Taipei (and Taiwan in particular) is often just regarded by tourists as a layover on their way to more popular Asian tourist destinations such as Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, and other neighboring countries. But with the variety of places you can visit and activities you can do, the island deserves a separate trip – it is just as fascinating as its more popular neighbors, and you will definitely need more than a day to explore everything that Taipei has to offer. Taipei, and Taiwan in general, offers a side of Chinese culture that is unique to the country, and it is one that every traveler should experience at least once in his life.
Like most Asian tourist destinations, Taipei is very child-friendly, so if you are traveling as a family, you don’t have to worry about your little ones getting bored during the trip. There are plenty of places you can visit together, as well as activities that will keep everybody occupied. Although Taipei is known for being child and tourist-friendly, keep in mind that you have to be careful and guide your kids accordingly to help keep them secure at all times (have them stay close to you at all times, never let them out of your sight as much as possible, do not talk to strangers, and do not accept food or anything from strangers).
Kid-friendly places to visit
Taipei has numerous museums, high rise buildings, and night markets you can visit with your kids. Here are some of them:
1. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
Parents and kids will have a grand time when they visit the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, albeit for different reasons. The massive, imposing monument is located on large grounds that also house the massive National Theatre and National Concert Hall, as well as sprawling gardens.
The memorial has 89 steps to get to the top, representing the age of Chiang Kai Shek, the former leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party, when he died. Parents looking to get a dose of history will enjoy strolling through the museum dedicated to Chiang’s life, full of memorabilia. Kids will enjoy the changing of the guards ceremony.
Entry to the memorial is free, and is accessible through the MRT via the Chiang Kai Shek station.
2. Maokong Gondola
Maokong is a hilly region in southern Taipei that is famous for its tea – it is a place that produces tea and has a unique tea culture, with numerous tea houses dotting the hills. Needless to say, if you love tea, you should definitely visit this place. If tea is not your thing, then you should visit anyway for the fabulous gondola ride that takes you from the Taipei zoo up into the hills.
It is budget-friendly and scenic, which makes it a definite must-do. You will be rewarded with magnificent views of greenery and Taipei.
The gondola starts from near the zoo MRT station. It has four stations, with the second station on the other side of the zoo and accessible through a shuttle bus from the zoo.
If you love hot springs, you should visit Beitou, a Taipei suburban area that is known for its hot springs. In fact, there are hot springs accessible in the streets, as well as hotels with private and public bathing areas, along with public pools. Soothe your tired body as you soak through the water and feel your worries melting away. Don’t worry – the temperature is perfect for a dip, and it won’t scald your skin.
When traveling with kids, it is better to take the hotel route, as it allows them to move freely, because there are private baths. For as low as $34, you can get a room that has a hot spring bath, a cold bath, a shower area, and an area where you can store your clothes and valuables. You also get access to fresh towels, toiletries, and bath water. This is best enjoyed at the end of a tiring day, so you can get a good night’s sleep.
4. National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum is one of Taipei’s top attractions, known for housing the world’s largest, finest, and rarest collection of Chinese art. The museum boasts of items that have been collected from mainland China when the nationalists fled the country in 1949. If you cannot read Chinese, do not worry, as English descriptions are available. Make sure to spare time to explore the top floor, which, according to those who have been there, have the very best items.
A word of caution – there are MANY people in the museum at any given time of the day. There are large tour groups that move quite slowly, so you will have to weave your way in and out of the place and exercise extraordinary patience so you can read the information boards. But it will be very much worth it.
To get to the museum, take the MRT to Jiantan, and then take a bus from the front of the station. The very kind bus drivers will let you know when you are at the museum.
5. Taipei Night Markets
The night markets at Taipei are some of the best in the world, not only because of the great finds that await you, but because of the food. Have your fill of seafood and vegetables that are fresh and cooked to order, and wash them all down with fresh fruit juices. Kids will have a blast because the night markets also have carnival-like games and some rides. These markets are usually very crowded and have hot surfaces and boiling oil, so make sure to guard your children very well.
The Shilin Night Market is one of the biggest and most famous night markets in Taiwan, and is very popular among tourists. It is easily accessible via the MRT Red Line’s Jian Tian stop. Other popular options include the Taipei Shida Market and the Raohe Night Market, respectively.
6. Taipei 101
The observatory is spread over four floors where visitors can enjoy the fantastic scenery and learn about the engineering marvel that is Taipei 101, the tallest green building the world.
First, make your way to the fifth floor to the Taipei 101 Mall, where visitors purchase tickets and take the Guinness World Record breaking high-speed elevator to the observatory on the 89th floor, traveling at 1,010 meters (3,313 feet)/min (60.6 kilometers or 37.6 miles per hour), taking only 37 seconds to ascend to the observatory at the 89th floor.
At 382 meters (1,253 feet) above the ground, the 89F Indoor Observatory has a deck that provides an unobstructed view of the city in all directions. It also houses a museum where visitors can learn about the design process and construction of Taipei 101 and other similar large-scale construction projects around the world, including a free audio tour in eleven languages, as well as high-powered binoculars, refreshments, and professional photography service.
One floor down on the 88th floor, you will find the Beauty of Taiwan Multimedia Corridor, Super Big Wind Damper, and Treasure Sky. The corridor connecting the two decks is designed to showcase the natural beauty of Taiwan, providing 270-degree views of well-known scenic locations in Taiwan, leading to the engineering marvel known as a wind damper, a 5.5 meter(18 foot) diameter, 660 ton weight suspended within the building to offset the force of wind and help 101 stand upright. Also included is Treasury Sky, a collection of unique jewel crafts.
Finally, head over to the 91st floor Outdoor Observatory. The outdoor observatory is accessible by stairs from the 89th floor. From the outside, it’s possible to view the spire at the 508 meter (1,666.6 foot) high apex, but watch out for the strong winds! Inside the building on the 91st floor is a small theatre showcasing films about the construction, and the annual New Year’s fireworks display. Take note that you can only visit this floor when the weather is good.
The Taipei 101 Observatory is open everyday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
7. Yangmingshan National Park
Yangmingshan is a national park just outside of Taipei. It’s easily accessible, mountain filled, and perfect if you want to get out of the city and get some fresh mountain air. If you are up for a hike, climb Mount Qixing, which has an elevation of 1,120 meters (3,674 feet). Its peak is the highest point in all of Taipei. Don’t worry, because you are in good company – there are lots of people making the trek every day. The hike might be steep but you will be rewarded by grasslands, azalea sightings in Yangming Park, and a spectacular view of Taipei.
There are a number of buses to Yangmingshan from the various parts of Taipei. If you happen to be near the Beitou or Xinbeitou MRT stations you can catch bus #230. You can also take the Bus R5, S15, or S17 at Jiantan Station, Shilin Night Market side. The buses stop at the park’s terminal. From there, you can ask any of the drivers which one will take you to the first spot on your itinerary.
8. Taipei Children’s Amusement Park
Taipei Children’s Amusement Park opened in 2014, and is a very good place to visit when you travel with your kids, not only because of the numerous attractions available but also because of the very affordable admission fee.
Your kids (and you!) will surely have a blast riding the Carousel, Monorail, Wave Swinger (make sure your seat belts are fastened properly when you ride this), and Spinning Tea Cups. There are also outdoor and indoor parks, as well as an arcade. If you get hungry, there are cafes that serve delicious food at affordable prices inside the park.
9. Foods you (and your kids) will love
Another thing you and your kids can look forward to when you visit Taipei is the food. There are so many mouthwatering options for you to choose from, you are in for a treat! Here are the most popular and most delicious foods you and your kids can enjoy:
Zongzi, a delectable dumpling made up of glutinous rice wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. It also has a mushroom, duck egg, and a chunk of really soft pork belly inside, and is usually served with two types of sauces, a sweet sauce and a savory brown sauce. This makes for a filling snack or a light meal.
Xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, which are steamed and filled with pork, scallions, and a savory broth. Din Tai Fung is a very popular restaurant that is world-famous for its xiao long bao. It is customary to dip it in the vinegar that is served with it and pop it whole in your mouth, but the soup is very hot, so you’ll need to place it in a spoon and blow on it for your little ones.
Fried shrimp rolls are also a popular delicacy. Crispy on the outside, juicy and sweet on the inside, they’re like tempura, but better.
Braised pork rice makes for a hearty, heavy breakfast, but it is served all day long. Enjoy a scoop of white rice topped with little bits of pork belly that have been stewed for hours in soy sauce and anise. It is often served with a hardboiled egg that has been cooked in the brown sauce, for an extra luxurious treat.
Taiwanese sausages are a popular delicacy, often seen hanging in night markets and street food stalls. A unique variety includes rice sausages, which has glutinous rice filling instead of meat stuffed into the sausage casing, then cooked like usual sausages. It’s usually split down the middle and served with a sausage, making it the Taiwanese version of a hotdog. The sausages themselves are sweeter and chunkier than their Western counterparts, but that makes it even more satisfying and unique.
Taipei is also famous for its shaved ice desserts, which is a favorite among children. They’re often topped with fruit, ice cream, condensed milk, and sweet beans. The mango is always a safe and delicious option.
Those who like pastry will enjoy their pineapple cakes, which are very similar to fig newtons, but are filled with pineapple. You can also try their version of a doughnut, which is a sweet dough deep fried in oil, but which looks and tastes more like the Spanish churros than an American doughnut. It is served with soy milk that is sweeter than usual. This is a very popular breakfast or snack option that both you and your kids will surely love. If you like crepe, then you will love the danbing, which is an egg-based pastry flavored with scallions and wrapped around cheese, ham, onions, or potatoes.
With all the mouthwatering food and interesting places to visit in Taipei, there’s no reason why you and your family shouldn’t visit soon. You will surely have a grand time.