Taipei is World Design Capital 2016! The city hasn’t turned up on many Western tourists’ radars…yet. As world wide trend hunters we packed our bags and hopped on a jet to the up and coming Asian metropolis to see what the buzz is all about.
Taipei sits in a mountainous basin at the Northern tip of Taiwan and is surrounded by a wonderfully green scenery, boasting several nationals parks and untouched nature. An economic boom in the 80s led to heavy urbanization and the constant extension of the city’s borders. In densely populated areas like Taipei, intelligent design is becoming key for an attractive, efficient and liveable environment. The Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese and more recently Western influences combined with futuristic design-thinking and respect for the ancient Chinese roots create one of the most interesting travel destinations in Asia and have earned Taipei the title of World Design Capital.
The skyline is dominated by the mighty Taipei 101 skyscraper (508m) – wagging tongues suggest it looks like a huge stack of noodle boxes – but it’s not the only thing that makes the urban attractions stand out. Taipei is well known for its unique nightlife, boasting trendy bars and clubs, but also edgy night markets such as the famous Shilin Night Market where you’ll find anything from super delicious food to clothing and consumer goods. The blend of classic street eats and new restaurants is creating a buzz right now, and insiders already know that Taipei will be the next big foodie travel destination.
With a population of 7 million, Taipei boasts lots of distinctive districts. Our top pick #1 is Fujin Street, an 800m long road home to vintage stores, designer studios, trendy cafes, hip retail spots and multi-concept stores. Its beautiful gardens, artistic boutiques and lush atmosphere make it a laid back getaway area that’s easy to fall in love with.
3,co - Design & Cafe
Bison – Cafe & Coffee Shop
Where to start - Take a cab to Fuyuan St corner Fujin Street in Songshan District and start walking west along the tree-laned Fujin street.
Your dreams of time-travelling become reality on the quiet Dihua Street. No skyscrapers, no flashy advertisement displays. The colors, the buildings, the smell, the pace – everything takes you back to the beginning of the 20th century. Young enterpreneurs are creating a beautiful combination of past and modern influences. The cafes, restaurants and boutique shops blend in perfectly with charming antique attractions.
Yeh Tea House – French restaurant
OrigInn Space – Cafe, Art & Interior Shop
Fleisch – Cafe & Dining
Salt Peanuts Cafe – Trendy Cafe
Peacock Bistro – Fine Dining
Le Zinclo – Boho-Artsy Cafe & Restaurant
Where to start - Starting location: Daqiaotou (大橋頭) Metro Station, Exit 1 — or Shuanglian (雙連) Metro Station, Exit 2. Dadaocheng is located by the Danshui (Tamsui) river in the North-West part of Taipei.
Another must-visit is the hustling and bustling Da’an District. Da’an boasts upscale shopping centers, vibrant night markets and is one of the liveliest hoods in Taipei. With several sought-after universities in the district, you will find a young and hip crowd populating the numerous quirky cafes, clothing shops and of course the popular Tonghua Night Market and Yongkang Street where you’ll find some of the best street eats in Taipei. When it gets too busy for your taste, you can retreat to the evergreen Da’an Forest Park – Taipei’s version of Central Park. Learn more about Da’an here.
We also visited the beautiful Bopiliao Old Street in Taipei’s oldest district – Wanhua (more info about Wanhua). The street still retains the look it had 200 years ago and has been richly decorated by national and international artists. You’ll find a broad selection of stores here: a clock store, a knife shop, a taoist shrine, a tea room and a rice company to name just a few.
Where to start - go to the Longshan temple station. From there you can discover the area around Mengxia Park, along Guangzhou St and the narrow streets between Mengxia Park and Kunming Street.
The home of subculture and counterculture undisputedly is Wanhua’s Ximenting (read more) . It’s the perfect spot if you’re looking for alternative lifestyle. Street artists, magicians and dancers give a lively touch to the area that’s visited by several million people per month. There’s also a great selection of shops for alternative music, costumes, books, toys and anything else that’s off the mainstream. The district’s highlight is the magnificent Red House Theater built in 1908, where you’ll find an artists’ market on ground floor and live perfomances on the second floor.
Also known as the “Manhattan of Taipei”, the Xinyi District boasts important landmarks such as the City Hall, Taipei 101 and several flagship shopping malls. It’s definitely the place for all shopping crazy tourists and fashionistas. You can shop for days and it never gets boring!
Cafes and Restaurants
FiFi Tea House and Lounge (our top pick)
A multi-functional place in a three-story building with a fashion market on the ground floor, and a cool restaurant on the top floor. The restaurant features Sichuan and Shanghai modern Chinese cuisine. It is like an old Shanghai supper club dolled up for modern-day Taipei. There is also a cosy caféand a trendy east/west fusion lounge bar on the second floor, complete with antique furniture.
RAW - Most talked about gourmet restaurant in Asia
Sanhoyan – Funky Design Restaurant
Lidio Restaurant – Trendy Fine Dining:
Mountain Fusion – Creative Dining
Khaki – Stylish Cafe & Restaurant
Salt Peanunts Vinyl Cafe – Edgy cafe
Merlot - Wine Bistro
Yellow Lemon – Dessert Bar
Xiang Se – Shabby Chic Restaurant
Joel Robuchon – International Gourmet restaurant
The Thousandth Girl – Interior Design Store & Cafe ”Good-Institute-Store”
EIEIO - Gastro Pub
Woobar (our top pick)
In the Xinyi District, home to W Taipei, there pulses a neon current, creating a sanctuary where serenity meets energy. An endless stream of people, ideas and atmosphere. Woo Bar is one of the most happening bars in town. It’s the place to be see and be seen.
