As dusk falls on the towns and cities of Taiwan, many Taiwanese start to get busy. Some of them start their work while others are relaxing after a long day. In the former group are the people who work in Taiwan's many night markets. Night markets are great places to shop for bargains and feel the pulse of Taiwan's after-hours life. The markets are a bustle of noise and energy, with friendly restaurant owners calling out their menus, stall holders calling out their wares, and crowds of curious onlookers, shoppers and diners mingling together in the night air. A wide variety of goods including clothing, household items, watches, jewelry, toys, and much more are sold at surprisingly low prices. Night markets are also where visitors can sample authentic Taiwanese food. A stroll inside any night market is a sure to get your mouth watering tempts your taste buds, as the smell of the food. There are also the sight of many street-side stalls with colorful wares, clothing, or interesting gadgets, attracting many fellow shoppers browsing and negotiating for the best bargains. The energy of night markets is infectious.
1. Keelung Temple Night Market (Keelung City)
Technically speaking, Keelung Temple Night Market is more than a night market because some stalls are actually open for business 24 hours a day. The night market first started to serve the needs of the many worshippers who came to the popular Dianji Temple to pray for fortune, good luck, and health, or to seek answers to their problems. The main deity at the temple is Kaijhang Shengwang, who was a general in the Tang Dynasty. The temple was first built in 1873 and was moved to the current location in 1875. So when you visit the night market, make sure you spare some time to pop into the temple to have a look.
The night market centers around the neighboring area of the temple between Ren 3rd Road and Ai 4th Road. There are over sixty registered food stalls,here. One of the most famous snacks at the night market is Dingbiancuo, which is a rice noodle soup made with mushrooms, bamboo shoots, dried tiger lilies, dried shrimp, oysters and shredded pork. Other famous snacks here include butter crabs, eel stew and Taiwanese tempura. Fresh seafood is another feature of the night market. After snacking, visitors are encouraged to try the many kinds of cooling drinks, juices or Paopao Ice, which is ice shaved and beaten up into fine, smooth, snow-like texture and then flavored with fruity jams and nuts. It's a Keelung specialty and particularly popular on a hot Taiwan summer evening.
The night market is open year-round. It provides a great place for the locals to relax and socialize with friends and family. The atmosphere is always animated with the sounds and sight of the sellers and shoppers looking for the best deal.
2. Shihlin Night Market (Taipei City)
Shihlin Night Market is the one of the largest night markets in Taipei. The market is centered around Yangming Theater and extends to Wunlin Road, Jihe Road, Datung Road, and Danan Road, and consists of many different shops and stalls. The night market first opened in 1899, and it is now famous for its various eateries selling of authentic Taiwanese snacks. Some of the most famous snacks include deep-fried chicken breasts, kebabs, spring onion pancakes, pan-fried dumplings, grilled Taiwanese sausages, small buns wrapped in large buns, hot pot, oyster omelets, fresh squid, pork or fish thick soups, and drinks such as pearl milk tea, Chinese herbal teas, and refreshing juices made with fresh local fruits and vegetables.
In addition to its fame for great foods, the night market's proximity to several schools has made it a magnet for teenagers shopping for clothes and accessories, cosmetics, music CDs, DVDs, and other bargain items. There is also a furniture and pet shop area. The night market wakes up in the late afternoon and early evening, and is soon packed with people, especially on holidays. Locals often come with family and friends to eat, browse and look for great bargains. The market is close to the National Palace Museum, making it a good next stop for museum visitors. The life and energy of the night market offers a nice contrast to museum, vividly presenting the many sides of Taiwan's culture.
3. Tonghua Night Market (Taipei City)
Tucked away in Tonghua and Linjiang Street between downtown Taipei's two busiest traffic arteries - Sinyi Road Section 4 and Keelung Road Section 2 - is the Tonghua Night Market. Many reasonably priced teppanyaki restaurants can be found here. A delicious teppanyaki meal costs only around NT$100 (about US$3). Other famous foods here include red-flower Taiwanese grilled sausages, Taiwanese steamed sandwiches, deep dried or stewed stinky tofu, and sushi. There are of course the more commonly seen Taiwanese snacks like thick soup with shrimp, fish or pork, oyster omelets, pan-fried Shanghai-style meat buns, and steamed or pan-fried dumplings. Juice bars selling fresh fruit juices, teas and other sweet cold drinks are another attraction. Its location and size make the market a suitable place for visitors on a tight schedule.
4. Huasi Street Night Market (Taipei City)
Huasi Street Night Market is located near Longshan Temple. The night market, together with Longshan Temple, covers Gueiyang Street, Gueilin Road and stretches to as far as Guangjhou Street. Huasi Street Night Market is the first tourism night market to cater for foreign tourists and the management is of very high quality - the shops are lined up neatly on both sides of the 352-meter long walkway. The entrances are marked with brightly colored, traditional Chinese-style monumental archways.
