An Insider’s Taipei Itinerary: 3 Days

So you’ve book your trip to Taiwan, and now you’re wondering how to plan your Taipei 3-day itinerary? Well, you’ve come to the right spot!

Taipei in 3 days is just the right amount of time to spend if you’re visiting Taiwan for 1-2 weeks. It’s also a good amount of time if you’re just here for a stopover. With so many awesome things to do in Taipei, it’s important to map your days out carefully.

 

Taipei City from Elephant Mountain
Taipei City from Elephant Mountain (this was shot a few years back. there are new buildings in the skyline now!)

 

For this Taipei itinerary, I’m going to give you two options. One is an itinerary for three whole days in Taipei City. The second is that you can see my 2-day Taipei itinerary, and then add a day-trip for day #3. Here are some of the best Taipei day trips, and I’ll mention my favorites at the end of this article.

Just so you know, I’m not just some traveler who passed through and then wrote up my itinerary. I’ve been living here for 10 years, I’m the author of Taiwan in the Eyes of a Foreigner, and I’m a regular contributor to travel magazines about Taiwan, so this is really my thing!

Before we get into all the details, here’s how I broke it down:

 

Taipei 3-Day Itinerary Summary

    • Day 1: Longshan Temple, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Ximen, Taipei 101 or Elephant Mountain
    • Day 2: National Palace Museum, Beitou Hot Springs, Guandu Temple, Fisherman’s Wharf, Shilin Night Market
    • Day 3: Maokong Gondola, Huashan Creative Arts Park, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park
    • Day 3 (option 2): Day trip!

 

W Hotel Kitchen Table lunch buffet
My beautiful wife Emily at the W Taipei Kitchen Table lunch buffet (see bottom of article for our hotel recommendations!)

 

Some Taipei Travel Essentials

First of all, I never travel without my favorite guidebook, Lonely Planet, and I have extensively used multiple editions of Lonely Planet Taiwan over the years. There’s also a Taipei Lonely Planet. With so many good things to do in Taipei, a proper guidebook can really help you map it out efficiently.

When you arrive at the Taoyuan Airport, the brand new Airport MRT line runs direct to Taipei Main Station. If you plan to get a taxi, save a few hundred NTD by booking this private car from the airport to your hotel.

The MRT is the lifeline of Taipei and goes almost everywhere on this itinerary. You will definitely want to consider getting the Unlimited Fun Pass, which includes entrance to 12 popular sights plus unlimited MRT rides.  

If you want to avoid planning the logistics, try this tour by private car in which you can choose the stops, or take this more comprehensive Taipei tour perfect for business travelers or people who want to squeeze everything into one day. For a cheaper option, the Taipei Double Decker Bus stops at many of the sights on this list!

I’ll include some convenient Taipei hotel recommendations at the bottom of the article!

 

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WARNING: This itinerary packs in a lot! If you are coming in on a long flight, or you prefer to travel slowly, then you may want to considering cutting out a thing or two. But I’d rather give you too much info than not enough!

 

Taipei in 3 Days: Day 1

Longshan Temple, Taipei
Lanterns outside Longshan Temple at Lunar New Year

 

Morning

Get a spiritual start to your day by visiting Taipei’s most important holy place, Longshan Temple. If you can arrive at 6 am you can enjoy a mesmerizing chanting ceremony, and there’s usually a smaller one at 8 am.

Don’t forget to strol through Herb Alley next door, where various traditional Chinese herbs and medicines are sold, and wander through the surrounding neighborhood to gaze at all the Buddhist religious paraphernalia for sale in the shops.

 

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taipei
CKS Memorial Hall: Great spot for photos

 

Next, hop on the MRT to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, an awe-inspiring Taipei City landmark featuring a white and blue domed hall honoring the former dictator, as well as the classical Chinese National Theater and National Concert Halls.

For lunch, walk or backtrack on the MRT to funky Ximen (Ximending), the “Harajuku of Taipei”. There are tons of interesting and unique teashops and restaurants in Ximending. While you’re there, watch out for tattoo street, penis-shaped cakes, cosplay cafés, or get an ancient Chinese knife massage!     

 

View from Taipei 101
Taipei City viewed from Taipei 101

 

Afternoon

Depending on how much energy and how hot it is out, you may want to go back to your hotel for a rest after lunch.

Next, and also depending on your energy level, you can choose to get a bird’s eye view of Taipei from either Taipei 101 or Elephant Mountain.

Bamboo stalk-shaped Taipei 101, once the tallest building in the world, offers the best view of the city. Take the world’s fastest elevator up to the 89th floor observatory, and don’t forget to go up to the outdoor 91st floor, and also check out the huge stabilizing ball suspended in the middle.

Lines for the observatory can easily take up to an hour or more, so factor that into your planning. Aim to be up there just before sunset! Get your Taipei 101 Observatory ticket online in advance and save NT90 per ticket, or skip the long lines with this Taipei 101 priority pass!

If you want a cheaper option with no lines, then take the MRT one stop further to Elephant Mountain. It’s a little steep but only takes about 30 minutes to reach lookout points with the classic, picture postcard view of Taipei City, with 101 right in front of you.  

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Stinky tofu, Taiwan
Stinky tofu, a Taiwanese night market classic

 

You’re probably starving by now, so walk or take the MRT 1-2 stops to Xinyi Anhe Station, where you can find Tonghua (Linjiang Street) Night Market. Surprisingly laid-back and local considering the proximity to the ritzy Taipei 101 area, this is a great place for your first Taipei night market venture, the essential Taiwanese eating experience. Taiwanese won’t forgive you if you don’t try the stinky tofu!

 

Taipei in 3 Days: Day 2

National Palace Museum, Taipei
National Palace Museum

 

Morning

Start your day at the National Palace Museum, the most important museum in the greater China region, with 700,000 artifacts in its permanent collection. The museum opens at 8:30 am, and you can get there by taking bus R30 from Shilin MRT Station or a quick taxi. There’s also the Shung Ye Aboriginal Museum next door. See here for a more detailed writeup about visiting the National Palace Museum and Taipei 101.     

Reserve your National Palace and Shung Ye Museum combined ticket online and save NT15 per person!

 

Hell Valley, Beitou, Taiwan
Steaming Hell Valley, Beitou

 

Afternoon

Return to the MRT, continuing north to Beitou and then transfer to the one-stop pink line to Xinbeitou station for the Beitou Thermal Area, where you can start by having lunch at Sushi Express across from the MRT station, or wait in line for the hot spring ramen shop.

Stroll along the hot spring park in front of the station, which features a steaming hot creek, eco-frendly Beitou public library, Millenium Hot Spring (the cheap, public hot spring, note that it closes every few hours for cleaning), Beitou Hot Spring Museum, and just past the park, enormous, steaming Hell Valley (closed Mondays).

For a private soak, all the hotels along the park offer a room with a tub for NTD1000+ for 90 minutes. My favorite (and cheaper) options are Kyoto Hotel up a small road past the park (about NT700, and rooms have windows, unlike other cheaper ones), or Spring City Resort, which offers an NT499 online-only ticket. It’s further away, but they offer free pickup from the MRT and the choice of private room or unlimited time in their public spring with a view. You won’t find any decent options that are as great value as these two!  

 

Guandu Temple tunnel, Taipei
Tunnel through the mountain at Guandu Temple, Taipei

 

Guandu Temple, Taipei
Intricate roof details at Guandu Temple

 

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Next, continue north on the MRT red line to Guandu station, from where it’s a 10-minute walk to Guandu temple, my favorite temple in the greater Taipei area. I like it because, besides the usual ornate features of all Taiwanese temples, it features an 80-meter tunnel through the mountain with 28 gods that leads to a lookout point and impressive Guanyin statue, as well as a lovely exterior that you can admire from the stairs leading up behind the temple.

