First published: 12 Nov 2017
Charming old towns in Keelung, Jiufen (九份) and Shifen (十分) are popular spots to visit on a day trip from Taipei.
Before the 1950s, Jiufen and Shifen were gold and coal mining towns respectively. Today, their rustic vintage vibes, great local Taiwanese delectables, and iconically Taiwanese activities such as releasing sky lanterns make them popular day trip destinations from Taipei.
However, these places aren’t the most accessible to visit despite the proximity. Public transportation involves too many transfers across various means, while cab drivers are known to mark up fares to unsuspecting tourists. No one wants to spend additional time and money when those can be spent on better things, such as food. Oh yes, all the great food to be discovered in Taiwan 😋.
Read also: 4D3N Taipei Itinerary: Insider Guide to Exploring Taipei and its Outskirts Like a Local
How to get to Jiufen & Shifen from Taipei
Most visitors will head to Shifen and continue to Jiufen, as Shifen is nearer to Taipei. Although both towns share similar-sounding names, they aren’t actually very near to each other.
1) By Public Transport
From Taipei To Shifen: Take a rail train from Taipei Main Stn. (台北車站) to Ruifang Stn. (瑞芳站) and transfer to the Pingxi Small Railway (平溪支線) to Shifen Stn. (十分站)
From Shifen to Jiufen: Take the Pingxi Small Railway to Ruifang Stn. (瑞芳站), and transfer to bus #788, #827, or #1062 to Jiufen Old Street (九份老街)
*Pro-tip: There’s no public transportation between Jiufen and Shifen, so you’ll have to return to Ruifang Stn. (瑞芳站) for transfers.
From Jiufen To Taipei: Take bus #1062 from Jiufen Old Streets (九份老街) to Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Stn. (忠孝復興站) in Taipei
Cost: ~S$16 (round-trip)
Total travel time: ~4hrs (round-trip)
2) Shuttle Bus (Highly recommended)
Probably the most cost-effective and convenient way to get from Taipei to Jiufen & Shifen is to pre-book a shuttle service with a guided tour package. It picks you up from Taipei Main Station and stops at Jiufen before heading to Shifen.
Cost of tour: ~S$43/pax for 8hrs (round-trip from Taipei)
Meeting time: 9:15AM
*Pro-tip: Take note of what activities and transfers are included in the tour package!
Must-dos in Shifen (十分)
Shifen is somewhat like the less popular sibling of Jiufen, kinda forgotten yet attractive in her own ways. Shifen’s alluring old-school charms and the Shifen waterfall makes this an equally worthy stop.
We only had an hour to spare here so we narrowed down these three must-do things in Shifen!
1) Release Sky Lanterns (放天燈)
Releasing sky lanterns on the old rail track in Shifen (which still functions btw!) is almost ritualistic. Like everyone, we bought a lantern from one of the many lantern shops along the old rail track, wrote our wishes in
unintelligible Chinese, and released it to the heavens. Let’s hope the gods above can read our handwriting 😃
Cost: NT$100 – 200
Opening hours: Varies (most operators open from sunrise to sunset)
Address: Pingxi District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 226 [台湾新北市平溪区226]
2) Ride an electric scooter to Shifen Waterfalls (十分大瀑布)
The second most famous sight in Shifen is this natural beauty, the Shifen Waterfalls 十分大瀑布. You can rent an electric scooter from operators along Shifen Old Street to get here.
Cost of scooter rental: ~NT$200/hr
Opening hours: 24 hours
Location: Nanshan Village, Pingxi District, New Taipei City, Taiwan [台湾新北市平溪区南山村]
*Pro-tip: Book a half-day guided tour to do these activities in Shifen if you don’t plan to drop by Jiufen!
3) Get Onboard an Old Choo-choo Train (平溪線小火車)
A fun way to get to Shifen is via the Pingxi Small Railway Train 平溪線小火車. This Japanese-era train used to transport coal when the mining industry was thriving but has since become a means of transportation for visitors to get to Shifen from Ruifang station (瑞芳站).
From Shifen station itself, you can also board the train to visit Pingxi station (平溪站) and Jingtong station (菁桐站), which are scenic old towns too.
Bonus: Snack on LiouGe BBQ Stuffed Wings (溜哥燒烤雞翅包飯)
What’s the best way to find the best food? Ask the locals, and that’s exactly what we did in Shifen. We actually asked an uncle from another food stall what his favourite food at Shifen is. And LiouGe BBQ Stuffed Wings was his recommendation. Now, we’re recommending it to you.
The chicken wings from this stall are no ordinary wings. Besides being deboned and stuffed with rice, the homemade barbeque sauce is fragrant and very flavourful.
Opening hours: 11.30AM – 5.30PM
Address: No. 52號, Shifen Street, Pingxi District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 226 [台湾新北市平溪区十分街52号226］
Must-Eats in Jiufen (九份)
Those who have been to Jiufen will know what a food haven it is. The tight winding street is lined with food stalls from the beginning to the end. From Taiwanese Sausage to chewy Taro Balls, there are all kinds of food from savoury to sweet, hot to cold.
If you’re taking the shuttle bus, you’ll have about 2 hours to explore the nooks and crannies of this charming old town on your own!
1) Zhang Ji Traditional Fishballs (張記傳統魚丸)
At Zhang Ji Traditional Fishball 張記傳統魚丸, one does not simply only try the fishballs. Get the Combination Soup that comes with three different types of fishballs — meat-encased fishballs (Fuzhou balls), squid balls, and regular fishballs.
