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Bright lights, big city – reminiscent of Shinjuku in Japan but retaining its own Taiwanese identity, Ximending is the cultural heart and soul of Taipei’s Wanhua District. Not so much a night market but a world of weird and wonderful entertainment, shopping and food, this is a true Taipei treat (and the first pedestrianised area ever created in the city).
Although busy both night and day, if you only have time to visit once during your visit to Taiwan, we’d recommend you go in the early evening to enjoy the neon nights and nocturnal street delights. Read on for our top things to do in Ximending:
The Red House
One of the main tourist draws in Ximending (both in the daytime and at night), the Red House is a beautiful red brick building that has served many purposes over the years since it opened in 1908. It now hosts cultural performances, a theatre, plus a fantastic two storey independent retail emporium, chock full of unique and one-off designs by local artists. From what we understand, the stall holders rotate every few months to keep it fresh.
By night, the retail side gives away to the hustle and bustle of around 20 bars dotted around the square immediately in front of the Red House, containing some of the best Happy Hours in Taipei. The area is also one of the largest LBGTQ districts in Taipei, so the bars are busy every night of the week.
As an aside, we’d also recommend the special brownie store here, Mr Brownie, which we visited every day we went to Ximending – their range of brownie flavours ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous (the strawberry brownie was a particular fave).
Modern Toilet restaurant
A toilet themed restaurant you say? One that promises ‘crappy’ food and a dining experience like no other? Welcome to the Modern Toilet restaurant, where diners sit on a toilet bowl to eat at their ‘convenience’.The Modern Toilet in Taiwan has two different branches but the ‘flagsh*t’…sorry…flagship branch is in Ximending. We thought it was such a peculiar yet fun restaurant that we’ve written a dedicated blog post about our experience.
Claw / vending machines and amusements
Taiwan (and Taipei in particular) love their amusement machines and arcades – indeed, their current favourite craze is the claw machines, where you can win both practical (iPhones) and novelty gifts (we saw a dedicated Ferrero Rocher arcade machine). In most cases, these arcades are open 24 hours a day (great if that snorer is keeping you awake in your shared 24 bed hostel dorm!).
Whilst in Ximending we saw ‘gachapon’ galore – these are Japanese style vending machines where you put a coin into the slot to get a mystery capsule toy.
Ximending shopping and malls
Ximending is retail heaven! Although Taipei has lots of superb malls, it is actually nice to roam outdoors around Ximending and browse all the independent stalls (some rather whacky!) plus see some of the brands you might recognise from home like Uniqlo and Starbucks.
We also liked the line of street vendors who sold their wares using trestle tables and blankets – most of our cartoon socks be bought to use on the remainder of our Taiwan adventures were purchased here. The souvenir gifts shops are excellent too.
Taipei has over 60 official areas for street-performers to entertain, but the busiest we saw by far was the one right in the centre of Ximending, where the four main pedestrianised areas congregate. We were enthralled most nights by the local street-performers who queue up one after another to entertain in heart of Ximending – from tight-rope walkers to knife throwers (plus a lot of singers), you can side a dazzling array of talent every week (all free but donations into a hat are expected).
Street-performers are required to get an official permit to entertain here so the only thing we didn’t like here was the rise of ‘begpackers’ who would join (hijack?) the queue of local artists to entertain the crowds, then perform some under-rehearsed rubbish that was such poor quality.
And don’t get us started on the begpacker street statues in Taipei – enough already!
Ximending Street art / graffiti lanes
Explore the quieter alleyways and side streets around Ximending’s main hub and you’ll discover a whole world of street-art and magnificent murals.
Although Taipei’s laws around graffiti are not too strict, many of the murals are sanctioned by the Taipei Youth Art Centre, whereby local business owners are contacted to see if they’ll allow an artist to complete a piece on their blank walls – given the lax laws, Taipei is awash with street art but the alleyways around Ximending are one of the best areas to see a highly concentrated area of superb street art.
If you like this, did you also know there was a dedicated animation lane in Taichung, Taiwan? Click here to read more.
Ximending Movie Theatre Street
Ximending’s movie theatre history comes full circle here – in the 1950’s, Ximending was known as the theatre district for Taipei and a collection of movie theatres (including an impressive IMAX theatre that can be found here). There are around 15 cinemas in the area, but the biggest concentration can be found here along Ximending movie theatre street – most of the movies are shown in their original language, with mandarin subtitles.
Food and drink in Ximending
There is a HUGE amount of choice for eating and drinking in Ximending – with plenty of great street food stalls (including the infamous stinky tofu), fast food joints and quirky restaurants. You will not go hungry here!
