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taipei city guide

by Stephanie


Image via Veer.com

Today’s Taipei City Guide is brought to us by Catherine Shu, a California native who moved to Taipei to study Mandarin and learn more about her heritage. She had such a great time exploring the city’s alleyways and sampling the endless variations on bubble milk tea that she decided to stay. Catherine covers indie designers, artists and culture for the Taipei Times and blogs about her favorite places at shu flies. Today she shares some of the many things she loves most about this magical city. Thanks, Catherine, for this wonderful glimpse at Taipei! — Stephanie

Read the full city guide after the jump . . .

The capital and creative center of a tiny country with a big heart, Taipei’s charm stems from its complicated, multilayered history and ability to combine different cultural influences — Dutch, Japanese, Chinese — with its own native traditions to create an alluring medley. Taipei is a city of fascinating contradictions. Worshippers ask for guidance at incense-filled temples in the shadow of gleaming skyscrapers; farmers’ markets are set up next to boutiques that sell ornate jade jewelry; and performance venues range from opulent symphony halls to dark, smoky “live houses” that showcase up-and-coming musicians. The flagship stores of international luxury brands sit a few blocks away from indie boutiques that carry lovingly handmade wares, and leafy neighborhood parks offer a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

Taipei is best explored on foot. Pick a neighborhood and spend an afternoon meandering around its lanes and alleyways. Take a break to enjoy fresh fruit from a produce stand, or slurp down noodles at a stall. Taiwanese people are passionate about food and value deliciousness over ambiance (though there are certainly plenty of fancy restaurants). Some of yummiest treats are sold from signless hole-in-the-walls or pushcarts. Don’t be shy —residents of each neighborhood will point you in the direction of the best bubble tea, steamed buns or scallion pancakes. The dining establishments listed below are just a few of my favorites and certainly not a comprehensive list (for more English-language reviews, I recommend A Hungry Girl’s Guide to Taipei).

A note on spelling: The many systems of Mandarin romanization seen in Taiwan are enough to tie the brains (and tongues) of foreign visitors into knots. For this guide, I have used Hanyu pinyin for addresses, following the current government standard. For place names, I used Wade-Giles, which many Taiwanese people still use for their own names or businesses (if a place already has an English name, I have used that, of course).

The list below also includes a few places in New Taipei City, which until December 2010 was known as Taipei County.

This guide is organized by stops on the Taipei Metro. Check out this Google Map for all of the locations mentioned below!

MUSEUMS

No guide to Taipei is complete without a mention of the National Palace Museum, which houses one of the world’s most famous and valuable collections of Chinese art. The galleries featuring breathtaking curios collected by imperial households and hundreds of years of ceramics are particularly excellent. To avoid tour groups, make sure to stay late — they usually clear out about an hour before closing time, leaving the museum mostly empty. Located diagonally across the street is the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines, which focuses on the 14 indigenous tribal groups currently recognized by Taiwan’s government. Housed in a unique, trapezoidal concrete and glass structure, the museum highlights Aboriginal art and culture.

If you are interested in contemporary art, make sure to check out the Taipei Fine Arts Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei (MOCA Taipei). Built in 1921, MOCA Taipei’s building was originally an elementary school, before serving as Taipei City Hall for 40 years.

The Taiwan Folk Arts Museum in Beitou District is housed in a carefully restored former clubhouse for officers built during the Japanese colonial era. The interior is an excellent example of Japanese architecture, while the revolving exhibitions showcase embroidery, ceramics and other aspects of Taiwanese art. The nearby Beitou Public Library has not only achieved the government’s highest rating for green architecture, but is also simply stunning. The wooden walls date from the Japanese colonial period and are lined with windows, giving the building’s exterior an airy, lattice-like appearance and flooding the interior with light.

The Suho Memorial Paper Museum and Yingge Ceramics Museum (in Yingge District, New Taipei City) have beautiful, recently refurbished interiors. The first hosts papermaking demonstrations and sells a good selection of handmade papers, while the latter focuses on the history of Yingge District, once the heart of Taiwan’s ceramics industry.

Taipei also has many quirky museums, like the Miniatures Museum of Taiwan, where you can marvel over elaborately detailed dollhouses and dioramas. The Museum of Drinking Water is a lot more exciting than it sounds, with a picturesque Baroque-style building and adjacent water park.

Zhongshan MRT Station

Anchored by MOCA Taipei, the streets around the Zhongshan MRT stop are filled with stores run by some of Taipei’s top independent designers and brands, many of which specialize in handmade goods.

DO

MOCA Taipei operates a gallery in the underground Zhongshan Metro Mall (in between Zhongshan and Shuanglian MRT stations) that hosts free exhibitions by local artists. The mall is lined with bookstores, many of which carry a large selection of arts and craft publications.

Spot – Taipei Film House — This palatial white structure housed American ambassadors before official Taiwan-US diplomatic relations were severed in 1979. Now it is one of the city’s leading art film venues. The gift shop sells DVDs, books and items by local designers.

SHOP

MBmore — Located in the Zhongshan Metro Mall near MOCA Taipei’s exhibit space, MBmore features original, limited edition work by more than 40 Taiwanese print artists for accessible prices.

Wu Xing Creative Company — MBmore’s next door neighbor, Wu Xing offers handmade ceramics (including lots of pretty mugs and teapots) and sterling silver jewelry by local artists.

Booday — One of the country’s best-known lifestyle brands, Booday’s charming aesthetic combines homespun simplicity with a tender attention to detail. Check out the soft organic cotton T-shirts with charming illustrations inspired by Taiwanese daily life.

Lovely Taiwan — This gallery-like store is dedicated to promoting native Taiwanese culture and presents items handmade by artisans at a variety of price points. Highlights include Aboriginal weavings and driftwood furniture.

De Stijl — A boutique with a lovingly curated selection of vintage American and European jewelry, including art nouveau, art deco and modernist pieces.

61Note — This combination cafe, store and gallery delivers a well-edited selection of stationery and kitchenware, all with a minimalist aesthetic.

Artale Workshop — Traditional Taiwanese indigo dyeing is deftly combined with contemporary designs to create this store’s unique clothing, scarves and embroidered accessories.

Earth Tree, Twine and Motherhouse — All three stores, which focus on fair trade and eco-friendly goods, share a single space. Earth Tree carries items from Japanese fair trade brands People Tree and Nepali Bazaro, while Motherhouse sells beautifully crafted leather bags. Founded by two former architects, Twine’s signature is jewelry made with wool felt and dried plants as well as items by local artists and designers.

‘0416X1024 — This T-shirt brand’s quirky pen-and-ink illustrated designs and playfully wacky sense of humor have earned it a cult following.

Chung’s Silver Workshop — Artist Chung Wei-wen’s signature is sterling silver jewelry that draws inspiration from motifs in traditional Chinese art. The glowing luster of each piece is created by time-consuming hand polishing.

ppaper — Run by a creative agency and magazine publisher, this store sells office and home accessories from around the world.

Lintien Barrel Store, 108 Zhongshan N Rd Sec 1 — Lintien started selling sturdy wooden barrels and stools over eight decades ago, and its storefront still looks much the same as it did during the Japanese colonial era.

EAT

Fei Chian Wu, 13-2, Ln 121, Zhongshan N Rd — This Japanese restaurant is famous for its grilled eel over rice.

Hao Ji, 77 Jilin Rd — Classic Taiwanese “small eats,” or tapas-sized portions that allow you to sample many different dishes in one sitting. Wash it all down with a cold bottle of Taiwan Beer.

Taipei Main Station

Located to the west of Taipei Main Station MRT stop, Dadaocheng was an important trading area in the 19th century and is lined with buildings from the Japanese colonial era. (Many of the places below are also within walking distance of the Zhongshan MRT stop).

DO

Ri Xing Typography, 13, Ln 97, Taiyuan Rd — This small factory houses the last complete set of traditional Chinese character molds for lead-type casting in the world. Individual pieces of lead type are also available for sale.

SHOP

The area near the intersection of Yanping North and Changan West roads is lined with craft stores, with an emphasis on jewelry-making supplies. Crystal Supermarket at 87 Zhengzhou St on the corner of Yanping North and Zhengzhou roads is one of the largest establishments, with rows upon rows of semi-precious beads for bargain prices.

Yongle Market, 21, Dihua St Sec 1 — Once the center of Taiwan’s textile industry, the market’s second floor is crowded with stalls selling almost every kind of textile imaginable, from fine silk brocade to kawaii Japanese cotton prints. Be sure to look out for Taiwan floral cloth, which features a lively design of vibrant fuchsia peonies on bright pink or turquoise backgrounds. Head up to the third floor to get your new material sewn up into home accessories or custom clothing. The food stalls around the market are also known for good eats, so make sure to check them out before you start shopping.

