Hooray! You’re in Taipei and the kids are at camp, it’s time for mom to play! Explore solo or join a Facebook group and make some new friends to wander the city with. This isn’t your ordinary list of tourist attractions. Here are a few kid-free things to do in Taipei while your little ones are at summer camp. These day-time activities are budget friendly as well, so go pamper yourself and ditch that mom guilt!
- Shop with the locals at Beitou’s historic morning market.
- Learn the secrets of latte art at a group class.
- Relax your weary feet with a massage in Shilin.
- Catch your own lunch! Go shrimping!
- Indulge in seafood at Addiction Aquatic Development.
- Follow the scent of tea down the old streets of Dadaocheng
- Pick up your free Chinese textbooks from the OCAC
- Up your eyewear game at Klassic C.
- Treasure hunt for used books.
- Buy carefully curated souvenirs at Lai Hao.
- Browse pottery in Yingge, or make your own!
- Sip sake at the Taoyuan Sake Brewery
Shop With the Locals at Beitou’s Historic Morning Market
Beitou is more than a town with hot springs. Beitou’s morning market is not only great for scoring deals on traditional foods, but it is rich with history. This traditional market has been around since the Japanese occupation and is the largest and one of the oldest markets in Taipei. Vendors also hand out more free samples than Costco on Sundays. Although you’ll see strollers at the market, slowly slowly making their way through the thick crowd, save yourself the headache and visit sans kids.
From the Beitou MRT station, walk down Guangming Road and make a right at Zhongzheng Street. Grab a latte at Fiery Coffee, hands down the best latte in Taipei! Continue down Zhongzheng Street until you cross a main road (Zhongyang South). This is the beginning of the market and where you find the best deals since it’s the farthest point from the indoor market. A must buy is oil rice from Righteous Cuisine 正靖美食. The oil rice is the owner’s mother’s recipe and the best I’ve ever had. 100 NT can feed about 4 people. Locals also love her bowl cake (碗糕) and mua chee.
I like to shop the outside stalls as the vendors change daily. You can buy fruit and vegetables so fresh they have never been refrigerated. Nearby local farmers bring down their produce from the mountains each morning. Look for anything being made fresh on the spot, like Taiwanese Meatballs (貢丸), mochi, noodles, wonton and dumplings, or pork floss. Sort through racks of clothes for 50 NT each or 3 items for 100 NT. This is where I got the pug T-Shirt I wore to the latte class (see below). Or just walk around and gawk at the crazy things for sale, like chicken testicles in a variety of colors. A seasoned shopper was picking through them with her bare hands! It does make you wonder how to search for the good ones. Ha!
When the afternoon heat is starting to get unbearable, head to the indoor market. Pick up more mochi for later on the first floor. The vendor as been selling mochi for over 50 years. They usually sell out by lunch time. Next, head upstairs for lunch on the second floor. The most popular stalls with locals are Lu Rou Fan 矮仔財滷肉飯 for 25 NT a bowl and Wok Rice Noodles 北投鼎邊銼 for 50 NT. Please note the indoor market is closed on Mondays as are many shops in Beitou and Xinbeitou.
Learn the Secrets of Latte Art at Fiery Coffee
Latte art is called 拉花 in Chinese because you make pulling motions while pouring the foam to create the design. Invite a couple friends for a fun experience while enjoying a perfect latte. Did you know the best espresso beans for latte art do not brew the best coffee? At Fiery Coffee‘s latte art class, the owner starts the latte art class by teaching us how to grind the beans, tamper the grinds, and operate the espresso machine. Next we learn about the best milk to buy, how to steam the milk, and the correct temperature. There was enough time to practice our latte art several times. We each got to take home a bottle the lattes we made during the class. Add some ice the next morning for the most delicious iced latte. Perfect for hot summer mornings! The class is 2 hours and a maximum of 3 guests, 1400 NT per person ($45 USD).
Did I mention Fiery Coffee also serves up the best latte in Taipei?
Relax Your Weary Feet With a Massage in Shilin
You’ll be on your feet a lot in Taipei. So why not treat yourself to a nice foot massage? I like Hang Zu (夯足足體養生會館) located between Shilin and Jientan MRT Stations. For 499 NT ($15 USD) you get 50 minutes of reflexology massage for your feet, legs, neck and shoulders. They also offer full body massage. The staff at Hang Zu are mostly Taiwanese (which they mention is rare these days) and love to chat about what to do in the different parts of town. Going to Hang Zu might be my favorite pastime and we’re all on a first-name basis by now.
After your massage, get a shaved ice at Xin Fa Ting. They offer Taiwanese shaved ice and also the soft shaved ice with fruits (雪花冰). They don’t open till 3 pm but that’s right in time to finish your bowl and head back to pick up the kids.
Hang Zu 夯足足體養生會館
135 Wenlin Road, Shilin District
Catch Your Own Lunch! Go Shrimping!
There are several places along Zhishan road, about an 8 minute taxi ride from the Shilin MRT station. Shrimping is a fun experience but no place for kids as many patrons smoke while fishing. If you want to eat you’ll need to catch some shrimp, but it’s okay just to go for the experience. The owner of Spring City Shrimp Fishing was kind enough to throw in several buckets of shrimp for us when she saw we weren’t having any luck. If you catch two on the same line you win a beer or beverage. Grill your own shrimp and order side dishes from the kitchen. Each shrimping rod is 350 NT per hour. If you don’t want to shrimp you can still hang out for free.
