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Things to Do in Taipei

Taiwan’s capital city is a living, breathing museum where monuments pay testament to both the triumphs and turbulence of Taipei’s past. Vestiges of the Dutch rule and Japanese occupation are present in architecture and cuisine, while Taoist temples and modern skyscrapers epitomise the current cultural climate of Taipei city. Monumental highlights include Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, built to commemorate the former president of China; Longshan Temple; Taipei 101, one of the world's tallest skyscrapers; and the National Revolutionary Martyr’s Shrine. In-the-know travelers check off all of these sights and more with half- or full-day sightseeing tours and prebooked or skip-the-line tickets. Taiwan’s relatively small size means visitors can use Taipei as a base for visiting farther-flung attractions on day trips: Top draws include the Taroko Gorge National Park, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Asia; Sun Moon Lake; Jiufen Village (Chiufen), characterized by houses clinging to steep mountainsides; and Yehliu National Park, known for its spectacular sandstone formations. By night, Taipei erupts with life, and must-do evening activities include feasting on xiaochi (Chinese tapas) on a tour of Shilin Night Market, bagging tickets to a Chinese Opera show at TaipeiEYE, and sipping cold beer or iced tea at lively Taiwanese bars.
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Taipei 101
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71 Tours and Activities

Taiwan’s tallest skyscraper, Taipei 101, enjoyed the title of world’s tallest building from 2004 until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai was completed in 2010. It remains the world’s largest and tallest green building. The 1,667-foot (508-meter) structure consists of 101 aboveground floors and five underground floors and houses a mix of offices, a multilevel shopping complex, food court and restaurants.

Perhaps more impressive than the total height of the building is its structural integrity. The skyscraper was designed to withstand earthquakes and typhoon-level winds thanks to a massive damper sphere, the largest in the world. The building’s exterior is meant to resemble bamboo, a symbol of longevity.

You can spot the Taipei 101 from nearly anywhere in Taipei, but the best way to experience it is by riding the world’s fastest elevator to the eighty-ninth floor observatory. Take a self-guided audio tour in the indoor observatory before climbing to the outdoor deck.

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Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
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The Taiwanese people's reverence for the first President of the Republic of China and the icon of Chinese Nationalism is very much in evidence in the monumental Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

Chiang died in 1975, the hall opened five years later and since then the huge white structure, with its octagonal blue pagoda-style roof, has become a symbol of Taiwan.

You approach through a white ceremonial gateway on a similarly overwhelming scale. Once inside you'll find yourself immersed in Chiang’s life, with relics to bring alive his military and political career, including a slightly eerie dummy of the late president sitting in a recreation of his office.

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Shifen Waterfall
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Shifen Waterfall is located in the Pingxi District of Taipei and is one of the most famous falls in Taiwan. At just 20 meters it’s not remarkably tall, but it is the widest waterfall in the country – it spans some 40 meters across – and is both incredibly powerful and majestically captivating. Torrents of water plunge into a deep pool, raising a shroud of mist that creates a dazzling rainbow effect on sunny days. The waterfall’s rocks slope in the opposite direction to the flow of the water in a cascade style similar to that of Niagara Falls, earning it the nickname, “Taiwan's Little Niagara.”

It is a scenic walk from Shifen railway station to the waterfall, with many choosing to extend the hike by alighting the train from Taipei at Sandiaoling and taking three or four hours to complete the Sandiaoling Waterfall Trail.

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Taipei National Palace Museum
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The incomparable collection of Chinese art in Taipei's National Palace Museum makes it the city's number one tourist attraction. Many of the exhibits were once displayed in Beijing’s Forbidden City, and were moved to Taiwan in 1933, during the Chinese Civil War. Their new home is modern echo of that complex, sitting in lush gardens at the base of a dramatic hillside.

Items on display represent millennia of Chinese artistry and ingenuity, with highlights including an important calligraphy collection, landscape paintings and a huge range of jade, bronze and ceramic artifacts.

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Longshan Temple
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Longshan is Taipei’s oldest and most popular temple, dating back to the early 18th century, when it was first established by settlers from mainland China. In the meantime it’s expanded and contracted in times of war and peace, very much integrated into the life of the city while offering an oasis of reflection and contemplation within its heart.

Visitors are rarely unmoved by the amazingly ornate carvings and other decorative elements on display. The ceremonial gateways, elegant pagoda roofs and heady incense burners associated with traditional Chinese temples are all here. Also typically Chinese is the mix of faiths; Longshan is associated with Buddhism, Taoism and local gods.

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Alishan National Scenic Area
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Travelers flock to Alishan National Scenic Area for its breathtaking views and incredible sunrises. Thick white clouds cover the valley below and towering mountaintops look like tiny islands in a never-ending ocean.

