The northern Taiwanese capital city of Taipei has something for everyone, blending history, culture, food, art and amazing architecture, writes Kathleen Davidson.

Taiwan's capital combines the best of both worlds, offering the benefits of a big Asian city — fascinating history, excellent food, diverse culture, world-class shopping — with lovely national parks and beaches within easy driving distance or a quick ride on public transport. Despite being home to 2.7 million people, Taipei moves at a gentle pace, and its friendly, approachable people and many attractions make it a must for any travel wishlist. Here are some of the reasons why.

THE SIGHTS

The world's tallest building from 2004-2009, Taipei 101 — or the Taipei World Financial Centre — towers above the capital. Its striking design resembles a stalk of bamboo. Its bottom five levels house a high-end shopping centre; ride one of the world's fastest elevators to the 89th and 91st floors for indoor and outdoor observation decks with spectacular views.

A more sedate but equally interesting attraction is the imposing Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, which pays tribute to the former president of the Republic of China. The octagon-shaped building (a nod to the importance of the number eight in Chinese culture) rises 76m up two sets of 89 steps representing the former leader's age of death; at the top you'll find a large bronze statue of him guarded by soldiers in white uniforms who swap places every hour.

Advertisement

Taipei's National Palace Museum is where you can see some of the ancient treasures that Chiang and his government sent to Taiwan from Mainland China in the 1940s to keep them safe from the communist army. The museum now houses 700,000 pieces of Chinese imperial artefacts and artworks that span 8000 years.

FOODIE HEAVEN

Din Tai Fung

, the world's most famous dumpling restaurant, was started in Taipei in the early 1970s. Famous for its xiao long bao (Chinese steamed buns), Din Tai Fung now has branches all over the world but you can still visit the original premises in Xinyi Rd.

To try the city's famous street food head to the Shilin Night Market, which is split into two sections — a central food court and street stalls. High-end dining can be found in the Dahzi area and for something more low-key head to Dadaocheng for craft beer pubs, cafes and organic food markets in historic shophouses.

DRINK IT IN

Speaking of beer, Taipei has a vibrant bar culture that reflects its multicultural population. We recommend Ounce, a cocktail speakeasy found through a hidden entrance behind a coffee shop down a lane between Dunhua South and Anhe Rd. Phew. Also found down a laneway, in Daan District, is Wootp (or Woo Taipei) — a cool space with leather chairs, a stylish copper bar and wooden decor

BEST SELFIE SPOT

You can definitely grab some great shots in or around the photogenic Taipei 101 tower, or for something completely different head to beautiful Longshan Temple in Wanhua District. Adorned with golden dragons, this ancient Buddhist temple was built in 1738 by settlers from Fujian, China. It has been rebuilt and renovated several times following natural and man-made disasters and remains a place of peace in this bustling metropolis.

DON'T LEAVE TOWN WITHOUT

Visiting one of the famous themed cafes or restaurants such as Central Park Cafe, which pays homage to the TV series Friends. Its interiors replicate the show's Central Perk cafe down to the lamps, and its Western-style menu is split into sections named after each character.

PLAN A TRIP AROUND .. .

The annual Yangmingshan Flower Festival has been held in Taipei to welcome spring for 40 years, attracting more than a million visitors from Taiwan and overseas who also celebrate the overlapping Lantern Festival of Chinese New Year. Next year's festival will take place from February 22-March 24.

Checklist

GETTING THERE

China Airlines

flies from Auckland to Europe, via Brisbane and Taipei.