Taipei nightlife has this devil-may-care, nonchalant vibe, and it’s something I look forward to returning back to, no matter how far I’ve wandered afield. I wouldn’t call it varied; I wouldn’t call it sophisticated, but whether I’ve been in Stockholm, Dubai, or Hong Kong; seeing the neon glow of Taipei at night is not just fun, it’s home. I wrote a Taipei nightlife guide in 2012, and I was surprised to see that it still ranked amongst the top hits when one searches “taipei nightlife guide”.
Important Update again, 2017 edition:
• I’ve now updated this post to reflect the current deal in 2017; which really just means adding KOR Taipei and writing a few more snarky comments about existing venues.
• I’ve since written a 2015 round-up guide that covers a few new bar openings, which you can find here.
• I’ve also created some nightlife itineraries based off my own experience.
• But read through this article first. It has been updated to reflect Taipei nightlife in 2016.
• • •
Horrors! In the rapidly evolving nightlife scene, two years may as well be two thousand years ago. The thought of some poor tourist attempting to hit up Primo (doesn’t exist anymore) or Myst (whatever I said in that article, I totally lied – Myst is awful) became a nagging weight on my conscience until I finally decided to man up and write a guide of my current favorite spots around the city. This is by no means comprehensive – just a list of spots that
my friends and I frequent; spots that I like – and maybe you will, too are the only nightlife spots worth going to, seriously, trusss me daddi.
Facebook is the predominant social media tool in Taiwan, and the best way of getting information on events and reaching out with questions is through the businesses’ Facebook pages.
Alchemy photos c/o Black Buddha
Although the cost of drinking in Taipei may be a bit lower in comparison to its more cosmopolitan neighbors, don’t come here expecting to get a quality cocktail for a fiver – many of the bartenders at the bars listed below do meticulous, creative work, and you pay accordingly. Expect to pay 350 NTD ($12 USD) to 550 NTD ($18 USD) per cocktail, on average.
• • •
- WOOTP /窩台北 / Woo Taipei
No. 39, Ln. 205, Sec. 4 Zhongxiao E. Rd. / 忠孝東路四段205巷39號 / Facebook / 02 8771 9813
My absolute favorite bar in Taipei. Don’t get it mixed up with Woobar at the W Hotel, listed further down. WOOTP has the best interior of any bar in Taipei – think funky, upscale British gastro-pub. Must order – Blossom Sangria. Like smelling an entire bouquet of roses – except even better because you get drunk at the end. Friends are far more proficient drinkers than my lightweight self, and many a night has begun (and ended) with Wootp’s deadly absinthe drips. An Italian-inspired dinner menu is available.
- 啜飲室 (Tasting Room)
No. 14, Alley 5, Ln. 107, Sec. 1, Fuxing S. Rd. / 復興南路一段107巷5弄14號/Facebook / 02 8773 9001
A simple concept (draft beers only), but fills a much-neglected hole in the Taipei drinking scene. Modern glass store-front, qua-li-ty craft beers on tap, good crowd, good vibes. Casual weekend (or hey, weekday) watering hole. The boys behind Tasting Room also run a brewery: Taihu.
They now have a second location called 啜飲室 Landmark [warning: outdoors only] at the new Breeze Xinyi, in the Taipei 101 area. A happy-hour kind of joint.
- OUNCE (NOW CLOSED, GODDAMNIT)
No. 40, Ln. 63, Sec. 2, Dunhua S. Rd. / 敦化南路二段63巷40號 / Facebook / 02 2708 6885
Update: Due to complaints from the neighborhood, OUNCE is now closed. It’ll probably re-open in a new iteration sometime in the future. The cafe storefront is still open, and now has more food options.
