Although not geographically suitable for large numbers of skyscrapers, this didn’t stop Taipei 101 from being built. It stands alone in the centre of Taipei and is unique in both its outward appearance as well as in some of its structural features.
Getting to Taipei 101
Taipei 101, like many of the sights in Taipei, can be easily accessed by using the MRT system. Take or transfer to line two (Tamsui-XinYi line) and alight at the stop named after the tower. A ride from the centre of the network (Taipei Main Station) will cost NT$25. On exiting the carriage look out for a map so you can select the exit you want. We found exit 4 to be the most convenient. If you are looking to access the food court area then cross straight over the small courtyard and into the building on exiting the MRT station. If you are interested in ascending the tower or accessing the shops then this can be done by taking the escalator to your left on exiting the MRT station and at the top entering the building on the right-hand side.
Ascending Taipei 101
If you wish to ascend the tower you will need to purchase a ticket on the fifth floor (unless you are a group booking at which you point you can head to the desk located at the entrance to the food court). At the time of writing the tickets cost NT$500 each and there didn’t seem to be any need to pre-book. We went on a Monday afternoon (as all other museums were closed) and waited in line for around 10 minutes to purchase tickets. Another 10 minutes later and we were in the fastest elevator (as recorded by the Guinness World Records at 1,010 m/min) to the top – it only takes 37 seconds! You will exit onto floor 89 (at 382 m) which is an indoor observation deck where you can get a full 360º view, engage with a number of interactive displays including the infinity floor, access the virtual tour guide (you will need a QR reader on your phone and to have connected to the free WIFI), purchase souvenirs or just sit back, relax and take in the view. Floor 89 will also allow you to look down on the damper for which this structure is particularly famous for – it is the world’s biggest tuned mass damper (660 metric tons) and the only damper open for public viewing.
Assuming the outdoor observation deck is open (there will be signs at the ticket desk if this is not the case as there is no reduction in price if it is closed), you will need to use the stairwell to ascend to floor 91. We tried on two consecutive days to visit the tower to find that this area was closed due firstly to the passing typhoon and then to a thunderstorm. It was on the third attempt that we found it partially open (one side had been closed due to high winds) and visited to see the spire at the 508 meter high apex.
To exit you will be guided down to floor 88 where you can learn a little more about the damper and get a better view before exiting through the coral exhibit, where if you have small fortune you can even purchase a piece!
Top tip: there are no timed slots in visiting Taipei 101, nor are you at any point rushed to leave so why not take the time to sit and watch the sunset? Plus it is great to watch the lights of the cars below when it gets dark.
Taipei 101 Food court
Regardless of whether you wish to ascend Taipei 101, it is still worth a visit so you can access the food court on the ground floor. Food courts are a great way to look before you buy at a whole range of local and international food choices – here many of the dishes were shown in pictures as well as having the most popular choices plated and on display in cabinets. Food courts are also a great way to try something new or, if there are two or more of you, purchase completely different foods from different cuisine types and yet sit together in the central area. Perfect if you are happy to share food.
The food court contains an excellent range including Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Western/Asian fast food, Ice Cream, Tea/Juice, Hot Pot, Oriental Seafood and many more. On a visit for lunch we opted for ‘Pepper Lunch Express’ which included meat of your choice served with rice, sweetcorn, cheese, & pepper sauce (plus a drink or miso soup). This cost us NT$358 and we had it with a chilli & garlic naan bread from ‘Indian Place’ next door for NT$80 – it was seriously tasty! Top tip: try the chilli pepper sauce!
On a second visit, this time for our evening meal, we opted for a set meal from one of the local choices which included meat ball soup, pork rice, steamed vegetables, meat (I had roasted Chicken whereas Anthony went for pork ribs) as well as a plate of noodles. All this for only NT$360.
Check out our Taipei 101 food court photo essay to find out more.
Shopping at Taipei 101
We are not particularly interested in shopping and, as budget travellers, this was certainly not the type of place we were going to find anything of use (not that we needed anything especially having a one-out-one-in approach to our backpacks). However, if you are looking for somewhere to shop in Taipei then Taipei 101 is not to be missed. There are a range of outlets including popular high street brands, designer shops, tourist souvenirs and even a supermarket with an imported food section.
Top tip: surprisingly the supermarket at Taipei 101 had the cheapest bottled water we found in Taipei and this is a great place to stock up before ascending the tower where the prices are much higher due to the captive audience.
Have you been to Taipei and visited Taipei 101? What did you think of it? If not then this city is certainly a hidden gem in Asia. Continue to read our blog posts to find out more about what we go up to and maybe it will feature on your next trip!