By Megan Huang, a Taiwanese food editor who says this would be the ultimate 2 day exploration of Taipei she would recommend to a friend.
Edited by Kyra TarrTaipei City is an assault on the senses with its vivid colours, opulent temples, bustling night markets and crowded streets. In this sensory wonderland, it isn’t difficult to stumble upon adventure, but it helps to have a gentle helping hand, pointing out what’s worth it and (let’s face it) what’s not. By following this Taipei 2 days itinerary, you’ll be exposed to a broad range of sights, sounds and districts - from the touristy and bizarre, to the remote and outdoorsy. Food is a huge pivotal point of exploring any new city, so really dive in, chopsticks first! Below you’ll find fantastic restaurant recommendations and tips on how to make your time in Taiwan just that much more memorable. Enjoy the beginnings of your adventure in Taipei!
Start your two day itinerary off with a bang at Longshan Temple, one of the most famous shrines in all of Taiwan. To get there, simply take the Blue Line directly to the temple, which is in the Wanhua District, and exit north of the station plaza, through doorway number one. You’ll be greeted with a busy bazaar that surrounds the iridescent building, where fortune tellers and vendors set up stalls each day. Longshan was built in 1738 and is dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of mercy. You’ll marvel at the opulent structure, with its sloping roofs decorated with paintings of dragons and phoenixes as well as the impressive bronze pillars that support it. Sometimes, there will be group prayers happening whilst you walk around, and it feels as if the chants are reverberating off of the walls - a profound experience. Ensure that you behave respectfully and of course, enjoy. This sacred space is for everybody, regardless of the spiritual path you have chosen. When you’re done, you might like to visit Bopiliao Old Street. Ask any local for directions - its a close walk. In this area, visitors can learn about the heritage and culture of Taipei City. It’s also full of art crafts and creative wall painting that you can pick up as authentic and quirky souvenirs.
Since you’re already in Wanhua, why not check out Ximending? It’s popular with tourists, but not as popular as it is with us locals - we love it here. Ximending is the first pedestrian zone in Taipei, and many newcomers often say, “It feels as if I’ve stepped into Japan.” This probably has a lot to do with the vibrant neon lights, multitudes of stores, cosplay cafes and trendy eateries. Ximan is affectionately known as the youth hub of Taipei and you’ll soon see why! There are a million weird and wonderful things to check out here - from getting a piercing (or ink) in Tattoo Street, to drinking a rainbow-coloured iced tea at Dream Color, taking in some amazing street art in Graffiti Lane or shopping for authentic military surplus clothing. Walk around and take it all in, sometimes it’s easier to find all these spots with a local by your side, but you don’t need a sense of direction to stumble upon some incredible places. I go here often, and there always seems to be something new to discover. You could spend days in this neighbourhood, let alone hours. Soon you’ll be wondering, are 2 days in Taipei enough?
After your busy morning tackling the urban jungle, why not take a breather and head for Elephant Mountain? The perfect addition to your 48 hours in Taipei. This is close to Ximending and all you need to do is call an Uber - they’ll get you there. Taxis are also available, but I find travellers are often more comfortable with Uber, and it's a popular way to get around, even for locals. The trails up the mountain are moderate. You don’t need to be super fit to enjoy this one, trust me, I do it all the time - 30 minutes tops! The reason I recommend this over any other view-seeking experience is because anything worth seeing deserves a little extra work, don’t you agree? The cityscape from the top of the mountain is just stunning. Of course, Taipei 101 is close by too (at over 100 stories, the view is quite spectacular), but stretching your legs and breathing in the fresh air is what this little adventure is all about. These leafy stairways are just what you’ll need after a busy day of shopping, and if you stick around, the sunset is sure to be great, too!
2 days in Taipei aren’t complete without enjoying some street food at Tonghua Night Market. This is one of my favourite night markets because somehow, it feels less frantic than the others and it serves up some good, authentic local food. It’s the perfect spot if you’d just like to take it easy and fill up your belly after an active day out. Located in Linjiang Street in the Da’an District, the market is only one MRT stop away from Taipei 101, and I’ve had many describe it as “street food heaven”. Prepare to get blasted with sights, sounds and smells from all angles - it’s part of the experience! Try some of my favourite snacks, which include deep fried taro balls, oyster omelettes, stinky tofu (if you’re feeling brave) and Chinese herbal soup (you won’t be sick for months, but don’t quote me on that!)
