City Guide: Taipei

Looking for things to do in Taipei, Taiwan?

The City Guide Taipei gives you an in-depth look at Taiwan’s riveting capital city!

When it comes to mapping out Asian trip itineraries, Taipei tends to fly under the radar. But hidden underneath a deceivingly industrial and mute facade is a vibrant metropolis where the synergy between food, people, and architecture has created a colorful cultural landscape. Taipei is a city of superlatives, boasting the world’s highest Starbucks and mailbox. It’s a place where food hawkers reign supreme, with legions of loyal subjects coming out in droves for a nightly spectacle of pop-up markets; where “hot spring hotels” help beat the winter blues; and where nursing a good read at a 24-hour bookstore is just as good as nursing a pint at a Taiwanese re chao 熱炒  beer house. Taipei is arguably the most underrated destination in Asia and has unseated Seoul as my favorite city in the world. Learn more about how I fell in love in this City Guide Taipei. Also, special thanks to my cousin Zayra and my friends Cait and Trang for their travel tips!

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taipei 101 city guide taipei highlights

  • Travel up the world’s second fastest elevator to the Observation Deck of TAIPEI 101 located on the 89th floor of the building; at around 5 p.m. on the eastern side of the indoor observatory, you can see the inverted image of the Chinese pagoda-inspired superstructure leaning on Elephant Mountain.
  • Pay your respects to Former President Chiang Kai Shek at the CHIANG KAI SHEK MEMORIAL HALL; the two sets of stairs leading to the great hall are comprised of 89 steps in commemoration of President Chiang’s age when he passed away.
  • See how many street carts you can order from in the course of a night at one of the city’s heralded night markets, the most popular being SHILIN NIGHT MARKET.
  • Shell out some cash for your very own private hot springs room where you can lounge in the steamy hot waters of XINBEITOU thermal valley or if you’re in the mood to make friends, try the public bath house.
  • Work up a sweat during an afternoon hike up ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN, home to one of the best sunset lookout points in the city with the TAIPEI 101 at odds with a setting sun making for a perfect Kodak moment.
  • Feel Taipei’s young and vibrant energy surge through your body in a walk through XIMENDING DISTRICT where you’ll be rubbing shoulders with hordes of adolescents looking for some cheap threads and even cheaper bites.
  • For art enthusiasts and fans of design-oriented concept stores, the HUASHAN 1914 CREATIVE PARK is a visionary dream, full of exhibits, shops, and cafes that specialize in the trade of wondrous aesthetics.
  • Immerse yourself in local spirituality and history at LONGSHAN TEMPLE, one of Wanhua District’s “Big 3” temples and Taipei’s oldest Buddhist establishment built in 1738 and rebuilt after incurring heavy damage during WWII.
  • Take the slow-grinding Maokong Gondola lift to the esteemed tea houses of MAOKONG VILLAGE perched atop Taipei’s southernmost ridge, where a cup of highly select tea goes hand in hand with a magnificent view of Taipei.
  • From lavish manuscripts to various jade ornaments, the majority hailing from the personal imperial collections of China’s dynastic rulers, THE NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM is one of the largest showcases of ancient Chinese artifacts in the world.

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yongkang beefnoodles city guide taipei bubble tea foodie

IF YOU’RE NOT A FAN OF SIT-DOWN MEALS

  • 阿宗麵線 AY-CHUNG FLOUR RICE NOODLE (No. 8-1, Emei Street, Wanhua District8 — Nearest MRT: Blue/Green Line, Ximen Stop, Exit 6) Down Emei Street in the busy Ximending area is a street stall of immense popularity that offers diners the chance to savor its sole dish sans tables or stools. You eat while standing, hunched over the goopy mess of “flour rice” noodles in a thickened gravy-like broth called Misua flavored by smoky bonito flakes, a beloved Japanese ingredient made from dried, fermented skipjack tuna. Add some minced garlic and vinegar to the soup for extra depth.
    PRICE: NT$65 (~$2.15 USD) for a large bowl

IF YOU NEED SOME ENERGY TO POWER-UP YOUR DAY

  • YONG HE DON JIANG DA WANG永和豆漿大王 (No. 30 Hankou Street, Zhongzheng District, — Nearest MRT: Blue/Green Line, Ximen Stop, Exit 6) Yong He, a Chinese-type breakfast shop is best known for their homemade dou jiang, soy milk, served either sweet or salty, and hot or cold. I loved the hot sweetened soy we ordered. Made fresh every day, this beverage paired with one of their several carb bombs such as the shao binh you tiao, a fried and flaky sandwich, or the dan bing, a scrambled egg crepe-burrito hybrid, is the breakfast of champions.
    PRICE: NT$120 (~$3.90  USD) for a pastry and a glass of soy milk

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A TASTE OF THE PAST

  • YONG KANG BEEF NOODLES 永康牛肉麺館 (No. 17, Lane 31, Jinshan S. Rd., Sec.2 — Nearest MRT: Orange/Red Line, Dongmen Stop, Exit 3) The belle of the ball at this 50-year-old, ambiance-void, one-room store is the Spicy Beef Noodles with Soybean Sauce. Melt-in-your-mouth beef soaks in a robustly saporous stock made from soy sauce, star anise, and five-spice powder, with noodles acting as a neutralizing element of all that is savory. We got their at 11 a.m., right when they open, and the whole place was almost already packed.
    PRICE: NT$220/250 (~$7.25/8.30 USD) for a small/large bowl

city guide taipei food raohe night market yongkang beef noodles

IF YOU NEED SOMETHING PORTABLE

  • FUZHOU SHI ZU BLACK PEPPER BUN 福州世祖胡椒饼 (At the entrance of Raohe Night Market — Nearest MRT: Green Line, Songshan Stop, Exit 1) Raohe Night Market’s main attraction has to be these tandoori-style buns. Huijao bing, or pork pepper buns, are baked in a cyclical oven. Bite into a toasted shell of dough dotted in sesame seeds to expose a filling of dripping, marinated pork sheathed in a layer of chopped green onions. The contents are PIPING HOT! so make sure to let the bun cool down, especially right after its been taken out of the tandoor. The Fuzhou stall can be found right at the mouth of Raohe Night Market, temple side, flanked by a crowd.
    PRICE: NT$50 (~$1.50 USD) per bun

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR THE ORIGINAL DIN TAI FUNG

  • DIN TAI FUNG (No. 194, Section 2, Xìnyì Road, Daan District— Nearest MRT: Orange/Red Line, Dongmen Stop, Exit 5) After falling in love with Din Tai Fung in Manila last year, I was more than enthused to discover the original branch was located in Taipei. The internationally-acclaimed restaurant owes its popularity to their xiao long baos, a soup-filled steamed dumpling. An 18-pleat folding technique has been heralded as the most perfect way to make soup dumplings. The truffle and pork xiao long baos are a worthy splurge but the potstickers and spicy wontons are also divine.
    PRICE: $$$ prices vary

IF BUBBLE TEA IS SOMETHING THAT FLOATS YOUR BOAT

  • 50 LAN 嵐 (Lane 50, Section 2, Wuchang Street behind the Uniqlo — Nearest MRT: Blue/Green Line, Ximen Stop, Exit 6) While bubble tea was born in the city of Taichung, Taiwan’s largest bubble tea chain, 50 Lan (50嵐) excels in bringing the “bubble” to the masses. There are a number of locations around the city but all branches consistently boil chewy tapioca pearls and on top of that, their teas can be adjusted in sweetness, temperature (i.e. how much ice), and you can also ask for either small or large tapioca bubbles. Get the original Pearl Milk Tea if you want a fail-safe.
    PRICE: NT$50 (~$1.50 USD) for an original pearl milk tea

IF YOU THINK YOU CAN HANDLE SPICY

  • 老罈香川味兒 CHUAN WEI (Alley 5, Lane 130, Section 3, Minsheng E Rd, Songshan District  —  Nearest MRT: Brown Line, Zhongshan Junior High School Station Stop)Wait till you try authentic Sichuan and you’ll know what spicy really means. In the course of this meal, we had to take 10-minute breaks to get our taste back—because it’s literally tongue numbing/slightly tear inducing/fan-your-mouth HOT. Weirdly enough, it was the boiling cauldron of mapo tofu (made with Sichuan peppercorns) that was more violent than the pot of beef with a mountain of chili. Both so good nonetheless. Words by my cousin Zayra

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city guide taipei taipei treasure hill

  • While Shilin District is known for its famed night market, dig a little deeper and you’ll stumble upon one of the many DIY indoor shrimp bars around the MRT stop, open around the clock. With enough patience (and luck), patrons can catch their very own dinner. Watch my vlog on my personal shrimp fishing experience here.
  • Did you know? Taipei has a huge “book fragrance” culture, a concept that reflects a passionate appetite for learning. Bibliophiles should make a pilgrimage to Eslite Bookstore Dunnan Branch (2F, No.245, Sec.1, Tunhua South Road, Da’an District), the world’s first 24-hour bookstore, open seven days a week. For travel enthusiasts like myself, check out Zeelandia Bookstore (106 Lane 12, Qingtian Street, 12-2號, Da’an District), a bookshop dedicated to all things adventurous a.k.a travel-oriented.
  • Calling all artists! Taipei Treasure Hill Artist Village (No. 2, Alley 14, Lane 230, Section 3, Tingzhou Rd, Zhongzheng District), once an illegal military settlement, is now an “artivist” compound with street art tattooing almost every inch of this commune. While beautiful, the village is not free of controversy, as the recent restoration of the site in 2010 has been criticized of gentrification.
  • I’m not the biggest fan of cats buuuut it’s hard to ignore the rampant cat obsession in Taipei and as the animal cafe trend continues to explode around the world, animal lovers cannot miss out on the world’s first cat cafe, The Cat Flower Garden (No. 129, Fuhua Rd., Shilin Dist, Taipei, Taiwan)!
  • If you want something a little more mellow for a Saturday night, Woolloomooloo (No. 379, Section 4, Xinyi Rd, Xinyi District) is an Australian-inspired hip haunt with an excellent indie magazine library, transforming from a communal café during the day into a low-key craft beer purveyor come nightfall.
  • Those interested in art-house cinema should catch a film screening hosted six times a day at SPOT Taipei Film House, which now occupies the building of the former American Consulate. The first floor is design store belonging to SPOT Designs, but on a whole, it also boasts a cafe, garden, and exhibition space.
  • A Butcher Knife Massage brings tenderizing “meat” to a whole new extreme. Tramp around the underground Y Mall near Taipei Main Station to find daoliao, or the knife massage, where one counter-instinctively relieves stress by way of a dulled cleaver.
  • With Taiwan on the verge to becoming Asia’s first country to allow same-sex marriage, members of the LGBTQ community can appreciate a bustling gay-friendly scene around the Red House Theater.

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city guide taipei via hotel ximen

SPLURGE

VIA Hotel Ximen (read my full review here) located right around the corner of Ximending’s Starbucks and the Yong He Dou Jiang Da Wan breakfast shop mentioned above, is as low-maintenance luxurious as it comes! The private rooms are enormous and come equipped with every amenity you may think of from milk tea sachets to a portable back massage cushion for the in-room recliner. If you find you are missing something, head down to the lobby and ruffle through a repurposed library card catalog cabinet stocked with things like dental floss and sewing kits. There’s even a laundry and dryer free for guests on the 5th floor. What’s more, our private room also came with a Japanese-style soak tub similar to the one we booked at Villa 32 in Xinbeitou Hot Springs. It was hard to leave our hotel every day but with the convenience of location, we needn’t go too far to experience the city. ($75 for a Deluxe Double Room — only private rooms starting at $60.)

NYS Loft Hotel (read my full review here) is a new 80-room property opposite to Taipei Main Station that features a mix of private and shared rooms. The hotel is spacious and feature its own dining room area and lounge, creating a socially conducive atmosphere that most hotels fail to foster. Breakfast isn’t the most impressive affair, with meager complimentary servings on the weekend, but at least you’re right across the street from the city’s largest transportation hub to get you to anywhere you want to eat. (Dorms starting at $29 per night; private rooms at $88.)

SAVE

Couchsurfing (https://www.couchsurfing.com/places/asia/taiwan/taipei) When other travelers told me the Taiwanese are the friendliest people in the world, I felt like I had heard the endorsement before, but it’s SOOOOOO true. Taiwanese people are the paragon of hospitality and if you want to immerse yourself in the culture and do so on a budget, couchsurfing is the way to go! It’s actually one of the most popular modes of accommodation in Taipei, with 30, 496 registered couchsurfing hosts. So many of my friends who’ve visited Taipei raved about their awesome hosts and suggested to us to go that route instead of booking a hotel, which is a first! (Create a profile on the website to find a host today.)

getting there city guides city guide taipei airport getting to city

RECOMMENDED MODE OF TRANSPORT

BY BUS  Go to the far left of the terminal following the “Bus to City” sign and make your way to the basement. Find the Kuo-Kuang Bus 國光客運 kiosk to purchase ticket to Taipei Main Station on bus number 1819 (Taipei Express Free Connection to Ximending.) One-way fare is NT$125 ($4 USD). Journey will take approx. 50 minutes. Once you’ve arrived at Taipei Main Station, proceed to your final destination using the Taipei MRT. The bus comes every 20 minutes or so and operates 24 hours but is infrequent post-midnight up until the early morning. Same bus can be taken to the airport from drop-off spot. Buy tickets in advance if trying to catch a bus back to airport and seats may get booked, especially during the holidays.

BY TRAIN *EDIT*: Built in March 2017, The Taoyuan International Airport Access MRT links Terminals 1 and 2 to Taipei main station. This express service is 35 minutes long and costs NT$160 (~US$5.5).

 

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Interested in learning more about Taipei? Check out the resources below:

👉 Have you ever been to Taipei? Share your tips for seeing the city in the comments below!

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A comprehensive guide to the best of Taipei with @The Next Somewhere


Izzy Pulido is a Bostonian by way of the Philippines who loves to vagabond. At twenty-seven, she's traded in gallivanting around Europe for the 9-to-5 grind... but don't count out the vagabonding! With a new long distance relationship, she's bringing American travel to the forefront. She lives for good times, good food, and good peeps.

RELATED POST

  1. Victoria

    29 March

    Wow! The second fastest elevator in the world sounds super can crazy! Can’t wait to visit one day 🙂

  2. Brian Dye

    29 March

    I love your site! From the overall aesthetic to the graphic water color effect! Well done. I wish I had read this post a week ago!. I was deciding between Vietnam and Taiwan for my May vacation and Vietnam won. After reading this I’ve got to get myself to Taipei soon! It’s great how you point out the big things like accommodation, restaurants, and sights to see while also giving little out of the way bits that are off the beaten path.

    • Izzy Pulido

      16 April

      Awww thank you Brian! I really appreciate that 🙂 Well, Vietnam is where I live right now so you had two great options 🙂

  3. Mark Scrooby

    29 March

    I’ve never really considered Taiwan as a holiday destination but the food sounds amazing. It’s always what I’m most interested in trying when we travel some place new. The shrimp fishing looked fun as well, hard work for a meal though! Couchsurfing has been a great way for us to travel as well and really gives you a different perspective from the average tourist wherever you go. Great information on Taipei and I’m sure it will sway many more fence sitters to choosing it as a travel destination.

  4. Claudia

    29 March

    Thank you Izzy for such a complete and detailed guide. The one thing that intrigued me was Maokong Village. As I had never heard about it , I had to google it. I love it! I am bookmarking this place if I ever visit Taipei. You make Bubble tea look tempting! I have never tried it in the fear that I may not like it but I guess if I am going to try it somewhere, Taipei is the place to do so 🙂

    • Izzy Pulido

      16 April

      If you’re a bubble tea virgin, you should absolutely POP it in Taipei! I hope you get to try it one day! 😀

  5. Ryan Hedger

    30 March

    We love Taiwan so much! Thanks for sharing this list of highlights. As anyone who’s been to Taipei knows, you’ll never see it all- but this is a great start! I dream of beef noodle and pepper buns sometimes. Easily one of the best food cities in the world!

  6. Christina

    30 March

    Taipei is fast becoming an Asian hotspot. This is a great list of things to see in Taipei, Izzy. Your accommodation options look like they are worth trying out. Travellers who are looking for a luxury stay might want to check out the boutique Hotel Eclat too.

  7. Taiwan has been on my list for a very long time. I must say your post is so informative and thank you for sharing this picture. Would you reckon that Taiwan is safe for solo female travellers? I travel mostly solo and would like to get an opinion from other travelers.

