12 Hours in Taipei - An Expert's Guide to the Best Layover Ever



Ice-shaven desserts, Shilin fried chicken, freshly-brewed tea leaves, and smelly tou fu. These familiar tastes and smells have brought visitors from all over the world to Taiwan. Even if your stop in Taiwan is literally just a layover at its capital city, Taipei - it’s still worth the trip beyond the airport doors. Taipei has something for every kind of traveller, so here’s what you can do under 12 hours in and around this global city. 




It takes only 52 minutes by train from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to the heart of Taipei city. Once you arrive at Taipei Station, start treating your tastebuds to a plethora of delicious local food nearby. Grab a traditional Taiwanese breakfast of egg pancakes and Taiwan’s favourite combination of soybean milk with yu tiao (fried doughnut strips) at Fu Hang Dou Jiang. Then head 7 minutes west to the “Shinjuku” of Taipei: Ximending - one of the coolest street shopping districts in the city. Here is where tender pieces of braised pork on rice await you at Tiantian Limei Restaurant and the silkiest wheat flour noodles at Ah Zhong Mee Sua is a must-try! Leave space for some obligatory dim sum at the famous Golden Lion Cantonese restaurant which is one of Taipei’s oldest dim sum restaurants. Shops start to open in the afternoon so go crazy as you browse through boutiques selling homewares, bespoke fashion pieces and accessories. This would be the place to pick up a few souvenirs from your short trip! Ximending is also home to Taipei’s largest LGBT district, known as Red House. Plenty of fascinating history to be learned on walking tours available in the area. 



If you’re still around the city in the evening, make sure you eat your way through Taipei’s super famous Shilin Night Market. You get to fish for your own prawns and have them grilled on the spot, try a selection of flavoured bak kwa “pork jerky”, feast on deep-fried abalone that costs less than NT$300 per plate, cheesy oysters infused with passion fruit, and so much more!  


Take a break from the city centre and get some fresh air and space at one of Taipei’s prettiest public parks, Dahu Park. It’s a 42-minute train ride from Taipei Station and opens for 24 hours! People flock to the park for its large scenic lake and bridge. There is also a pavilion by the lake, making the whole landscape perfect for photography. Locals enjoy fishing, having picnics, and taking strolls around the park on weekends. But that’s not all - the park is also equipped with a heated swimming pool and water slide, a steam room, sauna, and other recreational facilities for nature-lovers to enjoy! 



View this post on Instagram

Hello!! Taipei 101 Thank you for your support 🙏😍 สนใจติดต่อ 👇👇 - Line@ : @towaileather (มี@ด้วยนะครับ) #กระเป๋าหนังแท้ Towai Leather #กระเป๋าหนังวัวฟอกฝาด #เข็มขัดหนังวัวฟอกฝาด #สายนาฬิกาหนังวัวฟอกฝาด #towai #towaileather #handmade #cowhide #leather #leathercraft #vegetabletannedleather #wallet #belt #watchstraps #wristbands #leatherbag #leatherwallet #leatherbelt #taiwan #leatherwatchstrap #couplegoals #leatherhandbag #leathergoods #leatherwork #brass #custommade #yogamat #leatheryogamatholder #crossbodybag #taipei101

A post shared by เข็มขัด กระเป๋า หนังวัวฟอกฝาด (@towaileather) on Nov 17, 2019 at 4:22am PST


Every city has its iconic skyscraper and Taipei is no exception. Just 23 minutes from Taipei Station is the world’s 10th  tallest tower standing at 509.2 meters above sea level. The view from the 89th floor of Taipei 101’s observatory deck is surreal! Especially when dusk turns to nightfall and the city lights up like a blanket of tiny jewels. Taipei 101 is also known for being an engineering marvel. We’re talking about the 5.5-metre diameter, 660-tonne wind damper that is suspended on the 88th floor. It helps to offset the force of wind and help the skyscraper stand upright despite common typhoons and earthquakes in Taiwan. General tickets to the observatory cost NT$600 per person but access to the mall below and the building itself is free. 




Another unique Taipei experience with breathtaking views is the MaoKong Gondola ride. It’s a 4.3 km gondola transport ride that connects the Taipei Zoo to Maokong village with only four stations in total. To get there from the city centre, take the Wenshan-Neihu Line of Taipei Metro to the Taipei Zoo Station and then walk to the Maokong Gondola Taipei Zoo Station for about 350 meters. Maokong itself is a scenic village atop a hill, but the enjoyment starts during the ride along the ascend. When you’re at the village, step into one of the many tea houses there and enjoy tea the traditional Taiwanese way,  slow and with a scenic mountain view to appreciate. Adult tickets each way are NT$120. Each adult is allowed to bring up to two children below the age of 6 for free. 



Coming to Taipei without squeezing in a day trip to Jiufen is like experiencing only half of what Taipei has to offer. The other half lies in Jiufen, a gold mining town that overlooks the ocean for about an hour from Taipei city centre. It is filled with all things to make your wanderer’s heart come alive: quaint tea houses and cafés inspired by Chinese and Japanese cultures, souvenir shops, and little alleyways and lanes that are perfect for the avid Instagrammer. Gold was first discovered in Jiufen during the Japanese occupation in 1893 which led to the establishment of this mining town. You can still see much of the Japanese influence in the structure and build of this town. Oh and if it looks vaguely familiar to you, its because rumour has it that this place inspired Miyazaki's award-winning animation, Spirited Away. 



Adding yet another authentic Taiwanese experience to the list, is a visit to one of Taipei’s “old streets”. This is usually the main pedestrian street that an older district in Taipei is recognised for. Since time is of the essence, and these places are at least 45-minutes to an hour’s train ride from the city centre, choose one and head there for a few hours. We say, indulge yourself at Shen Keng Old Street. It’s known as the “Tofu capital” for good reason: there are so many tofu-based dishes! Yes, including stinky tofu of course. 


View this post on Instagram

陶博館好美☁️⛅️☁️ #ceramics #craft #yinggeceramicsmuseum #publicart #niceworks #beatifulday #colorful #clouds

A post shared by Heng Lee (@henglee1017) on Oct 25, 2019 at 6:05am PDT


For those willing to spare an hour and a half for travel, make Yingge Old Street part of your layover itinerary. Yingge is dubbed as the ceramic capital of Taipei, and here you’ll find pottery and ceramic ware of all kinds. Taiwanese take their tea-drinking practices very seriously and most families have a dedicated “tea station” that is elaborately presented in their homes to entertain guests. If you’ve experienced drinking tea at one, Yingge is where you’ll want to buy your own traditional tea set to take home as a memorable and useful souvenir. You can also appreciate modern ceramic art pieces at the Yingge Ceramic Museum and make your own pottery at Guzao Kiln. Now wouldn’t that be something to shout about! 

These are just a few things you can do in your short time while in Taipei. You’ll have to come back on another trip to visit the National Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall and appreciate the history of the city, as well as drive out to enjoy Shifen waterfall and other amazing outdoor trails that Taipei offers. But for now, have the best layover yet and don’t forget to bring your camera! 


Book your flight, hotel and tour packages on Mayflower.com.my now. AND don’t forget to follow our Mayflower Facebook Page for more!  




Sarah Lim

Believes travel is more than food and shopping. Slowly becoming a history and architecture geek. Loves the outdoors but struggles to keep plants alive. 
Takes photographs, occasionally writes. Follow her adventures at @justsaytravel or just say hello. sarahlimwrites at gmail.