TAIPEI — THE MOST KID-FRIENDLY CITY IN ASIA
【Words by: Kathy Cheng】
【Photos by: Kathy Cheng, Moralis Tsai, Jessie Rock, April Chen, glowonconcept on iStock, Pitua Sutanto, Taiwan Scene, MyTaiwanTour, Anastaiia, Phan Anh Tran】
Taipei is an absolutely fantastic city for kids of all ages. There’s plenty to keep them entertained, active and well-fed whether you’re here for three days, a week or the whole summer.
Taiwan’s capital city, Taipei, is an easy and approachable introduction to a mix of Asian cultures and food for your children. It’s the perfect place to inspire adventurous young eaters and spoil them with tasty snacks and gourmet meals. Surprise them with seasonal Taiwanese-grown fruits like guavas, mangoes, pineapples and wax apples. Or sit down and enjoy a spread of xiaolongbao at a dumpling restaurant.
If you’re looking to enjoy sightseeing and outdoor activities under the sun, Taipei has plenty to offer in that regard, too. Children can stretch their legs on scenic hikes just outside the city center, or ride along the trails running through many kilometers of riverside parks. There are small playgrounds in every neighborhood where kids can socialize after school. You’ll also find restaurants and departments stores have strollers and high chairs on hand to make life easier for parents. Is Taipei the most kid-friendly city in Asia? I absolutely think so.
WHY I CHOSE TAIPEI FOR MY FAMILY
I’ll admit that I had no idea about Taipei’s appeal for children until having a baby girl of my own. I was working in New York City before moving back in 2014. Now after two-plus years living in Taipei with my daughter, I’m constantly trying to convince my overseas friends to come for a family vacation with their kids.
I tell them it’s sort of like an undiscovered gem in Asia. While Tokyo can feel daunting and infinite, Taipei is welcoming and manageable. And where Hong Kong can seem like the densest place on Earth, Taipei offers open, green spaces and wide boulevards, each a welcome breather from city life.
①PREGNANCY & CONFINEMENTIN TAIPEI
I first noticed the benefits of being a parent in Taipei during my pregnancy. The majority of my tests and ultrasound scans were covered by Taiwan’s National Health Insurance. Maternal support is also very strong. The culture of zuo yuezi (坐月子, postpartum confinement) is practiced widely in Taiwan by mothers of all ages. Specialized confinement centers take care of the newborn’s feeding, bathing and sleep needs, allowing new mothers to focus on recuperating and healing after childbirth. Some mothers choose to stay for 10 days or two weeks, while others complete the full month of confinement. Nourishing meals are always included and spa treatments are not uncommon. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
After settling into life at home with a newborn, I started to discover all the ways Taipei is designed to help young families. For instance, the city’s public transport system has been crucial to helping us get around. It’s clean and affordable, with lots of family-friendly amenities such as ramps and elevators for stroller access, breastfeeding rooms for nursing mothers, plus family toilets with changing tables. We’ve never had a car in Taipei and I can honestly say that I haven’t missed having one yet. Passengers on the MRT and bus are friendly to pregnant women and parents with kids as well.
My next favorite thing about life in Taipei is how kid-friendly restaurants and cafes can be. Even though most restaurants don’t have a dedicated kid’s menu, they have high chairs, kids’ utensils and dining sets to make eating out with kids easier on the whole family. And as the cuisine in Taipei is so diverse, exploring new restaurants can be incredibly fun with kids.
Another bonus to life with kids in Taipei are the small parks you can find down almost every alley in Taipei. There are slides, swings, seesaws and sometimes even inline skating grounds. Just watch out for the mosquitoes in the summer months and pick up some sticky insect repellent patches for everyone.
HELPFUL TIPS FOR PARENTS IN TAIPEI
Navigating a new city is never easy. These are a few of the tips and tricks I’ve learned these past few years which may help you, together with your kids, enjoy a wonderful stay in Taipei.
BEFORE YOU GO
PREPARE MOSQUITO REPELLENT PATCHES
Due to the hot and humid weather in Taiwan, mosquitoes can be everywhere in the summer months. To keep kids safe in parks and playgrounds, stick mosquito repellent patches on their clothes. I go for the back so it’s out of sight and out of reach.
FOLLOW TAIPEI-BASED INSTAGRAMMERS
Deciding where to eat can be even harder when you have kids in tow. To help save time, I frequently rely on Instagram as a great resource for restaurant recommendations straight from Taipei residents. A few of my favorite foodie accounts to follow include @taipeieats, @hungryintaipei and @taipeieater. I also share my own Taipei recommendations on Instagram at @trickytaipei.
DURING YOUR VISIT
DROP IN TO CONVENIENCE STORES
There are 24-hour convenience stores on just about every corner in Taipei. You can pick up necessities like toothbrushes and shampoo, as well as daily essentials such as milk and fruit for kids to have a quick teatime at any time of day or night. Parents can grab coffees on the go in the mornings or local beers for an after-dinner drink.
RIDE THE TAIPEI SIGHTSEEING BUS
On those days when kids aren’t up for walking and parents don’t have the energy to carry them, the hop-on, hop-off Taipei Sightseeing Bus is a lifesaver. The double-decker bus stops at all the major attractions so you don’t need to worry about navigating the metro map. It’s a lifesaver on rainy days too.