Ounce Bar – Hidden & Discrete Bar
Wa-Shu – Modern Bar with a Japanese touch
Alchemy – Stylish Underground Bar
R&D Cocktail Lab – Cocktail-culture at its best!
Elektro (our top pick!)
The successor of the famous Spark club is living up to its name. The atmosphere is electrifying and attracts a classy and refined crowd. What’s pleasant about that is you don’t have to party with drunk 18 year olds who just turned old enough to visit a club. Instead, expect to pop a lot of champagne bottles!
Club Myst – spacious dance floor and huge balcony
M2 Club - amazing visuals and cool crowd
Chess - exclusive and intimate
Roxy 99 - Rock’n’Roll instead of EDM
When you talk Shopping in Taipei it’s always the night markets that come to mind first. But in busy Da’an and Xinyi fashionistas will be delighted to find elegant shopping malls and high-end designer labels just waiting to clothe you for the night. The huge number and variety of shopping streets in Taipei has gained it a reputation as shopping mecca for tourists. Department stores, underground malls, night markets, shopping districts…you name it, it’s there.
Xinyi Downtown (our top pick!)
Wufengpu - affordable shopping paradise
Ximending - tourist trap but popular
Isabelle Ven – local top designer
Taipeis traditional night markets are where the soul of the city shows. The odors of soy, sesame and spices fill the air as you take a deep breath and open your eyes to a colourful world of food, people and twice as many promotional signs. The night markets open at 4 in the afternoon and often go well beyond midnight. It feels like a little carnival that’s taking place every night. The night markets aren’t only a great shopping destination for lower-priced clothing and food, they’re part of the cultural experience in Taipei.
Shilin Night Market (our top pick!)
Shilin is the biggest night market of them all. It may not be the most exclusive or cheapest one, but at least once you have to experience the waves of people shifting through the vidid streets while all of your senses are busy taking in the impressions. Shilin gives you the classic experience of a Taipei night market and should not be missed on your trip!
Nanjchang Night Market – less crowded and amazing food
Raohe Night Market – Taipei’s oldest night market, perfect for people watching
Shida Night Market – on of the coziest night markets
Ningxia Night Market – many local visitors, affordable food
Humble House Taipei (our top pick!)
Located in shopping and commerce hub Xinyi, Humble House is the pearl of the art and hospitality scene. Its interior designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates shows matt and mute tones to create a mix of hotel and art gallery with pieces such as Italian artist Paola Pivi’s Crazy Ball, installed in the hotel’s Italian restaurant. Guests can also lean back on the lush roof terrace and enjoy a mind blowing view on the Taipei 101 skyscraper. The rooms are simple, stylish and elegant and start at a cozy 26sqm, reaching up to 73sqm for the biggest suite.
W Taipei boasts cutting edge design and is the obvious choice for everyone who enjoys a creative and highly stylish environment. The dining options in the hotel are unbeaten – Woobar, Yen Chinese Restaurant and The Kitchen Table offer a combination of treats what will never make you leave the house again.
Quote is the perfect blend of design and boutique. With only 64 rooms it’s also a lot smaller than Humble House and W Taipei and creates a more intimate setting. Guests can enjoy food and drinks in luxurious opulence in the 333 Restaurant & Bar and the H.Q. Lounge.
French elegange meets Taipei’s Da’an district. Expect boutique service, luxurious design and modern amenities. With pieces by Dali, Warhol, Yin Sun and Gai Xiao Wu the hotel puts even art galleries to shame.
Spacious trendy lodgings in this nine story hotel in Taipei offer an exclusive experience just blocks away from the busiest shopping and dining districts in Taipei.
Top 7 attractions
Taipei 101 Observartory (our top pick)!
Gay mecca of Asia
What Berlin is to the gay community in Europe, Taipei is to the gay community in Asia! Taipei is tolerant, open, progressive, same sex activity is legal and the city and has banned workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Each year it hosts a massive gay pride parade, attracting more than 50.000 people to dive into Taipei’s welcome culture.
The most vibrant gay scene is centered in the Red House district. You’ll find more than 25 gay bars, shops and restaurants in close proximity, most of which have outdoor terraces and invite you to watch heavily muscled Taiwanese guys walk by.
Kenting – the Riviera of Taiwan
Not many people have heard about this paradise in Taiwan’s South, especially not in the Western world, but it has drawn some attention in international media during the shooting of Life of Pi. 75% of the movie was shot in Taiwan – for example the movie’s main scenes of the Pacific Ocean were shot from a former airport, the floating island was at Pingtung Banyan Park and the Mexican Beach was at Kenting Baisha Bay.
Kenting is the perfect getaway location if you’re looking for some tropical flair. With its evergreen forests, seaside cliffs and great beaches it’s Taiwan’s Capitol for leisure and quality time for locals and tourists alike. Kenting Baisha Bay is a private scenic spot and is less frequented as not all the tourists know how to find it. A shame, seeing that the white sand beach is embraced by spectacular coral reefs. Must-visit!
Hotels in Kenting
Kenting Resort – Our top pick!
The one and only beach resort with direct access from hotel to the private beach (3 km long!). A bit old fashion with a very big capacity, but a beautiful setting with sunsets guaranteed to make you fall in love. The best about it? They even offer beach barbecue and a beach bar.
Gloria Manor is a mountain resort with stunning view of the Kenting bay and offers pleasant privacy in a lush surrounding. The design is very sleek and the hotel is not missing any facilities if you are getting bored. Fine dining restaurant, bistro & cafe, bar, library, spa and a huge pool are at your service.
For more information about cool Taipei, check the following links!