Another reason to come here is the awesome traditional mochi on offer. According to my wife (I don't usually eat mochi), most mochi in Taiwan is coated in peanut powder, but the ones at Ningxia are made the traditional way, boiled right before you eat them so they are still warm, and with the atypical option of ground sesame seeds instead of peanut powder.

But what seemed especially interesting to me is that you could get them served on shaved ice and doused with sweetened condensed milk. I found the combination heavenly, but try to share with a friend, as the large bowl is like a meal. So I guess I may be a mochi lover after all!

East Coast road trip Hualien to Taitung

13 Best Night Markets in Taipei: Everything You Need to Know

June 21, 2018 by Nick Kembel

Read on for a comprehensive guide to the best night markets in Taipei, Taiwan. Taipei night markets are one of the top reasons to visit Taiwan, and the best place the country to sample a variety of Taiwanese foods. #taipeinightmarkets #bestnightmarketsintaipei #taiwanesefood #taipei #taiwan #shilinnightmarket #raohenightmarket #tonghuanightmarket #wheretoeatintaipei #nightmarketsintaipei #taiwannightmarkets

Hey, I'm Nick!

I first left home with a backpack in 2001, and I've been living in Taiwan for the last 10 years. I am especially drawn to religious centers, spiritual sights, and natural attractions.

I started this website to share the things I learn on the road and to inspire YOU to travel MORE!

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Nick Kembel

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Shilin is popular among Taiwanese teens, so there are lots of trendy clothing shops, cafés, movie theaters, bowling alleys, etc. in the surrounding streets. It's also the Taipei night market most frequented by tourists, but I find that all night markets in Taipei, even Shilin, still have a predominantly local crowd, and I don't agree with people who say they are too "touristy".

Some stalls at Shilin stay open a little later than other markets, until 1 or even 2 AM.

Access: Get off at Jiantan MRT station (exit 1), not Shilin station. Cross the road and enter the beast.   

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. If you click on one and buy that product, I would get a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you.

Best Night Markets in Taipei Cheat Sheet

If you are reading this, then I probably don't have to convince you to include a Taipei night market when making your itinerary for Taipei. You already know that you must!

Taipei's night markets offer the quintessential Taiwanese eating experience and are the embodiment of Taiwanese popular modern culture. Snacking and walking is truly a national pastime!

But the question we all want answered is: what is the best night market in Taipei? This Wikipedia list of night markets in Taiwan mentions 30 in the greater Taipei area (Taipei City, New Taipei City, and Keelung), around 70 night markets in Taiwan, and there are actually many more that are not listed. So how can you choose which night market to visit in Taipei? Read on!

But the short answer is: they are all amazing, similar in many ways but each has its own unique features and dishes, and it depends on what kind of experience you are looking for.

I've split this guide into the top five night markets in Taipei, three more notable ones, and five night markets worth checking out in the greater Taipei region (New Taipei City, and my favorite one, in Keelung). Also, while it's not really a night market, there's also some great street food in Ximending, the "Harajuku of Taipei."

Please note, I am pescatarian, so I didn't include many pics of meaty things, but they sure have them. For vegetarian food in Taiwan's night markets, you won't have as many choices, but you can still find plenty!

If you prefer to let a local food expert show you around, try this Taipei Night Market Tour, this private food tour, or this Taipei Culinary tour. All three include night market explorations.

Before I introduce each of the best Taipei night markets and their most famous foods, there are some other things you need to know. And even before that, here's a quick summary of what's below:

From the street behind the temple, you can climb the steps over the river flood wall to pedestrian-only Rainbow Bridge (it's actually red, but lit up with rainbow colors at night). This is also a great point for starting or ending a YouBike ride to other parts of the city. A great, easy run I'd recommend is from here to Yuanshan, which takes about 45 minutes.

Wufenpu Garmet Wholesale Market is also walking distance from here. This huge market is a great place to find all kinds of kinds of cheap clothing, especially T-shirts plastered with English words or phrases that don't make sense.

