10 Best Things to Do in Taipei for First-Time Travelers

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10 Best Things to Do in Taipei for First-Time Travelers
Traveling with friends to Taipei for the first time? Discover some of the best things to see in Taipei when planning your trip.
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First time visiting Taipei and looking for fun things to do for your travel itinerary?

Brimming with cultural experiences and delicious food, Taipei offers bustling markets, lively nightlife and great tourist attractions—a perfect starting point for exploring Taiwan when traveling with friends.

Taipei, Taiwan's capital, is an urban hub with the perfect mix of culture, history and modernity from Chinese, Japanese and Western influences.

I recently returned from a three-week trip to Taiwan with friends and visited Taipei for the first time myself. It was a fantastic experience, from exploring night markets and viewing the city from the Taipei 101 to experiencing history at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial and partying in Xinyi.

So I have the latest intel on all the best things to do in Taipei while traveling. As a bonus, if you're a foodie or a claw-machine addict, you've found the right guide!

I've organized this list based on priority, starting with must-visit attractions in Taipei. So if you're short on time, start from the top and work your way down.

Taipei is also a relatively affordable travel spot for Westerners, but I still included lots of budget-friendly Taipei tourist attractions so you don't break the bank. Remember, when planning a trip for beginners, budgeting helps your trip run smoothly.

So let's discover the best spots to see, eat and play in the playground of Taipei!

What Is Taipei Known For?

Taipei is renowned for its historic cultural sites like the Lungshan Temple, its status as Taiwan's technology hub and its natural wonders like the mountainous Yangmingshan National Park.

What makes the city great for travelers looking for fun things to do in Taipei is its unique entertainment culture. Every neighborhood in Taipei has claw-machine stores and night markets featuring delicious local dishes.

But personally, I think public transit is what sets Taipei apart from the rest of Taiwan.

Taipei is super accessible by the local transit system, Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), known as Metro Taipei. Most nearby day-trip destinations are only a bus ride away and the transit network integrates with the bike-sharing service YouBike, so the city's easy to explore while traveling with your crew.

Be sure to purchase an EasyCard in Taipei, an access card to the entire city. You can get almost anywhere in Taipei using this card and even use it to pay at convenience stores.

Travel tip: If you're anything like me and love collecting cute things, I recommend visiting different convenience stores when shopping for an EasyCard. They come in a variety of designs with keychains featuring different cartoon characters.

What to Do in Taipei: Unique Things to Do and See When Planning Your Trip

1. Eat all the Food at the Taipei Night Markets

If you can only experience one thing to do in Taipei, it's the night markets. Controversial, but I think exploring a night market in Taipei is more important than a trip to any other tourist spot.

Visiting the night markets is a fun thing to do in Taipei because they feature great local food, offer a vibrant atmosphere for Asian culture and provide plenty of shopping & entertainment options (like the famous claw machines!).

Prepare for alleys lined with delicious Taipei street food and affordable clothing & accessory shops. When you get tired of eating and shopping, stop at one of the many game booths to win prizes.

My favorite game is the shrimp-fishing game at the Shilin Night Market. The goal is to fish as many shrimps as possible without breaking the rod and any shrimp you drop in the bucket gets grilled for you to eat. I'm usually terrible at carnival games, but I was surprisingly good at this one!

People visiting the Shilin Night Market, one of the best things to do in Taipei.
This was my view while visiting the Shilin Night Market in Taipei. The food was amazing and the shrimp-fishing game at one of the booths was so much fun!

The most popular night markets in Taipei include Shilin plus Raohe Night Market. But I also recommend smaller ones like the Ningxia Night Market for a more authentic and less crowded experience.

And if you've never tried deep-fried milk, you need to. It's a Taiwanese dessert popular at night markets consisting of thickened milk battered with cornstarch or breadcrumbs and then deep-fried to perfection. I couldn't stop snacking on them during my visit!

Deep-fried milk at a Taipei market.
This was the deep-fried milk on a stick I ordered at a Taipei market right before devouring it because of how delicious it is. I recommend it if you're looking for a tasty treat in Taipei.

Travel tip: Night markets are not the most foreigner-friendly. Many menu items are oddly translated and stall-tenders speak limited English. Look up stalls and foods ahead of time to know what to order.

2. Enjoy the View from the Taipei 101 Indoor Observatory

The most iconic tourist attraction in Taipei is the massive blue skyscraper dominating Taipei's skyline, the Taipei 101, named for its 101 floors. Architecturally inspired by traditional Asian pagodas, at 1,671 feet, it was the world's tallest building from 2004–2009.

I recommend purchasing a general-admission ticket for the indoor observatory on the 88th & 89th floors, though there are also outdoor observatories on floors 91 and 101. Go right before sunset to experience the daytime and nighttime views with just one ticket.

The 89th floor features a popular indoor-viewing deck with a 360-degree aerial view of Taipei—excellent for taking photos.

