Because there’s so much to see and do in Taiwan — stunning mountains, intricate temples, and delicious food — it can be hard to find time to shop for gifts and souvenirs. Nonetheless, clients who sign up for Life of Taiwan private guided tours sometimes ask us what’s good to buy here and which places are best for shopping.
The majority of retailers open between 10am and midday and close up around 10pm. Major cities have modern malls and large department stores like those in Japan and South Korea. If you’ve just flown into Taoyuan Airport and you’re about to take the bullet train southwards, you’ll find Gloria Outlets right beside the THSR station. In the capital, the mall that occupies the first five floors of Taipei 101 is especially popular, thanks in part to good-value eating options in the basement. The nearby Breeze NanShan is one of Taipei’s newest shopping centres and has a number of brands you’ll find nowhere else on the island.
Traditional family-run shops are still common throughout Taiwan and they tend to cluster in particular neighbourhoods. Hsinchu is so strongly associated with high-tech industry that few outsiders appreciate the old-time character that can be found a short walk northwest of the railway station in the vicinity of Dongmen Market. The city also has a long-established glass-making industry; at Spring Pool Glass Studio near Hsinchu City Glass Museum, you can watch artisans creating glass art. If you’ve a day to kill in Chiayi City before or after visiting Alishan, take a walk along Zhongzheng Road to see several second- or third-generation businesses. Closer to Alishan, local premium oolong tea always goes down well with a certain type of person.
Every settlement with more than a few thousand residents has its own morning market where people get much of their meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables. The enduring popularity of these places is often attributed to a widespread (and usually correct) belief that they offer fresher food than supermarkets and hypermarkets, and because many consumers like to press and sniff produce before buying it. Even if you’ve no plans to cook during your trip, you may want to visit at least one such market; this can easily be worked into one of our tailor-made itineraries.
You might assume, given Taiwan’s reputation as one of the world’s great exporters, that everything made on the island can be found in your home country. But this isn’t the case. Unique souvenir and gift ideas include glass-bead jewellery made by indigenous artisans in Sandimen, and delicate oil-paper parasols, a signature product of nearby Meinong. Works executed by indigenous artists are sold in several other areas, especially in the east. Traditional textiles made by members of the Atayal and Truku tribes are sold at a handful of locations in Wulai and Taroko National Park.
Almost all of Taiwan’s museums have gift shops, and as you might expect, the one at the National Palace Museum is among the best. It stocks high-quality reproductions, exquisite (if heavy) books, and other gorgeous keepsakes.
Jades & Scrolls
Taipei has a good selection of antique stores as well as a famous weekend jade market — equidistant between Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall — where you can pick up semi-precious stones which have been carved into rings, necklaces, bracelets, and desktop decorations. For another good souvenir idea, you’ll need the help of a Chinese-speaking friend or a guide: Getting a professional calligrapher to compose and write out beautiful calligraphy couplets on paper scrolls makes for personalised, inexpensive and easy-to-pack gifts.
Your friends and relatives may prefer something more in keeping with Taiwan’s reputation as a producer of tech toys. 3C stores, as they’re called on the island (3C stands for computers, communications, and consumer electronics) often have good bargains, but English-language manuals aren’t always available, and after-sales service may be an issue. Perhaps it’d better to give them something uniquely Taiwanese…
If you have specific shopping requests for your upcoming Taiwan guided tour, or just want an hour here and an hour there to browse, our expert itinerary planners can devise a schedule that prefectly meets your requirements. Whether you seek a luxury tour or a family tour of Taiwan, we invite you to reach out today and start your journey through this fascinating land.