Located in central Taiwan, the underrated city of Taichung has always been revered by locals as the best destination for culture, food and nature. In fact, a 2013 survey showed that most Taiwanese prefer Taichung to its capital Taipei as the most livable city in the country.

Dubbed as Taiwan’s cultural center, Taichung plays host to some of Asia’s biggest attractions in arts and culture including the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (the largest in Asia); Rainbow Village, a repurposed army settlement preserved by a local nonagenarian; and the Taichung Metropolitan Opera House designed by Pritzker Prize winner and architect, Toyo Ito.

The dining scene in Taichung is well-decorated with Taiwan’s first fine dining restaurant Le Mout spearheaded by 2014 Asia’s Best Female Chef, Lanshu Chen. Local specialties are also aplenty with various street-front shops and stalls selling Taiwanese beef noodles, pancakes, dumplings and milk teas dotting the city. Taichung is also home to the biggest night market in Taiwan, the Feng Jia Night Market.

In the past two years, the bar scene in Taichung has grown from having just a handful of bistros and pubs to being home to some of Taiwan’s most intriguing drinking spots. This year itself, a number of hidden bars are also making headlines with the introduction of the trending ‘space-within-a-space’ concept in the city. We are talking about secret and less-known bars inside a beef noodle shop, behind the walls of a luxury fashion boutique and places that transform from day to night.

Chef Lanshu Chen’s noodle house is the secret doorway into Goût Bar, one of the newest hidden bars in Taichung.

It comes as no surprise that Taiwan is blossoming into a favourite destination for food and drinks in the next few years. 2018 Asia’s 50 Best Bars list has Taipei-based Indulge Experimental Bistro at 2nd spot while TCRC in Tainan (south of Taichung) comes in 25th place.

Simply press on one of the decors on the shelves and the entrance to the hidden Goût Bar slides open.

Many local mixologists and trained bartenders are also expanding their craft in cities outside of Taipei with their own boutique-sized bars. Each bar offers a wide range of classic drinks like the whisky sour, Negroni as well as everyone’s favourite gin and tonic. But in a competitive setting – like all Taiwanese beverage businesses – drinking places need to stand out with its own unique selling point. Creativity and singularity are highly recognised as the secret to a successful business in Taiwan.

As you plan your itinerary for your next visit to Taiwan, include the underrated yet vibrant city of Taichung; a mere 40 minutes southbound via High Speed Rail from Taipei. And set aside some time in the evenings to check out the most fascinating hidden bars the city has to offer. We won’t be surprised either to find these bars making the cut in the list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars next year too.

(Featured image: Gubami)