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Taiwan is a food-lover’s paradise. It offers everything from beef noodles to oyster omelets to gua bao (steamed bread stuffed with braised pork belly and pickled cabbage) and stinky tofu (it smells pretty awful but if you can get past that, it’s delicious).
On a quick visit to Taipei, my family wanted to sample as much local cuisine as possible. If I’d known in advance how quickly we’d fall in love with this small island nation, I would have planned a longer visit. There is so much to see, do and, above all, taste. From sweet pineapple cakes to refreshing pearl milk (boba) tea, Taipei pleases the palate.
The best places to begin experiencing this cuisine are Taiwan’s famous night markets. And yes, this can totally be done with kids brought along for the experience.
Taipei’s Best Night Markets
If you only have a few nights in the Taiwanese capital, you’ll need to prioritize your night-market visits. There are more than you can probably visit in a single trip. Some of the top markets include:
- Shilin Night Market: No. 101, Jihi Road, Shilin District
- Raohe Night Market: Raohe Street, Songshan District
- Ningxia Night Market: Ningxia Road, Datong District
- Tonghua Night Market: Alley 1, Lane 40, Linjiang Street, Da’an District
I suggest starting with the Shilin Night Market. It’s one of the largest and most famous, and easily accessible from either the Shilin or Jiantan metro stations. Don’t let the crowds turn you off. This is part of the experience.
Tips for Visiting Taipei’s Night Markets With Kids
The best way to start your Taipei night-market experience is to browse. Take in the sights and smells. On our first pass, we picked out a few stalls that we wanted to try, returning to each as we made our way back through the crowded market.
Sample — and Share — as Many Foods as You Can
A single stomach cannot hope to hold all the food you want to try (at least in my case). You’ll have to be selective. Share a plate of fried dumplings or skewer of meat so that everyone has a taste.
Unfortunately, my kids are not very adventurous when it comes to trying new foods, though I gently push them in new directions and occasionally they surprise themselves. My son enjoyed the dumplings we bought from one stall, but more often than not, I found myself finishing more food than I bargained for.
Nearly everything we tried was excellent, whether it was the pork buns, the dumplings, the various skewers or the pancake-like pockets stuffed with boba and cream. Two things we did skip with the kids: the stinky tofu and the boiled “squad.” The latter gave us a good laugh.
The Busier the Stall, the Better the Food
As a rule, trust long lines to point you toward the best food in Taipei’s night markets. This was the case with the bigger-than-your-face Hot-Star fried chicken. Initially, I wasn’t so sure about my son’s pick. (Fried chicken in Taiwan?) But the line was long, so we went with it. You can find the Hot-Star stall at the southern end of the Shilin Night Market, just off Jihe Road.
Try the Market Games, Too
Most of the night market offerings are food, but there are other goods for sale and things to do. Don’t pass up the games if kids are along for the adventure. Once you’re done chowing down, head over to one of the alleys offering carnival-style fun. It’s a good way to break up an evening of wandering and walking. My son loved these pinball-style machines.
When to Visit
We spent both our evenings in Taipei exploring the night markets. Most get going between 4–6pm, so you don’t have to keep your kids out late. A day full of exploring Taipei plus the late-afternoon jet lag meant that we were ready to wrap things up by 7pm each evening, but we still had plenty of time to explore the markets.
A Safety Note
Taiwan is generally a safe country for family travel. There was never a single instance where I felt we were in danger. However, the night markets are busy, so take the precautions you normally would with kids in crowded places. And you can go to the night markets while the sun is still up if that suits your preferences better.
Planning Travel to Taiwan
Taiwan is a great place to travel with kids and also easy to get to. There are flights to Taipei (TPE) from several US gateways. China Airlines, EVA and United fly direct to Taipei from the US. You can score economy award tickets for 60,000 to 70,000 miles round-trip in a few different mileage currencies. We flew China Airlines business class for 85,000 Delta SkyMiles per person one-way, arriving rested for our short trip. We returned home on an extremely cheap revenue ticket.
As for lodging, there is a good range of points hotels. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Taipei, just steps from Taipei 101 skyscraper and observation tower, for 15,000 Hyatt points per night, upgrading to a club room using an Explorist certificate. You can earn points with the World Of Hyatt Credit Card. You could also use the Category 1–4 award available annually with that card.
You could also consider staying a bit closer to the middle of the city at one of the numerous Marriott properties. There are some Marriott Category 5 and under hotels at which you could use your annual up to 35k free night certificate from the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.
Another option is the new Kimpton Da An Hotel. If you’re flush with IHG Rewards Club points, with redemptions from 50,000 points per night. If you have the IHG Rewards Club Premier Credit Card, your fourth award night is free.
In regards to Hyatt, Marriott and IHG, you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to your hotel loyalty accounts at a 1:1 basis. You can earn Ultimate Rewards points with a number of cards, including Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Don’t get too hung up on staying near the main station, though. Taipei is huge, but the metro system is efficient and easy to navigate. As long as you’re near a station, getting around the capital is a cinch.
Taiwan is a great choice for family travel. The food, culture and the night markets catapulted this vibrant country to my family’s radar. We are very grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the night markets and beyond. Has your family visited Taipei? What did you think?
Here’s some more information to help you plan your trip:
- Destination of the Week: Taipei
- 8 Things to Know Before You Go to Taipei
- The Best Destinations in Asia for Families
- A Guide to Family Travel in Vietnam
- Is Cambodia a Family-Friendly Destination?
- Budget International Family Destinations for 2019
- The Best Ways to Fly Business Class to Asia Using Miles
Featured image by Kelly Cheng Travel Photography / Getty Images
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