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World Travel Guide > Guides > Asia > Taiwan > Taipei

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Taipei History

The bright lights of the city of Taipei were not always shining quite so bright.

Originally an enormous lake bordered by mountains, the Taipei basin is where the city’s history begins.

The first residents were members of an aboriginal Ketagalan Tribe. These early birds were of Malay-Polynesian descent but retreated into the mountains when the Dutch and the Spanish settled in.

A Dutch navigator on a Portuguese ship had seen the island and named it ‘Ilha Formosa’ meaning ‘Beautiful Island’. Little did he know that this name would stick for around 400 years.

The Dutch, after taking over the Spanish territory, constructed a fortress and proceeded to call the land ‘Tayouan’ (meaning ‘Terrace Bay’) which eventually progressed to ‘Taiwan’.

The Dutch hired groups of Chinese workers who ultimately decided to stay put. The newcomers developed relationships with the aboriginal tribes and as a result the first officially Taiwanese people were born.

In the early 1660s, Koxinga (Zheng Cheng-Gong), a Chinese pirate, defeated the Dutch citizens and claimed Taiwan. Taipei officially became part of the Tianxing County in China.

The Qing Dynasty marked Taiwan as part of their territory in 1683, and the island thrived politically and economically.

In 1884 Taipei officially became a city, and in 1887 it turned into a province. In the late 1890s, when Japan occupied the island, they improved the infrastructure and tore down the city wall that had originally been built by the Qing Dynasty.

The Japanese were expelled in 1945 and a new administration was founded, setting the groundwork for Taiwan’s independence five years later.

Taiwan soon became known as a republic, or more formally as the ROC: Republic of China.

Many citizens of Taiwan consider the island independent of China and wish to be recognised as a separate country. Tension between Taiwan and China continues to exist, although in 2010, a historic trade pact signalled a breakthrough in relations.

Did you know?
• Taipei 101 was the world’s tallest building from 2004 to 2010.
• Taipei hosted the 21st Summer Deaflympics in 2009.
• The city government introduced free public Wi-Fi in 2011.

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San Want Residence

This hotel does 'boutique luxury' to perfection, with an emphasis on good service. Rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and park or city views, and there's also a Western and Asian restaurant where the free breakfast is served. The collection of contemporary Taiwanese sculpture is a reason enough to pop in without staying. Children over 12 only.

First Hotel

This mid-sized business hotel in the eastern business district has a distinctly Chinese ambience. It has 176 clean and comfortable rooms equipped with cable television and internet access. Shanghainese cuisine is served at Ning Yuan restaurant on the third floor. The hotel also has a business centre and fitness room.

The Grand Hotel

Brighton's most famous hotel, and one of the only 5-star establishments in the city, the The Grand’s elegant Victorian building enjoys a central seafront position. This extensive hotel has more than 200 lavishly appointed rooms, and offers a stylish and luxurious base from which to explore the city. Its afternoon teas are world famous too.

Yomi Hotel

Set in the lively Shuanglian neighbourhood (and four minutes' walk from the MRT station), this budget hotel offers a raft of freebies: bicycle use, Wi-Fi device, bottled water and snacks, plus breakfast and use of a washer/dryer. Rooms are simple and minimalist but have flat-screen TVs, and there's a 24-hour convenience store next door.

Ximen Relite Hotel

The price is a bargain for Taipei, considering its close proximity to Taipei Central MRT/ train station and Ximending shopping district. The rooms are nothing special, but staff are friendly and Wi-Fi is free. Complimentary breakfast is served in a rooftop cafe.

Dong Wu Hotel

While the decor may be somewhat old-fashioned, the rooms at this modest hotel are a decent size, and are furnished with flat-screen TVs and tea and coffeemaking equipment. Complimentary breakfast is served in the cafe downstairs, and there's a small convenience store next door.