Taipei may be famous for its bustling night markets, but there’s no shortage of kitschy and fun themed cafés either. From the trendy and Instagram-worthy to the magical, elaborate and even strange, Taipei has it all. While international travel is still limited, there’s no harm doing research as we wait for borders to open. We share a list of some local and tourist favourites that has to be at the top of your list the next time you’re in the city.
If you’re a fan of Lewis Carroll’s madcap adventure Alice in Wonderland, you’ll be thrilled by how true to the book (and movies) this café is. Like a page out of the whimsical novel, you’ll feel like you have fallen through the rabbit hole the moment you step foot on the café’s distinctive chequered floors. Imagine yourself having your own Mad Hatter tea party by dining on colourful desserts and heart-shaped fare – if you’re lucky, you’ll get a seat in the giant tea cups or green maze – as you get served by wait staff dressed in cute blue frocks (a nod to Alice’s iconic outfit). There are also various Alice-inspired artwork and decorations (think giant books, white rabbits and playing cards) scattered around the space that make for perfect photo opportunities. Even the menus, placemats and food and drinks have been given a fantastical treatment, with references to the various storybook characters.
When it comes to strange eateries, this restaurant is downright eccentric. While toilets are usually something one avoids (unless you need to use one), this establishment has managed to build an entire space dedicated to the loo. The interior is kitted out to look like a bathroom, and diners sit on closed toilet bowls while glass-topped sinks act as dining tables. Meals are served in mini toilet bowls and bathtubs, drinks come in tiny urinals, and desserts are shaped to look like, well, poo. The meals here are a mix of Asian and Western comfort food; if you are feeling particularly adventurous, order the Japanese curry that’s a thick brown broth served in a toilet bowl. It’s a bizarre but rib-tickling experience that you’ll definitely remember long after your holiday is over.
A must-visit for vintage car lovers, this dining spot is filled with all manner of retro equipment and car memorabilia, from posters, and parking metres to gas pumps and license plates. Not to be missed (and really, you can’t possibly miss these) are the pastel hued Volkswagen Beetles and Mini Austins parked within the establishment. Some have been cut in half and refurbished into a dining seat, while others serve as intimate dining booths for couples. Tuck into a variety of classic Italian and American dishes and pair them with beverages such as coffee, fruit tea, milk tea and milkshakes. Fun fact: This was the filming location for Daoming Si and Shan Cai’s first date in the 2001 Taiwanese series Meteor Garden.
4. Oromo Café
A popular coffeeshop chain in Taipei, the branch near Taipei Station is the one you have to visit. Once you step through its unassuming doors, you’d be awestruck by the extensive decor that greets you. Large teddy bears can be found nestled in little nooks and sprawled on a blue slide that runs parallel to a set of stairs; a giant floor to ceiling bookcase lines an entire wall, stuffed with books and vintage memorabilia; and greenery and floral features cover another wall and suspend from the ceiling. Despite its extravagant interior, it’s a quiet and cozy place for a nice cuppa (they have a decent selection of roasted coffee beans), and many locals head there to work or study.
5. Zoo Café
With its strategic placement of leafy plants and safari themed interior (complete with quirky, mismatched furnishings and animal murals), this is an ideal stop for city dwellers in need of quiet, natural surroundings as they enjoy their meal. The menu includes familiar brunch favourites such as mushroom omelettes, smoked salmon, honey toast and waffles. Bonus: It is a pet-friendly cafe which means you’ll dine with the company of pooches and felines – a plus point for animal lovers.
Definitely not one for the squeamish, this café houses a good number of reptiles, from various species of snakes and turtles to lizards and even a gigantic tortoise just ambling about – all ready for petting. The owner shared in previous reports that he had been breeding and selling reptiles online before he decided to open a café, with hopes that people could visit the animals and spend time with them. A fun and fascinating pit stop, all you have to do is order a drink to get a chance to interact with the scaly creatures.
No prizes for guessing what you’ll find in this establishment. Dedicated to the beloved Japanese comic bear and its friends, this place guarantees a cuteness overload. “Rilakkuma” means “Bear in relaxed mood” and dining here is sure to put you in an upbeat and relaxed mood. Be greeted by an oversized Rilakkuma bear at the café entrance before stepping into its brightly-lit interior decorated with orange design elements. References to the characters can be found all over the café, from stuffed toys and Rilakkuma armchairs to its wallpaper, cupboards and even its lavatory mirrors. A range of hot meals and desserts can be found here that are – you guessed it – Rilakkuma-themed. Try the Omurice with Pork Meatball that looks like the bear is sleeping peacefully under an egg omelette; or the Rilakkuma Cheese Cake that’s shaped like the bear.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking and seating requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.