The capital of Taiwan and home to almost 3 million people, Taipei is one of Asia’s most vistied city destinations. With the iconic Taipei 101 – once the tallest building in the world – dominating the skyline, and other sights such as the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall bringing in visitors and tourist from all over the world, Taipei is a great destination for all kinds of travellers. With an abundance of food and shopping, plus dozens of fascinating historical sights, Taipei is a vibrant capital with a well defined culture and image.
At first sight, Taipei can appear to be an overwhelmingly huge city, but with an excellent MRT and bus system to navigate, there are no excuses for not exploring Taipei and its less travelled to neighbourhoods. From the adjacent port town of Danshui in the north of the city, to the mountainous tea growing region of Maokong in the very south, the different districts of the city all offer something unique from one another. Here’s a useful guide and introduction to some of Taipei’s most interesting neighbourhoods.
Home to Taipei 101 which was until 2009 the tallest building on the planet, Xinyi is a relatively newer part of the ever expanding Taipei City, and was once made up of just farmland and fields. Only when the plans for Taipei 101 were drawn up did developers move in and turn this part of eastern Taipei into a maze of shopping malls and glittering office buildings.
Nowadays the district is host to some of Taipei’s most expensive shopping malls, restaurants and bars. There are a number of nightclubs scattered around the district too, confirming this area’s reputation as the party centre of town where locals and tourists alike go to wind down after a long day. Also located in Xinyi is the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, a gloriously designed auditorium dedicated to the life of the first President of the Republic of China. Situated in the peaceful surroundings of Zhongshan Park the iconic yellow-roofed memorial stands in the shadow of Taipei 101, whilst Songshan Culture & Creative Park is only a short walk north of the memorial hall’s grounds.
What to do:
Sights – Taipei 101 Observation Tower, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Songshan Culture & Creative Park
Shopping – Att 4 Fun shopping district, Breeze Centre
Home to some of Taipei’s most historic landmarks, Zhongzheng is where you will find a number of national government buildings as well as museums and parks. Perhaps the standout sight of interest is the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, finished in 1980 to commemorate the life the Taiwan’s former dictator President. The memorial hall is actually located on the grounds of the Freedom Square, re-named in 2007 to reflect Taiwan’s democratic values and democratic development.
The ideal district for history buffs to explore, Zhongzheng is home to most of the national government buildings too, including the Japanese-era built Presidential Palace, and the National Taiwan Museum. Adjacent to the National Taiwan Museum is the 228 Memorial Park, a sombre national reminder of atrocities committed by Chian Kai-sheks troops on arrival in Taiwan from China in the 1940’s. The park has an excellent museum with English explanations for those wanting to learn more about Taiwan’s recent history.
What to do:
Sights – 228 Peace Memorial Park, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Huashan 1914 Creative Park, Liberty Square
Meaning “great peace” in Chinese, Da’an lies right in the middle of downtown Taipei and is home to a number of trendy neighbourhoods, parks and boutique shopping areas. Food and shopping are the two main things here, and Zhongxiao Dunhua and the surrounding narrow lanes are a great place to discover more about the latest trends in the capital. Just around the corner, the iconic 24 hour Eslite bookstore is another great place to delve deep into that latest novel you’ve got your eye on, or enjoy a quiet coffee.
Making up an area almost 12km squared, Da’an is where Taiwan’s top university (National Taiwan University) is located. With its glorious campus lying to the south of Da’an, the university – built during the Japanese colonial era – is a great place to take a walk and check out some of Taipei’s better preserved older buildings. The surrounding area of Gongguan is a real hit with the students here and that is reflected with an array of fantastic cafes, bars and restaurants, all suitable on a student budget. If none of that is to your taste, Da’an Park is a great place to go in the morning to see locals practising tai chi.
What to do:
Sights – National Taiwan University
Shopping – Zhongxiao Duhua, Eslite
Eating – Gongguan (area surrounding main gate of National Taiwan University)
Lying towards the south of the city, Wenshan is more residential in feel than other parts of the city, and its proximity to the surrounding countryside makes it a place ideal for outdoor activities. The district is made up of a number of smaller areas such as Jingmei and Muzha; both places to go if you want to experience local life. With an MRT stop on the green line meaning easy access to other parts of the city, Jingmei is a great alternative option to Shilin if you want to sample some of Taiwan’s famed night market culture. After you’ve finished your tasty night market snacks, you can head up to the peak of Jingmei Mountain and take in the unrestricted night views of Taipei and the surrounding area.
For a more active, outdoors experience, nearby Muzha has some excellent hiking trails. From the back of the campus of National Chengchi University, there are a number of challenging, but fun trails leading to the famous Zhinan Temple, and some lead all the way to Maokong. When up in Maokong sample some locally grown bao zhong tea (包種茶) and discover the local area which is home to waterfalls and more hidden and secluded temples. The Maokong gondola is another great way to take in the views of Taipei and on a clear day you can even make out the Taiwan strait.
What to do:
Activities – Hiking, Temples
Eating – Jingmei night market