Dadaocheng (大稻埕) is undoubtedly one of Taipei’s most compelling neighborhoods and best places to explore on foot. While Wanhua, the historical Old City to the south, is a magnet for tourists, serious history & culture fans can’t miss Dadaocheng.
Twatutia, as Dadaocheng is pronounced in the Hokkien (Taiwanese) language, was once the second largest city in Taiwan after Tainan, the original capital in the south. Most goods entered Taipei at Twatutia Wharf on the Tamsui (Danshui) River. Dihua Street, the area’s main thoroughfare, developed into a sprawling place of trade in tea, medicine, herbs, fabrics, and all manner of dried goods, as it remains today.
Thanks to the neighborhood’s rich and colorful history, a variety of architectural styles are preserved on and around Dihua Street, representing the different phases of its history. Traditional Fujian-style Qing Dynasty homes can be seen alongside Baroque revival and modernist styles favored by wealthy Japanese at the time of the Japanese colonial occupation.
What truly makes Dihua street special is that many of these 100+ year-old businesses are still in operation, while cute modern cafés, craft shops and clothing boutiques make practical use of gorgeously restored ancient edifices. The area’s unique museums, intriguing temples, and traditional eats are the finishing touches on this quintessential Taipei experience.
Be sure to also check out my articles on Ximending and Beitou Hot Spring, my other two favorite neighborhoods in Taipei. Exploring Dadaocheng is also on my list of top 50 things to do in Taipei, and should definitely be a part of your Taipei itinerary!
Exploring Dihua Street with MyProGuide
I was invited to delve into the history and sights of Dihua Street on a customized tour by MyProGuide. While I’m going to briefly introduce the best things to do on Dihua street below, if you really want to dig deeper and get more information on each spot from a knowledgeable local, then I would highly recommend either their Dihua Street Walking Tour.
From the moment I was greeted by Sylvia, a professional licensed tour guide, and intern Effi, who arranged our day, I was taken aback by the depth of detail they were able to provide.
Since Dihua Street and Dadaocheng are quite big and there are SO MANY places to visit and stories behind them, I would recommend doing a little bit of research on your own first (like, ahem, reading this article!) This will help you to narrow it down and have a better idea of what you would like to see and do and make the best use of the limited time on your walking tour, as it would be impossible to see everything described in my article on one tour.
The company also offers walking tours of Longshan Temple and Ximending.
History of Dadaocheng
Twatutia was an area of rice cultivation in the Qing Dynasty, and Twatutia means “large square for drying rice husks and grains.” Tea traders began setting up shop in the mid-19th century, with the first teashop opening in 1851. Twatutia lies to the north the old city of Taipei, Bangka (艋舺, also called Monga, or modern-day Wanhua District 萬華區), which was not yet the capital of Taiwan.
The British also became involved in the tea trade in Twatutia, and many more locals settled there after a conflict among settlers from different parts of China in Bangka.
Following the Treaty of Tianjin, the port of Tamsui at the mouth of the Tamsui River was open to trade with foreigners, with Taipei as the main place of trade. The influx of trade led to rapid development in Bangka. However, the muddy shore at Bangka made it difficult for boats to dock, so Twatutia to the north soon became the city’s main dock, and Twatutia was prospering by the 1880s. The first train station in Taipei was built in Twatutia in 1891, shortly before Taipei officially became the capital of Taiwan in 1894.
During the Japanese colonial occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945), Taipei (referred to by the Japanese as Taihoku) remained as the capital, while Twatutia (Daitōtei), was considered an extension of the city. Twatutia was home to many foreigners, and had a population of 30-40,000. When the KMT arrived, they called the area Tataocheng or Dadaocheng.
Dihua Street was always and remains the main thoroughfare and central place of commerce in Dadaocheng. It runs south to north parallel to the Tamsui River. It is considered the oldest street in Taipei, with a few sections that date back to the period of Dutch rule in Taiwan (1624–1661), but mainly it was constructed from the 1850s.
