When we heard that Hung is a common Taiwanese surname, we knew that this was a country worth visiting!
The capital city of Taipei threw us for a fabulously gay loop. We had heard that it was, by Asian standards, a liberal and tolerant place, but we had no idea just how much the city loves its gay. Within minutes of descending onto the gay scene, we were doused in glitter and dancing under disco lights to the likes of Cher and Dolly Parton. The gay scene in Ximen is damn impressive! There's an entire area around the Red House with tons of gay bars to check out.
The city of Taipei is also full of rich culture, from the ancient temples that dot the city skyline, to the stunning architecture of tower blocks like the famous Taipei 101. In this gay guide to Taipei, we've put together our experience from this incredible city, including our favourite gay bars (there are loads!), clubs, gay hotels, events, things to do, and loads more!
How gay friendly is Taipei?
Very gay friendly! We rate Taiwan as not only the most gay friendly place in Asia, but one of the most gay friendly places in the world. Unlike the rest of Asia, Taiwan is miles ahead of everyone with its LGBTQ rights: in 2019 it was the first (and to date, only!) country in Asia to legalise gay marriage. Taiwan is a beacon of hope for LGBTQ rights in Asia that we hope the rest of the continent will follow asap!
Part of the reason why Taiwan is so far ahead of its neighbours is due to the era of Marshal Law, which occurred between 1949-1987. Known as the White Terror, it saw the Taiwanese experience many restrictions in their freedom of expression with around 200,000 people imprisoned or killed. So, when this tragic period ended, the Taiwanese were eager to push for change and embrace democracy, which they've been doing so beautifully ever since!
Today, young kids growing up in and around the Taipei area rarely encounter homophobia. There are many gay actors and musicians in the public eye for kids to look up to and aspire to be. We totally felt this when we were in Taipei. We felt comfortable with public displays of affection, especially holding hands in public, which is rare for us. At the rainbow crossing by Ximen Station where we (inevitably!) stopped to take lots of, people just watched us with warm smiles and zero judgment.
For more, be sure to check out our interview with local boy and former Mr Gay Taiwan, Po-Hung, about what gay life in Taiwan is like.
The gay district of Taipei
The main gay area of Taipei is in and around the Ximen Red House in the Ximending district. Hanging around here you will see plenty of rainbow flags, bars, shops, gay couples holding hands, cruising, boozing, you name it! This is one fabulous gay neighbourhood you'll instantly fall in love with.
There are plenty of gay bars within the Ximen Red House complex. Cafe Dalida is our favourite. Everything from the drag shows to the cuteness of the waiters won our hearts over. Elsewhere in the complex are lots of smaller bars such as The Secret Garden, Hero, Hunt and tons more. Our best advice is just to head there and see what takes your fancy!
There are also many other gay bars and clubs scattered around Taipei, beyond the Ximen Red House pink bubble, particularly in the East side of the city where you'll find Abrazo Bistro, Fairy and our favourite gay club: G*Star. See below for more about our favourite gay bars and clubs of Taipei.
Gay hotels in Taipei
Hotels in Taipei are more than accustomed to LGBTQ travellers, especially those in the Ximending district. We never had a problem getting a double bed anywhere in Taiwan. We've set out below some of the best gay and gay friendly hotels in Taipei to suit all budgets, from a mix of our first-hand experience as well as tips from fellow LGBTQ travellers:
The Grand Hotel
Why we love it
- Price range $$
- Delicious Asian cuisine at the Golden Dragon
- Fabulous swimming pool and sauna
- Beautiful lounge areas for relaxing
The first thing we noticed as we rocked up to this hotel was how stunning it looks from the outside.
Structured like a huge temple or palace, with golden roof tiling and red columns, it looks straight out of the pages of a fairy-tale book. The harsh looking mountains offer an atmospheric backdrop to the building, perfect for those Insta shots. The hotel is usually one of the stops included in city tours because it's such a famous building!
Situated in the heart of the city, you’ll be close to all the major landmarks and tourist hotspots. Though with the luxurious amenities and features of the hotel, you’ll find it rather hard to pull yourself away from its delectable delights. In terms of facilities, there is an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a sauna and a massive banquet hall. We loved the lounging area that was filled with plush couches and a mini-library.
Even the most basic of rooms are oozing with detail and design. The Classic Room is draped with Western-style furniture, wooden panelling, a large bath and breathtaking views. Curling into our bed on the first evening, rundown by jet lag and the bits of sightseeing we tried to squeeze in, it felt like lying down on a cloud. We also spent one evening at the Golden Dragon restaurant (one of four different dining options) and gorged on mouthwatering Chinese food.
Why we love it
- Price range: $
- Natural and rustic atmosphere
- Free 24 hour snack bar
- Very close to the Ximen Red House gay scene
The first thing to welcome you as you walk in through the doors of Cho Hotel is the adorable Labrador who hangs around the reception. As dog lovers, we couldn't get enough of him! He's also become a sort of celebrity landmark of the hotel.
