When I first visited Taipei City, back in 2000, I was expecting just another boring, grey Asian metropolis without a soul. At that time, I had no idea that Taiwan’s capital was home to some of the best museums and memorials in Asia.
And I’m not the only one who’s had misconceptions about Taiwan’s capital city. Whenever I talk about Taipei’s beauty and attractions to people outside Taiwan, I always get suspicious reactions like: “Really? I thought Taipei was just an industrial city.”
Are you also skeptical? If you are, please read on! I’ll show you what I mean by “some of the best museums and memorials in Asia“.
Let’s begin our tour of Taipei’s museums at the world famous National Palace Museum where you can witness some of the oldest Chinese artifacts that exist on the planet. Zhou-dynasty bronze vessels, Qing-dynasty calligraphic work, 5000 year-old porcelain, paintings, jade sculptures, you can see it all here. The museum is modeled after Beijing’s Forbiden City. No visit to Taipei is complete without spending a few hours at the National Palace Museum – if you have enough time!
You just can’t come to the capital and not visit the iconic Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and its aesthetic arched entrance. Located in the heart of Zhongzheng district – old Taipei – this imposing landmark stands at the end of an expansive plaza, where locals and visitors gather at all times of the day to walk, chat, take pictures, witness the changing of the guard.
It’s an unbeatable spot for photography. Kids fly their kites, elders practice tai-chi, lovers stroll hand in hand, activists display banners, students chant, and guards march as people from the four corners of the world walk around in disbelief… This is Taiwan?!
The two giant classical Chinese buildings in front of the memorial are the Taipei National Theater and National Concert Hall.
MRT Station: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Whenever I have some free time in Taipei City, I go stroll around the large public park that surrounds this massive hall. It’s another great venue to do people-watching, or just kill time with strangers while sipping a latte. You should go late afternoon, when the sun falls behind the city and paints the giant roof with warm shades as the place falls silent for the changing of the guards.
The exhibition area inside the hall is definitely worth checking out if you care to learn about Mr. Sun – the father of modern China. The museum has some very interesting historical photos. If you’re pressed by time, make it at least to the hall’s main entrance to see the 6-meter-tall bronze statue of the man.
MRT Station: Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Hours: 9am to 5pm
You’ll find the galleries of the Fine Arts Museum in the lively, modern Zhongshan District. Constructed in the 1980’s, the museum showcases local and international contemporary art. It has both temporary and permanent exhibitions.
If you’re not into watercolor, sculptures, calligraphy, or art in general, skip the galleries and simply go for a walk around the vast Zhongshan Fine Arts Park, right outside the museum. The funky architecture of the building itself is worth the trip.
MRT Station: Yuanshan
Hours: 9:30am to 5:30pm, Sat until 9:30pm; closed on Mondays
Admission: student/adult/senior NT15/30/free
National Taiwan Museum
If you walk south from the train station, you’ll come to the 228 Memorial Peace Park. At the park’s north entrance you’ll find one of the island’s finest colonial buildings. This old museum was completed in 1915 and hosts a collection of over 40,000 items ranging from aboriginal artifacts to prehistoric pottery and tools. Kids will enjoy the exhibition dedicated to Taiwan’s animals and plants.
MRT Station: Taipei Main Station
Hours: Tue-Sun; 10am to 5pm
Taipei City’s East Gate (also called Jingfu Gate) is situated on Ketagalan Boulevard, between CKS Memorial Hall and the Presidential Palace. Night time is the best moment to take pictures of this historical structure, when the roof is lit and cars paint trails of light all around the busy traffic circle.
MRT Station: Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall
Click here to see all these attractions on my TAIPEI CITY MAP!
A new window will open and you will see all the sites listed in the left column.