In Blooom and Hakka Blue, 1, Ln 32, Dihua St Sec 1 — Both brands are located in ArtYard, an arts-and-culture center house in a former residence built during the Japanese colonial era. Hakka Blue features ceramics with colors inspired by traditional indigo Hakka clothing, while the cushions and bags of In Blooom are silkscreened with designs that mix inspiration from Scandinavian textile design with motifs drawn from Taiwanese daily life and ecology. ArtYard’s second-floor cafe is a soothing place to drink coffee and flip through some art or design publications.

Fabrik, 3, Ln 31, Shaoxing N St — Store selling imported vintage furniture with an emphasis on industrial and Bauhaus styles. (Note: Fabrik is located to the east of Taipei Main Station and is closest to the Shandao Temple MRT stop.)

Ximending

With its youth-oriented businesses and streets lined with vendors and buskers, Ximending is often referred to as Taipei’s Shinjuku and a fun stop for people watching. It is reached by the Ximen MRT stop.

DO

Red House Theater, 10 Chengdu Rd — Built in 1908, this red-brick, octagonal structure once housed a public market and is now home to a theater, galleries and 16 Workshops, a small mall with stores run by Taiwanese designers that sell items ranging from graphic T-shirts to handcarved wooden hair sticks inlaid with sterling silver designs.

Riverside Live House, 177 Xining S Rd — Situated right behind Red House Theater, Riverside is one of Taipei’s top venues for indie musicians.

Bopiliao Old Street, 101 Guangzhou St — Located near Longshan Temple and Snake Alley night market, Bopiliao Old Street is lined with preserved buildings and storefronts that give a glimpse into 200 years of Taiwanese history. The area also regularly hosts live music performances and cultural events. (Note: Bopiliao Old Street is closest to the Longshan Temple MRT stop.)

SHOP

Red House Market for Artists & Designers — Held every weekend in front of Red House Theater, this market gives emerging brands a platform and shoppers a place to find inexpensive, one-of-a-kind items.

Wannien Shopping Complex, 70 Xining S Road — This popular shopping mall is packed with small stores selling a wide selection of items ranging from the latest in Korean and Japanese street fashion to gashopon capsule toys.

Shinjuku Plaza, 72-1, Xining S Rd — Newer and less crowded than Wannien, Shinjuku Plaza down the street offers the same wide range of items and services, from elaborate Japanese-style 3D manicures to tattoos.

EAT

Snow King, 65 Wuchang St Sec 1 — Have you ever wanted to try ice cream flavored with Taiwan Beer or sesame oil chicken? In business since 1947, Snow King offers over 70 flavors, some very strange, all definitely intriguing. Prefer something more refreshing? Try a scoop of their popular mango, watermelon or Taiwanese basil ice creams.

Gongguan

Home to National Taiwan University (usually called Taida), one of the country’s most prestigious schools, this neighborhood is known for its night market, cafes and indie bookstores. It is served by the Gongguan and Taipower Building MRT stops.

DO

The Wall, 200 Roosevelt Rd Sec 4 — One of Taipei’s most important live music venues.

Wistaria Tea House, 1, Ln 16, Xinsheng S Rd Sec 3 — This Japanese-style building was an important meeting place for Taipei’s intellectuals and political dissidents during the martial law era. It now hosts regular art exhibits and discussions. The cafe serves light meals, traditional snacks and Taiwanese and Chinese teas.

The Heart of the Fountainhead, 92, Roosevelt Rd Sec 4 — Israeli kinetic art pioneer Yaacov Agam’s glorious mural encompasses the entire exterior of Shuiyuan Market across Roosevelt Rd from Taida.

Treasure Hill Artists Village — Once a veterans’ community, Treasure Hill is famous for its picturesque jumble of hillside dwellings, several of which are still home to the area’s original residents. It was turned into an artists’ village in fall 2010 after four years of renovations.

EAT

The stretch of Wenzhou Rd near Taida is lined with cool cafes, including Cafe Bastille (91 Wenzhou St‭)‬, Shake House (86 Wenzhou St) and ‬Le Chat (2, Ln 49, Wenzhou St).

Chen San Ding, corner of Alley 8, Ln 316, Roosevelt Rd Sec 3 — Bubble milk tea addicts patiently wait in long lines for this stand’s signature drink, which features tapioca pearls flavored with black sugar.

Shida

Shida is the informal name for National Taiwan Normal University, which boosts one of the country’s top art programs. The neighborhood to the south of the campus is home to lots of indie cafes and boutiques with student-friendly prices. It is served by the Taipower Building and Guting MRT stops.