Of course, we also love the colourful rose mural at the hotel entrance and the many other Instagrammable spots throughout the hotel, from the elegant to the downright kitsch!
Cho Hotel is probably one of the most popular hotels for gay travellers in Taipei as it's only a few minutes walk from the Ximen Red House gay scene. At least that was our reason for picking it – it strikes the perfect balance in terms of location and affordability. Ximen is not cheap. This is Taipei's most central area. Prices are expensive and space is super tight, so be warned – the rooms feel a little claustrophobic, we're not gonna lie!
In the hotel itself, you’ll notice a very rustic vibe. Use of dark greens and browns throughout the interior gives the place an off-the-beaten-track atmosphere. They offer rooms with the basic necessities with some high-comfort luxury, particularly the Japanese-style double rooms. Cho Hotel is also fairly budget-friendly, which is what makes it our top pick for LGBTQ travellers who want to be based minutes walking distance to the gay bars of Taipei.
STAY WITH A GAY LOCAL
Misterb&b is the Airbnb equivalent for the LGBTQ community. Unlike on Airbnb, you know your host is gay, avoiding any nasty surprises when you check in. It is also a great way to meet gay locals and discover the underground gay scene. Click below to get 10 € (or $10) off your first booking.
GS Gay Hotel
Why we love it
- Price range: $
- Very relaxed clothing policy
- Lovely sauna only available for guests
- Rooms decorated with gay erotica!
Oozing with Pride through and through, the Gs Gay Hotel is Taipei's official gay hotel! Each of the rooms is decorated with gay erotica. Let's just say it is definitely not the kind of place you’d travel to with your parents!
It has more of a hostel feel than a hotel though, with communal showers and places to hang out or play board games. Regardless of whether you're travelling solo or with a group, you’ll definitely leave here with more friends than before!
Gay is everywhere here, including lots of rainbow colours throughout the lobby areas. Gs is also very lax about clothing, so you can feel free to walk around in the nip! There is also a sauna area, where you can kick back your feet and enjoy a nice detox. This is also only open to people who stay in the hotel, so it never feels too overcrowded. The rooms range from the basic and simple with the bare necessities, to more premium options.
We love that they provide some free amenities, including condoms! The only downside is that it's quite far from the Ximen Red House gay scene compared to Hotel Cho: Gs Gay Hotel is located in the Songshan District, around 10 minutes walking distance from the nearest metro station. However, if you're looking for a more intimate and exclusive gay experience, then we definitely recommend it.
Why we love it
- Price range: $$
- Multiple on-site restaurants
- Nice central location
- Massage services available
Looking for something a little more wallet-friendly but still want to treat yourself? Not a problem! Let us introduce you to the Brother Hotel.
What is a real treat about this place is how easy it is to get to. If like us you want to cut down walking distance when dragging around large suitcases (especially after a long 13-hour flight!), the Brother Hotel is right next to the MRT station in the Nanjing Fuxing area. It's also close to the Liaoning Street Night Market, which is a huge plus for foodies.
One of our gay friends who has been visiting Taipei for over 25 years swears by the Brother Hotel, always insisting on staying here as his base in the city. It's a very gay friendly hotel with a team of staff who are more than accustomed to LGBTQ travellers, welcoming us with open arms. In terms of in house restaurants, we recommend checking out the Orchid Room, especially if you're a fan of Oriental food. It's bloody good!
There are actually seven different places to eat in this hotel, but luckily there's also a gym so you can try to burn off some of those dumpling calories! Guest rooms are spacious and classy, with comfy beds for a good night's sleep after exploring the city. They offer an airport shuttle for guests at a small cost, which is also a nice touch. In terms of the gay scene, it takes around 10 minutes by train to get to the Ximen Red House Complex from here.
Amba Taipei Ximending
Why we love it
- Price range: $
- Eco-friendly, minimalist rooms
- Lovely buffet breakfast
- Very cool onsite music lounge
Another excellent option for LGBTQ travellers who want to be based minutes walking distance to Ximen Red House. It's also quite a mesmerising building: housed in a massive, pentagon-shaped building shimmering in black metal, you can’t help but feel like a double agent walking through these doors!
Once inside, amba is, in fact, a very hip hotel with its own music lounge, a creative space, 3 different choices for dining and groovy decor throughout.
With 160 rooms, the hotel likes to promote the concept of simple living. All of the room designs are functional and minimalist. They are built to be environmentally friendly, so you can rest easy knowing your carbon footprint is being kept relatively low. Our favourite thing about amba is that it's a super affordable hotel, located minutes walking distance from the best gay bars of Taipei.
Inside the hotel, you feel super comfortable, as if you're hiding in a little nook away from all the noise of the outside world. Artists will fall in love with how the hotel features loads of interesting and ingenious works of art on display. The most striking decoration we thought was in the Chiba restaurant, which was surrounded by bookshelves.
