Things to do around Taipei
Recently I realized that I’ve been living in Taipei for a full three years. I love living in the city but doing the same thing every day can get boring at times. When I first moved to Taiwan I planned to live a nomadic life, visiting nearby countries for a few years before packing up and moving on to my next home.
Now, it looks like I will be calling the city home for at least a couple more years (some more time to improve my Chinese). So what is there to do between vacations? Here is a list of things I do, and you can do, to spice up life in Taipei.
Head to the park
Taipei has many outdoor areas set aside for public use. There are many parks that are great for walking, playing basketball, etc.
My favorite is the riverside park that runs along each side of the Tamsui River. There is a wide bike path that is great for cycling or running. It’s better to go cycling at night when the weather cools down. I always ride my bike at night because exercising during Taipei’s humid afternoon is not something I particularly enjoy.
Grab your hiking boots
Hikers rejoice, Taiwan is as mountainous as they come. There are a number of hikes that are easily accessible from Taipei. The most popular, or most convenient, is Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain) which is located close to the MRT station with the same name. This hike is relatively easy, although there are many stairs, and rewards climbers with a postcard-view of the Taipei 101.
Another nearby hike is Yangming Mountain. To get here you will need to hop on a bus or have your own transportation. The mountain is popular, especially in the evening and weekends, and has some restaurants if your want to relax a bit.
Fly up a mountain
The entrance to the Maokong Gondola is located next to the Taipei Zoo, a great side trip if you plan to visit the zoo. The ride up the mountain is scenic and quite long. The first time I went to Maokong I was shocked as I had never taken a gondola ride that lasted more than a few minutes. When you reach the final peak you will be rewarded with a great mountain view. You can hike around for a bit or head straight to one of the mountaintop cafes or restaurants.
Check out Taipei’s temples
Temples in Taiwan are a special thing. They are a great chance to get up close and personal with traditional Chinese architecture. Much of Taipei is filled with generic office buildings which rise row-by-row from the crowded streets. A trip to one of Taiwan’s many temples will remind you that you are in Asia and give you a look into its ancient culture. Xintian temple may be the largest, but Lungshan temple is my favorite as I consider it the ‘most authentic’.
Take a dip in the hot springs
Beitou,near the northern tip of New Taipei, is home to some wonderful hot springs. They might be just what you need if you are feeling stressed out after a day of work (or sightseeing). There are some public hot springs that charge a pittance for admission. I prefer the private hot springs that can be found at any of the numerous hotels in the area. Really, hotels are all you will find around Beitou. Expect to pay $15-25 for two hours in a private hot spring room.
Gorge on night market snacks
If you are in Taipei the first thing you need to do is head to the night market. These gatherings of street venders typically start before dusk and last late into the night. Some of Taiwan’s most famous night markets are Shilin and Rauhe. Night markets are a crowded mess of people jostling for the best snack food in Taiwan, but that just adds to the fun. People watching is half the fun of going to the night market. If you have the chance, try to check out one of Taipei’s many smaller night markets. They are less busy / touristy and have lots of traditional food!
Take a day trip
If you’re running out of things to do around Taipei, you should try making the trip to one of Taiwan’s beaches. Taiwan’s north coast is very beautiful (provided it doesn’t rain!) and is accessible by either car or bus. My favorite destinations are Yilan and Hualian. Both cities are close enough to allow for a one-day visit, although a weekend trip might make for a better experience. Taiwan’s beaches are the best place to visit when the weather is nice.