DO

Underworld, 45 Shida Rd — An unassuming underground space that is a favorite hangout and performance venue for Taipei’s top indie musicians.

Kafka By The Sea, 2, Ln 244, Roosevelt Rd — This café hosts movie screenings and acoustic music performances in a range of genres.

SHOP

Mooi Trouve, 4, Ln 16, Taishun St — This cafe is housed in one of the single-family residences that used to line Taipei’s streets but are now rapidly disappearing. The shop sells vintage mid-century modern home accessories.

Le Magasin Du Ciel, 78, Yunhe St — Owner Heaven Tai makes whimsical jewelry and bags from a patchwork of vintage and new fabrics embellished with Japanese washi tape (which she also stocks). The storefront used to be an apartment; be sure to check out the pretty floral tiles on the floor, once a common feature in Taiwanese homes.

White Wabbit, 1-1, Ln 21, Pucheng St — Operated by one of the country’s top independent music labels, the White Wabbit store is known for its outstanding selection of albums by Taiwanese and foreign groups, with a focus on post-rock, ambient music and indie pop.

Si’enna, 27, Ln 68, Shida Rd — The entrance of this little boutique is located next to White Wabbit and sells handmade leather bags, belts and shoes.

Primary Silver, 11, Longquan St — Silversmithing workshop that creates gorgeous, lushly detailed jewelry based on Chinese and Taiwanese culture.

Treasure Hunt Flea Market, 38, Roosevelt Rd Sec 2 — The cavernous interior of this gigantic vintage and secondhand goods store near Guting MRT station takes up several buildings. The huge furniture section features a mix of traditional Chinese and Western pieces. Many of the items are on the pricey side, but there are some good bargains.

EAT

Shida Night Market — Smaller than its more famous counterparts, like Shilin Night Market, and geared to a younger crowd, Shida Night Market is nonetheless just as packed with stalls serving goodies like juicy steamed dumplings, skewers of roasted meat and bubble milk tea.

Hohomei, 51, Ln 26, Taishun St — Shida students are willing to line up patiently in even the most inclement weather for this restaurant’s signature, the binghuo, or a dessert sandwich made with a freshly-baked, hot buluo bao (a Hong Kong pastry) stuffed with a giant slab of sweet, chilled butter.

Is Taiwan Is Chocolate, 9-3, Ln 13, Pucheng St — Gourmet chocolates made with all-natural flavorings. Their matcha tea, lavender and jasmine truffles are especially delectable.

Mo! Relax, 20, Ln 60, Taishun St — Cafe with a large book and music library that is known as a hipster hangout par excellence.

Xiaoman and Jikonka, 39, Ln 16, Taishun St — Located in a former residence, Xiaoman serves tea and snacks out of beautiful handcrafted ceramic wares, while Jikonka is a small boutique featuring simple, comfortable clothing sewn from natural fibers.

Yongkang St

This neighborhood is best known to tourists for Dintaifung’s famous soup dumplings, Yongkang 15’s giant mango ices (formerly known as Ice Monster, the stand is now named after its address) and Beef Noodle Master. A walk around the tree-lined streets will also take you to charming cafes, top-notch art galleries and independently owned boutiques selling clothing and home accessories. Yongkang St is closest to the Guting and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial MRT stations.

DO

Formosa Vintage Museum Cafe, 3F, 178, Xinyi Rd Sec 2 — Opened by a passionate amateur historian and collector, this combination cafe and museum allows you to enjoy a pot of tea surrounded by artifacts and furniture dating as far back as the Dutch colonial era.

PiaoPiao Gallery, 44 Yongkang St — Supposedly the smallest art gallery in Taipei, PiaoPiao hosts solo shows by some of the country’s top emerging artists.

Boss Art Gallery, 180 Chaozhou St — The shows at this gallery range in genre from Chinese calligraphy to modern art.

SHOP

The tree-lined blocks of Ln 243 Jinhua St between Yongkang Park and Jinhua St are filled with boutiques run by indie fashion designers, specialty stores (including Veltiver Apothecary, which carries natural skincare products from around the world) and cafes that serve excellent coffee and tea, like Roaster Family Coffee and Caffe Libero.

Chao Heting Antique Market, 60 Yongkang St — The stalls in this indoor vintage and antique market sell an wide variety of items, including old photos, movie posters and toys.

Dixiajie, B1, 11-4 Yongkang St — This large basement store is stuffed with an exciting jumble of used books, CDs and vintage knickknacks. The selection of secondhand vinyl records is huge and will provide hours of amusement for audiophiles.

