With the recent release of the highly-anticipated Taipei 2018 – The Michelin Guide Taiwan’s culinary scene has gotten a lot of media exposure, specifically the 20 Taipei restaurants awarded much-coveted Michelin star ratings. Getting slightly less attention were the 36 establishments awarded Bib Gourmand distinction, ten of which are humble stalls from several of Taipei’s famous night markets. Named after Bibendum (official company mascot for the Michelin Group, often called simply the Michelin Man), the Bib Gourmand distinction recognises friendly establishments serving good food at moderate prices.
Since the Michelin guide is mostly focused on food, we’ve cast a somewhat wider net in making our own choices, including not just food, but ambiance, history, ease of navigation and overall vibe.
The term tourist + anything gets a bad rap among more “seasoned” travelers (who eschew the term). Still, Taiwan Scene thinks having a few spots that are specifically designed to be user friendly and easy to navigate for first time visitors who don’t speak the local language (i.e., tourists) is a pretty good thing. With this in mind, our first two awards go to night markets unapologetically geared towards tourists.
1.Best Tourist Night Market (North): Taipei Ningxia Night Market
While the sheer number of night markets catering to tourists in Taipei make this a tough call, Ningxia gets the gold by distinction of being the easiest to navigate and having consistent English signage on its stalls. Naturally, Ningxia also has a good variety of great cuisine to choose from, being home to two Bib Gourmand recipients and one honorable mention.
The venerable Michelin guide awards stall 91, 劉芋仔 (Liú yù zǐ) with the prize for its delectable taro balls and stalls 08 & 010, 豬肝榮仔 (zhū gān róng zǐ) for their pork liver or tripe soups, both served in a clear ginger broth.
☞ Work off the calories: Explore the Dadaocheng Area
Head west from the corner of Mingsheng West Road and walk for about ten minutes. You’ll wind up in the very cool Dadaocheng neighborhood, which boasts tons of cool Japanese colonial era architecture and the always-bustling City God Temple. (Read more: Why Dadaocheng should be your first stop in Taipei)
☞ Where to stay?
Queen Hotel II is located in Datong District of Taipei City, 400 meters from Ningxia Night Market. The Hotel offers air-conditioned rooms, a 24-hour front desk service, a car rental service, free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and a flat-screen TV in each room.
Why not stay at the nearby Queen Hotel ll, Just 400 meters from the Ningxia night market entrance?
2.Best Tourist Night Market (South): Kaohsiung Liu He Night Market
Liu He gets the best tourist night market award in the south for most of the same reasons as Ningxia in the north: It’s got tons of great stalls, decent English signage and is easy to navigate. Though the usual night market fare is in abundance here, seafood is definitely king at Liu He. Indeed, it’s such a close second for our Best Night Market for Seafood prize that we almost flipped a coin. Finding the stalls selling grilled oysters, shrimp and half-lobster tails is just a matter of following your nose. Being located in Taiwan’s agricultural belt makes this a great market to feast on Taiwan’s amazing fruit, including items that are hard to find elsewhere. (We’re looking at you, Buddha Head Fruit!)
☞ Work off the calories: Visit the “Dome of Light”
Finish your feasting before midnight so you can head over to the Formosa Boulevard MRT Station to check out the spectacular “Dome of Light”. Designed by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata, the work is 30 metres in diameter, made up of 4,500 glass panels, and is absolutely worth a lengthy gaze.
3.Best Night Market for Wandering: Shilin Night Market
Yes, the Shilin night market is always too crowded for comfort. But the alleys just north of the main part of the market are fun to explore and filled with Japanese colonial-era buildings, shops selling pretty much anything you can think of, and of course restaurants and food stalls in every direction. Some of the most popular Shilin stalls are 豪大大雞排 (háo dàdà jī pái), known for its massive fried chicken, 炭烤臭豆腐 (tàn kǎo chòu dòufu), which serves a charcoal grilled variety of Taiwan’s ever-popular stinky tofu, and 海友十全排骨 (Hǎi yǒu shí quán páigǔ), whose grilled ribs were graced with the Michelin Bib Gourmand award. (Looking to experience Taipei’s Night Markets to the Fullest? Check out MyTaiwanTour’s Taipei Food Tour.)
