Taipei, the national capital of Taiwan, is the country's political, economic, scientific, military and cultural center, and a global leader in cutting-edge computer and electronics technologies. Part of the best collection of Chinese art in the world is here, half the collection of the emperors from the Forbidden Ciy in Beijing, known as the Taipei Gugong, representing over over 10,000 years of Chinese arts and history at the National Palace Museum. A more traditional Chinese society survives here too, without some of the kinds of changes seen on the mainland after decades of Communism there.
Perhaps the best Chinese food in the world can be enjoyed in Taiwan, in varieties that reflect the influences of many regions; noodles from South China, soups of Fujan, mixed in with local Taiwanese fare -a natural melange of island rustic foods, heavy on pork and shrimp paste, using roots and dried fish for more complex flavors. A wide assortment of International cuisines are also represented. In the opinion of many reviewers, Taiwanese street food ranks with the best, and costs very little.
The Taiwanese gay population is probably among the friendliest on earth, and tourists flock here from other Asian cities like Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Open and welcoming to foreigners, the guys appear genuine in their concern that everyone has a good time on their island. Less visible than the gay men's scene, lesbians are equally welcoming, and most women only have only to visit the right cafe or go to a dance event organized by LezMeeting to fit right in.
A Bit of History
Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa, was inhabited only by aboriginal peoples until Dutch and Spanish settlers arrived in the 17th century. Han Chinese people began immigrating soon after, and pro-Ming loyalists expelled the Dutch in 1662 to establish Chinese rule. Taipei was founded in the early 18th century under the Qing Dynasty. Taiwan became a Japanese colony in 1895, with Taipei as its capital, following the First Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese began an extensive program of building, using advanced urban planning, including an extensive railroad network. Many city landmarks and cultural institutions date from this period.
In 1945, after WWII, Taiwan was returned to the Republic of China. The island soon provided sanctuary for Chiang Kai-shek as he retreated with the Kuomintang/ Nationalist government in December 1949, after the Chinese Communist Party prevailed on the mainland. Taipei became the provisional capital of the ROC, which represented China in the United Nations and other organizations, until the People's Republic of China took those seats in the 1970s. Until his death in 1975, Chiang ruled a one-party state with a government of mostly mainlanders, prohibited opposition parties, and suppressed local culture - forbidding the use of local languages in media broadcasts and schools. During the "White Terror" around 140,000 Taiwanese were imprisoned, and thousands were executed for opposition to his government. But Chiang's authoritarian state also pushed economic development, contributing to present-day prosperity. Fifteen years after his death, in 1990, mass rallies in the plaza at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall finally prompted a transition to multi-party democracy in the mid-90s.
Gay Rights in Taiwan
Under Chiang Kai-chek the government mostly ignored homosexuality, preferring to insist it didn't exist in the ROC. Men cruised New Park (now 2-28 Park) and the government put up lights and cleared the underbrush; but police didn't launch the kind of anti-gay crack-downs seen in many pre-Stonewall Western societies. Red Light District prostitution in Wanhua didn't get "cleaned up" until long after Chiang's death either.
Today Taiwan ranks among the most "progressive" countries in Asia, and adult, private consensual same-sex sexual activity is legal. Sexual orientation discrimination in education was banned in 2003, and 2007 legislation banned such discrimination in the workplace too. The LGBT Pride parade each October is one of Asia's largest, with participant numbers of about 60,000. Men still cruise 2-28 Park, but phone app hook-ups are as popular here as anywhere, and sex workers no longer need red lights in their windows.
Same-sex marriage legislation, first proposed in 2003 but stalled, could now become law under the new administration of Taiwan's first female president, Tsai Ing-wen, and the more liberal Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Most international flights arrive at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, in nearby Taoyuan County. Songshan Airport at city center serves domestic flights and flights to Tokyo International Airport, Gimpo International Airport in Seoul, and some 15 cities in the People's Republic of China. Songshan Airport is accessible by the Neihu Line of Taipei Metro. From Taiwan Taoyuan take the shuttle bus to the THSR Taoyuan Station, a direct-to-center bus, or a shuttle between the two airports.
The Taiwan High Speed Rail system operates bullet trains between Taipei and the west coast cities of Banciao, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan, and Zuoying (Kaohsiung). The Taiwan Railway Administration runs passenger trains throughout the island.
The Taipei Joint Bus System operates an extensive city bus system serving areas not covered by the metro, with exclusive bus lanes. Riders of the city metro system can use an EasyCard for discounted bus fares, and vice versa. Several major intercity bus terminals are located throughout the city, including the Taipei Bus Station and Taipei City Hall Bus Station.
YouBike provides a short-distance transportation option linked to the city’s MRT metro stations, with 150+ rental stations along the MRT Bannan, Wenhu and Luzhou lines and other locations, and a fleet of over 5,000 bikes. An EasyCard acts as both payment and membership card.
