Often referred to as the “Hidden Jewel of Asia”, Taiwan is becoming more and more well-known as a fantastic travel destination. With inexpensive but efficient transportation, and a ton of fantastic natural and man-made wonders to see, it’s no wonder that Taipei is quickly becoming a very popular place to vacation.
Despite being a relatively inexpensive tourist destination, there are still ways to maximize your money when traveling in the country.
Here are five fantastic free things to do in Taipei, Taiwan.
Climb Elephant Mountain
Taipei is the home of the world’s second tallest building, Taipei 101, and most people, myself included, decide to fork out the 400 NT$ (about $13.50 USD) to go up to the 89th floor indoor and 91st floor outdoor observation decks, the second highest observation decks in the world. While the views from the top are truly stunning and, in my opinion, worth it, it is hardly the best view in the city.
That distinction goes to the the view from the top of Elephant Mountain.
Sitting only a 15-minute walk from the base of Taipei 101, the trail to the top of Elephant Mountain provides little difficulty, but has awe-inspiring views of the city of Taipei, with a great view of Taipei 101 in the foreground. For an example, check out the lead photograph in the story, taken from the top of Elephant Mountain.
For more information on how to get there, I’ll redirect you to the site Taiwan Photography Blog, which has great directions that I used without problems.
Visit a Night Market
One of the highlights to almost any Asian city is the fantastic night markets that pop up as the sun sets. Taipei is no exception to this phenomenon. Throughout the city there are dozens of night markets that feature fantastic food, cheap merchandise, and wonderful people watching.
If you’ve never been to a night market, it is definitely something that you don’t want to miss, as hordes of pedestrians, loud music, and yelling hawkers make for one of the most interesting scenes in Taipei.
The Shilin Night Market close to Shilin Station is widely regarded as being the best. When visiting there, I was able to get a fantastic, inexpensive dinner and see a cool temple located in the middle of the market.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Celebrating the life and legacy of the Republic of China’s first president, Chiang Kai-shek, the Memorial Hall features a large bronze statue of the man, flanked by a rotating group of guards. The basement of the building features a library and museum in his honor, as well as several sourvenir stands.
A visit to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall is a necessary photo stop for any visitor to Taipei as the building’s white-washed walls stand in stark contrast to the bright-orange buildings flanking the hall. It is worthwhile to time your visit for the changing of the guard ceremony, which occurs every hour.
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is located just outside the subway station of the same name.
Beitou Geothermal Valley
Sitting at the northern most edge of Taipei, the district of Beitou is known throughout the country for its fantastic hot springs. Originally developed by the Japanese during their occupation, the hot springs of Beitou are well worth a visit if you are visiting Taipei, and can be done at a very budget travel friendly rate.
However, even if you aren’t interested in taking a dip in the hot springs, there is still a fantastic reason to come to Beitou, the Geothermal Valley. Bubbling at a constant temperature of over 100° Celsius, the sulfuric water of the valley is a wonder to see and smell. As you watch the water bubble and the steam float off into the air, it’s easy to forget that you are on the outskirts of a bustling metropolis.
The Beitou Geothermal Valley is located about 10 minutes away from Xinbeitou Station.
Sitting in the heart of the city, Longshan Temple is unique in that it doesn’t feature one religion exclusively. Instead, the temple features of a mix of Buddhist, Tao, and folk religions that create an interesting mix of artwork and customs.
One of the more active temples that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, Longshan Temple features a main hall and many secondary places of worship to house the multiple dieties and religions that are found there.
Largely destroyed by bombing during World War 2, the temple has been rebuilt with fantastic attention to detail. If you see one temple in Tapei, this is the one.
Longshan Temple is located only a short walk from the similarly named subway station.
Do you have any other suggestions of free things to see and do in Taipei, Taiwan? Let us know in the comments below.<