Modern Taipei is a massive modern metropolis of skyscraper-filled neighborhoods, parks, temples, restaurants and hotels overlaid by a spider web of intercrossing metro lines. You can easily spend two hours just getting across town, and frankly, this can be a bit overwhelming for first time visitors. The neighborhood known as Dadaocheng, sometimes referred to as Old Taipei, is smaller, quieter, and way more manageable. It’s also a Taipei must visit, and a great place to hang out. In this article, we’ll do our best to convince readers to skip the high-rise hustle and bustle of Xinyi and bright lights of Ximending (both of which are pretty close) for a few days and instead make this charming neighborhood, which dates back to the Qing dynasty and Japanese colonial period, their first stop in Taipei! (Read also: The Living History of Dadaocheng)
Some folks refer to Dadaocheng by the name of its most famous street, Dihua Street, and if you ask any Taipei-ren where the best place to go in the weeks preceding lunar new year to stock up on traditional Chinese foodstuffs, nine out of ten will answer “Dihua Jie”!
Though it was once rare to spot tourists in the area, these days area shopkeepers are used to western visitors, so much in fact that it’s almost impossible to stroll down either side of Dihua street without being offered samples of dried fruits and nuts, different kinds of seafood, pineapple cake and other well-known Taiwanese specialties. While the liberal sampling policies of Dadaocheng are year-round, merchants grow especially generous in the weeks around Chinese New Year.
Filled with tea shops, traditional apothecaries, artist’s boutiques, temples big and small, and of course, the area’s most pronounced feature of Japanese colonial-era buildings (and a few homes and shops dating back to the Qing dynasty), you’ll find no more charming a neighborhood in which to base yourself in Taipei than the Dadaocheng neighborhood.
(Click The Old Taipei – Introducing the City’s Dadaocheng Area for more)
Base yourself in Dadaocheng : The DG Hotel
Though there are plenty of hotels in the Dadaocheng neighborhood, if it’s history and local charm you’re after, you can’t do better than the DG, a quirky boutique hotel on the northern end of Dihua Street in a restored Japanese-era Colonial building. The staff are friendly and willing to help visitors make the most of their visit to this history rich neighborhood, and the hotel itself offers good sized rooms that are interestingly decorated with all the modern conveniences. The first floor restaurant is a good spot for breakfast (included in the room rate), and the coffee shop in the lobby serves first-rate coffee.
Local flair and plenty of color are on full display at the DG. From the painted floor designs to the beveled bathroom tiles (our room had an old-fashioned claw foot bathtub) to the in-room wooden porch swings, this place has charm to spare. Beds are soft and colorful, the hotel area is quiet at night even in rooms overlooking the main street. Definitely a great spot for those looking for local charm and personal attention.
Eat and drink in Dadaocheng
There are no shortage of places to eat, drink and be merry in Dadaocheng, with the majority of these being along the main drag (Dihua Street). From traditional Taiwanese noodle and rice dishes to fried chicken and thick squid soup, Dadaocheng is definitely a spot where locals come for comfort food. We’ve gone ahead and picked out three spots we like quite a bit.
This is a great place to start if you’re looking to learn more about Taiwan. The SoShow bar is unique, with a menu shaped like the island of Formosa offering 13 kinds of wine (each representing different parts of Taiwan). Among our favorite drinks here are the following:
Erlin Whiner Co. Four Seasons: A house specialty, this wine combines the energy of spring, the passion of summer, the coolness of Autumn and the elegance of Winter. Consider it four seasons in our beautiful country in one refreshing, intoxicating beverage.
Guava – Wind of Autumn: Combining Taiwanese guava with fresh pears and bison grass creates a sweet taste that will make you feel as if you’re strolling beneath Taiwan’s high mountain maple trees in the autumn.
Of course, we hope you can take the time to travel around Taiwan and taste all our fine island has to offer. But if you don’t. a visit to the SoShow bar is the next best thing!
From the outside, Mu Hills looks like a traditional Dadaocheng house, which is appropriate considering the tremendous detail to interior design within. The environment is neat, bright and with the semi-open transparent kitchen window, guests can watch chefs preparing a wide variety of delicacies. (Read also: 15 suggestions for a day in Dadaocheng)
As the name suggests, Beer Cat is a place where you can enjoy beer and play with cats. Nicole and Chablis are two lucky cats of the store, who are both very lovely and adorable.
Beer Cat is located in Chifong street (赤峰街), just a bit east of Dadaocheng, in an area popular with Taipei’s hipster scene. Eschewing the dark profile of most bars, Beer Cat goes for fresh, green and cat friendly, with plants and wooden furniture combining with the french windows to give the place an especially bright vibe. (Read also: A Guide to Taiwan Craft Beers:These are our recommendations for summer of ‘18)