The New Taiwan dollar is the currency of Taiwan with the code TWD, and the common abbreviation NT$. The value has averaged between 30-31 NT$ per US dollar during the past decade. ATMs are everywhere, and most businesses accept credit cards - allthough some bars and cafes take cash only.
Among the 12 districts of Taipei City the most interesting ones for gay and lesbian visitors include:
Wanhua - the oldest district in Taipei, made up of 36 villages, home to ‘gay village’ businesses clustered around The Red House, among a number of historic buildings such as the Longshan Temple, built during years of Japanese rule. Here too is Ximending, the city's center for fashion, theater, music, herbs, open-air markets, alternative subcultures, and things Japanese, with many shops, night markets and department stores along pedestrian-only streets. Elements of the former "red light district" remain just out of sight, despite a 1990s "clean up." Get off the metro at Ximen MRT Station for the Red House.
Da’an – known for the shopping district on and around Zhongxiao East Road and Dunhua South Road, with specialty boutiques, department stores, and fashionable restaurants, plus three major national universities, and several museums. For gay clubbing check out the Luxy, plus several lesbian-popular cafes such as the Love Lez. The East Metro Market runs beneath Zhongxiao Road between metro stations, and find the Tonghua Night Market on the east side, the Shida Night Market to the west.
Xinyi – adjacent to Da’an, has government buildings, a financial district, the Taipei 101 tower and World Trade Center, large shopping malls and luxury hotels.
Songshan – former tea estate lands, now a financial center and home to the Raohe Street Night Market, Songshan Airport, the University of Taipei, Ciyou Temple and the Taipei Arena.
Beitou – in northernmost suburbs, the most mountainous and highest area of the city, with the Yangmingshan National Park, geothermal hot springs and spas that include the Kawayu, popular with gay men.
Media and Resources
TravelGayAsia is an online travel guide listing gay bars, nightclubs, saunas, spas, beaches, shops and more, in Taipei and 48 other cities in 13 Asian countries, plus Australia and New Zealand.
UtopiaAsia also has a guide to Taipei, along with other towns in Taiwan, and they cover cities in 20 countries throughout the region, with maps, and a loyal network of "utopians" who leave comments about all the bars and bathhouses.
GinGin Bookstore, near the MRT Taipower Building Station, has LGBT books, magazines, comics, DVDs, and CDs, plus tank tops, shorts, and odds and ends ranging from rainbow buttons to dildos. They're also an informal community center, with various events and activities for men and women.
LezMeeting is a lesbian online lifestyle magazine with events listings including their own Lez's Wonderland parties; a Chinese language portal into a women's world not found in most gay magazines. Love Boat, with a store in Da'an, also has services, information and events mainly for women, but gay men-friendly.
The Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association provides LGBT peer counseling, support networks, and other community resources, mostly in English, but including Chinese-language bar/club listings you won't see in most city guides.
AngloInfo/Taipei has useful tips in English about life in Taipei, for short-term tourists, or anyone considering a move to this city. Taiwan-ease is another English language guide, covering the whole island.
For English-language print media, each with online editions, see: the Taipei Times with daily news and bilingual section; and the China Post, for news, politics, business and visitor information. The Taiwan News is another online source for news in English.
Cinemas normally show films in the original languages, with Chinese subtitles; look for programs/ schedules in the above newspapers. The three week Taipei Film Festival takes place from late June through mid-July and the TIQFF Queer Film Festival screens over 9 days in late October.
The Guide to Taipei is a good quick reference resource for many places of interest, website links and transit system information.
A thriving 'gay boy' culture has emerged in Taipei over the past few years and bears are well represented too, prompting some people to call this city “the new Bangkok,” with many bars, dance clubs, saunas, massage spas, and hot springs. Gay clubbers and partygoers had been coming here from all around the region and beyond, for world-class dance parties and circuit festivals.
The businesses we list are those most accessible to visitors, but a wider, Chinese-language-only LGBT community exists for anyone who speaks the language, with many small locals' clubs. This is particularly true in the much lower-profile lesbian community, a much larger scene than one might think on first impression or judging by media listings. Women visitors can check out the lesbian-popular cafes and shops like Love Boat to get oriented, to be welcomed, and very likely shown around by friendly locals. Where possible in our map listings we include business names and addresses in Chinese, to show taxi drivers or others who don't speak English - click through from the links below.
Hotels and Guesthouses
3rd Floor Stay (114-4, Section 2, Wuchang St, 3rd Fl, Wanhua; 886-2-2381-0606), 6-room, men-only guesthouse a short walk from Red House, shops, restaurants and cinema complex.; DVD/TV, free WiFi.
