Once upon a time, Taipei’s streets were chock-full of taxis, buses and racing scooters, and its sidewalks congested with people and trash. The air was foul, and the architecture – shrines, temples and old colonial buildings aside – was ugly. Central planning seemed sporadic or even nonexistent. In the late 1980s, as the scars of former martial law began healing, citizens realised that while they were materially rich, their quality of life was poor. They demanded change and over the next decade, city planners did what you’d expect those schooled in Asia’s most computer-savvy society to do: they played a protracted game of SimCity, only for keeps.
‘Traffic is hideous!’ cried Taipeiers, and a light-rail network was built. ‘The rivers are putrid, and our kids have nowhere to play!’ was the next complaint. ‘Strengthen environmental laws and build parks on every river bank’, was the answer. ‘Ugly buildings, we can’t stand looking at ’em, ’ moaned the people of Taipei. ‘Then let’s build interesting-looking places!’ was the Solomonic decision of city planners.
Naturally, this explanation is a vast oversimplification; a myriad of other complex political, economic, and social changes were also taking place. Still, in a veritable blink of the eye, Taipei has gone from an ugly duckling of Asia to one of the region’s most dynamic, comfortable and liveable cities. Most important to the intrepid traveller, Taipei is also fun. If you take some time to explore, we think you’ll agree that Taipei is a city that’s managed to strike a fine balance between business and beauty, and between chaos and convenience.
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Best places to stay in Taipei
Ultimate Taipei Sightseeing Tour
If you have just one day to spend in Taipei, this city sightseeing tour covers it all! A savvy local guide takes you to must-see attractions in Taiwan’s capital city, from the outstanding architectural feats of Taipei 101 to the elaborate Longshan Temple and Danshui Old Street.
Taiwan: a secret foodie wonderland
Right now, in-the-know foodies from across Asia are descending on an island in the East China Sea to gobble steaming plates of dumplings and nibble stinking sticks of tofu...
Taiwan travel guide
With its all-round adventure landscape, heritage-rich capital, diverse folk traditions and feted night market scene, Taiwan offers a continent-sized travel list for one green island.
Best places to eat in Taipei
Yangmingshan National Park and Hot-Spring Half-Day Tour from Taipei
Want to take a relaxing hot spring bath? Visit the Yangmingshan National Park and Beitou (Peitou) on this tour from Taipei. Visit the hot spring and fumaroles, the tranquil lakes and beautiful grass fields on this relaxing half-day tour from Taipei. The Beitou Hot Springs are said to relieve all ailments from muscle pain to nervous tension.
A traveller's guide to buying jade
Valued throughout Asia for its beauty and elegance, jade is an especially desired keepsake for visitors to Taipei, which has hundreds of stores specializing in jade as well as the colossal weekend Jade Market...
Taroko Gorge Full-Day Tour from Taipei
See one of the seven wonders of Asia, the Taroko Gorge. Take a short plane trip to Hualien from Taipei to see this great wonder, a must-do while in Taipei. You'll be picked up from your Taipei city hotel at 6:00am to travel by plane to Hualien, a 25-minute flight. This full-day guided tour will take you to the Taroko Gorge.