Taipei for First-Time Visitors: A Fun- and Food-Filled Long Weekend Itinerary

Visa-free entry to Taiwan starts next month! Here’s a quick guide to having a fun- and food-filled long weekend in Taipei — with itinerary, tips, and all the latest first-hand info on this trending new destination.

SGMT Taiwan Taipei Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall 1200x630

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DAY 0 (Thursday)


—-  Flight to Taipei  —-

Our Philippine Airlines flight to Taipei was on a Thursday evening but this itinerary will work just as well for flights on early Friday.

Transportation. From Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, take the Airport Line train to get to the city center.

  • Tip: At the ticket counter for the airport MRT, buy an EasyCard, a stored value card that lets you tap in and out of local transportation. It’s convenient and you get discounted fares on bus/train trips. You can also use the card to pay for purchases at convenience stores. The card itself costs 100 NTD (non-consumable) and you decide how much to load in it. For this itinerary, we spent less than 500 NTD on train fares, including the 160 NTD per way to/from the airport.

Accommodations. After going through various options (see 15 Best Cheap Hostels in Taipei) we decided to stay at Miniinn. We got a family room (with shared bathroom) since there were 4 of us in our travel group. However, single beds in dorm rooms are available as well. Miniinn has great reviews from previous guests, with a rating of 9.1/10 in Booking.com and 4.5/5 in TripAdvisor. Breakfast is free, with no deposit required and free cancellation up to a couple of days before the trip. For us, however, the ultimate plus was Miniinn’s location: it’s just literally a couple of meters away from Taipei Main Station’s M7 exit, making it the perfect base for getting around the city using public transportation.

  • Tip: There’s a food court on the second floor of Taipei Main Station. There’s also a 7-11 just 5 meters away from the Miniinn entrance.

Itinerary. You can get the details in the following sections but here’s a bird’s-eye view of our Taipei itinerary:


SGMT Taipei Itinerary Day 1


DAY 1 (Friday)

AM

We had a slow and easy Friday morning, using the time to catch up on sleep and orient ourselves to our new surroundings. (We also got lost and went to the wrong Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall but you don’t need to follow that, lol.) If you don’t want to spend Thursday night in Taipei, you can catch a Friday morning flight instead. Also, if you have a place that you particularly want to visit but it’s not included in this itinerary, this is the time to do so.

  • Tip: If you input Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall into Google Maps, there’s a good chance you’ll be directed to a building that’s actually part of a Taipei university; if you ask Google Maps for directions, you’ll be told to take the Blue (Bannan) Line. That’s not the CKS Memorial Hall you want. 😀 The iconic building you’re looking for is actually located in the Zhongzheng District. You can get there by taking the RED (Tamsui-Xinyi) Line and getting off at the C.K.S. Memorial Hall Station. You’re more likely to get the correct directions from Google Maps by typing “NATIONAL Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.” (But, hey, what’s a trip without a little misadventure, eh?) 🙂

PM

Jiufen Village and Northeast Coast

This was the first of our three outings with Edison Tours.

On our first afternoon in Taipei, we headed out to the coast to see Jiufen Village, Bitou Cape, and the Nanya Rock Formations. It was raining, so exploring Jiufen meant navigating through a maze of umbrellas and raincoat-clad tourists, but it was still a great experience. Best of all, the wild weather meant some spectacular waves and amazing coastal scenery.

Jiufen Old Street and Northeast Coast

  • Tip: Make sure you try the peanut ice cream roll in Jiufen — it’s our top food discovery of the trip. We were able to buy peanut ice cream rolls elsewhere but the one in Jiufen was our favorite.


Edison Tours contact info:

  • Contact person: Paul Hsieh (Deputy General Manager)
  • Tel: +886-2-2563-5313 or +886-2-2563-4621 ext 102
  • Email: paul@edison.com.tw / edisonts@ms6.hinet.net
  • Website: http://www.edison.com.tw/

Night

Taipei Night Tour 

We again signed up with Edison Tours for a nighttime traipse around Taipei. Our first stop was the Huaxi (Huasi/Hwahsi) night market, the oldest of its kind in Taipei, where locals still go to partake of traditional fare like snake and crocodile cooked in a variety of ways. Our next stop was the Longshan Temple, where a certain deity was particularly popular with the single ladies among us. 😀 Finally, the tour’s coup de grâce was a delicious ginormous dinner (at no extra cost) at Din Tai Fung‘s Taipei 101 branch. I’m not even a dimsum aficionado but the xiao long bao here truly lived up to the hype.

SGMT Taipei Itinerary Day 1
Din Tai Fung and Night Market


SGMT Taipei Itinerary Day 2


DAY 2 (
Saturday)

AM

Pingxi Sky Lantern Experience and Old Street Walk

Sky lanterns in Taipei used to be a way to transmit messages during war to inaccessible areas. Now the lanterns carry visitors’ wishes to the sky. This activity was part of Edison Tours‘ half-day tour to Shifen. The tour also included a self-guided walk around the Shifen railroad area and a visit to the impressive Shifen Waterfall.

  • Tip: The cost of one sky lantern per two persons — or one each for people traveling alone — is included in the tour but you can buy additional ones for 150 NTD each. And don’t worry: the staff at the sky lantern store will also help you light your lantern and take photos of you (good to know for solo travelers).

SGMT Taipei Itinerary Day 2
Shifen railroad and sky lantern experience

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Edison Tours contact info:

  • Contact person: Paul Hsieh (Deputy General Manager)
  • Tel: +886-2-2563-5313 or +886-2-2563-4621 ext 102
  • Email: paul@edison.com.tw / edisonts@ms6.hinet.net
  • Website: http://www.edison.com.tw/

PM

Special Interests

One of the most important ways to make a trip memorable is to include something that is personally meaningful or particularly enjoyable for you in your itinerary. We allotted the afternoon of Day 2 for this purpose. Taipei has a lot to offer but if you’re strapped for ideas, here are a few:

  • National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
  • National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine
  • National Palace Museum
  • Taipei Fine Arts Museum
  • Temples (Longshan, Confucius, Baoan, etc.)
  • Taipei Zoo
  • Maokong gondola and tea plantation
  • Yehliu geopark
  • Rock climbing
  • Trail hiking
  • Cooking classes
  • Shopping

In our case, we went to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall — the right one this time! 😄 — and witnessed the ceremony of the changing of the guards.

  • Tip: If you can, time your visit around the Changing of the Guards ceremony, which happens every hour on the hour. Other attractions that have this ceremony include the National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine and the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall.

SGMT Taipei Itinerary Day 2
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

Night

Raohe Street Night Market

If there’s one thing Taipei is known for, it’s its street night markets…and you can’t go to just one! Three of the most beloved are:

  • Shilin Night Market
  • Ningxia Night Market
  • Raohe Street Night Market

SGMT Taipei Itinerary Day 2
Raohe Street Night Market

Shilin is the biggest and probably the most popular. For the evening of Day 2, however, we chose to go to the Raohe Street Night Market. We got there early so we were able to get its famous bestseller — the black pepper buns right at the entrance — without too much of a queue. We were kind of divided on this one: the filling was delicious but the bun was a bit too chewy for some of us. We were also able to buy pasalubong (assorted pastries and fridge magnets) here.


SGMT Taipei Itinerary Day 3

DAY 3 (Sunday)

AM | PM

Private Guided Tour / Hot Spring Experience

On our last full day on Taipei, we went on a half-day private guided tour courtesy of MyTaiwanTour with the following stops:

  • Yangminshan National Park – The park covers an enormous area but you can pick what sections to visit based on your interests and on the season. In autumn, the Qingtiangang trail is popular for its silvergrass; cherry blossoms are a big draw in the spring.
  • Guandu Flower Festival – This festival only runs till February 2018 so make sure you catch it if you can.
  • Beitou Thermal Valley (aka “Hell Valley”)
  • Hot spring bath at Marshal Zen Garden (own expense)

SGMT Taipei Itinerary Day 3
Nature-oriented private guided tour

  • Tip: If you’re looking to save on the hot spring bath, you can go to the Millennium Hot Spring, a public hot spring right next to the Xinbeitou MRT station, where entrance will only set you back 40 NTD. Marshal Zen Garden, on the other hand, offers private hot spring rooms (1200 NTD for 2 pax) and a communal hot spring pool where you can dip your feet. It’s a bit farther away from the train station but Marshal Zen Garden offers a free shuttle — just let them know in advance.

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MyTaiwanTour contact info:


Night

Ningxia Street Market

Even though we had to leave early the next morning, we just had to visit one more night market. This time, on the advice of Kelly our tour guide, we went to the Ningxia Street Market. Kelly recommended the liver soup, oyster omelette, and papaya milk. We also noticed a long line of people at a cart selling braised pork so we had to try it too (good taste and value for just 30 NTD per serving). And our absolute favorite — second only to the peanut ice cream rolls for the whole trip — were the freshly cooked mochi balls coated in peanut and black sesame seeds.

SGMT Taipei Itinerary Day 3
Ningxia Night Market

And then…sigh…it was back to Miniinn to start packing.


DAY 4 (Monday)


—- Flight back to the Philippines —-

Tips:

  • If you’re taking the airport MRT to Taoyuan International Airport, the first trip leaves Taipei Main Station at 6 AM. However, there’s no point being too early — the station only opens its doors at around 5:40 AM.
  • If you’re flying the 9:40 AM Philippine Airlines flight back to Manila, there’s no point being too early at the airport either — their check-in counters only open at 7:20 AM (and close at 9 AM, apparently because this is the only time allotted to them to use their assigned check-in counters).

Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains

SUMMARY

Here’s a recap of our long weekend itinerary in Taipei:

Contact info for tours:

  • Edison Tours
    • Contact person: Paul Hsieh (Deputy General Manager)
    • Tel: +886-2-2563-5313 or +886-2-2563-4621 ext 102
    • Email: paul@edison.com.tw / edisonts@ms6.hinet.net
    • Website: http://www.edison.com.tw/
  • MyTaiwanTour

Our girls’ long weekend in Taipei was fun- and food-filled without being too jam-packed or stressful. I’m definitely hoping to go back — with my family this time — and I can’t wait to eat, see, and explore more of Taipei and the rest of Taiwan.



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