Shopping in Taipei
It has been said that Los Angeles has no center. In contrast, one could say that Taipei is all center, and as such it has been given the epithet - "the emporium without end." Basically, however, the main shopping area can be divided into two districts: East and West. West Taipei is the old city and is characterized by narrow streets packed with small shops. East Taipei boasts wide tree lined boulevards and the biggest shopping malls are located in this area.
The busiest part of East Taipei is in between MRT Zhongxiao Dunhua Station and MRT Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall Station (Bannan Line). The axis of this shopping area is Zhongxiao East Road, Sec. 4, which is surrounded by numerous of department stores. SOGO has three branches in this area, mainly sales various of boutique. Another notable one is Mingyao Department Store which has the flagship store of Uniqlo in it. East Taipei is also famous for the small stores inside the alleys. On the other hand,Daan Road in the other side of the area, has more elegant clothing shops.
Xinyi is arguably the premier shopping area in Taipei, if not all of Taiwan, and is anchored by a number of department stores and malls. Key among them is Taipei 101 Mall, as part of the larger Taipei 101 complex. Eslite Mall is an upscale market-style shopping center with a 24 hour bookshop (with a good English selection) on the second floor and ethnic music store in basement. For absolute luxury, try Bellavita Shopping Mall or Breeze Center.Songshan has some shopping malls with distinctive architectural features, such as the 'Death Star'-like Core Pacific Living City and the Miramar Entertainment Park, which sports a giant ferris wheel along with an IMAX theater.
For trendier fashion catering to youths, check out Ximending (西門町) in Wanhua just west of Downtown. If it's pink, plastic, and imported from Japan, you can probably find it on sale in a store. Sneakerheads will also find shoe stores with the latest limited releases here in sneaker-crazy Taipei, though you need to get a number and wait in a queue buzzing with anticipation. Several night markets don't just sell food but also have a large variety of clothing, handbags and more, like Shida Night Market near the university areas in Gongguan and Shilin Night Market.
As the sales headquarters for many homegrown multinational electronics manufacturers (including Asus, Garmin and Acer among others), good bargains and unique models can be found in Taipei. Those interested in picking up inexpensive electronic goods and cameras should wander the lanes and alleys around Kaifeng Street and Zhonghua Road, as well as the malls connected to Taipei Main Station.
Computer buffs will enjoy a visit to Guanghua Digital Plaza (光華數位新天地). Specializing in computer and electronic goods, this market has the largest number of stalls selling hardware and software under one roof in Taiwan, and all at very competitive prices. K-Mall, located in the former Asiaworld department store on the east side of Shinkong Mitsukoshi, specializes in electronics of all kinds and is a location for large companies such as Asus, Samsung, Benq, and Acer to showcase their newest products. The Taipei Zhongshan Metro Shopping Mall (Easy Mall) is a long underground shopping area that houses several stores selling all manner of items, not necessarily limited to electronics. A few stores in the Easy Mall carry current and vintage video games, hardware and software.
For jade, flowers and jewelry in one central location, check out the Jianguo Holiday Market in Daan. There are actually three different markets, the Weekend Jade Market, Weekend Flower Market and Weekend Handicrafts Market in this same location. As the names suggest, they are open only on weekends until 6PM. TheChinese Handicraft Mart in Zhongzheng is also good for handicrafts.
Wanhua's Dihua Street, Bopiliao Old Street and Snake Alley night market are throwbacks to the older days of Taipei, back when herbal remedies and aphrodisiacs were extremely popular. Pottery enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to Yingge in New Taipei City. Its old street is a crescent of beautiful pottery shops interspersed with coffee shops and tea houses.
Zhongshan North Road (中山北路) is a tree-lined boulevard featuring numerous international and local brands. Gucci and Louis Vuitton are among the brands who operate stores along this street. This road, particularly along the second section, is also famous for its numerous wedding picture studios and gown boutiques. It is possible to find a great deal for wedding portraits here as competition is stiff.
Go to just north of the junction with Zhongxiao West Rd on Zhongshan North Rd, sec 1 (west side of the road) for trekking and backpacking stores selling a wide range of high quality equipment, and you'll be ready for all the outdoor hiking that Taipei and Taiwan offers.
Taipei has great book shops, and roads such are Chongqing South Road, are packed with stores specializing in Chinese language books. The Station Front Area(站前) is a section of downtown Taipei just south of the Taipei Railway Station. It is a bustling area filled with shops and stores of all kinds, but it is particularly well known for its high concentration of bookstores due to the bloom of bushibans (as known as cram schools).
The following book stores all have good selections of English titles:
- Eslite, . (誠品) – Eslite offers a good selection at most of their branches, although the 24 hour flagship store (2F, 245 Dunhua South Rd. has the best selection. Eslite Book Store and shopping mall (11 Songgau Road), which incidentally is the largest book store in Taiwan, have the greatest selection. The Songgau Rd branch is located next to MRT Station 'Taipei City Hall'.
- Caves Books (敦煌) has two branches (54-3 Zhongshan North Road, Sec 2, near Yuanshan MRT Station. tel +886 2 2599-1166). This is a temporary location, while the old store is demolished and rebuilt. The other branch (5, Le 38, Tianyu St, Tianmu. Tel:+2 886 2874-2199) is one of the original book stores in Taipei specializing in English titles. And, although it has been surpassed by the newer arrivals, it is still a good place to pick up a popular novel and English language textbooks.
- Lai Lai (來來), 4F, 271 Roosevelt Road, Sec 3, . This shop has a small but interesting selection of English material.
- Crane Publishing Company, 200 Section 2, Jinshan S Rd, Da’an District, . Specialists in English language textbooks and teaching material.
- Bookman Books, Room 5, 2F, 88 Xinsheng South Road, Sec 3, . This is an excellent collection of English literature books, albeit a little expensive.
- Mollie Used Books, 12, Alley 10, Lane 244, Roosevelt Road sec 3, . You'll find a reasonable selection of English titles here.
NB: In order to protect the environment, a government policy rules that plastic bags cannot be given freely at stores in Taiwan, but have to be bought (NT$1) - bakeries being an exception as the items need to be hygienically wrapped. Re-usable canvas and nylon bags are sold at most supermarkets.