For those in the know, a quick weekend trip to Taipei is a staple for those wanting a quick escape from the frantic pace of life that characterises other East Asian metropolises. Often seeming more like a small island town than a major capital city, to simply tick off a rote list of standard sights would be to miss out on the essence of Taipei. To experience the real charm of Taipei requires one to slow down, throw away the tourist brochures, and embrace simple pleasures: linger over a flat white at cafe tucked into a leafy alley. Indulge in the comfort of the two-ingredient 滷肉飯 – braised pork over rice. In collaboration with GRANA, Taipei-based blogger Stephanie Hsu of The Thousandth Girl curated a mini-weekend guide to Taipei, inspired by the GRANA aesthetic and philosophy: a lifestyle of minimalistic elegance and simplicity.
Lazy Afternoon Teas: Get geared up for the weekend with an afternoon tea at one of the myriad cafes in the city. The number of cafes and bistros seems to grow by the week, leading to Taipei’s growing reputation as one of the top coffee cities in Asia. Some of my favorites: VVG Bistro, One Fifteen, and Costumice.
Hikes don’t get easier or more rewarding than Elephant Mountain. A strenuous half-hour up seemingly endless flights of stairs opens up into a sweeping view of Taipei City, with the city’s iconic 101 building rising dramatically out of the urban sprawl. Best at sunset.
Refuel with a hearty meal, Taiwanese-style. For a casual, budget-friendly dinner I prefer the Taiwanese dry noodles and dishes at Slack Season 度小月, located on the bustling foodie avenue of Yongkang Street. For a slightly more upscale experience, I love the bright dining room of 富錦樹台菜香檳 [Fujin Taiwanese Cuisine & Champagne] which pairs hearty, family-style Taiwanese dishes with champagne – a quirky pairing.
Morning Tai-chi: Start the morning with a stroll at Da’an Park. Deemed the “Central Park” of Taipei, the massive park is the official green lung of the Taipei’s oft-overwhelming urban chaos. You know what they say – early to bed, early to rise, early to see oodles of adorable seniors doing their morning tai-chi exercises to raucous musical accompaniment.
Long Shopping Strolls: Leftover grounds from the 2010-11 Taipei International Floral Exposition have been transformed into a commercial hub that comes alive on the weekends, with a massive farmers’ market showcasing an abundance of local agricultural offerings – as well as spacious, permanent outposts of many well-known Taipei design stores. Shop slowly through the covered market and stop for a mid-shop ice cream at Midori, which has unusual flavours like mulberry yogurt and Oriental beauty tea.
Hot spring soaks (@ngmindy): Soak away tired tourist feet with a dip in one of Beitou’s famed hot springs, which range from wild, outdoors “secret springs” to carefully curated hotel spa experiences. For true indulgence, Villa 32 is unbeatable.
Street Eats: Taipei’s famed night markets are indeed worth a visit – but avoid the over-touristed Shilin Night Market and head to Raohe Night Market or Tonghua Night Market for a more local experience. The only advice that can be given: try anything that has a line.
Tea & Books: Knock out your morning caffeine fix and pick up some souvenirs for loved ones back home in a single go: at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, a renovated tobacco factory-turned cultural complex nestled right in the city center. The multi-story Eslite Songyan department store showcases the products of many a local designer, as well as a “Books & Tea” floor that pairs a curated selection of art books and magazines with a row of tea-shops, lining the windows that face towards Taipei 101. A recommended gift to take back home: Hakka-style leicha tea from Siid Cha Tea.
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