A fashion insider’s guide to Taipei: where to shop, stay and (of course) eat

Taipei’s food is well known as a major draw for visitors but the city also has a deep and diverse range of excellent shopping, plus luxury hotels and boutique options for the discerning traveller

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 April, 2017, 12:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 May, 2017, 5:32pm

It’s the food, stupid. The food in Taipei, quite rightly, takes all the plaudits and is perhaps the major pull factor for visitors, but one of the city’s best kept secrets is the deep and diverse range of shops that would entice even the choosiest fashionista.

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When considering established Asian shopping capitals like Tokyo, Seoul and of course Hong Kong, Taipei rarely comes into the conversation, but retail in the first three cities suffers from an overload of people and the same ubiquitous luxury brands. Shopping in Taipei has come on in such leaps and bounds that Louis Vuitton added the city to its exclusive city guide collection for 2017, and the reasons are obvious once you land.

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Taipei’s slower pace of life is a huge plus to people who want to take their time, look around and ruminate free of frenetic up-selling from overworked sales staff. So here’s a guide to Taipei (yes, there’s some food thrown in) that might make you consider the city for your next shopping trip.

Where to shop

For men visiting Taipei, no trip is complete without dropping in on Ne.Sense (shop.ne-sense.com) in Xinyi. Ne.Sense has had raves from the likes of Hypebeast and it’s easy to see why, given the exceptional curation of both the best avant-garde menswear brands, including Agi & Sam and E. Tautz, and often hard-to-find and ever-so-hip streetwear brands such as Japan’s Komakino and Italy’s Off-White.

Sunset (sunsetsunset.com), also in Xinyi, has a broader range of products, marrying buzzy fashion brands such as eyewear maker Mykita, with artisanal fragrances, homewares and stationery among dozens of products from all over the world.

For the latest Taiwanese fashions, admittedly heavily influenced by Korean and Japanese trends (which is no bad thing), head to the large cluster of local brands located in and around Zhongxiao East Road.

Another retail must-visit is Eslite’s four-storey boutique Spectrum department store next to Songshan Cultural Park, aka Taipei’s hipster headquarters. Dubbed by CNN as the “world’s coolest department store”, Spectrum has a bewildering array of designer knick-knacks, and books of course, and the third floor has one of the best places to get tea anywhere in the city.

Ne.Sense, No.52, Section 2, Keelung Road, Xinyi District, Taipei

Sunset, No. 157, Lane 417, Guangfu South Road, Xinyi District, Taipei

Eslite Spectrum, Songshan Cultural Creative Park, 110, Xinyi District, Taipei

Where to stay

Taipei has plenty of luxury options when it comes to hotels, the jewel in the crown being the Mandarin Oriental. However, perhaps the most exclusive choice would be the VVG BB+B (temptingplaces.com) a luxury boutique bed and breakfast concept that has only 2 apartments.

It’s part of the VVG lifestyle concept that includes a bookshop, select stores, cafes and even an organic farm – think of VVG BB+B’s two apartments as the absolute luxury end of Airbnb, where you get that feeling of staying in someone’s well appointed and cosy home but with the added luxury of breakfast and lunch served right to your room by the hipster cafe downstairs.

VVG BB+B, 2F, 18-20, Alley 40, Lane 181, Zhongxiao East Road Section 4, Taipei

Where to eat

Ah yes, the food. Where to begin? All visitors should make an effort to visit one of Taipei’s famed night markets. Here you will find everything from traditional street food (which arguably rivals Bangkok for quality and choice) to more formal options. Shilin night market in the district of the same name is the most famous and obviously worth a visit. There are also night markets in Tonghua and Raohe that locals swear by.

Aside from night markets, Taipei is bursting with culinary options. The big trend currently is farm-to-table dining, a genuinely transparent movement in a city surrounded by fields and farms. RAW has earned notices from the international media for its more artful take on Taiwanese comfort food. Hong Kong-born chef Wo Hoi Ming’s YEN is another restaurant popular with Taipei’s tastemakers and is famed for its pan-Asian dishes crafted from local ingredients.

RAW, No. 301 Le Qun Third Road, Taipei

YEN, 31F, W Hotel, 10 Zhongxiao East Road, Section 5, Taipei