Keelung City’s sheltered harbor and its location on Taiwan’s north coast have meant that, over the centuries, it has been ruled by the Spanish, Dutch and Chinese. While there are plenty of good coffee shops, markets and museums in the compact downtown and you can enjoy delicious seafood dishes at the Night Market, the city is today principally a gateway to Taipei for many travelers. Taiwan’s capital is just a half hour away by car or around 45 minutes by train. Long a small outpost of the Chinese empire, the city began to grow in the 19th century, when settlement from the mainland was encouraged. Then, from 1895 to 1945, the city (and all of Taiwan) was occupied by the Japanese. At the end of World War II, Taipei was handed over to the Republic of China, led by Chiang Kai-shek. In the decades since, it has seen an explosion of growth, but traditional temples and world-class museums still sit amid the skyscrapers. The modern metropolis also has top restaurants, food markets and upscale shopping. The Taipei Metro makes it easy to explore the city, or you can take an excursion to the countryside: A national park and a protected forest make for excellent day trips from both Taipei and Keelung.