The oldest city in northern Taiwan, and long a base for traditional industries such as glass- and noodle-making, this laid-back, leafy town (Xīnzhú) makes for a great day trip from Taipei. The town centre spreads back from a pretty restored canal zone, bordered by small personalised shops, restaurants and cafes. Heritage buildings pop up everywhere, and even the modern streets have pleasant arcades for strolling along. Out on the coast, Hsinchu boasts a scenic oceanside bike path, and a harbour with a lively restaurant and cafe scene.
Hsinchu sprang into the modern era in 1980 with the establishment of the Hsinchu Science Park, modelled on California's Silicon Valley. Today the park houses over 400 technology companies, and accounts for 10% of GDP (for all Taiwan). This probably has something to do with why the city was voted the happiest place in Taiwan in 2012.