- The national capital of the Republic of China (Taiwan), with a population of ~2.6 million.
- The financial, cultural and administrative centre of the island.
- First settled in 1709, Taipei was taken over by Japan following the defeat of the Qing Empire in the Sino-Japanese war of 1895. It was taken back by the Republic of China in 1945, after the Japanese surrender in World War II. Officially made capital of the ROC in 1949.
- The second richest city per capita in Asia.
- Nickname: City of Azaleas, City of Smiles
- Currency: New Taiwan Dollar (TWD).
- Spoken languages: Mandarin and Taiwanese Hokkien.
- Best time to visit: from September to January (typically dry and temperate, and most suitable for exploring the city and its surroundings).
- Arriving via aiport: Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) links to the city centre by THSR or Taiwan High-Speed Railway and by Express Bus. Taxis cost NT$1000-$1200.
WHERE TO STAY
Xinyi is the business and entertainment district of Taipei, with a trend-setting and cosmopolitan vibe. The neighbourhood is also a prime location for dining and sleeping options. Zhongzhen provides easy access to transportation and cultural attractions, and is home to the national government buildings and botanical gardens. Datong is also highly recommended – the district was one of the first settlements of the city, and contains interesting markets and temples.
- EasyCard is a smartcard used for payment on the Taipei MRT (Metro), buses and other forms of transportation as well as for transactions in convenience stores and supermarkets. Fares are deducted based on distance. Using the card gives you 20% discount on regular tickets.
- Taipei MRT runs 7 lines across major points in the city. Travel is fast and efficient thanks to punctual service. Fares are based on distance, and a day pass for unlimited travel costs NT$150.
- Public buses serve a wide network of routes and bear their destination on the front. Fares start at NT$15 for rides within the city centre.
- Taxis are yellow and run on meter. Try to have the name of your destination written in Mandarin before boarding. Starting fare is NT$70 for the first 1.25 km, with NT$5 for each successive 250 metres. There is an additional NT$5 charge for every 100 seconds at less than 5km/h, and a supplement of NT$20 for night-time travel. Call 405-88888.
- Drinking age is 18, and last call is at 5 AM.
- Shida Road and in particular National Taiwan University has the most relaxed stretch of bars and cafes. Very popular with the student crowd.
- Xinyi offers upscale nightclubs with modern décor, extensive drink lists and DJ sets.
- Anho Road is home to Taipei’s most beloved pubs, active any night of the week.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- National Palace Museum houses an extraordinary collection of Chinese artifacts.
- Taipei 101 claimed the title of world’s tallest building until 2010, and continues to be an icon of Taiwan’s economic rise.
- Mengjia Longshan Temple was built by Fujian Chinese settlers, who used it as a place of worship and gathering.
- National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine honours the war victims. The traditional ceremonial change of guard (done every hour) is a spectacle of precision.
- Xingtian Temple is dedicated to General Guan (Three Kingdoms era). The temple is still active, and popular for worship and rituals.
- Ximending is hailed as the Shinjuku of Taiwan and for good reason: the district is the source of the city’s sub-culture.
- Tamshui offers beautiful views of the sunset over the Taiwan Strait.
- Da’an has become popular for its shopping options, which include the Tonghua and Shida night markets.
- Nangang District Hiking Trail is a moderate 20 minute walk to the top of Xiangshan Mountain. Stunning views can be enjoyed from the dozens of benches for public use.
- Taipei has 20 streets dedicated to food. Typical dishes include braised pork rice, beef noodles, and oyster omelette.
- Don’t forget to try some Bubble (Boba) tea, a tea-based drink invented in Taiwan.
- When offered something, Taiwanese always politely refuse a few times before eventually accepting. The custom builds rapport between people, and is widely observed.
- Where to find good cheap eats: Yongkang Street is best known for its dumplings and quaint tea houses, while Danshui has cheap seafood stalls.
- Dangerous areas: none. Taipei is a very safe city. The worst trouble you will encounter will likely be traffic congestion.
RECOMMENDED TAIPEI GUIDE BOOKS
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days