KIDS UNDER 6 TRAVEL FREE
Children under six years of age or less than 115cm tall can ride for free on Taipei’s MRT and bus system alongside a ticketed passenger, which makes it easier for parents to take young kids out. This means only parents need to tap on and tap off at the turnstiles. Preload an EasyCard at a convenience store or MRT station and won’t worry about loose change.
ESCAPE TO AIR-CONDITIONED MALLS
When your family needs a bit of respite from the summer heat, simply do what locals do and hang out in a cool mall for an afternoon. For example, Syntrend (三創生活園區) on Civic Boulevard (市民大道) has eight floors of gadgets, toys and digital products for everyone in the family, as well as two floors of restaurants. You’ll find all the latest technologies from Asia’s top brands and hard-to-find collectibles.
KATHY’S RECOMMENDATIONS: THE BEST THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN TAIPEI
①EXPLORING NATIONAL PALACE MUSEUM
The National Palace Museum sounds daunting, but it’s one of the most scenic places to soak in Chinese culture and it’s surprisingly kid-friendly. You can easily spend an hour or two browsing the incredible museum exhibits, making it the perfect place to go on a rainy day. The indoor Children’s Gallery has plenty of hands-on activities, plus film screenings. The kids-only space means they are free to run and scream at the same time. We love coming for half-day trips.
②EAT AND PLAY THROUGH THE NIGHT MARKETS
No visit to Taipei is complete without a trip to one of the famous night markets to try classic Taiwanese snacks like stinky tofu, pepper buns, sweet potato balls and fried chicken. Raohe Street Night Market (饒河街夜市) and Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) are always popular with visitors, but there are smaller ones like Ningxia Night Market (寧夏夜市) and Linjiang Street Night Market (臨江街夜市) that are equally popular with locals. After trying all the snacks, make sure to check out the claw machines and other games at the market.
③SPEND A DAY IN HUASHAN 1914 CREATIVE PARK
Grouping activities together is priceless when you’re with the kids. A foolproof itinerary for us starts with traditional Taiwanese breakfast of soy milk and rice balls at the famous Fuhang Soy Milk (阜杭豆漿) breakfast stand, then a stroll over to Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914文化創意產業園區) across the street. There’s lots to explore for kids in this renovated industrial complex, including Wooderful Life & Land, a play center where everything is wood and therefore analog, meaning the entire environment encourages kids to watch, listen and feel.
④HIKING IN XIANGSHAN
The hike up Xiangshan, or Elephant Mountain (象山), will reward you with arguably the best view of Taipei’s skyline. Start early in the morning to avoid the midday heat and make sure to pack hats and plenty of water. Or for a different vibe, go in the early evening to watch the sunset over the city. It only takes 30 minutes to reach the top, which is manageable for kids of all ages.
⑤BEATING JETLAG WITH STORYTIME
If you just had a long flight and the kids can’t sleep due to the time difference, the 24-hour Eslite Bookstore (誠品書店) in Xinyi District will save your family from jetlag, no matter how hard it hits. If the kids wake up too early and nothing else is open, pack them up and head over to Eslite. You’ll find a great children’s book zone with plenty of books, board games and toys.
MUST-TRY TAIWANESE ICE AND DRINKS FOR SUMMER
When the temperatures get high, it means it’s time for your family to take a break and enjoy a refreshing ice dishes and drinks. These are our favorites in the summertime, for kids and adults.
①MANGO SHAVED ICE
There’s nothing better during the Taipei summer than having a big heaping bowl of mango cubes with shaved ice and condensed milk or mango ice cream. Try the busy shops on Yongkang Street (永康街), in Ximending (西門町) or an Ice Monster location for this beloved dessert. As it’s usually a big bowl, the whole family can enjoy one together.
In case you didn’t know, Taiwan is where bubble tea (or boba milk tea) was invented. There are thousands of bubble tea shops throughout the city. You can compare the classic franchise chains with the newer brands that offer fruity bubble tea flavors served with toppings like jelly, pudding or even cheese. Try to limit your kid to one a day; the sugar high is no joke!
③SOYMILK SOFT SERVE
Soymilk soft serve is a vegan alternative to dairy ice cream. At one of the top-rated soymilk stores, Soypresso (二吉軒豆乳), it comes in original soymilk flavor or black sesame flavor. Both are equally delicious.
Every kid in Taiwan grows up drinking sweet, ripe papaya and fresh milk blended into a smooth and refreshing smoothie. Taipei Milk King (台北牛乳大王) is the chain most locals remember fondly, but you can also find papaya milk sold at the night markets. The sweet frothy milk is an instant flashback to childhood. There are so many things you can enjoy in Taipei with your family. From the exciting food culture to the amazing transportation system, this hidden gem in Asia will never stop surprising you and your kids with its lovely people and kid-friendly environment, whether you’re a first-time visitor or building a long-term life in the city.
A friendly reminder: Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, there might be safety/hygiene measures enforced at each destination, such as the mandatory wearing of masks or temperature check.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kathy Cheng is a writer and creative consultant based in Taipei. Her blog, Tricky Taipei (trickytaipei.com), is an English-language platform covering design, culture, food and travel. After having her daughter in 2017, she started writing about parenthood and traveling with children. Her love of the city inspired her to write a children’s picture book introducing Taipei to the world. Hey Taipei was published in 2019.