The street was originally called Central Street (中街), with the southern and northern sections called South Street (南街) and North Street (北街), respectively. Interestingly, the KMT named it Dihua Jie after the original name of Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang province in China.
Dadaocheng & Dihua Street Orientation & Access
Dadaocheng is not an official district but a neighborhood within larger Datong District (大同區). As such, there is no official border, but what most people consider to be Dadaocheng is bordered by the Tamsui River to the west, Minquan W. Road (民權西路) and the orange MRT lines to the North (with Daqiaotou MRT station providing access from the north), Chongqing North Road Sect. 2 (重慶北路二段) to the east, and Beimen (North Gate or 北門, the original northern entrance to Old Taipei) to the south.
The traditional heart of Dadaocheng is much smaller though, and focused on the area nearest to the Dadaocheng Wharf (大稻埕碼頭). Dihua Street section 1 (迪化街一段) begins at the point where Nanjing W. Rd. (南京西路) briefly veers south before continuing west to the river. Search for Mikkeller Taipei (米凱樂啤酒吧), a craft beer bar, to find the exact spot, and this is where we started our walking tour. You can walk there from Beimen MRT station on the gren line (10 minutes) or Zhongshan MRT station on the green or red line (15 minutes).
Dihua Street section 1 runs north (parallel to the river) all the way to Minquan W. Rd., and it is worth walking it in its entirety. Beyond Minquan W. Rd. it becomes Dihua Street section 2, which I won’t cover in this article. There you can also find Yansan Night Market (延三夜市), while Ningxia Night Market (寧夏夜市), one of the most popular night markets in Taipei, is to be found just east of Dadaocheng.
Southeast of Dihua Street, Jiancheng Circle (建成圓環) was a large circular market dating to the Japanese colonial period that was closed in 2006 after two major fires, and is now a park. If you’re passing by, it’s worth stopping for a quick look at Ri Xing Foundry (日星鑄字行, No. 13, Lane 97, Taiyuan Road, 9:30-12, 1-6, closed Monday and Tuesday), the only remaining type foundry in Taiwan.
Where to Stay in Dadaocheng
If you are planning your Taipei trip and wondering where to stay, Dadaocheng hotels and Dihua Street hotels are fine choices in the center of it all! Not only can you have access to Dihua Street, Ningxia Night Market, Beimen, Taipei Main Station, and more, but some of these hotels are housed in beautiful historic buildings with a vintage atmosphere. Here are my recommendations:
Dihua Street on Lunar New Year
If you want to see Dihua Street at its most lively (and crowded!) then come in the weeks leading up to Lunar (Chinese) New Year. At this time, half of Taipei’s residents seem to flock there to purchase goods for the holiday, such as dried treats, mullet roe, and Lunar New Year decorations. The road becomes incredibly crowded, especially on weekends, and most shops set up additional stalls and hand out free samples in front of their businesses at this time.
Dihua Street Walking Tour
The following are the best things to do on Dihua Street roughly in order from the start of Dihua Street and heading north. I saw some on my walking tour with MyProGuide, and others another day on my own; don’t try to do all of this in one day!
Dadaocheng Tourist Information Center
At the intersection of Nanjing W. Rd. and the start of Dihua St. Sect. 1, the Dadaocheng Tourist Information Center (marked on GoogleMaps as Dadaochengluyouzixun Station 大稻埕旅遊資訊站, #237 Nanjing W. Rd.) marks the start of Dihua Street.
The private “info center” is actually a shop, but they have some really cute souvenirs, including postcards that contain real tealeaves, plum wine with cats on the label, and Taiwan-themed change purses (stinky tofu, Taiwan beer, and so on).
For information and a great English map of the area, head to the tourism bureau-run Dadaocheng Visitor Center (大稻埕遊客中心, #44 Dihua St.) further down Dihua Street across from Yongle Market. Here you can even rent traditional Chinese clothing for free to spice up your Dihua street photos!