Also check out the tuned mass damper, visible from the indoor observatory, a giant pendulum that weighs 660 metric tons that helps prevent the building from swaying. The damper is such a popular thing to see for tourists, Taipei even created a mascot for it named the Damper Baby!

The view from near the top of the Taipei 101 tower, one of the best places to visit in Taipei.
The view from near the top of the Taipei 101. I was able to see almost the whole city from here! Visiting the Taipei 101 is definitely one of the top things to do in Taipei.

3. Visit the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

The Chiang Kai-shek (CKS) Memorial in Liberty Square within the Zhongzheng District represents Taiwan's historical and political evolution. CKS Memorial is a must-visit attraction for every first-time visitor and friends traveling together or backpacking to Taipei.

Erected in honor of former Taiwanese president Chiang Kai-shek, the Memorial Hall's famous blue-tiled roof & white walls symbolize purity and freedom. And its proximity to the National Theater and National Concert Hall make it a great tourist attraction in Taipei to soak in local arts & culture.

Marvel at its traditional Chinese architecture and experience the changing of the guards, a free ceremony that occurs hourly from 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

The front of the hall can get crowded during the ceremony, so I recommend seeing it from the second floor; this is where I watched it from and I'm glad I did! The ceremony is over ten minutes long and the second floor has benches so you can sit & relax and enjoy the view from a great angle.

The CKS Memorial Hall in Taipei, dedicated to former Taiwanese president Chiang Kai-shek.
My visit to the CKS Memorial Hall was one of the best things I did in Taipei. The building is beautiful and it was fascinating to learn more about Taiwanese history!

4. Marvel at the Artifacts in the National Palace Museum 

No tour of Taipei is complete without a trip to a museum! A ticket to the National Palace Museum provides access to 690,000+ pieces, including the famous Jadeite Cabbage and the Meat-Shaped Stone in the "Gathering of Treasures" exhibition. 

The museum holds some of the most amazing things to see in Taipei, an extensive array of Chinese artifacts of historical and cultural significance once part of the imperial collection in Beijing's Forbidden City.

Plan to spend a couple of hours visiting the exhibitions on all three floors to experience everything the National Palace Museum offers.

How do you get to the National Palace Museum? Located against the scenic backdrop of green mountains in the Shilin District north of the Keelung River, the museum is away from the city center and a bit difficult to transit to.

But public-transiting costs are more affordable than any shuttle service, so look up the route ahead of time for smooth travel. You can also take one of the two main Taipei Sightseeing bus routes—the blue one, as shown on this map, makes its final stop north at the museum.

The National Palace Museum, one of the top places to visit in Taipei.
This is the exterior of the National Palace Museum when I toured it in Taipei—it looked like the most unique museum I had ever visited!

Travel tip: The National Palace Museum displays the Jadeite Cabbage and the Meat-Shaped Stone on rotation, so expect only to see one during your visit. Plus, the museum has a souvenir store that sells replicas of the Meat-Shaped Stone, one of the most awesome things to buy in Taiwan.

The Jadeite Cabbage on display at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.
The famous Jadeite Cabbage was on display during my visit to the National Palace Museum in Taipei. If you're an art or history buff, I recommend checking out this museum during your trip to Taipei.

5. Hike Elephant Mountain for Amazing Views

If you're looking for adventurous things to do in Taipei, hike up Elephant Mountain for fantastic city views!

This famous mountain in Taipei's Xinyi District called Xiangshan, which translates to "Elephant Mountain," is named after the mountain's elephant-like shape.

Elephant Mountain has the best view of the city, including Taipei 101. For my money, it's the most picturesque place in Taipei and great for Instagram influencers, the perfect mix of nature and city. 

While the day view is spectacular, the colorful sunset scene is also one to behold. Luckily, the hike to the popular viewpoint is just a short 30-minute trail.

The trail has a moderate incline, which means it's a little steep, but it's well-maintained with benches & rest stops along the way and isn't technically challenging, making it an easy trek even for non-hikers.

Elephant Mountain is free to hike and you can do it within two hours from when you leave the city center to when you return. Factor in the spectacular views and Elephant Mountain is worth adding as a fun adventure to your itinerary when traveling with friends.

To get to Elephant Mountain, exit the Xiangshan Metro Station and follow the signposts for a short 10-minute walk (0.44 miles) or walk 18 minutes (0.75 miles) directly from Taipei 101.

Travel tip: Stock up on travel essentials when planning your trip to Taipei, like a light rain jacket or insect repellent in case it rains during your hike or the mosquitoes on Elephant Mountain decide to have a field day.

6. Feel Tranquillity at the Bangka Lungshan Temple

Taipei's Lungshan Temple is famous for its traditional Chinese architecture & artistic carvings, its rich history dating back to the 18th century and its spiritual significance as a place of worship, making it a top tourist attraction for first-time travelers to Taipei.

Surviving earthquakes and war over the years—and undergoing multiple renovations as a result—this building symbolizes resilience and is officially recognized by the Taiwanese government as a historical site.

