For years, Taipei 101 was the tallest skyscrapers in the world. As an iconic landmark and one of the tallest buildings worldwide, the observation deck of Taipei 101 rightly becomes a must-visit. It is certainly worth seeing. To me, the most amazing part is the structure design and this 660-tonne tuned mass damper that helps the building withstand typhoons and earthquakes. Bear in mind that this 509 meter / 1669 feet building is situated on the circum-Pacific seismic belt.
However, if you want to see the view of the Taipei City with Taipei 101 in it, the Elephant Mountain Trail, or the Xiangshan Trail, is one of the best places to go. I highly recommend this mini hiking trip for those visiting Taipei 101 and the Xinyi District (信義區). Note that this is for people who do not mind lots of walking and stairs.
[Updated August 2018]
I recommend stopping by Four Four South Village (四四南村/信義公民會館) when you are in the area. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from either Taipei 101 or Four Four South Village to the Elephant Mountain trail head.
If you want to go hiking first, there is a metro station nearby, the Xiangshan Station on the red line. (Google Map)
The Four Four South Village: A Clash Between New and Old
The Four Four South Village (四四南村/信義公民會館) is a village of dormitories built in the 1940s for workers at an armament factory and their families. It’s now a historic site where you can find culture events, exhibitions, coffee shops and Sunday flea markets.
This place is less than 5 minutes in walking distance from Taipei 101.
This village was built for workers at the 44 arsenal of the Combined Logistics Command and the complex was south of the factory, hence the name.
Lots of people shoot their engagement or engagement photos here. The scenes here showcase a drastic contrast between a modern, glass skyscraper and old concrete buildings with its blue-collar background.
The Elephant Mountain Hiking Trail (or Xiangshan Hiking Trail, 象山親山步道) is full of stairs, but the view is well worth it.
If you are fit, it would probably take only 15 minutes from the trail head to the top. Otherwise it would take 20 minutes or longer depending on your speed and how much break you need. Be prepared for lots and lots of steps!
There are four different routes. Only one is easily accessible by public transportation. Take Metro red line to Xiangshan Station. You’d want to take exit 2 and head south. Walk along the Xiangshan Park. When you get to the end of the park, make a left, go up the hill, and then turn right in front of a temple. Then you’ll see the trail head on your left.
It takes about 20 minutes to walk from the metro station to the trail head.
The best time to visit would be early in the morning or early in the evening for the sunset and night view. In the afternoon, the sun is not at the right spot and the sky is only partially blue.
If you are aiming for some serious photography, be sure you arrive early. This is one of the most cliche photography spots you can find in Taipei. On the top of Xiangshan sits six gigantic rocks where people set up their tripods as early as 4 p.m. to wait for the 6:00-6:30 p.m. sunset and blue hour view.
Shooting New Year fireworks of Taipei 101 is a nearly impossible mission that takes serious dedication. People camp out to secure a spot for their tripods a day or two beforehand.
Xiangshan is not the only spot to shoot. The Four Beasts Mountains (四獸山) around the Xiangyi District with Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain) being one of them provide lots of photo shoot spots.
Planning Your Visit
Head over to Taipei 101 in the afternoon. Stop by the Four Four South Village (四四南村/信義公民會館). Then walk from there or take the metro for one stop to the Elephant Mountain Hiking Trail. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from either Taipei 101 or Four Four South Village to the beginning of the trail. Hike up the trail to see the view at sunset or night time. And then pick a restaurant in Taipei 101, Hankyu Department Stores (阪急百貨) or Shin-Kong Mitsukoshi (新光三越) to enjoy dinner and dessert. The Xinyi District mall area is pretty at night.
Try traditional Taiwanese breakfast at Fuhang Soy Milk (阜杭豆漿) or Miss Qin Soy Milk (秦小姐豆漿).
Go up to the observation deck of Taipei 101 in the morning when it’s less hazy. (Opens at 9am) Walk around the Four Four South Village afterwards. Enjoy Taiwanese deep fried pork chop over rice for lunch at Emperor Foods (君悅排骨 國貿直營店).
In the afternoon, head over to Songshan Cultural and Creative Park (松山文創園區). Check out current exhibitions, visit souvenir shops and book stores at Eslite Spectrum Songyan Store (誠品生活松菸店), and find a coffee shop to chill. You can also go shopping at the numerous malls in the Xinyi District. Then head over to the Elephant Mountain before sunset for a sunset and nighttime view.