Even for uninitiated travellers to Asia, Taipei has become synonymous with one thing: night markets.
Strewn throughout the city, Taipei night markets have become popular haunts for locals and tourists alike to gulp down unforgettable authentic Taiwanese food and regional fixings. Though fast-paced and rowdy, there is perhaps no better place to feel the pulse of Taiwan’s capital and glimpse into Taiwanese culture.
The night market scene in Taipei is always on the move. Consider this a work in progress (regular updates planned), but here is a quick guide to 5 standout Taipei night markets.
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Shilin Night Market
There’s a reason (or two) that Shilin Night Market consistently tops top-ten lists of things to do in Taipei. As the largest night market in Taiwan, Shilin is a must-see for tourists seeking out an authentic night market experience in Taipei.
Be sure to arrive with an empty stomach: more than 500 food stalls await. Specialties on offer include fried chicken, oyster vermicelli, oyster omelets and Taipei’s most infamous late-night snack, stinky tofu.
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Even if Taiwanese food doesn’t tickle your taste buds, Shilin Night Market is chock full of stores, cinemas, arcades, and like any great neighbourhood in Asia, karaoke bars. The action starts around 4PM and continues until about 1 or 2AM with the last train generally departing at about midnight.
Huaxi Street Night Market
While Shilin reigns as the tour-de-force of Taipei night markets, Huaxi Street Night Market may be the quirkiest. Like Shilin, Huaxi offers a wide selection of Taiwanese food, but not all of its bounty might appeal to you.
Earning itself the nickname “Snake Alley,” Huaxi’s claim to fame is—you guessed it—its assortment of snake drinks and delicacies.
Fancy snake soup washed down with a hearty shot of snake’s blood? My guess is no. But if you’re the type of adventurous and strong-stomached eater that would make Anthony Bourdain proud, Huaxi Street Night Market is a nirvana of culinary oddities.
Snake meat’s not quite bizarre enough for you? Huaxi serves up other “delicacies” such as deer penis wine, turtle testicles, and a barrage of tonics and herbs to heal ailments and add a little “oomph” to your—ahem—”step”.
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Besides the outlandish, you’ll find tamer foodstuffs at Huaxi including fresh seafood such as squid and shellfish and Danzai Noodles, a signature dish from Tainan. The areas also hosts a number of massage parlours, spas and craft shops should the sight of its eccentric dishes quash your appetite.
Although not necessarily unsafe, Huaxi Street isn’t exactly Taipei’s most savoury locale. (Who would have thought that snake blood and massage parlours would attract the wrong crowd?) Travellers shaken by places that are a little rough around the edges may want to give Huaxi a miss for other Taipei night markets.
Getting to Huaxi Street Night Market: Like Shilin, Huaxi Street Night Market is easily accessible by the Taipei MRT, only five-minutes by foot from Longshan Temple Station.
Raohe Street Night Market
Keeping Taipei’s resident bellies full since 1987, Raohe Street Night Market is a mixed-bag of Taiwanese food stalls and merchandise booths close to Songshan Station. Although less famous (or infamous) than Shilin Night Market and Huaxi Street Night Market, Raohe Street Night Market is slightly more budget-friendly. Come with an empty stomach!
Must-try Taiwanese snacks at Raohe Street Night Market include oyster vermicelli, herbal spare rib soup, and spicy stinky tofu. The true hero of this night market though is the pepper meat bun. Check out the small stall near the main entrance; the long line-up will point you in the right direction.
Besides enjoying the rich array of Taiwanese food, keep your eyes open for the grand Taoist Ciyou Temple that flanks the night market’s main entrance. Dating back to the mid-18th century, the Ciyou Temple is easily one of Taipei’s most beautiful, especially at night. Its façade is richly decorated with various figures including twin dragons alongside three effigies representing the Taoist concept of Fú Lù Shòu (Good Fortune, Prosperity, Longevity).
Getting to Raohe Street Night Market: Raohe Street is just a hop away from MRT Songshan Station. After exiting the MRT, swing north on Songshan Road and walk until you see Ciyou Temple. The night market will be on your left.
Tonghua Night Market (Linjiang Street Night Market)
Located in Taipei’s Da’an District not far from Taipei 101, the Tonghua Night Market, also known as the Linjiang Street Night Market, is a favourite among Taipei’s foodies and shoppers.
The usual Taiwanese food favourites are found here at reasonable prices. Thick shrimp soup, stinky tofu (of both the deep fried and stewed persuasion), pork sausages, pan-fried dumplings, oyster noodles and oyster omelets, can all be found scattered among the market stalls.
Alongside the street-side vendors, Tonghua Night Market hosts a number of popular teppanyaki restaurants. A filling teppanyaki meal, consisting of meats, vegetables, eggs, and sauces fried up on a table-side metal cooking surface, is a must-have in Tonghua Night Market for the budget traveller. Starting as cheap as US$3, both your wallet and stomach will thank you for trekking here!
Getting to Tonghua Night Market: From MRT Xinyi Anhe Station, walk east on Xinyi Road towards Taipei 101. Hang a right on Tonghua Street and walk south about five blocks to Linjiang Street to find the night market.
Ningxia Night Market
Crowds may not swarm to the Ningxia Night Market as they do Shilin or Huaxi but there is something appealing about the atmosphere that sets it apart from Taipei’s big hitters. Located in Datong, one of Taipei’s oldest districts, Ningxia’s vibe is noticeably traditional, offering a fleeting glimpse of the Taipei of yesteryear.
Besides the usual suspects of Taiwanese street food (oyster vermicelli, stinky tofu, squid, sea urchins, fried chicken etc.), Ningxia Night Market is famous for its yummy desserts such as sweet peanut soup and fried taro cake. Sweet-tooths should explore the northern end of the market to tackle their late-night sugar cravings.
Finding the most popular stalls in Ningxia Night Market, as with any other Taipei night market, is a matter of heading for the longest queues. Although waiting in long line-ups won’t appeal to everyone, following the locals to their favourite spots in Ningxia is a sure-fire way to find some of Taipei’s most scrumptious after-dinner snacks.
Getting to Ningxia Night Market: From MRT Zhongshan Station, walk west on Nanjing W Road. When you reach the traffic circle, swing north. The southern entrance to the Ningxia Night market is just above the traffic circle. All in all, it’s less than a ten-minute walk from MRT Zhongshan Station with plenty of air-conditioned bubble tea and ice cream stands along the way if the Taiwanese humidity proves too taxing.
Other Taipei Night Markets
I’ll be adding more details for each of these night markets in Taipei. But for now here are another 9 night markets in and around Taipei that you can seek out:
- Gongguan Night Market
- Shida Night Market
- NanJiChang Night Market
- Liaoning Street Night Market
- Lehua Night Market
- Jingmei Night Market
- Shuangcheng Street Night Market
- Guangzhou Street Night Market
- Wuzhou Street Night Market