Looking for a slice of Southeast Asia away from the usual backpacker crowds? Check out Taiwan, with a city break in the island's vibrant, cross-cultural capital. From forested mountains to tasty noodles, we bring you the top things to see and do in Taipei.

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1. Shilin Night Market

Get to grips with Taiwanese grub at Shilin Night Market and be a part of the local crowd munching on skewered squid, grilled chicken hearts, stinky tofu, and oyster omelettes. When you’ve had your fill, be sure to wash it all down with a signature pearl milk tea. Find it every evening near MRT Jiantan Station.

Shilin Night Market

2. Beitou hot springs

Good for all those jet-lagged limbs and aching bones, Taiwan’s hot springs are not to be missed, and there are plenty of volcanic hills surrounding Taipei providing prime geothermal territory for some R & R. The neighbourhood of Beitou is one of the best places to dive in, the onsen style bath houses and tea gardens here a legacy from Japanese occupation. You can get there in half an hour on the MRT line for a quick afternoon's soak or there's lots of luxury and low cost accommodation to suit all budgets. The Millennium Hot Spring is one of the most reasonable public baths here, at NT$40 (around £1), but for a less crowded experience try a private spring like Yitsun Hotel.

3. Taipei 101

Use this landmark skyscraper to get your bearings when you arrive in the city - its blend of contemporary architecture and allusions to traditional bamboo structures stands head and shoulders above the skyline. When it was completed in 2011, it was the world's tallest building. Zoom up to the Observatory on the 89th floor, via the breakneck-speed elevator, to admire the finest view in Taipei. Just be prepared for the wind if you venture to the outdoor deck!

Opening times: Daily 9am - 10pm

Location: No. 7 Xin Yi Road, Xin Yi District (Taipei 101 station)

Price: Adults NT$600, Concessions NT$540 (buy tickets on 5th floor)

Taipei 101 from Elephant Mountain

4. Elephant Mountain

Clamber up the stone steps winding up Elephant Mountain for the best photos of Taipei 101, atop one of the famed Six Giant Rocks, huge boulders which have collected at the top. A rewarding but manageable half-day walk from street level, this forested peak is one of several that form a ridge around the urban centre; it's possible to follow the trails from Tiger Mountain (start at Houshanpi Station), taking in the views from 95 Peak, Mount Nangang and Mount Muzhi on the way, if you fancy a longer but more leisurely hike.

5. National Palace Museum

This stunning museum is filled with the world’s largest collection of Chinese art. Check out the Buddhist artifacts and the more unusual artworks, like a model of a boat carved from an olive pit. It often hosts prestigious international exhibitions, as well as specialist shows that offer insight into ancient Chinese culture, such as the art of calligraphy and hanging scrolls.

Opening times: Daily 8.30am - 6.30pm (until 9pm Fri & Sat)

Location: No. 221, Section 2, Zhishan Road, Shilin District

Price: General NT$250, Concessions NT$150

6. Rock climb at Long Dong

Take a day trip from Taipei to Long Dong, nicknamed Dragon Cave after one of the rock formations found here. Climb the spectacular 70 metre sandstone crags, or, for those without a head for heights, this is a great spot to go snorkelling too. Catch a bus from Taipei (1 hour 40 minutes) or rent a car to shorten the journey to a 40 minute drive.

7. Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial

This famous monument was built to celebrate the life and success of Taiwan’s former president Chiang Kai-Shek. The memorial grounds include the National Concert Hall and National Theatre and there's also a museum dedicated to Chiang's life and the history of Chinese rule in Taiwan. Take a trip in the late afternoon and try your hand at Tai Chi with the locals who practice here regularly.

Opening times: (Hall) 9am - 6pm (Park) 5am - 12am

Location: No.21, Zhongshan S.Rd, Zhongzheng District

Price: Free

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial

8. Shop at Wufenpu

There are plenty of high-end designer shops throughout the city, but Wufenpu (MRT: Songshan Station) is the cream of the crop. This extensive, open-air market has everything from shoes to dresses, not just for you, but for your pets too! Bring plenty of spends, as you might find a fair few designer discounts. Opening times vary but generally last from 12pm to around 10pm, and the best bargains are often found at the end of the week on a Sunday.

