Chances are, you’ve been to Taipei and have your own list of favorite haunts to hit up for food and shopping. But the city is still worth discovering. Deborah Tan, a seven-time visitor, recently visited the city (again) and found some new surprises.
I love Taipei. I love the night markets because of the insane amount AND VARIETY of street food available. I love how the people there are always so friendly and, most importantly, I love how everyone makes such an effort in preserving the city’s heritage and keeping it clean and green.
Did you know that when it comes to recycling efforts in the world Taiwan tops the list?
Admittedly, I am not the most adventurous of travelers. Whenever I find myself back in a familiar city, I would stick to what I know and make very little effort to explore beyond my favorite haunts … that is unless someone else drags me around. So for my visit this time around, I’m glad I was placed in the good hands of EVA Air, Taiwan Visitors Association (TVA) and friendly fellow writers.
Here are some spots I strongly recommend you check out the next time you’re in the city … don’t say never share!
1. Check Inn
Super chic, uber cool boutique hostel
Inspired by the boutique hotels and loft apartments of New York, the owners of Check Inn wanted to create an affordable, yet stylish, stay for travelers who want to stay somewhere between an upmarket hotel and a back-to-basics backpackers hostel. Check Inn’s rooms, currently, are all twin-beds only. You’ll be impressed by the attention to detail despite the minimalist interior – the hostel uses its own Ecocert scent for its toiletries.
Check Inn is located at 253 Songjiang Road. www.checkinn.com.tw
2. Mandarin Oriental Taipei
If Paradise had a holiday address in Taiwan
If you’re looking to splash out, then be sure you book yourself a stay at Mandarin Oriental Taipei. Get ready to be blown away by grandeur and luxury the moment you step into the lobby. The hotel knows how to make an impression. Guests are greeted by a 1,400kg chandelier made from 50,000 pieces of crystal beads and crystal drops. The hotel is a veritable art museum as well, featuring some 1,700 pieces of art, antiques and sculptures by award-winning artists. Even the most basic suite is huge, complete with a walk-in closet and bathtub. Even if you can’t afford to stay here, be sure to at least have lunch, tea or dinner at one of Mandarin Oriental Taipei’s awesome restaurants and cake shop.
Mandarin Oriental Taipei is located at 158 Dunhua Road. www.mandarinoriental.com/taipei
3. Good Cho
Yummy bagels and awesome rusk ice cream
A lifestyle store cum cafe, Good Cho may seem like any upmarket hipster establishment. But hunting it down proved to be a lot of fun. Located on the former site of a military family village, Good Cho reputedly sells the best bagels in town. And it’s true. On our visit there, we tried a black pepper and cheese bagel and a brown sugar with sweet potato bagel – both had just the right amount of bite and flavor. Good Cho can also be found at Maji Square (see below) but this one located at Songqin Street is a much better hangout.
Good Cho is located at 54 Songqin Street.
4. Maji Square
Like Pasarbella … only bigger and with more food
Nestled in the Taipei Expo Park’s Yuanshan Park Area, Maji Square is a project by well-known Taiwanese artiste Harlem Yu and designer Eugene Yeh. A lifestyle market featuring a street food fair, a creative bazaar, specialty shops and a performance space, the area is a hive of activity for both locals and tourists alike. I chanced upon a store selling beauty products made with organic ginger from Taichong and found myself falling in love with the scents and textures so much, I walked out with 3 hand creams.
Maji Square is located at 1 Yumen Street. www.facebook.com/majisquare
5. Fujin Street
Charming street filled with charming shops
A neighborhood reminiscent of New York’s Soho district, this 800m long street is home to numerous cafes, designer studios and home decor shops. The most popular cafe on this street has got to be Fujin Tree 353 Cafe. Known for its brown sugar latte, the cafe also features an in-store florist that, according to the staff, gets crazy-busy during special occasions like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.
6. Huashan 1914 Creative Park
Every heritage project’s wet dream
A former sake distillery, the area is now a heritage project that attracts art and literary giants to it. It aims to be a place where art and creativity can organically grow. Many of the activities and workshops hosted at Huashan 1914 are free to attend because the organization hopes to create a windowless classroom. At Huashan 1914, you can find cafes, restaurants, bars and shops by Taipei’s creative set.
Huashan 1914 Creative Park is located at 1 Bade Road. www.huashan1914.com
7. Taipei Fish Market
Seafood lovers, you’re in for a treat!
There are many ways you can tuck into the fresh seafood here: at a restaurant, at the outdoor area or buy an attractively priced bento or sashimi set from the food market and dig in at any of the standing tables. Go hungry and be prepared for a crowd, though. No one can resist the lure of fresh, attractively priced gourmet-standard seafood.
Taipei Fish Market is located at 18 Minzu East Road.
8. Songshan Cultural Park
A fun place to explore whether you’re into art, food or shopping
Similar to Huashan 1914 Creative Park, the Songshan Cultural Park occupies the site of a former tobacco factory. The sprawling grounds include a Baroque Garden, an exhibition hall, and a shopping mall anchored by Taiwanese bookstore giant Eslite called Eslite Spectrum. On the weekend we were there, food trucks could be found on the grounds selling light bites and coffee. The area is also set to welcome the opening of a boutique hotel by Eslite at the end of 2014.
Songshan Cultural Park is located at 133 Guangfu South Road. www.songshanculturalpark.org
So if you want to take a break from checking out the night markets and Wufenpu (clothes wholesale market), these 8 recommendations are definitely worth your time and camera’s disk space!
About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She really likes smelly toufu. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.