When I do a google search for Taipei, a slew of “things to do” articles is what I get. Most of them contain the usual suspects—visit the CKS memorial, go to the top of the Taipei 101, something about some temples. It’s not that these places are bad, they aren’t. They’re great in-fact. But why does every single to-do list focus on the same exact things? Is there really nothing else interesting to do in the city that’s worth putting in a click-bait style article? I just had to have a go at it.
I reached out to some of my Taipei friends who have been here for over a decade to find out what kind of interesting things they would suggest on a list of “Top-tens” in the hopes of discovering some fresher ideas.
I also REALLY wanted to see how many 10’s I could fit into a headline—breaking all the boring “rules” I’d normally have to follow if someone paid me to write this.
1 - Luke Harbour’s suggestions
Luke is one of the few white guy foreigners I know who was actually born here. That makes him a TBA. (Taiwan born American) His parents moved to Taiwan as missionaries, stayed, and raised all their kids here. Luke is probably one of the coolest guys I know and the things he likes to do are pretty cool too. Here’s what he suggests:
1 - Explore Taipei's small, but vibrant electronic party and sound art scene. Normally you’d need to be here a while to meet the right people to find out where these things are happening but these are sites I suggest checking out:
2 - Bayan Hot Springs. This is kind of a must-do but it can be challenging to get to. But try because it’s worth it and nobody ever knows how much longer the place will exist or when they will block it off to visitors. This article has some links with directions.
3 - Freedom Bar. This place stays open after 10 PM and you won't find it on Google Maps or listed anywhere by anyone probably. But it’s the best-kept secret, till now. (104 台北市中山區興安街14號) Good luck.
2 - John Murn’s suggestions
Since he was recently on my podcast (listen here) I decided to ask him for his personal to-do suggestions as well. John has been in Taipei for something like, 15 years, which puts him in the senior level bracket for Taipei transplants. Here’s what he suggests:
1 - Avoid the big night markets (like Shilin and Tonghua) and go to the small neighborhood ones like 南機場夜市.
2 - Private cooking classes. Try Ivy’s Kitchen. We had a friend who went to class and loved it!
3 - A Day trip to Beipu for hiking, hot springs, Hakka food, lei cha, traditional paper making, etc.
3 - Kate Nicholson’s suggestions
With her decade of experience in Taipei as a writer, journalist, blogger and garden expert, Kate Nicholson knows a few things about what’s cool here. Here’s what she suggests:
1 -Climb Fuzhoushan. It's less crowded than Elephant Mountain, but still has great views, hidden hiking trails out the back, plus it's a relocated cemetery, so you see lots of old grave ruins around the place.
2 - You can see fireflies in Da'an Park! Conservationists have been releasing them back into the park for the past few years, reportedly with success. I went with my mum to go see them, but I think we were too late for the season. So skip the day-time trip (as most blogs currently recommend) and head there for a night hunt!
3 - Wander around the Liuzhangli neighborhood. It’s near Fuzhoshan, so if you go there you can do this as well. There are lots of hidden gems of cafes, furniture stores, 2nd hand shops, high-end stationery shops and more. It’s worth a trip.
4 - Matt Girvan’s suggestions
Matt has lived in Taipei for close to a decade. As a professional videographer and photographer who specializes in adventure sports and outdoor exploration (you can check out his work here) he knows some of the best locations in all of Taiwan for this. Here’s what he suggests:
1 - While there are TONS of amazing outdoor adventures I could recommend, Jianmian Mtn. trail in Neihu is an excellent short hike with great views for anyone seeking an adventure that’s a bit closer to home.
2 - People tend to recommend heading out to Longdong for rock climbing—it’s a beautiful place—but it’s not realistic for most people who won’t have the right transportation and equipment to make that trip worth it. Instead, I recommend checking out some of the great climbing gyms around Taipei. T-Up in Wanhua is great and worth a trip.
3 - Go to the North Gate (Beimen) then walk through the photography shops in Bo-ai toward Ximen, making sure to walk the small alleys—not the main roads—as that’s where you’ll find interesting shops and surprises not listed in any guide books.
4 - Bonus tip - Q-time is a cool gaming cafe with private rooms and booths with computers or TVs. It also has mangas for reading, food, assorted drinks, and it's cheap.
5 - Benoit Bouquin’s suggestions
Benoit is a DJ and producer from Paris who has been at the center of the underground electronic music scene in Taipei since he arrived more than a decade ago. (check out his music here) After 12 years of helping to build up the party scene in Taipei, he’s been venturing into other things recently and surprisingly, his favorite things to do involve getting out of the city. Here’s what he suggests:
2 - Hit up the Hot springs. There are lots of resorts in Yangmingshan, Beitou, and Wulai but try to find some of the secret wilderness ones; it’s the best way to relax and stay warm in the winter.
