Taipei Discovery Center: A Free Fast Lesson in Taipei

You're on your way to your first tourist destination in Taiwan, Taipei 101, but you'd like a little more information about the city.
If you're interested in learning a little bit of history about Taipei and you want to get some good tips on sightseeing, shopping, and dining in town, check out the Taipei Discovery Center, located in the City Hall just north of Taipei 101.
 A park-like area nearby has some robot statues. Enjoy them for a minute, then head to the front door.
 You're here! It's in the big city hall building. If you look foreign, you'll probably be approached by the tourist center ladies located on the first floor. They are very friendly and will give you a bunch of great advice. And at least one of them will speak pretty fluent English when giving you that advice. I was told about restaurants and a couple hidden gems around town. Be warned, however: on a slow day they might talk to you for a long time.

After picking up tips and maps, they can guide you to the exhibits upstairs. Being a city building, there might be a lot of hustle and bustle from workers, but when I visited things were pretty quiet. I believe I went on a Tuesday.
 Yay! Stones! These are important markers - or were, when they were in use. You'll find details about Taipei's development and current commercial and industrial commodities.
 There is plenty of English signage and interesting things to see - the photo above shows typical floor plans for different purposes, including housing, shops, and workshops.
Taiwan must have some agricultural businesses as well, because these are various spices and nuts.

The first floor contains the information center and some new exhibits that opened after I visited. The "tour" continues on the fourth floor, the "Dialogue With Time" exhibit exploring the history of Taipei. This is also where the theater is, showing on a rotating schedule starting in the morning and then the afternoon. The third floor is the city discovery hall, with exhibits on the city as it stands today. There are several interactive exhibits on this floor that kids are sure to love. Finally, the second floor has special exhibitions, also focusing on life in Taipei.

It's possible to spend two hours here - or more- watching all four films (starting every 30 minutes) and using the 12-15 minutes between each film to explore a different floor of the museum. If you have kids you might spend a lot more time on the third floor with the kid-friendly activities, and if you're really interested in reading everything about Taipei's history you'll spend more time on the fourth floor.

I'm not sure why I took so few pictures. I was behind schedule at this point on a busy sightseeing day so I hurried through the exhibits (especially after talking with the tourist desk lady for so long). But as a free mini-lesson on Taipei, it's a great diversion on the long, hot walk from the metro station to Taipei 101!

The Taipei Discovery Center is located just north of Taipei 101, and just south of MRT City Hall Station. Note that you'll want the West Entrance. It's open 9-5 (closed Mondays and national holidays). Details about the exhibits can be seen on the English website but oddly basic visitor information seems to be left out - it can be found on the Chinese-language site accessible by the link on the English site.

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