The facade of Taipei’s historic Grand Hotel
One of Taipei’s most standout and recognizable buildings is the Grand Hotel, known in Chinese as the “Yuanshan Great Hotel” to locals. Once the tallest building in Taiwan (although it has been long overshadowed by newer skyscrapers), it is one of the few remaining examples of Chinese classical architecture present in Taiwan and is a permanent fixture in Taiwanese history and politics.
The ceiling of the hotel lobby
The hotel was established on Yuanshan Mountain over a Shinto shrine in 1952. The location was suggested by Madame Chiang Kai-shek, wife of the first President of the Republic of China, who commissioned Taiwanese architect Yang Cho-Cheng to build a luxury hotel that would impress and attract foreign guests. Yang succeeded–not only has the hotel hosted prominent figures such as Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, and President Dwight Eisenhower, but it was also named as one of the world’s top ten hotels by Fortune magazine in 1968. The Grand Hotel is also unique in that it is prominent in the history of both of Taiwan’s major political parties, the Kuomintang, of which Chiang Kai-shek was a leader, and the Democratic Progressive Party, which was founded in 1986 within the hotel.
A golden dragon, which was salvaged from the ruins of the Shinto shrine
In recent years, the Grand Hotel continues to serve important guests of the state and tourists alike. A fun architectural and historical tidbit are the underground tunnels built for Chiang-Kai Shek and other dignitaries to escape (not unlike the secret track under Grand Central, but the Grand Hotel has a slide!)
Despite being often overlooked by visitors due to its non-central location and age, the hotel’s proximity to attractions like the Shilin Night Market and its rich history, expansive grounds, and renowned restaurants make it an attraction in and of itself.
The view from a guest room
If you find yourself in Taipei at some point, be sure to stop by the Grand Hotel and stay overnight if you can. The hotel itself may be beautiful and grandiose, but the views from the guest rooms are simply breathtaking.
Get in touch with the author @YiinYangYale.