Gay bars in Taipei
The sun has set. You’ve completed your items on your checklist for the day. Now it's time to party. For the gays of Taipei, that can only mean one thing: the Ximen Red House!
The Red House has tons of gay bars scattered over two floors. The best ones are mainly located downstairs (like Dalida and The Garden) with lots of smaller ones upstairs. We’ve only set out our favourites here otherwise this would be a pretty long guide! We've also included a few of our favourite gay bars located elsewhere in Taipei, beyond the Red House.
Cafe Dalida (Ximen Red House)
It’s glossy. It’s camp. It’s Cafe Dalida! This bar is a busy, booming and boisterous place to visit. We love it here, it was our main go-to gay bar during our time in Taipei. The cocktails are delicious and the waiters super cute, always with a cheeky wink or shy demure smile! It's also one of the best drag bars in Taipei, with a hilarious show on weekends. Our only tip – if coming on a weekend evening try to book a table as it gets super busy! The crowd here is a mix of foreigners and locals and a great place to quickly make friends, which is what we loved about it the most. Cafe Dalida is located downstairs in the Ximen Red House and is open daily until around 3am.
The Garden (Ximen Red House)
The Garden is the other main gay bar of the gay Ximen Red House area. It's massive, with a large garden-like outdoor terrace (hence the name). You almost always pass through The Garden when sashaying through the Ximen Red House area because the pathway cuts straight through. Because of this, The Garden always felt to us like the heart and soul of the Red House gay scene. Whilst we love Dalida a lot, The Garden was also a favourite of ours because we were more likely to get a table here during the busy weekend hours. The Garden is located downstairs at the Ximen Red House and is open daily until around 3am.
The Secret Garden (Ximen Red House)
A spin-off from The Garden, located directly above it in the Ximen Red House complex, The Secret Garden is a much smaller bar with standing-only space. It overlooks the Ximen hangout area so it's a good spot to check out the talent below and get a few shots of Ximen by night. The crowd here was more local compared to the bars downstairs, which we love because Taiwanese gays love meeting and chatting with foreign guys. What sets The Secret Garden apart from all the other gay bars upstairs is that it has a live DJ on most evenings. The Secret Garden is located upstairs in the Ximen Red Hosue and is open daily until around 2am.
Sol Bistro Cafe (Ximen Red House)
Sol is a very popular gay restobar in a more remote corner just by the entrance to the Ximen Red House. We frequently came here for pizza snacks as a break from all the cocktails at Dalida, although they also do some pretty darn good drinks here too! Make sure you try the rainbow coloured “Around the World” cocktail! Sol has a buzzy outdoor terrace space with large wooden tables, attracting all flavours of the LGBTQ family from around the world. Sol Bistro Cafe is located by the entrance to Ximen Red House on Xining Road and is open daily until around 1/2am.
This is one of those unassuming places that is packed full of charm! We sort of stumbled on Hero by accident and glad we did! It's located around 10 minutes walk away from the Ximen Red House, attracting more of a local crowd of all ages. It has a small dancing area, which gets quite rowdy and messy later in the evening as more and more guys lose their shirts! And if you want to enrichen your local experience in Taipei, we suggest heading upstairs to the cruising area… Look out for their themed nights like the “Goddess Party” and “Black Party”. Hero Bar is located at 2F-4F, 15-2 Kunming Street and is open daily until around 3am.
When you see a name like Fairy for sure you're going to go inside right? Especially when their slogan is “It Takes BALLS to be a fairy”! This is a chic cocktail bar on the Eastern side of the city, which gets quite raucous and busy on weekends. We liked it – it's super hip and quite quirky, with lots of plant decoration that gives it a sort of Mother Nature feel! The crowd is mainly local trendy gay guys in their 20s and 30s. When we came here on a Saturday evening before heading to G*, it was alive and super busy! Look out for their themed parties like “No Pants Day” and the “Fairy KIKI Ball”. Fairy Bar is located at 51 Lane 308, Guangfu South Road and is open daily until around 3am.
Bacio is the Italian word for “kiss”, and the ethos of this cute place is to spread the love…and they sure do a great job of spreading the love with their sexy team of GoGo dancers that surface later in the evening! Bacio is more of an after-work drinks hangout, particularly popular with local gay guys. The music is a mix of pop chart music with some Kpop thrown in, which we LIVE for! On weekends they have fun disco nights like our favourite, “It's Britney B*tch!”. Like Fairy Bar, Baccio is also located in the Eastern side of Taipei, making it a handy place to go for pre-drinks before heading to G* to party. Bacio is found at No. 11, Lane 160, Section 1, Dunhua South Road and is open daily until around 3am.
