Taipei, Taiwan, is the hidden secret of East Asia. But while it may not be as popular a destination as China's Shanghai or Hong Kong, it’s just as vibrant and bustling, filled with innovative, ambitious, and creative young people looking to make their mark on the world. Taipei is known for its super-affordable night markets, friendly locals, and endlessly rich culture; plus, it's the capital city of Taiwan—the first place in Asia to ever legalize gay marriage.
Located in the northern portion of the island of Taiwan, the name Taipei (台北) is a literal combination of the words Taiwan (台/Tai) and North (北/Pei). And even though it's a city nestled by greenery, mountains, and beaches, it has just the right amount of urban charm. While certain areas are pretty walkable, Taipei has the cleanest and most efficient subway system I've ever seen. The city is also known for its world famous 7-Elevens, where you can do loads of cool stuff—like pay your college tuition, do your dry cleaning, recharge your phone, and, of course, purchase hot meals.
Needless to say, there are tons of hidden gems in Taipei for you to explore, but here are just a few of the must-see spots to check out on your next trip.
Tango Hotel (Xinyi District): The Tango considers itself a "low-key" luxury hotel, but their modern rooms prove they're anything but. Located in the Xinyi district, the hotel is close to many convenient metro stops, as well as the famous Taipei 101 tower and the Raohe Night Market. They also offer an amazing daily breakfast in their lounge and have just about the friendliest hotel staff any guest could ask for.
Taipei Sunny Hostel: If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, look no further than this gem. Located in the Zhongzheng District, Taipei Sunny Hostel is about as central as it gets, and there’s no shortage of cheap eats nearby to explore. The hostel offers double, quadruple, and family rooms, all located in a contemporary setting.
Éclat Hotel Taipei: The Éclat is a luxury boutique hotel located in the Da'an district of Taipei. This hotel has everything you could need—and more—for an enjoyable stay in Taipei, including Aesop bath products and top-rated room service. The dining room of the hotel is also decorated with insanely Insta-friendly decor, sculptures, and chandeliers, to help remind you—and everyone who follows your feed—that you're living your best life.
WHERE TO EATDin Tai Fung: If you're a big fan of dumplings, this recommendation probably seems obvious, but it really is as good as everyone says. And just in case you haven’t heard, Din Tai Fung is known for their world-famous soup dumplings—aka xiao long bao. They're so good they’ll blow Joe’s Shanghai out of the water. The crab meat soup dumplings are my favorite!
Shilin Night Market: Shilin is Taipei’s biggest and most diverse night market. They have just about all the street food and Taiwanese delicacies you could ask for, so make sure you go with an empty stomach. Unlike NYC street food, everything costs about a dollar or less, so you won’t be breaking the bank either. Here are some must-trys once you get there: Taiwanese tempura, mango shaved ice, stinky tofu (trust me, it’s amazing), oyster pancake, and Taiwanese sausage.
Chia Te Bakery: Another well-known Taiwanese delicacy is the pineapple cake, but you haven’t really had pineapple cake unless you’ve had it from here. There’s usually a line, so plan accordingly.
Ah Zhong Vermicelli: Ah Zhong Mian Xian, or vermicelli, is a soupy, seafood-flavored noodle dish that's one of the prides of Taipei. This spot is located in the heart of Ximending, but since there’s no indoor seating, be prepared to sit outside or on stools.
COMEBUY: Taiwan is the birthplace of bubble tea (boba), so it would be a sin to go to Taipei and not try authentic boba. While there’s no shortage of tea spots in the city, COMEBUY is my personal favorite. They are known not only for their milk tea but also for their freshly brewed fruit-infused teas. Another great boba spot (just in case you can't find a COMEBUY near you) is 50lan (50嵐); they definitely deserve an honorary mention in Taipei's bubble tea hall of fame.
FRANK Taipei: Frank is a classy lounge bar with amazing cocktails and a generally down-to-earth vibe. They also have a spacious outdoor patio where you can set up shop for the night and enjoy gorgeous views of the city with friends. If you're not feeling FRANK, though, there are tons of other cool bars just steps away in the Xinyi district.
Babe18: Babe 18 is the place to go if you’re a student, or just looking to drink on a budget. They have all sorts of discounts, as well as a pretty insane all-you-can-drink system. This is not the place to go if you want a chill night, but rather, the place to go if you want to meet new people and see how young people in Taiwan really spend their nights out.
WOOBAR: Located inside a W Hotel, this bar has probably the best view of the Taipei 101 in the entire city. Woobar is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, and the whole place has a super-funky and enjoyable '70s vibe. The cocktails are slightly pricier than normal, but the Instagram photos you'll get out of it will be well worth it.
Taipei 101: If you’re in Taipei, you’ve probably seen the giant glass skyscraper stealing the spotlight from the rest of the skyline. That’s the 101-storied Taipei 101, and you can check out sweeping views of the city from the top. People used to compare the tower to Chinese takeout boxes stacked on top of each other, and while that's not what the architects were going for (we think?), it's a style that's definitely unique. It's also the only building I know of that shoots fireworks off it from all sides, which is pretty cool.
Yang Ming Shan National Park: If you’re looking for an escape from the city, you don’t have to go far to find it. Yang Ming Shan is one of Taiwan’s many national parks that boast breathtaking views, greenery, and hot springs. Visit one of the many temples in Yang Ming Shan, or, if you’re up for it, hike up one of the trails for a good workout.
Miniatures Museum of Taiwan: If you're feeling artsy, you can check out this cute miniature museum that houses tiny displays built by many different artists. Here, you can explore many mini-replicas of European destinations, like Buckingham Palace, all without leaving Taipei.
Ximending: Think Times Square, but a lot less crowded and dirty, and with a much more bearable place overall. It’s one of the most underrated shopping districts in Asia, and it houses a few international shops, but also a lot of unique Taiwanese boutiques and vintage haunts. The whole area is bustling with young Taiwanese people and full of great food as well.
Wufenpu: Wufenpu is a wholesale garment market, so it’s basically a night market that only sells clothes. It’s definitely not a corporate shopping area, but you’ll be able to find stall after stall of unique pieces that would be hard to find elsewhere. Because of the sheer volume of clothing at Wufenpu, you’ll be able to find something for everyone and at shockingly low prices, too.
The Eslite Dunnan: The Eslite Dunnan is the world’s first 24-hour bookstore, and carries just about every book you could imagine. If you ever find yourself with a bad case of insomnia, and would rather read than rave, The Eslite Dunnan is the destination for you.