A.S. Watson & Co. Building
ASW is a 100+ year-old building at the corner of Dihua Street and Lane 32. The building once housed Taiwan’s first Western pharmacy, A.S. Watson and Co., but is now home to several cute craft & souvenir shops, a café, and a bookstore.
ArtYard1 (listed as Small Arts Courtyard 小藝埕 on GoogleMaps, #34 Dihua Street) is run by ArtYard, a project devoted to breathing new life into numerous buildings in the Dihua Street Area. You will notice several other ArtYard establishments on the Dadaocheng map.
On the second floor, ASW Tea House (9 AM to 6 PM) is an elegant, British-themed tea shop. They do all-day breakfasts, but I went for the Tea Set, which includes a pot of Ceylon tea (which can be upgraded to a variety of select Taiwanese teas), butter scone with cream cheese, and snowball cookies (NT340). The cute window-side tables have a great view down on Dihua Street.
In the evening, the tea house becomes Watson’s Bar (7:30 PM to 12:30 AM, closed Monday and Tuesday) and features a selection of whiskeys and local craft beers from 55 Street Craft Beer.
Yongle Fabric Market (永樂布業商場, #1 Minle St.) is a Dihua Street institution. Dating to the Japanese colonial area, the fabric market remains the largest in Taiwan. But there’s more than just fabric to see here.
The first floor of Yongle Market houses a small wet market. At the entrance, people line up to purchase oil rice (you fan or 油飯), which parents customarily give away to family and friends to celebrate their child’s one-month birthday. Inside, there are several sushi bars, including one with a good range of craft beers.
The second floor is the actual fabric market, while the third floor is where people can take their fabric to be tailored. The 8th floor houses cultural exhibitions (currently there is one on traditional Taiwanese puppet theater), while Dadaocheng Theater can be found on the 9th floor.
On the south side of Yongle Market (on Minle street 民樂街), there is a collection of tasty, local eateries. Yongle Tainan Fried-Spanish Mackerel Thick Soup (永樂台南土魠魚羹) serves a Tainan specialty that I love: thick stew with breaded, deep fried mackerel strips. Next door, Minle Swordfish Rice Noodle Soup (民樂旗魚米粉) is another popular option.
At the front of Yongle Market, watch for Yanji Xingren Lu (顏記杏仁露), which specializes in traditional almond and shaved ice desserts. For vegetarians, watch for the Buddhist swastika denoting a vegetarian lunchbox shop on the north side of Yongle Market.
On the backside of the Yongle Market, Yao De Herb Shop (姚德和青草號, #55, Minle St) is a photogenic Chinese herb shop dating to 1946. I found the chilled aloe vera tea (蘆薈茶) tasty and refreshing. They also serve perotis tea (茅根茶), bitter herbal tea (苦茶), and Taiwanese herbal tea (青草茶). There’s a similar business next door, but with a less beautiful shop.
Wang Tea (Youji Ming Cha)
A few blocks east of Yao De Herb Shop, Wang Tea (有記名茶, No. 26號, Lane 64, Section 2, Chongqing North Road, 9 AM to 7 PM, closed Sunday) is one of the most popular stops for Dihua Street Walking tours and visiting tourists interested in Taiwanese teas. And for good reason. This is the only tea manufacturer in Taipei where tea is roasted in the traditional manner, in baskets above hot coals, and you can even have a look at the roasting room at the back.
The tea shop dates to 1890, when the current owners’ great grandfather established it in Xiamen, China. He came to Taiwan in 1935 and establishing the current shop in 1949. They are known for their Baozhong and High Mountain oolongs, but sell several others at various price/quality points.
The tea shop faces Chaoyang Tea Park (朝陽茶葉公園), with several other tea shops around it.
See the end of this article for two more teas hops that I strongly recommend in the area, and learn more in my complete introduction to Taiwanese teas.
Xiahai City God Temple
Dadaocheng’s most famous temple is Xiahai City God Temple (霞海城隍廟, #61, Dihua Street). You may be surprised at how small the temple is, but what it lacks in sizes it makes up for in importance to the local people. The temple houses the Xia Hai Cheng Huang God (霞海城隍爺), which was brought over from Xia Cheng, Tong An County, Fujian province, China.
The statue was originally housed in Bangka, but moved to Dadaocheng following conflicts among people there. The city god is thought to protect the city, among other things, and there are numerous temples devoted to him in Taiwan and China. The Xiahai City God’s birthday (the 14th day on the 5th month of the lunar calendar) is celebrated with a boisterous parade around the neighborhood).
Interestingly, the reason many Taiwanese people come to Xiahai City God Temple these days is to pray for success in their romantic lives. In the last 20 years, the god of love, Yue Xia Lao Ren (月下老人), or simply Yue Lao (月老), who actually comes from a novel, has come to be associated with the temple.
To improve your love life, follow the below 13 steps, which are further explained in Mandarin here with photos.
1. Enter the door on the right and make a donation for a bundle of joss paper and three sticks of incense.
2. Go to the counter in the main shrine room and exchange the joss paper for a pack of offerings, including a lucky bracelet and paper, candy, and cake (first-time visitors only). They will give you a number to reclaim your joss paper later.
3. Light the three sticks of incense over the candles and carry them with you for the following steps.
4. Go to the incense cauldron outside and introduce yourself to the Emperor of Heaven (天公).
5. Return to the counter and get your joss paper back. Go to the main shrine and introduce yourself to Cheng Huang and Yue Lao. Tell them who your Mr. of Mrs. Right is. Don’t forget to promise them something in return after your love succeeds (locals bring a box of treats from their wedding for them).
6. Go to the room on the right and pray to 義勇公 (the tiger figure) for safety.
7. Pray to Cheng Huang’s wife (城隍夫人) for happiness, family.
8. Pray to Pusa (菩薩) for serenity and wisdom.
9. Return outside and place your incense in the cauldron.
10. Eat the cake with some “blessed tea” found outside.
11. Give the candy back to the counter for good karma.
12. Turn the red paper and string over the smoke from the incense in the cauldron 3 times, then keep it on you in the future (most put it in their wallet, while some people wear the string as a bracelet, if they aren’t embarrassed for others to know).
13. Leave your joss paper in the bin or on the offering table. The temple will burn it elsewhere on your behalf.
Central Dihua Street
A few steps north of Xiahai City God Temple, there’s an ice cream shop called 枝仔冰城 (#69, Dihua Street) that claims to have the oldest Popsicles in Taiwan. Banana ice cream bars are their signature item (watch for their banana-shaped sign), but the mango ones are really good too!
Next, head west down lane 72, directly across from Xiahai City God Temple. At the end of the lane, on Xining North Rd., you’ll see Nadou Theater (納豆劇場), which stages traditional Taiwanese puppet theater performances.
It may be tough to catch a show, but the Taiyuan Asian Puppet Theater Museum (台原亞洲偶戲博物館, #79-1, Xining North Road, NT80) next door is open 10 AM to 5 PM (closed Monday) and is the best place in Taipei to learn about this curious performance art form. The museum houses exhibits on not only Taiwanese puppet theater but other versions from around Asia. Note that the Taiyuan Puppet Theater will be closed for two years starting in July 2019.
To learn more about Taiwanese puppet theater, see this article I wrote for Travel in Taiwan magazine introducing the Puppet Theater Museum in Huwei, Yunlin, the puppet theater capital of Taiwan.
One block closer to the river, Chen Tian-lai Residence (陳天來故居, formerly Jin Ji Tea House or錦記茶行), is the baroque-style former residence of a tea tycoon, and worth a quick look for architecture fans.
A few steps north to the point where Minsheng W. Rd. (民生西路) meets the river, you can take Evacuation Gate #5 (淡五號水門) to reach Dadaocheng Pier (大稻埕碼頭), with access to the riverside path, ferries bound for Danshui, and a number of little temples. This is where all the goods traded in Dadaocheng once came in and left the city, and the place that is essentially the reason why Dadaocheng grew into what it is.
Come here for in the evening for the relatively new collection of food and booze stalls called Dadaocheng Pier 5; it’s a popular place for a sundowner. This is also the site of the popular Dadaocheng Fireworks Festival, which usually takes place in early August.
To see a few more historical sights, follow Minsheng W. Rd. east all the way past Dihua Street and Yanping N. Rd. (延平北路), to have a look at Xing Hua Ge Alcohol House (杏花閣大酒家) on the north side of the road, a last-of-its-kind institution where customers enjoy banquet meals and can pay extra for the company of women.
Facing it on the south side of the road are two identically named Bolero restaurants, who both claim to be the oldest continually operating Western restaurants in Taipei. In their heyday, parents brought their daughters here to meet prospective husbands, and the young women could indirectly decline by ordering nothing but a drink. Come here for a Taiwanese retro eating experience.
A few steps further down, on the north side of the road, Sin Hong Choon (新芳春茶行, #309, Minquan W. Rd.), formerly Guji Tea Factory or 古蹟製茶廠, #309, Minsheng W. Rd.) is a baroque building dating to 1934 that was once the area’s largest tea manufacturer, and is sometimes open to the public.
Back on Dihua Street, the section between Minsheng W. Rd. and Guisui St. (歸綏街) is stuffed with traditional herb shops. You can also expect to spot controversial items such as bird’s nests, shark fins, deer antlers, and more, such as in the photo below.
Chen Wey Tea House (臻味茶苑, #156, Dihua St.) is a particularly lovely little tea shop housed in an ancient residence. The tea leaves on offer are a little pricey but of exceptional quality, and free samples are offered.
If you take Guisui St. to the intersection of Yanping N. road, you can find a collection of shops and stalls selling traditional incense.
Northern Dihua Street
Venturing north of Guisui Street, Dihua street becomes a little quieter and feels less touristy, but the buildings and the business they contain are equally atmospheric. Many of the cafés, tea houses, restaurants, clothing shops, and dry goods businesses open into arresting, leafy internal courtyards.
The interior of handsome Museum 207 (迪化207博物館, Dihua St. #207, 10 AM to 5 PM, closed Tuesdays, entrance free) is set with terrazzo. The museum hosts a variety of exhibits on local arts & culture, and the 4F roof provides a fine view over Dihua street’s red brick rooftops.
At Taiwan Cooking 101 School (大稻埕台灣料理研習所, Dihua St. #221, 10 Am to 6 PM, closed Wednesdays), you can learn how to make all kinds of traditional Taiwanese food, including oyster omelets, bubble tea, beef noodles, or soup dumplings. You can sign up for one of the cooking courses here.
Right next to the cooking school, Ho Hsing 1947 (合興壹玖肆柒) is a famous traditional pastry shop that does a variety of steamed breads.
A little further down, AMA Museum (阿嬤家-和平與女性人權館, Dihua St. #256, 10 AM to 5 PM, closed Mondays and Tuesdays, entrance NT100) is a small but meaningful museum devoted to the “comfort women,” Taiwanese sex slaves of the Japanese military during the colonial occupation of Taiwan.
At the far northern end of Dihua street section 1, just before it reaches Minquan W. Rd., there is a shop, Sunrice 1923 (葉晋發商號 Yehjinfa 1923, 1-6 PM, 10 AM to 6 PM weekends, closed Tuesday) and restaurant, URS329 Rice & Shine (稻舍URS329, 12-3 and 5:30 to 9 PM, closed Mondays) focusing on different varieties of local rice and home cooked meals.
Nearby, Lee Cake (李亭香餅店, #309, Dihua St., 9 AM to 8 PM) is one of the oldest continuously running traditional pastry shops in Taipei, which I learned about in the book A Culinary History of Taipei: Beyond Pork and Ponlai.