Hearing something called Indulge Experimental Bistro is enough to pique anyone's curiosity and like little cats, we were pulled in by our intrigue! The Bistro greets you with a hushed decadent ambience that is both quietly confident and comforting. Their cocktails all have a unique twist so they both look and taste amazing! But don't just take our word for it, Indulge Experimental Bistro is considered to be one of the top 5 bars in Asia. A pretty mean feat! You can find Indulge Experimental Bistro at 11, Lane 219, Section 1, Fuxing South Road. It's open daily until around 2/3am.
Up for something a little different? When you first see this name you will be forgiven for misreading it. We made the same mistake! But when you walk in, you can see why there is a clever play on words. The ambience is chic and fun with a different way of ordering drinks: instead of a menu, you tell the bar staff what alcohol you like most, and they will prepare you a drink based on this. Let's just say we were never disappointed – these guys sure know how to create a mouth-watering cocktail! Fourplay is located at 49 Dongfeng Street and is open daily (except Sundays) until around 1/2am.
Like the Indulge Experimental Bistro, this place caught our attention due to its unusual name. The R&D Cocktail Lab is probably one of Taiwan's best-kept secrets. Upon entering, we could immediately feel the sleek sophistication, it's practically oozing out of the walls! Designed to be like a speakeasy bar with an oriental twist, there is an atmosphere of hushed anticipation when you walk in, with dim, mysterious lights. The drinks are impeccably presented and delicious. Can't go wrong with R&D for a decent, chilled place to have a few lowkey drinks with your lover or a few friends. The R&D Cocktails Lab can be found at 36 Jiaxing Street and is open until 1am (3am on weekends).
Gay clubs in Taipei
Taipei doesn’t have as much variety in terms of gay clubs as it does gay bars, but the few it does have are a lot of fun! Our favourite is G*star. It‘s always a guaranteed fun night out, especially on weekends. Also, look out for the gay monthly parties like Werk! Blush and C.U.M…no, get your mind out of the gutter, it actually stands for: Create Ur Mmmagic! These are the main gay clubs and parties in Taipei we recommend you check out:
G*star is why we love the Taipei gay scene. Every time we came here it was always a fun evening, especially on Saturdays. We always make a whole bunch of new friends, both locals and fellow gay travellers. As it's the main gay club of Taipei, everyone out ‘on the scene' will eventually make their way here. The music is everything we love about gay clubs – loads of cheesy pop classics with some K pop hits thrown into the mix. They usually have a few shows around midnight which include drag queens, cabaret and GoGo dancers. When the shows are finished, the entire stage downstairs becomes one large dancing space. Upstairs is a more chilled seating area which overlooks the stage below also a handy spot to cruise the talent below! G*star is located at No. 23, Long Jiang Rd and is open daily until around 5am.
Hunt Taipei is more of a raunchy kind of place. Not for the fainthearted! You will be led down into the basement and feel your inhibitions start to slowly roll off of you. What really sets this place apart though are its monthly themed nights, aka “the Hunting Seasons”, which run on the 2nd Saturday of the month. Events include “Lube Wrestling”, “Small Towel Day” and various underwear parties. And to really kick it up a level, there's even an event called Fundoshi…this is a Japanese version of the jockstrap to give you an idea! Hunt is located at No. 7, Section 2, Guiyang Street and is open daily until around 3am.
Once a month, you can really let it loose at Werk! It happens on the 3rd Saturday of each month as well as at special times of the year like Pride in October. Remember Taipei Pride is a big deal here – it's the largest gay event in all of Asia, and Werk! puts on one hell of a show for it! As it's only a monthly event, they go all out, featuring the best DJs, drag shows and plenty of hunky GoGo dancers. The crowd is usually a mix of locals and foreigners aged in their 20s and 30s. The Werk! party happens at Triangle which is located at No. 1 Yumen Street. Check their Facebook page for precise details of their next event.
Gay Parties at B1
B1 is a straight club that is famous for its gay parties called Blush and C.U.M. This is more of an electro music-type club in an underground location. Blush is an event inspired by a Burlesque theme from Berlin or Paris featuring drag shows and famous live DJs. The Create Ur Mmmagic! party has such a famous nickname (ahem!) that its reputation surpasses it because of this! Despite the nickname, it's a very innocent and super fun pop-inspired night out welcoming all genders. B1 is located at 198 Section 3, Civic Boulevard and is only open on Fridays and Saturdays until around 5am.
Taipei Gay Pride and Events
Pride in Taipei is a BIG deal. This is the largest gay event in all of Asia, so expect to be swarmed with lots of flash and colour when visiting during the event. The Taiwanese pull out all the stops to make it as campy and flashy as possible. With Pride and other LGBTQ events in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the best gay events in Taipei to mark into your calendar.
Set sail aboard Asia’s best gay party! This festival takes place across 3 days on the second weekend of June during the Taipei Boat Festival. It is a mix of pool parties, circuit parties with tons of half-naked men and some of the hottest names in the Asian show-business. The highlight is the Sunday Afternoon Pool Party, which sees everyone strip down to their underwear, partying in the waters and enjoying performances from live DJs.
