Between the glittering skyscrapers and bright lights of Taipei, several charming corners continue to lure tourists away from modernity and into Taiwan's past. These "Old Streets" consist of traditional architecture, shops, and markets that preserve a rich and striking culture. Even as the world changes around them, these Old Streets freeze time for everyone who longs for simpler days.
Tucked in the northern mountains of Taiwan, Jiufen is one of the most alluring of these Old Streets. An entrancing maze of narrow streets, paper lanterns, and delicious street food, Jiufen offers the perfect excursion for the weary Taipei tourist.
Built by the Japanese during a Gold Rush frenzy, the village started its life as an isolated mining town. Following the end of WWII, mining declined and the village became a tourist attraction that celebrates Taiwanese culture. Today, the town is recognized for its narrow, photogenic streets lit by strings of lanterns, quaint historical architecture, and its combo ocean and mountain views.
Before you get started, check out our guide to Taipei to learn more about this fascinating city.
Though Jiufen is not too far from Taipei, it can be a bit tricky to find your way to the village if you don't know where you're going. You can, of course, hop in a taxi or hire a car to drive you an hour north, but this is your priciest option. So if you want to keep it cheap, check out the public transportation.
By Train: From Taipei Main Station, grab the train north to Ruifan Station. When you arrive, walk down Mingdeng Road to the bus station. Routes 827 and 788 will take you to Jiufen. From here, the bus trip is around 15 minutes.
By Bus: From MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing, Brown Line BR and Blue Line BL interhange, take bus route 1062 (Keelung Bus) to Jinguashi, and get off at Jiufen. The ride is around 1 hour, and if you grab a window seat you can enjoy beautiful views along the way.
A shuttle bus service is also available to Jiufen from Taipei City at Ximen. The shuttle also takes you to Shifen Old Streets for a full day of activities.
What to Do
Jiufen may not have the abundance of tourist attractions that neighboring Taipei does, but down every narrow alley and past each cramped storefront, there's plenty of discoveries to explore.
Sip something warm in a traditional teahouse
Scattered throughout Jiufen are several charming teahouses where you can stop for a traditional tea service. Settle in over some traditional Taiwanese tea, and give your feet a rest. Top of the list is A-Mei, one of Jiufen's most popular attractions. Its stunning architecture embodies the spirit of Jiufen, and it even had small role in Hayao Miyazaki’s 2001 movie, Spirited Away. Even if you just stop for a picture before heading to a quieter tea house, you have to pause here for a few minutes to enjoy.
Go for a hike
For the best views, start heading up! Jiufen sits sloped on a mountainside, but its views are often obscured by the buildings. If you want to catch stunning vistas of rolling mountains and blue ocean, take a hike up one of the nearby mountains. Both Tea Pot Mountain and Keelung Mountain are accessible from the village, and while their paths may be steep, these hikes allow you to escape the crowds and breathe in some fresh air.
Take a food tour
Jiufen is a haven for Taiwanese cuisine, and many of the restaurants still follow traditional cooking methods, making the food authentic and delicious. From small mom and pop restaurants that have been there for decades to an overwhelming plethora of street snacks, you could spend a whole day taste-testing various Taiwanese foods. Try the Jiufen taro rice balls, stinky tofu, and meat dumplings, before just diving in and buying whatever smells good. You'll taste the heart of Taiwan in this village's streets until you are so stuffed you're not sure how you're going to get back home.
Find a spot to watch the sunset
Most people cycle through Jiufen in an afternoon, heading to the next excursion after lunch. But if you stick around, you can catch an incredible sunset over the tiled roofs of the traditional Jiufen buildings. Take the side streets up to find a good vantage point clear of the crowds of visitors. Whether you stop into a restaurant with beautiful patio views, or just pick a spot on the side of the road, a sunset in Jiufen offers a spectacular show.
Above all else, Jiufen's charm lies in its embodiment of a simpler time. When you visit, take your time. Relax, wander the streets at a leisurely pace, and adopt an unrushed and unruffled attitude.