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Jiufen: Is it worth it or can you skip?

Your questions about Jiufen answered.

· 5 min read

Most first-time visitors to Taipei would likely consider doing a trip to Jiufen, a quaint mountain town in the Ruifang district in New Taipei City. If you are also considering the inclusion of Jiufen in your itinerary, this guide will help you plan your trip by answering some essential questions.

Source: Klook

Jiufen first started gaining popularity due to its association with the popular Ghibli film, Spirited Away. It was widely believed that Jiufen was the inspiration for where the film was set, but this has since been debunked by the studio, and that Hayao Miyazaki has actually never been to Jiufen before.

But aside from its association with the popular Ghibli film, Jiufen is also a popular destination for many people seeking an escape from the hustle of the Taipei city. Jiufen is a quaint mountain town brimming with history, charm, and an undeniable aura of mystery. That said, Jiufen is an immensely popular tourist attraction, and the narrow streets are often very, very crowded — so if you are planning to visit Jiufen and hoping for a quiet day out, you might have to manage your expectations.

What to expect at Jiufen?

The main highlight at Jiufen is really just the Old Street. If you have visited other Old Streets in Taiwan before, you probably would have an idea of what you can expect at Jiufen. What makes Jiufen stand out from the other Old Street is the aura and atmosphere of the place. With cobbled stones and lanterns, the Jiufen Old Street has a very distinct atmosphere and charm - it is no surprise that it was mistaken as the inspiration for the popular Ghibli film.

The Old Street primarily comprises two main alleys - and the entire area really isn't big. The alleys are lined with shops selling souvenirs and food, and you could realistically cover the Old Street in an hour or two. This is also why many visitors to Jiufen often combine the visit with a visit to Shifen or Jinguashi.

As you walk through the Old Street, there are two main landmarks that you might be interested in:

Source: New Taipei Travel
  • Shengping Theater: The Shengping Theater is said to be one of the oldest cinemas in Taipei. While it is no longer operational, you can visit the cinema to get a glimpse into how it used to be like in its heyday. The theatre and the flight of stairs near the theatre is one of the most popular photo spots in the Old Street.
Source: New Taipei Travel
  • A-MEI Teahouse: This specific teahouse is one of the most iconic teahouses in Jiufen, and is also the exact landmark that was rumoured to be featured in Spirited Away. Have a cup of tea while enjoying a scenic view.

What to eat at Jiufen?

Jiufen is known for many things, and when it comes to food, Jiufen also has its fair share of must-eat food. Let's take a look.

Source: jiufen.welcometw.com
  • Taro and Sweet Potato Balls: Ask any local what to eat in Jiufen, and you are almost going to definitely hear that you should try the taro and sweet potato balls. The taro and sweet potato balls they are referring to are not the same deep-fried ones that you find at night markets; rather, they are boiled and served in sweet soup as a dessert. There are four shops in Jiufen that sells taro and sweet potato balls, but the two most popular ones are definitely Ah Gan Yi (阿柑姨) and Lai Ah Po (賴阿婆). Both shops have their own fans and supporters, but if you were to ask us, we would recommend Ah Gan Yi. Their taro balls and sweet potato balls are just soooo good we really could make a trip to Jiufen just for that.
Source: jiufen.welcometw.com/
  • Jiufen Meatballs: The Taiwanese meatballs are also something that Jiufen is known for. The meat that is used for the meatballs are cooked with lees, so there is a hinge of fermentation and aged yeast. Frankly, this isn't exactly something we enjoy - but we have friends who really enjoy it. And since these meatballs are something that Jiufen is known for, so why not give it a try anyway.
  • Glutinous Rice Balls: Well, we actually mean Cao Zai Kueh (草仔粿). This is a snack where a different fillings are wrapped in a glutinous rice skin and made into something like a glutinous rice ball. Traditionally, this was something that was only available during Qingming, but it has since now become a must-eat in Jiufen. The most popular shop for this is A-Lan Cao Zai Kueh (阿蘭草仔粿).

Is Jiufen worth visiting?

Jiufen isn't the most convenient to get to, and you might be wondering if it is worth the time and effort to get there. All we can say is that Jiufen really isn't popular without reason.

Did we enjoy ourselves at Jiufen? It was great, but the crowds really weren't.

Would we visit Jiufen again? Maybe, but it isn't a place we would prioritise on our next trip to Taipei. (We say that, but we've been there more than 5 times. Make of that what you will.)

If you are planning to visit Jiufen, to make the most of your trip and travel time, we strongly recommend that you combine your visit with a few other attractions like Jinguashi or Yehliu.

Can you stay overnight at Jiufen?

You can. While there are no hotels at Jiufen, there are a number of minsus there. (Read our guide on how to navigate minsus in Taiwan).

Jiufen is very, very different at night - with the crowds gone and most of the shops closed, it is very quiet and it exudes a very different charm and atmosphere. We actually really like how Jiufen is at night - calm, quiet, and peaceful. But, we did find the atmosphere slightly eerie with the red lanterns decorating the streets.

Source: Taiwan.net.tw

There is also really nothing much for you to do at night at Jiufen, but if you are looking for an escape from all the hustle that is going on in Taipei, this might be a great choice.

How to visit Jiufen, and what is the best time?

You can get to Jiufen from Taipei by public transport. There are buses departing from Ximen (bus 965) or Zhongxiao Fuxing (bus 1062); or you can take the TRA to Ruifang and switch to a bus (788, 827, 825). Your overall journey is expected to take about 1.5 hours.

For more manageable crowds, we recommend visiting Jiufen on weekdays — weekend crowds could get rather bad. But, it is also important to note that on quieter days (or weekdays, in general), some of the shops may not be open.

Or consider towards the later part of the day where crowds start to thin. But of course, if you will be visiting other places in the area, then Jiufen is usually going to be your first stop.

We would definitely not recommend visiting when it is raining - you wouldn't be able to fully enjoy the views and it could get quite annoying having to get around with your umbrella.

Do I need to join a tour to visit Jiufen?

If you are only going to be visiting Jiufen, it is very manageable without a tour. But, if you are planning to visit multiple places and combining your visit to Jiufen with a visit to Shifen or Yehliu, it is highly recommended to join a tour or engage a private driver.

While you can easily get to Jiufen, transportation out of Jiufen could be pretty troublesome. And all the more so if you are looking to travel between these attractions where transportation isn't the most accessible.