Taipei Gay Pride (October)
The biggest gay event in Taiwan is undoubtedly Taipei Gay Pride with 200,000 people participating, making it Asia's biggest gay event. It culminates with a wonderful parade on the last Saturday in October. It's a guaranteed blast and worth scheduling your visit to coincide with it. Some of the best gay parties of Taiwan take place during Taipei Pride, in particular, Formosa Pride Taipei and the WOW Pool Party.
New Year’s Eve (December)
Whilst there are no official gay events taking place during New Year's Eve in Taipei, you can bet your bottom dollar the Ximen Red House will be alive and buzzing more than ever! NYE in Taipei is famous for being one of the best gay party destinations in all of Asia alongside Bangkok. The Ximen Red House has an official countdown, after which the entire area transforms into one amazing giant gay street party.
Gay saunas in Taipei
Time to let loose, kick your feet back and bask in one of the fabulous saunas of the Taiwanese capital. These are some of the best gay saunas in Taipei:
- ANIKi: this is a part gym, part sauna complex attracting a mix of mainly local guys of all ages. Look out for their themed weekly events, which get super raucous. ANIKi is open 24/7 and is located at B1, 11 Ningxia Road.
- Soi 13 in: located close to Triangle where the Werk! parties take place, so ideal time to come is around 3-5am on weekends when the party boys head here after the club shuts. It attracts more younger guys and has a mixed crowd of locals and foreigners. Soi 13 in is open 24/7 and is located at 1, No. 13號, Section 1, Minsheng East Road.
- Taipei I/O: this is more like a Japanese onsen in style, spread over 3 floors. Look out for their themed nights like “Japanese Bondage”, “Fundoshi Night” and “Nude”. Taipei I/O is located at No. 12-1號, Lane 49, Shuangcheng Street. It is open daily from midday to around midnight, and all day on Saturdays.
- Hans Men's Sauna: a more local gay sauna attracting an older crowd. Sometimes also referred to as “Herrensauna“. It is open 24/7 and is located on the second floor of an unassuming building at 120號, Xining Road.
Gay cruising in Taipei
Outdoor gay cruising in Taipei is not as popular as it used to be. Since the growth in popularity of the gay dating apps over the past decade, outdoor gay cruising has almost disappeared. There are, however, several spots that still retain a reputation for a bit of hanky panky, which our local Taiwanese friends advised us of:
- Eslite Bookstore: We know. We know. You’re asking, “What were they thinking? A bookstore? Surely not?” And perhaps, by day, you’d be right in thinking you wouldn’t get much luck. But this bookstore is open 24 hours. So by night, the store attracts a different kind of tourist… Many of those who do cruise are foreigners or local boys looking for some fun. Hang around in the erotic section long enough and you might just get lucky. Who doesn’t love a guy that reads eh?
- 228 Park: This is the park that inspired the famous scene in “Crystal Boys” – Taiwan’s first gay novel (later made into a movie called “The Outsiders”). 228 Park is open all night and sees a lot of “traffic”! Many of those cruising tend to gravitate towards the toilets, so if you're looking to get some action, that is the best place to go looking.
Gay hot springs in Taipei
Taiwan is beloved for its hot springs. There is truly no better place to go and unwind. Just dip into the warm waters and allow your worries to float away. We’ve listed two of the most popular gay hot spring in Taipei to check out:
- Emperor Spa: the Emperor Spa is made up of many different pools, each with varying temperatures and amenities. There is one that requires you to get fully naked, which is also a good place to meet other guys. There is also a spring with spurting jets, which feels like a nice massage! It gets particularly busy in the evening, particularly after 8pm. Note: you will need to bring your own towel and it is cash payment only.
- Kawayu Spa & Sauna: Kawayu is an all-male, all-naked spa, popular with everyone from tourists to locals. It is decorated with an authentic Japanese onsen setting. It features 3 pools outside: a big soaking pool that averages 42°C, a round cold whirlpool, and a hydrotherapy hot pool with massaging jets. Note: if you forget to bring your own towel, you can rent one for NT$200.
Gay friendly restaurants in Taipei
A gal has got to eat! And what better way to do it than to go to a super authentic place and try some delicious Taiwanese cuisine? With the city bursting with so many different Asian flavours, you’ll be spoiled for choice! We've pulled together our favourite top gay restaurants in Taipei, which we recommend you try out:
Abrazo Bistro is spread across two levels: one for dining on scrumptious Asian cuisine, the other for dancing the night away. It's a popular spot for young people, so expect it to be super lively and jam-packed. The menu has lots of variety with some super tasty Taiwanese classic dishes. Our favourite was the crispy duck breast with pineapple wine sauce. Sounds bonkers we know, but it was gooood! We also loved the water bamboo and scallop salad, which we think you also need to try. Absolutely sublime food here!
