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Discover Off-the-Beaten-Path Taipei

From one perspective, discovering Taipei off the beaten path is rather easy. The list of "mainstream" attractions in Taiwan's capital, after all, is relatively short for a huge Asian city.

Digging into the city of Taipei reveals a range of temples, markets, and outdoor activities that seems far too limited in scope, given its vast footprint. On the other hand, curating a manageable array of tasks—the best of the rest, as it were—can be an unruly task. Or at least it might’ve been, had you not found yourself here today.

Top Alternative Things to Do in Taipei

Discover Underrated Districts of Taipei

Rather than focusing on specific Taipei attractions (at least for now—we’ll get to that in a few paragraphs), one way to see Taipei’s underrated side is to explore lesser known districts. Ride the blue line of the Taipei MRT westward from Taipei Main Station to Banqiao, for example, where you can traipse through the historical Lin Family Residence, or say your prayers at historical Jieyun Temple.

Another part of Taipei that is woefully unexplored is Songshan. Centered around an MRT station, train station, and airport of the same name (more on that in a minute!), Songshan is home to many treasures, including vibrant Raohe Street Night Market and lush Guanshan Riverside Park.

Hike Guan Yin Shan Mountain

It should come as no surprise, given all the mountains that surround the city, that many things to do in Taipei focus on hiking or even climbing. Rather than heading straight to popular Elephant Mountain (known as Xiangshan in Chinese), consider instead riding a local bus from Luzhou MRT station to Guan Yin Shan, whose peak offers a stunning panorama of Taipei’s city center from the northwest.

Named after the Chinese goddess of mercy, Guan Yin Shan requires between 60-90 minutes to scale, and its trail is nearly vertical in parts—you’ll be thankful for the provided works. Make sure to choose a clear day to hike so you can enjoy the view. Or, do like local Taiwanese do, and bring food to enjoy picnic-style at the top!

Catch Some Jet Blast at Airplane Alley

Everyone wants to get to know Taipei off the beaten path—but what about from the perspective of a busy runway? It’s not for the faint of heart, but a photo expedition to Taipei’s so-called “Airplane Alley” is very worthwhile, especially if you come when many flights to Taipei Songshan Airport are arriving.

To get here, ride the MRT to Xingtian Temple, and make the 15-minute walk to Zhongyue Temple, the nearest landmark to this famous photo spot. Whether a small regional jet coming in from elsewhere in Taiwan, or a massive EVA Air jet inbound from Tokyo Haneda, a trip to Airplane Alley is a thrilling experience, to say the least!

Come During Gay Pride—Even if You’re Not LGBT

Taipei’s annual gay pride has been the largest in Asia for many years, but has taken on a particularly joyful energy since early 2019, when Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. Although a festival that occurs once a year can’t necessarily be listed among Taipei attractions, this is one Taipei experience you shouldn’t miss, even if you don’t identify as LGBT.

To be sure, Taipei establishments welcome all travelers during this time, which sees the city swell with LGBT travelers and take on a festive mood, like one giant party. This is true whether you sit down for a drink at one of the bars inside the historical Red House, the mothership of Taiwan’s gay community, or simply snack on street food along nearby Ximending pedestrian street.

Shirk Shilin’s Night Market for Keelung’s

Another awesome way to get to know Taipei off the beaten path? Visit a night market that isn’t totally swamped with tourists. At least not Western ones: Chinese-speaking travelers have long been partial to the charms (and cuisine) of Miaokou Night Market, located in the port city of Keelung just north of Taipei. To get here, ride frequent local trains from Taipei Main Station.

The sky is literally the limit in terms of what to eat here, but items to keep an eye out for include Thick Crab Soup (螃蟹羹), One-Bite Sausages (一口香腸) and Shaved Ice (沈家泡泡冰), the most famous flavor of which is Taiwanese peanut. There are also several stalls where you can enjoy fresh-caught local fish, fried simply and served with greens, rice, and other fixin’s.

How to Put Together Your Taipei Itinerary

Incorporating any of these more alternative things to do in Taipei into your larger itinerary is surprisingly easy. Let’s say, for example, that you have three days in Taipei in total. You can plan to hike Guan Yin Shan, take some selfies at Airplane Alley, and have time for mainstream sightseeing

On day one, after visiting Longshan Temple and Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall, but before heading to Taipei 101 after nightfall, you could ride the orange line of the Taipei MRT to Xingtian Temple and walk to Airplane Alley. Then, on day two, you can work up an appetite for dim sum along Yongkang Street by hiking up to Guan Yin Shan during the day. As for day three—why not cap off a day of sightseeing in the city with an evening trip to Keelung Night Market?

Conclusion

Getting to know Taipei off the beaten path is at least as enjoyable as tackling your main list of things to do, and arguably more so. Take in a (literally) different perspective of Taipei from the peak of Guan Yin Shan mountain, or simply open your mind to the joy that takes the city over every October at Asia’s largest gay pride.

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