If your layover destination is Taipei and you’re there for an entire day, you’re in luck! Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) often connects flights from the USA to Asia and vice versa, and layovers there can get quite long. In order to whet your appetite for the rich, fun, and fused culture of this city, we present our selection of activities and eats for your layover in Taipei. You’ll want to come back for seconds. Here’s how to best plan and enjoy your Taipei layover!
For the traveller stuck in Taoyuan International Airport
If your Taipei layover is less than 5 or 6 hours, it’s probably best to play it safe and stay in the airport. After all, the main city of Taipei is at least an hour and ten minutes away by shuttle bus … but more on that later. For now, let’s take a look at the stuff that you can do in Taoyuan International Airport that will give you a little bit of the Taiwanese experience:
1. Say 'hi' to Cutesy at the Hello Kitty Gift Gate
Kawaii culture (a Japanese concept of cute and adorable) has the world in its soft pink paws and cutesy claws, and this is most evident in Taiwan Airport’s Hello Kitty themed gate in Terminal 2. Step inside a world of make believe and childhood princess vibes when you visit the Hello Kitty Gift Gate. It has a play area for kids, interesting decorations (even the seats have Hello Kitty prints on them!), and limited edition Hello Kitty merchandise. Look out for a sepia-tinted Hello Kitty, and a vintage-style Hello Kitty only available at this airport.
In addition, it has a bunch of great amenities, including a themed nursery and telephones for international calls. The planes that depart from this gate are also Hello Kitty themed. Even if you’re not flying off from here it, it certainly makes for great photo ops.
Hello Kitty Gift Gate
Address: Terminal 2-3F
Opening Hours: 6 am - 11 pm
Website: Hello Kitty Gift Gate
2. Browse through microcosms of Taiwanese culture at the themed gates
The Hello Kitty Gift Gate may be the most famous themed area in Taoyuan International Airport, but it’s certainly not the only one. The airport is filled with themed areas that portray different aspects of Taiwanese life through artwork, decorations, and historical snippets. Just walking past these gates and exhibitions gives you a sense of the immense pride the country has for its culture, local artists, and rich, though often turbulent, history.
3. Creaky bones? Get a massage!
Long haul flights can be taxing on your skin, bones, and energy levels. If you need to iron out the kinks in your joints to feel more revitalised and relaxed before you hop back onto the plane, visit the Blind Friend Massage Center to get your bones professionally cracked and soothed. This massage centre is an initiative by the Taoyuan County professional trade union in order to provide the visually impaired in the area with jobs.
Blind Friend Massage Service Center
Address: Terminal 2-3F, Departure Area
Opening Hours: 10 am - 6 pm
Website: Blind Friend Massage Service Center
4. Pick up souvenirs at an aboriginal Taiwanese store
The aboriginal peoples of Taiwan are related to cultures of Polynesian origin, and it’s been estimated that they’ve been living in Taiwan for approximately 8,000 years, long before a major immigration of Han Chinese to the island began in the 1600s. These peoples have had a troubled history of forced cultural assimilation, unequal opportunities, and language extinction, but recently have been experiencing a revival in terms of cultural pride. Being so intimately tied to Taiwan, even before the events of its recent political history, it is only fair that their beautiful culture and arts are featured in a traveller’s gateway into the country.
Stop by Formosan Aborigines to pick up some unique handmade crafts as souvenirs, and learn more about the country’s history in the process.
Address: Terminal 1-3F, Departure Area
Opening Hours: 6 am - 10 pm
Website: Formosan Aborigines
Wanna get out?
Cooping yourself up in the airport for, say, 16 hours would be a great shame in Taipei. Here’s a brief guide on how to move around in the city. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy; public transport is efficient and wide-reaching, covering most of the city.
Being an international airport, the terminals have signs in English as well as other languages. Follow the signs to the main arrivals terminal. At arrivals, there will be counters with bright yellow signs. These are bus ticket counters.
Once you get there, buy a bus ticket to Taipei Main Station. The regular bus fare is 90 TWD (2.82 USD), or you can pay 120 TWD (3.77 USD) for a service that is 30 minutes faster. The quicker service stops at a bus stop near Taipei Main Station, so first-time visitors to the city might be confused how to get to the actual station. For this reason, most people recommend the cheaper bus route. After all, you can take a nap on the bus.
Approach another very large sign that says ‘Express Buses’ and continue walking ahead until you reach an entrance. Find the bus marked with the number that you have on your ticket. If you get lost or confused don’t worry; there’s usually someone out there to greet you and help you get to the city.
The journey from and back to Taoyuan International Airport by bus takes between 1 hour and 10 minutes and 1 hour and 40 minutes. Remember to block out a safe amount of time to get back to the airport on time!
There are also taxis available to and from the airport. A one-way trip costs about 1,000-1,200 TWD (31-37 USD). Remember to specify to the driver to take you to Taoyuan International Airport rather than just saying Taipei Airport; Taipei Airport is another name for Songshan Airport, which is about 40 minutes away.
You've made it to the city! What to do now?
