24 Things that Taiwan is Famous For (D’you know them all?)

Collage of things that Taiwan is known for

It wasn’t long ago that people around the world knew very little about Taiwan.

I say this from personal experience. In my travels, or even back home in Canada, whenever I told people I lived in Taiwan, they would invariably confuse it with Thailand.

This has changed in recent years, as more and more famous products, people, landmarks, events, or headlines from Taiwan go viral around the world, spreading the word about this charming East Asian nation.

In this article, I’ll cover more than 20 things Taiwan is known for, from a broad range of categories, and in no particular order.

You may also enjoy reading these surprising facts about Taiwan.

Pearl Milk Tea

A Taiwanese mother and her daughter, the latter who is sucking on a straw in a large glass of pearl milk tea
My wife and daughter at Chun Shui Tang in Taichung

Topping the list, for no specific reason other than we all love it, is pearl milk tea (珍珠奶茶). One of Taiwan’s coolest and most iconic gifts to the world, you may also know it as bubble tea or boba.

This drink consists of chewy (or as Taiwanese say, “QQ”) tapioca balls served in a glass of sweet, milky tea. That’s the classic version, but there are countless variations. The drink has a few different invention stories, but the most common one is that Chun Shui Tang in Taichung invented it circa 1988.

Today, there are bubble tea shops on practically every city street corner in Taiwan, and any many Taiwanese bubble tea chains have gone global – there are several in my hometown in Canada.

Bicycles (Giant and Merida)

A row of yellow and white YouBikes parked on a sidewalk, with pedestrians walking in the distance
Taiwan’s YouBikes are made by Giant

Two of the largest bicycle companies in the world, Giant and Merida, are Taiwanese. By coincidence, both companies were founded in 1972.

Giant is now headquartered in Taichung while Merida is headquartered in Changhua. Between the two companies, they produce over 8 million bikes per year  – Giant alone accounts for 6.6 million, more than any other manufacturer in the world.

Cycling is indeed a national obsession in Taiwan. Iconic YouBikes, Taiwan’s shared bike system, can be seen everywhere. Cycling around the whole country (環島) is a rite of passage – King Liu, the founder of Giant, even did it at the age of 73!

Taipei 101

Looking up at Taipei 101, with blue sky and clouds above it
Rising in all it’s glory

Taiwan’s most famous landmark, Taipei 101, was the world’s tallest building from opening day on New Year’s Eve of 2008 until Burj Khalifa surpassed it in 2010.

Taipei 101 towers like a giant stalk of bamboo over Taipei City. It has some of the world’s fastest elevators and is considered the world’s tallest “green” structure.

Visitors flock to the skyscraper to shop and dine in the mall at its base or to ascend to the 89th floor observatory, where a 660-ton steel ball hangs, preventing the building from falling during earthquakes. Visitors can also stand on the 101st floor roof of the building in the Skyline 460 experience.

Here’s my list of other famous landmarks in Taiwan.

Japanese Touches

A stone Japanese gate and shrine on the roof of a building overlooking Tainan
Japanese shrine on top of Hayashi Department Store in Tainan

For a period of 50 years (1895 to 1945), including all of WWI and WWII, Taiwan was part of the Japanese empire. The Japanese built railway lines, hospitals, universities, and other infrastructure. They also developed the island’s thermal hot springs into Japanese-style bathhouses.

Today, many aspects of Japanese culture remain in Taiwan, from Shinto shrines and railway bento boxes to Japanese words incorporated into the Taiwanese language and sushi & ramen available everywhere.

Taiwan and Japan have close ties to this day. Despite having been colonized by the latter, most Taiwanese are obsessed with Japanese culture and love traveling there. The two countries also help each other after natural disasters.

Night Markets

A super crowded narrow night markets, with sea of people walking down the middle and rows of food vendors on either side
Ningxia Night Market in Taipei

Taiwan is famous for its night markets and street food. In fact, by total visitor numbers, Taiwan’s night markets considered collectively are the country’s top tourist attraction. Many visitors, especially from other Asian countries, fly to Taiwan just for the night markets.

Every city in Taiwan has one or more night markets – Taipei alone has over a dozen major ones. Night markets are all about tasting many “small eats” (小吃) in one night. While delicious and freshly made food is the main focus, larger night markets also have some shopping and carnival games.

As crowded as they get, Taiwanese judge them positively by how 熱鬧 (literally “hot and noisy”) they are.

Origin of the Austronesian Peoples

A taiwanese aboriginal young man wearing performance costume and tall white hat of feathers, holding hands with other performers to his left and ride, and blurred crowds of observers behind
Aboriginal performer at Amis Harvest Festival in Hualien

Austronesians are the world’s most widely spread cultural/language group. It includes native peoples across Southeast Asia and as far away as Polynesia and Madagascar.