Thick forests and well-kept hiking trails lead to the incredible views that are the main attraction at this scenic area. But visitors interested in more than just a pretty view can stop at nearby Ziyun Temple, Alishan Hotel and Alishan Rail Station—one of just three mountain rails in the world.

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Shilin Night Market
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Food vendors, mom and pop restaurants, video arcades and karaoke bars are just part of the draw Shilin Night Market. This tiny Taipei district comes alive at night when the doors of some 539 food court stalls, and small shops selling items that range from electronics to dress shoes open for business. Bold scents waft through the air and bright lights fill otherwise darkened streets, making this the perfect place to explore what local city nightlife is all about.

Visitors in search of typical fare will find literally hundreds of options at Shilin Night Market. Cold bubble tea, strong and sweet coffee, fried buns, intestines and stinky tofu are just some of the delights awaiting adventurous eaters. Travelers should come hungry and ready to explore, since navigating the network of stalls can take an entire evening.

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Yilan
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Yilan can be reached in less than an hour from Taipei, thanks to Asia’s second longest highway tunnel – the mighty Hsuehshan Tunnel. Yilan is located in a unique setting, looking out towards the sea along Taiwan's northeast coast on one side and surrounded by rugged mountains on all others. Known for its natural beauty and sweeping views, there’s plenty here to attract visitors, who either visit on day trips from Taipei or choose to stop and linger for a while staying in the area’s many hotels and rustic guest houses.

Located in the center of the Lanyang Plain, hot and cold springs and plenty of scenic nature trails make up the rural landscape around Yilan. Streams and rivers provide a constant source of replenishment for the nutrients in the soil here, making it a rich and fertile landscape. Meanwhile, the ocean provides some scenic coastal walks, along with an array of recreational activities, including the popular whale and dolphin watching trips.

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More Things to Do in Taipei

Dihua Street

Dihua Street

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After you’ve seen the Taipei 101 and shopped the city’s mega malls, get a sense of what Taipei was like decades ago with a visit to Dihua Street. The street that once served as Taipei’s major commercial center during the late Qing Dynasty still caters to more traditional tastes.

You won’t find any souvenirs or trinkets here, but you will see a wide range of traditional Chinese goods, like tea, medicinal herbs, dried mushrooms and seafood, beans, rice and sweets, and many locals coming to shop. Dihua Street gets particularly busy in the days leading up to Chinese New Year when families come to stock up on traditional holiday foods. During this time, the street becomes a solid wall of people haggling for their ingredients.

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Presidential Office Building

Presidential Office Building

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Taipei’s Presidential Office Building has housed the offices of the president and his staff since 1949. The stunning colonial-style building was constructed in 1919 to serve as the Japanese occupation headquarters but was severely damaged by bombing during World War II. The entire structure was rebuilt in 1946 in the same style as the original, and its distinctive brickwork is an excellent example of Japanese-era architecture in Taiwan.

The five-story red brick building has an eleven-floor tower at its center. At the time it was built, it was the tallest building in Taipei. On weekday mornings, the Presidential Office Building is open for tours, giving visitors the chance to see exactly where the president works. Even if you don’t take the tour, it’s worth stopping by just to see the building’s facade.

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Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan Hiking Trail)

Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan Hiking Trail)

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Tucked in the hills, just beyond Taipei city limits, lies popular Elephant Mountain—a natural network of trekking trails and walking paths that lead to some of the area’s most epic views.

Travelers willing to climb the dozens of steep steps along the Xiangshan Hiking Trail will be greeted by an uninterrupted look at the city skyline, including the towering Taipei 101. Visitors agree it’s one of the best in the area, and easy access from downtown makes it a perfect day trip for visitors looking to escape the urban jungle while still keeping it within view.

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Yongkang Street

Yongkang Street

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Taipei Confucius Temple

Taipei Confucius Temple

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Modeled after the oldest and largest Confucius temple in the philosopher’s hometown in Shangdong, China, the Taipei Confucius Temple displays all the characteristics of traditional Chinese temple architecture, including intricately carved wooden pillars, brightly painted roof tiles and sculptures. Unlike other Chinese temples, the Taipei Confucius Temple houses no likenesses of Confucius and bears no inscriptions. According to local legend, no one can match the literary prowess of Confucius, making inscriptions inauspicious.

The temple was originally built during the Qing Dynasty but was subsequently demolished during the Japanese occupation. The temple as it stands today was erected in 1930, though it briefly served as a Shinto shrine during World War II until Taiwan was given back to the Republic of China government in 1945.