ChangYi Fang, 27, Ln 47, Yongkang St – Every part of ChangYi Fang’s budaixi, or traditional wooden puppets — from their delicately detailed faces to richly embroidered outfits — is handmade. The store also sells bags and accessories sewn from colorful Taiwan floral cloth.

EAT

Kao Chi, 5 Yongkang St — Don’t feel like waiting in line at Dintaifung? Kao Chi is just around the corner, and its soup dumplings also enjoy a devoted following.

Chinchiyuan, 28-1 Yongkang St — Another dumpling establishment, Chinchiyuan’s menu is much less expensive than its more famous neighbors, but its treats are just as delectable.

Chiachia Hakka Restaurant, 10, Ln 2, Yongkang St — Traditional Hakka cuisine features lots of strong flavorings like garlic, ginger and vinegar, and Chiachia does it exceptionally well. Their version of stinky tofu, a classic Taiwanese dish, is a must-try.

James Kitchen, 65 Yongkang St — A popular restaurant that serves tasty Taiwanese cuisine in a nostalgic setting.

Hui Liu, 9, Ln 31, Yongkang St — This roomy tea house faces Yongkang Park and serves excellent vegetarian fare. A studio in front sells wood-fired ceramics by co-owner Evan Shaw.

La Patisserie Douceur, 223 Jinhua St — An unabashedly girly bakery with French pastries that are just as exquisite to look at as they are to taste. Its perfect little macarons come in offbeat flavors, like balsamic vinegar and wasabi, but are all delicious.

Bunny Listens to the Music, 15, Ln 6, Qingtian St, and Boite De Bijoux, 19-1, Ln 33, Lishui St — Both establishments are operated by the same owners and sell mouthwatering desserts. Boite De Bijou is a bakery, while Bunny Listens to the Music serves European-style food and has a very good afternoon tea.

Ecole, 6, Ln 1, Qingtian St — This popular café is filled with vintage furniture from elementary schools in Germany (childish scrawling and doodles are still visible on some chairs) and regularly hosts art shows and live music in its basement gallery. It is next door to vintage mid-century modern furniture seller Mooi.

TruffeOne, 45-1 Yongkang St — A gourmet chocolatier that creates unique candies and flavors, like an entire olive enrobed in milk chocolate and honey and alfalfa.

Ye Tang, 20-2, Ln 31, Yongkang St — Owner He Jian is dedicated to preserving Taiwanese tea culture. His peaceful teahouse is located in a timber-framed structure and filled with tea-making artifacts.

Da’an Forest Park

Known as the Central Park of Taipei, the tree-lined Da’an Forest Park features running trails, sports fields and an amphitheater. Da’an Forest Park is closest to the Da’an and Technology Building MRT stations.

The Jade and Flower Weekend Markets, the corner of Jianguo S and Xinyi Rds — Located next to Da’an Forest Park under an overpass, these two markets are open every Saturday and Sunday. The Flower Market sells a large selection of plants and gardening supplies, while the Jade Market is filled with stalls offering jewelry and knickknacks carved from the stone.

41 Furnishings Gallery, 6, Ln 8, Jianguo S Rd Sec 1 — This brand’s streamlined, modern furniture is manufactured using environmentally friendly processes from fragrant acacia confusa wood.

East District

Served by the Zhongxiao Fuxing, Zhongxiao Dunhua and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall MRT stops, the area informally known as the East District is filled with trendy, upscale stores and restaurants.

DO

A House, 18, Alley 5, Ln 107, Fuxing S Rd Sec 1, Taipei City — This chic café is also Taipei’s first venue dedicated to a cappella music.

Huashan 1914 Culture Park, 1 Bade Rd Sec 1 — Located in a former winery, Huashan’s houses Legacy, a popular performance venue, exhibition spaces, restaurants and a yoga studio (please note that Huashan is closest to the Zhongxiao Xinsheng MRT station).

SHOP

Dunnan Eslite, 245, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1 — Eslite bookstores have become important cultural centers throughout Taiwan, hosting talks, music performances and art shows in addition to selling books. The Dunnan location’s bookstore (including its magazine section with art, design and fashion periodicals from around the world) is open 24 hours and has a good selection of English-language publications. Eslite Dunnan’s building also has stellar stationery and music departments, as well as two additional floors of boutiques showcasing fashion, jewelry and home accessory labels.

