Located northeast of Taipei, Jiufen (九份) is a favorite weekend trip for locals and tourists alike. The historic mountain village grew into a busy town during Japanese colonization, largely due to gold mining. Today, it is a thriving cultural destination that captures the nostalgia of eras past. Built in the mountains, the winding streets are narrow and full of shops catered to visitors and it seems like every turn offers a new breathtaking perspective of the northeastern coastline.
Getting there is easy. Right around the intersection of Zhongxiao Fuxing is bus 1062. There’s usually a line of tourists, but there’s no need to purchase tickets in advance. Tickets are around 100NT ($3) and the trip takes 1 hour. Alternatively, you could take a train from Taipei Main to Ruifang station and then take a local bus into Jiufen.
Once you’re there, it’s easy to just follow the flow of people through the historic streets and wander your way through Jiufen.
It doesn’t take much effort to cobble up a day’s worth of activities in Jiufen. A lot of people just follow the crowds into the “old street” and explore the sights and smells and eats along the way. But there are also many opportunities to escape the crowds and catch some views.
Like many touristy towns in Taiwan, Jiufen is centered around some historic streets (aka 老街) that have shops and eateries that cater to the “brand” of the town. In this case, it’s a retro colonial Japanese style. The narrow alleys are full of sights and smells with local artisan crafts and fresh-made specialty foods – both to enjoy right then and there, and packaged gifts to take home. On any given day these small streets that snake along the mountain are packed with people, slowly shuffling along.
The shops and stands offer an overstimulation of all your senses, with many vendors offering samples out front, and others straight up with open kitchens set up street-side to entice people. There’s no method to the madness here, just go with the flow.
And don’t forget to grab some snacks along the way. There’s a ton of street food ranging from traditional eats like 草仔粿 (cao a guei), a dumpling usually filled with pickled radish or mung beans, to more general Taiwanese snacks like peanut snacks and taro ice rolls.
Any Taiwanese town worth its salt has its foodie tourist draw specialty. Here, it’s taro balls. While these chewy starchy sweet balls are a popular addition to Taiwanese shaved ice all around Taiwan, it’s the destination food stop here in Jiufen.
There are many shops that offer this, but the longtime “best” according to locals is this Ah Gan’s. The purple balls are taro and the orange-yellow ones are yam-based. During the summer, they are served on a bowl of shaved ice with other traditional toppings like mung beans or azuki beans and topped with brown sugar syrup. In the winters, you can get it hot: the same ingredients bathed in warm brown sugar syrup. The shop may be crowded and rusty-looking, but that all fades away with this view.
Tourists around the world flock to Jiufen because of its resemblance to the setting of Spirited Away. The steps leading to embody this aesthetic with the rows of red lanterns and traditional wooden Japanese architecture. Inside, they offer tea demonstrations, food (though it’s called a teahouse, it’s a restaurant too!), and a panoramic view of the mountains and sea. Even if you don’t go in, snap a photo along the steps where countless postcard photos have been taken over the years.
This historic landmark was built during the Japanese era (first in 1914, and then rebuilt in 1934) and has essentially been preserved since. It is said to be one of the first movie theaters in Taiwan. Today, it is often used as a set for historical movies, and otherwise exists as a exhibition capturing the local history.
Around Jiufen and Jinguasi there are tons of hiking trails up the mountains (Keelung Mountain, Teapot Mountain) that offer breathtaking panoramic views of the coast. Some are quite steep and long, while others are more accessible. From the Gold Museum, you can wander back (up a lot of steps) to the Jinguaszi Shinto Shrine 金瓜石神社遺址, where you can get amazing views of the town below and ocean beyond.
08:00 – Catch a bus or train from Taipei to Jiufen
09:00 – Head straight to the Old Streets before the crowds start settling in, eating your way through and wandering up and down the picturesque paths to Ah Mei Teahouse and Shengping Theater
11:00 – Take a break at a tea house with views
13:00 – Get some taro balls at Ah Gan or an award-winning cup of coffee at CHLIV
14:00 – Head over to Jinguasi to Qitang Old Street and the Gold Museum
15:00 – Take your pick of the many hiking trails in the area: Teapot Mountain, Baoshishan Lookout, Jinguanszi Shinto Shrine
18:00 – Grab a snack and a drink and head back to Taipei
Last updated: December 2020