Most travelers to Taiwan get a taste of its urban life via Taipei, the country’s dense and dynamic capital. Few have ever had much of a reason to linger in Taichung, Taiwan’s third-largest city, beyond using it as a way station en route to hiking trails and hot springs in the surrounding’ mountains. But lately Taichung has been changing. Hop on the high-speed rail from Taipei and 45 minutes later you’ll find yourself in a city that’s emerging as one of Asia’s newest hubs of creativity and culture.
Food lovers have been flocking to the city since 2014, when chef Lanshu Chen’s French-inspired restaurant Le Mout was first named one of Asia’s go Best. More recently, government loans have paved the way for young entrepreneurs to revitalize the old town: additions like the boutique hotel Red Dot and dessert emporium Miyahara have made Japanese Occupation-era buildings into destinations. They’ve also cast anew light on beloved institutions nearby, like the Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House, where bubble tea was invented, and the street markets where vendors hawk oyster omelettes and braised pork over rice.
In the Western District, the Calligraphy Greenway serves as a cultural artery, its paths and park spaces featuring art installations, a retail center lined with vertical gardens, and a museum of Taiwanese art. There are sleek new architectural gems, too: the massive, Toyo Ito-designed National Taichung Theater has curved walls that lend it a surreal vibe.
Preserving Taiehung’s heritage remains apriority. A veteran’s housing complex in the Nantun District was on the chopping block until its last inhabitant covered the walls with murals, creating an attraction known as Rainbow Village.
History meets retail at Fantasy Story, a collection of traditional buildings that house shops where screen printers, perfumers and bakers sell their wares. And ambitious initiatives are on the horizon—such as an improved bike-share program and a subway system— promising to make Taichung even more of a complement to the natural wonders nearby.