Here are some of the most popular places we ate at whilst staying in Ximending:
Ay Chung Flour Rice Noodle is a very popular and iconic stall with long queues of hungry locals waiting to purchase a take away tub of Taiwanese flour rice noodles (served with gravy and pig intestines!). The queues move pretty quickly as they only sell the one dish. We were not huge fans of the dish but the price is so cheap at 30TWD for a small tub that you may as well try it!
Hot Star Chicken is also another VERY popular stall with Taiwanese youngsters – they sell huge spicy chicken schnitzels (the size of your face – seriously!).
Sushiro is a Japanese style sushi conveyor belt restaurant that was located next door to our hotel (Green World Hotel). The place was always packed with a long 2 hour waiting time, but we popped along one mid afternoon on a weekday and managed to get seated straight away. The sushi was really delicious and fairly cheap!
There are several 7-Eleven stores (plus Family Marts) dotted around the area which are great for purchasing snacks and drinks (and the occasional ready meal). There was one near Green World Hotel that almost doubled as a late-night party bar with outdoor tables!
Other hobbies and fascinations to look out for in Ximending (Taipei) include:
- Themed cafes – ‘Maid cafes’ in particular appear to be very popular
- Cosplay / anime attractions – stores galore plus comic-book sellers, you can also hire cosplay costumes by the hour – Ximen Costume Street is a thing!
- Be a Karaoke King (or Queen!) at one of Ximending’s numerous Karaoke (KTV) bars – channel your inner Bill Murray (you must have seen ‘Lost in Translation’?) and hit the high notes in the privacy of your own karaoke capsule.
Ximending ‘Xtras’? Was there anything we missed? We’re already planning our next trip to Taipei so do please share any other things we should do in the comments below…
Portable WIFI and sim cards
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.
We would highly recommend basing yourself in the Ximending district during your stay in Taipei. Here are some highly rated accommodation suggestions for all types of budget in Ximending!
Hostel accommodations that come highly rated include:
Meander Taipei Hostel
Highly rated hostel that offers a number of tours and fun events. Check out prices and availability for Meander Taipei Hostel Ximending.
Angels Hostel Taipei Ximen
Excellent hostel with dorm rooms. Check out prices and availability for Angels Hostel Taipei Ximen.
Space Inn Hengyang
Quirky space themed hostel with highly rated facilities. Check out prices and availability for Space Inn Hengyang.
Ximen Wow Hostel
Excellent hostel located in the middle of the Ximending district. Check out prices and availability for Ximen Wow Hostel.
If you are looking for something mid range then these hotels are in excellent locations with great reviews:
Green World Hotel
Clean and comfortable hotel in a great location. Check out prices and availability for Green World Hotel.
CityInn Hotel Plus – Ximending Branch
Quirky rooms a 5-minute walk from Ximen MRT Station. Check out prices and availability for CityInn Hotel Plus – Ximending Branch.
Just Sleep Ximending
Nicely designed rooms a 2-minute walk from Ximen MRT Station. Check out prices and availability for Just Sleep Ximending.
Swiio Hotel Ximending
Awesome decor and located in the heart of Ximending. Check out prices and availability for Swiio Hotel Ximending.
Alternatively if you are looking for something more special then treat yourself to a stay at one of these beautiful hotels in Ximending:
Contemporary rooms a 1-minute walk from Ximen MRT Station. Check out prices and availability for WESTGATE Hotel.
Quirky boutique hotel located 350 yards from The Red House. Check out prices and availability for Inhouse Boutique.
How to get to Ximending
The MRT metro subway system in Taipei is super easy to use, clean and cheap and Ximending can be reached by using exit 6 at Ximen Sation on the green and blue lines! There is also an extensive network of buses too that go to the Ximending district.
The two best options for payment to use Taipei’s public transport are:
- EasyCard – the card costs costs NT$100 but saves 20% on regular fares. It can be topped up at metro stations and convenience stores like FamilyMart and 7-Eleven.
- Taipei Pass – unlimited rides on the MRT and buses and can be purchased from MRT customer service counters for either one day, two days, three days or five days.
Uber taxi’s are also available – download the Uber app to your phone and sign up using the code carolinek9322ue to get your first ride for free!
Other Taiwan blog posts
- Top things to do in Taipei, Taiwan for first time visitors
- The best night markets in Taiwan
- Tasting Taiwan on a Taipei Eats food tour
- The Pingxi Rail Line – a day trip from Taipei
- Exploring Jiufen – a day trip from Taipei, Taiwan
- Taipei to Kaohsiung – the perfect 9 day Taiwan itinerary
- Visiting Dihua Street for Chinese New Year in Taipei, Taiwan
- Visiting Hutong Cat Village in Taipei
- Top things to do in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
- Things to do in Taichung, Taiwan
- Top things to do in Tainan, Taiwan