Taiwan’s Top 5 Authentic Old Streets

Facades from as far back as 1850 can be seen on Taipei's Dihua Street.

Follow Us   Facebook Icon Instagram Icon

Taiwan’s old streets offer historic scenery, unique cafes, locally made snacks, lively and delicious restaurants and a relaxed vibe. Each area of Taiwan has a unique agricultural or industrial history and tradition, and this is reflected in the old districts of each town: the uneven old streets of Jiufen are mostly built around old mining dormitories, while the quiet rural alleys of Beipu are filled with the smell of a different Hakka delicacy on every corner.

One thing to keep in mind about Taiwan’s old streets is that no matter how popular and crowded they are in the afternoon, almost no businesses will remain open an hour after sundown. The best time to visit varies depending on the area, but a full experience can be had by arriving before the afternoon rush, avoiding the peak crowd by ducking into a restaurant just before dinner time, and then enjoying the evening ambience after most other tourists have cleared out.

Jiufen Old Street in Ruifang District, New Taipei City

Northern Taiwan’s Most Picturesque Mountain Town

The steep grade of Jiufen's streets results in spectacular views of the Northern Coast.
A guest makes tea in Jiufen Tea House with layers of mountains visible through the open window.
Rows of red paper lanterns suspended from wires line the stairs of an alley in Jiufen.
An employee in a very well stocked tea shop in Jiufen demonstrates proper tea brewing procedure.
Day crowds make an old street in Jiufen almost impassable.
previous arrow
next arrow

The old streets of Jiufen are some of the most magical and otherworldly that Taiwan has to offer. Here in Taiwan’s most popular historic district, steep streets and multi-storied wooden tea houses are decorated with rows of charming red lanterns. Even during the daytime it is a stunning sight. Occasionally, due to the town’s proximity to the Northern Coast a thick fog will roll over the mountain and cloud the town. A foggy Jiufen is a photographer’s paradise and as long as the rain isn’t too fierce, the mostly-covered old streets are still a viable attraction.

Prior to its revitalization as a tourist town as a result of two famous films in the 90s—A City of Sadness and Spirited Away— Jiufen was a derelict mining town. The town’s low-key identity, and feelings of nostalgia for simpler times are precisely what initially attracted the attention of Taiwanese tourists decades ago. Today, attractions include an excellent selection of authentic tea houses and fairly priced restaurants with unbeatable and expansive views of the Northern Coast, a nearly 1 kilometer-long 3 meter-wide shopping street lined with food stalls and small boutiques, and of course, the secluded mountain ambiance that made the the town famous in the first place.

Shifen Old Street in Pingxi District, New Taipei City

Bustling Old Street Along the Historic Pingxi Rail Line

A suspension bridge leads to the old town of Shifen on the Pingxi Rail Line.
A family launches a sky lantern into the air at night.
Crowds wait on either side of the track as a train passes through the narrow pedestrian area in Shifen Old Street.
Just launched, a paper sky lantern floats above crowds of tourists in Shifen.
A family prepares to send off their customized sky lantern.
previous arrow
next arrow

Shifen, a lively tourist town known for its sky lanterns, vintage atmosphere, and coal-mining history, is located halfway down the Pingxi Rail Line. After coal mining ended in the 70s, the town rose to popularity with tourists from the city who came to launch their wishes into the sky by writing them in calligraphy on sky lanterns. These sky lanterns were originally used in small numbers by the town’s older residents as a signaling system to communicate with surrounding towns. Today, the large amount of lanterns launched by visitors on a daily basis, while a pretty site and a great photo op, has resulted in environmental groups expressing their concern about the ecological damage caused by the practice.

Luckily, with or without sky lanterns, the town is still a great place to visit to experience what Taiwan was like before the ubiquity of 7-11s and cement skyscrapers. Similar to the train street in Hanoi, Shifen’s buildings are also built adjacent to the railroad tracks that cut through town and it’s possible to freely walk from side to side during the period between passing trains.

While in the area, be sure to check out Shifen Waterfall, often said to be the prettiest waterfall in Northern Taiwan.

