If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve got a stopover at Taoyuan International Airport and you’re wondering what to do.
Having a Taipei layover is not a bad position to be in! Taoyuan Airport is well equipped, the MRT can get you to downtown Taipei in a flash, and the airport even offers free half-day layover tours.
There are a few important things to know for your Taipei layover, whether it’s an overnight layover or just a few hours. For example, what are the Taiwan layover requirements? Will you need a visa? How many hours do you need to leave the airport? What can you do for only a few hours in Taipei?
I’ll answer all of these questions and more. There’s a huge amount of information below, so I suggest you use the table of contents to find what you need.
Taipei Layover Summary
- I only recommend considering to leave Taoyuan Airport if your stopover is more than 6 hours.
- The airport offers free half-day city tours if your stopover is 7-24 hours. You need to register in advance.
- Many nationalities can enter Taiwan (i.e. leave the airport) visa free, but some need a visa.
- With 6+ hours, you could go through immigration but just hang out at the airport, which has a few things to do, go to Taoyuan city (20-30 min by MRT), or go to Taipei City (35 min to 1 hr) by MRT. At night, there are buses or taxis (1 hr). Taipei is safe to visit at night.
Which Taipei Airport – Taoyuan or Songshan?
Taipei has two airports. Most international flights are into Taoyuan International Airport (TPE). This airport is 30 kilometers west of Taipei in Taoyuan City. For this article, I’m going to assume you’re stopover in Taiwan is at this airport.
The smaller Taipei Songshan Airport (TSA) is in the Taipei City center. It mainly handles domestic flights and a limited number of international ones. If you happen to have a layover at this Taipei airport, then you can explore the city even faster. Songshan Airport has a Taipei MRT stop of the same name. This will easily connect you to anywhere you want to go in the city.
If you haven’t booked your flight yet, see my guide to finding budget flights to Taiwan.
Going from Taoyuan to Songshan Airport
If you have to change airports during your stopover, Kuokuang buses 1840 and 1841 go directly between the two airports. There are regular departures throughout the day, from around 6 AM to 8 PM.
Arriving at any of these airports, just follow the signs to the bus station. At Taoyuan T1, you’ll need to go down some escalators to B1. At T2, after exiting into the Arrivals Hall, you’ll hang a right, another right, and follow the signs to the end of the hall.
There you’ll find various bus company ticket windows. Buses 1840 and 1841 are run by Kuo Kuang Bus Company. They take cash only. The ride takes 60 to 90 minutes, depending on traffic.
Another option is to ride the Airport MRT (6 AM to 11:30 PM, cash or EasyCard) to Taipei Main Station then connect to the Taipei MRT system. There, you’ll need to swipe out of the Airport MRT (which is operated by Taoyuan City), follow the signs to Beimen Station on the green line of Taipei MRT, and swipe in again for that station.
Ride the green line 3 stops east to Nanjing Fuxing Station, then transfer to the brown line and ride it 3 stops north to Songshap Airport Station. Total traveling time from Taoyuan to Songshan airports will be around 1.5 hours, give or take 15 minutes.
Taiwan Layover Requirements
If you plan to leave Taoyuan International Airport during your stopover (find out how to decide below), you need to find out whether you need a visa for Taiwan.
Currently, passport holders from 65 countries don’t need a visa to enter Taiwan. These nationalities can enter Taiwan visa-free for stays ranging from 14 to 90 days, depending on the country.
If you have a passport from one of these countries, you have nothing to worry about. If you aren’t, you’ll need to apply for a Taiwan visa if you want to pass immigration and leave the airport.
Minimum Hours to Leave the Airport
A 6-hour layover is the absolute minimum I would recommend to leave the airport. For the free Taipei tour offered by the airport, there’s a minimum of 7 hours (more on that below).
Keep in mind the following times:
- It usually takes around 1 hour from landing to exiting the airport. If several planes happen to land at a similar time, it could take longer. If you don’t have to pick up your check-in luggage (or you don’t have any), it could be a little faster.
- If you do need to pick up your luggage, you’ll have to store it at the luggage storage center. Add 15-30 minutes time to deal with that.
