Traditionally a place to check out historic Chinese art and stuff oneself with baozi, the capital of Taiwan has a decidedly contemporary feel these days. Following a government push to repurpose abandoned industrial spaces, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park opened last fall on the grounds of a refurbished tobacco factory; it now houses galleries, a design museum, restaurants, and a park. A crop of new boutique hotels, including the Hotel Amba Taipei Ximending (from $89; amba-hotels.com), offer an alternative to staying at the pricey W hotel: Chinese comic books line a wooden bookshelf in the breakfast nook, and Amba’s current music program takes its inspiration from—where else?—a Brooklyn rooftop party.
Visitors to Taipei often make the pilgrimage to Beitou in search of the therapeutic hot springs. But the waters of Wulai—a 40-minute bus ride from the MRT’s Xindian Station—are far less packed. A quick walk from the town center are public hot springs on the Nanshih River. Admission is free, but you’ll have to contend with some umbrella-wielding aunties and kids. At the springs farther up the valley, which can be accessed from a number of hotels offering day packages (from $25), there’s little noise beyond the quiet chatter of guests (who are expected to bathe nude). Try the mountain-view Volando Urai Spring Spa & Resort (from $462; springparkhotel.com.tw), which has indoor and outdoor mineral-water tubs (from $82 for 1.5 hours in a private bath).