Experts now agree that all of these people originated in Taiwan. From there, they began sailing out and settling thousands of islands from about 3000 to 1500 BCE.

To this day, all of these groups share some similarities with the current 16 recognized aboriginal tribes of Taiwan, including linguistic traits, practices like tattooing, and staple foods such as taro.

One of the Asian Tigers

A view of Taipei Main train station and Taipei city at night, with lights of cars driving by and Taipei 101 in the distance
Taipei city from above

Starting from the 1950s, Taiwan came to be known as one of the four “Asian Tigers” (亞洲四小龍 or “Four Little Asian Dragons” in Mandarin), along with South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

This was a list of East Asian countries that underwent rapid industrializing and transformation to high-tech and high-income country. Although we seldom hear this term anymore, anyone who was around from the 1950s to 1990s surely knew Taiwan in reference to it.

Today, Taiwan has the second-highest GDP on the list, after South Korea.

Made in Taiwan

A black stamp on a wooden surface that says "Made in Taiwan"
You’ve probably seen these words before

If you grew up in the 1980s like I did, you would definitely remember seeing “Made in Taiwan” stamped onto the bottom of so many of your toys or other household products.

But Taiwan’s role as a manufacturing powerhouse later shifted from cheap little products to more advanced and high-tech ones like bicycles, computer chips, laptops, and electric scooters.

Today, it would be more correct to see “Designed in Taiwan”. But the “Made in Taiwan” phrase remains iconic – I’ve even seen Taiwanese people who have the Mandarin equivalent (臺灣製造) tattooed on them.  


Close up of a green computer chop with the word Taiwan on it
A computer chip made in Taiwan

Taiwan is the world’s largest semiconductor producer, accounting for 65% of global production, including 95% of all advanced computer chips. This is often cited as a reason why any potential conflict with China is so concerning for the rest of the world.

One Taiwanese company alone, TSMC, makes over half of the world’s computer chips. It is the country’s largest company and 44th largest in the world. The company is based in the Hsinchu Science Park, which is sometimes called the “Silicon Valley of Taiwan”.

Complicated Relationship with China

A road to the left and staircase to the right, with a column in between them with a Republic of China flag and the characters 媽祖
Republic of China flag on Matsu islands, which are a former battlefront just off the coast of China

For most of history, the island of Taiwan remained on the fringe of the Chinese empire and China cared little about it. While China did incorporate it into the Qing dynasty, it was also colonized by Europeans before that and Japanese after.

Then the KMT (Republic of China) army fled to Taiwan after they lost the the Chinese Civil War in 1949, and Taiwan is still officially called Republic of China to this day.

In 1979, the US started recognizing the PRC (communist party) as “China” instead of the ROC. Today, only 12 countries in the world officially recognize Taiwan as a country. The list keeps getting shorter as China pays off more of them.

China continually threatens to “take back” Taiwan, by force if necessary. Some believe such a conflict could result in WW3, and possible Taiwan-China conflict (with the US expected to support Taiwan) has been a hot topic in global headlines for years now.

Most Taiwanese prefer to keep the ambiguous status quo for the sake of peace and prosperity. But they generally consider their country to be independent, with its own unique culture and self-identity, and in many ways it really does function as an independent country.

Taiwanese Celebrities

A mosaic of six famous Taiwanese celebrities
Famous people from Taiwan

There are some famous people from Taiwan that you’ve probably heard of. In film and entertainment, these include the likes of director Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Hulk), baseball pitcher Wang Chien-ming, former president Tsai Ying-wen, and singers Jay Chou and Jolin Tsai.

Other Taiwanese innovators include Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo!, Jensen Huanhg, founder of Nvidia (the third most valuable company in the US after Microsoft and Apple), and Peter Tsai, inventor of the N95 mask.

There are also several famous Taiwanese-Americans, including basketball player Jeremy Lin, Boston mayor Michelle Wu, and Fresh off the Boat actress Constance Wu.

Major Taiwanese Brands

The logos of six famous brands that Taiwan is known for: Acer, Asus, Din Tai Fung, Evergreen, Eva Air, and Giant
Recognizable Taiwanese brands

There are several famous companies and brands from Taiwan – chances are you even own something made by one of them.

I’ve already mentioned bicycle companies like Giant and Merida. Add to that computer and cell phone companies like Acer and Asus, shipping company Evergreen (yes, like the ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal in 2021), airlines like Eva Air and China Airlines, electric scooter maker Gogoro, and international restaurant chains like Din Tai Fung.

And do you have an iPhone, iPad, Nintendo, Xbox, or Playstation? Then parts of it were probably made or assembled in Taiwan.

Freedom and LGBTQ+ Rights

An LGBT protest in Taipei, with people carrying a Taiwan flag with rainbow colors and old city gate in background
Pride parade in Taipei

On the most recent freedom index, Taiwan scores an 8.56, which puts it in the top spot in Asia and 11th in the world. It beats out countries like Canada, Australia, and the United States.

Taiwan is a vibrant democracy with free elections and free press. This is an impressive feat considering that the world’s longest period of martial law, a period also known as the White Terror, only ended there in 1987.

In 2019, under president Tsai Ying-wen, Taiwan also became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage rights. Every year, Taipei city hosts the largest Pride Parade in Asia.


Some Taiwanese performers carrying a dragon over a crowd of children, who are reaching up and trying to touch it
Lunar New Year dragon dance in Taipei

After living in Taiwan for over a decade, I can confirm the reputation of Taiwanese people as extremely friendly and welcoming to visitors. They simply love when people from other countries visit or show any interest in Taiwan.

In my Taiwan Travel Planning group, travelers express the same sentiment time and time again. There are also countless stories of locals helping travelers, treating them to meals or gits, or overall just being the main surprise or highlight of people’s visit.  


Two young female tourists, one is smiling and feeding a cat while the other is watching and laughing
Travelers feeding cats in Houtong Cat Village

Taiwan also has an amazing track record when it comes to safety. In 2023, Numbeo named it the 3rd safest country in the world, after Qatar and UAE, while Taipei was the 4th safest city in the world.

So what does it feel like to live in one of the safest places in the world? Well, I can attest that I feel 100% safe walking in any neighborhood of Taipei, even by myself in the middle of the night – and women I know say the same thing.

You may even hear that in Taiwan, you can just leave a valuable laptop on a table in a public café and go for a walk outside. And yes, this is true. It’s also very common for lost items like wallets to be returned to a Lost and Found or police station.

This is one of several reasons why Taipei has been chosen as the top city in the world for expats.

Beef Noodles and Stinky Tofu

Two images side by side – the left side is a close up of a bowl of beef noodles soup and right side is a close up of 4 rectangular blocks of deep fried stinky tofu with cilantro and pickled veggies on top
Two iconic local dishes

Two of Taiwan’s most famous dishes are beef noodles and stinky tofu. Ironically, both dishes originate in China.

Beef noodles, a fragrant soup with noodles and slices of beef, has versions all over Asia. KMT soldiers first brought the dish over from Sichuan and modified it into red braised beef noodles (紅燒牛肉麵). It is arguably Taiwan’s most famous dish today.

Another more infamous dish is stinky tofu, which originated in Beijing when a tofu vendor found that his product had gone bad.

The Taiwanese have truly embraced stinky tofu, and you will see (and smell!) it all over country. It’s the one dish locals are most likely to ask “Have you tried it yet?” There’s even whole market street dedicated to it and several stinky tofu stalls have obtained Michelin status.

Convenience Stores (and convenience in general)

The entrance of a Hello Kitty themed 7-11 with pink brick walls and sanrio characters all over it
Hello Kitty 7-Eleven in Ximending

Taiwan prides itself as the “land of convenience”, and the sheer concentration of convenience stores across the country is the perfect example of this (only South Korea has more).

7-11 and FamilyMart dominate the market, but there are many others, like HiLife, SimpleMart, and OK Mart. It is very common in Taiwan to see more than one convenience store side-by-side or at the same intersection – sometimes even two of the same one.

These convenience stores are known for their staggering array of foods, products, and services. The long list of things you can do at a “Seven” include recycling old batteries, buying High Speed Rail tickets, getting a cold beer, picking up dry cleaning, and shipping parcels.

You can find 24-hour convenience stores on Taiwan’s small islands, in rural areas, in the high mountains, in train stations, and right next to temples in Taiwan.

Mountain Peaks and Thermal Springs

A wide mountain vista of Yushan National Park in Taiwan
Yushan National Park

Taiwan is blessed with the highest concentration of high mountain peaks for any island in the world. It has no less than 268 peaks above 3000 meters (9800 ft) and two-thirds of the island is covered in high mountains.

The tallest of them all is Yushan (玉山 or Jade Mountain), which is taller than Mt. Fuji. Yusan was even a finalist for the list of New7Wonders of Nature.

Taiwan also has a very high concentration of thermal hot springs. These include several different types of spring water, mud hot springs, volcanic fumaroles, saltwater hot springs, hot springs in the capital city, and cold springs. Bathing in thermal spas is a national pastime.

High Mountain Oolong Tea

Some workers picking tealeaves in a tea plantation, with several mountains in the distance and a tree in the foreground
Tea farmers in Shizhuo, a village in Alishan region

A special kind of tea is grown in the high mountains of Taiwan. Tealeaves were first brought over from China. Oolong tea in particular was found to grow well in Taiwan.

Farmers found that the higher they grew it, the better it tasted. Lower oxygen levels produce a higher concentration of flavor chemicals in the leaves, while misty mountain slopes provide ideal growing conditions.

Alishan High Mountain Oolong is Taiwan’s most famous tea. Due to its high quality but limited production volume, this and other Taiwanese teas fetch high prices and are enthusiastically sought by tea lovers around the world.


Some sideways barrels with taps that say Kavalan on the front
Whiskey tasting at Kavalan distillery

Who would have thought? In the last few decades, Taiwan has become known as quality whiskey producing nation. This is thanks in no small part to the success of Kavalan Distillery (噶瑪蘭酒廠).

The distillery has won multiple awards for its whiskeys, including “best single malt whiskey in the world” by World Whiskies Awards in 2015. Whisky Magazine also named its beautiful distillery in Yilan the “Whiskey Visitor Attraction of the Year”.

Natural Disasters

A former school running track that has been destroyed by an earthquake, with huge bump in the middle, and a canopy overheard to protect the ruins
School Running Track, 921 Earthquake Museum, Taichung

Taiwan has a subtropical climate and sits on the ring of fire, right at the meeting point of major tectonic plates. As a result, it is a regular victim of typhoons, landslides, and earthquakes.

The most devastating earthquake in modern history was the 921 Nantou Earthquake in 1999. The quake killed 2415 and caused USD 10 billion in damage.

More recently, the 2024 Hualien Earthquake was even more powerful. This one closed Taroko Gorge (one of Taiwan’s top attractions) indefinitely and killed 17.

As for typhoons, the deadliest one was Typhoon Morakot in 2009. It left 673 dead, a majority of whom perished when a landslide covered a whole village in Kaohsiung.

Landslides also destroyed a section of the Alishan Forest Railway, which has taken until mid-2024 to reopen.

Impressive Handling of COVID

Two kids wearing masks and with a sticker on their shirt that says Quarantine
My kids with quarantine stickers at Taoyuan Airport

During the COVID-19 pandemic in Taiwan, the country became one of those early COVID success stories, making headlines around the world.

Some features in Taiwan’s COVID strategy included universal mask wearing, near universal vaccination rates, a quarantine system for all arrivals, and only 7 deaths in 2020.

Taiwan proved to be very good at keeping COVID out for the first year, but when the virus did find its way in again in mid- 2021, it spread like wildfire, and unfortunately many still died.

Another downside was that, because of the strict border controls, tourists were not allowed to enter Taiwan for nearly three years, which had a major impact on businesses in the tourism industry (including mine!)

Sky Lantern Festival

Dozens of lit up sky lanterns ascending to the a black sky, with one especially big one on the left side
Mass sky lantern releases

One of the most famous scenes of Taiwan is that of hundreds of lit up “sky lanterns” (天燈) ascending to the sky in unison. This takes place twice per year as a part of the Lantern Festival, a traditional Chinese holiday on the 15th day of the first lunar month.

The Pingxi Lantern Festival takes place in small former coal mining  villages on the Pingxi Railway line. The lanterns used to be a means of communication in the valley but grew into a way to make wishes to the gods.

You may have noticed a similar scene in the Disney movie Tangled, which was inspired by such lanterns. Similar lantern releases are also done in China, Thailand, and other parts of the world. Environmental groups speak out against the practice because it causes fires and pollution.

Shifen Old Street, the most famous location on the, does have some eco-friendly ones, but few tourists buy them.


Dozens of parked scooters just outside a night market in the early evening, with no people
Sea of scooters parked outside a night market

Taiwan is a nation of scooters. When researching my Taiwan facts article, I calculated that there is 1 scooter for every 1.7 people in Taiwan – that’s 14 million scooters for 23.9 million people!

Not only are they super fun to ride, but scooters are also very convenient for navigating Taiwan’s often narrow roads and lack of parking spaces for larger vehicles.

It’s not uncommon to see a whole family squished onto one scooter in Taiwan (with groceries, and maybe even a dog, too!) My family has done it many times.

You may have seen images of seas of scooters on the street in Taipei. While this does produce some noisy streets and terrifying driving conditions, there is a light on the horizon. Electric scooters are taking off in a big way, led by local companies like Gogoro.

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