What to do in Taipei during the Lunar New Year

Although much of Taipei is quiet during the holiday, there is still some fun to be had

Riverside bike path in Taipei

Riverside bike path in Taipei (Taiwan News photo)

Taipei (Taiwan News) -- So you’re stuck in Taipei during the Lunar New Year. You waited too long to get a deal on a flight to another country and decided you might as well stay home and catch up on Netflix as most of the city travels or heads toward hometowns to celebrate the holiday. Now, it’s time to find something to do—you have to eat and get outside at least for a little while.

Be aware that some of the more touristy destinations around the city will still be crowded as visitors from outside Taipei and Taiwan arrive in the city for the holiday. Places like Beitou, Tamsui and Maokong will likely see larger crowds.

Here are some of the options for those hanging around Taipei for the holiday and wondering what there is to do:

Go hiking

The first couple days of the Lunar New Year are expected to be warmer and sunnier, which is a great reason to get out and enjoy nature. The Forestry Bureau has recommended visiting parks and trails throughout Taiwan during the holiday. Sure, you could head to Xiangshan, but then you’re likely to encounter all the tourists and families that had the same plan. Fortunately, Taipei and New Taipei offer plenty of less-traveled trails.

View of Taipei skyline from Xiangshan

Near Xiangshan (象山), hikers can instead approach the peak from Tiger Mountain (虎山), part of The Four Beasts (四獸山), and then cross over to Mt. Thumb and 9-5 Peak. While it might be wise to avoid the crowd at Xiangshan, it is still possible to descend via Xiangshan, which is a shorter route than backtracking to Tiger Mountain. Hiking from Tiger Mountain to Xiangshan without wandering onto other trails takes about three hours.

There will no doubt be crowds in Xindian on the first two days of the new year, but most of the crowd will not hike along the Lion Head Mountain trail just across the Bitan Bridge. On a clear day, this hike offers great views of the city and Xindian River. Depending on the route, the hike takes between one and two hours and isn’t as steep as The Four Beasts.

View Taipei and Xindian River

Other short trails in Taipei include Xianjiyan Trail (仙迹岩) near Jingmei MRT and Jiantanshan Hiking Trail (劍潭山親山步道) near Jiantan MRT.

Take bike ride

Grab a YouBike and ride around the city while there’s less traffic or head for the riverside parks and enjoy the breeze. You can bike the circle trail around all of Taipei without ever encountering motor vehicle traffic (aside from the occasional motorbike that enters the bike trails). The entire bike route, which was completed in 2012, covers 58.8 km (36.5 mi).

Riverside park in Taipei
Riverside park in Taipei

Of course, it’s easy enough to choose a smaller section of the riverside park bike path for a shorter ride. A ride from Guting MRT to Xindian along the riverside is about 11.3 km (7 mi).

Have a drink at the bars

Most of the bars around the city are closed for the holiday, but many of the ones more popular with foreigners will remain open. However, none of them will have any special events or bands booked until February. Bars, such as Revolver, Brass Monkey, Box Nightclub, BARCODE and Beer & Cheese Social House, will remain open for the holiday—some of them will also have drink specials for the smaller crowds. Other popular venues, such as On Tap, R&D Cocktail Lab, 23 Public and The Beat, will be closed for the holiday.

For Lunar New Year’s Eve, Revolver has Belfry Queen and 類比梭 at 9:30 pm for NT$250, which includes one drink, and Triangle hosts DJ R-ASH at 10:00 pm for NT$300, including one drink. On New Year’s Day, Taboo hosts a red envelope party starting at 10:00 pm. Entrance for women is NT$500 and NT$700 for men; each man must be accompanied by two women.

Stay home and host a potluck dinner

What better way to celebrate the Year of the Rooster with a potluck dinner. Invite friends who are also “stuck” in Taipei and surrounding areas for dinner, drinks and conversation.

Try to cook some traditional Lunar New Year meals, such as whole fish, longevity noodles (長壽麵) and dumplings. Of course, some traditional foods are more easily bought than cooked, like radish cake (菜頭粿) which is a homonym with "luck" (彩頭). You can also include some local fruit, such as Tangerines, oranges and kumquats, for dessert. And don’t forget to add chicken to the evening’s menu in honor of the zodiac.

Go out for dinner

It’s now more common for families to go out to eat a traditional Lunar New Year dinner instead of cooking at home. Of course, plenty of restaurants are closed, but others will remain open for those opting for a restaurant meal.

If you don’t want anything traditional, Carnegie’s offers a New Year brunch on Saturday and Sunday starting at 11:00 am. The restaurant and bar will be closed on Friday.

Be sure to call restaurants and bars to confirm hours and specials during the holiday.