- It takes around 30 minutes to reach Taoyuan city center or 1 hour to reach Taipei city center, and the same to go back.
- You’ll want to be back at the airport 2 hours before your flight. If you already have a boarding pass for your next flight, you could cut that to 1.5 hours.
This means that with a 6-hour layover, you’d only actually get about 1 or maybe 1.5 hours to explore the city center – barely enough for a taste.
For layovers longer than 6 hours, it becomes more worth it.
Airport Layover without Entering Taiwan
If you have a stopover at Taoyuan Airport, there are several reasons you may decide to just stay in the controlled area (i.e. not pass through immigration or leave the airport).
Reasons to stay in the controlled area for your stopover include:
- Layover is too short (6-7 hours or less)
- You’ll be too tired after a long flight
- It’s the middle of the night
- You need a visa for Taiwan but don’t want to bother
What to Do When You Arrive
If you don’t need to pick up your luggage for your international connection, the first thing you’ll do upon landing is follow the signs from arrivals to international connections / departures.
If you’re arriving and departing from the same terminal (T1 or T2), this will involve walking down some halls and taking a few escalators. If this is the case, you should already have a boarding pass for your next flight.
If you do need to pick up your luggage and check in for your next flight, you’ll need to follow the signs to immigration, pick up your luggage, exit into the arrivals hall, then follow the signs to the Departure Hall.
Transferring Between Terminals
If you’ll be departing from a different terminal than the one you arrived at, and you won’t be entering Taiwan/leaving the airport, you’ll follow the signs for the free Skytrain.
The Skytrain runs between the controlled areas of the two terminals. In the daytime it comes every 2-4 minutes. From midnight to 6 AM, you’ll need to push a button to make it come.
You’ll need to have a boarding pass for the other terminal to ride it. In other words, you can’t just ride it for fun or to check out the other terminal if you don’t have a boarding pass for that terminal.
For the non-controlled area, i.e. if you’re going to be picking up your luggage, entering Taiwan, and checking in for your next flight, there are a few different options for getting between the terminals.
At night, when the Airport MRT is not running, there is a free shuttle bus between the terminals.
For the time being, you can also ride the Skytrain between the Arrival Halls (non-controlled area) of T1 and T2. However, once Taoyuan Airport T3 is completed (expected date 2023), this will no longer be possible, and the Skytrain will be for checked-in passengers only.
Things to Do in the Departures Area
OK, so you’ve managed to find your departure gate and now you have some time to kill. If your layover is in the daytime, you’ll find that everything is open. You can pass the time by doing some duty-free shopping, exploring, and dining/drinking.
However, if your layover is at night, almost everything will be closed. Not all hope is lost, though. You’ll still find that both terminals have some cool waiting areas, art galleries, charging terminals, comfy chairs for sleeping, and 24-hour shower rooms.
T1 Departure Area Facilities
Taoyuan Airport T1 has 18 departure gates. Gates A1-9 (mostly China Airlines) are on Concourse A, which faces north.
Gates B1-9 (Cathay Pacific and others) are on Concourse B, which faces south. The concourses are connected in the middle, where several shops are concentrated.
- Butterfly Garden (relaxing area with plants and butterfly statues, not real butterflies)
- Shops like Polo Ralph Lauren, Omega watches, Coach, Hermès, Disney
- Prayer Rooms
- Art Gallery
- Massage Service
- Restaurants (mostly around 6 AM to 10 PM)
- Shops like Coach, MontBlanc, Gucci
- Prayer Room
- Prayer Rooms
- Art Gallery
- Massage Service
- Restaurants and Sunmai Beer Bar
T1 also features uniquely design waiting lounges. The waiting lounge at each gate has a diffeent theme.
T2 Departure Area Facilities
T2 has the same general layout as T1, with 20 gates. Gates C1-10 (most Eva Airlines) are on Concourse C, which faces south.
Gates D1-10 (China Airlines and others) are on Concourse D, which faces north. Again, a middle area with shops connects the two.
You’re in luck, because T2 is the newer of the two terminals and has some new and really awesome facilities, especially around gates C1-3. See an article about the new facilities here.
