Taiwan is easily one of the most popular travel destinations in Asia, especially among avid foodies. However, can you easily answer the question: “what is Taiwan famous for?”
If you found yourself getting stuck, don’t worry. Let me help you out!
Taiwan is famous for its delicious street food, Shilin Night Market, the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, pineapple cakes, and Taipei 101. Taiwan is also known for its friendly locals and for being a city that is culturally diverse and open-minded.
But there’s more. To help you know more about this lovely travel hotspot, here’s a massive list of things Taiwan is known for.
1. Bustling night markets
Ask any traveler the question: What is Taiwan famous for, and the most common answer you will hear is “night markets”. Indeed, visiting Taiwan’s night markets is an essential travel experience that foodies especially can’t afford to miss.
Be it in Taipei, Kaohsiung, or even on Taiwan’s East Coast, there are plenty of well-known night markets to explore. That being said, the most famous Taiwanese night market is Shilin Night Market in Taipei.
The largest night market in Taiwan, Shilin Night Market often finds itself at the top of travel itineraries. There, you will find a vast plethora of delicious eats, fun carnival games, and a number of quirky souvenirs spread throughout the 500-odd stalls in the area.
2. Famous Taiwanese food
Speaking of Taiwan’s night markets, I’m sure most foodies also agree that Taiwan is famous for delicious street food. Honestly, Taiwanese street food is so good, I once took a week-long trip to Taipei specifically to satisfy my cravings!
If you’ve never been to Taiwan and you’re wondering what are some famous Taiwanese foods to try, check out this mini-list!
Bubble tea (or just boba) is arguably the most famous Taiwanese beverage. Well-known and loved throughout the world, boba is essentially a sweet beverage made with milk tea and filled with tapioca balls shaped into pearls.
In Taiwan, you will find plenty of boba stores. From well-known franchises like Xing Fu Tang and LAN to artisanal, hole-in-the-wall establishments, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Taiwanese sausages are a staple of night markets in Taiwan. These popular snacks are made of pork and are usually grilled to order. They taste both sweet and savory and are usually eaten on their own.
However, you can also have it wrapped in a glutinous rice bun (called da chang bao xiao change). It’s actually quite a filling snack and can easily make you feel full. That’s why I would recommend having a Taiwanese sausage bun only at the end of your night market foodie tour!
XL fried chicken cutlets
If you’re an avid user of social media (let’s face it, who isn’t?), there’s a good chance that you’ve already seen this famous Taiwanese snack. As you might have guessed, this sinfully delicious snack is simply a huge piece of chicken cutlet that is breaded and fried to golden, crispy perfection.
People often compared the size of the chicken cutlets to their hands or face to show how big they are! One particularly famous stall that sells this (Hot-Star Large Fried Chicken) can be found in Ximending, while Devil Chicken, which specializes in spicy fried chicken, is located in Shilin.
Whenever I visit Taiwan, the food that I ALWAYS enjoy is a piping hot bowl of beef noodles. Springy noodles served in a rich, hearty broth and topped with thin slices of beef and scallions – oof, is there anything more satisfying than that on a cold, rainy morning?
Taiwanese beef noodles are such a staple in the country that even the instant noodles edition, sold in convenience stores throughout the country, are addictively good. If you like slurpy noodle dishes, then this is one Taiwanese food that you’ll surely adore!
Braised pork rice
If I had to describe Taiwanese braised pork rice using just one phrase, it would be “comfort food”. Often sold in humble, slightly run-down shops, Taiwanese braised pork rice (lu rou fan) is a simple dish that promises immense flavors.
It consists of a bowl of rice, topped with a generous serving of flavorful braised pork mince (or thin slices of pork belly) and mushrooms. The braised pork is usually slow-cooked for hours on end, infusing it with even more intense flavors and aromas as time goes by. The best part? It usually costs no more than US$2!
As the name suggests, this popular Taiwanese snack is basically a smoky, crispy pancake with scallions. Often eaten as a snack throughout the day, Taiwanese scallion pancakes are cooked on a hot iron griddle and seasoned to perfection.
The edges are extremely crunchy, while the center is airy and fluffy. The whole pancake flakes and pulls apart easily, making it a savory snack that is addictively fun to eat. Sometimes, you can also add a fried egg for extra flavor!
Stinky tofu is arguably Taiwan’s most polarizing food. Those who enjoy stinky tofu can’t get enough of it, while those who dislike it (mostly for its pungent aroma) can’t get far away enough from it.
This infamous delicacy is made by deep-frying fermented tofu in hot oil and smothering it with a variety of sauces. It is a hearty snack that, if you can appreciate its aroma, will feel like a real indulgence.
If you’d like to try it, you’ll find plenty of these on the outskirts of Taiwan’s most popular night markets.
Soymilk and fried dough
If you’re wondering what to eat in Taiwan for breakfast, the answer is simple enough: Soymilk (dou jiang) and fried dough (you tiao). Taiwan is famous for this combination! The soymilk is often served warm with a side of crispy fried dough sticks.
The correct way to savor this dish is to dip the dough sticks into the soymilk. The combination of the flavors and textures is simply incredible, especially when eaten on an empty stomach. While there are plenty of breakfast options in Taiwan, I can guarantee you that nothing beats this!
Mango shaved ice
Rounding up our list of popular Taiwanese street food is this well-known Taiwanese dessert: Mango shaved ice. While shaved ice can be found in many Asian countries, this particular Taiwanese version incorporates fresh mango in the dessert.
It is a great way to enjoy Taiwan’s famous fresh produce, especially on a hot summer’s day. Mango shaved ice can be found pretty much anywhere in Taiwan. That being said, Ximending, Taiwan’s iconic youth district in Taipei, is where you can find the best mango shaved ice.
3. Taipei 101
Taipei 101 is arguably one of the most famous Taiwanese landmarks you can visit. Located in the bustling metropolis of Taipei, Taipei 101 is an iconic skyscraper that consists of 101 floors in total.
Inside, you’ll find a multi-level shopping mall, eateries, a few work offices, and an observation deck on the 89th floor. The observation deck offers a stunning bird’s eye view of the city and is best visited at night.
In addition, Taipei 101 is known for its yearly New Year’s Eve fireworks show. From experience, I can tell you that it is truly a bucket-list-worthy experience.
4. Ximending District
Another famous location in Taiwan is the youthful and vibrant district of Ximending in Taipei. As mentioned a few times before, it is here where you can find some of the most delicious Taiwanese street food.
However, Ximending is more than just a foodie’s haven. As you visit Ximending, you’ll get an up-close-and-personal experience of local youth culture. University students and travelers alike converge in this vibrant area to hang out, shop, and even participate in and enjoy street performances.
5. Yehliu Geopark
The enigmatic Yehliu Geopark is another famous location in Taiwan. It is but a short distance away from Taipei and is a popular day-trip destination on the north coast of Taiwan.
Here, you can admire Taiwan’s popular honeycomb and mushroom rock formations. These enigmatic formations are a result of natural erosion over the years by the sea. Some of the more popular formations are the Queen’s Head and Dragon’s Head.
If you’re planning a visit, I recommend bringing a windbreaker as the sea breeze can be quite strong in that area.
6. Jiufen Old Street
The town of Jiufen on the northeastern coast of Taiwan is famous for being the inspiration behind the classic anime film, Spirited Away (2001). Specifically, it is Jiufen Old Street that is the main attraction anime fans and photography enthusiasts flock to.
At this ambient spot that seems frozen in time, you’ll throng through narrow alleys and stone steps, flanked on both sides by bustling shops selling tea, snacks, and handicraft. However, the greatest attraction at Jiufen Old Street is the overall ambiance.
7. Sky lanterns
Not far from Jiufen Old Street is the alluring Old Town of Shifen. It is here where visitors can experience one of the most famous festivals in Taiwan: The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival.
