3 great reasons to visit Taipei

Taipei might just be Asia’s most underrated city—a beguiling combination of the best of the rest. Like Shanghai it rewards aimless exploration on foot or by bike; like Bangkok gritty and glam coexist side by side; like Tokyo there’s an intoxicating sense that you’ll never quite know it all; and it’s surrounded by stunning green mountains to rival Hong Kong. Everyone comes here to eat (it edges out even Singapore in the street food stakes), but once you’re done with the night markets—of which Raohe (beside the Songshan MRT station) is the current foodie darling—there’s plenty more to keep you busy.

, 3 great reasons to visit Taipei


Street Style

Taipei’s a great place to wander at will, but to cover more ground it’s well worth renting a bike. The public YouBike system is easy to use (just NT$10 (40 cents) for four hours), and there’s a huge network of cycle paths across the city, with the riverside routes among the most rewarding.

Start with: Dihua Street, one of the city’s oldest thoroughfares. This grubby lane of crumbling shophouses and Chinese medicine vendors close to the river is no secret. But long-established fabric retailers and tea merchants are now competing with cafés, galleries and co-working spaces, making it a great mix of old and new.  It’s especially packed around Chinese New Year.

Move on to: Fujin Street, a quiet, leafy boulevard tucked away near Songshan Airport. It’s home to—you guessed it—a host of charming cafés, galleries and design stores. FujinTree355, which stocks colorful, lightweight womenswear and gorgeous Japanese-inspired homeware, is a great place to start—there’s even an offshoot café at no.353. Other worthwhile stops include FunFunTown, full of retro toys and traditional woodwork, and 3,co, which serves artisan coffee alongside a range of beautiful tableware.

, 3 great reasons to visit Taipei

Maokong Gondola

Day Hikes

Look down any street in Taipei and chances are there’ll be mountains looming on the horizon, meaning easy access to both well-trodden routes and some truly world-class hiking.

Start with: The Four Beasts. On the south-east edge of the city—only a 15-minute walk from Taipei 101—are Tiger, Elephant, Leopard and Lion Mountains. Their proximity to the center and the fact that the paths are paved, well-signposted, well-lit and—relatively—easy-going, means there are few better places for an evening stroll looking back over the city. The annotated Google Maps at http://is.gd/fourbeasts are pretty helpful, too.

Move on to: Maokong, where a glass-bottomed gondola from the Taipei Zoo MRT station in the south whisks you up to tea country, with stunning views across the city. As well as tramping around the plantations, hillside temples and wooded slopes, you can put your feet up in one of dozens of charming teahouses, though be warned they get overrun at weekends.

, 3 great reasons to visit Taipei

Beer&Cheese Social House

Craft Beer

Off-the-shelf beers aren’t up to much here, although draft Taiwan Beer, only served for up to 18 days after production, is worth seeking out.  But the first hints of a craft beer revolution are afoot.

Start with: Beer&Cheese Social House, a popular spot near Da’an Park, with eight brews on rotation on the taps (from NT$180 ($7.80)), a stacked fridge with plenty more and a delicious array of grilled cheese toasties (from NT$250 ($10.80)). As well as beers from local microbrewery 886 they recently partnered with gypsy brewer Jeppe-Jarnit BergsØ of Evil Twin to produce a Made in Taiwan IPA and a local edition of the ironically named Hipster Ale.

Move on to: SomethingAles (195 Roosevelt Rd., Section 3, Shida District), a simple neighborhood bar, open till 1am, with a loyal army of followers and a great selection of American beers. Or KidSorrow, a cult spot in the far north of the city serving rare ales and lots of Mikkeller.

, 3 great reasons to visit Taipei


Getting There

We flew with Tigerair, which has two or three flights a day leaving Singapore, including a Friday afternoon flight which gets you in for early evening.

China Airlines, EVA Air, Scoot and Singapore Airlines also offer direct flights. A taxi into the city from the airport takes around 45 minutes and costs NT$1200 ($52).


More than 40 countries, including Singapore and Malaysia, are part of the visa exemption program, meaning no visas needed for visits of up to 30 days. Check www.taiwanembassy.org/SG for the full list.

Exchange Rate

NT$24 = $1

, 3 great reasons to visit Taipei

Mandarin Oriental

Where to stay

Mandarin Oriental Taipei

Overview: This majestic new spot, the first Mandarin in Taiwan, opened mid-way through last year and features more than 300 luxurious rooms and suites, alongside plenty of fine dining options. It’s on a leafy avenue to the north of downtown (perfect for exploring nearby Fujin Road).

Design: In a word: lush. MO don’t do things by half and the tone is set when you pull up outside—the Art Deco-inspired building is the most imposing on what is already a pretty distinguished street. Inside is no less grand: you can thank their “artisan designers” for details like the flower-engraved leather walls and huge chandeliers.

Rave: They had us at the rainforest showers and Diptyque toiletries, although we imagine a night in one of their five varieties of suites, complete with private bar, would be even more special. Speaking of suites, there are 12 in the Spa, too. On-site dining is as fancy as you’d imagine (the interior of breakfast spot Café Un Deux Trois is something special), though the opulent Mandarin Cake Shop, located in its own private courtyard, was an unexpected gem.

Rant: We’re splitting hairs here, but it’s a pretty big complex with multiple entrances, meaning the reception experience can be a little lacking (or non-existent if you come in the wrong way).

Price: From $475/night.