When Grand Hyatt Taipei offered 10 Magazine the opportunity to come to Taipei, stay in their luxury rooms, and dine at their Michelin-recommended restaurants, we were really reluctant to accept their offer. Once we heard about the great summer deal they have going specifically for Korean residents (see below), however, we knew we had to make the trip for our readers – because there’s no sacrifice too big for you.
Surrounded on all sides by mountains like Mount Qixing, which peaks at an impressive 1,120 meters, Taipei is a city known for its bustling shopping scene, amazing food, and vibrant nightlife. Not only is the city a short 2.5-hour flight away, but it’s compact (around half the area of Seoul) and filled with tons of things to do, eat, and see. This is the perfect place to splurge on a weekend trip.
Splurge Accommodations: Grand Hyatt Taipei
Built in 1990, Grand Hyatt Taipei is known as “the first, true international luxury hotel in the capital.” Having undergone a complete renovation a couple years ago, the hotel is located in the heart of Taipei’s vibrant and dynamic business district and is equipped with 850 rooms, a luxury spa, outdoor pool, and more.
Right now, the Grand Hyatt Taipei is offering an exclusive Taipei Discovery package for all Korean residents, including expats in Korea, until September 3. The package includes a number of benefits when booking any room type – including a complimentary room upgrade and 15% off when dining at any one of the hotel’s nine restaurants. All bookings must be made through Hyatt.com using the special offer code KORWEB. Check out their official website for more details.
Fun Fact: Because Taipei is a city prone to earthquakes, the hotel is built on rollers. Grand Hyatt Taipei moves left to right in the event of a quake.
The Local Scene: Linjiang Street Night Market
Taipei boasts several fantastic night markets around the city. Though the Shilin and Raohe Night Markets are the more famous of the bunch, the Linjiang Street Night Market has the most local crowd. Just a ten-minute walk from Taipei 101, Grand Hyatt Taipei, and Taipei World Trade Center, Linjiang Night Market is all of your night market dreams come true. In the mood for some sushi to-go? Not a problem. How about some marinated kelp, wings, and tofu sold at a food stall recommended by the Michelin Guide? You got it. Shaved ice? Bubble tea? Posters of random scenery and artwork? Open from 6:00 pm to midnight, it’s all here.
Have Your Fortune Told: Longshan Temple
Located in Wanhua District, Longshan Temple is the oldest temple in Taipei. Built in 1738, Longshan brings in huge crowds daily and offers a place to worship various deities. Here, you can also have your fortune told. There are two catches, however. The first is that you’ll likely have to speak Mandarin (or have a Mandarin-speaking friend with you), as most of the fortune tellers there don’t speak English. The second is that you have to pose very specific questions to the fortune tellers in order for them to provide you with answers.
Shop ‘Til You Drop: Taipei 101
Taipei 101 is the distinctive landmark of the city. Though the iconic skyscraper is best known for its multi-level shopping mall, the building also hosts a bookstore, art gallery, observatory, and more! If you want to get amazing views of the city, definitely check out the observation deck: the elevator shoots up from ground level to the observatory, on the 89th floor, in less than 40 seconds. If you’re serious about shopping on your trip and the dozens of stores in Taipei 101 just aren’t enough for you, have no fear; within walking distance from Taipei 101, you can find 12 other department stores.
For the Foodies: Michelin Restaurants, Food Stalls, and Everything in Between
We know that foodies make up a large portion of our readership at 10 Magazine, and as such we couldn’t leave out all the great finds from our trip in this article. From Michelin-starred restaurants to food stands to shaved ice to bubble tea, we did our best to try it all. Let’s start with the high-end stuff: we were lucky enough to dine at two Michelin-recommended restaurants during our travels: Shoun RyuGin and Bel Air Bar & Grill.
Shoun RyuGin is a fine dining Japanese restaurant that received its two Michelin stars earlier this year. We had the chance to sample three dishes from their menu: the sea urchin with preserved egg, squab with rosemary, and mango purée with brandy, all of which were phenomenal. Check out the slideshow below.
The first dish we tried, sea urchin with preserved egg, is inspired by both Japanese and Taiwanese ingredients. At the base of the dish is a pudding-like foundation made from a combination of fresh and century egg, the latter of which is a common delicacy in Taiwan, but not Japan. The base is then topped with locally sourced sea urchins which, according to the Chef, are much sweeter than their Japanese counterparts. The second dish, squab with rosemary, is prepared like so: the bird dry ages for 20 days and is then cooked to a perfection in low heat oil. Parts of the squab are then separated to be either grilled over binchotan charcoal or deep fried to provide varying textures throughout the dining experience. The third dish is composed of pudding, mango purée, brandy, caramel, and coconut foam and presented in a carved out shell of a Taiwanese Aiwen mango. The dessert is then placed on top of a small bowl of crushed ice and sprinkled with flower petals.
