Laura and Sarah, the dynamic duo behind the travel blog Wandercooks, have spent the past year touring Asia. Among many discoveries, they were struck by a particularly memorable (and delicious) stay in Taipei. They recount the highlights.
TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taipei was a last-minute addition to our travel schedule, but after only a few hours in town, we knew we made the right call. The modern city is a bustling, beautiful mix of glorious glass skyscrapers, ancient Chinese temples, amazing shopping, friendly people, and a highly efficient metro system. We spent a week in the capital and left ready to return. This is what we'd do if we came back for one day.
1. Score Breakfast
Start the day at Yonghe Dou Jiang Da Wang. Taipei's famous breakfast spot attracts locals and tourists alike for authentic fried Taiwanese fare. There was a long line of hungry people when we went, but the wait was worth it. And our meal cost us less than USD $5 each.
What we loved: Dunking oil stick doughnuts (you tiao) into iced milk tea (bing naicha). The highlight was the bacon, egg, and cheese crepes (dan bing). We loved them so much, we published a recipe for them on our site.
Where: 102, Section 2, Fuxing South Road
Metro: Technology Building (Brown Line)
2. Get Spiritual
After breakfast, go to Mengjia Longshan Temple in the Wanhua District for an early visit to the city's most popular religious site. We went during the auspicious Chinese New Year and found the place bustling.
What we loved: Spiritual atmosphere, gorgeous classical Taiwanese art and architecture, watching worshipers gather to make offerings, pray, and chant.
Where: 211, Guangzhou Street., Wanhua district
Metro: Longshan Temple (Blue Line)
3. Explore the Subculture
For a different side of Taiwan, head to the Ximending neighborhood for fashion, shopping, and quirky subculture alongside historic sites like Ximending Mazu Temple and Red House Theater. The area is like Harajuku and Shibuya in Japan — when the sun goes down, clubs, pubs, and neon signs light up.
What we loved: Shopping in Shizilin Square, Wanguo department stores, and Ximending Pedestrian Shopping Street, the first and largest of its kind in Taiwan. Han Zhong and Wan Hua streets were great for imported Korean cosmetics. U2 Theater has a hidden arcade with a shooting range, batting cages, and basketball hoops.
Where: Ximending, Wanhua district
Metro: Ximen (Blue or Green Line)
4. Slurp Soup Dumplings
After working off breakfast, grab a table at the original location of the world-famous dumpling house Din Tai Fung. It's sleek, modern dining with the service to match.
What we loved: Melt-in-your-mouth soup dumplings (xiao long bao), steamed mushroom dumplings, and spicy vegetable pork wontons. Next time we're getting shrimp and pork shiaomai, which looked like little money bags.
Where: 194, Section 2, Xinyi Road
Metro Station: Dongmen (Red Line)
5. Get the Creative Juices Flowing
Huashan 1914 Creative Park is a creative exhibition park that was a winery in the early 20th-century. Now the park is outfitted with restaurants, cafes, and handicraft stores and hosts public events, live music, and funky exhibitions.
What we loved: The chilled-out vibes and the re-worked industrial atmosphere, not-so-conventional souvenir shopping, and gorgeous one-off pieces.
Where: 1, Section 1, Bade Road, Zhongzheng district
Metro: Zhongxiao Xinsheng (Blue or Yellow Line)
6. Geek Out, Hard
Take a short walk from Huashan 1914 to Guanghua Digital Plaza, a massive six-story mall selling the latest gadgets, phones, cameras, game consoles, computers, and virtual reality. The complex is surrounded by ground-level laneways of even more electronic stores, but maneuvering them requires a good grasp of the Chinese language. For those who aren't technology obsessed, there are stores selling toys and figurines, gorgeous stationary, and even baby goods.
What we loved: Exhibitions, new tech releases, and game demonstrations.
Where: 8, Section 3, Civic Boulevard, Zhongzheng district
Metro: Zhongxiao Xinsheng (Blue or Yellow Line)
7. Step Back in Time
The history of Taiwan is on full display at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, a tribute to the country's controversial founding father. The grounds are home to an impressive monument of the leader adjacent to a gorgeous garden with Chinese-style pools (don't forget to feed the goldfish!). The museum showcases artifacts of Kai-shek's life, including his bullet-proof Cadillac.
What we loved: The also impressive main entrance gate across Liberty Square. Watching the ceremonial changing of the guard, scheduled every hour from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Where: 21 Zhongshan S. Road, Zhongzheng district
Metro: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (Red or Green Line)
8. Eat Like a Local
When your stomach starts to grumble, grab dinner at Jin Ji Yuan. The place isn't an upmarket restaurant in the way you would expect — with all the hip eateries, tea houses, and quirky shops surrounding — but a tiny frontage with an open kitchen that spills onto the street. We went upstairs to the old-school dining room and ate quality food without standing in lines or paying steep price tags.
What we loved: Golden-brown crispy fried chicken and local beer. And the option to have even more xiao long bao if we wanted to.
Where: 28-1 YongKang Street, Da'an district
Metro: Dongmen (Red Line)
9. Climb to the Top
Cap off the meal with views from one of the world's most incredible architectural marvels. Taipei 101, the city's financial center, is 101 floors that tower 508 meters into the sky. It was the world's tallest building for six years until 2009, and is still the world's tallest green building. Architecture nerds can read more about its design and symbolism here.
What we loved: Epic views of the city skyline from the observation deck on floor 89 (and, weather permitting, also from the outdoor deck on floor 91). One of the world's fastest elevator rides — 40 seconds from ground to observation deck. And, as if we needed more food and shopping, a glamorous mall on the first five floors (buy observation deck tickets on the 5th floor) and a basement-level food court.
Where: 7, Section 5 Xinyi Road, Xinyi district
Metro: Taipei 101 (Red Line)
10. Seek Out Dessert
Search through Linjiang Street Night Market for hua sheng juan, Taiwan's specialty dessert. Some call it an ice cream spring roll, but it's really a thin crepe topped with peanut, taro, and pineapple sorbet. We were shocked with the final ingredient — cilantro leaves! We didn't think it would work, but the dish turned out to be a sweet and salty dessert of epic proportions.
What we loved: Watching the vendors shave huge blocks of peanut brittle. Walking through the night market with the dessert — it was wrapped in a plastic bag and was really easy to eat.
Where: Linjiang Street, Da'an district
Metro: Xinyi Anhe or Taipei 101 (Red Line)