In early days Huasi Street was the red-light district in Taipei. Today it is better known for its snake shops selling snake dishes and snake wine, which are said to have aphrodisiac properties. The snakes sold here are mostly farmed and not endangered species. Seafood at the market is also worth trying. Near the market are a cluster of establishments selling all kinds of Chinese medicinal herbs, with piles of herbs and spices displayed on low tables outside the shops filling the air with exotic fragrances. Last but not least, make sure you don't miss the famous Longshan Temple when visiting the market.
5. Feng Chia Night Market (Taichung City)
Among all the night markets in Taiwan, Feng Chia Night Market may be the biggest. Located in Situn District, Taichung, it sprawls over Wunhua Road, Fusing Road and Feng Chia Road, close to Feng Chia University and the overseas Chinese institute of Technology. Students from these two schools, make up a good part of the customers here. During the weekday evenings there are usually around thirty to forty thousand shoppers, while on the weekends or holiday the number can rise to one hundred thousand shoppers.
Feng Chia Night Market is best known for its prices and variety. Altogether, there are an estimated 15,000 shops, restaurants and stalls in the market. All kinds of fashionable clothing, accessories, toys, electronic products and the latest music CDs and DVDs are sold in shops or stalls while food stalls and restaurants offer snacks from around the world. In addition a lot of snacks have been invented locally by the food stall or restaurant owners. A lot of innovative snacks now seen in Taiwan's other night markets were originally created in Fongjia Night Market: deep-fried salty and crispy chicken ribs, cheese potatoes, 4-in-1 combo juice and Japanese-style chicken ribs are some famous examples.
6. Donghai Night Market (Taichung City)
Donghai Night Market is centered around Jhonggang Road in Taichung, very close to Donghai University. The market is divided into two parts. On the left side are Dongyuan Alley and Sinsing Road, where there are shops selling clothing, accessories and daily commodities, and restaurants and food stalls offering different kinds of foods and drinks. The right side of the market is Guoji Street. The 2nd Lane of Guoji Street is 300 meters long: local residents have worked with artists and craftspeople to make it into an artistic area where visitors can find theaters, cafés, tea-houses and folk art. Arts events, performances and flea markets are also held here, making it a favorite hang out in the Greater Taichung area.
7. Liouhe Night Market (Kaohsiung City)
As early as the 1950s, food stalls started to gather in the vacant lot near Dagangpu in Kaohsiung's Sinsing District. Originally called Dagangpu Night Market, since then, the market has grown over the decades and is now called Liouhe Night Market.
The market is best known for its numerous eateries. Due to its location a short distance from Kaohsiung Railway Station, in the daytime it is a thoroughfare, while in the evening it transforms into a big open-air shopping arcade. The stalls here mostly offer foods, snacks or games and, some sell daily commodities and clothing. Dozens of steak houses can be seen clustered here and the key selling point is low prices, targeting family customers. Because Kaohsiung is in the tropical zone and near the sea, stalls or shops selling all kinds of ice lollies, flavored crushed ice and cold drinks are also very popular. Fresh seafood is another dish worth trying when you visit Liouhe Night Market.
8. Pingtung Night Market & Kenting Night Market (Pingtung)
Over 70 years old, Pingtung Night Market is located near the railway station in Pingtung City. Like Kaohsiung's Liouhe Night Market, Pingtung Night Market is best known for its delicious snacks. Rice dumplings (wrapped in bamboo leaves), marinated and stewed pork knuckles Taiwanese style, all kinds of fresh seafood, Pingtung meatballs, cold drinks, ice lollies and crushed flavored ice.
Kenting Night Market is located just off the coast of Kenting. As Kenting is one of Taiwan's best loved beach resorts, the market is very relaxed in its style, packed with men and women in T-shirts, shorts and sandals. Shops here mostly sell fresh seafood, surfing and swimming gear, beachwear, hand-crafted artifacts, and so on. Southeast Asian, Japanese, Taiwanese and even European cuisine or snacks are available at the restaurants and food stalls here. There are also cafés and pubs. Walking down the 800-meter long night market in the salty sea wind is quite an experience. If you get tired of the bustle on the main road, keep walking down, make a right turn and you will come to the beach where only the sounds of the waves and the wind can be heard.
The best way to tour around a night market is to have a snack with your friend or family first. However, don't eat too much to begin with! Order a drink to go and take a stroll down the night market, browsing and looking for bargains among the cheap clothing, jewelry and gadgets on sale. When you feel hungry or your mouth starts to water again at the sight of all the food on display, replenish your strength with some more snacking. Almost all the night markets in Taiwan are open to the wee hours, and some never close. Other night-owl attractions include the 24-hour Eslite Bookstore in downtown Taipei. If you'd like to chill out with friends over a cooling drink, there are plenty of lounge bar and clubs to choose from. So next time you plan to visit Taiwan, make sure you keep a night or two free in your schedule for a visit to the night markets, and other night spots in Taiwan, where is a place that never sleeps!