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You’ll soon be caught up in the waves of people, traffic and dizzying action of Taipei, Taiwan’s capital. To help you navigate the city, Taipei is divided into twelve urban districts. Taxis and buses are in huge supply. Although many drivers do not speak English, plenty of people DO, and they are more than happy to point you in the right direction.
Learn about the region’s history and culture with these top ten things to do in Taipei:
Things To Do In Taipei
Tourists and locals alike flock daily to Taipei’s Night Markets. There are six major Night Markets in Taipei. The most popular Night Market for tourists is known as “Snake Alley,” where one can partake in snake soup or sip on snake bile. Although nothing hits the spot like snake bile, you’ll be relieved to learn these shopping districts typically offer more common items like clothing, household goods and a wide variety of food. Street vendors sell everything from dumplings to oyster omelettes to chou tofu (stinky tofu). Yes, you’ll know it when you smell it.
National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum features the world’s largest collection of Chinese art, including jade, bronze, enamel, porcelain, tapestry, paintings and calligraphy. The collection includes more than 700,000 artefacts, and some of the oldest pieces are over 5,000 years old. The museum’s controversial history began during the end of the Chinese Civil War when the collections were moved from Mainland China’s Imperial Palace to Taiwan. Tours are available in several languages.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Lush gardens and ponds surround this striking marble monument to the former president, Chiang Kai-Shek. Schedule your trip during the annual three-day Taipei Lantern Festival, which is held every year at the memorial. The festival features a dazzling display of intricate lanterns and traditional dragon and tiger dances. The National Theater and National Concert Hall are also located here, where visitors can attend concerts and open-air performances.
This grand shrine was built in 1969 to memorialize the 330,000 men who died during the Chinese-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War. Military police officers guard the main gate and hold a dramatic guard-changing ceremony every hour.
Lungshan Temple is one of the city’s oldest temples and is devoted to the Goddess of Mercy. The temple, whose name means “Dragon Mountain,” aptly features stone columns carved with ornate dragons. Often called the “meeting place of the gods,” this temple attracts people countrywide to worship more than 100 deities. The temple hosts many festivals throughout the year, so plan ahead.
Another of Taipei’s most famous temples, Pao-An Temple is devoted to the God of Medicine. Construction of the temple began in 1805 and was completed in 1830. For a meditative, tranquil afternoon, explore the fully restored expansive halls and bell and drum towers.
Yangmingshan National Park
To take a break from city noise and smog, travel to the northern end of Taipei where you’ll find Yangmingshan National Park. The main mountain range and park were formed by volcanic activity about two million years ago. Nature-lovers will find solace in winding paths that lead to lakes, terraced rice paddies, volcanic craters, hot springs, and butterfly and bird-watching trails.
Taipei Botanical Gardens
This century-old park is another popular spot for bird-watchers and nature enthusiasts. The sparkling lotus ponds are the gardens’ claim to fame. Visit in summer to view the lotus in full bloom, and stop by the National Museum of History, which is located within the gardens.
Taipei City Zoo
Check out the Formosan Animal Area and Asian Tropical Rainforests Area to see the Formosan Macaque, Chinese pangolin, and flying fox. Open year-round.
A visit to Taipei is not complete without relaxing and sipping tea or iced coffee in its teahouses. Wisteria Teahouse, designated as a historical site, is one of Taipei’s most famous teahouses. Take a seat on a tatami mat and relax to beautiful views of wisteria in the garden. Upon entering many teahouses, proprietors call, “Huanying! Guangling!” (Welcome!)
A note regarding the addresses: There are several ways to Romanize Chinese words. Be forewarned that street signs, printed materials and Web sites may use alternative methods of Romanization. “Zh” may be written as “Ch”. Or “ong” may be written as “ung” and the list continues. Relax, it’s all part of the travelling adventure!