What’s the one thing you can’t miss in Taipei? The unanimous response from locals is: guang yeshi, or “stroll through a night market.”
For the uninitiated, the Taiwanese capital’s street food scene is legendary. With 30+ night markets in the greater Taipei area (and that’s only counting the big, famous ones), Taipei is the ultimate venue for a food bender of epic proportions.
An Eating Experience Seeped in Tradition
Night markets date back to the Tang Dynasty in ancient China. These hives of commercial activity brought together not only culinary masters but also skilled craftspeople and medicine vendors.
In Taipei, night markets started out as collections of food vendors at street corners or in front of temples that grew to take up entire streets or neighborhoods.
While night markets once sold all manner of goods, today they’re all about xiao chi, literally “little eats.” Walking and snacking is the quintessential Taipei food experience, and the night market phenomenon embodies modern Taiwan’s go-go-go nibbling and strolling food culture.
Here are a few tips for visiting a Taipei night market:
- Go around 4 to 5pm, or after 10pm, to beat the lines.
- Avoid Saturday nights, when crowds are at their worst.
- Use the restroom before you arrive.
Five Taipei Night Markets You Can’t Miss
1. Shilin Night Market
Shilin is Taipei’s largest, most famous and (don’t say we didn’t warn you) most jam-packed night market. Come here for the full-on Taipei night market experience!
Among the 500+ food stalls, you can seek out all the Taiwanese classics, including oyster omelets, fried buns, vermicelli soup, grilled sausages, bubble tea and the most controversial night market snack: stinky tofu.
Take the escalators down to the air-conditioned underground food court, perfect for escaping the summer heat.
2. Raohe Night Market
Second in popularity to Shilin but preferred by those in the know, Raohe makes for a good all-around evening on the town. It’s known just for its great eats but also attractions of interest nearby.
Get a dose of culture at Qing-dynasty Ciyou Temple near the market’s eastern entrance, watch the sunset from pretty Rainbow Bridge in the riverside park behind the temple, or scope out local fashions at nearby Wufenpu Garment Market.
3. Tonghua Night Market
Only one MRT stop from glitzy Taipei 101 shopping grounds, Tonghua is home to a number of stalls that are household names in Taipei, with recipes unchanged for decades.
You’ll find the most famous vendors at the center, including squid stew, gua bao (Taiwanese hamburgers) and lu wei (soy sauce braised foods). And if you’re going to try stinky tofu anywhere, do it here! The blissfully crispy tofu cubes topped with crunchy fermented veggies are lower on the pungent scale than elsewhere.
4. Huaxi Street Night Market
Just around the corner from Longshan Temple, Taipei’s best-known place of worship, lies the city’s most infamous night market. Adjacent to an old-time red light district, this iconic covered arcade was once famous for its controversial dishes.
Fortunately, that era is overand it’s a good place to try Chinese medicinal stews in winter.
5. Ningxia Night Market
This 150-meter market is just the right size for a quick night market jaunt. It also has a section of kids’ games at the southern end, so it is a good choice for families.
The most popular vendor is stall #91, which serves deep fried taro balls stuffed with salted egg yolk and pork floss and a vegetarian version. The market is also famous for its traditional mochi; try it coated in sesame powder and served over ice with sweetened condensed milk on top. Bliss!
Keelung Night Market
It’s worth taking the 45-minute train ride to Keelung, Northern Taiwan’s largest port, for picturesque Miaokou Night Market.