 

Lover's bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, Danshui, Taipei
Lover’s bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Danshui

 

Continue to the terminal station of the red line, Danshui, where you can stroll the riverside promenade. There’s loads of seafood treats, and watch for the Turkish ice cream stall! Take a bus or 10-15 minute river ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf, a pretty harbor with a lovely walking bridge that is famous for its amazing sunsets.

On the way back to Taipei, if you want more night market action, get off at Jiantan (not Shilin) MRT for Shilin Night Market, the largest and most famous in Taipei. Be prepared to get lost inside, and keep an eye out for the air-conditioned underground food courts!

Other convenient eating options include the Din Tai Fung, Taipei’s famed (but reasonably priced!) Michelin star soup dumpling restaurant, at the Mitsukoshi Nanxi location near Zhongshan MRT. Get your restaurant voucher online to skip the long lines at Din Tai Fung! You can also eat at Din Tai Fung on this Taipei night tour.

You could also try on of the quick fry restaurants on Chang An West Road between Zhongshan North Road and Xinsheng North Road, also near Zhongshan MRT, where you have a better chance of getting a seat.

 

Taipei in 3 Days: Day 3

Riding the Maokong Gondola in Taipei with kids
Traveling to Taipei with kids? Check out my article on 25 things to do with kids in Taipei!

 

Morning

Hop on the brown line to the terminal Taipei Zoo station to reach the Maokong Gondola, the earlier the better to avoid lines on weekends (opens 9 am weekdays, 8:30 weekends). Swipe your MRT EasyCard to enter, then watch for the line for Crystal Cabins, the glass bottomed cars.

It takes about 25 minutes to reach Maokong Station after passing Taipei Zoo South Station and Zhinan Temple. It’s worth a stop at the latter, which offers fine views from the front of the temple.

The main thing to do at Maokong is to sip on local baozhong oolong tea from one of the many traditional tea shops, many of which overlook tea fields. It’s meant to be done slowly and with a group; for a faster visit you can grab a single cup or a tea-flavored ice cream from one of the shops near the station.

If you’re interested in tea in Taiwan, or you’d rather visit Maokong at night, consider joining this Maokong night time tea culture tour.

 

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Silver Stream Cave and Waterfall, Maokong, Taiwan
Silver Stream Cave and Waterfall, Maokong

 

I’d also strongly recommend doing the 1.5 hour return hike to Silver Stream Cave and Waterfall, a small temple surrounded by jungle, but it’s a little tricky to find so you’ll want to look up info before going, and perhaps show people the Chinese name for it (銀河洞, GPS: 24.95861, 121.58318) to make sure you’re going the right way.

If you want to get back to the MRT faster than the gondola, there are also buses and taxis waiting to go down the mountain. There are also several food stalls around Maokong Station if you’re ready for lunch before going back down.

 

Huashan Creative Arts Park, Taipei
Lavender and beautiful artwork at Huashan Creative Arts Park

 

Afternoon

Heading back to central Taipei, get off at Zhongxiao Xinsheng for Huashan Creative Arts Park, a Japanese-era winery that has been converted to an arts park and event venue.

It’s a great place for a stroll or having a picnic in the large park behind. Try Alleycats for pizza and beer, or one of the cafés on site. Next, back to the MRT and three stops east on the blue line to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, a monument to the founding father or the Republic of China, lying under the shadow of Taipei 101.

If you liked Huashan, than you can also check out Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, a short walk from SYS Memorial Hall, and it’s worth going up to Eslite bookstore in the Eslite building there, a famed Taipei book chain that has won awards for it’s interior design. The branch at Zhongxiao Dunhua is open 24 hours.

Zhongxiao East Road, which follows the blue MRT line through Taipei’s eastern district, is a food paradise. The section between Sun Yat-sen and Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT stations, and all the little lanes branching off in this section, are especially packed with eating options, especially hot pot, BBQ, and Izakaya-style Japanese. There are also a few branches of Din Tai Fung if you didn’t go there on Day 2.