Access: Exit 1 or 3 of Songshan MRT station. YouBike station is just behind exit 3. Here's how to rent a YouBike in Taipei.

I never travel without a good guidebook. These are my favorite. E-book version available!

Night markets go back over 1000 years to the Tang Dynasty in ancient China. The ones in Taipei mostly date back to the 1950s, with many of the original stalls still kicking and proudly displaying their starting dates. Some, such as Shilin Night Market, have origins going back as long as 100 years.

These night markets developed gradually, starting out as collections of food stalls at street corners or in front of temples, then slowly growing and spreading to take up entire blocks or neighborhoods.

The major night markets in Taipei once sold all kinds of everyday items, but in modern times the focus has shifted almost entirely to xiao chi (literally “small eats”, or snacks). If you've been to or live in Taipei, you know that grabbing (insanely cheap, always delicious) take-away food is a way of life in modern-day Taiwan.

Taipei night markets showcase the best of these foods all in one place, with many unique dishes that you can't find anywhere else, and are understandably hugely popular among locals and tourists alike.

In a country where many youths aren't into drinking, restaurants can be quite pricey compared to what young workers make, and everyone and his/her dog is a foodie, night markets make the perfect hangout for a Friday or Saturday night with friends.

One thing that you may want to seek out at the northeastern side of Shilin (or, much smarter, come in the daytime when there's no line), is the bubble tea shop Tiger Sugar, a newly opened branch of the chain from Taichung, which also happens to be the homeland of bubble tea.

Their drinks are very photogenic (hello Instagram!) but the amazing burned toffee flavor is what really blew me away, and I usually don't care much for bubble tea.  

Probably the city's second most popular night market, I prefer Raohe for it's more manageable size. It's just one main drag, approximately 600 meters from east to west, with a small number of shops and stalls on some of the alleys leading away from it.

The market's most famous stall, impossible to miss right at the entrance, is Fuzhou Shizu Black Pepper Buns (福州世祖胡椒餅). If you're like me and don't eat meat, it's still fun to stand and watch the masters at work. Another famous food stall at Raohe Night Market is Chen Dong Ribs Stewed in Medicinal Herbs (陳董藥燉排骨) about a third of the way in.

Ningxia night market is hard proof that the Taiwanese love to be crowded together: here, two rows of stalls running up wide Ningxia road are unnecessarily pushed close together to create a narrow walkway between them.

This is a great choice for a quick and easy night market experience, or if you are traveling in Taipei with kids (but it still gets packed, so do come early). Running from the traffic circle on Nanjing West Road north to Minsheng West Road, the southern portion features several children's games, balloon darts, and so on.

For a relatively small night market, Ningxia sure packs in a lot of great food. The deep fried oyster/shrimp and egg balls, a Chiayi specialty, are a personal favorite of mine.

By far the most popular stand in the market, with a line starting before they even open, is Liu Yu Zai deep fried taro balls (劉芋仔芋餅, stall #91). They only sell two items: taro only balls, and taro balls stuffed with salted egg and pork floss.

If that doesn't sound so appetizing to you, or you don't want to wait forever in line, then try the similar ones at stall #122. The custard ones are extremely rich, with melted buttery custard inside, and while I can't compare them with the famous salted egg ones, because I didn't try the latter, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that these are EVEN better, at least for those who like rich desserts. And no line!

There are also restaurants flanking both sides of the night market street, including Huan Ji Sesame Oil Chicken (環記麻油雞 #44 Ningxia Rd), dating to 1941 and also serving mee sua.

You can also find several oyster omelet shops, the most famous being Yuan Huan Bian Oyster Omelet (環邊蚵仔煎 #46 Ningxia Rd) and Oyster Omelet Da Wang (蚵仔煎大王 #56 Ningxia Rd). There's also a popular one called Lai Ji Oyster Omelet (賴_蛋蚵仔煎 #198-22 Minsheng W. Rd) just east of the northern market entrance.  

