Taipei is an amazing city full of life and culture, and there are 6 Taipei attractions that every history lover needs to visit.
The Taipei attractions help you better understand the complicated past of the city. You learn about the historical events that have shaped Taipei into the city it is today and why it has been an attractive city for other countries to occupy.
Taipei has a tumultuous past, but it has survived and become a thriving and prosperous city because of its complicated past.
1. Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall
Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (aka CKS Memorial Hall) is one of the most popular attraction in Taipei.
The memorial is dedicated to Chiang Kai-shek who was the leader of the Republic of China from 1928 until his death in 1975.
Ultimately, he lost the Chinese civil war to the Chinese Communist Party and was exiled to Taiwan with the rest of his pro-democracy supporters.
He never stopped fighting to reunited China but never succeeded.
Chiang Kai-shek is a controversial figure. His opposers call him a dictator and authoritarian while his supporters adore him and call him a hero for uniting China and defeating the Japanese during their occupation of Japan.
No matter what your opinion of Chiang Kai-shek is, visiting CKS Memorial Hall is an essential thing to do in Taipei for anybody who is interested in history.
The memorial houses a giant statue of Chiang Kai-shek. There is a changing of the guards ceremony every hour on the hour, so you should try to schedule your visit to correspond with seeing that.
It is very popular so be sure to get there 5 to 10 minutes early or else you won’t get a good spot!
Underneath the memorial hall is a small museum where you can learn about Chiang Kai-shek and his life. You learn about his time in mainland China and his exile to Taiwan.
The museum may be small, but it packed full of information. You leave with a new understanding of a different side of China-Taiwan relations that you may not have known about before your visit.
CKS Memorial Hall and the museum are completely free to visit, which makes visiting them a no-brainer.
2. Jiufen Old Street
Jiufen Old Street is a short bus ride from Taipei and gives you a sense of what Taipei looked like when it was under Japanese rule.
The city originally only had 9 occupants until gold was found near the city. The gold was discovered during Japan’s occupation of Taipei and has a dark past.
During WWII, the Japanese set up a prisoner of war camp in Jiufen village. Allied soldiers who were captured in Singapore were forced to dig for gold. The Japanese kept the gold and profits.
The camp was called Kinkaseki and is still a taboo subject in Taiwan to this day.
Mining stopped after WWII, and Jiufen was basically forgotten.
That changed in the late 90s when a movie was made about Kinkaseki Camp. Jiufen grew in popularity amongst tourists, and new shops and restaurants started popping up.
Now Jiufen Old Street is always full of tourists and is one of the most popular Taipei attractions.
It still has its original Japanese architecture and influence.
You feel like you’re walking back in time and seeing Taipei as it was under Japanese rule.
Most tourists don’t realize the history of Jiufen Old Street. Your visit becomes even more special when you understand its past and can appreciate the struggles and sacrifices that went into building it.
3. Taiwan National Museum
This museum is small but mighty. There are only two exhibits, but they provide a lot of unique historical information.
The first exhibit is an outdoor exhibit that focusses on transportation. It has an actual locomotive, which is pretty cool. It is more for transportation geeks than history lovers though.
The indoor exhibit is where you find the history.
The exhibit is called Discovering Taiwan, and focuses on 20th Century history and Taiwan’s natural history.
There are hundreds of artifacts in the exhibit, but the stars are the pieces of Indigenous artwork.
The museum does an exceptional job of displaying and uplifting Indigenous cultures. It also acknowledges that the government made mistakes when integrating Indigenous peoples into modern Taiwan in the 20th Century.
The artwork is beautiful, and it is one of the few museums in Taiwan that displays Indigenous artwork.
It is the perfect way to learn about a different part of Taiwanese history that is often forgotten.
At the end of the exhibit, the curators pose ask you to think about what the artifacts you saw mean for contemporary Taiwan.
It is a very interesting question and makes for a great conversation if you’re travelling with a partner.
The admission fee is 30NTD (approximately $1USD), but it is free to visit if you arrive at 4:30pm.
