Taipei, Taiwan is a melting pot of Chinese and Japanese influence all wrapped into one conveniently located port city. Historic sites like the Longshan Temple and the expertly curated National Palace Museum make it easy for history enthusiasts to get swept up in the magic of Taipei, while the outdoorsy types can head out for hiking at Yangmingshan National Park or waterfall chasing at Shifen Waterfall.
You could say anything goes in Taipei as long as you’re having fun with it. While on an Asia cruise, you’ll quickly discover Taipei has transformed into an urban, cosmopolitan city. Food is integral to the culture here, whether you’re dining out at one of Taipei’s many Michelin star-rated eateries or enjoying steamed dumplings from a local night market. Enjoy dim sum or hot pot, and then wash it all down with a traditional Taiwanese tea time. Ascend to the top of Taipei 101 for a bird’s-eye view of the city. Set off a paper lantern for luck and prosperity at the neighboring town of Jiufen. No matter how you spend your time in Taipei, you’ll quickly fall in love with its quirks and culture.
Purchase a ticket to the top of Taiwan’s Taipei 101 tower, which was the tallest building in the world until Dubai’s Burj Khalifa was completed a few years ago. Taipei 101 is shaped like a giant stalk of bamboo and clocks in at nearly 1,667 feet tall. Enjoy a high-speed ride of only 40 seconds to get to the observation decks at the top, and snap unforgettable panoramic photos of the Taipei skyline below.
Longshan Temple is nearly 300 years old, making it one of Taiwan’s oldest temples. It’s a sacred site that has survived bombings, earthquakes, and more during its lifetime. Walk the grounds where hundreds of worshippers and tourists gather each day. While entry is free, it’s recommended to donate a few Taiwanese dollars toward preservation efforts.
The National Palace Museum offers the most comprehensive collection of Chinese art and artifacts dating back thousands of years to the Qing and Ming Dynasties, making it an ideal excursion for history and art lovers during a Taipei cruise. The scale of the National Palace Museum makes the Forbidden City in Beijing pale in comparison. Schedule as much time as possible here for a chance to study all four levels of the museum. Guided tours are even available in English, too.
Located an hour’s ride from Taipei is the “Niagara Falls of Taiwan,” or the Shifen Waterfall. Marvel at this 65-foot tall waterfall, which looks beautiful in summer and is surrounded by lush greenery. Don’t forget to take plenty of photos at this particularly photogenic spot.
The picturesque mountain town of Jiufen was once a major mining town during the Japanese gold rush. Today, it’s a popular spot for tourists looking to get away from the bustle of Taipei. Getting to Jiufen is only a two-hour journey round trip, making it an ideal getaway during your short stop on a Taipei cruise. During a tour of Old Street, you can release paper lanterns into the air to make different wishes for prosperity, love, and health.
A tour of the city’s cultural and historic district, Bopiliao Old Street, is a must-do in Taipei for an understanding of the area’s rich past. Stop in the Heritage and Culture Education Center, a free museum which offers two stories dedicated to the history of Taiwan. You’ll see artifacts and exhibits recreating schools and what the education system of Taiwan was like in the early 20th century.
No trip to Taipei is complete without a stop at one of the city’s night markets, where cheap market meals rival some of the swankiest upscale restaurants in the city. It’s here at Keelung that you’ll get a proper taste of the culinary scene of Taipei. Whether you’re looking for touristy shopping or organized tours of the market, there’s something for all types of travelers.
Looking for a getaway from the city? Take a bus ride or rent a car to get to the beautiful Yangmingshan National Park just outside of Taipei. It’s home to Caoshan Mountain along with incredible sulfur deposits and hot springs. After a short hike on the easy-to-navigate trail system of the park, take a dip in the Lengshuikeng cold springs for total relaxation.
Reservations are required at RAW, an upscale one Michelin-starred restaurant that has quickly grabbed accolades and praise, even landing on best restaurant lists all over Asia. Chef André Chiang brings a creative, never-boring approach to his dishes, providing visitors with eight courses of delight on a night they’ll never forget.
Keelung Night Market
Taipei’s night markets are famous, known for hundreds of stalls where hungry patrons can get pretty much any street foods their hearts desire. Seafood is freshly sourced and makes up a lot of the must-try dishes at the market. Walk through the market and make a point to stop at multiple eateries for a true taste of Taipei.
As one of the premiere coffee shops in Taipei, GaBee Coffee has a lot to live up to. Whether you’re there for a classic cappuccino or the news-worthy sweet potato coffee cocktail, you can’t really go wrong here. Plus, there’s wifi and a back patio for you to sit and relax.
Din Tai Fung
Dumplings and noodle dishes are the main draw to Din Tai Fung, which has some of the most famous steamed dumplings in all of Taipei. This is the original location, though several franchises have sprouted up all over the world. Try the dim sum and the soup dumplings. Get there early to beat the lines that form around lunchtime.
In the 18th century, immigrants from China came to Taiwan and founded Taipei, which quickly grew in prominence as a trade capital between China and other parts of the world. Taiwan became a Chinese province in 1886, but switched hands to the Japanese by 1895. Taipei’s population boomed in the mid-20th century after World War II and became renowned as one of the largest but most livable urban areas in the world. Food and eating out is a huge aspect of Taiwanese culture, where you’ll find eats at every price point. The overarching goal in Taipei is for visitors to have more fun with their food.
Today, the official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese, but many regional dialects are spoken as well. Chinese and Japanese colonization of Taipei greatly influenced the area’s culture, as has Confucianism. If you’re coming to Taiwan on a Taipei cruise, exchanging business cards with residents is common practice. It’s extremely polite to bring cards with your name on them if you can.
Your Taipei cruise ship will likely dock in the port of Keelung, which is about 15 miles away from the city proper of Taipei. Standard amenities at the cruise port include free wifi, currency exchange, ATMs, and souvenir stalls to find the perfect keepsake.
From the port, you can take a train or bus to get into Taipei, and the MRT metro system is comprehensive and easy to navigate. You can hop on a train at Keelung station from nearby the port that will take you to the center of Taipei. Most attractions in Taipei are accessible within a 20-minute walk of each other. Of course, yellow taxis are abundant in Taipei, but most drivers will speak Chinese and very little English, so come prepared with a map or the name of your destination written down to make the navigation process easy for both parties.
Taipei is famous not only for markets and stalls but enormous shopping malls scattered throughout the city. The Night Market in Taipei is one of the most popular with locals and tourists alike, where the smells of grilled foods wafts through the air and crowds gather to eat, stroll, and buy. Hinduism has clearly influenced many of the shapes and structures that local artisans create and sell in the markets here. Bring home organic tea or handmade wooden sculptures as souvenirs.
The official currency of Taipei is the New Taiwan dollar (TWD), and you won’t have luck trying to use euros or U.S dollars during your time in Taiwan. ATMs are common all over the city and at banks, and you’ll find credit cards are widely accepted in Taipei, too, but it’s a good to keep cash on hand for small transactions and local markets. Tipping isn’t customary, but it’s polite to tip 10% to tour guides, waitstaff, and bartenders. Tipping your taxi driver isn’t necessary, but it’s kind to round up to the nearest dollar.