Jiufen is one of the most touristic spots in Taiwan and a must visit place for many travellers. It is barely 15 km away from Keelung and you can easily get there by bus in around 50 minutes (Bus number 788 stops right in front of Jiufen’s Old Street). Another great option is to rent a car or motorbike for a day and explore Jiufen and all the beautiful spots around it.
This charming town is located in the mountains and faces the ocean, which offers amazing views from almost any point of the village. Jiufen’s main attraction is the Old Street and its iconic red lamps. This meandering and narrow street offers lots of street food and sweet stalls, cafes and souvenir shops. The best moment to visit is in the afternoon, so you can see the amazing sunset over the hills and the sea. Afterwards you can roam the streets with the charming atmosphere provided by the red lamps at night.
The name of the city means “nine parts” because it began as a settlement of nine families. Every time something had to be delivered to the city it was split in 9 pieces for distribution, therefore the name. Jiufen became an important gold mining town and grew during the Japanese era (1895-1945). There are still lots of Japanese-style buildings around the city from this period.
During the 70s the mines closed and Jiufen decayed until it became the set of “A city of Sadness” (1989), a popular Taiwanese film. Since then tourism grew and turned the city into a touristic attraction.
Later on, the rumour that the city inspired Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” (2001) made it internationally popular. Although there are some similarities, Miyazaki has denied the relation between the movie and the city. Despite this, Jiufen is still a magical place to visit and a very popular destination.
What to do in Jiufen:
–Jiufen Old Street:
This meandering street is the main reason to go to Jiufen. It is a charming narrow lane with chinese red lanterns hanging along the way. It is something you should not miss, with plenty of places to eat, drink or buy souvenirs and crafts. The best way to visit it is just by walking along the street and stopping whenever something catches your eye. Jiufen is a really small town so just get lost and experience the past of Taiwan in a place that seems frozen in time.
–Visit a teahouse:
A very popular activity in Jiufen is to enjoy some Taiwanese tea from a local teahouse. Although it might be a pricey activity, the experience is worth it. One of the most famous is Jioufen Tea House, a place to enjoy a teapot in a charming old style tea house with an amazing view.
–Photograph the city:
Jiufen is an Instagram paradise and you could find inspiration any moment at any corner of the town. One of the main spots is right in front of Jioufen Tea House. The path of stairs following the Old Street leads straight to it. You can also just walk up the hill and find a good spot to photograph the sunset from Jiufen or try to find a restaurant or cafe with good views. This guesthouse has a balcony with beautiful views and beer for 100 TWD.
–Enjoy the beautiful nature:
Jiufen is surrounded by green mountains and there are several hiking options. The most popular goes up Mount Keelung Trail. An easier alternative is to walk down from Jiufen to the coast on the Sanjian Road Trail. This trail is really easy and mostly goes down. You will walk by the beautiful golden waterfall and end up at the coast from where you can see the ruins of some mining buildings from the Japanese era. You can take a bus back to Jiufen either from the coast or from the Golden Waterfall.
–Learn about Jiufen’s history:
A good option for a rainy day is to visit the local Gold Museum and learn about the past of Jiufen.
Street food markets are really popular in Taiwan and Jiufen is no exception. As you walk along Jiufen Old Street you will see impressive and diverse food offers. You could easily just walk around the stalls trying different Taiwanese delicacies.
However, there are also plenty of restaurant options if you don’t like street food stalls. These are the top things you should try:
-Fish ball soup
-Jiufen is really small but attracts lots of visitors. Avoid going there during weekends or local holidays if you can. The amount of tourists these times make it nearly impossible even to walk around and this will probably ruin your experience.
–Sunset and evening are the best moments to visit the town. The city will be even more beautiful and most of the tourists that came in an organised tour will probably be gone by then.
-Even though you could visit it in one day, you may want to consider staying overnight in Jiufen. If you spend the night, Jiufen will be yours to enjoy and take all the photos you want without tourists all over the place. There are lots of B&Bs for every budget.
–Do not overlook the surroundings. Most people go to Jiufen to take some instagram photos and then leave. But this area offers plenty of beautiful spots you should not miss. There are temples, museums, natural wonders and hiking routes.
-If you are using public transport keep in mind that the bus schedules are not very reliable and that Google is not always precise with local timetables. Do not push it and be cautious so you don’t miss the last bus.
–Bring comfortable shoes, the city is constructed on a hill and you will have to walk up and down stairs during your visit.
-Jiufen is on top of a mountain so it will be colder than in lower areas like Keelung or Taipei. You might need to bring a jacket, check the weather and plan accordingly.