The Top 5 Best Night Markets in Taipei

With origins as early as 1899, Shilin Night Market is the country's most famous night market, and also the largest and most crowded in Taipei. Shaped liked an upside down triangle between Jihe and Wenling roads, there are 500+ food vendors here, including the Shilin Night Market Food Court, an air-conditioned underground food court that provides an ideal escape in summer. If you want to find it directly, take Jihe road up the Western border of Shilin Night Market, and enter right at the first road going in.

In one word: crowded. But Taiwanese people seem to tolerate crowds just as much as they don't mind waiting in lines at certain stalls made "famous" through reputation and reviews from local food bloggers.

The Mandarin expression used to describe a night market is re nao, which translates as “hot and noisy,” but meant in a good way. Night markets are where all the action (and good food) is at, and the sights, smells, and sounds blasting you from all angles are an integral aspect of the experience.

My first Taipei night market experience actually wasn't a good one. It was my first night in Taiwan and it was the middle of summer. My friend and I wandered from our hostel to find Shi Da Night Market (see below), which used to be one of Taipei's most popular night markets. We got sucked into the stream of people, so thick we were pressed up against strangers, sweating from head to toe. We barely tried any foods because we didn't have the patience to wait in long lines next to hot grills.

See the next section to avoid some of our mistakes!

Why Does Taiwan Have So Many Night Markets?

2. Raohe Night Market: Great All-Around Experience

Perfect execution of Taiwanese stinky tofu
  • Best Night Markets in Taipei City: Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, Ningxia Night Market, Tonghua (Linjiang Street) Night Market, Huaxi Night Market

  • Three More Notable Mentions: Shida Night Market, Liaoning Night Market, Jingmei Night Market

  • Best Night Markets in New Taipei City and Keelung: Miaokou Night Market, Sanhe Night Market, Nanya Night Market, Lehua Night Market, Xinzhuang Temple Street

Enormous pot of fish stew, just a few steps in past the entrance to Raohe Night Market.

Besides the usual assortment of great food, I like Raohe because it's close to a few other interesting sights, notably Ci You Temple, devoted to Matsu, goddess of the sea, at the eastern entrance. Don't miss it; it's one of Taipei's prettiest temples, and make sure you go up the six floors at the back!

3. Ningxia Night Market: Easy to Handle, Amazing Mochi, and lots of Oyster Omelets

1. Shilin Night Market: The King of Taipei Night Markets

·     Avoid the peak times of 7-10 PM if you don't like crowds, especially on Saturday nights. Weekdays are better, but on Mondays some stalls don't open.

·     Most stalls start setting up around 4 and the markets get going around 5. This is the best time to visit. You could also go later, from 10 PM to closing time, around midnight, but food may not be at its freshest.

·     Dress light (short shorts, skirts, tank tops, etc. are fine in Taiwan!), wear good walking shoes, and try not to bring a large backpack.

·     Have you money ready in a safe, easy-to-reach spot.

·     Use the toilet before you leave the MRT; most night markets don't have any.

·     Avoid summer if possible if you're like me and can't handle intense heat and humidity.

·     Don't haggle; prices are mostly set in Taiwan. If you are buying clothing or other goods, you might be able to ask for a little discount, especially if you buy multiple items, but do so politely rather than forcefully, and don't push it if they say no. This is not China or Southeast Asia, and it's very rare to be ripped off here. For night market food, never haggle.  

·     Research the specialty of each market (see below!), but be aware that "famous" stalls will probably have long lines, and don't be afraid to try anything that looks good.

·     Is street food safe to eat in Taiwan? Yes! I've never heard of anybody getting sick from street food in Taiwan, but anything is possible. The food does tend to be greasy, and MSG is used a lot in Taiwan. Be very careful and specific if you have allergies or particular eating restrictions.  

