A cosmopolitan, efficient city famous for its night markets, Taipei is a popular destination for a weekend break. There’s always something new to explore among its varied neighbourhoods, from central Xinyi to hip Da’an and the mountain trails and teahouses of Wenshan to the south. Follow along as we go deep into seven Taipei neighbourhoods to show you the best things to see and do in each.
Xinyi and Songshan
Bright lights, big city centre
Often the first port of call for both first-time and returning visitors, Xinyi is an ideal spot to get your bearings in central Taipei. Make W Taipei your base, as its prime location puts a whole host of slick bars, restaurants and attractions at your doorstep. Top on the list is Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest and greenest buildings with observation decks, shops and offices. It makes the biggest impact when lit up by night, so opt to start your day at Songshan Culture Park instead. The former tobacco factory offers a range of exhibitions and performances, as well as a bookstore and several cafes.
Also in Songshan, Chia Te Bakery serves one of the city’s most popular sweet treats –award-winning pineapple cakes – but be prepared to wait as there’s often a queue here. If you’re looking to continue eating on the go, wander through Raohe Street Night Market to uncover its many street-food finds. Stop for a night cap at speakeasy Room by Le Kief for a molecular approach to mixology or at FRANK for sweeping city views, with Taipei 101 clearly visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Museums by day and market by night
Shilin in Taipei’s northeastern corner is packed with museums and historic sites. Begin at the National Palace Museum for thousands of years’ worth of impressive Chinese art and artefacts and then take your pick among speciality museums, including the nearby Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines; the Taipei Astronomical Museum; and the Chinese Culture and Movie Center, a former movie studio where you can stroll the sets used in many kung fu hits.
After getting your cultural fix, head to mainstay attraction Shilin Night Market. Dumpling shack Chung Chia Sheng Jian Bao (which achieved Michelin Bib Gourmand status) and Hometown Barbecue Chicken’s giant chicken cutlets are popular choices, though you won’t want to limit yourself to only two stalls. We also suggest stopping at local craft brew bar Funky Fresh, before retiring for a well-deserved sleep at the Renaissance Taipei Shihlin Hotel.
An eclectic local favourite
Traditionally a commercial hub, Da’an has undergone a makeover in recent years that’s given it a rep as one of the hippest Taipei neighbourhoods. It features a medley of traditional architecture, skyscrapers, street eats, Michelin-starred restaurants – and nearly everything in between. Stroll through Da’an Forest Park or indulge in a little retail therapy at the Jade Market (conveniently close to the Flower Market). When it’s time for an afternoon pick-me-up, head to historic Wistaria Tea House for brews in a tranquil setting, complete with a koi pond and garden.
Da’an is also where you can dine at the world’s first Din Tai Fung for bragging rights and visit Yong Kang Beef Noodle, reputed to have the best bowl of beef noodle soup (Taiwan’s unofficial dish). For a more elevated evening, book a table at Michelin-starred Longtail, where chef-owner Lam Ming Kin draws on his experience in the kitchens of New York, Paris and Hong Kong to create fusion menus. At the end of a day well spent, check in to 129-room Kimpton Da An, designed by Neri&Hu with mid-century flair and Taiwanese touches.
A bustling pop-culture destination
Youth culture reigns in Ximending, a shopping and entertainment area popular with locals, expats and backpackers alike. Taipei Cinema Park is the perfect entry point – a factory site converted into an outdoor space that welcomes skateboarders, hip-hop dancers and graffiti artists. There’s also a performance hall and schedule of regular movie screenings. It’s about a 15-minute walk from here to the Bopiliao Historical Block, where heritage buildings include The Red House, Taipei’s first public market and now full of indie shops worth browsing for souvenirs.
As evening settles in, opt for a pre-dinner drink at speakeasy Hanko 60, choosing from over 40 crafted cocktails in a relaxed, ambient setting. Elsewhere in this Taipei neighbourhood, Geography Bar offers a range of cocktails infused with local fruit and teas. For dinner inspiration, saunter down Ximending Walking District to scope out its varied bars, restaurants and shops; Ay Chung Flour Rice Noodle is one satisfying, if standing-room-only, choice.
Zhongzheng and Shida
Major landmarks and student hangouts
Zhongzheng’s most famous attraction is the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial and surrounding 228 Memorial Park, which pay tribute to Taiwanese history. Government buildings are clustered in this neighbourhood, along with stately public spaces like the Taipei Botanical Garden and The National Theater and Concert Hall. For a leisurely meal, stop in at one-Michelin-star restaurant Mountain and Sea House, serving Taiwanese food in 1930s-era interiors. Order ahead for its famed six-hour braised chicken.
Shida district is next door, and students at Shida and Taida Universities inject a dose of energy – helping make Shida one of Taipei’s trendiest neighbourhoods. You can also continue eating your way through the city with a visit to Shida Night Market for a smorgasbord of quick-and-cheap Taiwanese staples. Grab drinks at The Shrine, a quirky watering hole filled with knickknacks from all over the world before resting your head at Sheraton Grand Taipei Hotel back in Zhongzheng. Pick up the next day with more culinary adventures – a breakfast of soy milk, egg pancakes and crepes at Fu Hang Dou Jiang.
A mountain retreat in the city
The southern Taipei neighbourhood of Wenshan appeals to outdoorsy types and those looking for a change of pace and break from the hustle-bustle. It’s home to two popular attractions – the Taipei Zoo, which has a few resident giant pandas, and the Maokong tea fields. Take the cable car to the mountain top and have a cup among the clouds or weave your way through the farmland on foot
Hikers will also enjoy traversing the nearby Zhangshan Temple trail. Refuel at Big Tea Pot for cuisine imbued with smoked tea flavours, drawing influence from its surroundings, or for a quicker bite to eat, stop in at Auntie Fumei. Popular with students, this hole-in-the-wall restaurant is known for hearty plates of fried chicken and fried rice. Wash it all down with pints from Temper Beer, whose selection of European and locally brewed beer will leave you spoiled for choice.