Taipei, the lively, hospitable, effervescent capital of Taiwan, is the kind of city that leaves all visitors wishing they had more time, no matter how long you go for.
The city has all the makings of an awesome weekend trip.
With iconic Taipei 101, (the world’s tallest ‘green’ skyscraper), Asia’s best night market scene, Japanese-era thermal hot springs, mouth-watering food everywhere you look, a gondola over tea plantations, and so much more, you’re going to have to plan well to fit it all in.
As if that weren’t enough, the city is incredibly safe, getting around on the world-class Taipei MRT is a breeze, and the locals are known for their welcoming spirit — in fact, the country was the first in Asia to legalize equal marriage rights.
It’s no wonder Taipei is regularly chosen as the top place in the world for expats!
In this article, I’m going to give you a crash course for planning a weekend in Taipei. I’m no stranger to the city, having lived here for over a decade of my life. For even more recommendations, you can also read my 50 favorite things to do in Taipei.
Here we go, here’s my guide on how to spend 2 days in Taipei.
Day 1 in Taipei
On day one, you’re going to check off some essential Taipei sights. Get an early start to beat the heat and crowds, and make sure to wear good shoes, as you are going to be doing a fair bit of walking.
Start your day at Longshan Temple, Taipei’s most famous and important place of worship. Like most temples in Taiwan, you’ll find elements of Buddhism, Taoism, and folk religion there.
Try to time your visit for the 6 AM or 8 AM chanting ceremonies, both of which last just under an hour.
Next, hop on the MRT to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, the city’s most impressive historic attraction.
From the MRT station of the same name, make your way to the center of enormous Liberty Square to appreciate the classical Chinese National Theater and National Concert Halls on either side.
Meander to the western side of the square to take in the view (and perfect photo op) from Liberty Square Arch, before heading to the main structure on the east side, the striking blue and white memorial to the former leader.
Once you’ve done justice to Liberty Square, walk or ride the MRT one stop to Dongmen station, from where you can access Yongkang Street, a famous foodie street surrounded by historical alleyways begging to be explored.
To find the most atmospheric of these alleyways, follow Yongkang Street south for about 10 minutes as it meanders to leafy Qingtian Street.
This street lies in a neighborhood filled with aging but beautiful wooden homes that once housed Japanese professors at the nearby university when Taiwan was a colony of Japan.
Choices for lunch are aplenty on Yongkang Street.
For a budget food fix, there’s an incredibly popular green onion cake stand. But what you really came here for was the chance to dine at the original branch of Michellin starred Din Tai Fung, Taipei’s most famous restaurant.
The main specialty is soup dumplings, each handmade with exactly 18 folds. Click here to learn more about this popular restaurant and to get your dinner voucher ahead of time.
For dessert, choose from one of several mango shaved ice shops down the street; the tastiest of all Taiwanese desserts was supposedly invented on this street.
After lunch, make your way to nearby Da’An Forest Park, the “Central Park of Taipei,” to walk off your meal in green surroundings.
If the weather’s right, you may even be inspired to pick up some iced coffee or beers from 7-Eleven and spend the rest of the afternoon lazing in sun there.
But who has time for that, when you haven’t been to Taipei 101 yet, and your first day in Taipei is almost finished? The 509.2-meter bamboo-shaped skyscraper was the tallest in the world from 2004-2010.
Riding up to the 89th-floor Observation Deck in the country’s most iconic building is pretty much a must.
Besides the incredible 360-degree view, you can also marvel at the enormous stabilizing ball that keeps the building from falling over in the event of an earthquake.
Don’t be disappointed, get your tickets beforehand. Click here for the Observatory Entrance Ticket.
You may not believe it possible, but there’s an even better view to be had right next to Taipei 101, from Elephant Mountain.
A thirty-minute climb uphill will reward you with postcard views of the city, with Taipei 101 in the center of the frame.
Time it right, and you should be able to make it there for sunset (warning: the lookout point will be crowded). But even if you don’t make it till after dark, the view is just as amazing with all the lights on, and the walking trail is well lit.
You must be starving by this point!
It’s time for your first Taiwanese night market experience (prepare to wish you had four stomachs like a cow!) Taipei night markets are known around Asia and the world, and they are the city’s top attraction by visitor numbers.
Day 2 in Taipei
On day two you’re going to explore Taipei’s artistic and quirkier sides, then kick back with a choice of either getting into nature or soaking in thermal hot springs.
Begin the day by taking a quiet stroll by the pond at Songshan Creative Arts Park, which occupies the photogenic grounds of a former tobacco company tuned arts venue.
While you’re in the area, stop and have a peek at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall en route to Huashan 1914 Creative Park (either three stops on the MRT, or you can walk and soak up the morning rush vibes on always bustling Zhongxiao East Road).
The former sake factory has been refashioned into a creative arts space, with perfect photography backgrounds at every turn, and ever-changing artwork on display and including pieces by famous internal graffiti artists.
Your next stop is quirky Ximending (or Ximen), another three stops west on the blue MRT line. This is Taipei’s funkiest neighborhood, often called the “Shinjuku of Taipei.”
The pedestrian-only neighborhood is a magnet for teen shoppers and cool kids, and you might be excused for thinking you’ve been teleported to Tokyo.
Uncover manga shops, cosplay cafés, open-air tattoo parlors, claw machines, bubble tea galore, and find your way to Taipei Cinema Park to see the city’s most impressive (and legal!) collection of street art.
Ximending is also loaded with dining options for lunch. The focus here is on trendy Japanese and Korean fare, but you can also find simple shops doing Taiwanese favorites like oyster omelets and beef noodles.
Or if you want to get just plain weird, feast on poop-shaped foods while seating on a porcelain throne at Modern Toilet.
If an afternoon cocktail is in order, hop on over to Red House, a historical theater beside the Ximending pedestrian area, beside which you’ll find the city’s best collection of bar patios and focal point of the local LGBTQ+ scene.
Don’t leave before entering Red House itself, which is filled with ultra-cute locally designed arts and craft shops, perfect for finding a unique non-mass-produced souvenir to take home.
Since you’re spending the weekend in Taipei, an arts and craft market also takes place in the square outside.
At this point, I’m going to give you two options for your final afternoon. In the winter (or if you happen to love history and/or hot springs), head to Beitou Hot Spring in the north of the city.
You’ll need to ride the red MRT line north to Beitou station, then transfer to the one-stop pink line to Xinbeitou.
You’ll smell the sulfur before you even arrive. Outside the station, follow the hot water creek up through Beitou Hot Spring Park to Beitou Hot Spring Museum.
Beitou was in fact developed by the Japanese (a country known for their sentos), and the free museum gives a good introduction to the history behind it.
To actually go for a soak, Beitou Public Hot Spring is the cheapest choice, while private rooms of varying quality and price are available in all the hotels lining the park. Also don’t miss Beitou Thermal Valley nearby, where you can be enveloped in steam.
Your second choice for your second day in Taipei is to go for a ride on Maokong Gondola, located near Taipei Zoo MRT at the southeast corner of Taipei.
Make sure to get in the line labeled “Crystal Cabins”, which have glass floors allowing you to see the tea plantations and jungle canopy below. The ride takes 35 minutes in total, with the option to stop at Chihnan Temple (Zhinan Temple) along the way.
At the top, you can choose from among dozens of traditional teashops surrounded by greenery and often with panoramic views, or follow the hiking trails and see if you can find Yinhe Cave and Waterfall, a mystical shrine buried in the jungle.
If your night market experience the night before left you wanting more, try one of the others, or consider visiting a more locals-only one like Nanjichang Night Market.
If you’d prefer a sit-down place, head to the stretch of Zhongxiao East Road between Zhongxiao Fuxing and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall MRT stations.
Veer into any alleyway nearby, and take your pick among the hundreds of choices ranging from hot pot and DIY BBQ to upscale Italian and conveyor belt sushi.
Finish off your second night with a creative cocktail at one of the city’s “hidden” speakeasy bars, such as Ounce, Alchemy, or Hankou 60.
The latter is movie theater themed and found on Ximending’s Movie Theater Street — there’s even a cocktail that comes hidden in a box of popcorn.
Beer lovers will also be spoiled for choice, with some of the city’s best craft beerhouses including Driftwood (run by Taihu, one of Taiwan’s best), Crafted, The Local, or Mikkeller Taipei.
To keep it cheap, just grab a beer from 7-Eleven and explore the city on foot at night. It’s perfectly safe, even on your own!
Best Place to Stay With 2 Days in Taipei
Where you decide to stay in Taipei is largely going to depend on what kind of traveler you are, as well as your budget.
First and foremost, though, make sure that no matter where you stay, it is close to an MRT station, as you are going to be relying heavily on the MRT to get around. With a busy weekend in Taipei planned, you don’t want to waste any time!
Budget travelers and youthful minds should gravitate to Ximending, which has the best selection of hostels and budget-friendly boutique hotels.
The entire neighborhood is buzzing with activity, but it gets quiet at night, especially since most streets are for pedestrians only.
Best hostel in Ximending: Next Taipei Hostel Ximending
Best mid-range boutique hotel: Amba Taipei Ximending
Luxury travelers, shopaholics, and anyone looking for some epic nights on the town clubbing should opt for ultra glitzy Xinyi District, with towering Taipei 101 at its core.
Xinyi District is loaded with upscale malls (including the one at the base of Taipei 101), fine eateries, and most of the city’s top night clubs.
Zhongxiao East Road, which stretches above the MRT blue line, runs through the district and is a weekend hotspot for eating, shopping, strolling, and bar-hopping.
Best luxury hotel in Xinyi District: W Taipei
Of course, there’s always the option of private or shared accommodation through Airbnb. Click here to receive your discount coupon off your first night stay, and click here to search for properties available for 2 days in Taipei.
How To Get Around Taipei
There are a few ways to get around on your weekend in Taipei, here’s a break down:
By MRT Metro
Getting around Taipei is a breeze thanks to the city’s incredible MRT (metro) network. The MRT goes just about anywhere you’d want to go in the city, it’s ultra-clean, and passengers are always polite.
Make sure to get an EasyCard from any station before your first ride; this makes swiping in and out easy as pie, not to mention you get a discount on each ride. You can even return the card at the end of your trip to get the TWD100 ($3.40) deposit back.
Since 2017, there’s even a Taipei MRT line to Taoyuan International Airport.
When you arrive at the airport, simply follow the signs, purchase an EasyCard from the kiosk in the station, then hop on the next train.
Express trains take 35 minutes while commuter ones take 50 minutes to reach Taipei Main Station, from where you can connect to other MRT lines.
You won’t need to take any buses if you follow the above itinerary. But even if you do need to for some reason, handy maps at every MRT exit show all the routes and bus stop locations on a map.
When boarding a bus, you’ll need to swipe when you get on and again when you get off, and you can enter and exit from either the front or back door.
Taxis are also cheap and extremely plentiful in Taipei. An English-speaking driver isn’t guaranteed, though, so it’s best to show the address in Mandarin, especially since Mandarin words are notoriously easy to mispronounce.
Uber is also available, but not usually any cheaper than taxis.
Insider Tips for a Taipei Weekend Trip
Before you hop on a plane to Taipei, here are a few more tips to ensure you make the best of your limited time in the Taiwanese capital.
1. Pick the Right Season For You
Come in winter in you love hot springs, to see cherry blossoms, and don’t mind gray skies and damp, chilly weather. Spring and autumn are ideal, but beware of the plum mini monsoon in May.
Summer can be oppressively hot, not mention the possibility of typhoons forcing you to stay indoors.
2. Be Courteous
The Taiwanese are all about politeness. Smile, don’t speak loudly (especially on public transportation), stand on the right side of the escalator, don’t chew gum on the MRT, and never sit in the dark blue seats, which are reserved for the needy.
3. Don’t Leave Tips
Don’t tip in restaurants or taxis. This would offend rather than please.
4. Take a Rest in The Midday
In every season except winter, the midday sun in Taipei can be killer. Do yourself a favor and take a rest for the hottest part of the day, or visit an indoor attraction.
5. Start Early at Night Markets
Taipei’s night markets attract enormous crowds, to the point that visiting them can be unpleasant. The best time is around 5-6 PM, right when they are setting up. If that’s too early for you, try 10 PM or later, once they are winding down.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
Most locals, especially young ones, can speak some English, even though they are often shy to do so. Simply ask, and you will be surprised at how friendly and willing they are to help visitors.
Have a Great Weekend in Taipei!
Well, that wraps up my recommended itinerary for a fine weekend in Taipei. I trust you’ll have an epic time, even if you didn’t manage to squeeze it all in. Taipei has something for everyone and even if you only have 2 days to visit, I’m sure it’ll be a great trip.
Images in this article are courtesy of Shutterstock.com unless otherwise stated.