·     If a “famous” stall has a long line, there's often a similar one nearby that's just about as good, or sometimes even better, with no line. I'll give some examples below.  

Tips for visiting a Taipei Night Market

What is a Taipei Night Market Like?

Crowds at Ningxia Night Market in Taipei

Stinky tofu, Taiwan's most notorious night market snack.

Taipei's Shilin Night Market, the king of night markets in Taipei

Underground, air conditioned Shilin Night Market Food Court. A savior in summer!

Unlike other night markets, I don't usually try to find specific stalls at Shilin, opting instead to just wander (i.e. get lost) and see what kind of dishes I happen upon.

The market is known for its creative treats that you can't find elsewhere (penis shaped cakes anyone?), but you can also find all the Taiwanese night market classics here, like sausages stuffed into rice sausages, mee sua (vermicelli in a thick meaty soup), oyster omelets (try the underground food court), shui jian bao (fried buns), bubble tea, and stinky tofu (you'll smell it before you see it).

Here's a more comprehensive list of classic Taiwanese dishes from CNN travel, or you can check out this article on things to eat at Shilin Night Market.  

Penis cakes at Shilin Night Market

When in doubt, just go for the dick cake.

Oyster mee sua (mi sua) vermicelli

Oyster "Mee Sua", one of the many must eats at Shilin Night Market

Bubble tea from Tiger Sugar Taipei Shilin branch
Songshan Ci You Temple, dedicated to Matsu, right at the entrance to Raohe Night Market
Fish stew at Raohe Night Market
Sexy milk tea bottles, Raohe Night Market

"Tian bu la" (甜不辣), sometimes translated as "tempura" but nothing like the Japanese dish. Another must!

For some inexplicable reason, I have a serious desire for milk tea right now.

Roof of Songshan Ci You Temple, dedicated to Matsu, right beside Raohe Night Market

Come for the temple, stay for the food.

Bubble tea sign at Ningxia Night Market, Taipei
An oyster, shrimp and egg ball before being deep fried, a Chiayi specialty, at Ningxia Night Market
Deep fried oyster balls at Ningxia Night Market

The "before" and "after" of a deep fried oyster, shrimp & egg ball, a Chiayi specialty.

Liu Yu Zai deep fried taro balls at Ningxia Night Market in Taipei

The most famous food stall at Ningxia Night Market: Deep fried taro balls with salted egg yolk and pork floss.  

Deep fried taro balls at Ningxia Night Market
Custard filled deep fried taro balls at Ningxia Night Market

And another stall with similar ones, but no line!

Traditional sesame and peanut powder mochi on shaved ice with sweetened condensed milk at Ningxia Night Market Taipei

This sesame coated mochi with sweetened condensed milk over ice converted me to a mochi lover.

Oyster Omelet Da Wang (King), Ningxia Night Market
Yuan Huan Bian Oyster Omelet, Ningxia Night Market, Taipei

Oyster Omelet Da Wang (left) and Yuan Huan Bian Oyster Omelet (right).

Taiwanese oyster omelets

Oyster omelets just before being doused in pink sauce.

Finally, for beer lovers, I stumbled upon a great little craft beer place with friendly local staff called Beer Ammo (軍火庫精釀啤酒 #109 Nanjing W. Rd) that claims to offer over 300 mostly Belgian and local craft beer bottles, only one minute' walk towards the MRT from the southern end of Ningxia Night Market.

Beer Ammo craft beer bar, Taipei

Craft beer shop just outside Ningxia Night Market.

Access: It's a 5-10 minute walk from Zhongshan MRT station to the southern end of Ningxia, or from Shuanglian MRT station to the northern end. If you happen to be coming in on the yellow MRT line like I always do, then you can also walk from Daqiaotou Station in 10-15 minutes.

4. Tonghua (Linjiang Street) Night Market: Authentic, Old-Fashioned Foods, Near Taipei 101

Tonghua Night Market (AKA Linjiang Street Night Market), Taipei

Most reviews say that the coolest thing about Tonghua Night Market is that it is a very “local” market, which happens to be located only one MRT stop from the glamorous and highly commercialized Taipei 101 shopping district.