Indulge in Seafood at Addiction Aquatic Development
My kids love Addiction Aquatic Development (AAD), but I also love enjoying a meal without screaming kids dropping expensive seafood on the floor. Although the standing-only sushi bar opens at 9:30, you’ll want to get there earlier. We arrived well before opening and there was already a crowd gathering at the podium waiting to get a number for a table. You can grab a number and spend the time looking at the live seafood tanks. It’s like a visit to the aquarium, but free, and with seafood you can eat!The alternative is purchasing from the take out section and grabbing a table outside. Even during regular dining hours we were able to grab a table and chow down comfortably. The take out section offers sushi, sashimi, hot foods, bentos, and other fresh seafood items. Don’t forget your bottle of sake!Eater published a very comprehensive article on AAD.
Follow the Scent of Tea Down the Old Streets of Dadaocheng
I have never heard of Dadaocheng until I started watching A Taiwanese Tale of Two Cities, a romantic drama available on Netflix. The show does a great job of highlighting many interesting landmarks this historic district. I joined a few other mamas that I met through a Facebook group for a morning stroll through Dadaocheng. You can learn a bit of history at every turn if you go with a knowledgeable friend. We sat for a free tea tasting at Lin Family’s Tea Shop, a remarkable structure built without a single nail or screw.
Dadoacheng’s shops offer hand-made products by local artists, high quality teas, traditional kitchen goods, dried herbs, lantern making, traditional pastry classes, and more. There are several museums and art galleries, a bustling morning market, and crowded night market. And for fans, you can even visit the shop where they filmed the show. Please note that many shops don’t open until noon.
Pick Up Your Free Chinese Textbooks From the OCAC
The Overseas Community Affairs Council (OCAC) in Taipei offers free Chinese learning workbooks to overseas Taiwanese. Each non-Taiwanese passport presented allows you to select 10 books. I was able to get 10 books for myself, and my son and daughter. It was a bit much lugging 30 textbooks back home and definitely took up too much luggage space. If you plan on returning to Taipei often, I suggest making multiple trips to the OCAC and only getting the books at your child’s current learning level. The Center is on the 15th floor and opens 9am-12pm and 1.30-5.00pm from Monday to Friday. They are closed during lunch.
Up Your Eyewear Game at KlassicC
For about $100 USD you can find a super stylish (think k-pop style) pair of prescription glasses. I didn’t buy a pair because I wanted to check out OwnDays and compare styles. But, I didn’t have time to make it back to KlassicC and I am having huge regrets since returning to California. I’ve gone to several stores and only found one style that I sort of like but it was 5 times more expensive than getting them in Taiwan. KlassicC offers prescriptions ready in about 20 minutes. Browse books at Eslite or have lunch at Chun Shui Tang while you wait.
Images via KlassiC.
Treasure Hunt for Used Books
Mollie Used Books NTU store has the largest selection of used books for children. The staff can check their inventory for any books and are very helpful. Keep in mind the books are pre-owned, so what they carry is based on what people have sold to them. I bought several books for 40 NT ($1.27 USD)! You really have to search for the deals though so allow yourself at least an hour to peruse. Mollie’s is located right outside of Gonguan MRT exit 4, down an alley between a lingerie shop and The Face Shop. Google maps kept rerouting me so I walked a huge circle in the neighborhood before realizing I missed the alley because vendors selling clothes are blocking the entrance!
Just around the corner from Mollie’s is Whose Books. They have a descent selection of books and also offer 40 NT deals.
Buy Carefully Curated Souvenirs at Lai Hao
Make a visit to Lai Hao for some unique gifts guaranteed not to end up in the trash. This isn’t your typical shop for pineapple cake and penis shape pastries. Lai Hao reminds me of a museum gift shop. This boutique gift shop carries designs by Taiwanese artists along with their own creative product line.
Images via #laihaotaiwan
Browse Pottery in Yingge, or Make Your Own!
Stroll down Yingge Old Street where master ceramic artists display their finest pieces. Book a class at Shu’s Pottery or visit their cafe. I saw the most adorable mooncake teacups there! Continue down the street and find the the old kiln tunnel and walk through it to view artifacts. Pay a visit to the catcalling cockatoo. Stop by Eilong for exquisitely crafted modern teaware. Many shops do sell the same items but it was a nice relaxing day.
Sip Sake at the Taoyuan Sake Brewery
Get some friends together for a fun tour and tasting at the Taoyuan Sake Brewery. It’s conveniently accessible via MRT (purple airport line). Must have a minimum group of 10 people. This 3 hour tour and tasting will only set you back 450 NT ($14 USD) and includes a bento lunch. The optional DIY soap making activity takes an hour and costs 100 NT ($3 USD). All activities are by appointment only. Call 03-3283001#340 or 03-3283001#433 for bookings. Please note you will need the names and nationalities of all guests to make the booking.
This was going to be the big finale to my Taiwan trip but sadly both my kids were sent home from school and I couldn’t get a sitter in time for this event. A morning sake event is the kid-free event of them all, is it not?! Everyone that attended had a blast and bought lots of sake! I highly recommend this and will definitely plan this again next time.