It doesn't get much more centrally located in Taipei than the Zhongshan District, an area of daytime recreation and evening entertainment. This area is named for Chiang Kai-shek, known in Chinese as Sun Zhongshan, founder of the Republic of China. This is one of three names Taiwan is known by, depending on who the country is dealing with and in what capacity, with the other being the much-maligned and geographically confusing Chinese Taipei. Once upon a time, Zhongshan North Road, which cuts through the district, used to be the route Chiang would take to get to his Shilin Official Residence, and the citizens of Taipei were required to salute his vehicle as it passed by
Parks and Recreation
Let's start with the daytime activity options. There are many parks within the district demarcation lines, such as Rongxing Garden, Xinsheng Park, and Zhongshan Fine Arts Park. To get your green fix for the day, try Dajia Riverside Park, which runs along the Keelung River, and was one of four main sites used for the 2010 Taipei International Flora Exposition that was centered around Zhongshan's Yuanshan MRT Station. If you happen to be visiting with kids, there is the Yuanshan Children's Recreational Center, just across the street from Yuanshan Station. Towards the end of summer, the center also plays host to Formoz Festival, a music festival spanning all genres that draws acts from all over the world.
Speaking of Yuanshan, the city-bound mountain has at its midway point one of Taipei City's great landmarks, the Grand Hotel. Fourteen stories high and built in the style of a Chinese palace, the hotel was established in the early 1950s by Chiang Kai-shek himself as a place to host foreign dignitaries, and over the years notable guests such as Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, and numerous other political figures have stayed there. The hotel has three restaurants specializing in different areas of the broad Chinese gastronomical spectrum, from northern Chinese cuisine to Cantonese dim sum, with western dishes available at the Grand Garden restaurant as well. The majestic architecture of the building, however, is worth a visit on its own, as are the walking paths around the hotel grounds, which take visitors all over the hillside to enjoy its stately horticultural arrangements and verdant tranquility.
The area around the Yuanshan MRT station, on the modern-day site of the Zhongshan Soccer Stadium, is where the United States once maintained its military presence in Taiwan. As a result, a number of pubs sprang up on and around Linsen North Road, and became the city's unofficial red light district, garnering the nickname “The Combat Zone.” Today, there are still numerous small establishments in the area that run the gamut of reputability, and you'll often find the area swarming with Japanese businessmen looking for the Taiwanese version of the hostess bars of Tokyo's major cities.
Shopping and Dining
Just one station away from the centrally located Taipei Main Station on the Tamsui Line (Red), Zhongshan Station sits in the middle of a lively and diverse shopping and dining area where you'll find plenty of cafes, restaurants, and retail therapy. Even if the weather outside isn't agreeable, you can always take refuge underground at the subterranean Zhongshan Metro Mall. Home to around 80 shops, the mall is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and has a walking length of about 800 meters. The mall can be accessed directly from the MRT line from Taipei Main Station to Shuanglian Station and at points above ground along Zhongshan North Road.