  8. Melbtravel

    30 March

    I would love to go Taiwan it looks like an amazing place. You hav some great tips and I especially like the transport tips, I local catching public transport and see what the locals are like. I am also a big fan of night markets and I would be keen to go to Shilin Night Market. Definitely a good introduction for a first timer 🙂

  9. I’ve never been to Taipei but I’d love to go. I would definitely want to visit a 24 hour bookstore. The bubble tea and the beef noodles sound amazing too. And I like the sound of anything called Elephant Mountain.

  10. Cori

    30 March

    Taipei sounds like a lot of fun! You’d need some serious time in this city to be able to see it all.

    I’m a huge fan of CouchSurfing, but I wouldn’t suggest signing up to find a spot in Taipei. Hosts in big cities are inundated with requests, so you really have to stand out and it’s hard to do that without a little experience. I’d be sure to go to a local meetup and get some references from friends on the site before trying to get a host in a major tourist destination. But for smaller cities, you’ll be fine as a new member.

  11. Hallie

    31 March

    Unseated Seoul? Dang. Awesome guide! My husband went to Taipei to have a concert and keeps saying he wants to go back. Now I want to go with him! Thanks for the info.

  12. Jo

    31 March

    Taipei 101 with a sundail and 101 floors – now that sounds like a landmark I need to visit. Planning a trip to Taiwan next year so will bookmark this. Love all the doodling around the pictures – so cute and fun to see 🙂 great job there.

  13. Sandy N Vyjay

    31 March

    Taiwan as a travel destination was never on my mind. But the list of amazing things that you can do and the amazing food you can have has made me change my mind.

  14. I’ve never been to Taipei, but I’ve been planning to visit this City the soonest. This is truly a comprehensive and detailed travel guide. I like how you include all the important things and what to expect. I’ll surely bear this in mind for a future reference. Thank you so much for being kind to share this information to us.

  15. Claire

    31 March

    Taipei sounds awesome! I’ll definitely check out the night market & lots of street food, that’s one of my favourite things to do in a new place! I also had no idea that couch surfing was so big there, i will have to update my profile!

  16. Rocio Cadena

    31 March

    What a wonderfully comprehensive list Izzy!! I visited Taipei last summer and really enjoyed my stay. I loved the food and the kindness of the locals. I wish I would have known about the artsy district and the 24/7 bookstore (what.a.dream)! While I liked Taipei, I am astounded to hear it ranks as your number 1 city IN THE WORLD?!?! I wish you still lived in Korea so we could sit and chat about travels (sigh). I also like Seoul but it definitely doesn’t rank on my top 5 cities round the world. Anyhow, I’m glad you saw, ate and did it all in Taipei!

  17. Awesome guide, Izzy! I wish I’d had this when I went to Taipei last November! I actually loved it so much I thought about changing my plans and moving there instead of back to Korea. I still might, but I’ll at least finish up my year here 😛

    Longshan Temple was a favorite — I found a spot to sit in the courtyard and people watched for half an hour. It was night, so the temple was all lit up and the incense smoke smelled fantastic. A very atmospheric place, and one I didn’t feel super out of place in. And the markets…. so much good food! My friends and I went to a different market almost every night, hahaha. I feel like I would gain oodles of weight if I ended up living there.

    Woolloomooloo sounds like a good evening haunt — exactly my style. I’ll check it out when I’m there next!

  18. Donna Meyer

    2 April

    What a great and comprehensive guide. When I finally visit Taipei, this is going to be an indispensable resource. I am especially intrigued by the tea houses of Maokong Village. Thanks for all the info.

  19. Gem

    2 April

    First of all, I’m in love with your site! Can’t believe I’ve only discovered it now (from Travel Bloggers Mega Share). Hello hello, I’m Gem from the Philippines! The Hobo and I haven’t been to Taipei yet but a number of our friends have been going there recently and we’ve heard really great things. Seoul is our favorite city too but if you say that Taipei has unseated it as your favorite, then that says a lot. We’ll put Taipei in our list then! Will definitely go back to this when we start planning for the trip. Thanks Izzy!

  20. Love the way you do your images and love the food you showed here. Taipei has never been on my list but I wouldn’t knock back the chance to go there.

  21. Natasha

    2 April

    I hope to get to Taipei for a week sometime soon. I’ll refer to this blog later when I book my ticket. So many useful points here. I really want to try the Yong Kang beef noodles, and also check out the Eslite bookstore! I may also finally try couchsurfing in Taipei. As a single female traveller, I’ve always been weary to try this, but as you mention, Taiwanese are exceptionally hospitable. I met a Taiwanese fella travelling in Seoul recently, and he was super kind! I’d like to learn more about this culture! Also, I’m intrigued about the Chiang Kai Shek memorial! I need to learn more about Taiwanese history! Nice blog.^^

  22. I’ve wondered about visiting Taipei and if there was enough to do. You just convinced me that there definitely is. I’ve pinned this for reference later. I hope to visit!

  23. we are desperate to visit Taiwan and haven’t been able to make it yet due vacation time because I want to spend at least 2 weeks! Taipei seems like a cool city – lots to do and see! I’m a massive foodie and everything you described sounds delicious, especially the beef noodles and black pepper bun! Awesome informative guide, i’ve pinned it for when I finally make it there!

  24. Wendy

    2 April

    Your introduction’s so beautifully written and then i reached that Seoul was unseated as your fave city. No wonder. It shows in your writing. I love it that you break it down to categories so it is easy to see which ones appeal to one’s travel interests.

    It’s interesting because Taipei isn’t really a place one would think of for a vacation. It will soon change, I guess.

  25. Nathan

    3 April

    I loved Taipei! It was such a cool city. I would love to go back. Your list covered some things I didn’t see/do last time I was there. Great writeup!

  26. So you’re saying that when I rode world’s fastest elevator in Taipei 101 it was world’s second fastest and nobody told me?!?! Pshhhhfffshsh, I want my money back! lol

  27. Wow. I’ll only be in Taipei for a few hours on a very long layover next fall but hope to get out and into some of these experiences. Love your graphics too.

  28. Whatttttttt?! Okay now I definitely need to get to Taipei. Seoul is also my favorite city in the whole world, and I can’t even imagine another topping it (heck even Paris, Londong, NYC, SF have fallen short!). I’ve always wanted to visit I Taiwan since I spent my teen years watching a ton of Tawainese dramas, but I’ve always wanted to do it properly. Not over a long weekend or even with a bunch of other people, just me a mind myself for maybe a month or more.

    Also these foodie suggestions! I can’t wait to eat my weight in food when I go. I need to lose 50 lbs just to gain it back :p

  29. Micki

    3 April

    Thanks for all the great tips! The food sounds amazing. I need to put Taipei on my list!

  30. jazzy

    4 April

    Nice guide! I haven’t been to Taipei, actually I it wasn’t even on my radar until now! Since I am in Asia now, I just have to add it to my list of places I will visit in the next month or so! Thanks 🙂

  31. Megan Indoe

    5 April

    I did not know about Taipei 101 being a sundial! How cool is that?! OMG those pepper buns are TO DIE FOR! I think that’s my favorite street food to date. I dream about the days I can eat those again! LOVE LOVE LOVE your graphics and post!

  32. Christopher

    5 April

    You know I’m so embarrassed to say that I never knew Taipei was the capital of Taiwan. This list is incredible with tons of info that I will need now that you’ve added another city to my to go to list. Love Tai food so looking forward to eating EVERYTHING.

    • Izzy Pulido

      16 April

      Hahaha I think you’re confusing Thai food from Thailand and Taipei is Taiwan aka Taiwanese food 😛 Don’t worry, it is an easy mistake!

  33. Christina

    26 April

    Okay first of all, I LOVE your site and the layout/graphics on this post. Second, I’ve never been to Taipei and you’ve totally inspired me to go. The food sounds absolutely amazing and I would love to hike up Elephant Mountain for those views!!

  34. […] While Da’an Park couldn’t compare to a well-manicured Japanese garden in Kyoto, it’s a pleasant break from the densely-populated centre of Taipei. Meandering through the park you’ll come across birds, turtles and even a bamboo forest if you veer far enough south. Relax and recharge here before wandering back north to Xinyi Road for bigger adventures in Taipei City. […]

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