2F, No. 16-1, Sec. 5 Xinyi Rd. / 信義路五段16-1號 / Facebook / 09 5358 5759
Alchemy is another speakeasy set on top of scene-y watering hole Marquee. Hopefully you’ve made a reservation, so walk up to the hostess and signal your intent to go up to Alchemy. Upstairs, through a hidden doorway, lies a far more relaxed atmosphere – and quality cocktails dreamed up by award-winning head bartender Angus Zou [Note: Angus is no longer an operating part of Alchemy]. One of the last cocktails I had before leaving Taipei was an incredibly creative miso-inspired concoction, served up in a bowl.
- WOOBAR / W Taipei
10F, No. 10, Sec. 5 Zhongxiao E. Rd. / 忠孝東路五段10號10F / Facebook / 02 7703 8887
Anything associated with the hipper-than-thou W hotel chain is far too swank of a scene for the likes of me – in fact, I prefer drinking without a scene at all, and the drinks here are as over-priced and under-whelming as you’d expect. But the decor is on point, I do like their range of fruity mojitos (passionfruit) – and I’ve been known to smash a plate of their insanely delicious truffles fries before going out. (On a separate note, their free-flow champagne brunch on Sundays – at a table by the pool – is a Taipei must-do)
- Caffe Libero / Facebook
Like many cafes around the city, Libero operates as a cafe by day, and serves alcohol alongside, at night. No cocktails here, but a selection of whisky, beers, and spirits. The interior is the star factor – the place drips with nostalgia, located in a renovated historical mansion. I bring friends here when we’re not planning to do more than grab some late night eats at Shida before heading home – it’s for chill nights, rambling conversations in a haze of smoke and the clink of ice in whisky glasses. Only open until midnight.
- MARSALIS Home Taipei / Facebook
Intimate “whisky gallery” lounge at the Home Hotel. Come here for a glass of whisky, a bottle of wine, and jazz.
- WA-SHU / Facebook
No. 96-4, Linsen S. Rd. / 林森北路96-4號 / Website / 02 2563 5468
A Japanese bar with a focus on sochu and vodka infusions. Recommended by friends. Friends who are hipsters. Wa-shu has since renovated and moved to a new location: click here for details.
- MEOWEVLOUS CLUBBOY’S SALOON 俱樂部男孩沙龍 / Facebook
The most buzzed-about bar opening in a long while, this little bar attached to the Meowvelous restaurant proper near what I call the IKEA-Mandarin Oriental area. With champion bartender Victor Yang coming from his former post at Marquee to helm the bar, you can’t go wrong with any concoction he and his team whips up – and how photogenic they are, garnished with flowers, leaves and other bits & bobs. It’s a bit further from the rest of Taipei’s nightlife offerings; and the space is limited, so it’s more suited for a quiet dinner and drinks with a friend. Very, very well done. (I’ve included it in my round-up of Taipei’s newest bars & restaurants).
• • •
Photos of Chess Taipei c/o Black Buddha
ON THE CHEAP / DIVE BARS
This is where you’ll find beers on tap, more relaxed service, and simple mixed drinks for 150 NTD ($5 USD) to 300 ($10 USD).
- RECHAO / Find your favorite.
By far Taipei’s cheapest way to get drunk is by downing bottles on bottles on bottles of Taiwan beer while eating your way through a huge variety of stir-fried goodness at a traditional Taiwan drinking house; “rechao” / 熱炒。 I could write an entire primer on 熱炒 － there are hundreds in the city, and each person has their favorite spot, usually in their neighborhood. I never pay more than 300 NT ($10 USD) for a tableful of food and enough beer to get me going for the night. 八仙炭烤, located on the edge of Da-an Forest Park and 5 minutes from my house, is my go-to spot.
- FUCKING PLACE / 超場 / Facebook
Perhaps Taipei’s most beloved “dive bar” – favored by the city’s cinematic crowd and featuring – surprise, suprise – cheap-ass beer.
- CAFE ODEON / Facebook
Taiwanese university life doesn’t involve much drinking, but a few student bars exist, and this one is the best – comfy couches, a decent selection of craft beers and comfort food abound at this little dive located in the Gongguan area, within walking distance of National Taiwan University.
