Written by James Wong
Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is a colorful mess of mazes and packed markets, hipster hangouts, thermal valleys and towering malls. This vibrant metropolis pulls together ancient culture from China with a dab of Japan and Korea’s futuristic coolness, particularly in its incredible food offerings.
If you only have 48 hours to spare and you’re feeling fruity for a Taiwanese fling, here is our guide a weekend holiday romance with Taipei.
Get super organized before touch down
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Two days isn’t a lot of time and you’ll want to see as much of the city as possible. We recommend you check out our Taiwan travel guide where you can plot your best route around the coolest neighborhoods, figure out some day trips, and book accommodation in advance.
We recommend NK Hostel for backpackers, which has the best ratings in our hotel booking hub and is super central… and super sociable.
Hike for your views
To get landscape shots of the glistening Taipei skyline, take a short but challenging hike up the Elephant Mountain trail. This can be completed in around 20 minutes, but be warned, the trail is steep and heat conditions can be harsh in the summer. There are no stores or vending machines at the top (hard to believe for such a major tourist attraction!) so make sure you carry snacks and bottled water with you before setting off.
Your efforts are rewarded at the summit with insta-worthy views across the whole city including the Taipei101 skyscraper. Come an hour before sunset and watch the action transcend from day to night.
Do not leave without shopping
Taipei is a shopaholic’s dream. There is a multitude of boutiques, malls and outlets, and depending on where you are from, the Taiwanese dollar is pretty good value at the moment (1USD gets you 30NT).
Spend your time at Ximending, which was founded during the Japanese colonization era (imagine similar vibes to the Harajuku and Shibuya areas of Tokyo), with neon lights and shops layered on top of each other. You can find anything here, from funky bargains to fun gifts.
Eat stinky food
And that brings us on to the topic of food. Now, food is a big deal in Taiwan, but less in an eat ‘till you can’t fit through the door’ kind of way and more in an eat ‘good quality food all day long and possibly need to go one size up when you get home’ kind of way.
Shilin Night Market is the most popular night market in Taipei and has a solid eatery presence. Local treats include fried buns, Taiwanese sausage and the national dish, stinky tofu. Believe us when we say it stinks, but give it a go and you might find your newest addiction.
Beverage wise, boba tea is more popular with the locals than soda or beer in the west, so you’ll see plenty of vendors all over town with varieties from milky taro to collagen-boosting bubble tea.
For a unique bubble tea experience, head to Chun Shui Tang in Taichung, where you can take a lesson on how to make a boba tea.
Chen San Ding in lively, food-filled Gongguan is also a must-drink if you’re in the area. This joint has young hipsters and students hooked. There are often lines, which are so worth the wait.
Party with the locals
Ximending is one of the most happening districts in the city and is home to the famous Ximen building, also known as the Red House Theatre, where the LGBTQ crowd gather to party. Taiwan was the first Asian country to approve a gay marriage bill and is seen as one of the most progressive countries on its continent. We think that’s a great excuse to dust off our party shoes and meet some fabulous folks over a cocktail.
If you’re going hard, head to Wave, with a ‘how do they do it?!’ drinks policy and a packed dancefloor you’re guaranteed to have a good time on until morning. As long as you like EDM.
…And then detox with them at Taipei’s hot springs
There is a lot to squeeze into 48 hours and you’re going to need a little R&R at some point. The locals love going to the natural hot springs dotted around the island, and Beitou is just the place if you’re on limited time. It’s an area devoted entirely to public and private resorts and hot springs, tucked amongst nature, mountainous rocky formations and mineral rich waters.
There are dry relaxation areas such as sleeping rooms for when you need to recover from a late night. It is custom to enjoy these hot springs naked, but you don’t have to.
It takes less than an hour to get to Beitou hot springs from central Taipei – simply take the red train line all the way there, and hop on the pink line one more stop to Xinbeitou, which is a five minute walk. Bring flipflops!
- “Thank You” in Chinese is Xie Xie (pronounced “Shi-eh Shi-eh”).
- Remove your shoes when entering homes or carpeted areas.
- Tipping is not usually expected, so don’t stress over it.
- Taipei has one of the lowest crime rates in Asia, but stay vigilant. We recommend anti-theft travel gear such as Pacsafe if you’re going to backpack.
We bet you’re sold on Taipei as your next bucket list destination, right? Find out what else you can get up to in Taiwan along with flight deals almost as tasty as Taiwanese street food…