- Brand new Taoli Bookstore, with books from floor to 6.3-meter ceiling and 3.8 meter lamps
- Brand new liquor store with huge chandelier made of golden wine bottles
- 24-hour children’s playground
- Sanrio (Hello Kitty) toy store beside the playground
- Duty-free LEGO store
- Art gallery
- Airline-themed Skyline Waiting Lounge
- Other “landscape lounges” (gates 7-10)
- Prayer rooms
- Restaurants (around 6 AM to 11 PM)
- Shops like Victoria’s Secret (currently under renos), North Face, Puma, Chanel, Adidas
- eSports Center and exercise machines
- Restaurants (around 6 AM to 11 PM)
Entering Taiwan on Your Layover
With six hours or more, it becomes feasible to leave the airport and visit the city.
Four main options to consider would be:
- Hang out around the airport
- Do a free city tour
- Go to Taoyuan City on your own
- Go to Taipei City on your own
Storing Luggage for Your Stopover
If you’re going to have a layover in Taipei, it is absolutely essential that you find out whether you’ll need to pick up your luggage or not.
Sometimes airlines will put your luggage through to your final destination and sometimes they won’t. This can depend on various factors – which airlines, connection time, customs, and so on.
I always ask this when checking in for the flight. You can also check the destination on the luggage tag that they will give to you.
If you don’t have check-in luggage, or you don’t have to pick it up at Taoyuan Airport, then great. This will give you more time for your stopover.
If you do have to pick up your luggage, your landing procedure will take a little longer. Then if you want to leave the airport, you’ll need to store the luggage first. Here’s my detailed guide to using the luggage lockers and other baggage storage at Taoyuan Airport and in Taipei.
At T1, Pelican Express Luggage Storage Center (24 hrs) is located at the north end of the departures hall. The Arrivals and Departures Hall are both on the ground floor of the airport and connected by a hallway at the south side (turn left after coming out).
At T2, the same storage center, Pelican Express, will be located to the left side of the Arrivals Hall when you come out.
There are also large luggage storage lockers in both terminals. You should budget 15 to 30 minutes for finding and figuring out these luggage storage options.
Option 1: Things to do around the Airport
With a relatively short stopover (let’s say 4 to 7 hours), you might consider to pass through immigration, i.e. enter Taiwan but still not leave the airport, just for something to do.
Why? Well, there are just a few more things to do if you go through immigration to the non-controlled areas of the airport.
For starters, both terminals of Taoyuan International Airport have 24-hour convenience stores in the non-controlled areas. Convenience stores, especially 7-Eleven and FamilyMart, are a big deal in Taiwan. They sell all kinds of fun meals, treats, drinks (including liquor!), and cute products.
T1 has two 7-Elevens on B1. T2 has a 7-Eleven on 2F (one floor up from the Arrivals Hall) and a FamilyMart on 3F (Departures Hall).
You’ll also find several restaurants in both terminals, which will be cheaper than restaurants in the airport’s controlled areas. T1 has a food court at B1 and T2 has a food court at B2. More restaurants and souvenir shops can be found on other floors. These shops and restaurants are generally open from 6 AM at the earliest to 11 PM at the latest.
Terminal 2 has two very cool outdoor Airplane Observation Platforms, where you can watch planes landing and taking off. Many passengers don’t even realize these exist and there are few signs for them.
To access the South one, go to the 3F Departures Hall near check-in counter 22 and take it up to the 5th floor. Then you’ll walk through a painted “Taiwan Temple Avenue” to reach it.
To access the North one, which is even better, take the elevator near check-in counter 5 up to the 5th floor. Before going outside, you’ll find a LEGO model version of the airport. Outside, there are Formosan black bear statues.
In the distance (from the north platform only), you can see as far as Zhuwei Fish Harbor’s Rainbow Bridge, some coastal wind turbines, and the Taiwan Strait.
Don’t bother trying to walk anywhere from the airport. There’s nothing worth seeing.
If you want to travel between terminals, just for something to do or to check out the facilities at the other terminal, see the “Transferring Terminals” above.
Option 2: Free Taipei Layover Tour
If you have a 7- to 24-hour layover at Taoyuan International Airport, you can take one of the free half day tours offered by the airport.
