Taipei often plays second fiddle to nearby Tokyo or Hong Kong, but over the past few years, Taiwan’s sprawling capital has started turning heads on the global travel stage. Hotel brands such as Andaz and Capella are set to make their entrance here in the coming years, where they’ll join a proudly local line-up of boutique stays, locavore restaurants and some of the most envelope-pushing cocktail bars in Asia. Here’s our HAP guide to Taipei’s best spots to sleep, eat, drink, and play.
Taipei’s smartest boutique stay comes courtesy of Kimpton, whose Kimpton Da’an outpost fuses the brand’s ultra-sleek design ethos and easygoing vibe (think: free-flow wine for all guests during daily social hours) with a touch of Taiwanese tradition. Shanghai-based architect duo Neri & Hu spearheaded the hotel conversion of this former apartment building and infused the space with a contemporary palette of fresh teal, crimson red and accents of blonde wood and stainless steel. On the 12th floor, Noma-alumn James Sharmen takes inspiration from his global travels, resulting in a culture-crossing menu ranging from Vietnamese noodles to Mexican churros.
Boutique bolthole OrigInn Space embodies everything that makes Taipei’s Dadaocheng district so delightful. The ground floor of this heritage building is home to a coffee shop and concept store selling a curated collection of African hand-woven baskets, Japanese antiques, and high-end coffee paraphernalia. Upstairs, the four heigh-ceilinged bedrooms come decked out with Scandinavian furniture, vintage screen-printed movie posters and retro record players, plus onsen-like soaking tubs in their terrazzo-clad bathrooms.
Fuhang Soy Milk
Arrive at the wrong time at this breakfast mainstay on the second floor of the Hua Shan Market building, and you’ll find a queue of hungry punters snaking around the block. The shop’s shaobing sesame flatbreads, baked in a tandoor oven and wrapped around a youtiao (Chinese cruller) draw foodies from all over the city, but the bowls of sweet soy milk and dan bing egg pancakes receive just as much praise. While this spot is crowded throughout the week – early-morning visits on weekdays are your best chance to dodge the longest queues.
At this high-design dining room around the corner from Taipei’s other fine-dining mainstay, RAW, Taichung-born chef-patron Kai Ho marries indigenous Taiwanese ingredients with French cooking techniques. The result: a 12-course menu of intricately plated dishes full of fascinating flavor combinations, such as pan-seared scallops with local strawberries and bonito with tofu and century egg.
As the name suggests, all drinks at this at this unfussy bar in the Zhongxiao district are tapped straight from the keg. Pick between an ever-rotating menu of clarified and carbonated cobblers, fizzes, and punches with local ingredients such as osmanthus and tieguanyin tea – all served on ice without any garnishes or other frills. For a more intimate experience, book a seat in the ‘Testing Room’ upstairs, where every weekday, a member of the staff is tasked to come up with three innovative new drinks.
The team of this retro-tinged drinking den in the Da’an district regularly brings home some of Asia’s most prestigious bar awards, and for good reason: the ever-changing drink list riffs on Taiwanese and regional ingredients such as mung bean, burdock and bee pollen mixed to create wildly innovative tipples that defy definition. The classics, too, are spot on, but it’s the music playlist that draws most regulars back time and time again: expect rock and pop staples played on vinyl record players and scratchy cassettes.
Old is gold in this historical district, where snazzy new bars and third-wave cafes have blown new life in the Japanese colonial-era shophouses that line its main road. Between the Chinese apothecaries and dry goods wholesalers, you’ll find artist workshops such as metalwork atelier Visible City (pick up one of the hand-hammered copper teapots), or one of Taiwan’s most beloved artisanal soap purveyors, Dachun’s. Stop by the tiny Museum 207 for a fascinating deep-dive in the district’s history and modern-day quirks (don’t miss the gorgeous terrazzo floors on the ground floor), and don’t leave without picking up a colorful a ma bao, or ‘granny bag’ from one of the many retailers around the district. For lunch, the food court popping up in front of the Dadaocheng Cisheng Temple is an excellent choice.
From its gleaming city center, it’s hard to believe that Taipei has miles of jungle trails unfurling from its hilly perimeter. Among the most popular and most easily accessible is Elephant Mountain, Xiangshan in the local lingo, starting from a metro station of the same name in the south of town. The 30-minute climb to the summit, most of it over stairs, is rewarded with incredible city views.
Raohe Night Market
You haven’t really visited Taipei if you haven’t grazed around one of its sprawling night markets. Among the best and oldest is Raohe, which opens every night along Raohe St. in the northeast of town. Popular eats here include the pan-fried black pepper buns and the fall-off-the-bone pork ribs stewed in herbal soup. But just follow your nose (and join the longest queues) – it’s hard to have a bad meal here.
Beitou Hot Springs
Beitou, a low-slung residential district in Taipei’s hilly north, is dotted with steamy hot springs where stressed-out city dwellers come to melt away their tension in the sulfur-rich water of Yangmingshan. There are soaks at every price point: from affordable public baths such as the mixed-gender Beitou Public Hotspring to high-design hideaways such as Villa 32, where hot spring soaks come with spa treatments and fine dining meals.
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