☞ Work off the calories: The palatial Grand Hotel
Shilin is big, so expect to do a lot of walking. The crowds tend to thin a bit the further north you go, though it’s still pretty crowded by the Shilin Cixian Temple (which is naturally, surrounded by food stalls). If you’re looking to escape the crowd and work up a sweat, there’s a hiking trail southeast of the station’s southernmost exit that leads up to the palatial Grand Hotel, a long-standing Taiwan landmark.
Mono’tel is a brand new, stylish and modern hostel situated just next to the famous Shilin night market. The hostel is with easy traveling distance of many of popular local sights, including Yangmingshan National Park, Yuanshan Flora Expo Park¸ Beitou hot springs, Tamsui old street and many more.
☞ Where to stay in Shilin Area?
You can’t get much closer to the Shilin Night Market than the Mono’tel hostel! Book your spot at Fun Now.
4. Best Night Market for Seafood: Keelung Miaokou
Located in Northern Taiwan’s port city of Keelung (less than an hour by bus or train from Downtown Taipei), this iconic night market takes up several blocks but is easily navigated thanks to having numbered stalls. From grilled oysters and grilled octopus to restaurant grade sashimi at street food prices, seafood lovers from around the globe flock to Keelung to get their fill of delicacies from the sea. One great stall is 吳記螃蟹羹油飯 ( Wú jì pángxiè gēng yóu fàn, or Wu’s crab soup and glutinous oil rice; stall number 5). Visitors who aren’t into seafood are missing out, but fear not. The bite sized sausages from stall 43-1, 一口吃香腸 ( Yīkǒu chī xiāngcháng, eat a bite of sausage) are outstanding, and the tempura at stall 16 王記天婦羅 (Wángjìtiān fù luó, Wang Ji Tempura) is out of this world.
☞ Work off the calories: Take a walk aournd the Keelung Harbor
Walk a few blocks north-by-northeast and cross the canal, then head another block in the same direction until you see a large white arch at the bottom of a set of stairs leading up. The stairs lead to the Zhongzheng Park, a hillside park with temples, shrines, statues and great views of the harbor.
5.Most chilled-out night market: Hualien Dongdamen Night Market
We didn’t need to ponder this one too long. Taiwan’s night markets are noisy, fun, boisterous and crowded, but rarely are they particularly chilled out. Dongdamen is the exception, not merely in the particularly chilled out east coast city of Hualien, but it’s practically on the beach. In addition to ocean breezes, you can enjoy live music on the checkerboard pattern plaza while dining. As for food, you should definitely take advantage of Eastern Taiwan’s tribal vibe to try some of Taiwan’s aboriginal dishes, including Kǎo shān zhūròu (grilled mountain pork), zhútǒng fàn (sticky rice stuffed in bamboo) and maybe some locally brewed xiǎo mǐjiǔ (rice wine). All are easy to find in this relatively uncrowded market.
☞ Work off the calories: Stroll along the Pacific Ocean
This night market is just a few blocks west of the beach. Heading south and east brings you to Nanbin park, which is a cool place to jog, throw a frisbee or climb up banyan trees. You can stroll north or south along the beach, but don’t hit the water for a nighttime swim unless you’re super-confident about your swimming ability. The area is known for having serious riptides (and regular casualties).
6.Best Night Market for Partying: Kenting Night Market
Some folks call Kenting “Taiwan’s Cancun,” and while the reputation isn’t totally deserved, the small town on Taiwan’s southwestern coast definitely exudes something of a “beach and booze” vibe. So if stumbling around with a beer in one hand and a massive grilled octopus leg in the other, Kenting is a good place to do it. Though there are no Michelin-grade stand outs here, everything on the street is pretty good, with seafood being fresh and relatively inexpensive. There are also plenty of bars along the road, making the town a great place to party until dawn.
☞ Work off the calories: Go to Kenting’s sandy beach
The night market street is just a hop, skip and stumble away from Kenting’s sandy beach, where many an epic binge has been slept off. It’s a popular swimming spot, unlike the generally undertow-laden beaches of the east coast, so if you’re the sort of person who’s inclined to swim naked under the moonlight (which is technically illegal), Kenting is a good spot to do it.
