Taipei has been on our wish list for ages! After exploring the best hikes in Taiwan, we travel to the country virtually with another guest post, about the best free things to do in Taipei.
Our guest author today is Erica, from the Travels With Erica blog. Erica is an avid solo traveler who has been to over 40 countries. She loves spending long periods of time in each country to get a sense of the country and culture.
Erica’s favourite travel activities include attending local theatre and dance performances, wandering through museums, eating way too much food, and riding every rollercoaster she comes across.
Taipei is a really affordable city. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to experience all the city has to offer, and there are tons of free things to do in Taipei.
In fact, some of the best and most popular tourist attractions in Taipei are completely free to visit!
With so many free things do in Taipei, there is something on this list for everybody no matter what your interests are! The only thing you have to pay for is the cost of transportation, which is very affordable in Taipei.
You can even walk to a lot of these locations if you’re staying in central Taipei near Taipei Main Station or Ximending Shopping District!
Taipei on a Budget – Free Things to do
1) Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (aka CKS Memorial Hall) is one of the most important sights in all of Taipei.
The memorial hall is dedicated to Chiang Kai-shek who was a military leader and revolutionary. He was the president of the Republic of China from 1928 until his death in 1975.
He and other pro-democracy supporters were forced to Taiwan after the Chinese Communist Party defeated them in the civil war. Chiang Kai-shek wanted to reunite the Republic of China exiled in Taiwan with the Chinese Communist Party in mainland China but never succeeded.
He is a very interesting and controversial figure in Chinese history, and you can learn all about his life in the small museum underneath the CKS Memorial Hall.
You can tour the museum in about half an hour, and it is well worth taking the time to visit after you’ve seen the memorial itself. The memorial itself is a huge white building, with a bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek.
There is a changing of the guards ceremony every hour on the hour, and it is the highlight of CKS Memorial Hall. The ceremony is quite interesting to watch and only lasts about 5 minutes.
To get a good view of the changing of the guards ceremony, you want to arrive about 10 minutes before the ceremony begins. Otherwise you’ll be quite a few rows back and won’t be able to see what is going on.
The grounds around CKS Memorial Hall are stunning. There are a number of festivals held on the grounds near CKS Memorial Hall every year. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during a festival, be sure to try out some of the delicious food being served!
2) Jiufen Old Street
Jiufen is the most popular day trip from Taipei. It is about an hour bus ride outside of the city, but it is well worth the journey.
Jiufen Old Street is best known for A-MEI Tea House and the red lanterns decorating the outside of the building. It is by far the most photographed part of Jiufen Old Street.
There is a lot more to see in Jiufen than just the teahouse and most people spend at least half a day here. You can easily get lost walking through its winding street and exploring the side alleys.
The street is filled with street food vendors and restaurants, so you’ll never go hungry. Taiwan has a famous dessert called an ice cream burrito, and Jiufen is the best place to try one.
It is a flour crepe topped with taro ice cream, shaved peanut nugget, and topped with cilantro. The crepe is rolled up into a burrito, cut in half, and served to you.
It is more delicious than it sounds, and if you’re at all interested in trying it out, Jiufen is the place to do it.
Jiufen is also the place to get your souvenir shopping done. It is one of the few places in Taipei that sells souvenirs, so if you find something you like, be sure to pick it up!
There are lots of things you can spend money on at Jiufen, but it can also be a completely free activity. You can wander through the streets, window shop, and try to get the perfect photo of A-MEI tea house all for free.
3) Hike Elephant Mountain
Taiwan is a mountainous country, and you can’t go too far in any direction without coming across something to hike. Elephant Mountain is the most famous and popular hiking trail in Taipei.
It is one of the most popular free things to do in Taipei and for good reason. The views from the viewing points are unbeatable. It is the best place to go for a view of the Taipei skyline that includes Taipei 101.
There are two main viewing platforms on Elephant Mountain. The first is the main platform where 95% of the tourists stop for photographs. It is always busy and congested.
There is a second and better viewing platform just a few hundred meters away! When you’re at the first platform, continue to walk past the gazebo with the elephants carved into it.
It doesn’t look like much of a path because the trees are encroaching onto the path far more than on the main path. But it is.
Follow that path, and you’ll be rewarded with a second and much less crowded viewing platform. The views from this platform are actually better than the ones at the first platform.
