Taipei is one of the most underrated cities in Asia. Growing up, it was a second home to me, as I regularly visited relatives every year. Over 20 years later, I’m still not sick of it. Taipei is a city that is constantly changing. It’s a magical place where you can go from a shiny modern department store to a traditional Buddhist temple in a single block. It’s also the ultimate foodie city. Taipei food trends come and go, but some classics are here to stay. From the famous boba milk tea to the rather infamous stinky tofu, Taiwan is worth a trip if only for the food, and Taipei has it all.
No city can be done justice in only one day…but if you were to only have a single day in Taiwan, here’s a list of the best places to visit.
1. LUNGSHAN TEMPLE
Start off your day in one of the oldest neighborhoods, home to one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Taiwan called Lungshan. Temples are a huge part of daily life for Taiwanese people, so visiting a temple is a great way to learn about the local culture. Make your way through in a counter-clockwise direction and be mindful of the incense and candles – things can get pretty hectic if you happen to visit on a prayer holiday. While you’re in the area, you can also check out Bopiliao Historic Street to walk through Taipei’s history.
2. BREAKFAST IN ZHONGZHENG DISTRICT
After the temple you hop back on the MRT and transfer in Ximen to get to CKS Memorial Hall Station. Zhong Zheng District is the heart of Taipei, home to important government buildings, and one of the most famous monuments. There’s great authentic food in this area. Grab traditional breakfast pastries from JiangSu, or a grilled sandwich from GaoShanXiao. If you want a place to chill with AC and wifi, go to Gakuden. They have breakfast combo specials, and a spacious seating area upstairs.
3. CKS MEMORIAL
Grab your breakfast and head over to CKS Memorial Hall. The park is one of the most serene and photogenic places in the city. It’s like the Central Park of Taipei. Take some time to explore the park, and to check out the National Theater and National Concert Hall. The main hall (the one with the blue roof) hosts the big statue of Chiang Kai She in the main chamber at the top. The lower level is an exhibition hall, usually featuring Taiwanese history and art, as well as visiting exhibitions from around the world. At the top of each hour from 9am to 5pm, you can also witness the changing of guards in the main hall.
4. LUNCH IN DONGMEN
Then, walk over to DongMen. Walk up an appetite, because you’re headed to foodie street. Aka YongKang Street. Home to the original Din Tai Fung. And to refreshing mango shaved ice. And flakey scallion pancakes slathered in garlic soy sauce and house hot sauce. And of course, world famous beef noodle soup. Whether you’re looking for street food or a fancy restaurant, you’ll find it all right here.
5. SONGSHAN CREATIVE PARK
Time to walk it off again. Taiwan has a tradition of converting abandoned factories into cultural centers, and Songshan is one of the biggest. It used to be a tobacco factory back in the day, and now is a series of galleries, cafés, and a beautiful hotel / department store / bookstore (Eslite). It’s a great place to kill a few hours while appreciating local artists. Depending on the weather, you could hole up inside no problem. Be sure to check out bakery Wu Pao Chun downstairs in Eslite, an internationally-recognized bread champion of Taiwan. If you need an afternoon pick up, there are plenty of cafés in the area. Wander through the alleys and find one that suits your aesthetic. From Zhanlu to Coffee Alley,you might end up accidentally eating a whole other meal!
6. TAIPEI 101
If you are in Taipei and don’t take a selfie in front of Taipei 101, did you even go to Taipei? The former tallest building in the world majestically overlooks the city and has become an icon for Taiwan. It’s one of those things you kinda just have to do, so hop back on the MRT and over to Taipei 101. You could also walk from Songshan, it’s about 20 minutes, and you can duck through a maze of department stores for most of it. If you are determined to go up but don’t want to pay for a separate ticket, call a day ahead and make reservations at Starbucks. There’s a minimum order, but the view is free. Otherwise, just explore the glamorous shopping center attached.
7. ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN
When it’s almost sunset, head over to Elephant Mountain (take the MRT 1 station to XiangShan). This hike is pretty short, only about 20 minutes up well worn stair steps to the beautiful Six Boulders Scenic Point. Have your cameras ready, because this is the place of postcard views! It’s best to go during sunset (even despite the crowds) because you get to see the city fade from golden hour into a neon night landscape.
8. RAOHE NIGHT MARKET
Finally, finish off the day at Raohe Night Market. It’s smaller and a little less crowded than Shilin, and much easier to navigate since it basically follows a single street. This night market is known for medicinal pork soup, but also has a great selection of other famous Taiwanese street eats. Make sure to have cash readily on hand!
Have you been to any of these spots? Anything else you’d add to a one-day itinerary? Comment below and let me know where your favorite spots are! Read Next > How To Eat Your Way Through Taipei