The small mountainside town of Jiufen sits on the East coast of Taiwan, just an hours train ride from Taipei city center. The town itself offers an ideal get away from city life and is the perfect place to visit for two days when staying in Taiwan.
The towns winding lantern lit streets attract tourists from all over Taiwan and the world. From the town it is easy to explore some of the countries most breathtaking coastal views and mountainside villages.
Making the Most of Jiufen
Jiufen Old Street
The town is most famous for its winding cobbled streets, endless gift shops, street food and teahouses. The streets begin to fill with tourists from as early as 9am.
Put aside a few hours to explore the streets and visit some of the town’s shops whilst trying some of Taiwan’s amazing street food as you go.
Spend an hour or more sipping traditional Taiwanese tea whilst taking in incredible views of the coastline. There are an endless number teahouses to choose from, all of which have a historic oriental feel.
One of the most famous teahouses is said to be the inspiration for the teahouse scene in Spirited Away. This particular teahouse has the option to sit inside or outside where you can take in the view. Tea here is poured traditionally and you’re able to do this yourself after being taught by the waiter!
Once you’ve enjoyed a refreshing cup of tea, take your time to wander around Jiufen’s charming streets. Eat as much street food as you possibly can and end the day feeling full and satisfied.
Put aside a day to explore some of Jiufen’s close by towns by train. From neighbouring town Raifung, you can catch the Pingxi line to Houghton Cat Village and Shifen town.
Houghton Cat Village
Houghton Cat Village, just one stop on the line, is a quaint mountainside village that has been dedicated to our furry friends. The cats in this village are very much used to the passing of hundreds of tourists every week.
Many of its residents (the cats) are overfed, but sassy all the same.
If you’re a cat person it’s worth the stop. The village itself is cute and has a number of slightly overpriced cafes where you can sit and enjoy the company of a few cats.
There are also a few hikes you can embark on from this village should you wish to explore the beautiful mountainous scenery.
Next ride the train for around 40 minutes to the small town of Shifen. This rail side town is iconic for the hundreds of visitors who flock here to release lanterns throughout the day and into the evening.
Tourists paint their wishes and messages for passed love ones and for the future on the side of these lanterns before they are finally lit and released into the sky. It really is a beautiful sight to see these lanterns float into the distance.
Sadly burning balls of gas and paper being released into the environment isn’t the best for local nature. It is definitely worth seeing though!
From Shifen there is a short 1.5km walk through some impressive scenery to a nearby waterfall. Shifen Waterfall generates quite a sound and can be heard through the trees as you approach. It is a real thing of natural beauty and something that should be seen when visiting the area.
There are plenty of cafes and places to eat at the waterfall if you wanted to spend some additional time there.
Keelung City Night Market
The coastal city of Keelung is a 40 minute drive from Jiufen and easily accessed by bus or taxi. Both of which are affordable options.
The city has a large harbour that is an enjoyable walk and place to chill with a coffee before taking in the delights of the night market.
The sprawling night market covers a large area of the city centre and is home to hundreds of street sellers, many of which offer some of the tastiest street food I have ever had the pleasure of eating.
From fried chicken to torched octopus, this market really has it all. All dishes are reasonably priced at around $2-4 a dish.
Locals and tourists pack the streets to taste what the market has to offer. There is a real buzz in the air and as you can imagine, an endless array of new smells.
If you don’t leave this night market with a full belly, you’ve done something wrong.
And for those veggies out there, do not worry! There are plenty of delightful vegetarian options to fill you up!
You should set aside one evening to take a trip to Keelung city and make the most of some of Taiwan’s finest street food.
Mount Keelung Trail
Mount Keelung’s peak can be seen from Jiufen and is an easy find from the town. A short 10 minute walk from Old Street’s bus stop the entrance to the trail can be seen and is clearly signposted.
The trail is made up of a clear path and steps with various different rest points. It is an easy walk for most, which is rewarded with an unforgettable view at the top.
The walk takes approximately 30-40 minutes to the top.
At the very top of the mountain, you are able to see out to sea and across the neighbouring mountain range. On a clear day you are even able to see Taipei from the peak.
Consider taking a packed lunch to enjoy at the top whilst taking in the stunning views!
You should set aside half a day to enjoy a leisurely walk to the top and back to the town.
How long to spend in Jiufen
Jiufen is an excellent place to stay if you want a small town quaint experience. It’s pretty packed with tourists throughout the day, which does become tiresome after a couple of days.
Two or three days in the area are enough. We were very much ready to hit the city by our third day!
Most importantly however, Jiufen is a great base for those who want to explore the northeast coast of Taiwan!