For many people traveling around Southeast Asia, layovers land them in Taipei, and thanks to Taiwan’s friendly immigration policies for travelers, more and more people are taking this opportunity to check out The Heart of Asia. It’s not surprising - there are many secret things to do in Taipei and you’ll find helpful locals, simple public transport and cheap eats in this capital city. Once you’re in this beautiful city, it can be tricky figuring out all the unique things to do in Taipei. You’ll want to check out the obvious attractions but if you only stick to those, you’ll be missing out on all the underrated things to do in Taipei! So I have compiled a list of the 5 hidden gems in Taipei to give you the ultimate local experience.
Taipei Expo Park
To kickstart your trip, head to the Taipei Expo Park. The focus of this park is recycling while enjoying the outdoors. Close to some of the most popular tourist locations such as Shilin Night Market, the Expo Park is a must, especially if you're traveling with the whole family. In all my time in Taiwan, I’ve never met any tourists who have stumbled across this lesser-known spot. It’s nestled among so many other popular spots and the entrance can look deceivingly like a simple park. Many people walk right passed it without even realizing this underrated gem is there. There are regular events held here with different themes. Last time I visited, there was a technology expo in session. I’ve heard countless ex-pats complain about the lack of open areas in Taipei, so to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, the Expo Park is one of the most beautiful secret things to do in Taipei.
Flower and Jade Market
The flower and jade markets are technically two separate markets, but because they’re located in the same place they are often grouped. These two, weekend markets connect to create one of the coolest sights in the city and are possibly the most underrated things to do in Taipei. The flower market seems to sell everything and anything that grows; from full tables of succulents to fresh herbs that you can grow at home, and so much more. The Jade Market is equally entrancing, with an incredible variety of pieces. This is the perfect place to grab souvenirs for loved ones back home, not only for the beauty of the mineral but also for its importance in Taiwanese culture. In Taiwan, jade is believed to eliminate bad spirits and bring luck and fortune to its owner or wearer. Taiwan played a large role in the early jade market, and it still holds its importance as a national symbol here today. Open from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, they are easily accessible by MRT, just get off at the Daan Park Station and take exit six.
Photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org
YouBike is one of the other hidden gems in Taipei. Easy and convenient, YouBikes are bright orange and can be found on docking stations around the city, and almost always by MRT stops. The fee is very low, costing only 5 NTD (USD 0.15) for the first half-hour, and then 10 NTD (USD 0.30) each half-hour period after that for the next three hours. If you want to truly experience some of the more unique things to do in Taipei, then by bike is a great idea. Taiwan has created a massive bike lane system, allowing you to safely traverse the busy streets and enjoy beautiful, scenic rides off the beaten path. If you find yourself in need of air or tools, the stations carry all of that as well, available to you for free.
Photo credit: facebook.com/beergeektaipei
If you’re looking for secret things to do in Taipei and hoping to meet a community of fun-loving ex-pats and locals, then Beer Geek is a great place to check out. They host Comedy Open Mic Nights twice a month, typically the first and third weekends, although take a look at the event page on their Facebook page to make sure. The comedy is almost always done in English, by either foreign or Taiwanese stand-up comedians. It’s a great opportunity to relax and have a drink! They’re always running specials, and you can get good priced food plates here as well. Beer Geek events are among the more underrated things to do in Taipei and are a great place to meet locals while having some fun. Taipei comes alive at night and it is worth exploring its vibrant nightlife and food culture.
Photo credit: solangehando.blogspot.com
Fortune Teller Alley
While seeking out some of the more unusual things to do in Taipei, make sure you stop to have your fortune told. The Fortune Teller Alley below Longshan Temple is a charming hidden tourist spot in Taipei where you can do just that. 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. The bird method has a bird trained to choose three cards from a box, all of which reference 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.
One of the most convincing examples of the skill of Taiwan’s fortune tellers is Taipei 101 itself. The eighth tallest building in the world, and certainly one of the most visually appealing for its height, 101 is one of the hidden gems in Taipei. When it was under construction, pains were taken to ensure that every piece of it was built in such a way that would ensure good fortune, the numbering, its shape, the fountain, the coins that decorate it. Taiwan undergoes many earthquakes and strong typhoons, and this magnificent piece of architecture actually stands right on a fault line, and yet it has remained perfectly intact since its construction.
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