The shopping districts
The entire city is famous for shopping and so it’s hard to know where to even begin. We suggest starting with Ximending (below). This was once the city’s theatre district, but over time has developed into a vibrant and busy shopping destination. It was founded during the Japanese colonisation era and therefore has a similar feel to the Harajuku and Shibuya areas of Tokyo.
Neon lights glimmer above acres of stores, malls, restaurants, and bars. The pedestrian zone at the centre, close to Exit 6 of Ximen MRT (metro) Station, is a popular photo spot. Stores in Ximending are varied but gear towards a younger hip crowd, with high street brand names and cute accessory vendors (think Sanrio selfie-sticks and animal-shaped hats). Ximending is a good place to pick up some fun souvenirs and gifts.
The ‘Red House’ (above) is an iconic octagonal red building close to the MRT station, and on weekends there is a ‘creative bazaar’ with products for sale from young designers and college students.
Zhongxiao East Road, which runs through the Zhongzheng and Xinyi districts, is another popular entertainment and retail area, with busy stores, restaurants, salons and karaoke joints to occupy a fashionable young crowd. In between shopping, it’s the perfect place to observe the style of Taiwanese youth – watch them chatter with friends as they navigate through busy streets with bags of new purchases. And at the south end of Zhongxiao East Road, you’ll find one of the largest jade markets in Asia.
Songshan, near Taipei International Airport, is the business hub but is also a hugely popular shopping district with a giant wholesale clothing market and an equally impressive mall, the Core Pacific City Living Mall (above), which has thousands of domestic and international goods for sale. The wholesale clothing market is called Wufenpu, and is accessible by Houshanpi MRT Station. It is a chaotic market of bargain apparel and accessories but that’s the fun of visiting. The action kicks off from around noon to midnight.
It can get hot in Taipei, so air-conditioned malls are a staple in this city. However, there are some notable mentions that should be on the top of any shopping-based itinerary.
ATT 4 Fun (above) consists of 11 floors of retail space with plenty of variety. International brands including Pull&Bear, Berskha, Forever 21, H&M and Zara are available as well as vintage clothing. On the sixth floor is the food court so that you can refuel (there are some super cute dessert cafes), and in the evening, you can review purchased goods up on the 10th- and 11th-floor bars over a glass of wine.
Guang Hua’s Digital Plaza (above) is the place to get electronics at amazing prices. It is a six-storey building at the intersection of the Zhongzheng and Da’an Districts. Established in 1973, it now attracts thousands of visitors each day from all over the world. The stores within the mall are market style and there is room to negotiate prices. On the sixth floor are repair shops and demonstration workshops for new electronic gadgets and launches.
The Taipei 101 mall (above) is most famous for its towering observatory. It held the title as the world’s tallest building between 2004 and 2009 and is an icon of the city. The shopping mall beneath is full of luxury stores including fashion giants Dior, Fendi and Miu Miu, and jewellery and watch brands such as Harry Winston, Tiffany and Rolex. The food court is probably the best in the malls here, with all kinds of local and international treats and a classy seating area.
The most famous market in Taipei is Shilin Night Market (below), close to Jiantan MRT Station in the Shilin District. It is a maze of streets and alleyways with hundreds of shops, food stalls, arcades and karaoke booths. The shopping is fun and prices can usually be negotiated.
There is everything from sunglasses to pyjamas to traditional souvenirs. What we especially love is the local cuisine with lots of healthy vegetarian options, and treats include bubble tea and the infamous stinky tofu. There is no need to abandon shopping in order to find food. Shilin Night Market is an exciting attraction, with a lively crowd, rich aromas, and colourful sights.
Yonghe district’s Fuhe Bridge market (above) is a great one to visit for second-hand goods as you never know what kind of treasures can be uncovered. Street vendors come together to bring a range of antiques, souvenirs and pre-loved clothing. This market starts early – opening by about 6am and emptying by lunchtime. It is located underneath the Fuhe Bridge.
There are a number of outlets on the edges of Taipei but the most popular include Gloria Outlets (below), not far from Taoyuan International Airport. Here you’ll find great discounts on brands including fashion from Calvin Klein, Jimmy Choo and Blue Way, accessories and jewellery from the likes of ICU, Police and Rado, homeware and electronics from Philips, LG and Roots Home, and under-gear from Wacoal, HOM, and Triumph.
For something a little closer to the city, check out Mitsui Outlet Park in Linkou District. It is operated by the Japanese Mitsui Group and features brands such as Kate Spade, Levi’s, Uniqlo and Kent & Curwen.
Tips for first-time shoppers in Taipei
- During the summer months from June to August, temperatures fluctuate around the 35-degree Celsius mark. So locals prefer to do their shopping after sunset, or in air-conditioned malls.
- Taipei is a very busy and hectic city, so allow plenty of time for queuing and navigating through the crowds to reach desired stores.
- In the markets, it is customary to haggle over prices. You will usually get an item at around three-quarters of the asking price.
- Taipei is generally a really safe place to shop, but do still keep an eye on your belongings.
– TEXT BY JAMES WONG
PHOTOS: 123RF.COM, INSTAGRAM, PIXABAY, GLORIA OUTLETS FACEBOOK
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.