Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is not just one of Asia’s most dynamic destinations but a true global city.
It is a beguiling mix of modernity and tradition boasting countless street markets, character-filled districts and iconic landmarks.
There are also a number of natural riches such as Shifen Waterfall or the Beitou Thermal Valley on its doorstep.
Spending just 48 Hours in Taipei provides you with countless opportunities to form a plethora of unforgettable experiences and memories to last a lifetime.
Getting Around Taipei
To explore Taipei’s many highlights, you’ll first need to know how best to traverse the city. As you would expect of any capital city there are many options:-
Opened as recently as 1996 the Taipei MRT now consisting 131 stations over 6 separate lines is the quickest and most efficient means of travel during your own 48 hours in Taipei.
Operating between 06.00 and 24.00 7 days a week, like the majority of other metro systems across the world, smoking is prohibited.
Eating, drinking and chewing gum and betel nuts are all also forbidden.
Areas in which to queue are clearly delineated on each platform and announcements are helpfully also given in English as well as Mandarin and at some of the busier stations, Japanese.
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Taipei MRT Costs
Ticket costs for the Taipei MRT are based on the distance travelled with one-way journeys costing anywhere between NT$20 and NT$65 (equivalent to 55p – £1.75 or 70 cents – $2.25).
A 24-hour pass providing unlimited travel is also available for a cost of NT$180 (£4.85/$6.30).
For tourists spending 48 hours or longer in Taipei, an Easy Card is probably the better option.
Available at service counters in every MRT station the Easy Card is usable on buses as well as the MRT and can be regularly topped up.
Taipei Bus Network
Taipei also provides visitors with an extensive bus network with fares based on zones across the city.
Tickets may be purchased in cash, or by contactless card. Alternatively, a city transport day pass or Easy Cards may be used.
If paying by cash be aware though that change is not given so the exact fare will be required.
48 Hours in Taipei – Things to Do
Rather than provide a suggested itinerary for your 48 Hours in Taipei we instead provide a list of suggested attractions for you to visit.
The best way to enjoy any city is to take your time walking its streets and neighbourhoods rather than following a pre-prescribed tour.
Taipei is no different.
Here, therefore, are our suggested top attractions tor you to use as markers as you design your own route and itinerary.
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, built to commemorate Taiwan’s first President is an impressive monument and national landmark situated in the south of the city.
Flanked to the north by the National Theatre and to the south, by the National Concert Hall, the surrounding plaza is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
Changing of the Guard
Having lived and worked in London for over 25 years, we are very aware of the attraction of a Changing of the Guard ceremony.
The precise pomp and circumstance representing centuries of history is a marvel and understandably a bucket list item for many.
We were therefore hugely surprised to stumble across such a ceremony during our 48 hours in Taiwan.
Occurring on the hour between 12 noon and 5 pm each day the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall version is equally, if not more spectacular than its London cousin.
As you join the crowds politely waiting for the ceremony to start and look upon the two guards standing proud in their pristine white uniforms, you have no idea what is to follow.
What comes next is an absolute marvel and an undoubted surprise.
The staccato movements of the incoming guards are perfectly synchronised and more akin to a dance performance or even Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.
This is not to say this is a ridiculous ceremony, far from it. It is exquisite, and like nothing you’ve seen anywhere else. Truly memorable.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall – How to get there
As home to the city’s most significant memorial, National Theatre and National Concert Hall you would expect Chiang Kai-Shek Hall to be easily accessible.
It benefits from its own dedicated MRT station accessible via both the green Songshan-Xindian Line and red Tamsui-Xinyi line.
From Taipei Main Station or Taipei 101, it is just two stops and five stops respectively.
Taipei 101 is a fitting symbol for this beautiful country. The world’s tallest building between 2004 and 2010 boasts a distinctive design echoing the continent’s pagoda.
A simmering blue-green the design also reflects the traditional Chinese significance given to the number 8.
A visit to the observatory deck of Taipei 101 is the city’s most visited attraction.
Taipei 101 – How to Get There
Located in the east of the city in its financial centre, the easiest way to reach Taipei 101 is undoubtedly via the MRT system.
Closest is Taipei 101/World Trade Centre Station on the red Tamsui-Xinyi line although Taipei City Hall Station on the blue Bannan Line is also a popular route. From there it is around a 15-minute walk north.
Taipei 101 – Observatory Deck
Taipei 101’s observatory deck is situated across the 88th to 91st floors 382 metres above ground floor level.
In addition to the 360˚ panoramic views across Taipei visit on a clear sunny day, and you’ll be treated to a view of the mountain range running the length of the island and the Taiwan Strait to the west.
Taipei 101 – Mass Damper
The surprise highlight of a trip to Taipei 101 is arguably the mass damper. What is a mass damper I hear you ask?
This 5.5m wide 660-tonne weight suspended internally, and visible from the 88th floor is designed to offset the force of the strong winds that regularly hit Taiwan. Indeed in 2002 during its period of construction.
Taipei was hit by an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale. In 2015 a typhoon caused the damper to sway an incredible 1 meter. On both occasions, Taipei 101 suffered no damage.
The Mass Damper is so popular it even has its own set of mascots!
Taipei 101 – Elephant Mountain
Whilst a trip to the observatory deck of Taipei 101 offers splendid views across the city and surrounding landscape for the best view of the building itself, visitors should head to Elephant Mountain.
After leaving Taipei 101, preferably during the afternoon, walk east toward Xiangshan Station, leave from exit 2 walk along the park and follow the entrance for the Xiangshan Hiking Trail.
Raohe Street Food Market
Arguably more than any other country across Asia, Taiwan celebrates its cuisine via countless street markets.
Taipei boasts more than any other city in the country with a market seemingly in every district every night of the week.
Raohe Street, located in the Songshan District in the east of the city, is the most famous and a fabulous way to start your first evening during your 48 hours in Taipei.
Running for approximately 250 metres down Raohe Street the market comprises two rows of stalls selling a variety of delicious foods.
During busy periods the market can become a little busy so patience will be required.
Just take your time, order some food and take in the incredible smells and sounds that surround you.
Look out for the fried chicken cutlets, still on the bone but superbly tasty and as big as your hand.
Raohe Street – How to Get There
Both the green and blue lines of Taipei’s MRT network serve the Raohe Street Market.
For visitors taking the green line head to Songshan Station (G19) at the very eastern end. From there the market is just a matter of metres to the north on foot.
The blue line serving Taipei’s Main Train Station also runs east toward the Taipei Nangang Exhibition Centre. Houshanpi (BL20) lies 1 km and a 15-minute walk south of the market.
Taipei Street Food Markets
In addition to Raohe Street, other noted markets in Taipei include Ningxia Night Market in the centre of the city west of Jiancheng Park and Ximen Night Market in the Ximending district.
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Ximending is the centre of Taipei is the city’s shopping and entertainment district and has been compared to Tokyo’s famous Shibuya area.
Located in the west of the city Ximending was Taipei’s first pedestrianised area and is now home to more than 20 theatres as well as countless shopping opportunities. Ximen Night Market is also based in the north of the district.
Ximending – How to get there
To reach Ximending via the MRT head for Ximen Station on both the green Songhsan – Indian line and blue Bannan Line. From there, use exit 6.
The adjacent Zhongua Road is also a popular bus transfer location.
48 Hours in Taipei – Surrounding Attractions
Visitors spending 48 hours in Taipei should also strongly consider venturing out of the city centre to one or more of the following fabulous destinations.
Beitou Thermal Valley
Beitou Thermal Valley famous for its sulphur hot springs is located in the foothills of Yangmingshan National Park north of Taipei centre.
In addition to visiting the series of steaming lakes, the area boasts a number of public bathing spots.
To reach the Thermal Valley head for XinBeitou station, an extension from Beitou station on the red line of the Taipei MRT.
Further north of thermal valley at the end of the red Tamsui-Xinyi MRT line the district of Tamsui is another popular destination.
This coastal district boasts a famous old town centre as well as regular ferry services to Lover’s Bridge at the mouth of the Tamsui River. The sunsets here are probably the most glorious anywhere in Taiwan.
‘The Little Niagara of Taiwan’ is situated 35 km east of Taipei in the lush Pingxi district. The tiny village of Shifen is also famed for the local train service running through its centre and is a popular spot for the releasing of traditional Chinese lanterns.
To reach Shifen trains leave Taipei Main Station every half an hour and take around 50 minutes to reach Ruifang. From there, the local train service to Shifen takes a further 30 minutes.
Must-Try Foods in Taiwan
Taiwan’s cuisine is growing in popularity the world over and is a definite highlight of your trip to this fabulous country.
Heavily influenced by Chinese and Japanese cultures here are just a few dishes to look out for and sample during your travels.
Taiwan’s most famous culinary export with small stalls cropping up the world over is Bubble Tea.
Invented in the 1980s Bubble, Tea now comes in thousands of flavours and variations. However, it’s standard and most popular form consists of black tea, milk, ice and tapioca pearls – hence its name.
These ‘bubbles’ are undoubtedly unfamiliar and a little odd to western visitors. After their initial but they soon become just another new taste.
Our own recommendation would be the Happiness Brown Sugar Soba from any branch of Xing Fu Tang.
Din Tai Fung Dumpling Restaurant
Taiwanese cuisine is growing in popularity across the world, and Din Tai Fung is undoubtedly the country’s most famous export.
With branches in Australia, the UK and the United States Din Tai Fung is frequently named as one of the world’ best restaurants.
During your own 48 hours in Taipei, a stop at one of the city’s many branches is a must. Where better than the restaurant in the Taipei 101 mall below the famous skyscraper.
Combine the modernity of the tower with the traditional cuisine of Beef Noodles and their incredible dumplings.
Din Tai Fung is so popular it is more than likely that you will be required to provide your name and wait a short while. For our own visit, we waited no more than 30 minutes, and I can assure you it will be well worth the wait.
No matter which Street food market you visit during your 48 hours in Taipei, you will inevitably encounter the pungent smell of Stinky Tofu.
This unfortunately unmissable odour does resemble some form of dog waste and yet remains incredibly popular.
Whilst we have enjoyed a diverse range of foods during our travels ranging from Ox Balls in Nairobi to Goat Brain curry in Delhi we had to draw the line at Stinky Tofu. We’re therefore unable to comment on whether the taste matches the smell!
48 Hours in Taipei
Taipei is an incredible city, and to be honest if you have the opportunity, you should spend as much time as you possibly can exploring its attractions.
For those with just 48 hours though the biggest issue is what to miss out on.
My recommendation – don’t miss anything, just prepare yourself for the busiest, most incredible 48 hours of your life!
His first travel adventure was a backpacking trip to Hong Kong and Thailand over 20 years ago. His love for Asia continues to this day.
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