Ximending and Xinyi | Taipei
These two districts are must-visits for those passionate about shopping, fashion and youth culture. Ximending lies in Taipei’s southwest while Xinyi sprawls over a good part of the city’s east. Thanks to the capital’s efficient public transport, it’s possible to get from one to the other in just a quarter of an hour.
Ximending emerged as an entertainment district in the first decade of the 20th century, and gets its name (‘west gate district’) because at that time it was just outside the city walls’ west gate. Soon thereafter, the gate and the walls were demolished to make room for development, but the name stuck throughout and beyond the period of Japanese rule. At the heart of Ximending lies Red House, an octagonal brick landmark built as a theatre in 1908, but now full of art stores and boutiques. Elsewhere on Ximending’s pedestrianised streets, visitors will find cinemas, tattoo parlours, shops which sell nothing but Japanese-language fashion magazines, plus a great many delicious yet inexpensive eating options.
Visitors who’d like to get away from the crowds for a bit can stroll to Nishi Honganji Square, named after the Japanese-era Buddhist temple that once stood here. The remnants are photogenic and quite different in style to the thoroughly Taiwanese shrines in nearby Wanhua.
Three decades ago, much of Xinyi was given over to growing vegetables. The capital’s booming economy has since transformed the district into a zone of swish apartment buildings and swanky department stores, as well as up-market drinking and dining spots. Taipei 101 is by far the best known attraction, of course, but there are several other malls, among them Breeze SONG GAO. Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Xinyi Place has expanded to four buildings, while the flagship Eslite Bookstore (open until 2 am on Fridays and Saturdays) has a huge range of reading material in both Chinese and English.