Sky lanterns are an age-old tradition in Chinese history. Supposedly invented during the Three Kingdoms era (around 230 AD) by the military strategist Zhuge Liang, sky lanterns are essentially mini hot air balloons made of paper. They were often used during festivities and for play.
In the Old Town of Shifen, visitors can scribble their wishes on a sky lantern before releasing it into the sky. More importantly, the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, held annually in February, sees thousands of sky lanterns released into the sky, making for a truly magical sight that you will never forget.
8. Taroko Gorge
Taiwan is famous for being home to some truly stunning natural attractions. Taroko Gorge (also known as Taroko National Park) is one such location, known for offering truly mesmerizing views along its many hiking trails.
Located in Hualien County, along Taiwan’s beautiful East Coast, Taroko Gorge is one of the top day-trip attractions from Taipei. Some of the popular must-see sights in Taroko Gorge include Swallow Grotto, the Eternal Spring Shrine, and the Tunnel of Nine Turns.
Far away from the bustling streets of Taipei is Alishan, Taiwan’s most famous mountain. Known for its mesmerizing natural vistas and for producing the finest tea leaves on the island, it is a popular Taiwanese destination that never fails to amaze me.
There are numerous hiking trails in Alishan, each surrounded by mystical forests and beautiful seasonal blooms. The best time to visit is between late March and April when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.
Apart from the therapeutic natural scenery, there are also a handful of eateries there where you can enjoy a hot meal amidst the misty Alishan mountains.
The best way to visit Alishan is to first take a trip to the sleepy town of Chiayi. From there, Alishan is only a short bus ride away.
10. Beitou Hot Springs
Casual travelers may not know this, but Taiwan is known for therapeutic hot springs too! Specifically, the region of Beitou is the number one spot in Taiwan where visitors can enjoy a therapeutic dip.
That being said, the most famous hot springs in Beitou, the Beitou Geothermal Valley, is only available for viewing. That’s because the temperatures are so high there thanks to the high concentration of sulfur that no one is allowed into the pool.
Instead, you’ll have to make do with the numerous hot spring resorts around the area.
11. The beaches of Kenting
Kenting is a popular district among Taiwanese locals when it comes to getaways and weekend trips, especially for those who live in the capital, Taipei.
It is where most locals flock for an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, mainly because of Kenting’s idyllic beaches.
Kenting’s beaches are known for being extremely beautiful, boasting incredible coastal views, and hosting exciting summer parties. Some of the most popular beaches in Kenting include Nanwan and Xiaowan (Little Bay).
12. Famous souvenirs from Taiwan
As with any popular travel destination, Taiwan is famous for having plenty of amazing souvenirs to bring home.
Ranging from edible souvenirs (let’s face it: These are always the best) to handicrafts that best exemplify Taiwan’s unique ambiance, these are popular souvenirs from Taiwan you can bring home for your loved ones.
One of the most famous Taiwanese souvenirs is pineapple cakes! Sold in colorful boxed packages, Taiwanese pineapple cakes are sweet, savory, and always satisfying.
This crumbly pastry is made with butter, flour, eggs, and sugar, with a sweet, custardy pineapple filling at its center.
Each bite is a burst of flavor and I can guarantee you won’t be able to stop at one.
Did you know that apart from Japan, mochi is also extremely popular in Taiwan? Unlike Japanese mochi, the Taiwanese version usually contains a sweet filling in the center that matches the color and flavor of the mochi.
The two most famous Taiwanese mochi flavors are peanut and black sesame. Not only are they dusted with their respective flavors, but each also contains a paste made of the same ingredients in the center.
It is an extremely delicious treat and makes for a good edible souvenir too!
Another popular Taiwanese snack/souvenir is nougats. Made using mostly egg whites, honey, and a variety of nuts, Taiwanese nougats are chewy, fragrant, and quite delicious if I dare say so myself.
They often come in fun-sized packets which make them perfect to distribute to a large group of people.