Day 3 (option 2): Day Trip from Taipei

If you only have three days in the greater Taipei area, then I’d recommend following my Taipei 2 day itinerary and then doing a day trip on your day 3.

Let me give you three awesome Taipei day trips to choose from. I also wrote this article on the best Taipei day trips for CNN Travel!

 

Cat snoozing in a kitty shrine at the Houtong Cat Village, Taiwan
Cat lover’s paradise: Houtong Cat Village

 

Are you a cat lover? Then take the train to Houtong Cat Village, a tiny village filled with rescued cats. On the train side, there’s an old coal processing building from the town’s mining days, as well as several simple eateries and souvenir shops.

Walk through the overpass (not so obvious, but it is shaped like a cat). You’ll be bending over to pet snoozing cats before you reach the other side. You won’t need more than an hour or so to see the whole village and it’s many resident cats, plus a few cat-themed shops and cafés.

Next, get on the train to Sandiaoling station for Sandialong Waterfall. After you get off at Sandiaoling, continue along the trail that follows the train tracks. You’ll reach a point with a staircase that goes under the tracks to the other side. You then follow the tracks for the Pingxi small train line for five minutes, until you reach a tiny village. Walk across the tracks up the trail beside an old school. You’ll reach a view of a large waterfall after 20-30 minutes, from which it’s another 15-20 minutes to a waterfall with a cave behind it that you can climb up into a look out at the waterfall from behind.     

Getting there

Trains from Taipei to Houtong take about 1 hour and run roughly every 30 minutes. From Houtong to Sandioling, it only takes 4 minutes, also with regular trains, but do confirm your train times on the Taiwan train site to make sure you get on the right one.

 

Sandiaoling Waterfall
Me at Sandiaoling Waterfall

 

Taipei Day Trip Option 2: Jiufen and Jinguashi

Jiufen, Taiwan
View down to the sea from Jiufen, Taiwan

 

Jinguashi Golden Waterfall
Golden Waterfall at Jinguashi

 

Once a prosperous gold mining town, Jiufen is now one of the most popular day trips from Taipei. A bus snakes its way up the mountain to an old street that meanders uphill and offers fine views down to the sea.

There are loads of souvenir shops and eating options. The must-try here is the local sweet potato and taro balls, usually eaten atop shaved ice. Even though it has been debunked that Jiufen was the inspiration for Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, something you’ll likely read online, it’s still not hard to see why people thought that.  

You can get back on the same bus to the Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park, an interesting gold museum with tunnels, hiking options, great ocean views, and even a Golden Waterfall.

Getting there

You can visit Jiufen, the Golden Waterfall, and Pingxi on this full day tour. The easiest way to get to Jiufen is to take this shuttle bus from Ximending. On your own, from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT exit 1, take bus 1062 to Jinguashi, which stops first at Jiufen. It takes about 1 hour and costs about 90NT with your EasyCard. You can also take a 15-minute bus ride from Ruifang train station.

 

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Taipei Day Trip Option 3: Jiaoxi Hot Spring Town

Chuan Tang Hot Springs, Jiaoxi
Chuan Tang Hot Springs, our favorite spa in Jiaoxi

 

Yuemeikeng Waterfall, Jiaoxi (Jiaosi), Yilan, Taiwan
Yuemeikeng Waterfall, Jiaoxi

 

A more enticing option if you’re visiting in winter, Jiaoxi hot spring town is the first stop just beyond the super long tunnel from Taipei to Yilan Couny on the east coast, and it’s one of my personal favorite day trips from Taipei.

Here you’ll find an outdoor hot springs park where people soak their feet in hot pools with fish that tickle you by biting off your skin flakes, and there’s also a local craft beer garden. For something different, try the green beer, made with a kind of seaweed!

