When it comes to Asian cities, the likes of Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur take all the glory.
Taipei is often ignored as a must-see travel destination – perhaps because there are no direct flights from London.
But Taiwan’s vibrant capital has enough charm, glamour and history to make it worth seeking out.
Not to mention the food.
Oh God, the food. The city is a street food lover’s dream – it’s packed full of lively night markets with tasty, cheap treats to keep you going as you bargain at the stalls.
Here’s why Taipei should be your next city break.
The cuisine is very similar to Cantonese cooking.
Baos – small rice buns filled with savoury and sweet fillings – have already made their way over to the UK.
Pork features a lot on the menu – you can get minced pork rice (head to Jin Feng), pork soup dumplings (it’s got to be original Din Ting Feng) and charcoal pork buns (Roahe night market is famous for them).
When the heat and humidity get too much, order a shaved ice dessert – a giant mound of ice flavoured with fruit, milk and syrup. Delicious and refreshing.
The night markets
The best place to get your fill of all this street food is at one of the many night markets around the city. The biggest, most famous and touristy is Shilin.
Join the queue at Hot Star for a piece of fried chicken as big as your face.
If you’re brave enough and can withhold the stench, try some stinky tofu. Despite the whiff it tastes like the ordinary version.
There’s also lots of fried seafood in the food court down stairs. Try the fried baby crab.
Lungshan is one of the oldest and famous temples in the city. There locals and visitors pray to the Gods.
If divine inspiration doesn’t do it for you, you can always try getting a bird to predict your future.
There’s a whole road dedicated to fortune tellers just by the temple. There’s even a night market nearby.
Other temples worth checking out include Dalongdong Baoan, Bangka Qingshui and Taipei Confucius – all gorgeously ornate.
Want the best view of the city? Then head up Taipei 101. It’s the city’s Empire State Building.
Visitors can get as high up as the 89th floor via what was once the Guinness World Record holder for fastest elevator in the world. Travelling from the 5th to 89th floor in 37 seconds, it’s still pretty speedy.
The best time to go is just before sunset so you can watch day turn to night. There’s an outdoor balcony too, which is a lot quieter and less hectic than the indoor section.
If you want to see your Taipei city scape with Taipei 101 included then take the short hike from the building up to Elephant mountain. It’s steep and there are lots of steps but it’s worth it for the glittering view below.
Since the pound has taken a hammering, Taiwan isn’t that cheap but there are bargains to be found.
Ximen is known as the Shinjiku (a famous district in Tokyo) of Taipei.
It’s where young people go to shop and hang out with lots of people also going to practise their dance routines in the hopes of being discovered by the Taiwanese Simon Cowell presumably.
It has its own night market (of course) and you can buy clothes for just a few pounds – the only catch is you might not be able to try them on first.
When city life gets too much for you or you want to cool down, take a day trip to Yangmingshan. It’s the closest national park to Taipei and is around 50 minutes by bus from Shilin station.
You can get a day pass for the 108 shuttle bus, which takes you around the park. You can get off and back on as many times as you like.
Highlights include Zhu Zhi Hu where you can see Calla lilies in bloom in March and April and the volcanic hot springs at Erziping.
If you’re pressed for time head straight for Qingtiangang, a beautiful expanse of mountains and grassland, where you can take a leisurely hike.
Where to stay
The Mandarin Oriental
From the jaw-dropping chandelier that greets you in the lobby to the breathtaking views of the city and mountains, every detail of The Mandarin Oriental in Nanjing Fuxing signals opulence.
Standing 17 floors high, its rooms are sleek and elegant, decked out with lots of marble, olive green furnishings and dark mahogany.
You even get your own chandelier to marvel at.
The hotel also has an outdoor pool, plus a cake shop with exotic confectionaries like pink guava macaroons.
Rooms start from £250 a night.
With its dazzling neon lights, cutting edge art and swanky outdoor pool, W Taipei is not just a place to stay but the place to be seen on a Friday night. The lobby bar turns into a club at the weekends.
You can watch the sun set from the Woo bar, eat delicious dumplings at Yen restaurant or get a revitalising deep tissue massage at Away Spa.
Make sure to ask for a room with a view of Taipei 101 for extra wow factor.
The hotel is adjoining a mall too – great for high end shopping.
Room start from £252 per night.
Amba Taipei Ximending
Amba is Taipei’s version of Ace hotel. The vibe is younger and trendier with the kind of industrial chic and reclaimed furniture you’d expect to see in downtown Los Angeles.
The emphasis here is on being eco friendly and supportive of local industries so the yummy, all natural toiletries are made by Taiwanese company Two Acres.
There’s pieces by local artists dotted around, themed hallways and a dedicated gig space for intimate concerts.
But the best thing about it is the location – bang in the middle of the shopping district Xiamen.
Rooms start from £71 per night.
How to get there
I flew with Cathay Pacific with returns starting from £449.80.
Flights from London Heathrow to Taipei via Hong Kong take 14 hours and 30 minutes.