VVG Something, 13, Alley 40, Ln 181, Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4, Taipei City — Features books, indie magazines and items carefully selected to fit a theme that changes every few months (recent ones have included gourmet cooking and Japanese interior decorating).

Galoop, 169-1, Zhongxiao E Rd, Sec 4 (the storefront is in the back of the building) — This Taiwanese clothing and lifestyle brand focuses on basics in neutral colors with fun details, like playful pleating, asymmetrical hems or quirky but discreet buttons. Their stationery line has illustrations that are sweet and sophisticated at the same time.

Figure 21, 1-6, Alley 29, Ln 205, Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4, Taipei City — Tucked away in a narrow alleyway, this small store sells handsewn leather bags and accessories designed to preserve the original shape and textures of each hide.

Bomb Fry Metal Jewelry, 1-7, Alley 29, Ln 205, Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4 — Figure 21’s next door neighbor, BFMJ’s signature is brass and sterling silver jewelry made with innovative metalsmithing and enameling techniques. Many of the quirky designs play off visual puns in English or Mandarin.

blah blah blah, 6, Ln 160, Dunhua S Rd — This cute store is designed to look like a children’s playhouse and sells offbeat, handmade accessories, including reversible tote bags sewn from colorful mixes of vintage fabric and leather, purses with embroidered portraits of dignified cats in Tudor-style outfits and bright-eyed stuffed animals reminiscent of 1960s Japanese toys.

Monster Gear and Monster Taipei — Both stores are owned by the organizer of the annual Taipei Toy Festival, Asia’s largest event dedicated to urban vinyl. Monster Gear (44, Ln 51, Da’an Rd Sec 1) has a gallery-like setting showcasing limited-edition toys, while Monster Taipei (24C, 3F, 97, Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4), located in Dinghao shopping mall, is packed with the latest releases.

Designburg, 39-3‭, ‬Ln 101‭, ‬Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4 — Store spotlighting emerging Taiwanese jewelry brands that use unusual materials or construction methods.

Whiple House, 34, Ln 252, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1 — The downstairs store carries simple, quality clothing and dishware, while the upstairs cafe serves tasty pastas and fresh bread.

EAT

248 Farmers’ Market, Ln 248, Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 4 (open Fridays and Saturdays) — Stalls sell produce, rice and condiments grown without pesticides using sustainable farming methods.

Cha Cha The, 23, Ln 219, Fuxing S Rd Sec 1 — Opened by Shiatzy Chen, one of Taiwan’s top fashion designers, Cha Cha The serves French and Italian-inspired food designed to complement different teas.

Papa Bubble Taipei, 12, Ln 151, Renai Rd Sec 4, Taipei City — Handmade candies that look like Venetian glass and are flavored with all-natural ingredients (try the passionfruit or chocolate stuffed peppermint “pillows”). The store has a liberal sampling policy and daily candymaking demonstrations.

VVG Bistro, VVG Table and VVG Bon Bon — These three establishments have gorgeous interiors and relaxed ambiances. Bistro (20, Alley 40, Ln 181, Zhongxiao E Rd, Sec 4) and Table (14, Alley 181, Ln 40l, Zhongxiao E Road) both serve French cuisine, while VVG Bon Bon (13, Ln 161, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1) specializes in cupcakes, macarons and candies in a pink, exuberantly frilly cafe setting.

Pekoe, 7, Ln 295, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1 — Founded by food writer Yeh Yi-lan, this airy café also carries a wide range of teas, gourmet condiments and premium kitchenware, with a focus on local brands.

Shao Shao Ke, 15, Ln 41, Renai Rd Sec 2 — This restaurant’s funky décor includes walls covered with graffiti from hundreds of guests extolling the virtues of its addictive take on Shanxi Chinese cuisine.

Ah-Tsai’s Restaurant, 17, Ln 41, Renai Rd Sec 2 — Located next door to Shao Shao Ke, Ah-Tsai serves up Taiwanese classics in a setting that looks like it came straight out of 1960s Taipei. (Note: Both Shao Shao Ke and Ah-Tsai are closest to the Zhongxiao Xinsheng station).

Xinyi District

Xinyi District is best known as the home of landmark skyscraper Taipei 101, posh shopping centers and swank hotels like Le Meridien and W. It is served by the Taipei City Hall MRT station.

SHOP

Good Cho’s, Xinyi Public Assembly Hall House C, 54 Songqin St — Located in a former veterans’ village across Xinyi Rd from the Taipei World Trade Center, this cafe, store and gallery is operated by the organizers of the biennial Simple Life indie music festival. The store carries gourmet goodies, skincare products and clothing, while the weekend Simple Market gives young designers and artists a place to sell their goods.

