Edited by Holly Stark
My favorite thing about living in Taipei is getting to know its little known spots, the ones often overlooked by travel guides. In this sense, Taipei is an endless source of little hidden gems lost in its alleyways and the folds of its mountains, sidestreets and hidden corners, waiting to be discovered. Visiting Taiwan and seeking hidden gems in Taipei? Be prepared to go off the beaten path Taipei style and peel back the layers of a very interesting place that people don’t often give so much thought to. An old tobacco factory now converted into a leisure attraction, a fish market with an abundance of great restaurants inside, a leafy green hiking trail with great views - these are just some of the things you can find. Looking for a Taipei alternative guide to kickstart your trip? You’ve just found it - here are the best unique things to do in Taipei.
Watch The Sunset At Pier 5
The once peaceful area next to Dadaocheng Wharf has been renovated into an expanding capsule and vibrant market full of food stalls, music, and bars. Many of these have rooftop terraces from which you can enjoy beautiful views of the glistening Tamsui River. Inspired by similar venues in Hong Kong and Thailand, Pier 5 aims to be the first wharf in Taipei offering both food and drinks, and the possibility of a local market for crafts and goods soon. Simply buy a drink or some pizza, noodles or shrimp cake, and don’t be afraid to ask if you can head up to one of the five stalls with a rooftop terrace and enjoy the views over the river. A great way to enjoy Taipei nightlife, Pier 5 is a top-secret spot where you can have some Taiwanese food and drinks; and it’s still largely unknown to many visitors to the city. Dadaocheng Wharf is located at the end of Minsheng West Road. If you happen to be traveling via Taipei Metro Red Line, hop-off at Shauanglian station (R12). From there it is a 1,5km walk or ride.
For panoramic views of Taipei, check out the Jiantan Mountain Trail. The well known and loved Elephant Mountain has great views of Taipei too, but the lesser-known, secret trail of Jiantan has beautiful views that rival it. Located almost directly across from exit 2 of Jiantan MRT Station, just cross the Zhongshan N Rd and you’ll find a beautiful gate welcoming you to the start of the trail. Follow the many stairs and paths that branch off in a few places, and check out the map right at the beginning of the trail next to the gate to see where the viewpoints are located and ensure you don’t get lost. There are a lot of stairs, so it’s not for everyone. But if you stick with the hike, you will reach the first scenic point pretty quickly, in around 15 minutes, and the view is so worth the climb. If you continue, you can make it all the way to Neihu. The main route runs to Neihu and takes about two hours to finish. Seeking hidden places in Taipei? Don’t miss the hidden gem first viewing point of the Jiantan Mountain Trail.
Taipei Fish Market
When the Taiwanese authorities wanted to increase interest in the Taipei Fish Market, they commissioned the building of a complex within the market that is a seafood paradise. Both a fish market, live aquarium and place to enjoy a meal, the Taipei Fish Market in the Zhongshan District is one of my favorite fun things to do in Taipei. The complex can satisfy all seafood lovers; selling live, raw, and processed seafood to both wholesale, retail and individual local clients. With a seafood-focused supermarket and deli, stand up sushi bars and seafood counters where you can enjoy the fruits of the sea with a glass of wine, as well as hidden Taiwanese restaurants serving amazing seafood, this spot has it all. The market is open seven days a week, from 6 am to 8 pm, except on Mondays, when it closes at 6 pm. Looking for unique things to do in Taipei and quirky places to eat? Head to the Taipei Fish Market for a real treat.
Songshan Cultural And Creative Park
Inviting visitors to explore Taiwan's history and culture during the Japanese occupation, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park is one of Taipei's largest creative arts spaces. Located on Guangfu South Road in the Xinyi District, on the grounds of a former tobacco factory established by the Japanese, the Taipei City government completed renovations in 2011, transforming the space into a big public park with exhibition halls, art shows, and conference spaces. With a large book shop, creative works shopping mall, a record store, and a large number of shops to get involved in creative art workshops, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park is one of the best-hidden places in Taipei. It is open seven days a week from 9 am to 6 pm. Beyond the buildings is a large ecology area where you can learn about wildlife and local species native to northern Taiwan. Wander through the beautiful Baroque Garden and take a breath away from the busy city.