My favorite hot spring here for a soak is Chuan Tang Spring Spa Hotel (川燙春天溫泉飯店), which features a variety of scented tubs, including a bright yellow sulfur one, oolong tea, lavender, Chinese herbs, and more, as well as a kid’s pool, scented steam rooms, all kinds of massage jets, and an ice cold pool with a mahjong table in the middle.

A short taxi ride from town, there’s a great short hike to Wufengqi waterfall, or a longer, lesser-known (but more beautiful) hike to Yuemeikeng waterfall. Jiaoxi (and all of Yilan) is also famous for its greasy green onion cakes, and you can also try the chili pepper ice cream shop at the entrance to the hot spring park.

Getting there

There are buses to Jiaoxi from Taipei Main Station, MRT Technology Building Station, and Taipei City Hall Station, which take about an hour. We like the one from Taipei City Hall because it gets out of the city the fastest, and seldom has a line. Go up the escalator from the MRT to find the bus station on the main floor.

If you are going around rush hour (for example, Saturday morning leaving Taipei, or Sunday afternoon/evening coming back to Taipei) the bus can take 1.5 hours or more, so you can consider taking the train to Jiaoxi. The train takes 1-2 hours depending on which one you choose, but at least the train has a toilet, and you won’t have the feeling of sitting still in a traffic jam.

 

Where to Stay in Taipei

Taipei City doesn’t have a traveler’s ghetto or a must-stay-in neighborhood.

What’s more important is that your hotel is close to an MRT station. The MRT is the is the lifeline of Taipei, and will get you everywhere you need to go. Anywhere somewhat central and a short walk from an MRT station will do, and with such a comprehensive MRT network, this is not hard to find.

The following are some top-rated places to stay in Taipei. If you don’t find what you are looking for, use the Booking (my favorite hotel site) bar at the bottom to find the latest deals. If you haven’t signed up for Booking yet, use this link to get a discount on your first stay!

Note that there are tons of AirB&Bs in Taipei too. Here’s another link to sign up for AirBnB if you haven’t yet and get $20 off your first booking!

 

Budget/Backpacker

Star Hostel Taipei East: Stylish, chill, and eco-friendly hostel conveniently located by Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT (read reviews / check prices)

Old Door Hostel: Another stylish hostel with awesome and very private, capsule-like dorms just north of Taipei Main Station, with a little bar on site. (read reviews / check prices)

Next Taipei Hostel Ximending: Yet another cool choice, right in funky Ximen neighborhood, with free breakfast, rooftop terrace, and a social vibe. (read reviews / check prices)

 

Quiet, Convenient, and Good for Families

Taipei Main Station Homestay (Star Hotel): Only two minutes from Taipei main station, guests here rave about the super friendly hosts, bright spacious, rooms, and amazing location. Car hire also available. (read reviews / check prices)

Taipei H Imperial: Also right next to Taipei Main Station, with bargain deals, free coffee and tea, 24-hour reception. (read reviews / check prices)

Amando Inn: Quiet, homey rooms near bustling Ximen area (see things to do in Taipei with kids #13), with shuttle service & car rental available. (read reviews / check prices)

 

Luxury:

W Hotel: Where did Lady Gaga stay in Taipei? At the W, of course. This is Taipei’s newest, funkiest, and most fashionable luxury hotel. Even if you don’t stay, come for a fancy drink at their 10F pool or try to get seats for their awesome weekend brunch buffet! (read reviews / check prices)

Humble House: Expect nothing but the classiest treatment at this luxury hotel in the Taipei 101 area, including rooftop pool and access to Taipei City Hall MRT. (read reviews / check prices)

The Okura Prestige: This central 5-star choice features great city views and a heated rooftop pool. Located just north of Taipei Main Station and several shopping malls. (read reviews / check prices)

 

Didn’t find the hotel you were looking for? Enter Taipei and your dates in the booking bar below to find other choices on my favorite booking site!



Booking.com

 

Doing Taipei in 3 days? Let me plan it for you. I'm a Taipei expert, and this is my recommended Taipei itinerary: 3 days #Taipei #Taiwan #Taipeiitinerary

 

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