These tours are pretty awesome because they save you all the trouble of figuring out how to get to the city and back. Plus you can be pretty much guaranteed you’ll back it back to the airport on time.
In order to take one of these tours, you’ll need to have a valid visa or visa-free entry status and a passport valid for at least 6 months.
The tours last 4 to 4.5 hours. See the schedule details here. There’s a morning one (8:00 to 12:30), afternoon (1:30 to 5:30), and evening (6:00 to 10:30 PM). You’ll need to be back at the airport in time to check in for your flight (they suggest 2.5 hours before your flight).
The evening tour will take you to an observation deck, temple, and night market in Banqiao district of New Taipei City. Again, this is not Taipei. “New Taipei City” is like the suburbs of Taipei, but politically a city of of its own. If you’re visiting from mid-November to early January, this could be a fun one, when Banqiao hosts the country’s largest Christmas lights event, Christmasland.
You need to register for these tours 5 to 45 days in advance.
Option 3: Visiting Taoyuan City
Because the airport is in Taoyuan city, not Taipei, it is faster to reach Taoyuan city center than Taipei. While Taoyuan city doesn’t have as many famous attractions as Taipei, there are still some very cool things worth seeing.
Ride the Airport MRT from Taoyuan Airport T1 (A12) or T2 (A13) to Taoyuan HSR Station (A18). The ride takes 15-20 minutes and costs TWD 25 per person (under 6 free). Pay with cash or swipe an EasyCard. Make sure you board the MRT going in the direction of Taoyuan, not Taipei.
The top attraction at Taoyuan HSR Station is Xpark, an excellent and very new aquarium. Budget 10 minutes to walk there and at least a minimum 1-2 hours to visit it. You can save a bit of time by ordering your tickets online before you go. It is open 10 AM to 6 PM (to 8 PM on Saturdays). Learn how to make the best of your visit in my Taoyuan Xpark guide.
If you’ll be there in the evening, take the HSR instead to the terminal Laojie River Station (A22, 35 minutes from Taoyuan Airport, TWD 55, or 15 minutes from Taoyuan HSR stop). From there, you can walk 10 minutes to Zhongli Night Market, the best night market in Taoyuan. (Read more about Taiwan’s night markets here.)
The night market runs roughly from 5 PM to midnight. Don’t miss the last HSR back to the airport (11:35 PM).
You can also take a taxi from the airport to these places, but uncertain traffic conditions means that it could take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes.
There are more places you could explore in Taoyuan city, but with a short stopover, I would just stick to the above. Find more information in my Taoyuan city guide.
Option 4: Visiting Taipei City
So now we come to the big question. What can you do on a short stopover in Taipei?
First, just to rehash what I’ve already covered above, you’ll need about 1 hour to get through the airport, 15-30 minutes to store your luggage in an airport locker or at Pelican Express (if you need to), and about 1 hour to get to the city.
Coming back, you’ll need to do the same in reverse, plus you’ll want to be at the airport around 2 hours before you departure flight.
That equates to up to 5 hours of your total stopover time just for getting to/from the airport and airport formalities.
Getting from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei
The main ways to get to the city are by Airport MRT (fastest), taxi (most convenient), or bus (cheapest, best for late night).
You can find more details and pictures in my guide to getting from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei Main Station.
By Airport MRT
The fastest way to get from Taoyuan Airport to Taipei is to ride the Airport MRT from T2 (A13) or T1 (A12) to Taipei Main Station (A1).
The Airport MRT runs from around 6 AM to 11:30 PM and the ride costs TWD 150 (under 6 free). You can buy a token with cash or buy an EasyCard to swipe.
Every second train is express. If you catch an express one, it will take 39 minutes from T2 or 36 minutes from T1. If you catch a commuter train, it will take 53 minutes from T2 or 50 minutes from T1. Make sure to budget some possible waiting time for the MRT.
At Taipei Main Station, you will arrive at this exact spot. Even though they share the same name, it’s a different building than the main Taipei Main Station, where the inter-city train, High Speed Rail, and Taipei Main MRT stations are located.
Taipei Main Station (the train station building) is a much larger building located 150 meters to the east or the Airport MRT station, but the two are connected by a maze-like system of underground tunnels and malls.
