TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Taipei, once a litter-strewn, concrete shantytown, has become a crowded but convenient mix of museums, monuments and high-end eateries from the world's second tallest building to the scenic slopes of an urban mountain range.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most from a short stay:
6 p.m. - Start at the top. Around dusk, the world's second tallest building, Taipei 101, offers sunset views that take in an urban area of nearly 6 million people, three rivers and mountains on four sides. Admission to the 89th floor observation deck is T$350 ($10.93) per adult.
8 p.m. - Restaurants and coffee shops dominate the veranda-like fourth floor of Taipei 101. Prominent ones include Hwa Young Boutique Cuisine and the Wasabi Buffet & Dining Bar. Sit outside and watch Taipei's modern elite walk by.
10 p.m. - Tip a few back at a full-service bar, sometimes with featured micro-brews, at the Cosmopolitan Steak & Grill outside the skyscraper on Songren Road.
7:30 a.m. - Eat a Chinese or Western breakfast at The Grand Hotel on a hillside with views over much of Taipei offers a buffet on one side of its cavernous red-carpeted lobby, part of a 12-storey Chinese-style monolith built in 1952 by Taiwan's then dominant Nationalist Party (KMT).
9:30 a.m. - Spend at least half a day at the National Palace Museum. It houses 654,500 one-of-a-kind imperial scrolls, paintings and pottery pieces sneaked over from China toward the end of civil war in 1949. Because 3,000 exhibits are on display at any one time, you can spend hours browsing. Admission: T$160.
1 p.m. - Lunch at Silks Palace, a four-storey restaurant with opaque glass walls and an intricate Chinese-style interior design next door to the museum. Museum-themed foods including the irresistible "jadeite cabbage with insects" dominate the menu.
3 p.m. - Free fashion show. A web of pedestrian-only streets at Ximen Ding attracts groups of teens and 20-somethings in the latest clashing East Asian trends. A music store, a cinema and colorful haberdasheries line the streets.
5 p.m. - A 20-minute (T$300 or so) taxi ride from Ximen leads to Dihua Street, the soul of old Taipei. This pedestrian-friendly street anchors a district packed with shops and shoppers trading in loose-leaf tea, traditional medicines and soup ingredients. Historic two-storey Taipei houses line some of the streets.
7 p.m. - Dinner at the Shin Yeh Taiwanese Restaurant behind the Imperial Hotel, which is on Linsen North Road. Try its seafood, tofu and green veggie dishes made from local recipes chased by a complementary pastry-tea set.
10 p.m. - Taiwan's "combat zone," named for its former popularity with American GIs seeking R&R in the Vietnam War era, is around the corner from one of Shin Yeh. Try the cozy My Place bar or the more raucous Manila across the street.
10 a.m. - Hangover-relief caffeine at Dante, 85C, Ikari, IS Coffee or Mr. Brown, all local chains with strong brews.
11 a.m. - Stroll through the 25-hectare Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall compound. The former strongman's name has been restored since 2008, after the political opposition removed it from the site when in power. A garden and teahouse on the grounds bring relief from the treeless, sun-baked plazas.
2 p.m. - Lunch at Din Tai Fung, a restaurant famous around Asia for mini dumplings stuffed with meat and soup broth. It's on Yongkang Street, which is Taipei's kitchen.
4 p.m. - Eslite culture megaplex. It includes a 660 square-meter bookstore, half a floor of local and foreign music CDs, several cafes (one known as a pick-up spot) and more than 80 other stores. The bookstore is open 24 hours.
8 p.m. - End your trip where it started, the top. This time The Top is a tropical resort-style restaurant-cafe on the slopes of Yangmingshan, a mountain range north of Taipei. The indoor-outdoor venue near Chinese Cultural University is best known for sweeping views of Taipei about 300 meters below.
Reporting by Ralph Jennings, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith