5 Fun New Things to do in Taipei
Taiwan is my home away from home, with Taipei acting as our base of operations every time my wife, bub and I head back to visit family and friends. The internet is awash with lists of the top tourist spots from around the globe, and below is certainly not a definitive ‘Top 5’ for Taipei, but it will give you a couple of extra low key options to add to 101 and the night markets, so enjoy.
‘Huashan 1914 serves as Taipei's primary creative arts centre and a hosting ground for Taiwan's most significant cultural activities. Examples include the Simple Life music festival and the BiBo student design expo. Today Huashan 1914 is not only the heart of Taiwan's creative pulse but also a bridge to a unique architectural past.’
So, that’s an elegant way of saying that Huashan 1914 Creative Park is well worth a visit. There’s a great little cinema which screens a wide array of independent films both local and international. A dozen or so small cafes and restaurants pepper the park; I’d recommend Fab Cafe in particular, but the bar for quality grub’s set pretty high in general so you can’t go wrong. The park itself is a revolving door of eclectic exhibitions from around the world which cater to both kids and adults. Speaking of kids, the layout of the park itself offers an excellent chance for the little ones to burn off energy and take in the genuinely unique architecture.
I really dig Huashan 1914; it’s got a great youthful vibe where creativity and discovery seem the major themes of the area, one which is not just an enjoyable, safe space to take the kids but also genuinely enriching…do yourself a favour—go here!
‘Feel spirited away in this decommissioned gold mining mountain town, originally built by the Japanese and now a maze of lanes and alleyways with rich history and culture. A convenient way to visit Jiufen (as well as Shifen in Pingxi 平溪) is to take a shuttle bus from Ximen, leaving in the morning and returning before dinner.’
Jiufen holds a very special place in my mind and heart for two reasons. One, I’m a huge Studio Ghibli fan, so the opportunity to actually visit the real-life inspiration for the mythic bathhouse from Spirited Away was mind-blowing. Two, it was while standing atop one of Jiufen’s many splendid peaks, watching wild birds of prey soar around us, that I asked the love of my life to return to Australia and live with me. We now have a three-year-old son who owes a lot to that magical little mountain town.
As for the nitty-gritty of why to go: the food, markets, people, atmosphere, view, exercise, and accommodation will all impress, along with affordability and proximity to Taipei. My only word to the wise, the bus trip up involves a fair few winding roads, so if you’re a motion sickness sufferer, I’d say eat a light breakfast and load up a soothing playlist.
‘Easy to access via the Taipei MRT, Beitou is littered with hotels and spas that have hot spring baths. The city also maintains a public, outdoor, co-ed (clothed) hot spring facility that is well worth a visit if you want a good soak and a chance to participate in a very local activity.’
So this one can go a couple of ways. It can be a great little romantic getaway where you book into one of the many affordable hotels for a private spa in a traditional Japanese-style suite. Otherwise, it’s a good day out with the whole family where you can access the public spas, explore the natural baths and wander the small, quiet streets which wind through and around the streams.
We’ll get to my love of books in a bit, but be aware there's also a beautiful library here that’s worth a visit for its design, location and just as a peaceful place to rest before tackling the next incline.
The custom MRT carriages which take you the final leg of the way have been specially designed to reflect the areas love of all things hot spring too, which adults and kids will both get a kick out of. Finally, for food, there’s plenty of options, but I’d recommend giving the little Ramen joints a try, as they’re tasty, affordable and authentic.
‘Open 24 hours a day and offering a complete range of newly-published books, Eslite Bookstore Dunnan Branch is a unique part of Taipei's cultural landscape and attracts throngs of tourists. It has also been the subject of in-depth reports by the domestic and foreign media, including Britain's BBC, France's Fifth Channel, and Japan's Fuji TV. Perhaps as a result of this media coverage, vast numbers of Taipei tourists make a pilgrimage to the Eslite Bookstore Dunnan Branch.’
A great way to spend a chilled night out where you can browse, grab a bite and just space out and slow down. The store itself is a beautiful soft-lit shrine filled with books, graphic novels, magazines, music, souvenirs and everything in between. I was surprised to discover not only did the cafe do a great feed and quality coffee but also a decent beer menu (side note, if you like Belgian beers they’re readily available in many Taipei bars and cafes at surprisingly low prices.) I’m sure the city has a wide array of fun, loud, energetic night spots, but that’s not my scene. So, if you’re looking for a quiet night out or just a surreal oasis between clubs, give this (or any) Eslite outlet a go.
‘QUIET AND INCREDIBLE PLACE LOCATED IN THE MIDDLE OF SHIHLIN NIGHT MARKET... the food is very good, and the outside terrace is so beautiful! I really enjoy this place and recommend it to everyone if you like Thai food in a beautiful environment.’
Every list of Taipei attractions will include their famous and justifiably beloved night markets. However, in an attempt to offer a more specific suggestion, you’d be well steered to take a chance on this secret garden amidst the hustle and bustle of Shilin night market.
The food is spicy but delicious, and the setting is beautiful (I’ll let the pictures do the heavy lifting), with the unassuming facade leading into a truly unique dining experience. I’ve been there both pre- and post-fatherhood to discover it’s a great romantic hideaway or family hang out. Like I said though, the food packs a punch, so maybe prep the kids with a Thai milk tea.
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