If you want to connect to the Taipei City MRT for exploring the city, you’ll first need to swipe out of the Airport MRT (which is operated by Taoyuan City). Then you could walk west to Beimen MRT Station on the gren line (my recommended choice) or east to Taipei Main Station MRT station (be prepared to get lost/disoriented) on the red and blue lines.
Beimen MRT is actually closer and easier to reach from this spot than Taipei Main MRT station. Follow the signs through the underground tunnels to Beimen MRT. You’ll need to swipe out of the Taoyuan MRT system, then swipe in again for entering the Taipei MRT system.
However, as you will see in my recommended stopover itineraries below, you can walk to several attractions from the Airport MRT station in Taipei, so you may not need to ride the Taipei MRT on your stopover.
By Taxi/Private Vehicle
Let’s say you have somewhere very specific in mind that you want to visit in Taipei, and it’s not by Taipei Main Station. In this case, you might consider to take a taxi or private vehicle from the airport.
The advantage here is that you can skip out on transferring from Taipei Main Station to wherever you want to go. However, it’s going to cost you quite a bit more (TWD 1000 to 1500 vs TWD 150 for the MRT).
You can catch taxis in front of the airport. They are trustworthy and always use the meter. Although some take credit cards or EasyCard, some don’t, so make sure to have cash.
You can also book a private vehicle on Klook. These usually cost less than a taxi (1000-1200). After you book it, they’ll get in touch for arranging the pick-up.
Bus 1819 runs from Taoyuan Airport to Kuo Kuang Bus Terminal at the northeastern corner of Taipei Main Station. The ride costs TWD 135 (slightly cheaper than the Airport MRT) and takes about 1 hour. I only really recommend this option at night.
The bus runs 24 hours, but departures at night are less frequent, with some gaps of over 1 hour between them. Follow the signs at the airport to the bus station.
What to Do on Your Taipei Layover
Here I’ll give some suggestions based on how long your Taipei stopover is. For all of these, I’m assuming that your layover is in the daytime when things are open. If your layover is at night, see the final section at the end.
6 Hour Layover
Six hours is very tight for squeezing in a visit to the Taipei city center. It’s the absolute bare minimum time I would even consider it.
Assuming things go alright on your arrival, this is only going to give you about 1 to 1.5 hours in the city center before you need to head back to the airport.
After you arrive at Taipei Main Station, walk to Ximending Walking District (15 minutes), the coolest neighborhood in Taipei.
On the way, check out Beimen (North Gate), an original Old City gate, and Sanrio (Hello Kitty) themed 7-Eleven first, then cross the big road (Zhonghua Road) to enter the pedestrian-only shopping district. The time will pass quickly as you explore the several streets of interesting shops in the area.
If you have time, get a bowl of delicious Taiwanese vermicelli soup at the famous Ay-Chung Flour Rice Noodle, a bowl of Taiwanese shaved ice here, or some famous Taiwanese beef noodles here on your way back to the station.
If your layover is in the evening, I still recommend the above. Ximending district is very cool in the evening, when all the lit up signs come on. There are also usually a few food stalls to be found, especially here.
However, if you want to experience a Taipei night market, then I recommend a totally different route. Instead of walking south to Ximending, walk north to Ningxia Night Market. The walking time from the Airport MRT Station to Ningxia Night Market is only 10 minutes.
That will give you enough time to walk the length of the night market and back, and order at least a couple items. The night market runs from around 5 PM to midnight. Keep in mind the last Airport MRT back to the airport departs at 11:36 PM
7 Hour Layover
If you a seven-hour stopover in Taiwan, that is the minimum time needed to take the free Taipei tour from Taoyuan airport, so consider to join this tour if your times work.
With seven hours between flights, I would estimate that you will have around 2 to 2.5 hours for exploring Taipei. This still doesn’t really give you much time, but it’s enough to get a taste of the city.
I’m going to recommend essentially the same route as above, but with a few more stops added to it. From the Airport MRT station, walk to Ximending Shopping district via the North Gate and Sanrio 7-11.
You can take a little more time to explore Ximending, perhaps making a quick stop at a cat café, a historic Starbucks, a local temple, some historic Japanese ruins, the LGBTQ+ scene at Red Theater, or the local street art. Check my Ximending guide for all the details.
Besides the foods I mentioned in the last entry, you could also add this famous Taiwanese ice cream shop (dairy free, running since 1945), this ice cream shop with bizarre flavors, or this douhua (tofu pudding) shop.
Assuming you still have a little time left, walk east to the Presidential Palace, which dates to the Japanese colonial era in Taiwan, and 228 Peace Memorial Park, which has several statues and pavilions, and commemorates the 2-28 Massacred in Taiwan, before beelining it north back to the station.
On the way, grab a bowl of beef noodles at Liu Shandong Beef Noodles, one of the city’s most famous, if you still have time.
For an evening stopover, if you want to experience a night market instead of Ximending, you could walk to Ningxia Night Market as I recommended in the 6-hour stopover above. You’d have more time to really take it in.
Or you could consider to ride the MRT to Shilin Night Market, the largest and most famous (but also most touristy) night market in the city.
To do this, take the Green Line from Beimen to Zhongshan, then the Red Line from Zhongshan to Jiantan station. Budget 20-30 minutes to get from the Airport MRT station to Shilin Night Market.
8 Hour Layover
With an eight-hour stopover in Taiwan, you’ll have room to fit in more of Taipei’s attractions. I estimate that you’ll have around 3 to 3.5 hours to explore the city.
Start by walking from the Airport MRT to Ximending as I described in detail above. Use my Ximending guide to fully explore this fun neighborhood.
Next, walk (20 minutes) or ride the MRT Blue Line one stop from Ximen to Longshan Temple. This is Taipei’s most famous and important temple. Make sure to check out Herb Lane next to it, where traditional herbs are sold, and Bopiliao Historic Block, an old preserved street nearby.
Next, hop in a taxi or ride the MRT (back to Ximen then transfer to green line) to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. This towering blue-and-white landmark structure commemorates the former president/dictator. It has a huge square, two large classical Chinese buildings, a stunning Gate, and some lovely parks and ponds.
This attraction is quite large, so only add it if you feel you have enough time.
Then ride the MRT green line from CKS Memorial Hall back to Beimen station, where you can connect directly to the Airport MRT.
If you’re in town in the evening, then you may want to cut out CKS Memorial Hall in favor of a night market. After Longshan Temple, visit Huaxi Night Market (a little rough around the edges) or walk/taxi (20 min / 5 min) to Nanjichang Night Market (better food). Take a taxi back to the Airport MRT (5-10 min).
9 Hour Layover
With a nine-hour Taiwan stopover, the possibilities continue to grow. I’m guessing you’ll have around 4 to 4.5 hours to explore the city.
I’m going to keep building on the above itineraries. Just like the eight-hour plan, walk to Ximending, followed by Longshan Temple and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
From there, walk or ride the MRT one stop Dongmen Station, where you can visit Yong Kang Street. This street is known for its many excellent local restaurants. These include the original branch of Din Tai Fung (Taipei’s most famous restaurant), Yong Kang Beef Noodles, and Smoothie House (famous for its shaved ice).
After you eat, if you still have time, take a stroll in Da’an Park, the city’s largest. If you don’t want to eat, just go directly to Da’an Park MRT station.
Finally, ride the MRT Red Line from Da’an Park station to Taipei Main Station (10 minutes) and follow the underground signs/tunnels to the Airport MRT (10 minutes).
10 Hour Layover
This is getting even more exciting. With a 10-hour layover in Taipei, you’ll have a solid 5 to 5.5 hours to explore Taipei City. Depending on how fast you move, you could squeeze in quite a lot.
I would actually recommend to just follow the exact same schedule I described for 9 hours, but it will be less rushed.
But there are other possibilities here, too. With this much time, you could consider to make Taipei 101 the focus of your stopover. Taipei 101 Observatory requires more time to visit, which is why I haven’t mentioned it until now. Read my Taipei 101 visitor’s guide for all the details.
Because it can take longer, I would suggest to go there first. Arriving at Taipei Main Airport MRT Station, follow the underground signs/tunnels to Taipei Main Station MRT Station Red Line (10 minutes) and ride it to Taipei 101 Station (15 minutes).
