Taipei has a well earned reputation as a culinary hot spot. Regional cuisines from all over China can be found as well as uniquely Taiwanese dishes. Night markets are excellent places to sample a wide range of xiao chi (小吃) or small snacks. Taipei’s biggest and best is the Shilin Night Market, where you can enjoy Taiwanese specialties like oyster omelets, bubble tea and stinky tofu.
For a less chaotic dining experience head to MUME, one of Taipei’s best modern fine dining restaurants. MUME serves up expertly prepared local seasonal ingredients in a sleek atmosphere. The chef-owners come from impressive international culinary backgrounds, and their contemporary dishes have solidified Mume’s status as one of Taipei’s best restaurants.
Din Tai Fung has long held the crown as Taiwan’s most internationally acclaimed restaurant chain. Their precision-folded Xiao Long Bao soup dumplings are offered with a variety of flavorsome fillings, from simple pork to decadent truffle. While they have branches covering the globe, a visit to their original location on Xinyi Road is a must try for any visitor to Taipei.
Taipei’s most famous and photographed sight is the pagoda-inspired monolith, Taipei 101. The outdoor viewing deck on the 91st floor provides breathtaking views of the city and surrounding hills. However, for those wishing for a view that includes Taipei’s most iconic landmark, a 20-minute hike to the top of the nearby Elephant Mountain delivers a sprawling panorama of Taipei 101 against the backdrop of the city.
For a look into Taipei’s past, visit the historical Dadaocheng neighborhood, home to some of Taipei’s oldest buildings. The area is bisected by Dihua Street, which is lined with traditional medicine and tea shops. One of Taipei’s most important temples, Xiahai City God Temple, sits at the southern end of the street. It’s a popular place for youths to pray for luck in their love lives. To experience Taipei’s tea culture, step into Chen Wey Tea Shop to sample a Taiwanese brew.
To relax, it’s best to do a local does, and head for a dip in one of Taipei’s hot springs. Taipei’s Beitou district is home to a wide range of hot spring hotels. The luxurious Villa 32 provides a tranquil environment with spectacular views. The small guest house offers several public natural hot spring pools at varied temperatures as well as cold water pools to cool off in. In addition, the suites feature private hot spring pools amidst traditional Japanese decor. If comfortable hot springs and ambience aren’t enough to satisfy your tastes, Villa 32 also maintains one of the best wine collections in Taipei.
For a comfortable stay in the heart of the city, stay at Chez Nous. The elegant boutique hotel is positioned in the center of the Daan district, a short walk from Taipei’s flower and jade markets. The large rooms are stylish and sophisticated, providing the perfect place for rest after exploring the busy city streets.
Taipei is a city where Asian tradition and modernity meet, where the past flows seamlessly into the future. While wandering the various neighborhoods you may spot a traditional temple alongside an arcade filled with young people or a busy convenience store. Despite becoming a major cosmopolitan city, Taipei has maintained its history and traditions. For this reason and so many more, it’s an essential destination for anyone looking to get to the heart of Asia.
Written by Matt Goulet
Headline image by Perry Li