Taipei Expo Park
Over on Yumen Street in the Zhongshan District is the Taipei Expo Park. The focus of the park, which is open 24 hours a day, is to recycle while enjoying the outdoors and this initiative is why it’s one of the unique things to do in Taipei. Just a stone's throw from some of the most popular tourist locations such as the Grand Hotel and Shilin Night Market, the Expo Park is a must, especially if you have kids. This hidden spot is nestled among so many other popular spots that the entrance seems deceivingly like a basic park. Many people walk right past it, without even realizing that one of the best things to do in Taipei is on their doorstep. With regular events held here and different themes; Taipei Expo Park is a great open area to explore in Taipei, to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and take a breath of fresh air. Expo Park is one of the most beautiful secret things to do in Taipei, so be sure to check it out.
If absurd dining experiences are your thing, check out the hidden snake restaurant at the Huaxi Night Market. It's Located right inside Guangzhou Street Night Market, in western Taipei. This is one of the most bizarre restaurants you’ve ever heard of. It’s a difficult find since it is located down a side alley; also known as the snake alleyway. At No. 28, Huaxi Street, Wanhua District, ordering snake is considered quite normal. Try the snake salad, and don’t miss the snake venom shots which are considered to provide many health benefits in Chinese culture. To try a snake shot, first, drink half of the snake blood (a snake wine) then mix in each shot with the snake blood wine and continue to drink half each time. The shots include snake venom, snake penis wine, snake bile, ginseng, a Chinese medicine and end your last shot with taking the snake oil capsules too. Briefly, you may feel very dizzy or a rush of energy like you’ve had two espressos!
VVG Something is a tiny bookshop and a hidden gem in Taipei in a quiet alley near the bustling Zhongxiao Dunhua shopping area (the exact address is Alley 40, Lane 181, Section 4, Zhongxiao East Road). Instead of the usual bookshop selling the latest bestsellers, VVG Something is home to a carefully selected array of arts, crafts, fashion and cooking books, among others, with just one or two copies of each book! Also selling a selection of traditional toys, notebooks, drawing tools, and kitsch items, the bookshop is considered by both locals and visitors (the ones who know about it) as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. If you want to temporarily traverse and escape the busy streets of Taipei and enjoy a beautiful, peaceful, paper heaven, head to VVG Something, which is open Tuesday to Sunday from 12 pm to 9 pm, for a truly unique experience.
Beer Geek Comedy Club
If you’re looking for secret things to do in Taipei and hoping to meet a community of fun-loving ex-pats and locals in doing so, then Beer Geek micropub on Yongji Road in Xinyi is a great place to check out. Hosting Comedy Open Mic Nights twice a month (typically the first and third weekends), the comedy in English, by either foreign or Taiwanese stand-up comedians, is a great laugh and a fun way to enjoy Taiwan nightlife. Beer Geek provides a great opportunity to relax and sip on a tasty Stout. The place always runs specials and you can get good priced food plates here as well. They also host open mic nights every Wednesday, if you are feeling brave. Beer Geek events are among the more underrated things to do in Taipei. Taipei comes alive at night and it is worth exploring the vibrant nightlife scene and food culture of the city.
Fortune Teller Alley
While seeking out some of the more unusual things to do in Taipei, make sure you stop and have your fortune told by a local. If you’re open-minded and like something different, Fortune Teller Alley below Longshan Temple is a great charming hidden spot to explore where you can do just that. Fortune tellers set up shop in the bazaar area surrounding the temple, so you have your pick. There are three main methods to have our fortune told: the batsu method, the bird method, and the palm reading method. Batsu makes use of your date and time of birth, whilst the bird method has a bird trained to choose three cards from a box; all of which references a famous Taiwanese folk tale. Finally, the palm reading method relies not only on your hand but also on the lines and marks of your face to tell your fortune. There are tellers skilled in English, and prices range from 300 to 3000 NT, depending on what you choose.
Mini Sushi Bars
Taipei’s blog-driven food crazes mean that the most weird and wonderful restaurants and cafes are popping up all the time. Currently, tiny sushi bars are all the rage, and for the price of two cocktails in London, you can have one of the best 12 course omakase meals. Omakase is a form of Japanese dining in which guests leave themselves in the hands of a chef and receive a meal that is seasonal, elegant, artistic and uses the finest ingredients available. Sit at the tiny bars at Nomura, Niu, Yun, Jian1, Jubei or Man Zhe Die, and hear the stories of the chefs who have sliced seafood around the world. Lunch hours are great for a bargain, and be sure to book a table early as these places are tiny! Alternatively, pop into Dongmen Market in Zhongzheng District. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 7 am to 2 pm, you will find great sushi here too.
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