The American website BuzzFeed placed Taipei 20th on its 2015 list of “53 Beautiful Cities Everyone Should Visit at Least Once.” As well, CNN.com listed Taipei among the top 10 cities in its “Which destination has the world’s best food?” rankings. Here are the things you must do in Taipei.
Unique Lanes and Alleys
Established more than 130 years ago, Taipei offers splendid works of classic architecture in different styles from different eras. This cultural-creative vitality extends down into its lively grids of lanes and alleys, where distinctive lane/alley cultures have emerged in each neighborhood. Examples: the chic fashion of the East District’s lanes, artistic air of Zhongshan North Road’s lanes, hot-spring culture of Beitou’s lanes, youth-oriented pop chic of Ximending’s lanes. All have become must-visit attractions with tourists.
Go to Dadaocheng, Dalongtong, and other old-city areas for glimpses of Taipei’s glory and elegance over the past century. Beyond Cisheng Temple, Baoan Temple, and the many types of heritage architecture, feel the strong cultural-creative atmosphere. The Wen-Luo-Ting, Yongkang, Qingtian, and Longquan neighborhoods are home to a great many independent cafes and bookshops, where what is sold is not just coffee and publications, but rich cultural heritage as well.
Distinctive Humanistic Bookstores
Taipei also has a fascinating “book fragrance” culture. There are bookstores that stay open 24/7, international chain bookstores, independent bookstores, secondhand bookshops, bookstores selling antique titles and painting/calligraphy works, etc. These vividly display the Taipei people’s love of knowledge and respect for book learning, and are delightful additions to the city’s aesthetics.
Natural Landscapes and Trails
Surrounded by mountains, the city offers rich natural landscapes to explore. A prime example is Four Beasts Mountain, near Xinyi District, a great place for hiking and for taking in the spectacular Taipei 101 fireworks show each New Year’s Eve. Beitou District’s tourist-oriented hot-spring resort area and Shilin District’s Yangmingshan National Park are grand places to embrace nature’s beauties. Wenshan District’s Taipei Zoo, Zhinan Temple, and Maokong Gondola, which whisks you to the Maokong tea-plantation/teahouse area, are fine spots to immerse yourself in natural scenic splendor and rich tea fragrance.
Delicacies Recommended by CNN
For travelers who like good eating, Taipei is a foodie paradise. In CNN’s 2015 report on a vote by travelers from around the world on their favorite Taiwan foods, braised pork rice was no. 1, beef noodles no. 2, oyster omelets no. 3, and pearl milk tea (bubble tea) no. 4. Other treasures on the list were xiaolongbao (steamed dumplings), pepper cakes, shuijiao (boiled dumplings), oyster vermicelli, stinky tofu, fried rice-flour noodles, Taiwanese sausage with sticky rice, tian bu la (“Taiwanese take on Japanese oden”), runbing (steamed spring rolls), tube rice pudding, thick cuttlefish soup, Dongshan marinated duck head, rou yuan (“meat balls”), chicken rice, salted crispy-fried (“popcorn”) chicken, flaky scallion pancakes, “burned” grass (herbal) jelly, and mango ice act.. Each is a unique flavor-packed food of the common people, inexpensive and delicious.
Pastries and Teas
Taipei is a city where the traditional and chicly ultra-modern co-exist in harmony. At many heritage shops the tried and tested-true ways of old are faithfully adhered to, the result one-of-a-kind specialty foods and handicrafts of great character. When in Taipei, travelers must not forego the chance to buy the internationally renowned local pineapple cakes, mung-bean cakes, nougat candies, meat jerky, and other souvenir items. The specialty Tieguanyin (Iron Goddess) and Baozhong teas from the Maokong tea plantations and Nangang Tea Processing Demonstration Center, in the city’s rural outlying areas, are widely renowned premium teas that are must-buy choices with tea-aficionado travelers.
Taipei is also a place of blooming cultural-creative vitality offering myriad innovative gift and souvenir items that will make people happy. Good examples are the Taipei City Government’s “city image” souvenirs, such as its Discovery of Ximending puzzle and Taipei Classic Gift Boxes, melding traditional culture into everyday life. Ximending and Taipei 101 offer youth-focused trendy merchandise. These complement the deep impression left by the city’s wonderful cuisine with visitors, providing them with gift purchases that give a cherished taste of Taipei’s unique style and character.