My first thought when I arrived is that it didn't seem so “local” to me; there was actually a higher concentration of foreign faces than any of the other night markets on this list. But my wife explained to me that it's not the crowd or vibe that's traditional, it's the food itself. Here you can find classic dishes with recipes that haven't changed in decades, the way older Taiwanese remember and love them.

There's a cluster of especially famous ones roughly in the middle of the night market, which runs along Linjiang street from the entrance on Tonghua street east to Keelung road. The market also spills a hundred meters or so west of Tonghua street entrance, up some side lanes, and there are lots of restaurants on Tonghua street itself.

Yi Kou Jin Su Stinky Tofu, Tonghua Night Market

Stinky tofu perfected. Best spot for first timers!

If you try just one famous food stall, make it Yi Kou Jin Su Stinky Tofu (一口金酥臭豆腐) at the intersection of Linjiang street and Tonghua street lane 39 alley 50, right at the center of the market. You can't knock stinky tofu until you try, and this is a great one for first timers because it's very low on the pungent scale. I barely noticed a smell. The tofu couldn't be crispier, and contrasts perfectly with the sauce and crunchy fermented cabbage. I emptied the (rather large) small portion that I got in a minute flat.  

Just up the same alley (Tonghua street lane 39 alley 50), you can also find a very traditional Chinese herbal soup called si shen tang, with lots of animal innards on display. Further up on the same side is a popular traditional desert shop (御品元冰火湯圓) that specializes in binghuo (“frozen fire”) tangyuan, gooey boiled rice balls filled with peanut or sesame paste served atop shaved ice.

On the other side of the same alley, just in from Linjiang street, there's famous Liang Ji Lu Wei (soy sauce braised foods)(梁記滷味), and up a little further Zhong Ji Tonghua You Yu Geng (squid stew) (鍾記通化魷魚羹), another of my personal favorites.

Back on Linjiang street and just west of the alley, there's a vegetarian stall (look for the Buddhist swastika on the sign). This is not so common to find in night markets, but more common in day markets frequented by local elderly people.

Shi Family Gua Bao, Tonghua (Linjiang Street) Night Market in Taipei

Last but not least, further west towards the entrance on Tonghua street, you can find what is reputed to be some of the best gua bao (Taiwanese hamburger) in the city at the tiny stall called Shi Family Gua Bao (石家割包). Going east from the center of the market, watch for a shop selling imported instant noodles and other goodies from Japan and Korea.

Access: From Xinhe Anhe MRT exit 3 (escalator) or 4 (just barely closer, no escalator), head east then turn right at the Watsons (Tonghua Rd.) Follow the stream of people to the market entrance on Linjiang street (pictured above).

If you like meat, save some room for a "Gua Bao", the Taiwanese hamburger.

5. Huaxi Night Market (Snake Alley): Taipei’s Most Infamous Night Market

3 other Notable Taipei Night Markets

1. Shida Night Market

Shida Night Market, Taipei

When I first came to Taiwan 10 years ago, Shida was one of the city's coolest areas, crowded with expats and students from nearby Shida (National Taiwan Normal University), drinking and hanging out in the narrow park along Shida Road, attending punk shows at Underworld, or downing beers at Roxy Junior bar. The night market itself was always thronging, easily one of the city's most popular.  

Today Shida Night Market is not the famed night market it once was, ever since it was mostly shut down about five years ago due to noise and garbage complaints from local residents. There are still some food stalls remaining, mostly on lane 39, where the fried chicken fillet stall and lu wei stall have always been two of the most popular.  

Taiwan most people frequent Shida to shop at the fashionable, somewhat pricey shops on Longquan street, parallel to Shida road, and the alleys connecting them.

Inside Shida Market, Taipei, shot 10 years ago when the market was very popular.

