This mesmerising city, the gateway to Taiwan, is a one-of-a-kind Asian experience that embraces fun, food, culture and nature.
We sent travel photographer Carmen Huter to discover the gems of Taipei city and beyond
The extraordinary history of Taiwan has made the city of Taipei a magnificent mix of Asian cultures, with a sprinkling of expat society as a finishing touch. Fill your days with exploring, fun and shopping, then feast on local street food delicacies at the night markets. Old and new, intriguing and wonderful, amusing and complicated - Taipei is totally captivating.
Taipei sightseeing tours
An easy way to get familiar with Taipei and its main attractions is with a hop on hop off bus tour. These distinctive red double-decker buses loop around the city, allowing you to easily explore all the main points of interest.
The public transport in Taipei is legendary - too good to ignore. Buy an Easy Card and you'll get discounted metro and bus rides, as well as free 30-minute rides on YouBike public bicycles. If you'd prefer transport with the personal touch, there's a huge range of guided tours in Taipei.
Best places to eat in Taipei
Eating out is so embedded into Taipei culture that some city apartments don't even have a kitchen. The casual restaurants and street food markets offer fantastic value for money - they're cheap, cheerful and the choice of dishes is vast. At the other end of the scale, there's a growing collection of Taipei Michelin star fine dining restaurants that serve up an exceptional Asian-fusion cuisine experience.
Discover the classic flavours of Taipei, such as stinky tofu and blood cake, as well as some you didn't know existed, like deep fried milk and da chang bao xiao chang (small sausage wrapped in a big sausage).
For a local's perspective of the cuisine scene, consider a Taipei Eats tour. It's an off-the-beaten-path progressive dinner of night market street food, complete with a guide who speaks English. You'll discover the classic flavours of Taipei, such as stinky tofu and blood cake, as well as some you didn't know existed, like deep fried milk and da chang bao xiao chang (small sausage wrapped in a big sausage).
Coffee has been a part of Taipei culture since Fong Da coffee house opened in 1956. Fong Da is still going strong, using vintage equipment to create modern caffeine fixes - even cold-drip coffee.
Discovering Taiwan's culture and traditions
Taiwan's human history can be traced back to the prehistoric Stone Age, when Austronesian people lived on the island. Interestingly, there is proven lineage running from Taiwan's inhabitants of 5000 years ago to modern-day Polynesians, including Māori. Today around 2% of Taiwan's population are direct descendants of the original Taiwanese.
Throughout the city, magnificent historic buildings and landmarks are carefully maintained to ensure the past remains part of the present. You can visit temples, bridges, public parks, museums, memorials, forts and old hotels. If you take a tour, a local guide will retell the stories associated with every location.
Nature-based things to do in Taiwan
A big plus for a holiday in Taipei is the close proximity of wilderness and park areas. North of the city is the Yangmingshan National Park, which has cycling routes, hiking trails and a really impressive volcano - Qixing Mountain. The gold mining village of Jiufen in the Northeast Coast National Scenic Area is another significant Taiwan attraction. In particular, Jiufen Old Street is an amazing place for a glimpse of the past.
The train journey from Taipei to Taroko National Park is a fantastic way to see rural Taiwan, the coast and some extraordinary mountain scenery. The highlight of Taroko is the gorge - a whopping 19km canyon that's considered by many to be the most extraordinary landscape feature in Taiwan. Further south is Kenting National Park, famous for its beautiful beaches, snorkelling and limestone caves.
Best time to go
Taipei is in a sub-tropical region, so temperatures are mostly comfortable. Many people choose to visit during the driest months - October, November, December and January. March to May is a great time to visit if you prefer moderate temperatures and don't mind some rainy days. Summer - June to August - is the official off-peak time, which means you'll be able to score some excellent accommodation deals.
How much will it cost?
While it has a first-world economy, prices for accommodation, meals and activities in Taipei are fantastically affordable. You'll find your travel dollar goes a long way. After paying for accommodation, we recommend you allow NZD $100 per person each day for food and fun.