Paris, Barcelona, New York, Hong Kong…Taipei? Taipei is rarely on people’s city-break hit lists. But we vote it swings to the top. A kitsch mix of Hong Kong and Japan, the capital city of the tear-drop isle of Taiwan is a hub of modern Asian cool. It's the birth-place of countless food and fashion fads, and home to a staggering haul of ancient Chinese imperial artefacts looted from the Forbidden City by the quick-thinking Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek… but more on that later. First, let’s talk dumplings…
ONE | Dine Out on Dumplings
As the dumpling connoisseurs among you will know, Din Tai Fung is the doyenne of the dumpling world. One of the first casual eateries in the world to win a Michelin star, it remains a mecca for serious xiao long bao buffs who want superlative food on a shoe-string budget. Get there early for brunch and enjoy the hustle and bustle of queuing outside this 60-year old icon. (…if you can’t make it to Taipei, they’ve just opened in London. Phew.)
TWO | Marvel at Ming
The Imperial Palace Museum is one of Asia’s most richly endowed museums. It’s a true treasure-trove of the region’s most opulent, sophisticated skills, all beautifully curated into one must-visit location. From Ming vases to jade jewellery, bronze bells and Qing calligraphy it is an overwhelming but unmissable cultural destination.
THREE | Discover Bubble Tea
Bubble tea is perhaps Taipei’s most famous export. While it might still only just be catching on in Europe, it has been a staple of the tea scene in Taiwan since the 80s. It comes in a dizzying array of combinations from straight black or fruit tea, to matcha cream cheese and crème brûlée tea, and that’s before you’re presented with the tapioca pearl and toppings menu. It is hard to walk five meters without coming across a bubble tea shop so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to work out your preferred blend.
FOUR | Hang with the Hipsters
Historically a hub for Chinese medicine and fabric shops Di Hua Street is now peppered with art studios and fashion boutiques. It has become a hub for young entrepreneurs keen to revitalise the area and has gone hipster in the process. Expect to find great coffee, restored antiques and excellent people watching.