Last but not least, Oriental Cuisine Guizhou (Qing Tian Xai or 東方饌黔天下貴州主題餐廳, #358-2, Dihua St, 11:30-2:30, 5:30-9:30) is one of my favorites in Taipei and one of the best restaurants on Dihua Street, serving up authentic dishes from Guizhou province in Southwest China in a modern setting. Guizhou is known for its spicy-sour cuisine and pickled vegetables (醃菜), and some local foodie friends of mine once even preordered a whole chicken slow cooked for over 24 hours in a traditional clay plot for our visit (note: I don’t eat meat).
This is the furthest north we will go. The below sights are to the east of Dihua Street.
Starbucks Bao An Datong
It may seem strange to include a Starbucks on a Dihua Street walking tour, but this one is particularly gorgeous. Listed on GoogleMaps as Starbucks Reserve (星巴克典藏咖啡 保安門市, #11 Bao An Street), this may just be the most beautiful Starbucks in Taipei.
According to Sylvia, my MyProGuide guide, the building is a gorgeous example of a compromise between construction companies and those wanting to preserve old buildings: The bottom three floors (now occupied by Starbucks) preserve the original red brick building, while a modern building housing Taipei City Hotel 台北城大飯店 (read reviews / see prices) sits on top. You barely even notice the tall building on top from street level.
The original building was constructed in 1929 by Yeh Jin-Tu (葉金塗) of the famous Yeh family. Starting out in seafood, the company Jin Tai Heng Shang (金泰亨商) made a fortune on canned pineapple and came to be known as the “Pineapple King” (鳳梨王) of Taiwan. Note the pineapples paying homage on the building’s exterior.
The interior of the Starbucks is gorgeously designed as well, and the views looking out past the exterior’s columns are majestic.
Dadaocheng Presbyterian Church
Around the corner from Starbucks, the Dadaocheng Presbyterian Church (“Ta Tao Cheng Presbyterian Church” on GoogleMaps, 台灣基督長老教會大稻埕教會, #40, Ganzhou Street) has an interesting story, also shared with me by Sylvia. When the Taipei City Government’s bureau of cultural affairs made an attempt to have the beautiful old church designated as a historical structure to ensure its preservation, the owners tore it down within days, not wanting the restrictions that come with official designation.
The church sued the government and vice versa, and the church won in the end. They later rebuilt a similar church on the same spot, with a surprisingly large addition behind it.
Dadaocheng Cisheng Temple
Another Dadaocheng Institution is Cisheng Temple (大稻埕慈聖宮天上聖母, #17, Lane 49, Bao An Street), sometimes referred to as the Dadaocheng Matsu Temple. What makes this temple special and unique is not so much the structure itself, which has been moved in the past from a different location, but the collection of 40+ food stalls in its forecourt.
Here locals gather for breakfast or lunch to be enjoyed under two large banyan trees in front of the temple. In the past it was primarily (male) laborers and taxi drivers who dined here, but now all manner of people come for the traditional food and experience.
Lin Mao Sen and Lin Huai Tai Tea Shops
Owned by two competing brothers, Lin Mao Sen Tea Co. (林茂森茶行, #195-3, Section 2, Chongqing North Road, 8:30 AM to 9 PM) and Lin Huai Tea (林華泰茶行, #193, Section 2, Chongqing North Road, 7:30 AM to 9 PM), are my two top recommendations for buying tea in Taipei. They are next door to each other at the northeastern fringe of Dadaocheng.
Lin Mao Sen has a fancier shop, but both sell a very similar range of bulk Taiwanese teas, with similar price/quality levels, covering all the main popular Taiwanese varieties, with a minimum purchase of ¼ jin (斤, a traditional Chinese measurement), or 150g. The workers in both shops speak English and can help you find what you need. These are my go-to shops for buying high quality, locally produced Taiwanese teas at a decent price, just don’t expect fancy boxes or packaging.
So that sums up my suggested Dihua Street walking tour! I hope you’ve found some useful information here. If you find something has changed, or feel I missed something great, please let me know in the comments below!
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