Built in 1738 by Chinese settlers during the Qing dynasty to commemorate the Buddhist goddess Guanyin, the temple glimpses into Taiwan's religious practices and cultural heritage.

Visitors can observe Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist rites and the temple contains altars to Chinese deities like Mazu and Guan Yu.

Soak in the cultural experience At the Lungshan Temple like the beautiful grounds, the dragon statues and the engravings of Chinese literature & poems!

Travel tip: Remember this is a religious temple, so regard it with respect. Examples of proper etiquette for Taiwanese temples include taking off shoes, showing restraint with photographs and stepping over door sills, not on them. Oh, and don't point at the gods (it's rude)! 

7. Revel in the History at the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

The National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is one of the coolest places to go in Taipei if you're a history or politics nerd and want to learn about Taiwan's past.

The hall is a tribute to Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his contributions as the founding father of the Republic of China, the government that relocated to Taiwan from mainland China after his death.

In addition to the grand memorial hall, the site has a small museum dedicated to Dr. Sun Yat-sen and a peaceful park on the memorial grounds to explore.

The Memorial Hall features relics of Dr. Sun Yat-sen's life and exhibitions & performances about the political evolution of modern China and Taiwan.

It also hosts Taiwan's most popular annual film-awards ceremony, the Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards, and like the CSK Memorial, it features an hourly ceremony for a changing of the guards.

A statue of Dr. Sun Yat-sen at the National Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.
Visiting the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall was a jolt of culture and history during my time in Taiwan, making it one of the most fun things to do in Taipei.

8. Experience Local Culture at the Red House Theater

Situated in the energetic Ximending neighborhood in Taipei's Wanhua District, the Red House is a creative hub for indie craft shops, art exhibitions and live performances.

Constructed in 1908, the Red House, named for its red-bricked exterior, has been a marketplace, a theater and a government office. And the old architecture blends Western and Meiji-era Japanese styles for the perfect photo backdrop.

Taiwan officially designated the Red House as a historical site and is popular with the local gay community, hosting Taipei Pride events. Today, it's considered "the most iconic location" of the Taiwanese creative & cultural industries.

You can also walk around Ximending to discover a variety of local shops and experience the lively atmosphere of Taipei's urban life.

The Red House Theater in Taipei, a great place to visit as one of the best things to do in Taipei.
The historic Red House Theater during my trip to Taipei with its classic red-bricked exterior. Check out the theater schedule during your trip in case there are any fun events or shows happening!

Travel tip: If you're a stationary fanatic like me, you're in the right city! Ximending is well-known for its prevalence of stationary stores in Taipei.

9. Ride the Maokong Gondola

Imagine this: you and your crew experience Taiwan's traditional cultures and cuisines in Maokong, the enchanting forest in southeastern Taipei that offers a serene escape into nature with sprawling tea plantations and traditional tea houses.

It's a perfect destination for friends to savor the local tea culture and enjoy leisurely hikes.

To get there, you'll have to take the Maokong Gondola, a cable-car system connecting Maokong to the Taipei Zoo at the edge of the city's urban area.

The gondola ride is about 20–30 mins and you can choose between regular or crystal-bottomed cabins to immerse yourself in the lush surrounding landscapes.

The Maokong Gondola fares are priced by the number of stations traveled, but you can buy a day pass for the gondola that also includes entrance to the nearby Taipei Zoo, the largest zoo in Southeast Asia.

You'll save money by bundling costs—but most importantly, you and your friends can make a proper day trip out of your travels now. Breathtaking forest views, traditional Taiwanese tea houses, fun hikes and…pandas!

10. Have Fun in Daan Forest Park

One of the best things to do in Taipei is to escape the busy city at Daan Forest Park.

Locals consider the 26-hectare Daan Park, in Taipei's Da'an District in the city center built in 1994 on municipal land to serve as Taipei's version of New York City's Central Park and London's Hyde Park, "the lungs of the city."

Take a stroll to enjoy art installations, relax in one of the pavilions, rent a paddleboat to explore the lotus pond, jog the running trails or buzz around at the outdoor roller-skating rink!

Balance Tradition and Modernity with Fun Things to Do in Taipei

Taipei is like that cool friend who can balance tradition and modern vibes. From the hustle and bustle of night markets to Daan Forest Park's chill vibes, there's something to do in Taipei for every mood.

Whether you're sipping tea in Maokong or digging into history at the Palace Museum, Taipei perfectly mixes old and new, making it a must-visit spot for anyone up for a good time in Taiwan.

When traveling for the first time with friends, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the unique things to do in Taipei. Take the stress-free route when planning a trip with friends and create a detailed itinerary, share budgets and discover day-trip suggestions for Taipei to have an experience you'll never forget!

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Disclosure: Pilot is supported by our community. We may earn a small commission fee with affiliate links on our website. All reviews and recommendations are independent and do not reflect the official view of Pilot.

Charmian Lo Blogs
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Charmian Lo
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