24 hours in Taipei: A tried-and-trusted travel itinerary

Explore foodie hot spots and a thriving art scene in the Taiwanese capital

Aerial panorama of Taipei City at dusk, with a view of Taipei 101. Getty Images
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You'd be forgiven for expecting chaos, traffic and pollution from the Taiwanese capital. The reality, however, is far from that. Winding shopping streets, a thriving art scene and incredible food offerings are hallmarks of Taipei, which is ­surrounded by greenery and national parks.

No trip to this city is complete without sampling xiao long bao – the soupy dumplings that can be eaten morning, noon and night, if you’re so inclined – and stopping to admire the striking Chinese architecture. There is a wide-reaching mass rapid transit (MRT) underground train system, but if you have the time, the heart of the city is easily explored on foot, with the odd Uber for ease.

Before you make your way south to explore the rest of Taiwan, tick off a few must-sees in the warm capital city.

Car traffic on the streets of downtown Taipei in Taiwan seen on an autumn day. Getty Images
Car traffic on the streets of downtown Taipei in Taiwan. Getty Images

8am: Eat breakfast like a local

Start your day with a ­breakfast at local favourite, King of Soybean. The unassuming 24-hour eatery often has people queuing around the corner to take their meal away, but there is also the option to eat in. Soybean milk with breadsticks are popular choices here, as are the small dumplings and steamed buns.

9am: Brush up on your dynasty history

The National Palace Museum is north of the city, approximately a 20-minute drive from the centre, so it's worth starting with some culture on the outskirts. The building is a striking example of Chinese architecture, with a forest backdrop, and it houses more than 700,000 artefacts. The jade rooms offer incredible insight into the significance of the precious stone throughout the centuries, and the famous Jadeite Cabbage sculpture is one of the museum's star attractions.

National Palace Museum, Taipei
National Palace Museum, Taipei

Hours can be lost in the painting and calligraphy rooms, and admiring the incredible ceramics dating back to the Tang dynasty of 618AD. Entrance to the museum is NT$350 (Dh42).

11am: Stroll through shopping streets

Jump in an Uber – aside from the MRT, the taxi app is the easiest and most affordable way to traverse Taipei – and make your way down to Yongkang Street. There you’ll find a small shopping district, packed full of cafes, art shops and boutiques. If you’re hungry, stop for a refreshing mango snowflake ice snack at Smoothie House, a big yellow-fronted building that you can’t miss. Expect to see a crowd outside, queuing for their fix.

12pm: Visit Freedom Square

The centre of Taipei is predominantly made up of mid-century buildings and modern architecture, but you will see evidence of traditional Chinese design scattered throughout the city.

Gate of Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall in the morning, Taipei, Taiwan. Getty Images
Freedom Square, the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall can be seen though the arches. Getty Images

A trip to Freedom Square is the perfect place to spot the latter. Walk through the blue and white main gate, to be greeted by the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, which houses a statue of Chiang Kai-shek, former President of the Republic of China. The monument is flanked by the National Concert Hall and National Theatre buildings. As you wander around the structures and their surrounding gardens, you'll encounter groups of people practising martial arts like tai chi and ­taekwondo, as well as marching bands, dancers and musical shows. The Memorial Hall is free to enter.

1.30pm: Stop for an Instagram-approved lunch

Another Uber ride away is the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park in Taipei’s Xinyi District, on the east of the city. We went looking for Wu Pao Chun, a bakery run by the “master baker” of the same name. Instagram couldn’t rate it highly enough, but disappointingly, it has been closed down permanently.

Not one to fall at the first culinary hurdle, I broke a travelling rule that I usually stick to – no food courts – and dined in the Taipei New Horizon Shopping Complex. Packed full of lunchtime diners, it offered everything from dumplings and noodles to bubble tea. The Taiwan-style fried chicken, however, came highly recommended and did not disappoint.

2.30pm: Get an art fix

Walk out of the shopping complex and you’ll find yourself at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. The converted 20th-century tobacco factory is now home to galleries and exhibition spaces.

The Songshan Cultural and Creative Park is a cluster of galleries in a converted tobacco factory 
The Songshan Cultural and Creative Park is a cluster of galleries in a converted tobacco factory 

Take a stroll around to explore the lively and creative area. When we were there, the art halls housed a Pocky exhibit, in tribute to the popular Japanese chocolate biscuits; a collection of ornate antique fans; and a dramatic, modern photography collection by local college students – to name just a few.

4.30pm: Make time for a bubble tea

Bubble tea is now popular the world over, but it originates in Taiwan. The drink is for sale on pretty much every street in the capital city, whether it's a hole-in-the-wall establishment or a well-known cafe. Teazzi is a reliable chain and you'll find one a stone's throw from ­Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. If you're new to bubble tea, order the house special. It's milky, with sweetness made-to-­order, and packed full of oats and ­tapioca balls. It's the perfect introduction to the drink.

Bubble tea is a Taipei must-drink 
Bubble tea is a Taipei must-drink 

5pm: See the city from the sky

Bubble tea in-hand, take a walk south to Taipei 101, the tallest building in the city, which is visible from almost every point. The building is the 11th tallest in the world, and the observation deck is ­located on the 91st floor, with a ­museum area on the 89th. You access the observatory though a luxury mall, which takes up the first floors of the ­skyscraper; while the rest of the building is made up of private offices.

Naturally, it offers some of the best views of the city, spanning from the ­metropolitan in the west to the green and hilly views on the northern side, towards the Yangmingshan National Park, assuming it's not too cloudy. Tickets for the observation deck cost NT$600 (Dh71). They can be bought at the door, but to avoid wasting your time in the queue, buy them in advance at

Taipei 101, the tallest building in the city, at night 
Taipei 101, the tallest building in the city, at night 

7pm: Eat at Din Tai Fung

A dinner at Taipei institution Din Tai Fung is essential, and there are outlets city wide. For convenience, try the Taipei 101 branch, where, much like its Mall of the Emirates export, you can expect to queue for your feed.

Chefs at work in Din Tai Fung
Chefs at work in Din Tai Fung

English menus are available, but the must-order dishes are the truffle xiao long bao (a soup dumpling), house special chilli noodles and prawn noodle soup. Wander up to watch the master dumpling-makers in action in the open kitchen. In fact, it makes such a good photo that there is a ‘take photo here’ marker on the ground in the centre of the restaurant. Top your meal off with sweet chocolate xiao long bao.

Xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung, Taipei 101
Xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung, Taipei 101

9pm: Drinks at the W Taipei

The area surrounding Taipei 101 is home to plenty of lively bars, but a visit to the W Taipei’s Yen Bar, on the 31st floor, will give you a great view of the city lit up at night.

11pm: Rest your head

When you're ready to call it a night, make your way to the The Howard Plaza Hotel Taipei (www.howard-hotels.com.tw) in the Da'an District. A one-night stay at the hotel starts at NT$3,800 (Dh450) .  

Getting there

Emirates flies directly to Taipei's Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport from Dubai daily in eight hours, and tickets cost from Dh2,800. From Abu Dhabi, fly Etihad with China Airways via Hong Kong from Dh3,100. The journey takes about 12 hours.