72 hours in Taipei

A city guide to where to stay, eat and what to do in Taipei

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Taipei, capital of Taiwan at dusk.
Photo, Nicholas Han.

What to do

See the city in a whole new way when you visit Taipei 101, the city’s 1,667-foot tower. The observation decks on the 89th and 91st floors offer breathtaking views perfect for pictures (the best time of day to visit is, of course, sunset). Pick up a pre-recorded audio tour guide to help you decipher what you’re looking at. While you’re at the top, make sure to check out the steel pendulum hanging in the centre of the 89th floor — it’s the world’s largest and heaviest tuned mass damper, which stabilizes the tower against large lateral movements from tropical winds and earthquakes.

One of the most famous monuments in Taipei is the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, erected in memory of the former president who died in 1975. Although there have been mixed debates about Chiang’s legacy, the hall is worth visiting. The main hall has a set of 88 steps to signify the age of Chiang when he died. Inside, you’ll find an artifact museum where Chiang’s two Cadillacs, and other documents and articles from his daily life are on display. Stick around to see the changing of the honour guard, which takes place once an hour.

What to eat

A trip to Taipei wouldn’t be complete without breakfast at Fuhang Doujiang. The Taiwanese-style restaurant serves ‘shaobing youtiao,’ a dry-roasted flatbread with sesame that’s wrapped around a light cruller, which you have the option of adding an omelet to (insider tip: go for the omelet! It adds textural and flavourful contrasts). Between bites of the shaobing youtiao, sip on some soy milk, made from scratch daily and served hot or cold. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the nutty aroma and silken consistency of soy milk, it’s a must-try. Opt for the sweet variety instead of the savoury one, and try using it as a dip for your shaobing youtiao.

Where to shop

At Taipei’s night markets, you’ll discover a variety of vendors serving up snacks, clothes, accessories, electronics and even massages. Head to the Shihlin Night Market (the largest in Taipei), to haggle with street vendors and sample foods like oyster omelettes and seafood kebabs. Before you leave, try shaved ice, a sweet Taiwanese delicacy that is exactly what it sounds like: very thin sliced flakes of ice or ice cream. You can also add toppings like fresh mango, strawberry or kiwi, (all highly recommended add-ons).

If you’re looking for a change of scenery, head to Eslite Bookstore’s flagship location. The Taiwanese retail chain offers everything from local and international bestsellers to music and food. You could spend 20 minutes in just the stationery section, picking out your favourite office accessories (luckily, it’s open 24/7). Have a bubble tea at the Eslite Tea Room—the drink originated in this country and this is some of the best you can get.

Where to stay

If you’re looking for a hotel close to the train station and major attractions like the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, then check into the Caesar Park Taipei. Each of its 478 rooms are decorated in a simplistic and minimalist style. Check out the restaurant  Dynasty to try some Shanghai and Cantonese cuisine.

For more modern accommodations, book a stay at FX Hotel’s Taipei Nanjing East Road branch. Catering to Taipei’s business district, the hotel is decorated in a luxurious European style with plush couches in rich hues and chandeliers hanging in the lobby and rooms. Each room comes with a flat-screen LCD TV, an iPhone/iPod dock music system, and a special massage feature in the showers.