There are fewer trees in the area, and you’re able to get a more complete view of the skyline. It is well worth the extra 5 minutes of walking to get to the second viewing area!
The hike itself is very manageable, and most people should be able to complete it assuming you don’t have a physical disability or impairment hindering your ability to walk up stairs.
The trail is made up of about 500 stairs and covers a distance of just under 2km. It is a lot of stairs, but there are a number of places along the way you can sit down and catch your breath.
4) National Taiwan Museum
This one might be cheating a little bit. There is technically an admission fee to visit the National Taiwan Museum, but it is free to visit if you arrive in the last half hour it is open.
The museum is quite small, so you can see most of it in half an hour. It closes at 5pm Tuesday through Sunday, so you can enter for free starting at 4:30pm.
There are only two permanent exhibits at the museum: an outdoor area featuring life-size locomotives and an indoor exhibit exploring Taiwan’s heritage and the natural history of the country.
Every once in a while there is a temporary exhibit, but they are few and far between.
The most interesting part of the museum is the portion of the Discovering Taiwan exhibit that focuses on Taiwan’s Indigenous populations. It features artwork from Indigenous peoples and discusses the difficulties that Taiwan faced in working with these populations to modernise while still respecting their culture.
The exhibit also poses the question of what do ancient artifacts and relics mean for Taiwan as a modern country.
It may be a small museum, but it is thought provoking and gives you as a tourist a different perspective of Taipei and its past.
If you don’t want to arrange your schedule around being at the National Taiwan Museum at 4:30pm when admission is free, the museum opens at 9:30am. Admission is 30NTD, which is approximately $1USD.
5) Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple is one of the most interesting free things to do in Taipei.
It is the most famous temple in the city. Most tourists visit Longshan Temple without realising how important it is to Taipei and how it brings the people together.
Once you understand its importance to the community, your experience at the temple becomes even more special and goes beyond just looking at a beautiful temple.
Both of Taipei’s major religions practice at Longshan Temple. You can see Buddhists praying next to Taoists, which is fairly unusual. The temple holds divinities from both religions, and there is no conflict between the two religions.
In addition to being a house of worship for multiple religions, Longshan Temple is also taken care of by the locals. They clean the temple and have rebuilt the temple multiple times after it has been damaged by an earthquake.
It is a really special place in Taipei. The temple itself is gorgeous. It is full of vibrant colours and intricate detailing.
The two water features at the entrance of Longshan Temple are the perfect place to snap an Insta-worthy photo. One of the water features is a beautiful waterfall. There is normally a wait to take a picture there, but it is so beautiful that it is worth the wait.
No matter what your religious beliefs are, you’re always welcome at Longshan Temple. Just be respectful by having your knees and shoulders covered and speaking quietly.
6) Houtong Cat Village
This is one of the most unique free things to do in Taipei. Houtong is an old mining village that stray cats took over once the mining industry left.
The locals take care of all the stray cats, and tourists are able to visit the village and hang out with the cats. It is a cat lover’s ultimate dream come true!
There are over 60 cats in the village. They freely roam around, and you can pet them and play with them as you please.
You can purchase food from the local stores to feed the cats. All the proceeds from the food sold goes back to the cats. It is used to feed them their regular food and pay for their vet visits and vaccinations.
The little tubes of food may seem a bit expensive, but all the money goes back to the cats. It is a win-win situation!
You don’t have to purchase food for the cats if you don’t want to. There are plenty of cats around the village that are more than happy for some affection even if you don’t have food for them.
Just be sure to respect the cats’ wishes. If they don’t want you to pet them anymore, respect that and find another cat that does want your affection.
The locals are all-in on being a cat village as well. All the cafes and stores are cat-themed, and there are cat decorations all over the village.
It is a truly a dream come true for cat lovers.
As you can see, there are a wide variety of free things to do in Taipei. There is something for everybody no matter what your interests are.
You can explore Taipei’s history, culture, and beauty all without breaking the bank. You can use the money you save to indulge in the amazing food in Taipei!
There are plenty of other free things to do in Taipei (like visiting 1914 Creative Park), but the attractions of this list are the most popular.
They let you see different sides of Taipei and different aspects of its diverse and unique culture.