Inn Touch (2, Lane 53, Section 2, Hankou St, Wanhua; 886-2-2331-4506), men-only, 20 single room hostel a few blocks from Red House bars; gym access, cafe, rooms with PCs and free WiFi.
Three Little Birds (10-1, Lane 62, TaiShun St, Da-an; 886-98-805-5537), cozy rooms near Taipower Bldg metro, friendly staff, gay tourism advice, kitchen and laundry facilities, bike rentals, common room TV/ DVD/ computer, WiFi throughout.
W Taipei (10, Section 5, Zhongxiao East Rd, Xinyi; 886-2-7703-8888), 405 modern rooms and suites, swimming pool, gym/spa, international and Chinese cuisine restaurants, bars; upscale shopping district nearby.
CLOSED: Q Stay (42, Section 2, Changsha St, Wanhua), 15-room gay men's boutique hotel near Red House.
For a dozen hotel and guesthouse suggestions, see our Taipei map and listings pages.
Bear Junkies (192 Kunming St, 2nd floor, Wanhua), Tuesday - Sunday locals' restaurant/bar and cafe, 20s/30s men, popular with bears.
Café Dalida (51, Lane 10, Chéngdū Rd, Wanhua), gay village bar in courtyard of Red House, day and night cocktails, patio seatings, locals and tourist mix.
Commander (41, Lane 10, Chéngdū Rd, 2F, Wanhua), men's leather, uniform and fetish terrace bar at the Red House complex.
Commander D (36, Section 2, Hanshong St, Wanhua), more hard-core popular cruise and fetish gay bar, BDSM play spaces, younger crowd. A short walk from the Red House complex.
Funky Club (10, Section 1, Hangzhou South Rd, Zhongzheng), popular but irregular dance club nights, mostly male, locals and tourists, special events, live shows, karaoke.
G-Paradise (47, Lane 10, Chéngdū Rd, Wanhua), men's bear bar at The Red House, special cocktails, warm welcome.
G2 Paradise (39, Lane 10, Chéngdū Rd, Wanhua), Red House men's cocktail bar, popular with bears.
G.Star (23 Long Jiang Rd, Zhongshan), dance club, young local crowd, theme nights, stage shows, go-go dancers.
Goldfish Bar (13, Lane 85, Linsen North Rd, Zhongshan), gay lounge/music bar, muscle men and bear crowd.
Hunt (7, Section 2, Guiyang St, Wanhua), nightly basement gay wine bar, monthly male student drinking parties, macho shows, lube wrestling, small towels and underwear nights.
Insomnia Cafe (8, Lane 60, Taishun St, Da'an), lesbian-popular cafe/bar; meals, drinks, art, music, books.
Love Lez Cafe (2, Lane 7, Zhonghua Road, Da'an), lesbian bar and cafe meals, beakfast andbrunch; very much a locals' scene, but everyone welcome.
L World (61, Lane, Linsen North Rd, Datong), a 'woman's secret garden,' small low-key lesbian lounge bar.
Matt Bar (11, Lane 121, Section 1, Zhōngshān North Rd, Zhongshan), gay karaoke bar, men/bears, cozy couches, manga art, theme parties, very international crowd.
PLUS (2 Anhe Rd, Lane 21, Sec 1, Da'an), big new gay weekend dance club, sexy dancers, good sound, wine bar.
Red House (Lane 10, Chengdu Rd, Wanhua), cultural heritage site building, cinema, concerts, a dozen gay shops, services, cafes and bars, including: Casa gastropub; D-Cup coffeeshop; The Garden (33 Chengdu Rd) with green space outdoor seating; Shibuya gay locals' bar and patio; and others individually listed above.
Taboo (90, Section 2, Jianguo North Rd, B1, Zhongshan), Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights lesbian lounge and dance club nights, theme parties; open weekends 10pm-4am.
Triangle Club (1, Yumen St, Zhongshan), nightly gay club, karaoke, student nights; Disco, Drum'nBass, Hip Hop and House music dance parties, Reggae fest, monthly WERK parties.
Witchhouse (7, Lane 56, Section 3, Xinsheng South Rd, Da’an), coffeehouse/ cafe favorite of women, Thursday-Saturday live music; fish, pasta, Mexican and veggie meal options.
CLOSED: 83 Karaoke (Zhongshan), karaoke bar; Base (Red House) panda karaoke bar; Bear House (Zhongshan), Japanese-style bear bar; Floating (Red House) karaoke/ cocktail bar; G5, itinerant dance party; GMix (Da'an), men's bar/lounge; G-MiXi (Wanhua), Red House restaurant/bar; GPS, short-lived gay dance party; JumP (Songshan), gay dance club; La Boca (Da'an), trendy men's cocktail bar; Luxy (Da'an), gay dance parties/shows; Moving Up gay dance parties; Park Lounge (Da'an), chic young crowd cocktail bar; Tiger Bar (Wanhua), small karaoke bear bar; Twiice Club (Jinshan South Rd), girls-only bar/club; XOXO (Da’an), gay men's cocktail bar.