3 - Don’t just hike the mountain, eat it. The best way to finish a day of hiking or a trip to the hot springs is by visiting one of the little restaurants in the mountains surrounding Taipei. They offer amazing food for a very reasonable price. Lots of restaurants sell a unique roasted chicken (甕窯雞 or 甕仔雞) that has to be some of the best chicken in the world, as well as fresh mountain vegetables that you can't find in any downtown restaurant in Taipei, let alone the rest of the world.
6 - Jay Gaddi’s suggestions
Jay Gaddi is a bit of a social maverick who’s done a lot of cool things over the years in Taipei. At one point, he even co-owned a Mexican restaurant that served some of the best tacos I ever had in Taiwan. He currently leads branded content missions for Mindshare but you can always count on Jay to know the who’s who in Taipei, and the best spots for just about anything. Here’s what he suggests:
1 - Go Wakeboarding. Most people don’t even know this is a thing you can easily do in Taipei on the river. Check out ES Wake School 台灣滑人部落. The rates are reasonable, and it’s totally worth it to do something unique in Taipei.
2) Indoor Rock climbing - RedRock 紅石攀岩 or Y17
3 - Check out the Trampoline park—Flipout Taipei 跳跳床—It’s super fun and a great way to spend the day if happens to be rainy
7 - Máté Zsellér’s suggestions
Mate is another photographer (I seem to know a lot of them) in Taipei who’s also worked in the fashion industry in Taipei for over a decade. Check out his IG. Here’s what he suggests:
1 - Track down and explore some abandoned homes for some interesting photographs. There are a few articles covering some of these places, Alexander Synaptic covers a lot of these places on his blog Synapticism, so check that out for good ideas.
2 - The Songshan area is a great place to just walk around with lots of great little pockets of interest. There still isn’t an MRT here so it tends to be a place people discover only after living here for a while.
3 - Walk around the Huashan area in the late afternoons or evenings. During the day there is often large commercial events taking place, but at night the vibe is totally different. There are numerous nice places to eat and grab a drink and the SPOT theatre there features left-of-center and independent movies favored by the art crowd. Good for a cultured night out.
8 - Lars Berry’s suggestions
Lars has been in Taipei for a LONG time and knows the city well. As a musician, he’s launched several interesting “bands” including Dronetonics, and Colour Domes, and even created Taipei’s first and only underground electronic music festival—Future Proof. Here’s what he suggests:
1 - Take a walk through one of the unique and fascinating cemeteries that can be found on the outskirts of the city. One of the best near the city is by Fuzhoushan park on the east side of Taipei, the entrance is here. It’s a great place to just wander around for a few hours. The view in some locations is really nice as well.
2 - Walk around the Grand Formosa Hotel on a weekday. It’s spooky AF and one of the most historic buildings in Taipei.
3 - Go walk, or ride a UBike along one of the riverside parks and check out all the amazing under-bridge graffiti. Here are a few locations you could check out.
9 - Moshe Foster’s suggestions
Moshe has been in Taiwan for over 13 years. He plays in bands and takes photos and is one of the MOST adventurous persons I know in ALL of Taiwan. Which explains why his suggestions aren’t actually for Taipei—the man can’t be restricted to the confines of a city. Here’s what he suggests:
1 - River-trace the Golden Grotto in Sanzhan, Hualien.
3 - Go to the weather station on top of Orchid Island.
4 - Drive a scooter from Taipei to Kending on the east coast, come back on HSR from Kaohsiung— pay to have a truck drive your scooter back for you. (about $600-1,000nt)
10 - Didi Bethurum’s suggestions
Ok, so I mistakenly assumed Didi (@Kleep) had been in Taipei for over 10 years which turns out isn’t true. But Didi knows the coolest things to do in Taipei, so I hear-by grant her an honorary 10-year status as a resident of Taipei. Here’s what she suggests:
1 - Hike Elephant Mountain, yes the cliché thing you find in all the guides, but don’t just stop at the “rock with a view.” Keep going till you find the quirky outdoor community gym and do some bench presses, then head to the "Cantina" for a drink and a rest. (there's a little hut with a roof and some stools to the right and up the hill)
2 - Go to a local baseball game at Xinzhuang Baseball Stadium where you can bring in your own beer or buy it from the 7-11 inside. Eat from Taiwanese vendors inside (sausage, noodles, street food) and sing along to all the songs they sing throughout the game, one per player in fact. Revel in your own fascination of whether or not the singing is distracting the players.
3 - After a lovely look and visit to Longshan Temple, go underneath it (via the MRT station) to go hang out with fortune tellers. Get the bird fortune telling reading where birds are released from cages to pick out scrolls for your future.
4 (Bonus idea) - Forget Morocco and take yourself on a "Tile Tour." Yes, Taiwan has a lot of mauve-y and dingy white bathroom tiles shingling the buildings and sidewalks, but glossy little chiclet rows of brightly colored rectangles are gems among them everywhere. Buildings down the small alleys in Yongkang are gloriously outfitted with these tiles (I believe originating from the Japanese occupation / architecture).
Post photo by Matthew J Girvan.