The most popular household brand is Sugar & Spice (Tang Cun in Mandarin). Known for using the highest-quality ingredients, Tang Cun’s nougats are considered the best in Taiwan, so if you’re looking to sample some, you know where to look! -wink-
Taiwan probably isn’t the first country you’ll think of when I mention the word whisky. However, this island is home to one of the most famous brands of whisky in the world: Kavalan.
Kavalan shot to fame in around 2010 when it beat out several other brands of whisky and collected numerous awards around the world. Taiwan’s Kavalan is known for producing young-aged whisky that offers the same aromatic flavors as traditional Scotch.
Remember what I said about Alishan producing some of the finest teas in Taiwan? Obviously then you shouldn’t leave without picking up a fresh pack of oolong tea leaves from there!
Taiwan’s famous high-mountain oolong tea gives off a pleasant floral scent and a rich aftertaste. This healthy yet delicious tea is the perfect gift for tea connoisseurs and I’m sure they will be able to appreciate the fine flavors of tea grown on Alishan.
Mini sky lanterns
As lovely as they may be, it is virtually impossible to bring a full-sized sky lantern home. Fortunately, as you explore the Shifen Old Town, you’ll find plenty of stalls selling ornaments made in the shape of mini sky lanterns.
Before you ask, no, they can’t fly.
However, scribbled on these mini lanterns are a variety of blessings and well-wishes, which make them a good gift for your loved ones. In fact, every member of my family has one. Mine is hung on the edge of my bedroom table!
13. Friendly Taiwanese locals
One of the most beautiful things Taiwan is famous for is having some of the friendliest locals in the world. Whether it’s the receptionist behind the hotel concierge or a vendor selling food at a night market, the Taiwanese are well-known to be extremely friendly.
Taiwan shares many cultural similarities with Japan, and one of those similarities is the emphasis on politeness and kindness. In my five trips to Taiwan, not once have I been treated or spoken to rudely. And this isn’t just Taiwanese being tourist-friendly, I would say that a large majority of them are genuinely nice people.
14. Convenience store culture
Speaking of Japanese influence, just like Japan, Taiwan is known for its colorful convenience store culture.
From famous global chains like Family Mart and 7-Eleven (known as Seven by the locals) to Taiwanese chains like Hi-Mart, there are over 10,000 convenience stores throughout the island!
One of the best ways to experience and enjoy convenience store culture in Taiwan is to simply enjoy a convenience store meal. Having been to Taiwan plenty of times, I can confirm that the food sold in Taiwanese convenience stores is top-notch!
15. LGBTQ+ acceptance
Adding on to that, did you know that Taiwan is one of the only countries in Asia to legally recognize same-sex marriages?
The bill was passed in May 2019 but even before that, Taiwan was already known for being a progressive voice when it came to LGBTQ+ acceptance.
Across the street from the bustling district of Ximending is the iconic Red House Theatre. It is a historical building that is often used to host plays and musical performances.
And just beyond that, you will find Taipei’s unofficial LGBTQ+ district, where you can find plenty of gay bars and entertainment outlets.
16. Little League Baseball
Here’s a fun fact for you: A large number of Taiwanese are big, BIG fans of baseball. So it comes as no surprise that Taiwan famously has a thriving Little League Baseball community! For those not in the know, Little League Baseball is a baseball league that is contested by youths up to the age of 16.
In fact, did you know that, at one point, Taiwan was the most dominating force in the Little League Baseball World Series?
Between 1969 and 1991, the Taiwanese team was actually crowned champions 15 times at the annual tournament held in Pennsylvania. Today, Taiwan holds the record for the most league titles (17)!
17. ASUS and Acer
ASUS and Acer are arguably two of the most famous Taiwanese brands around the world! Even if you’ve never been to or even heard of Taiwan, you’ve most likely used an ASUS or Acer product before. After all, these two gargantuan tech industry giants are the leading providers of computers in Asia!
Both of these household brands were formed in Taiwan and their current headquarters are still based in the bustling city of Taipei.
