Ultra-modern, yet steeped in history, Taipei thrives in its contrasts: You'll see businessmen burning ghost money and nuns shopping on scooters as you explore the many faces of this captivating city. Yes, it's a hub of cutting-edge electronics and yes, it has a tumultuous relationship with Beijing, but as interest in the Chinese world grows and transport links (and relations) with the mainland improve, the city is revelling in its growing reputation as an accessible and living safehouse of Chinese culture.
Things To Do
Join the locals in an alfresco session of tai chi, take the super-fast elevator up the Taipei 101 skyscraper, and absorb 8,000 years of Chinese history with the world's greatest collection of Chinese art at the National Palace Museum. Take strolls along lanes alive with markets and temples. Do as the locals do and escape the city with a wander through lively riverside Danshui, a dip in a hot spring in Beitou, or a hike to the volcanic fumeroles of Yangmingshan. End your day with nightmarket snacks and foot massages.
Restaurants and Dining
Food is at the heart of Taiwanese culture, and the city's diverse culinary repertoire features everything from island delicacies such as "stinky tofu" and "pearl milk tea" to fried crickets and chicken testicles. Fear not: All of your favorite Chinese standards are represented, from Beijing duck to the legendary dumplings at Din Tai Fung to healthy vegetarian; the top-notch sushi is a reminder of the Japanese influence. The city's playful character is reflected in an ever-growing collection of quirky restaurants.
Second only to eating, shopping is a pastime enjoyed by tycoons and families alike. The city holds enough glitzy malls, upscale boulevards and cutting-edge electronics emporiums to keep even the most serious shoppers occupied. At the other end of the spectrum are markets and inexpensive boutiques crammed with serendipitous finds and unique gifts. Whatever your budget, the 101 Mall, Old Dihua Street, and trendy Ximending exemplify the vast scope of shopping in Taipei.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Taipei comes alive after sundown when its cosmopolitan crowd enjoys everything from live jazz at sleek Brown Sugar to Cloud Gate ballet at the National Theater. Big-name DJs fly in for the weekend to play Luxy, Taipei's top club, while students smoke shisha and sip absurdly named cocktails at bars like The Bed, Sofa and Lab on the trendy back streets around Zhongxiao Road.