Check in for the Taipei 101 Observatory is on the 5F. The line can take anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour. Since your time is so limited, consider to splurge on the “Fast Entry” pass, so you can get in much faster. From there, you’ll take one of the world’s fastest elevators up to the 89th floor.
For an even more exciting experience, you can stand on the actual roof of Taipei 101 with the Skyline 460 experience. It includes fast entry and access to all the other observatory floors.
A typical visit to the Observatory takes 1-2 hours, and that’s not counting the up to 1 hour of waiting time to get in. There’s a good food court at B1 of the Taipei 101 Mall.
If you’d prefer a free hike rather than pricey Observatory experience, go to Elephant Mountain, which has some of the best Taipei 101 views in the city.
Ride the same MRT Red Line one stop past Taipei 101 to Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain) station. From the MRT, it’s a 10-minute walk to the trailhead, followed by 20 minutes of uphill stairs to the best viewpoint in the whole city.
After your Taipei 101 or Elephant Mountain visit, evaluate your time, and consider to make a stop at CKS Memorial Hall, Longshan Temple, Ximending, or a night market on the way back to the Airport MRT.
You could ride the MRT Red Line all the way to Zhongshan Station, walk to Ningxia Night Market, then walk to the Airport MRT from there.
12 Hour Layover
Congrats, you have a full day to explore Taipei!
With a 12-hour layover in Taiwan, you should have 6 to 6.5 hours to explore Taipei. With this amount of time, you could potentially squeeze in all the main attractions I’ve mentioned:
- Longshan Temple
- Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
- Taipei 101 or Elephant Mountain
- A night market
Please bear in mind that this a lot to squeeze into six hours, though. I’m only suggesting this assuming that you can move very quickly and want to see as much as possible in the very short time that you have in Taiwan.
If you prefer not to rush, then I suggest to just stick to 3 or 4 of the above. Keep in mind that visiting Taipei 101 will take up a good chunk of your time and is the furthest away from the Airport MRT.
Since this is essentially a full day in Taipei, I would suggest you head over to my Taipei one-day itinerary (coming soon), where I provide a lot more details.
Taipei Stopover at Night
Should you still head into the city if your layover is in the middle of the night? If you’re the adventurous type, and you think you won’t be too tired to pull an all-nighter, then sure!
Taipei City is extremely safe, even at night. You can walk anywhere in the city, even as a solo female traveler, and you’ll be fine. I’m not making this up – countless female travelers have reported the same.
The last Airport MRT departs T2 at 11:35 and T1 at 11:37 PM. If you miss those, you can still take bus 1819 to the city, which will arrive here. You could also take a taxi to the city (1 hr, TWD 1000-1500) or book a private transfer (1000-1200).
Food vendors at night markets in Taipei usualy close around 11 PM to midnight. Sometimes a few stalls might stay open as late as 1 AM, especially on weekends. The closest one to Taipei Main Station is Ningxia Night Market, 10 minutes away on foot.
But don’t worry, there are loads of 24-hour restaurants in Taipei. Taipei is also famous for its high concentration of convenience stores.
All 7-Elevens and FamilyMarts are open around the clock. You can enjoy all kinds of snacks and drinks (including booze) or make use of their sitting areas. Only a few have toilets. There are no open liquor laws in Taiwan, so you can just grab a beer and enjoy it in a park or while walking around the city.
I personally love strolling Taipei at night. Ximending is fun to explore, even when most things are closed.
The surrounding Wanhua district, or Old Taipei, is also atmospheric. Consider to walk past famous temples like Taipei Tianhou Temple, Qingshan Temple, Qingshui Temple, and Longshan Temple. Even if they’re closed, so can still see them from the outside.
The grounds of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall are open at night, and the buildings there look awesome lit up at night.
You can even hike up Elephant Mountain at night. The trail has lights and the city view at night is amazing. Keep an eye out for snakes.
Some bars in Taipei stay open as late as 2 AM, while night clubs go to 4. Night clubs typically have dress codes and cover charges, though.
There isn’t really a “bar street”, though. They’re spread around the city. It’s better to plan where you’re going first and check GoogleMaps to see if it will be open by the time you get there.