7. Best Night Market to Catch a Local Vibe: Jingmei Night Market
Though located right off the Taipei MRT, few casual travelers visit this night market, making it a favorite among locals and long-time Taipei expats looking to catch a quick dinner after work. The market stretches between the Jingmei Station (just south of exit two) and the river forming the border of Taipei City and New Taipei City (formerly known as Taipei County). More maze-like than some of the other markets on our list, Jingmei has food stalls, small restaurants and a few covered food courts spread out over a few blocks, with very little English signage. Among our favorite Jingmei go-to items are grilled octopus, Beijing-style lamb-on-a-stick, oyster omelettes and fresh watermelon juice. Just wander around and follow your nose. There’s tons of other good local food here, all at local prices.
☞ Work off the calories: Cycling along the riverside park
Jingmei riverside park is just southwest of the market. It’s a popular spot with university students who come here to dance, get creative (the bridge crossing the river is one of Taipei’s many sanctioned street art zones), and hang out. You can rent a Youbike across from Jingmei station and ride east to Muzha, South to Xindian, or (if you’re really feeling energetic) North to Tamsui.
☞ Where to stay in Jingmei Area?
The New California Hotel is right next to the Xindian MRT Station overlooking the Bitan waterfront, famous for its swan boats and riverfront cycling.
The New California Hotel is just 15 minutes by MRT from the Jingmei Night Market, and has excellent views of the Bitan Riverfront. Book here through FunNow.Book Now
8. Honorable Mentions
With so many excellent night markets to choose from, winnowing our list down to a mere seven was difficult, so in the spirit of Michelin’s Bib Gourmand, we’re throwing in a few smaller categories (as chosen through a quick poll here at the Taiwan Scene office).
Get out of Taipei – Luodong Night Market
The first of these, “Best for Taipei People looking to get out of Taipei” goes to Luodong Night Market in neighboring Yilan, where some of us head by bus or train to feast on grilled seafood and hit a stall called 義豐蔥油派 蔥油餅 (Yì fēng cōng yóu pài cōng yóubǐng), which serves a deceptively simple fried cake made with green onions that are an Yilan specialty.
Not On This List – Raohe Night Market
Honorable mention for “Best Taipei Night Market Not Already On This List” goes to the Raohe Night Market, equally popular among locals and tourists alike. It’s lively, noisy and crowded, and has a great selection of food. Two Bib Gourmand stalls at Raohe are 福州世祖胡椒餅 (Fúzhōu shìzǔ hújiāo bǐng)
and 施老闆麻辣臭豆腐 (shī lǎobǎn málà chòu dòufu); the first serves a Fuzhou style pepper cake, and the second is home to some of the spiciest mala-style stinky tofu in Taipei.
The Waterfront Hotel Taipei is close to the famous Raohe Night Market, allowing you to explore the world of Taiwanese cuisine. The hotel is ten minutes by taxi from both Taipei 101 and the Songshan cultural park.
☞ Where to stay in Songshan area?
Want to be within walking distance of the Raohe Night Market? Book a room at the Waterfront Hotel through FunNow.
Traveling To Taichung – Feng Jia Night Market
Our second-to-last category, “Night market that makes us wish we lived in Taichung” goes to Taichung Feng Jia Night Market. While there are plenty of dishes that make the Feng Jia Night Market worth visiting, one stall that’s especially unique is 86碳烤雞排 (86 tàn kǎo jī pái), which is well known for serving a grilled chicken that’s been marinated in sauce containing 16 different types of medicinal Chinese herbs.
☞ Where to stay in Taichung?
INNK hotel is located inside Taichung’s well-known Fengjia night market. The hotel focuses on content, service and value while offering visitors a taste of Taiwan’s local culture and character. INNK offers 48 exquisite, comfortable rooms, each with its own artistic ingenuity. You’ll return from your night market exploration to a comfortable room feeling refreshed and invigorated.
Night Markets in Tainan – Hua Yuan Night Market
And final honorable mention, “Night Market That Makes Us Wish We Hadn’t Already Filled Up On Coffin Toast” naturally goes to a night market in Tainan, the only city in Taiwan where you can get the iconic Tainan snack. The Tainan Hua Yuan Night Market is a fun spot with lots of stalls, but unlike the other markets on this list, this one keeps very limited hours, opening only on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday nights (leaving you plenty of nights to fill up on Coffin Toast or pretty much anything else on offer in Tainan).
No visit to Taiwan would be complete without a trip to one or more of Taiwan’s amazing night markets, and most of MyTaiwanTour’s multi day tours hit at least one (and sometimes more). Check out what we offer on our Multi Day Tour Page. Or check out our customized tour page to find out how MyTaiwanTour can customize your ultimate Taiwan adventure!