Day 1: The Must-Sees
While the world doesn’t know enough about Taipei, there are a few parts of it just about everybody knows. Taipei 101 has become Taipei’s most iconic landmark in short order. The postmodern architecture of the LEED-platinum-certified skyscraper combines traditional Chinese elements with contemporary design and engineering. Upon its completion in 2004, it was the tallest building in the world until the construction of Dubai's Burj Khalifa. The observation decks offer spectacular views of Taipei, giving you an aerial understanding of the city to start your trip. When you’re done, you can shop and eat on the lower floors.
Where: No. 7, Section 5, Xinyi Rd., Xinyi District, Taipei City 110
When: Daily, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
More info: +886 (02) 8101 8800; taipei-101.com.tw
Taipei Triple Tiger Backpacker
For a place to stay, check out the fabulously named Taipei Triple Tiger Backpacker hostel. It offers private rooms and dorm rooms, suitable for any budget and whatever degree of privacy you prefer. It's situated right near the Ximen MRT Station and only a short walk to sites such as Taipei Cinema Park, the National Taiwan Museum and....
Where: 4F, No. 39, Line 25 KangDing Rd., Wanhua District, Taipei City 108
More info: +886 (02) 2375 4820; t3tiger.com
The Lungshan Temple of Manka, right beside the Longshan Temple Station, is a Buddhist temple originally built in 1738. While the original building fell due to earthquakes, the modern structure still exhibits many of the same ancient architecture. Apart from the visual stimulation, the temple (which also contains halls and altars to Chinese deities) acts as a fantastic study in acoustics — when the attendees are singing, you can hear the how the sounds change as you move about the temple. Prepare for a sublime aural experience.
Where: No. 211 Guangzhou St., Wanhua District, Taipei City 10853
More info: +886 (02) 2302 5162; lungshan.org.tw
Day 2: Satisfy Your Appetites
National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum has a truly staggering collection of nearly 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese artifacts and art, going all the way back to the Neolithic. Because of China’s complicated history and the Communist-Nationalist split that resulted in Taiwan becoming politically separated from the mainland, as well as the countless number of artifacts that were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, the National Palace Museum may be the greatest repository of Chinese history. Everything from weapons to calligraphy and beautiful jewels are held within its walls.
Where: No. 221, Section 2, Zhishan Rd., Shilin District, Taipei City 111
When: Mon.-Thurs. & Sun., 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 8:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
More info: npm.gov.tw
Shilin Night Market
If there’s one thing for which Taiwan is famous, it’s the night market — and Shilin is the biggest. Try the Taiwanese oyster omelet, stinky tofu, and for dessert, sweet-potato balls with your powdered topping of choice. If you want to get away from the huge crowd, go down into the food court building, where you’ll find fewer tourists. After that, shop around for clothes, jewelry, luggage, just about anything you might want. And if you feel like you need to burn some calories, hike up the hill of nearby Ming Chuan University for a rewarding view of the city.
Where: Lane 101, Wenlin Rd., Shilin District, Taipei City 111
When: Daily, 4 p.m.-2 a.m. (loosely)
The name may not be elegant, but the atmosphere is. If you’re looking for a nightcap, venture over to MUD for an expertly crafted cocktail in a relaxed, upscale speakeasy-style lounge. Located in the basement of the Hotel Amba, MUD doesn’t make itself easy to find (you must enter through an alley). But you’ll certainly be glad once you make your way inside.
Where: 57-1 Zhongshan N. Rd., Section 2, Zhongshan District, Taipei 10412
When: Tues.-Thurs., 7 p.m.-2 a.m.; Fri. & Sat., 7 p.m.-3 a.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.-midnight
More info: +886 (02) 2565 2898; amba-hotels.com
Day 3: Hot Pots and Hot Spots
Own Hot Pot
It's not difficult to be a vegetarian in Taipei. And while you can certainly have a veggie hot pot meal, this one is definitely more for the carnivores. It’s so simple — boiled meat — but it works so well. Choose your broth, choose your (generously portioned) platter, choose your sauces and spices, crank up your boiler and have at it.
Where: 45-1 Chang-an W. Rd., Datong District, Taipei City 103
More info: +886 (02) 2550 3776
I hope you’re not sick of stunning views of Taipei yet, because there’s one more you should take in. On the east side of the city, climb up Elephant Mountain near Xiangshan Station. This is the only view than can rival Taipei 101’s. It’s best to go at sunset, but if you wish to take a proper photo with a proper camera, arrive hours early — amateur and professional photographers alike stake out their spots. But there are plenty of places for the selfie crowd to get in a quick pic. After that, go for a nice hike along the nature trail, or simply come back down to the city.