Combined, Acer and ASUS produce a large number of the world’s computers and PC peripherals. In fact, I’m typing this out on an ASUS laptop right now!
18. Classic Taiwanese Dramas
Classic Taiwanese dramas from the late 90s and early 2000s are famous for being ridiculously long! Some of the series even stretch for YEARS!
I remember one particular Taiwanese drama that I started watching when I just got into high school. By the time senior year rolled around, it was STILL ongoing!
Despite the dramas constantly being memed for being extremely long, even by locals, Taiwanese dramas do a great job of capturing the local culture. From the popularity of scooters to the life and times of a night market vendor, Taiwanese dramas are a fun gateway into Taiwanese culture.
19. Famous Taiwanese people
Taiwan is the home of many world-famous celebrities, many of whom have become icons in the Mandopop industry. Some of them have even gone on to make a name for themselves in Hollywood! Here are just some of them.
Regardless of whether or not you frequently listen to Mandopop, I’m sure you know Jay Chou, at least peripherally. After all, he is one of the most famous Taiwanese celebrities ever!
Having released numerous albums and won countless nominations and awards in a musical career that has spanned nearly 20 years, Jay Chou is a proper Taiwanese pop culture icon. His concerts are often sold out in mere minutes after ticket sales open!
Jay Chou isn’t just known for his songs though. He has also appeared in plenty of movies and even in Hollywood productions like The Green Hornet (2011) and Now You See Me 2 (2016).
If Jay Chou is Taiwan’s most celebrated male celebrity, then Jolin Tsai is one of the frontrunners for being Taiwan’s most famous female celebrity!
Like Jay Chou, whom she has collaborated with in the past (and even rumored to have dated briefly!), Jolin Tsai has enjoyed a long and illustrious music career punctuated by a long list of awards and nominations.
While she has yet to make her Hollywood film debut, she has appeared in several local films, including as a VA for the Taiwanese dubbing of Zootopia (2016), in which Tsai voice Judy Hopps.
For the younger generation, especially those who are into Korean Pop music, you’ll surely know who Chou Tzuyu is. Part of the popular K-Pop girl group Twice, Tzuyu is one of Taiwan’s most popular young celebrities with an ever-growing global fanbase.
Back home, Tzuyu is often looked up to by young fans as a role model. Even some Taiwanese celebrities have admitted that their children were bigger fans of Tzuyu than of their parents! On camera, Tzuyu often speaks with a fondness for her hometown.
Unfortunately, Tzuyu’s love for Taiwan, including having a decorative Taiwanese flag on her bed frame has landed her in hot water in the past. This brings us to our final point.
20. Taiwan’s political history
Last but not least, Taiwan is famous for its complicated yet interestingly rich geopolitical and cultural history. For those who don’t know, Taiwan’s official name is the Republic of China (ROC), not to be confused with Mainland China, which is known as the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The formation of Taiwan is one steeped in fascinating history, stretching back to the 1800s. It includes the fall of imperial rule in China, Japanese occupation, the end of World War II, and the Chinese Civil War to boot! Here’s the TL/DR version:
After the end of World War II, a civil war erupted between the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). After suffering several defeats, the Kuomintang, led by Director-General Chiang Kai-Shek, evacuated to Taiwan where Taipei was established as the new capital of the ROC.
While the CCP, the ruling party of Mainland China, is adamant that it is the only sovereign authority and sees Taiwan as part of China, Taiwan sees itself as an independent state. This has led to plenty of ideological skirmishes in the past as tensions remain high to this day.
In Taipei, one of the most famous buildings in Taiwan is the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. There, you can learn a lot more about Taiwan’s fascinating history and is considered a must-visit location in the city.
More than just a foodie haven
And there you have it: 20 (and more!) things Taiwan is famous for! I’m guessing there were at least a few of these things that you weren’t aware of until now. It’s no surprise, given how wonderfully unique Taiwan truly is.
Was there something you were expecting to be on this list but isn’t? Let us know and keep the conversation about Taiwan going!