A city constantly on the move, Taipei is a place where ancient tradition and modern pragmatism seamlessly intertwine. Superstition coexists comfortably with science, quaint colonial architecture holds its own alongside futuristic skyscrapers, and—best of all—old-school marketplaces are as popular as high-end malls.
These bustling marketplaces offer everything from flowers and electronics to tofu and trinkets, and show off the many cultural influences in Taiwan’s history. You’ll find Dutch architecture remnant of the country’s early colonization of Taiwan, goodies like Chinese medicinal herbs left from the island’s shared history with mainland China, and Japanese culinary treats and knickknacks from the country’s longtime influence on Taiwan. This cornucopia of culture and commerce makes for some seriously eclectic (and tasty!) marketplace adventures.
So, whether you’re looking to shop during the week, at nights, or on the weekends, we’ve got the perfect Taipei haunt for you.
Vibe: This historic street in Taipei’s old town is famous for its old-fashioned shops and market stalls selling traditional Chinese medicines, herbs, and spices. Recently, a handful of candy and handicraft shops have also popped up to cater to the tourist crowds—don’t miss the handmade textiles and bamboo crafts.
Good to Know: Besides browsing the herbal concoctions, it’s worth checking out the interesting architecture, which in some sections dates back to the Dutch colonial period during the 17th century.
Vibe: Electronics geeks, rejoice! The first five floors of this six-story building carry everything from iPads to newly released DVDs to flat-screen TVs, while the top floor caters to hardcore techies (mainly students from the nearby National Taiwan University of Science and Technology) with the raw components needed to build computers and other devices.
Good to Know: Haggling is expected in most of the shops, although for the latest technology and Apple products, you might not be able to budge the price very far.
XinSheng Rd. and Civic Blvd.
Vibe: This waterfront market sits just outside the city, at the mouth of the Tamsui River. During the day, families and locals mingle with tourists, enjoying the natural wonders of the village. At night, the streets come to life, with storefronts selling everything from snacks to handicrafts.
Good to Know: There is a subway line that ends in Tamsui, making for an easy 40-minute subway ride from the city center.
Vibe: Lantern-laden Snake Alley is one of the city’s busiest night markets and a tourist standby. Snake dishes, as expected, are the specialty, but you can also pick up more pedestrian snacks like fried noodles and shaved ice as well as delicious renderings of fresh seafood.
Good to Know: Eats aside, the other hot commodity in this market is traditional Taiwanese reflexology foot massage.
Vibe: This busy night market is packed from sundown onwards with locals hungry for traditional Taiwanese snacks like shaved ice and stinky tofu. The narrow street is lined with more than 100 stalls and shops, and although food is the focus—this is Taiwan, after all, where cuisine comes first!—clothing, accessories, and souvenirs are also available.
Good to Know: Because the market can be quite crowded, it’s often tricky to score a seat. Luckily, letting the crowds carry you along means you’ll sample more snacks along the way!
XinYi Rd., Sec. 4 and JiLong Rd. Sec. 2
On the Weekends
Vibe: If you’re in the market for jade, visit this bustling market, which sets up on weekends under a highway overpass near Da’An Forest Park. Pieces range from high-end jade carvings (which can go for thousands of dollars) to antique coins, kitschy souvenirs, and costume jewelry.
Good to Know: Not all vendors speak English, but you shouldn’t have much trouble making yourself understood—other shoppers are often eager to jump in and help with translation.
XinYi Rd., Sec. 3 and JianGuo S. Rd.
Vibe: This crowded weekend market under the same highway overpass as the Jade Market is the place to come if you’re looking for fresh flowers, plants, seeds, or garden accessories—or if you just want to walk among the beautiful flora sold in this part of the world.
Good to Know: Other (more suitcase-friendly) offerings include dried fruits, nuts, organic produce, and tea. If you’re buying lots of items from one stall, try to negotiate a package deal.
XinYi Rd., Sec. 3 and JianGuo S. Rd.
This is the second in a series exploring the world’s best markets—be sure to check out our recent article on the markets of Beijing. For more information on these markets, take a look at our Passport to Taipei Markets. And for even more of our favorite Taipei spots, check out our online guide to Taipei.
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