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Paoan (Baoan) Temple

Paoan (Baoan) Temple

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Paoan Temple, one of the most popular and significant religious sites in Taipei, dates back to 1760 when immigrants from Southern China built the original wooden temple. Dedicated to the emperor-deity Paosheng, god of medicine and healing, Paoan in its current form has stood since 1805 after more than 25 years of construction.

Many local Taiwanese visit the fully functioning temple to pray for health and wellness, particularly with pregnant women. Besides Paosheng, you’ll find a shrine to the goddess of birth with her 12 aides inside the temple bell tower. All the wood and stone used to build the temple were brought from China, and the structure exhibits many of the typical characteristics of Chinese temple architecture, like the wooden dragon pillars and colorful wooden carvings. Paoan tends to be less crowded than Longshan Temple and much more colorful than the Taipei Confucius Temple.

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Beitou Hot Springs

Beitou Hot Springs

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Weary travelers will love soaking in the steaming waters of Beitou Hot Springs. Deep in the heart of lush green forests and surrounded by breathtaking scenery, these thermal spas offers the perfect opportunity to wash away the stresses of mass transit and the chaos of busy Taipei streets.

Five pools of various temperatures—from crazy hot to lukewarm and even cold—mean there’s an ideal dip for every visitor to Beitou. Unlike other natural spas that sometimes require travelers to soak in the buff, Beitou invites guests to settle into its waters wearing bathing suits.

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Hell Valley (Geothermal Valley)

Hell Valley (Geothermal Valley)

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Visitors come from throughout Asia and the world to soak in the healing waters of Taiwan’s natural hot springs, many of which are located in the close vicinity of Taipei. One of Taiwan’s most famous collections of natural volcanic hot springs are clustered in Beitou District in an area known as Hell Valley, or Geothermal Valley.

Upon entering the valley, you’ll understand how it gets its name. An ever-present sulfurous mist permeates the air with billowing clouds of hot steam rising up from hidden cracks in the ground. The hot springs pools here reach up to 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), rendering it too hot to swim. Locals used to come here to boil eggs in the highly acidic waters. To experience the supposedly healing waters that generate in Hell Valley, visit the Beitou Hot Springs, a public hot springs that maintains pools at a much more comfortable temperature.

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Beitou Hot Spring Museum

Beitou Hot Spring Museum

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After a relaxing soak in the thermal baths of Beitou Hot Springs, head to the nearby museum that shares a similar name. The Euro-Japanese-style building was built during Taipei’s occupation and once served as the main access to Beitou’s public bath.

In true Japanese style, visitors are asked to remove their shoes before exploring the network of 12 rooms that make up this popular attraction. Once the site of the largest bathhouse in Asia, the museum’s second floor is now home to an exhibition area that showcases articles, books, photographs and the history of the famous hot springs.

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National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine

National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine

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Taipei’s National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shine honors the men and women who died fighting on behalf of Taiwan in the second Sino-Japanese War, Chinese Civil War and both Taiwan Cross-Strait Crises among others. Around 390,000 names are listed on wooden plaques throughout the complex. The site has several structures, including a separate shrine for both military and civilian martyrs and a drum tower used during special rites ceremonies. Both the civilian and military martyrs’ shrines display profiles of some of the martyrs enshrined there and information about the conflicts.

The shrine was completed in 1969 and was inspired by the Hall of Supreme Harmony in Beijing. Plan your visit on the hour mark to witness the changing of the guard, an elaborate ritual similar to that seen at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. Memorial rites take place on March 29 and September 3 each year when the president and other government leaders come to pay their respects.

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Ningxia Night Market

Ningxia Night Market

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Located in Datong, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Taipei, the Ningxia Night Market is a small but energetic market filled with tasty local food, welcoming street vendors, and relatively tame crowds. It’s the perfect place to spend the evening slipping between brightly lit stands sampling “little eats” like salty chicken, dry tofu and muachi. Locals say the longer the line the longer the tradition—meaning vendors with queues snaking into the streets have likely been around the longest. It’s best to arrive with an empty belly and a full wallet. While the traditional street food is definitely on the affordable side, a huge variety and flavors, scents and dishes mean even these “little eats” can become a big meal.

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Red House Theater

Red House Theater

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Fo Guang Shan Monastery

Fo Guang Shan Monastery

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Founded by the Buddhist Master Hsing Yun, the Fo Guang Shan Monastery is one of the nation’s most-visited temples. Its huge golden Buddha stretches more than 100 meters into the sky and nearly 500 smaller versions of this religious deity circle around its feet. Four distinct temples honoring Sakyamuni line the banks of nearby Goaping River. And while scenic views from the monastery are particularly beautiful during the day, the glow from 14,800 lanterns tucked into the walls of the four shrines is particularly impressive as the sun begins to set.

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