9. Xingtian Temple

Taiwan is primarily a Buddhist nation, and one temple not to miss is Xingtian. Dedicated to Guangong, the god of war and martial arts, it’s one of Taipei’s busiest. Make your own offerings and keep a lookout for the fortune-telling oracle blocks.

Opening times: Daily 5am - 11pm

Location: 109 Minquan E Rd, Sec 2

Price: Free

Xingtian Temple

10. Make a pit stop at a 7-11

It might seem silly, but in Taipei, 7-11 supermarkets are an attraction in their own right. Not only can you buy ramen noodles, underwear, or a box of tea bags at any time of day or night, you can also mail packages, pay bills, renew your driver’s license, purchase concert tickets, and drop off your dry cleaning.

11. Slurp up some beef noodles

If you only eat one thing in Taipei, make it beef noodles, the national dish of Taiwan. A pile of doughy noodles, chunks of fatty beef, and a simple broth combine to create this sensational dish. Family restaurant Yong Kang Beef Noodle is a popular choice (Da’an District) but each noodle house has its own twist; experiment until you find your favourite.

Beef noodles at Yong Kang restaurant, Taipei

12. Songshan Cultural and Creative Park

This area represents Taipei's contemporary art scene and there's an appealing creative energy here, plus a lively programme of events and exhibitions. It's all housed in a re-purposed tobacco warehouse, with book stores, coffee shops, a design museum and plenty of interesting boutiques selling handmade Taiwanese crafts. Stop and take it all in with a coffee and an eggtart from Wu Pao Chun bakery, or check out what's on for upcoming performances and events.

13. Daan Forest Park

Taipei's answer to Central Park is a welcome green expanse amongst the traffic noise of the inner city. It's a great place to observe everyday life for local residents, as they roller skate, dance and perform martial arts around the park's forested trails. It's also a good thing to do in Taipei with kids if you're on a family break, as there's a pond with turtles and ducks, a good network of flat paths and a fun playground.

14. Fort San Domingo

Taiwan's history of occupation and international influences is evidenced here at this unexpected Spanish fort by the mouth of the Tamsui river. Since it was constructed by the Spanish in the seventeenth century, it has been taken and adapted by colonial Dutch, Chinese, British and American forces. There are interesting exhibits telling the story inside, and its bright red exterior and attractive hillside location make it a great spot for sunset snaps.

Opening times: Mon to Fri 9:30am - 5pm, Sat & Sun 9:30am - 6pm

Location: No.1, Lane 28, Zhongzheng Road, Danshuei District

Price: NT$80

Fort San Domingo, Taipei

15. Yangmingshan National Park

Escape the city and head for Yangmingshan National Park, just 40 minutes from Taipei Main Station. Also known as Grass Mountain, it’s no surprise that there are miles and miles of fields and hills to ramble across. If you want to amp up the hiking experience, then try a day trip to nearby Teapot Mountain.

How to get to Taipei

Head to London for the best deals on flights to Taipei; London Heathrow and Gatwick offer Cathay Pacific and Emirates flights that stop in Hong Kong and Dubai respectively. You can also fly from Manchester, Birmingham, Aberdeen and Belfast amongst other UK airports, but prices tend to be steeper and routes longer.

Taipei is served by TaoYuan International Airport, Taiwan's busiest airport, located around 40km west of the city.

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Where to stay in Taipei

Find luxury for less at the iconic Grand Hotel, its temple-esque 1950s building lighting up the night skies around Yuanshan. Originally built for visiting foreign dignitaries, you can now bag a double room from £93 and enjoy the top-notch service and complimentary shuttles to and from Yuanshan MRT Station and Shilin Night Market. If you want something more functional, the central 9Ine Hotel is a good 3-star choice (from £41 a night) or Colormix Hotel & Hostel is a friendly option for solo travellers, from £23 a night.

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Based on original article by Dan and Casey of A Cruising Couple.

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*Published April 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

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