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Jiufen – a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan 2023

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Exploring the mountain town of Jiufen in Taiwan (east of Taipei) feels a little like being in a fantasy movie. With its historic narrow streets, packed full of beautiful tea-houses and street-food stalls, set amidst a backdrop of stunning coastal views, Juifen almost feels unreal.

In fact, legend has it that Jiufen was the inspiration behind the setting for the classic animated Studio Ghibli movie, Spirited Away (although many dispute this so who knows?!).

Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post

Just a short train ride or bus trip away from Taipei, Juifen is one of the best day trips in Taiwan and can easily be combined with a trip along the world famous Pingxi Line including Houtong Cat Village.

From traditional temples to ancient alley-ways lit up by red lanterns at night (Jiufen Old Street), there are lots of things to do in Jiufen.

A visit to Jiufen should be high on your list when planning your Taiwan itinerary – here is our 2023 guide to all things to do in Jiufen, Taiwan:

How to get to Jiufen from Taipei

Getting to Jiufen by Train and Bus

To get to Jiufen from Taipei, you can take the northbound train from Taipei Main Station to Riufang Station.

The journey takes 30 minutes for express trains, or 50 minutes for local trains. As of summer 2023, the cost of the trip from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang Station is 49 TWD.

After alighting the train at Riufang, exit the station, turn left and walk around 200 metres to the bus stop (located next to the police station named Local Residents Plaza 區民廣場).

Here you can take bus number 827 or 788 which both head towards Jiufen Old Street. The bus journey from Ruifang to Jiufen should take around 20 minutes and costs around 15 TWD each way.

Bus 827 Riufang to Jiufen

Taipei to Jiufen Bus

Alternatively you can take the new Taipei Bus express route 965 from outside Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Station directly to Jiufen for around 100 TWD.

The bus also picks up from Banqiao Bus Station, Wanhua Railway Station, MRT Ximen Station and MRT Beimen Station.

Jiufen Shuttle Bus

Alternatively you can book a return transfer from Taipei with the Jiufen Shuttle Bus from Ximen with Klook. The shuttle bus also takes you to the nearby town of Shifen to visit the waterfall and to watch people release sky lanterns.

Private Transfers between Jiufen and Taipei

You can also book a private hire transfer between Jiufen (or Shifen) and Taipei. Choose between a 5-seater or a 9-seater car whichever will fit your traveling group and luggage best!

Book a Jiufen private transfer with Klook >

Juifen as part of a tour from Taipei

There are several tours which depart from Taipei every day which include Juifen as part of their itinerary. These are a great way to visit Juifen if you are short on time and unable to stay overnight:

Tours from Taipei that visit Jiufen include:

Yehliu, Jiufen & Pingxi Day Tour from Taipei >

Taipei: Private Tour to Jiufen, Yehliu Geopark, and Pingxi >

Yehliu, Jiufen, and Shifen Day Tour with Taiwanese Pastry Making >

Pingxi and Jiufen Day Trip from Taipei with Sky Lantern Experience >


Best time to visit Jiufen

We would recommend visiting Jiufen on a weekday as weekends can be super crowded and a bit unbearable! We would also suggest avoiding public holidays too.

Our very first trip to Juifen coincided with the Chinese New Year holidays and the crowds were huge and accommodation was expensive.

Jiufen is an easy day trip from Taipei, but if you want to experience Jiufen without any tourists at all then we recommend staying overnight. That way you get to explore the town at night after everyone has gone home and all the buildings are lit up, or early in the morning before the day trippers arrive.


Things to do in Jiufen

A Mei Tea House

The 100-year old A-Mei Tea House (阿妹茶楼) in Jiufen is likely Taiwan’s most famous teahouse and the centre of the tourist universe here.

A Mei Tea House is also said to be most associated with being the inspiration for the Studio Ghibli / Spirited Away connection (although many debunk this – so believe what you want as it still pretty either way!).

An Instagrammer’s delight and featuring in many tourism brochures, the A Mei Tea House is perched on the side of Keelung Mountain, just below the main old street, and boasts stunning views over Taiwan’s north shores and the surrounding mountains. All in all, A Mei Tea House is tea-riffic and definitely our cup of tea (sorry, not sorry).

As you would expect, A-Mei Teahouse offers a variety of cold and hot tea dishes (including tasting demonstrations) as well as wide range of homemade sweet treats and snacks. It is also worth visiting the teahouse at night, to see all the lanterns on the side of the building lit up.

Other Top Tea Houses in Jiufen

Jiufen Old Street

The focal point of Jiufen, the narrow, windy ancient streets that dissect the centre of this hillside town are what most people have come to experience. No trip to Taiwan’s Jiufen is complete without a walk along Jiufen Old Street, like stepping back in time.

Awash with gift-shops, street food stalls and tea-shops, half the fun along Jiufen Old Street is just wandering around without a map and seeing what you can find – a definite jewel in Jiufen!

The downside to these thin, narrow alleyways along Jiufen Old Street is that they get full very quickly, especially once the daily glut of tourist buses arrive from Taipei New City (the stampede generally starts from 10am every day).

Great shopping for Studio Ghibli fans!
Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post

On one of our visits to Jiufen, it became unbearable at times to move around on Jiufen Old Street, especially as many tourists use large umbrellas rather than wear waterproof ponchos! This was one of the very few times in Taiwan as a tourist where it felt too crowded / like overtourism.

To enjoy without the crowds, we would recommend staying in Jiufen overnight and exploring the central old street early in the morning or later at night.

Most of the shops and restaurants stayed open until about 7pm at night although the Juifen 7-Eleven and Family Mart stay open until much later (the Family Mart in Jiufen is the best convenience store as it has an indoor dining area with a view of the sea).

Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post
Exploring the town at night
Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post

Something also rather unique were the tuneful Jiufen garbage trucks that would drive along the central old street (generally at night).

These rubbish trucks in Jiufen have loud-speakers blaring out tinny tunes, a warning for shoppers to quickly get out of the way and seek refuge in a nearby shop entrance or alleyway. Be warned they don’t stop for anybody so jump out of their path as soon as possible.

Garbage truck coming down Central Old Street

You might like – themed 7-Elevens in Taipei including Snoopy, Hello Kitty and Sumikko Gurashi >


Jiufen Shengming Temple

Located at the top of the town and overlooking Jiufen and the nearby Keelung Mountain, the Shengming Temple dates back to the 1880s and is the centre of faith for the Jiufen region.

We actually stumbled across this temple at first quite by accident and then ended up visiting Shengming Temple several times during our Jiufen stay and never found it too busy.

Given the views from the temple and lack of people, it is one of the more tranquil and calm temples we visited during our time in Taiwan.

Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post

What to eat in Jiufen

Xiao Long Bao

We found this awesome restaurant on Central Old Street but it did not have an English name so we cannot find it on google and share any details with you!

It served some delicious Pork Xiao Long Bao soup dumplings which you can enjoy on their small outdoor terrace with incredible views of the ocean. If you fancy eating there, keep an eye out for a restaurant with the menu pictured below.

Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post
Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post

Vinasse Taiwanese Meatballs

These are traditional meat dumplings from a restaurant called Jin Zhi on Old Central Street (which also operates a separate vegetarian version a few stalls away).

The dumplings have a gelatinous casing and a filling of pork which has been soaked in red yeast (vinasse). People say it is an acquired taste – Neil hated it but I (Caroline) loved it!

Jin Zhi also serve other dishes but there is no English menu so we just picked some dishes from the photos on the board on the wall!

Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post
Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post

Taiwanese Sausage

Hugely popular in Jiufen, nearly everyone we saw was eating one of these. To be honest we weren’t a fan – they tasted very sweet and had a lot of gristle (ew). We ate two bites of one and then threw the rest away, but you might want to try it yourself!

Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post

Taro Balls

We think this might be the most popular food/dessert stall we saw in Jiufen. A Gan Yi Taro Balls serves cheap pots of freshly made taro and sweet potato balls and beans, either served hot in a soup, or chilled on shaved ice and queues to purchase these are always long.

Most people order the taro balls to take away but there is a small dining area here with great views of the ocean.

Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post

Deep Fried Seafood Balls

We always saw huge queues for these seafood balls, so decided to see what the fuss was about. These deep fried balls are served with sweet chilli sauce and pickled vegetables and are very delicious.

Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post

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Peanut Ice Cream Roll

We were obsessed with peanut ice cream rolls during our trip to Taiwan, and saw many stalls along Central Old Street selling this dessert dish – peanut ice-cream rolls were popular in nearby Shifen too along the Pingxi Line.

The vendor lays out a thin flour tortilla which is then covered with shavings of peanut candy brittle and a row of scoops of ice cream before being tightly wrapped up.

The ice cream flavours are usually either taro, vanilla, red bean or pineapple. You can add Coriander to the mix and it is highly recommended as an extra aromatic layer.

The mixture of ingredients taste sweet, nutty and salty, whilst the texture is creamy and crunchy. A very n-’ice’ thing to do in Jiufen, Taiwan!

Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post

Eating Late in Jiufen

Most restaurants and food stalls close for the day quite early here, compared to the big cities.

If you don’t eat before 7pm, your best affordable option is to get a toasted sandwich or microwave meal from either 7-Eleven or Family Mart.

Check out our guide to all the Taiwan 7-Eleven toasted sandwich flavours here >

We visited both on several occasions. The Family Mart in Jiufen also has a little indoor seating area, with coastal views which was always very quite busy.

Check out our ultimate Taiwan food guide blog post >

Klook.com

Other things to do near Jiufen, Taiwan

Houtong Cat Village

‘Feline’ like a ‘paw-some’ day trip from Jiufen? How about heading to the Houtong Cat Village located along the Pingxi Line in Taiwan?

Home to dozens of cats and kitties, Houtong Cat Village is a riverside town in the Ruifang valley (also easily accessible from Jiufen).

Hutong has quite the history – a former coal mining town that once had riches galore, it was most famous for having a cave full of monkeys about 100 years ago (‘Hutong’ translates as ‘monkey cave’).

Now it is best known for its feline residents which outnumber humans hence the name ‘Houtong Cat Village. You know you are going to be in for something very different when one of the first things you see as you arrive at Houtong station is a massive metal footbridge, shaped like a cat.

Houtong is a short drive from Jiufen or approx 30 minutes away via public bus then the Pingxi Line.

Read our guide to Houtong Cat Village in Taiwan here >

Yehliu Geopark

Taiwan on the rocks – yahoo for Yehliu Geopark, home to a number of unique geological formations (‘rock stars’?) formed over thousands of years.

Located on a beautiful part of the North Taiwan coast, the peninsula stretches around 1,700 meters, formed by geological movement that forced the Datun Mountains to change their shape, jutting out into the ocean. It also kinda reminded me of the New Zealand and Western Australia landscapes. Rock on!

Book your Yehliu Geopark from Taipei here or book your discounted Yehliu Geopark ticket in advance here.

Pingxi Line

The Pingxi rail line is a journey into the past and a perfect day trip from either Jiufen or Taipei City.

A 13km stretch of railway that goes through some of Taiwan’s most beautiful landscapes, the Pingxi Rail Line celebrated its 100th anniversary recently (in 2021).

With several villages and towns to explore along the way including Shifen, there are many things to do along the Pingxi Line.

So jump aboard a local train on the Pingxi Line and exploree a few places along the 8-mile long ‘verdant valley’.

From starting your Pingxi Line adventure in Ruifang and through to taking in waterfalls, floating sky lanterns and a quirky cat village along the way, check out our guide to the Pingxi train line in 2023:

Accommodation in Jiufen

There are plenty of accommodation options in Jiufen from boutique hotels to guesthouses. Booking as far in advance is recommended however as Jiufen is a very popular to visit.

As we were visiting during the Chinese New Year holidays, we heard that good value, budget accommodation in Jiufen was hard to come by, so we booked months in advance choosing to stay at a family run lodgings called Jiufen 280 Guesthouse.

Whilst our hosts were lovely and it had sea views, the weather during our three night stay coincided with some particularly cold and wet weather, so our room was very damp. We had water literally dripping down the walls so all our backpacks and gear smelled of damp for days afterwards. The room was also a little on the small side.

If you aren’t staying during Chinese New Year, you should find plenty more options, here are some highly recommended ones:

Budget

Flip Flop Hostel Jiufen
Hostel located in a beautiful old house with cosy common area and private rooms.

On My Way JiuFen Hostel
Highly rated hostel in a central location with dorm rooms.

Flashpacker

Something Easy Inn 
Highly rated guest house with a garden and shared lounge, with some rooms offering outdoor terraces and sea views.

Shanyuhai
Guesthouse with private outdoor deck with stunning sea views just 350 yards from Jiufen Old Street.

All in all and despite the serene setting, we were not totally ‘Spirited Away’ by Jiufen. The hordes of tourists in such a small space left us a little weary. Juifen was much better explored early in the morning or late evening, when the tourist buses were no longer here and it really came alive.


Pocket WIFI rental in Taiwan

Having a pocket WIFI device was super handy during our trip. We pre-ordered one online with Klook and collected the device at Taipei airport and dropped it off at Kaohsiung’s airport.

The rental cost was pretty cheap at only £1.25 per day, and we were both able to connect our phones to it. 


More Taiwan inspiration


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Travel guide | Exploring Jiufen - a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan blog post

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