Chef Ryohei Hieda travels around Taiwan every Monday, when the restaurant is closed, to find ingredients to accommodate his philosophy for a locally sourced menu. He believes that there is immense value in using the ingredients and influences directly around you, and he creates his constantly changing menu at RyuGin based on that philosophy.
Note: The menu changes every two months in line with the freshest seasonal ingredients, so the dishes we tried on our trip might not be available for those planning on traveling later this year.
Bel Air Bar & Grill
Bel Air Bar & Grill, located on the second floor of Grand Hyatt Taipei, comes recommended by Michelin Guide Taipei 2018. Headed by Chef de Cuisine William Lo, Bel Air specializes in steak and seafood dishes. We had the chance to try the restaurant’s Michelin guide recommended set menu, which consisted of herbal tuna tartare, seared toothfish in a bamboo shoot roll, squid ink risotto cake, seared Hokkaido scallop, Australian Wagyu Grade 9 beef strip loin, and a dessert with lime cream, fresh citrus, and sorbet. The herbal tuna tartare was our personal favorite. Check out the slideshow below.
Fun fact: At Bel Air, there is a special table located in the center of the restaurant that is known by all the staff as the “proposal table.” Over 100 wedding proposals have taken place there, and according to our guide, the table boasts a 100% success rate.
But though we know that top-tier restaurants are… well… top tier, we also know some of the best foodie finds are available at far more affordable price ranges. From bubble tea to shaved ice to xiaolongbao, we tried out a bunch of wallet-friendly food finds during our trip. Check out the slideshow below for more details.
Nature: Elephant Mountain
Elephant Mountain, also known as the Nangang District Hiking Trail, is an easy hike that offers fantastic views of the city. Be sure to go either early in the morning or in the evening, however, as the route can get very crowded in the afternoons. The mountain is named so because if you look down from the peak towards the base of the range after your hike, you’ll be able to (sort of) see the head and trunk of an elephant stretching across the city. Be prepared to climb a lot of stairs, but we promise you: the view of downtown Taipei from the summit is worth it.
Nightlife: Speakeasies, Bars, Lounges, and Clubs
This section details the nightlife scene in Taipei, or as we like to call it, “Let’s have a fun night out since we did exercise and everything.” A cool trend that’s been making its way around the city is the rise of speakeasy bars. With vintage interiors and cocktails that will supposedly knock your socks off, these low-profile bars are usually hidden behind secret doors or accessed via reservation only. Alchemy and Ounce come highly recommended.
For those who prefer a more vibrant atmosphere with live music, Ziga Zaga might just be your cup of tea. Located on the second floor of Grand Hyatt Taipei, this lounge/club offers live music entertainment every night that ranges from rock to jazz to soul. Their menu includes authentic Italian dishes and an extensive drink selection.
As for clubs, here are a couple of our recommendations: WAVE (for the EDM crowd), Chess (for the hip-hop lovers), and Box (for those looking for a smaller venue with an open bar).
Treat Yourself: Natural Hot Springs
After a night of heavy partying, we recommend hitting up Taipei’s Beitou district, which is best known for its natural hot springs. Though this area is a bit of a drive from downtown (where most of our stops have been so far), it’s worth the trip. Head over to one of the many hot spring resorts or public baths in the area, where you can relax in natural waters that are believed to have healing and rehabilitation effects.
Fun fact: Temperatures can reach up to a scalding 90 C, high enough to boil eggs. Due to various scalding incidents over the years, egg-cooking is now prohibited by the Taipei City Council.
If you’re in the mood for some true pampering, Grand Hyatt Taipei’s Oasis Spa offers an impressive selection of massages, treatments, facials, and baths for their guests. We tried out the facilities (of course for research purposes) and they were every bit as good as you would expect from a five-star hotel. If you book a massage, as soon as you arrive for your appointment you’re guided to the baths where you can relax until you’re ready for your masseuse. You’re then led to a private room where you can enjoy a small tray of traditional snacks and drinks as you wait for your table to be set up. Everything about the process is planned out to a T to ensure an optimal pampering experience.
Though we weren’t able to hit up everything we wanted to during our time in Taipei, we did our best to try a bit of everything on our trip. For those planning out their next holiday, whether it be for a weekend or much longer, definitely consider Taipei on your list of potential travel destinations.
Below, you’ll find a couple more photos of sights around Taipei: