of Wu Lai , home to a large indigenous population of Ataya.
Ask Taiwanese people living abroad what they miss most about home, and nine times out of ten the answer is: "The food!" Once you have eaten your way through Taipei, chances are that you might find your stomach arguing against going home.
Chinese food Taiwanese cuisine is known for its seafood dishes and flavorful, slightly heavier sauces. Sweet desserts and bubble tea are also ubiquitous and worth a try. Jingzhao Yin in Zhong Zheng and Wang's Tzungzu in Beitou offer traditional Taiwanese dishes, but the variety of regional Chinese food does not stop there. Ever had a hearty Chinese breakfast? Sung Chiang Hsien Ping Porridge in Tian Mu and Jiang Huang Beef Noodle in Da-An both go beyond dim sum to include northern favorites as well as southern comfort foods often served for breakfast. Many find them are suitable for any time of the day. Cantonese style traditional cuisine is found at Silks House in Zhongshan and the old-school Wanhua I Tion Lung Dumpling House . Taipei's native cuisine with a new twist is a much celebrated phenomenon, with top accolades going to the designer-created Fifi . The whimsically constructed Driftwood is part bar, part restaurant and lots of fun in Songshan, specializing in indigenous cuisine and art. For a complete novelty and a theme that actually works, try Jail , a restaurant in a former correctional facility, where patrons have the option of being handcuffed as they are lead to their tables! Buddhist-inspired Chinese vegetarian cuisine can be found throughout Taipei, including Songshan's Fahua Vegetarian Restaurant . Other regional cuisines from the Mainland include Peking duck, spicy Sichuanese and delicate Shanghainese, all easily attainable. Whatever your favorite style of Chinese, you are sure to find it. Between the top-end restaurants and the night market food stands, there are plenty of inexpensive to moderately priced eateries. If you would like to see and sample a selection of Taipei's best, stop in at Yuanhuan Snack Market around lunchtime. A restaurant's status depends on how crowded it is around 7p, and some places take it as a point of pride to never upgrade their dining rooms, the point being that all the restaurant's attention goes into making high quality food. However a growing number of restaurant owners have put effort into creating attractive dining rooms, usually with an homage towards traditional Chinese hospitality and guest comfort or in chic, ultra modern designs. Be prepared to pay a premium for each. Your best bet may be to not worry about the plastic flowers and faded vinyl floor, but to sit down and focus on the food.
International food It used to be that if you wanted to eat something other than Chinese, the best bet for Western or Japanese food would be in Tian Mu or one of the international hotels. In the past few years, though, restaurants offering food from all over the world have popped up. For great Western food and especially breakfast try Grandma Nitti's Kitchen in Da-An. Jake's Country Kitchen in Zhongshan serves all day Western breakfast and reliably great Mexican food. Do you like Indian? Taipei has several Indian restaurants, including Hindustan in Songshan. There is even a competitive selection of French restaurants, many opened by chefs who trained in that country. If you are in Zhong Zheng, step into Champs Elysees for an unforgettable treat. German and Swiss favorites are found at Chalet Swiss , also in Zhongshan. Patrons looking for Italian cuisine in Taipei are spoiled for choice. A night out at Diamond Tony's Italian Bistro in Tian Mu is something to dress up for. More informally, but prepared with equal enthusiasm, is the home made pasta served up by Cello Pasta 's husband and wife team in Da-An. 86 Cafe in Zhong Zheng has the look and feel of an American diner from the 1950s. Thai and Vietanmese cuisines have a strong following in Taipei, with great restaurants in a variety of budgets ready to fill patrons' cravings for fish curry and noodles. Royal City in Songshan serves both types of cuisine. Janny's Curry House in Zhong Zheng specializes in Burmese curry. With the traffic of Japanese business travelers and tourists, along with the colonial history Taiwan shares with Japan, there is also a wide variety of sushi and teppanyaki restaurants plus lots of tasty ramen stands worth looking into. In Songsan, Kikutsuru is wildly popular. Le Shan Niang Shi Pin Hang has a Chinese name but a Japanese heart in Zhongshan. Lin Sen North Road has several authentic restaurants that originally catered to Japanese travelers. If what you crave is fish and chips in an English pub setting, the long established Pig and Whistle is sure to please. For international cuisine plus an incredible view, stop in at Backyard for dinner over Taipei on a terrace in Shilin.
Department Store Food Courts Want a cheap (NTD150 or less), delicious meal in a lively location with plenty to walk around and see afterwards? Check out the basement food courts in department stores such as Mitsukoshi in Xinyi, Sogo Department Store on Zhong Xiao Road, Takashimaya in Shilin, and Asiaworld Shopping Center in Songshan, New York, New York in Xinyi. The common eating areas are clean and crowded around noon and 7p. Choose between Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Southeast Asian, or McDonald's fare. Ice cream, fruit juice, and crepe stands can also be found. With pictures of the food and prices clearly marked, ordering is quick and easy.
Night market food No trip to Taipei is complete without at least one visit to a night market. Many districts have their own, but the most popular include the Shihlin Night Market , Huashi Night Market , Tonghua and Shi Da . Come join young couples and families browsing and bargaining among clothing and knick knack stalls, then stop and try some of Taiwan's best-known snacks. Chou Do Fu (Smelly Tofu) is similar to blue cheese. Deep friend and covered in hot sauce, it is quite palatable. Many skeptical foreigners end up having a deep affection for it by the time they leave Taipei. You will also find delicious fried and steamed meat-filled buns, oyster-filled omelets, refreshing fruit ices, and a wide variety of things fried or roasted on a stick.
Cafes Taipei's cafes are always clean, attractive (or at least unusual), and typically offer a few simple meals or sandwiches as well as coffee, tea, soda, and juice. For those craving a cup of tea, many places offer a variety of hot and cold teas, including English tea with milk, Chinese and Japanese teas, and herbal and fruit-flavored teas. Mei's Tea Bar has a stellar selection of traditional teas, plus more unconventional ones as well. If you come for lunch, many cafes offer set meals with a drink. As set meals usually cost just a little more than a single drink, consider cafes for a light, inexpensive meal. Bagel Bagel is a home grown cafe chain with several community shops. Adamas Cafe in Da-An is fairly representative for cafe menu selection and service. In addition to the usual cafes, Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf have also become ubiquitous around Taipei.
Bars/Pubs Taipei has many bars and pubs. In addition to neighborhood bars, hotel bars are usually elegant and you'll be able to mix with both local and foreign business people. If you are looking for a piece of home, there are Australian, Japanese, British, Irish and American-style bars like My Other Place in Songshan. Finally, discos, especially those near National Taiwan University and Shi Da (National Taiwan Normal University), combine drink, dancing, and loud music that ranges from rock to alternative to techno. Apocalypse Now is an established stand by for an evening of dancing. A more mellow crowd and live musc can be found at the Blue Note Jazz Bar in Da-An.