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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Top things to do 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...
Best places to stay in Taipei
Private Tour: Taroko Gorge Day Trip from Taipei
View the natural and cultural highlights of Taroko Gorge, one of the Seven Wonders of Asia, on a private day trip from Taipei. Receive the expertise of a private guide who has insider knowledge of Taroko National Park and its scenic spots.
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
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...
Private Taiwan Northeast Coast Tour: Longdong, Nanya and Jiaoshi Hot Springs from Taipei
If you love to photograph stunning seascapes, then this private day trip to Taiwan’s northeastern coast is for you! Travel by private vehicle with an experienced guide and gain access to a variety of majestic natural landscapes.
Taipei for coffee addicts
With more than one billion speakers worldwide, Mandarin is the most widely spoken language on the planet. How can you miss the chance to communicate with one in seven people on Earth?
Asian street food fight: Singapore vs Taipei
Many Asian destinations claim to be the one true king of dining al fresco. Thais boast proudly that Bangkok's endless alleyways filled with tasty dishes make their capital tops, while Hong Kongers swear their dai pai dongs (street stalls) offering Cantonese fare put that city in street-food slot one...
Great street eats in Taiwan
Private Tour: Jiufen Gold Rush Town and Yehliu National Geopark from Taipei
Discover Taiwan’s natural and cultural highlights on a private day trip to Yehliu National Geopark and Jiufen. Walk over fascinating geological formations at boulder-strewn Yehliu before taking to the narrow streets of Jiufen, a former gold mining town with Japanese influences.