Xinyi Eslite, 11 Songgao Rd — Like its sibling in the East District, Xinyi Eslite is also home to boutiques, lifestyle stores and restaurants in addition to its book, music and stationery sections. The building also features a kitchen for cooking demonstrations and a department dedicated to selling magazines, books and gifts from Japan.

Page One, Taipei 101 Mall, 4F, 45 Shifu Rd — This bookstore specializes in English-language publications and has a good selection of volumes about art, design and photography

EAT

smith&hsu, 33 Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 5 — This elegant cafe combines the concept of English afternoon tea with the best Taiwanese tea leaves.

Sanyuan, Bellavita mall, B2, 28 Songren Rd — Cooks up creative interpretations of soup dumplings, including a version made out of mochi wrapped around hot, molten chocolate. The dessert has set the hearts of many Taipei food bloggers aflutter (and for good reason).

Danshui District

When skies are clear, the riverside around the Danshui MRT station is a great place to take a walk and watch the sunset. Eat your pick of fresh seafood from dozens of stalls, visit historic Fort Santo Domingo (built by the Spanish in 1629) or take a ferry across the river to Bali District, where you can enjoy more seafood and stunning views of the harbor.

(Slightly) Further Afoot

A couple things to check out in New Taipei City:

Tienfuchia Sichuan Restaurant, 5 Renai Rd, Yonghe District, New Taipei City — Love Sichuan food? Then this restaurant’s dishes will blow your mind (and leave your tastebuds delightfully tingly). Make sure to make reservations or you’ll never get your chopsticks on Tianfujia’s famous mala tofu. The closet subway stop is the Dingxi MRT station.

Fuhe Bridge Flea Market, under the Fuhe Bridge, Yonghe District, New Taipei City — Antique collectors and bargain collectors alike converge on this weekend market to go treasure hunting.

STAY

Les Suites Da An — This boutique hotel in the East District has a soothing environment and top-notch amenities.

Dandy Hotel — Features minimalist décor and rooms that overlook Da’an Forest Park.

Hotel 73 — Located a short walk away from Yongkang St, Hotel 73 has rooms decorated by students from Shih Chien University, which has one of the country’s top design programs.

Ambience Hotel — All-white rooms and modish furniture will make you feel like you are living in “Space Odyssey.”

Hotel Eight Zone — This boutique hotel’s 50 rooms are decorated in eight different designs.

A few notable people who have lived or worked in Taipei:

Fashion Designers
Jason Wu
Shiatzy Chen
Isabelle Wen
Jamei Chen
Goji Lin

Filmmakers
Edward Yang
Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Ang Lee
Tsai Ming-liang

Actors and Musicians
Teresa Teng
A-Mei
Wang Leehom
Takeshi Kaneshiro
Joanna Wang
Jay Chou
Jolin Tsai

Artists
Huang Hsin-chien
Jimmy Liao
Liao Shiou-ping
Liao Chi-Chun
Wu Tien-chang
Yang Mao-lin

Music Groups

Taipei is the center of Taiwan’s thriving indie music scene. Here are just a few groups to get you started.

1976
88 Guava Seedz
Blacklist Studio
Chthonic
Sodagreen
Won Fu
Wu Bai
Mayday
Tizzy Bac
Suming
Kou Chou Ching

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Comments

  • I’m Taiwanese on my mother’s side and have visited Taipei (her hometown) 5 or 6 times. We haven’t gone back in many years though (not since my grandmother passed). Lately I have been itching to visit again, and when I do (hopefully 2012 or 2013) I will certainly be consulting this guide. Thank you!

    PS: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial was always one of my favorite places to go. :)

  • I’ve been living in Taipei for about 8 months and have been secretly wishing to see my new residence pop up on the city guides! Thanks for posting and I can definitely vouch for several of the restaurants and shops that Catherine has listed – in Taipei its an endless discovery of new shops & eats down every street corner!

  • I wish this city guide had been around when I lived in Taiwan a few years ago! I’ll just have to go back. How terrible.

  • I love this guide! I’ve been to Taipei many many times now and usually end up at the same places but I’m taking my husband back for the first time this year so I am excited to have this list of places so that we can discover parts of Taipei together =) Thanks for sharing!

