POV: you’re bored of the constant hustle of Taipei. You crave nature. Maybe a hot spring. Maybe just something that feels a little slower. But also you’re on a timeline. You don’t have the luxury of truly leaving Taipei, and let’s be honest, you kind of want to disassociate in a nice air conditioned MRT and not have to wait on the side of the street for a rocky bus ride.
Enter, Beitou. The platonic ideal for a noncommittal day trip escape within Taipei.
Just a 30 min ride from Taipei Main Station up the red line, you get to zone out as you see the city speed by once the train goes above ground. As soon as you pass Shilin, it gets visibly more residential and neighborhood-like. The lush mountains get a little closer and suddenly you’re dropped off in the somewhat grandiose Beitou MRT station that feels like a destination. You didn’t really leave the city, but you’re just far enough to feel removed from the center of the chaos, and all without sacrificing the convenience of Taipei life.
For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on the area surrounding Beitou and Xinbeitou stations, but it’s worth noting that Beitou is a rather large and mountainous district of Taipei. It is the northernmost of the 12 districts, nestled right on top of Shilin and encompassing a good chunk of Yanmingshan. Like many parts of Taiwan, the region has roots in aboriginal culture (in this case, the Ketagalan people). During Japanese occupation in the early 20th century, there was a town established and resorts and sulfur plants built around the natural springs. Today it is both a hot spring tourism town and a sort of suburb of Taipei that a lot of people call home.
[ GETTING HERE ]
Take the red line north toward Tamsui/Beitou. Get off at Beitou (or transfer to the mini offshoot line to Xinbeitou if you’re staying at a resort closer to there).
Many people flock to Beitou as an easy hot spring staycation at one of the many resorts in the area, but it’s a nice getaway even without an overnight stay. It feels like a town within a town, a community with all the amenities of typical Taiwan life, but a little closer to the mountains. And itineraries can be just as lazy. You eat, walk around the park, grab a coffee or some dessert, maybe pop into the library or a museum, if you’re ambitious maybe even go on a hike, or just skip right to the part where you relax in a hot spring.
Perhaps inspired in part by the onsen culture, the food here skews Japanese and heavy on hot pot, even more concentrated than the typical distribution in Taipei. Sit down at a tiny ramen bar, or opt for izakaya. If it’s morning and not a Monday, take a walk through the Beitou market (a traditional wet market) and the surrounding streets for cheap eats. There’s plenty of no-frills Taiwanese street food and hole-in-wall spots to satisfy any craving while exploring the neighborhood.
Grab an iced tea one of the popular local spots and walk over towards Xinbeitou (literal translation: New Beitou), to Qixing Park, a former train station turned urban park with a railway museum, and then on to the well-landscaped Beitou Park, home to lily ponds and the beautiful Beitou Library. While you’re here, check out the quaint Beitou Hot Spring Museum, which preserves the history of the region, and Ketagalan Culture Center that preserves cultural history of the Ketagalan tribe native to the region.
Past the main parks, there are other popular attractions. There’s the Beitou Plum Garden, which contrary to its name is actually a traditional timber residence now converted into an exhibit. Further in past many resorts there’s Puji Temple, a peaceful and picturesque Buddhist temple surrounded by gardens. And then there’s Beitou Museum nestled deep past even more resorts, local history residing in Japanese style architecture with a restaurant, teahouse, and sweeping views of the neighborhood.
There are many nice coffee shops in the area, afforded with much more space than the typical cafe in the city center. Find a quiet one and enjoy a peaceful moment with something sweet.
For the more active types, there are some trails close enough to spend an hour or two in the mountains. Buses will take you to trailheads or even into the mountains for sights like the Sulfur Valley and Lover Waterfall. For the ones who prefer more leisurely activities, there’s no shortage of choices with hot springs. It’s choose your own adventure on how much you want to commit to this activity – there are free foot spas in the parks like Fuxing Hot Foot Spa where you can just come in and soak your feet and be one with the local aunties and uncles for as long as you care for. There are public baths like Beitou Public Hotspring where they have mix gender hot and cold pools and it’s a bring your own toiletries kind of amenity with a standard entry fare (40NT or ~$1.50) and 2-3 hour sessions throughout the day with cleanings in between. And then there are the more private ones like Longnai 瀧乃湯浴室 with enclosed public and private onsens typically separated by gender with morning, afternoon and evening sessions. Fares range from (150 – 600NT or ~$5-20 for entry to the public onsens or to reserve a private room) and add on amenities for more of a spa-like experience. Or, if you prefer to look at the springs, there’s the Thermal Valley, a park with an ethereal view of the natural springs.
Taiwanese people love their hot pot and Beitou has dozens of options within steps from each other. Find one that fits your vibe and feast. You can digest on the ride home.
10:00 – Take the MRT over to Xinbeitou Station
10:30 – Walk around Qixing and Beitou park, pop into the library, enjoy the outdoors
12:00 – Lunch break! Grab some food at a hole in wall somewhere in the streets near the MRT line
13:00 – Pick and museum or two to explore: Hot Spring Museum if you’re lazy, Beitou Museum if you’re willing to continue to trek out, Puji Temple for a culture fix
15:00 – Coffee break! Pick a comfy cafe to sit for a bit in peace. Ex: SheMe House is spacious and tranquil
16:30 – So if you’re just here for a day trip, now is the time to find a hot spring or foot spa and chill for a bit before dinner; or at least go gawk at the Thermal Valley. If you’re staying the night, now is a good time to check in, get settled and maybe do a pre-dinner soak.
19:00 – Dinner time! Go get some hot pot. Or izakaya. Grab some snacks or dessert to bring back to the hotel. 21:00 — Head back to Taipei (or head back to the hotel)
DAY TWO ACTIVITIES
08:00 — One more soak, bonus points if you’re up early enough to do it with the sunrise
10:00 — After a hearty breakfast, go on a quick hike or do something nature adjacent (ie Thermal Valley, Sulfur Valley, Lover’s Waterfall, the plum blossom path if it’s the right season, etc)
13:00 — Maybe stop by Beitou Museum if you didn’t get to that yesterday, and grab lunch there; or stop by a temple and then grab lunch or some bakery snacks in town before heading out
15:00 — Bonus: on the way out stop by Dharma Drum Mountain Nung Chan Monastery