Dihua Old Street (Dadaocheng) in Datong District, Taipei City

Taipei’s Original Commercial Center and Historic Old Street

The walls of a storefront are decorated with red paper lanterns and boxes of Luner New Year's goods are piled around the room ready to be sold.
Two tourists appreciate the colorful facade of a narrow one-story temple on Dihua Old Street.
The colonnade on the side of Dihua Street is crowded by carts displaying wholesale goods.
Three people toast while drinking tea and enjoying snacks in a tea house.
Books on display in an open space on the second floor of a renovated old home.
previous arrow
next arrow

The former commercial heart of Taipei City, Dadaocheng’s Dihua Old Street was once lined with wholesale shops selling everything from bamboo-crafted farming tools to ingredients for Chinese medicine. Today, it still enjoys the limelight as one of Taipei’s quieter pedestrian districts. Amidst its quaint streets, some multi-generational wholesale shops are still doing business, however, the shops are now interspersed with newly opened boutiques specializing in Taiwanese-made products such as pottery, trendy cafes, conceptual restaurants and some upscale inns.

Dihua Old Street is also a traditional destination for families to visit before the Lunar New Year’s festival season. In the weeks before the Lunar New Year’s holiday, Dihua Old Street takes on a whole new appearance as its streets become flooded with additional vendors selling New Year’s related snacks such as roasted cashews and festival-related bulk goods like red envelope, fireworks, decorations.

Lukang Old Street in Lukang Township, Changhua County

Brick-paved Lanes and Historic Architecture

Tourists walk between stalls in one of Lukang's red-brick-covered old streets; both the buildings and street are made from bright red bricks.
An umbrella covered in colorful pins on display on the side of Lukang Old Street.
Colorful shops line a narrow brick alley.
A small shop run out of someone's one-story home sells roasted wheat flour; the outside of the shop is adorned in white plaques with "roasted wheat flour" written in Chinese characters.
Pedestrians walk across a tile square in front of Lukang Tianhou Temple; the temple can be seen through its gate.
previous arrow
next arrow

Lukang Old Street, nestled in the quaint town of Lukang in Central Taiwan, exudes an unparalleled charm with its well-preserved traditional architecture and rich cultural heritage. Owing to its history as a center of traditional craft, the facades of the single story red-brick buildings that line Lukang Old Street are adorned with intricately carved woodarts. Two of the West Coast’s most famous temples, Lukang Longshan Temple and Tianhou Temple, are also located minutes away.

We recommend taking a stroll through Lukang Old Street on the weekend when its narrow lanes really come to life. Save time to browse the numerous shops that sell wooden carvings, hand-woven fabrics, and intricately painted lanterns. Foodies should be sure to try the many delicious treats on offer, including “mian cha” or flour tea, phoenix eye cakes, peanut candy, and even cured fish roe. Overall, the street’s lively atmosphere and authentic local charm make it a prime destination for anyone looking to experience Taiwan’s cultural heritage.

Beigang Old Street in Beigang Township, Yunlin County

Rural Taiwan’s Most Traditional Old Street

A view of Chaotian Temple from Beigang Old Street.
Chaotian Temple, seen from above, stands surrounded by rows of red lanterns suspended above the street.
Shops selling sesame oil, hand-made goods, and art line the side of the road.
Cartons of peanuts for sale are piled outside of a shop specializing in sesame oil.
The interior of a shop specializing in sesame oil.
previous arrow
next arrow

Beigang Old Street is located in the small rural town in the flat and otherwise uneventful plains of Yunlin County. Built around Beigang’s famous Chaotien Temple—one of the most famous temples in Taiwan—the historic district here is host to tangible tradition and some of Taiwan’s most authentic old-fashioned delicacies. The old street here is also famous for its local specialties, including sesame oil, goose eggs and peanut candy.

While the main drag, Zhongshan Road, is where most of the shops are located, the alleyways leading away from this central throughway are even more scenic. We recommend taking a stroll through the side alleys searching for charming stone-tiled roofs and classical sanheyuan-styled residences—three sided single-story residences with courtyards.

Share this article


Subscribe for everything Taiwan

Take in the Taiwan slow living​

error: Content is protected !!