For some restaurants and cafes suggestions, see our Taipei maps and listings pages.
Aniki WoW (11 Ningxia Rd, Datong), men's bathhouse Jacuzzis, steam room, sauna, heated pool, gym, café/bar, cinema, free WiFi.
Hans Men’s Sauna (120, 2F, XiNing South Rd, Wanhua), small, clean dry sauna, steam room, TV lounge, showers, video station, dark room, cabins, snack area; mature men.
Huang Chi Spa (42-1, Lane 402, Xíngyì Rd, Beitou), all-male, all-naked bear-popular Japanese-style spa behind Kawayu Spa/ Sauna, restaurant.
Huang Gong / Royal Palace (20, Xining South Rd, Wanhua), 24-hour gay bathhouse, mature men and their admirers. Unverified listing.
Kawayu Spa & Sauna (10, 300 Lane, Shin-Yi Rd, Beitou), popular naked-men-only Japanese-styled hot springs, steam room, cold water tub and Jacuzzi; massage services, restaurant.
Soi 13 in Sauna (Sec 1, 13 Minsheng E Rd, Zhongshan), modern sauna, jacuzzi, steam room, lounge, cabins, maze internet cafe.
Taipei I/O Sauna (12-2, Lane 49, Shuangcheng St, Zhongshan), Hattenba Japanese-style men's sauna, steam room, gym, cabins and darkroom; fitnessbondage and fundoshi nights, nude KY events, karaoke.
XL Club (10, 4F, Minzu East Rd, Zhongshan), men's clothing-optional gym and cruise club; steam room, maze, relax zone, tanning and computer areas.
CLOSED: Office Sauna (265, Chang An West Rd), hot/ cold pools, stream/ sauna, locals/tourists, bears; Rainbow Sauna (142 Kunming St, Wanhua), Jacuzzi, steam, video, dark room, young crowd.
For man-to-man massage spa locations, see our services listings of 19 facilities. All offer whole-body massages of various kinds for men by men; many also do body wraps, scrubs, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and more. Staff are usually as easy on the eyes as they are good with their hands, and the spas often post their photos online. Call ahead to book an appointment if someone catches your fancy.
Shops are everywhere in Taipei; the old-style market places, and whole streets of stores, all selling similar merchandise are famous. But gradually these are giving way to large modern department stores and sprawling air-conditioned malls at city center.
The Eslite Xinyi store (11 Songshou Rd) is the biggest bookshop in Taiwan, with books and magazines that include English-language titles, DVD movies, music CDs and more. Their Dunhua branch store (245, Section 1, Dunhua South Rd, near Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT station), is open 24 hours, and features a section for LGBT readers.
In Songshan, the Living Mall, across the river south of city center, just north of Taipei City Hall MRT Station is another large multi-level shopping mall of 15 floors.
Several small fashionwear and accessory shops can be found in the Gay Village among the bars at Red House; others are in the Zhongzheng District.
Body Formula (183-1, Xining South Rd, Wanhua), men's underwear, swimwear, sports and casual clothing.
GinGin (8, Alley 8, Lane 210, Sect. 3, Roosevelt//Luosifu Road, 1st Fl, Zhongzheng), LGBT books, magazines, comics, DVDs, and CDs, plus tank tops, shorts, and odds and ends ranging from rainbow buttons to dildos. They're also an informal community center, with events and activities.
Guy-Shop (67, Chengdu Rd, 5thFl, Wanhua), men's boutique/ adult store at Red House, magazines, fetish items and toys, lubes, cock-rings.
Love Boat (11, Lane 240, Sect. 3, Roosevelt/Luosifu Rd, 1st Fl, Zhongzheng), queer fashion and lifestyle shop; books, DVDs, VCDs, unisex clothes, chest/breast binders, erotic toys, rainbow accessories, plus I Ching readings, Chakra Healing, Universe Knife Massage, and Galaxy LGBT Photo Studio services.
OTOKO Men’s Boutique (10, Chengdu Road, Lane 39, Wanhua; at Red House), gay shop for tees, tanktops, tees; designer undergear and swimwear brands include Croota, Daigo, and New Urban Male.
Push Homme (35, Lane 10, Chengdu Road, 2nd floor, Wanhua), casual and sports-style men's clothing store at Red House, STUD underwear/ swimwear.
In the news
May 24, 2017 - Taiwan's top court rules in favour of same-sex marriage - Benjamin Haas, theguardian (UK).