Mudan Taipei is a large outdoor cafe located right in the heart of the Ximen Red House. It prides itself on traditional Japanese cooking – the head chef travelled to Japan to learn tempura techniques, which he applies here. The food is a mixture of seafood and other meats, with a Japanese influence. We loved coming here for a bite to eat before heading over to Dalida and Secret Garden for cocktails on a Friday evening. We also like that the food itself is not too heavily battered as the tempura is made from Japanese flour, water and 4 signature oils.
Din Tai Fung is a well-established dumpling restaurant that we are completely in love with. Honestly, this is one of the best restaurants we have been to in Taipei and their steamed dumplings are to die for. Simply divine! To add to the charm of this restaurant, the owner Yang Bang-Yi was one of those success stories that really tugs at the heart-strings. Having fled China during its tumultuous civil war in the late 1940s, Yang arrived in Taipei and over time set up Din Tai Fung from the ground up. A true success story! This is a verrrry popular spot though, so make sure you reserve a table if you want to avoid long queues.
If you really want to chill, sit back and relax, then UDE is for you. Nestled into the shopping district of Ximen, we found this to be the perfect spot to stop and recharge our batteries while on our shopping spree. Not only is there a rainbow flag flying outside, but UDE serves delicious food that is so perfectly presented. Each plate is like a work of art and many dishes come with cute little animal figurines on the side. These small wooden toys are an adorable addition to your meal.
We stumbled on Fong Da by accident, mainly because of the striking decor, resembling something you'd see in a 1950's movie. We fell in love with Fong Da and opted to come here for our morning brew instead of the Starbucks down the road. It's tiny, yet adorable, with so many coffee blends to choose from. Seby's favourite was the “Fong Da Coffee blend”. It's not too strong but has a pleasant nutty aftertaste. Bonus: Fong Da is located just around the corner from the Ximen Red House.
Best things to do in Taipei
Taipei 101 is, of course, top of the list – the iconic feature of the city's skyline. The city also has a gay temple (yes you read right!) and a handful of other gems. We've put together a selection of our favourite attractions and must-dos in Taipei that we think all LGBTQ travellers should check out:
For New Yorkers, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of hope. For Parisians, the Eiffel Tower is a symbol of love. For the Taiwanese, Taipei 101 is a symbol of dreams and a shining message of what is possible. The tall structure (an impressive 101 floors at 508m/1,666ft high) represents the renewal of time. Each floor was built to represent one year across a decade – with the 101st floor commemorating all of the years that are to come. Also, it is constructed to look like a stalk of bamboo which represents strength and prosperity to Taiwanese. At the top is an observation deck that allows for panoramic views, as well as the chance to go outside: we highly recommend this for the best views of the city.
Rainbow Six crossing / the gender crossing
When it comes to LGBTQ rights, Taiwan is leading the pack in Asia. To celebrate its victorious legislation of same-sex marriage in 2019 (the first country in Asia to do so), Taipei painted a massive rainbow crossing in the heart of the city. With the assistance of various organisations, the brightly coloured spot came to be affectionately named the “the Rainbow Six” crossing. You can find it just outside the exit of the Ximen MRT Station, close to the entrance to the Ximen Red House gay area. We (obviously!) loved coming here to get lots of rainbow crossing pics for our Instagram…think of this as our gay version of the Beatles' Abbey Road album cover!
Rabbit Gay Temple
Taiwan is so gay, they even have a gay deity with a temple in its honour! The Rabbit Gay Temple was built to commemorate Tu’er Shen (The Rabbit God), who is a Chinese deity that is said to manage the love and relationships between same-sex partners. So of course, we simply had to visit! It was founded in 2006 by Lu Wei-ming and gets visited by 9,000 gay pilgrims each year. It is particularly popular for those folk who are single and ready to mingle – as the spirit of the Rabbit God helps those looking for love. As the world’s only shrine for an LGBTQ god, we think this is must-see for all gay travellers to Taipei.
Beitou Hot Springs
If you're not into one of the gay hot springs we recommend above, we suggest checking out the public baths at the Beitou Hot Springs. It's full of locals coming for their daily bathe in various pools each with different temperatures. See how long you last in the hot hot hot pool before your skin turns red and you feel you're cooking…Seby lasted a whole 5 minutes before running out to cool down in the ice-cold bath! We recommend bringing speedos (NOT swimming shorts – they're very strict about this!), a towel and flip flops. As you're here, we also recommend checking out the Beitou Thermal Valley next door (where the photo was taken), where you can see the rising steam from the hot sulphuric water rising with the pretty valley behind. One way to get the most out of a day trip to Beitou is to join this tour to the springs and nearby volcano.
Officially called the Xiangshan Hiking Trail, the Elephant Mountain trek is a 400m (0.25 miles) climb from the city into the surrounding rain forest. It took us around 45 minutes to get from the MRT station to the top stopping a lot for photos of course! We recommend coming here for the best views of the city skyline, especially for Taipei 101. It's quite easy to do yourself, but for a unique experience with a local, we recommend this private tour, who will also pinpoint the best photo opps along the way.
If you want to have a night like no other, Taipei's night markets are definitely the way to go. They're filled with many delightful (as well as some pretty quirky!) foods to try out. The most famous foods we recommend you try at least once: an oyster omelette and the infamous sticky tofu (it tastes as vile as its smells!) There are, of course, many tasty dishes to try here, all in a very informal local setting. The Shilin Night Market is the biggest and most famous of all the Night Markets in Taipei. It is frequented by both locals and tourists. Not only is this a good place to get food (with over 500 stalls to choose from!), it is also a hub for fashion and electronic goods. To get the most out of your visit, we recommend this cycling tour of Taipei which also explores the night markets.
A thriving shopping district in the Dazhi area of Taipei, Miramar contains tons of department stores, a cinema and, most famously, a massive Ferris wheel. It stands 100 metres (330 ft) off the ground, making it the second tallest Ferris wheel in Taiwan. At night it gets all lit up in fancy colours. As well as the romantic atmosphere, we also recommend this for the impressive views over Taipei. Apart from the Ferris wheel, there are plenty of shops to explore selling everything from obscure clothing brands to delicious food.
Taipei Zoo is famous for being the largest zoo across all of Asia – all 90 acres of it! As such it has become one of Taipei's top attractions so it gets super busy at peak times – so definitely one to save for a weekday to avoid the large crowds. One of the star attractions of Taipei Zoo is the Giant Panda House where you can see the family of Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan. This is a panda couple who were gifted to Taiwan by China in 2008 as a gesture of friendship. They live in the zoo with their offspring, Yuan Zai, who in 2013 became the first ever panda to be born in Taiwan!
Taipei Tianhou Temple
Step aside Mazu, there's a new sea goddess in town as Seby tears through the streets of Ximen! Constructed in 1746, the Taipei Tianhou Temple was funded by foreign merchants from China to honour the revered Mazu, the goddess of the sea. Over time Mazu's importance increased massively in Taiwan, now regarded as the patron saint of the country. As such there are well over 1,000 places of worship dedicated to her. This is considered the most impressive. Getting to the Taipei Tianhou Temple can be a little tricky. There are no big signs announcing that it is a temple or place of worship so make sure you pay attention!
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial
The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial was built in April 1980 in honour of one of Taiwan's most famous leaders – Mr Chiang Kai-shek. He was the former president and general of “The Republic of China” between 1928-1975…NB: Taiwan's official name is: “The Republic of China”, which is different from the country's much larger neighbour, whose official name is the “People's Republic of China”! We recommend coming here to watch the very dramatic changing of the guards. It's super camp and OTT! The building is absolutely gorgeous, crafted from white stone in octagonal shape and topped with blue tiles on the roof. Not only is it pretty, but it's also meant to bring good fortune to everyone who visits. If you're joining this tour of Taipei it includes a stop at the memorial.
Visiting the Taroko Gorge National Park is a wonderful way to get out of the city and into nature for a while during your visit to Taiwan. This is a substantial trip of around 3 hours each way, so probably better for an overnight stay rather than a day trip from Taipei. It's worth it though, the scenery is to die for! Taroko Gorge is the deepest canyon in the country and is often regarded as one of the top attractions in Taiwan, receiving millions of visitors each year. The park itself is stunning, filled with emerald trees and a super photogenic aquamarine river that snakes all the way through the entire gorge.
228 Peace Park
The Peace Park is not only gorgeous but it has a notorious gay history. This park used to be one of the most popular cruising grounds of Taipei before the gay dating apps all but killed off the outdoor cruising scene. It is also the inspiration and setting for Pai Hsien-yung's classic novel, “Crystal Boys”. We liked coming to the Peace Park as a place to chill on a sunny day with a group of friends, a picnic and a few beers. The LGBTQ history of the Peace Parks continues to this day, with its grey gates temporarily painted the colours of the rainbow to honour its strong historical affinity to the LGBTQ community. Also, be sure to check out the Peace Park monument, which was built to not only commemorate the victims of the White Terror, but has also become a memorial site for Taiwan's LGBTQ community.
The GinGin Store
Want to do more to support the local gay population? Want to see what is happening at the ground level? Then coming to the GinGin Store should be on your list. Not only is it a bookstore (which is always a win!) but it has a great ethos that has helped support gay men in Taiwan for decades. Even if you look at their branding, it is all about inclusivity. The Chinese characters that spell the name GinGin Store are made up of 6 suns, which translate to “Glorious” and “Shining”. Couple this with the abundant rainbow colours found all over the front porch and you're sure to realise that this is a very gay friendly place to visit!
Before you go
We've put together some handy hints and tips to help you plan your own trip to Taipei. Read on to find out everything the gay traveller should know before they go.
How to get there: Taiwan is an island, so you'll most likely be getting to Taipei by flying into the Taoyuan International Airport. From there it's very easy to get into the city centre via train, bus or taxi, although we personally prefer to pre-book a private airport transfer when we're arriving in a new city. That way we don't have to try to juggle luggage on public transport and we know a professional English-speaking guide will be waiting for us no matter how late our flight may arrive.
Visa requirements: Travellers to Taiwan from quite a few countries, like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and all members of the EU can visit the country visa-free for up to 90 days. As always, make sure you check your personal visa requirements before making any arrangements to visit Taipei.
Getting around: Taipei has an excellent public transport system to get around the city. We found the MRT trains the easiest way to get around, they're fast, clean, cheap and efficient. You can also rent bikes from one of 400 YouBike stations if you want to explore while getting some exercise. Here's a more detailed guide to transport in Taipei for you to check out.
Power Plugs: In Taiwan, the power plugs/sockets used are of types A and B, which are found in many areas throughout Asia, along with Canada and the United States. If you are travelling to Taipei from another country then you will need to bring a travel adaptor with you.
Travel insurance: All travellers to Taipei should make sure they have adequate travel insurance, because you just never know when you might miss a flight, get sick or have something else not go according to plan. We recommend World Nomads travel insurance as we've been using them for years and they offer affordable, comprehensive cover. It's also very easy to make a claim online if something does go wrong.
Safety and Security: Even though Taipei is a very safe destination, it's always possible that you may encounter danger when travelling and need immediate assistance. We use Close Circle's “virtual bodyguard” app when we're travelling as they provide support and assistance at just the swipe of a button on your phone. Read more about the app in our guide to staying safe while travelling.
Vaccinations: All travellers to Taiwan should be up to date on routine vaccinations like measles, mumps and rubella. Most travellers should also get vaccinated against hepatitis A, while some may need to be vaccinated against hepatitis B, rabies and Japanese Encephalitis, depending on what you will be doing. Make sure you check the CDC website and speak with your doctor before making any bookings for your trip to Taipei.
Currency: The currency used in Taipei (and the rest of Taiwan) is the New Taiwan dollar. The code for the New Taiwan dollar is TWD and the symbol used is NT$. Currently, US$1 converts to about NT$30, €1 is worth about NT$32.38 and £1 will give you about NT$35.
Tipping culture: Taiwan is not a country with a strong tipping culture, so you don't need to feel obliged to tip anywhere in Taipei. Even taxi drivers will probably be surprised if you offer for them to keep the change! A service charge is usually included in a restaurant bill as well, so there's no need for tipping at all.
Internet access: There are many free WiFi spots throughout Taiwan, although you will need a local phone number in order to register and use these. We personally find it a lot easier to rent a pocket WiFi device when we're travelling as you can connect multiple devices at the same time. We've even written a whole guide on renting pocket WiFi in Taiwan to help you figure it all out before you get to Taipei.
Online privacy: While Taiwan is quite progressive by Asian standards, you might still want to keep your online history private, especially if you plan to use gay dating apps like Grindr or Scruff while you're in Taipei. We like to use ExpressVPN when we travel as it's a reliable and affordable way to keep our online activities completely private.
Accommodation: Whenever we travel to Taipei, we use Booking.com to find accommodation with the best prices. Their online booking system is very easy to use and they offer free cancellation on many properties. You can also access their excellent online customer support team 24/7.
Sightseeing and adventure: Another one of our favourite companies we use while travelling is GetYourGuide. They offer many fun activities to choose from in locations around the world, especially in Taipei! The online booking process is very simple and they also have fantastic 24/7 customer support.
When to visit: Unless you are timing your visit for one of the gay events in Taipei, we think the best time to visit is between March and May. During this time (the country's spring) the temperature is not too hot or cold, and the trees will still be covered in beautiful blossoms. Taipei gets monsoons and typhoons between June – October, so we'd recommend avoiding travel during this hot, humid summer season.
Gay map of Taipei
Here is our detailed map of gay Taipei, which includes our favourite gay friendly hotels, gay bars and clubs as well as the best things to do in Taipei:
For more inspiration:
- Read about our experiences travelling through Asia as a gay couple
- These are the best gay cruises heading to Asia if you like a bit of luxury
- After Taiwan, why not check out Thailand, the country of smiles
- As well as our gay city guide to Bangkok
- We have a first-timer's itinerary for Japan if you're heading that way as well
- And don't miss out our fabulous gay guide to Tokyo
- Check out this list of the biggest and best gay Pride events in the world
- And get some Pride outfit inspiration here as well
- Don't head out without packing these must-have gay Pride accessories
- Find out why we love attending Pride in London each year