Taoyuan City (桃園市, literally “Peach Garden City”) is most well-known as the location of Taipei (and Taiwan’s) main airport, Taoyuan International Airport.
While the majority of travelers to Taiwan pass through it, very few actually visit it. At most, some travelers stop at the excellent Xpark Aquarium, often on the way to or from the airport. But there is quite a bit more to Taoyuan than that!
The surprisingly large city boasts a long list of off-the-beaten-track sights, including night markets, fishing harbors, coastal wetlands, waterfalls, high mountains, restored Japanese-era buildings, Daxi Old Street, Hakka culture, and the bizarre collection of Chiang Kai-Shek statues at Cihu Mausoleum.
In this article, I’ll introduce Taoyuan’s popular and lesser-known attractions, how to get to them, where to stay in Taoyuan, what to eat there, and more.
Taoyuan City Introduction
Originally the homeland of plains aboriginals, Taoyuan was later populated by migrants from China, who planted peaches there – hence the name Peach Garden.
Taoyuan developed quickly as a suburb of Taipei. It was originally part of Hsinchu county but became its own city in 1950. In 1979, the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport opened in Taoyuan, renamed Taoyuan International Airport in 2006.
Just like Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung, Taoyuan used to be a city and a county, but the two were merged in 2014. That’s why this “city” is now an expansive area that includes rural regions, mountains, and so on.
Taoyuan’s city centers of Taoyuan District (桃園區), Zhongli District (中壢區), and Longtan District (龍潭區) have a reputation for being a little gritty and industrial. Beyond the sprawling city center, though, the region boasts many natural and cultural wonders, as we’ll see below.
Taoyuan is known for its large resident population of Hakka people. Many Southeast Asian migrant workers also live there. Cheaper than Taipei, it is one of the countries fastest growing cities.
Getting to Taoyuan City
Most international visitors to Taiwan fly into Taoyuan International Airport, which is located to the north of Taoyuan City center and west of Taipei City. There are many budget flights to Taoyuan International Airport. I usually use this site to find the best deals on flights.
Taoyuan HSR Station is in Zhongli district center. The MRT ride from the airport takes 20 minutes. From there, visitors can quickly ride the HSR to cities down the west coast of Taiwan, including Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan, and Kaohsiung (Zuoying station). Buy discounted HSR tickets here and read my step-by-step guide to booking HSR tickets.
The regular (TRA) train also runs through Taoyuan City. Coming from Taipei, stops include Taoyuan, Neili, Zhongli, Puxin, Yangmei, and Fugang. It doesn’t go to the airport or HSR station. Learn more about reserving seats on TRA trains here.
There is no central transportation hub in Taoyuan connecting the Airport MRT, HSR, and TRA. While the Airport MRT and HSR meet at Taoyuan HSR station, the terminal station of the Airport MRT, Huanbei Station, is a 5 to 10-minute drive from the nearest TRA station, Zhongli station.
Xpark Aquarium is conveniently located right next to Taoyuan HSR Station. If planning a trip to anywhere else in Taichung, you’ll need to look up the individua directions – it may be easiest to get there by train, HSR, bus, or most often, a combination of the above. GoogleMaps directions are quite reliable.
Where to Stay in Taoyuan
The most common reason travelers stay in Taoyuan is because they have a very early or late flight to/from Taoyuan International Airport.
Backpacker’s Hostel (see on Booking / Agoda) is the closest budget hotel to the airport. It’s a 5-minute taxi ride from the Airport of Kengkou MRT station (the last stop before the airport if coming from Taipei). There are dorms and double rooms.
Novotel (see on Booking / Agoda) is the closest mid-range hotel to the airport. It’s a 3-minute drive from the airport and has its own MRT station, Airport Hotel station, one stop after the airport if coming from Taipei).
Some people stay in Zhongli city center to be close to the HSR station, perhaps to get a night of sleep before catching the HSR to another city in Taiwan the next morning.
For exploring sights in Taoyuan, most travelers do it as a day trip from Taipei. If you do need to stay in Taoyuan city center for whatever reason, 191 Hotel (see on Booking / Agoda) is a passable budget option or i hotel Taoyuan (see on Booking / Agoda) is mid-range, both near Taouan TRA station.
Top Things to Do in Taoyuan
I’ll separate the below into attractions in Zhongli city center, Taoyuan city center, and Outside the City Center.
Zhongli’s top attraction for visitors is the new (opened in 2020) and impressive Xpark Aquarium. The aquarium is less than 10 minutes’ walk from Taoyuan HSR and MRT station.
It features multitudes of sea creatures as well as an enormous, highly Instagrammable water tank. Buy your tickets here online. You can even spend the night at Xpark! Find out everything you need to know about visiting in my guide to Xpark Taoyuan.
Also close to Taoyuan HSR station is Gloria Outlets, where you get satisfy all your shopping needs, and the kid-friendly Taiwan High Speed Rail Museum (台灣高鐵探索館).
In February, you can see cherry blossoms at Juguang Environmental Park (莒光環保公園) in Zhongli.
Zhongli Night Market (中壢夜市, also called Xinming Night Market or 新明夜市) is the largest and best night market in Taoyuan. It takes place every evening and is a 5-minute drive or 15-minute walk from Huanbei station, the terminal station of the Airport MRT. (See my guide to the best night markets in Taiwan!)
Although Taoyuan is the city’s namesake district, travelers seldom go there. Here a few reasons you might want to consider it.
A short walk from Taoyuan TRA station, Taoyuan 77 Art Zone (桃園77藝文町) is a set of restored Japanese-era police dormitories. They now house some cute shops and cafés, plus some cherry blossoms (late-Feb to mid-March).
Taoyuan Martyrs’ Shrine and Cultural Park (桃園忠烈祠暨神社文化園區) is one of Taoyuan district’s most well-known attractions. The recently restored building is one of the best-preserved Japanese Shinto shrines in Taiwan. It’s a 6-minute drive from Taoyuan TRA station.
Nearby, Hutoushan Park (虎頭山公園 or “Tiger’s Head Park”) as lovely city views and two beautiful temples.
Outside the City Center
Some of the top highlights of Taoyuan City lie outside of the city center, but you’ll need more time to reach them.
On the coast of Taoyuan, Xucuogang Wetland (許厝港濕地) is a great place to watch the sunset. With a crowd-free beach and wind turbines, it is reminiscent of the more popular Gaomei Wetland in Taichung. It is very close to the airport.
Zhuwei Harbor (竹圍漁港) to the north and Yongan Fishing Harbor (永安漁港) to the west are the go-to places for fresh seafood in Taoyuan.
Longtan Lake (龍潭大池) is a focal point of Longtan District, with pedestrian walkways to Nantian Temple (龍潭南天宮) on an island in the middle. Also in Longtan, Window on World (小人國主題樂園) is a theme park with miniature models of famous places around the world. Buy your tickets online here.
Daxi Old Street (大溪老街) is one of Taiwan’s best-known Old Streets. This daytime market with lovely heritage buildings is best visited on weekends. See the “Where to Eat in Taoyuan” section below for the best specialties.
Just south of Daxi, Cihu Mausoleum (先總統 / 蔣公陵寢) is the resting place of former dictator Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo.
Next to it, Chiang Kai-shek Statue Park is one of the more bizarre attractions in Taiwan. There, hundreds of CKS statues that once stood across Taiwan are on display. Note that the park is closed for major renos as above mid-2023.
Also nearby, Daxi Blooming Oasis (大溪花海農場) features lovely flower gardens arranged in patterns.
Shimen Reservoir (石門水庫) is one of the largest in Taiwan and provides water for around 3 million people. The Shimen Reservoir Scenic Area (石門水庫風景區) is also a popular attraction among locals. There are paths around it and views of water shooting out from the dam.
Southeast Taoyuan is a wild region of forested mountains. Heading into the area, stop at Daxi Tea Factory (大溪老茶廠) to see an old tea manufacturing facility and buy local teas.