Photos of Chess Taipei c/o Black Buddha
CLUBS & LOUNGES
This section is definitely not a comprehensive primer. Just kidding, it totally is, more than any other part of this nightlife guide. Taipei (unlike Berlin, for example) has only a tiny range of clubs, and out of that tiny range a huge percentage are not worth going to. Does that make sense? Take my advice on this.
Update: This article is now ranked #2 when people search “Taipei nightlife guide”. You can refer to the post at position #1 (sick website name) as a comprehensive list of places not to go when clubbing in Taipei.
Entrance fees generally fall between 500 NTD ($15 USD) -1000 NTD ($33 USD). Again, this is not cheap (though I think it does generally include two mixed drinks). Many people opt for bottle service, which is significantly cheaper here compared to other cities, and comes with scantily clad bottle girls guaranteed to be tackier than almost anywhere in the world.
• • •
CHESS TAIPEI / Facebook I’ve always had a lot of love for this place – since it’s hip-hop all night, every night. This tiny one-room club located on the far side of the nightlife district packs a lot into its 1,200 sq. m. It gets busy fairly late into the night and is the favored after-hours spot, so don’t be a lame-ass and go home early. 2 am is a perfectly adequate time to show up – if you can get through the door.
Update: Chess Taipei has permanently closed in its current location. Read all about it here.
- HALO / Facebook
I’m not a huge fan of lounges, but I’ve found myself at Halo more than once the past few months. The music really varies depending on the night – but when they play hip-hop, it’s a good time. Usually….they don’t. Amazing view of Taipei 101 from the balcony tables.
Update: I’ve been back to Halo recently and come bearing good and bad news. The good: they’ve opened up the entire back wall, giving access to the balcony, and shiny Taipei 101, and this nice, open-air feel. The bad: This nice, open-air space is filled with a weird, random crowd and very bad, “PUT YER FUCKIN’ HANDS UP” -type music. For a place that charges an entrance fee (I think?) to get in, that’s pretty lame. They still have the magical gold glitter entrance hallway though…
LMNT I feel that this has always been known as an “ABC” bar (if you don’t know what ABC means, google it) – and I like that, well – since I’m ABC and know other ABCs that often go. Can’t say how it would be for others. I usually just stop in for a shot and then leave. Click here for an update on LMNT lately.
Update: As of 3/12/2016, LMNT is permanently closed. It’s been struggling for a while, so its closing didn’t come as such a shock, but sad that a Taipei institution is closing. Goodbye, LMNT, and all your potent, potent shots.
- ELEKTRO/ formerly known as Spark ATT / Facebook
It’s a large club by Taipei standards, a decent space when it isn’t operating on over-capacity. I hate the fact that you have to take elevators up – talk about a fucking fire hazard. After a police-man was murdered in front of the building complex last year and the SPARK name was dragged through the proverbial media mud, the owners thought it would make sense to re-brand and give the club a name so painfully dumb I can’t even bring myself to say it in casual conversation. Hey, wanna go to ELEKTRO tonight? No, no – I don’t. I’ve never loved the music, being EDM/house-format, but judging from the crowds of people packing out the place every night, shoving, being shoved, and sweating into their glasses of champagne – their shit is appealing to someone.
Update: I still hate this place!
Update in 2017: From what I can surmise from skimming their social media output, they’re booking a lot of fairly well-known names these days, and drawing consistent crowds. Of who, I’m honestly not that sure – I personally don’t know that many people who go to Elektro anymore.
- OMNI / (Formerly named Luxy) / Facebook
- KOR Taipei / (Inside of OMNI) / Facebook
OMNI is THE spot to party in again since its renovation. This, I guess, puts it above Elektro – but to be honest I haven’t been to either place in a good while, because now there’s an even more exclusive option that you have to weasel your way into: current cool-kids club, KOR. Here’s what I have to say about KOR.
Read more about Taipei food & drink here.
Feature photos c/o Black Buddha