If you've ever seen a picture of fireworks bursting from the sides of Taipei 101 on New Year's Eve, then you already know a little something of what the Xinyi District is all about. This is where Taipei's glitzy and glamorous side shines brightest, and is exhibited best by the city's most well-known landmark.
Taipei 101 and Area
Taipei 101 is a structure designed to look like a serrated stalk of bamboo, so-named because it rises 101 stories into the sky, dominating the skyline like few other buildings can. Inside, the first five floors comprise the Taipei 101 Mall, where you'll find upscale brands and shops. Below ground are two levels, a food court and the Grand Market, the former featuring local and world cuisine. If you need to get a bit of grocery shopping done, Jason's Market Place on the first underground level is the supermarket catering to the foreign crowd, with shelves stocked with imported foods and brands from overseas.
Of course, no trip to Taipei 101 would be complete without taking in the view from the indoor observation deck on the 89th floor, offering a 360 degree panoramic experience of the city. Two floors up is the outdoor observation deck, which is only open when the weather permits. Otherwise, the observation areas open at 9 a.m. daily and close at 10 p.m., with the last visitors being allowed to head up in the world's fastest elevator at 9:15 p.m. Head to 101 in the mid-afternoon on a clear day to get the best glimpse of the city possible. In late 2013, the Xinyi Line of the city's MRT system opened up, with one of the new stations situated right beside Taipei 101 for easy access. Just look for the Taipei 101/World Trade Center station on the bilingual MRT map.
In the area around Taipei 101, it's all about one thing: shopping. The ATT Mall is full of more upscale shops, similar to those found in 101, as well as western chain restaurants. The mall is also home to ATT Showbox, a concert venue that plays host to top local acts as well as international bands and singers. Just a few minutes away on foot from ATT Mall is Vieshow Cinemas, a modern multiplex that is perhaps the best place in the city to catch a movie. From time to time, the red carpet is also rolled out and star-studded movie premiere events are held.
If books are more your thing, there's the Eslite chain's flagship store, the largest bookstore in Taiwan, with approximately 8,000 square meters of floorspace and an excellent selection of English titles to be found on No 11, Songgao Rd.
The surrounding area is also one of the city's clubbing hot spots, with several nightclubs such as Room 18, Lava, and Barcode staples amongst the city's club set. If you're worried about covering a lot of ground on a night of club hopping, fear not, as all are located within the same building, Neo 19, right beside the ATT Mall. This being the Xinyi District, dress codes are often strictly enforced at area night spots, so dress the part.
Just a short distance away on foot from the 101 area is the other, more bucolic side of the Xinyi District—a place where you can leave the city behind in just a few short minutes. The hiking trails of Xiangshan, or Elephant Mountain, offer a quick getaway from the city, and their own stunning view of the city from the mountain's peak. It's a steep climb of around 30 minutes or so to the top, depending on your fitness level, up stairs, and it can get crowded on weekends. Once you reach the top, there are additional trails heading off to areas beyond Xinyi. To reach the trail head, walk to the intersection of Section 5 of Xinyi Road and Songren Road. Walk south down Songren until you reach the Songqin Road intersection. There, you'll see a sign pointing you east, in the direction of the trail. From there, simply follow the signage. Or you can simply head out of exit 2 at the Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain)
MRT station, and walk alongside Zhongqian Park to its southern end, where you'll find a sign pointing you up the hill in the direction of the trail head. If you get burned out on shopping, clubbing, and the hustle of the city in general, Elephant Mountain and the surrounding environs are great places to become acquainted with Taipei's green side.