The capital city combines ancient temples and traditional street markets with modern super malls, chic restaurants and classy bars. In the upscale Ximending district, shoppers will find teenager fashion and Japanese culture.
Taipei’s efficient bus system is easy to navigate for non-Chinese speakers. All buses display their destination in English, and you can use the EasyCard to pay for multiple sections at one time – see Taiwan#Get around.
The origins of modern Taipei are complex. Originally an enormous lake bordered by mountains, the area was home to the aboriginal Ketagalan tribes who inhabited the land for thousands of years before the Dutch arrived. They named it Ilha Formosa – ‘Beautiful Island’ – and the name stuck.
The Qing empire eventually incorporated Taiwan into its territory, and by the early 1800s it was a bustling city with wide tree lined boulevards and busy shopping streets. When the Japanese occupied the region, they improved its infrastructure and built up the Office of the Governor-General.
After the KMT reclaimed control of the island in 1945, a new wave of immigration from mainland China brought about a huge demographic change. In the 1980s, the city began to flourish and many of the old districts were replaced with high quality apartment buildings. Traditional Chinese culture remains firmly in place, with family ties playing a central role to the social system.
Taiwanese culture is a blend of tradition and modern commercialism, with a touch of Japanese flavour left over from decades under colonial rule. Most foreign visitors are pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of their hosts, with the people ranked amongst the most friendly in Asia.
Unlike the mainland Chinese, who are more affixed to family structure, Taiwanese place more importance on commitment to others, especially within extended relationships and business settings. This is often influenced by the Confucian value of face, which emphasises respect and duty towards elders.
People in the workplace are often indirect in their communication, carefully choosing their words to avoid offending or hurting colleagues. This is not rudeness, but rather a concern for how a comment might be perceived. It’s also customary to beckon with the palm down, as waving the hand up can be considered rude. The government operates a number of museums and other cultural and arts centres to advance Chinese culture, including the National Palace Museum, which houses valuable historical artifacts taken to Taiwan by the ROC in 1949.
A city that sprang up in the aftermath of WWII, Taiwan’s modern metropolis is packed with shopping opportunities. You can browse boutiques, designer stores and department chains in the centre of town, while the 509m-tall Taipei 101 skyscraper hosts a plethora of luxury shops and a rooftop observatory.
The upscale Zhongxiao Dunhua district (also known as the East District) boasts large department stores and flagship stores of famous brands. In addition, there are countless individual street fashion stores and boutiques. For example, internationally renowned Taiwanese designer Shiatzy Chen offers form-fitting dresses and lingerie that incorporate elements of the traditional qipao.
If you’re looking for a more casual experience, head to Songshen District’s Breeze Center. The mall has an American-style layout with plenty of natural light and a cinema. It also houses a wide range of restaurants, convenience stores and fitness and sports theme shops. You’ll find everything from upscale perfumes to high-quality shoes and bags at the shopping mall.
Taipei is a night owl’s dream with a world-class club scene. Whether you’re looking to party until the wee hours or chill out with some drinks in a lounge, there is something for everyone.
Many clubs host live music performers and bands, so check out what’s on when you’re there. For a more laidback evening, try a speakeasy bar like Ounce (it looks just like an espresso bar from the outside) which recreates a 1920s American Prohibition vibe with a cocktail menu full of bespoke drinks made to your liking.
Another popular bar for expats is Vogas, a busy, sexy nightclub that hosts sexy dance shows with young, rich Taiwanese guys and girls, open until 5am. If you prefer more of a club with a massive dance floor and solid EDM, then OMNI is your place to be. A more underground techno club is Korner, which is quite small and has a more minimalist feel to it.