Taken almost 10 years ago. Shida is no longer a bustling market. And yes, 7-11s also squeeze into night markets in Taipei!

There are many cool cafés and restaurants in Shida, and it's still a popular student hangout, so don't write it off, but it's definitely not the full-on night market experience it once was.

Access: It's a five-minute walk from Taipower Building MRT Station exit 3.

2. Liaoning Night Market

Goose meat quick fry restaurant at Liaoning Night Market, Taipei

If you find Tonghua or Shilin too “touristy”, then head over to tiny little Liaoning Night Market, which is anything but touristy. It's only really one block and isn't closed off to traffic like most night markets, but vendors take pride that each of them serves something different (unlike all the repeats at other night markets).

The “famous” shop here, roughly across from #65 Liaoning street, it's known for its (yep, more) oyster omelets, and the humble looking fried chicken stand (格登炸雞) next door supposedly does amazing baked yams and deep fried chicken wings.

A few stalls also serve dan zai noodles, but for something different (and based on the pictures out front and local food blogs online, more delicious looking), try the popular Lan Fang Xiao Mian restaurant at the northern end of the street, in the direction of the MRT. It's on my “to-try” list.  

A tiny but very local night market with lots of quick fry restaurants, such as this goose meat one.

Front of a quick fry restaurant, Liaoning Night Market, Taipei

Typical front of a Taiwanese quick fry restaurant. Take your pick and they fry it up. Beer is a must!

One thing that made it seem very local to me is that there are several quick fry restaurants on the same street, so it could be a good option for people looking to enjoy a local quick fry experience.  

Another mistake that I made so you don't have to: avoid Sundays, when about half the stalls are closed. To be honest, I was a little disappointed by this night market, even taking into consideration that I experienced it on a semi-off day.  

Access: Follow the signs from Nanjing Fuxing MRT station exit 3. You'll pass a Japanese style cocktail bar that could be worth investigating.

3. Jingmei Night Market

Deep fried squid at Taiwanese night market

At the southern end of Taipei City near the Jingmei river, which separates Taipei City from New Taipei City to the south, Jingmei Night Market is a popular local day and night market, and a good choice if you want a busy, authentic night market with no tourists.  

You can find all the usual night market treats you'd expect, plus some interesting services like facials and knife massages.

Access: Exit 2 of Jingmei MRT station.

5 Night Markets in New Taipei City and Keelung Worth Visiting

1. Miaokou Night Market, Keelung

Keelung's Miaokou Night Market, one of the best night markets in Taiwan

It only takes 40 minutes to an hour to get to Keelung, northern Taiwan's largest port, and home to my favorite night market in Taiwan. The market's name literally translates as “temple entrance,” as it grew from the plaza in front of Dianji Temple.

Miakou (Keelung) Night Market, one Taiwan's best night markets

As a pescatarian, I love all the fresh seafood on offer, the night market is visually striking with its rows of yellow lanterns, and a plus for foreign guests is that every stall's specialty is indicated in English. Also, Anthony Bourdain ate here when he came to Taiwan!  

For visitors with kids, there is more seating here than at most night markets; almost every stall has a few chairs. Fresh fruit juices are another specialty here, but you can find those at all night markets.  

For a night market tour that offers something a little different, check out this Keelung Midnight Fish Adventure tour!

Access: It's about a 10-minute walk from the Keelung train station.

2. Sanhe Night Market, Sanchong

Very local, very crowded. Many of the residents of Sanchong come from central of southern Taiwan, so some people say this night market has a different feel to it.

Access: Taipei Bridge MRT station.

3. Nanya Night Market, Banqiao

Another choice if you want a popular and very local night market with all the usual dishes you'd expect and no tourists. Banqiao is home to the new Taipei City government and is probably the most developed part of New Taipei City. I lived there for five years; it's a greap place to live if you are considering moving to Taiwan!

Access: Short walk from Fuzhong MRT station.

4. Le Hua Night Market, Yonghe

Yet another popular local one, in between Dingxi and Yongan Market MRT stations. Some locals claim this is hands down the best night market in the greater Taipei area, but we all have a different favorite, don't we? There are currently rumors that Lehua might be shut down in the future like Shida was.  

Access: It's a 5-10-minute walk from Dingxi MRT station exit 1.  

5. Xinzhuang Temple Street

Xinzhuang Temple Street, New Taipei City

Welcome to my neighborhood!

This night market's food is nothing special, but come before dark to enjoy the high concentration (at least five) of Qing dynasty-era temples on or around this street, and a couple ultra narrow alleyways that once led to the river when this area was a major river trading port, if you can find them.

Xinzhuang Temple Street Night Market, New Taipei City

I can pretty much guarantee you won't see any foreign faces here…OK, except maybe mine!

You can also take a stroll across connecting, pedestrian-only New Moon Bridge (新月橋) also known as Crescent Bridge, and if you are feeling ambitious, you could even walk or ride a YouBike here from Banqiao 543, New Taipei's answer to Taipei's Huashan Creative Arts Park, or even the Lin Family Mansion, as an interesting half day venture.

Access: Go straight out Xinzhuang MRT exit 2, take your first right, and walk in a few blocks until you reach the front of the temple. Go right and you'll see the start of it.

To reach New Moon Bridge, turn left at the big temple in the middle of the night market. There is also a YouBike rental station just before the pedestrian ramp up to the bridge.    

Don't forget, you don't need to see all or even many of Taipei's markets. Choose whichever one sounds most interesting to you, eat to your heart's content, and you'll have a great experience.

If I totally messed up, forgot to mention a night market in Taipei you love, or you have any questions, please comment below.

And don't forget to check out my other articles on Taiwan, such as:

Tapei with Kids: 25 Insider's Ideas

Taipei Itinerary 2 Days / 3 Days

Buying Ceramics in Yingge, New Taipei City

Buying and Drinking Tea in Taiwan

The Stunning East Coast of Taiwan

And more here...

Market-goers at Shilin Night Market, which is the biggest and some say best night market in Taipei
Shilin Night Market, Taipei
Air conditioned, underground Shilin Night Market Food Court
Entrance to Huaxi Night Market, Taipei

No other night market in Taiwan has a reputation like Huaxi does. Just around the corner from Longshan Temple, the city's most important place of worship, in Wanhua District (Old Taipei), lies what is probably Taipei's seediest area, and Huaxi street is right at the center of it. While the area was once known for crime, it is entirely safe to visit today, but do be aware that prostitution is visible in the night market areas.  

30 years ago, Huaxi street was a red light district and porn shopping street. It was the first night market to cater to tourists, and later gained a reputation for its restaurants specializing in snake meat, lending it the nickname “Snake Alley.” Bus loads of tourists from Japan and elsewhere would pile in to take photos of vendors handling and killing the snakes to make stews or draining their blood to prepare alcohol shots.

Chinese and Taiwanese believe snake has health benefits, is good for the skin, and enhances male virility. If you're curious what snake meat and snake meat, snake penis wine, and more tastes like, here's a travelers experience from Snake Alley.     

With growing awareness of animal rights, Snake Alley has lost its appeal to most tourists and younger locals, and according to this article, in early 2018 the owner of the last shop specializing primarily in snake meat decided to call it quits and open a hot pot restaurant instead. It's telling that the Taiwan Tourism page for Huaxi Night Market no longer even mentions the word “snake.”

So is Huaxi Street Night Market worth checking out? Here's what you can expect today:

The area actually has four night market streets that are interconnected or close to each other, each quite different and interesting in its on way.

1. Xichang Street Night Market

Xichang Street Night Market, Taipei

2. Guangzhou Street Night Market

Running north to south along the eastern side of Longshan Temple, this crusty night market feels more like an outdoor pawn shop, with hawkers sitting on blankets covered with goods like used watches and clothing.

It is also the location of Herb Alley, a small alleyway of shops specializing in Chinese medicinal herbs. You probably won't spend much time or eat in this night market, but it's worth a stroll for the crusty/old-time vibe.

Guangzhou Street Night Market, Taipei

Starting at the northwestern corner of Longshan Temple and running west on Guangzhou Street, this market is the most similar of the four to other night markets in Taipei. The foods on offer are pretty standard, but I did find one rather special item: deep fried marlin cakes stuffed with hard boiled egg. The vendor places them on a tray and you get to lather them in wasabi and hot sauce with a brush. They are really delicious, and you won't find them anywhere else. Oh, and they only cost 10 NT ($0.30)!

Deep fried fish sticks at Guangzhou Night Market, Taipei

3. Huaxi Street Night Market

Fortunately, you won't see any snakes being slaughtered here today. However, despite the closure of all shops focusing “entirely” on snake dishes, I can confirm that there is still at least one shop in the market that sells snake meat items and has a large snake on display. Just to be clear, I do not condone this practice and I would recommend that you do not patronize or even pay much attention to this shop.  

Even if you prefer not to step foot into this market, the entrance gate and covered arcade is quite photogenic. Many shops inside specialize in medicinal stews, which are popular in winter, and also medicinal alcohol shots, some of which still include unusual animal ingredients. Also keep an eye out for Tainan Danzai Noodles (台南擔仔麵 #31 Huaxi St.), an iconic Huaxi Night Market institution that features art deco-style furnishings. It was closed when I visited, but I could still take a peek through the window.  

The market also has several nail shops, foot & body massage parlors, sex toy shops, and DVD shops (apparently some people still use DVDs?) Many of the shops are open in the daytime as well, and some massage parlors are 24 hours.  

Covered arcade of Huaxi Street Night Market, Taipei

The arcade stretches north to Guilin Road, and there's another quieter arcade north of Guilin Road. You can get the best shots of the night market gate looking back at the main section from the north side of Guilin Road.

The red light district still lives on right beside Huaxi night market, and kind of spills into it. The main section of the red light district is just to the south of the covered arcade, between Huaxi and Wuzhou Street (see below), but there are massage parlors, brothels, and KTV bars in many of the alleys leading away from all these night markets and in the surrounding area.

But take note: this karaoke parlor/red light district is primarily for local, elderly people, and many of the working women are also elderly (here's an article on an 82-year-old prostitute arrested in 2001). Many local men go there for drinking and karaoke; it's not only about prostitution.  

For men visiting these night markets, you may notice women sitting on the sides trying to catch your eye but they won't bother you. But if you curiosity sends you wandering into the side lanes or red light district, some of the women can be quite aggressive and even grab or pull on your arm.

Also note that while discussion has been made in Taiwan about opening special zones where prostitution is permitted, this hasn't happened yet so it is still illegal, even though authorities obviously turn a blind eye in this area.

Most importantly, please be respectful when visiting the area, and don't take photos of the establishments in the red light district or people working in or around them.

4. Wuzhou Street Night Market

Running north from Guangzhou Night Market parallel to (and one block west of) Huaxi street is Wuzhou Night Market, which is really just an extension of Guangzhou Night Market, and the specialty here is seafood, cooked up in little stalls and served at low street side tables. If sitting by the street in a very local setting, sipping beer and eating cheap and delicious seafood is your thing, then here is your place.

Access: Longshan Temple MRT exit 1 is the most convenient for Longshan Temple and all four night markets. You'll need to walk past Bangka Park, where groups of local homeless hang out, sleep, and play Chinese chess. It's still safe, and there's always a lot of foot traffic from the day and night markets, local residents and tourists, and of course Longshan Temple.

Peanut brittle ice cream wraps with cilantry, a common Taiwanese night market snack

Cilantro, peanut brittle shaving, and taro/pineapple ice cream wraps: one of my favorite night market snacks.