See some of the historical and cultural marvels Taipei has to offer.

1. Beitou Hot Springs

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You may not associate Taipei with being a rich thermal hot spring hub but Beitou, a recreation area in the mountains north of the city, offers just that. Outfitted with resorts, inns, hotels, tea houses, parks and public baths, Beitou was developed into a natural hot springs destination during the Japanese occupation.

The area offers three types of hot springs – green sulphur, white sulphur and iron sulphur. Green sulphur hot springs are only found in Beitou and Japan’s Akita region. White sulphur is the most common thermal water found in the region, while for an iron sulphur bathing you will have to travel to the Huang Ding area of Beitou. Reaching its Xinbeitou station takes a train journey of about half an hour from Taipei city centre, and there are plenty of public and private baths offerings available once you arrive. However, Beitou is a very popular area and it is advisable to book in advance.

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2. Yangmingshan National Park 

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Nature lovers don’t have to travel far to see the exquisite natural scenery Taiwan has to offer. Yangminshan National Park, situated in northern Taipei City, spans a 114 sq km area and is a collection of peaks that are home to several parks, hot springs, hiking trails and fascinating fauna and flora. When the Japanese came to this area, they started planting black pines, acacias and Formosan sweet gum trees to add to the aesthetics of the mountain. Till this day, the area is still very popular among Japanese visitors.

An International Union for Conservation of Nature Category II national park, the area rises from 200 to 1,200 meters in places, and varying subtropical climates are found in it. The tallest peak is Mount Qixing which rises to 1,120 metres. You can also check out decommissioned mines which are rich in sulphur, such as the one at Liuhuanggu. This industry grew at such an exponential rate that at one time communities of Han Chinese relocated to this area and started cultivating agricultural products and tea plantations. Each season shows off the different beauty of the mountain, so check out whether you want to attend its flowering season in February and March, or marvel at the sweeping gold, red and silver plains in autumn.

3. Jiufen 

Located in the mountainous area of Ruifang district of New Taipei City, is Jiufen, said to be the inspirational basis of the spirit city in Hayao Miyazaki’s movie Spirited Away . This old goldmining town attracts massive crowds on a good day but is still worth a visit with its many small shops and a spectacular view of the sea off Keelung. This mountain village was founded during the Qing Dynasty, but saw rapid development as a result of a gold rush when the Japanese discovered gold during its occupation in 1893.

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Old Street is one of the main attractions, with a canopied street made for the frequent rainy days, earning it the name “Dark Alley”. Jiufen Old Street is a delight for foodies, as the shops sell their famous city snacks, from glutinous rice cakes to taro rice balls. Although a day trip is long enough to see this decommissioned mining village, there is the option of staying the night in one of the many boutique hotels and B&Bs. Local guesthouses or inns, on the other hand, are limited and early reservations are recommended.

4. Rixing Typography 

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Spiriting you back to the city, in one of its many alleyways is Rixing Typography where the art of Chinese typography is carried on. This two-storey workshop is located close to Taipei Main station and is run by Chang Chieh-kuan. The store has amassed handmade lead moulds with Chinese characters for the use of traditional printing machines for decades. The shop was opened in the 1960s and Chang eventually inherited it from his father. The business is said to house 10 million pieces of some 120,000 moulds of different characters in a variety of sizes that include not only traditional Chinese characters but also Japanese and Latin alphabet ones. Some are still in use with the oldest set of type, which has been preserved for more than a century. Fifty years ago, Taipei was home to about 5,000 printing presses. Nowadays, there are only about 30 left, with Rixing being the capital’s last print workshop.

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5. TaipeiEYE 

What can be more traditional and descriptive of Chinese culture than a good, old Chinese opera show? TaipeiEYE brings audiences authentic traditional Chinese performing arts in 90-minute shows. The shows range from folk music, the telling of folklore, demonstrating local skills and offering a range of traditional operas from Taiwanese folk opera to Beijing opera. Performances are given every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

What sets TaipeiEYE apart from other Chinese arts performance halls is that they allow a level of interaction between visitors and performers. Whether before, after or during intermissions, the artists interact with the audience in performing and non-performing roles, from the open make-up area to the photo rooms. Show subtitles in English, Korean and Japanese are projected on both sides of the stage to accommodate the many foreign visitors.

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