  • I, too, wish I had had a guide like this when I was living in Taiwan in the 1990s. Mostly, though, I wish I hadn’t spent so much time teaching English, so that I could have seen more of the city…

  • I was born in Taipei and my mother’s side of the family resides throughout Taiwan. Some of my favorite childhood memories are of summers spent on my grandmother’s farm in the rural countryside outside of Changhua…visiting gorgeous and colorful temples…the food adventures and shopping in the night markets. Oh, the FOOD…I’m always on the search for authentic Taiwanese food and snacks here in Cali…and I frequent our local Asian markets in hopes of recreating some of the delicacies and “comfort food” for my kids. It’s never as good…how I miss my grandmother’s cooking and the street market fare. I introduced my husband to Taiwan when we decided to visit my family on a whim during summer break from college (in ’93)…that’s when we first discovered “boba” teas..it was called “pearls” then. My whole family is addicted to them now. My sisters and I would like to plan a trip to bring our husbands and children to Taiwan for a family vacation/reunion…this guide will be so helpful! Thanks!

  • By the way, whereabouts in Taipei is that bopomofo pavement? Boy, does that bring back memories of my days at MTC…

  • I wish I could visit Taipei! I’ve always wanted visit Asia with my mom and I was finally getting the chance to this summer, until I found a job. And I couldn’t turn down the offer and have lost out on amazing Asian adventure.

  • Taipei is alright. Its got great food options and cool sights, but its highly polluted and crowded. I think the southern town of Kenting is much nicer and more adventurous to see what the tropical island has to offer.

  • Ohhh my god, I want to go back to Taiwan so much. It’s been too long . . . Thanks for letting me reminisce– and begin planning my next trip! :D

  • Thanks so much for this! I miss the food in Taiwan (but not the heat!). I’ll definitely consult this list next time I visit.

  • Thanks everyone for your comments on my guide!
    Ed — Taipei and Kenting are such different places, I think it’s hard to compare them! But they do complement each other… that’s one of the things I love about living in Taiwan — in half a day you can travel from any city to the beach or mountains.
    Kate: Yes, KGB is great! They have great veggie burgers. Thanks for mentioning them!

  • What a wonderful and comprehensive guide – very well put together. Definitely inspiring me to visit! Thank you. :-)

  • Elaine: I saw it in Jinhua Park a block east of Yongkang St, but last time I went there I couldn’t find the bopomofo pavement anymore… I think they replaced it with a less slippery walkway.

  • This guide is so well timed! I’m in Taiwan now visiting family, and they always like to go to the same places all the time. I’ve already been reading Hungry girl and now I’ll know where to go when I explore on my own. Thanks so much, Catherine and Design Sponge!

  • i’m gonna grab my friends and see Taipei through new eyes! Been living here half my life and I wouldn’t know some of these places. Thanks for sharing!

  • don’t forget Sugar Plum Ferry for band! They’re probably the most high-profile taiwan indie act – performed at CMJ, SXSW, Fuji Rock, toured China and Canada, etc.

  • I just wanted to let readers know that Bomb Metal and Fry Jewelry has moved to No.27, Ln. 1, Sec. 2, Chengde Rd near the Zhongshan MRT stop (closest to exit 2). I’ll change the address on my Google Map, too.
    Kevin — Yes, I totally forgot Sugar Plum Ferry! They are great.

  • I’ve been saving this guide for about a year since I knew I would be coming to Taiwan after my graduation. Excited to finally check some of these places out! Thank you so, so much <3

  • Wonderful overview of Taipei City. Just don’t forget to escape the ‘city’ for the ‘New City’… there are plenty of things to see & do there, too.

    For example, visit Tamsui, go up to the North East Coast, Sanshia Old Street, Yingee Pottery Museum.

    You’ll find both Taipei City and New Taipei City energetic & exciting. Color guaranteed!

  • love taipei. my parents live there and i am proud to be a taiwanese american. thanks for posting! fIGURE 21 is awesome!

  • This is a great article! Using it like a bible when I’m walking along the Taipei Streets. Thanks Catherine!

  • Love this! My family is Taiwanese and we’re going to be spending the weekend in Taipei. I’m sure we’ll hit up several of these spots!

  • oh, wow! I lived in Taipei in 1989-1990… before the subway! Want to return next summer, perhaps to teach (I’ve been an NYC Teacher for the past 16 years) and bring my kids… Good memories. I remember clear, sunny days when the air raid sirens would go off (drills), a bat flying into me in the gardens of Chiang Kai Shek memorial one evening, beef noodles by ShiDa, scooters on the sideway, bow stores EVERYWHERE… Wow! Got to go back with the kids… :)

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