Being a lively, 24-hour city, there is just so much to do in Taipei. Indeed, the options can be a little overwhelming. Here are some attractions that are within convenient distances of each other and can let you experience a little of what Taipei is all about:
1. Brush up on history at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall
For your first touch of Taipei, visit the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, chock full of historical displays and great architecture and boasting a grand atmosphere. Stay for at least an hour to watch the ceremony of the changing of the guards, which happens every hour. Occasionally, workshops related to traditional art forms are held, so if you have a bit more time and are really interested in those forms, you could spend a little more time here picking up a new skill.
This is also a great place to begin your 1-day trip, as it has a dedicated station (Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Station), which is 19 minutes from Taipei Main Station. From here, the next few exciting sights are less than 10 minutes away by foot.
Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Address: No. 505, Section 4, Ren'ai Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
Opening Hours: 9 am - 6 pm
Duration: around an hour
Access: Take the Ban Nan line from Taipei Main Station towards the Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center. You should reach the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall Station in about 20 minutes
Contact: +886 2 2758 8008
Website: Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
2. Learn through modern art at Songshan Cultural and Creative Park
Experience Taiwan’s love for local artists and creative ideas in Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. It is an open space for local exhibitions, galleries, and sculptures. There are even bookstores and vinyl shops around one end of the complex. On the website, it says that it takes 30-40 minutes to walk through the whole park, but there are so many delightful pieces on display and interesting things to buy that to rush through it would be a pity.
Songshan Cultural and Creative Park
Address: No. 133, Guangfu S Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
Opening Hours: 9 am - 6 pm
Duration: around 1-2 hours
Access: 9-minute walk from the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Website: Songshan Cultural and Creative Park
3. Marvel at the height of Taipei 101
The grand skyscraper of Taipei 101 is said to look like a.) a giant stack of takeout boxes, b.) a bamboo pole, c.) a very tall temple. It is Taipei’s most iconic building. The first five floors of the architectural marvel are dedicated to a swanky upscale mall, so if you’re feeling a bit more luxe than usual, pop by and buy something high end. It throws in a mix of some regular-priced stores too, so don’t worry if you’re not ready to splash the cash. Shopping is great, but the one thing you can’t miss here is the view. Take a ride in the observatory elevator or, if you’re not planning to do any shopping, sit down in the world’s highest Starbucks, located on the 39th floor, with a good cuppa.
Fun fact: Taipei 101 has some of the fastest lifts in the world. Two of them can go up to a maximum speed of 1,010 metres (3,314 feet) per minute, which means it takes you just 40 seconds to get from the ground floor to the 89th level. Talk about being in a rush!
Address: Taipei 101, No. 7, Section 5, Xinyi Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110
Price: from 18 USD for the Observatory
Opening Hours: 9 am - 10 pm, last ticket sales at 9.15 pm
Duration: around 2 hours
Access: Make your way back from Songshan Cultural and Creative Park back to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. Walk 15 minutes to get to Taipei 101 from there
Website: Taipei 101
4. Try Taipei's famous night market snacks
Not that the food in Taipei 101 is bad, but you need to reserve your dinner space for Taiwan’s ultimate gastronomical and cultural experience. Everyone who comes to Taipei’s night markets knows that they are some of the best and busiest with some of the most delicious fare in the world. Tonghua Night Market is just a short walk away from Taipei 101. Selling a spectacular array of street food, souvenirs, and even clothing, any amount of time spent here will feel like it’s too little. For the gastronomically adventurous, try out the legendary stinky tofu! It reeks of garbage but, to fans of the dish, it tastes like paradise.
Tonghua Night Market
Address: Alley 1, Lane 40, Linjiang St, Da’an District, Taipei City, Taiwan 106
Opening Hours: 6 pm - 2 am
Duration: around 3 hours required
Access: A 15-minute walk from Taipei 101
Nearby Food: The food is everywhere in this market
5. Some final tips
If your luggage is too big to be carried, there are services available at Taoyuan International Airport that provide a 24-hour luggage storage service. Prices start from 200 TWD (about 6 USD) for luggage weighing 12 kg (26 pounds) or less.
Bonded Luggage Service (24 hours)
Address: Terminal 1-1F, Terminal 2-1F and 3F
Price: from 6 USD
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Contact: Service numbers: Terminal 1: +886-3-398-2326; Terminal 2: +886-3-398-3369.
Website: Bonded Luggage Service
Remember to keep track of the time while you’re experiencing all these exciting sights and sounds! Taipei is a great city and definitely deserves more than one day of exploration. Although the night markets end in the wee hours of the morning, MRTs take their last rides back at 12 midnight and the last bus from Taipei Main Station back to Taoyuan International Airport is at 12.20 am.
Taipei, we will be back!
There are so many more things worth checking out in Taipei and Taiwan even if it is just during a layover, from eccentric concept cafes and fusion food to natural harmonious hot springs and minsu stays (home stays). But for now, enjoy the rest of your flights, and check out more articles for inspiration on where to go during a longer trip to this energetic island.