The National Taiwan Museum is one of the most underrated Taipei attractions. It is well worth visiting, and you’ll basically have the place to yourself.
It is also a great place to connect to a reliable source of free wifi in Taipei.
4. National Revolutionary Martyrs Shrine
Taipei’s martyrs shrine commemorates the war dead of the Republic of China.
It is designed to resemble the Hall of Supreme Authority in the Forbidden City. The shrine holds the spirit tablets of almost 400,000 people who died fighting for China.
People who fought in the Xinhai Revolution, Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese Civil War, and many other conflicts are commemorated at the National Revolutionary Martyrs Shrine.
It also includes the spirit tables of over 200,000 Taiwanese who fought and died in WWII as part of the Japanese Imperial Army.
The shrine is absolutely gorgeous, but it has a very sombre vibe. You can’t help but remember all the people who lost their lives fighting wars.
You can feel the importance of Martyrs Shrine as soon as you arrive.
Republic of China military members guard the front gate, and there is a changing of the guards ceremony every hour on the hour until 5pm.
Since the shrine is much larger than CKS Memorial Hall, you don’t have to arrive early to get a good viewing spot. You can show up seconds before the ceremony begins and still have a great view!
5. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall
Sun Yat-sen is known as the father of China and was the first president of the Republic of China.
He is considered one of the best leaders of China, and, unlike Chiang Kai-shek, both mainland China and Taiwan love him.
There is even a sister Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Guongzhou, China.
Sun Yat-sen played an instrumental role in overthrowing the Qing Dynasty during the Xihai Revolution, and that is why he is beloved by both mainland China and Taiwan.
His political believes are threefold. He believed in nationalism, the rights of the people, and people’s livelihood. The three pillars are sometimes translated to nationalism, democracy, and socialism.
Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall covers more than 28 acres and is huge. There is a museum and is also used as a public centre for education, culture, and social events.
The museum discusses Sun Yat-sen’s life and the revolution he led. It is quite interesting especially when you combine it with the information you learn at CKS Memorial Hall.
You have a better understanding of what led to the Chinese Civil War and why the pro-democracy Republic of China was exiled to Taiwan.
It is one of the most important Taipei attractions to visit if you want to leave with a better understanding of the political past. You start to understand how they have shaped the modern city Taipei became.
6. National Palace Museum
The National Palace Museum is the most famous museum in Taiwan.
It is the sister museum to the Forbidden City in Beijing. When the Republic of China politicians and supporters were exiled to China, they almost 3,000 crates of artifacts from the Forbidden City to Taipei.
Over 20% of the artifacts that were originally in the Forbidden City are now at the National Palace Museum.
It is a must-see for any history lover visiting Taipei.
The museum mostly houses artwork, pottery, and calligraphy. There are some ancient archeological artifacts, but they only make up a small portion of the museum.
It is one of the few places in the world where you can see such an extensive collection of Chinese art and history.
Most of the museum houses permanent exhibits, but there are always a few rotating exhibits to visit. They are very popular with tourists and locals alike. You normally have to wait in a queue to enter the rotating exhibits there are so many people who want to visit them.
It is best to visit on a weekday to avoid the crowds and have a more relaxing visit.
There are dozens of tour groups that visit the National Palace Museum every day. They normally arrive in the late morning and early afternoon.
You can avoid the worst of the tour group crowds by getting to the museum 9am when it opens. The museum is closed on Mondays so don’t plan your visit for then!
Admission is 350 NTD (approximately $12 USD). It is without a doubt one of the most expensive Taipei attractions to visit, but it is worth it.
Taipei is an amazing city for any history lover. Everywhere you turn there is a piece of history waiting to be discovered.
The Taipei attractions on this list just scratch the surface of Taipei’s history. It is a diverse city with many layers and cultures to discover.
Taipei has a complex history and is full of amazing things to discover. You can spend months there and never run out of things to see and learn about.
It is a dream destination for any history fan!
Erica is an avid solo traveller 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.