Xiao Wulai Skywalk (小烏來天空步道) has an exciting view suspension bridges and glass viewing platform of Xiao Wulai Waterfall (小烏來瀑布). There are several campgrounds in the area. Nearby, Xikou Suspension Bridge (新溪口吊橋) is another good one.
A long and winding road leads from around here to Dongyanshan National Forest Recreation Area (東眼山國家森林遊樂區). The park features some great hikes, waterfalls, and suspension bridges.
Even deeper in the mountains and further from civilization, Lalashan National Forest Recreation Area (拉拉山國家森林遊樂區) is one of the more remote forest parks in Taiwan, while Sileng Hot Spring (四稜溫泉) is one of the prettiest wild springs in Taiwan.
How to Plan Your Taoyuan Itinerary
Many travelers just make a small stop in Taoyuan on the way to or from Taoyuan International Airport, especially for Xpark Aquarium.
If you’re interested in visiting Shimen Reservoir, Daxi Old Street, and/or Chiang Kai-shek Statue Park, you can do these as a day trip from Taipei. Use GoogleMaps for bus directions to and between them.
If you have or rent a car, consider making the long but rewarding drive from Taoyuan to Yilan county on Highway 7, the Northern Cross Island Highway. Possible stops along the way include Daxi Old Street, Daxi Tea Farm, Xiao Wulai Waterfall, Dongyanshan, Lalashan, and Mingchi (in Yilan).
This is quite a long and winding drive, though, so you won’t be able to visit all of these in one day. Pick and choose a few of the stops, and check the driving times between them carefully.
When you meet Highway 7A (7甲) in Yilan, you can either go left to Luodong & Yilan City, right to drive all the way up to Hehuanshan, or take the road to Taipingshan, yet another great National Forest Recreation Area in Yilan. You may need to spend the night somewhere along the way if driving all the way from Taipei or Taoyuan’s city center.
What to Eat in Taoyuan
Zhongli Night Market is Taoyuan’s largest and best night market. You can try the full gamut of Taiwanese street foods there, like sesame oil chicken (麻油雞 or mayouji), deep fried chicken fillet (炸雞排 or zha jipai), and braised foods (滷味 or luwei).
There’s also the smaller Taoyuan Night Market (桃園觀光夜市) in Taoyuan District.
One of Taoyuan’s culinary highlights is the chance to try authentic Hakka food. Local expats based in Taichung rave about the Hakka food at the very rustic Papa’s Secret Lover (阿爸的情人) near Zhongli Night Market.
Daxi Old Street (大溪老街) is the best place to try a wide variety of Hakka street foods. Don’t miss the dried tofu (豆乾 or dougan, this shop is especially famous), malted peanut candy (麥芽花生糖, try here or here), and dessert tofu (豆花 or douhua, try here).
For fresh seafood, head to Yongan Fishing Market or Zhuwei Fish Harbor on the coast. Vegetarians and vegans see here.
The best place to see cherry blossoms in Taoyuan is Lalashan, especially around Loving Farm Guesthouse. They usually bloom from late February to early March, and are followed by peach blossoms from March to April.
In April and May, tung blossoms (油桐花), which look like snow when falling down from the trees, can be seen in Taoyuan. Try Tonghua Alley, Dakeng Tonghua Trail, or several more locations listed here. Also in April, the Taoyuan Calla Lily Festival usually takes place here.
In summer, there used to be the Taoyuan Hot Air Balloon Festival in June at Shimen Reservoir, but unfortunately the event is no longer taking place from 2023 on. Try the Taitung International Hot Air Balloon Festival in Luye, Taitung county instead.
From late summer to mid-autumn, the Hakka Expo usually takes places in locations across Taoyuan, highlighting aspects of local Hakka culture.
Around Christmas, you can see lots of Christmas lights at Gloria Outlets. On New Year’s Eve, Taoyuan has a fireworks display of its own. In 2022, it was held at Longtan Lake.