Ah, what a full and exciting day, right? But, if you’re keen on things to do in Taipei at night, you won’t be disappointed. Now it’s time to unwind. In the Da’an area you’ll find many speakeasy bars which are interesting and fun to visit. Some of them have also won a spot on Asia's 50 Best Bars list, like Alchemy Bar, Ounce and R&D Cocktail Lab. Ask anyone for directions. It’s just a short walk away and in this cosmopolitan area, you’re bound to find one person or another who speaks English. If you’re looking to take your night a little further and have a little razzle, there are some hidden clubs here to sneak in a drink or five. Let the night sweep you up in a dazzling display of neon strobe lights and delicious cocktails. Or alternatively, head back to your hotel and rest up because tomorrow is a new day and there’s a lot more on your Taipei 2 days itinerary.
Depending on how wild you went the night before, Dajia Riverside Park is the ideal spot to ease into the second day of your Taipei 2 days itinerary. Located between Zhongshan Bridge and Dazhi Bridge in Zhongshan District, it is easily reached by bus, but if you’ve hired a car, there is plenty of parking here, too! The expansive park is ideal for cycling (hire a bike here and take to the trails - easy breezy peddling guaranteed) or play a round of croquet. Although within the city’s parameter, you’ll feel like you’re on one of those day trips from Taipei, purely because of the expansive grounds and green scenery. Jetski, swim, row, picnic - the world is your oyster! There’s also a lovely fountain which I find just utterly hypnotic. Some of its jet streams spray water up to 75 meters into the air!
Feast on excellent (and affordable) seafood at Addiction Aquatic Development, one of my favourite seafood markets! If you’re a sushi-lover, this place is for you, and only a quick bus ride away from your previous destination. Spend an hour or so perusing the many stalls, marvelling at the market’s sheer scale and dedication to fresh, quality produce. From standing stalls selling oysters, donburi and sashimi, to frozen sections where you can buy your own ingredients (or ask for them to be cooked for you), this is a food-lover’s paradise!
2 days in Taipei deserves a trip to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, and the best way to get here is via the MRT. Your stop will be Yuanshan Station, where you’ll take Exit 1 and follow the pedestrian trail through Art Park to the museum. Once you see the building itself, you’ll be struck by its unusual boxy shape and quirky design. The compartments were made to fit and refit into one another depending on what works the museum needs to house. Enjoy the interior’s innovative displays that have been wowing people from all over the world for over 30 years. I’m most certainly one of them. I remember one instance where Ai Weiwei, the famous Chinese artist, displayed his piece, ‘Forever Bicycles’ here, which consisted of one thousand bicycles all joined together. You’ll see equally spectacular stuff during your time here, and never have to ask what to do in Taipei in 2 days ever again!
I love Indian food, don’t you? Sometimes it’s great to add some variety to your diet and Saffron Fine Indian Cuisine is just the place. Call up your Uber and punch in 38 Tianmu East Road, Shilin District. My ideal meal would look something like this: start off with delicious, fragrant samosas, followed by tandoori chicken (butter or tikka - I can never decide). Sample the bay prawns with curry leaves and coconut, get your greens in with vegetable medley rice and naturally, every Indian meal must be accompanied by a warm, comforting garlic naan bread.
Hop on the MRT and get off at Xinbeitou Station. From here it’s only a short walk to Beitou Thermal Hot Springs. Many of the pools are open all night, and the facilities are impeccably well-kept. I know it may seem an odd thing to do at night, but it’s actually pretty popular. Some of my deepest conversations have happened in these springs (it helps with digestion, too!) Relax in these tranquil waters, soaking up the mountainous landscape and feeling the hectic travel stress slip away. If you have a bit of extra time and are wondering what to do in Taipei for 3 days, you could easily spend a good full day at this resort.
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