From the same stall, you also have to try their Braised Pork Rice (滷肉饭) with Braised Egg (滷蛋). Who would have imagined such simple-looking dishes would taste so good?
Cost: NT$50/bowl for Combination Soup; NT$35/bowl for Braised Minced Pork Rice
Opening hours: 10AM – 7PM (Mon – Fri), closes 8PM on Sat and Sun
Address: No. 25號, Jishan St, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224 [台湾新北市瑞芳区基山街25号224]
2) Shi Mi Jiufen First Stinky Tofu (食謎店 九份第一家臭豆腐)
Stinky Tofu is a love-or-hate thing. Fans of this dish will love the store Shi Mi Dian 食謎店. They sell both deep-fried and spicy braised versions, but we personally prefer the deep-fried version.
The fried skin added a crunchy texture to the surprisingly soft tofu without being too dry. The unmistakable scent can be picked up from tens of metres away, just imagine the punch it’s packed with.
Opening hours: 11AM – 8PM (Mon – Fri), closes 9PM on Sat and Sun
Address: No. 106, Jishan Street, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224 [新北市瑞芳區九份基山街106號号224]
3) Jin Zhi Red Yeast Vegetarian Dumpling & Jin Zhi Red Yeast Meat Dumpling (金枝紅糟素肉圓 & 金枝紅槽肉圓)
Jin Zhi is one of the most famous dumpling stores in Taiwan primarily due to the fact that the meat is soaked in red yeast (vinasse), and that there’s actually a vegetarian branch a few stalls down.
Available at the meat dumpling stall is also a combination meatball soup (五色綜合丸湯) that’s worth a try too! It comes in five different flavours — Codfish, Squid, Pork, Kimchi, and Bamboo charcoal, this soup is definitely something out of the ordinary you should try.
Opening hours: 10AM – 8PM (Mon – Fri), 9AM – 10PM (Sat – Sun)
Address: No. 63, Jishan Street, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224 [新北市瑞芳區九份基山街63號号224]
Cost: NT$45/piece of meatball; NT$50/bowl of combination balls
Opening hours: 10:30AM – 7PM (Mon – Thu), 10AM – 8PM (Sat – Sun)
Address: No. 112, Jishan Street, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224 [新北市瑞芳區九份基山街112号224]
4) Jiufen Old Noodle Shop (九份老麵店)
Although 九份老麵店 Jiufen Old Noodle Shop sells a variety of noodles and soups, their signature beef noodles (招牌牛肉麵) is a must-try. The chunks of beef are cooked until perfectly tender and go very well with the spicy broth.
Another great find is the Century Egg Tofu (皮蛋豆腐) side dish. Served cold, the tofu is smooth yet firm, creating a gastronomic adventure when eaten together with a bite of century egg.
Cost: NT$120/bowl of Signature Beef Noodles; NT$40/plate of Century Egg Tofu
Opening hours: 10:30AM – 7:30PM (Mon – Fri), closes 8:30PM on Sat and Sun
Address: No. 45, Jishan Street, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224 [新北市瑞芳區九份基山街45號号224]
5) Wu Di Taiwanese Sausage (無敵黑豬肉香腸)
Taiwanese locals are some of the friendliest and most fun people I know of, and it’s not hard to understand why. Not only is the lady boss of Wu Di Taiwanese Sausage 無敵黑豬肉香腸 extremely friendly, but she’s quite a charmer too. Whenever she’s around, visitors would crowd and vie to catch her attention to their cameras.
Of course, her sausages (香腸) are as charming and unforgettable as her. Fragrantly charred skin that crunches with every bite, exposing the juicy meats inside. The squid and fish egg sausages are an interesting alternative to the wild boar sausage too!
Cost: ~NT$40 per piece or ~NT$100 for 3 pieces
Opening hours: 9AM – 7PM
Address: No. 79-1 Jishan St., Ruifang Dist., Ruifang, New Taipei, Taiwan 224 [台湾新北瑞芳区瑞芳区基山街79-1号224]
6) Ah Lan Hakka Glutinous Rice Cake (阿蘭草仔粿)
Photo credit: you.ctrip.com
If there’s only one thing you can try at Jiufen, make it the Glutinous Rice Cake (草仔粿) from Ah Lan Hakka Glutinous Rice Cake stall. They come in multiple variations of fillings, from the sweet red bean to salted green bean and preserved turnip flavours.
The Steamed Taro Cake (芋粿巧) sold in the shop is also well-loved by many.
Opening hours: 9AM – 9:30PM
Address: No. 90, Jishan Street, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224 [224台湾新北市瑞芳区基山街90号]
7) Misty Cake (米詩堤甜點王國)
Misty Cake 米詩堤甜點王國 sells cream and ice-cream puffs in every possible flavour. We tried the classic sweet potato-filled puff. The sweet potato was on point, fragrant but not too sweet. The generously-filled puffs can be quite a mess to eat as the freshly baked outer layer crumbles with every bite to expose the oozing fillings.
Opening hours: 9:30AM – 6.30PM
Address: No. 6-1, Sec. 1, Mingdeng Road, Ruifang District, Taiwan [6-1号，二段。台湾瑞芳区明登路1号]
8) A-Zhu Peanut Ice Cream Roll (阿珠雪在燒花生捲冰淇淋)
Just watching the stall owner of A-Zhu create this delicate roll of ice cream is satisfying enough. Peanut shavings are ground off a huge block of compressed peanuts before being added to two scoops of ice cream and cilantro (IKR, weird but oddly delicious) and skillfully wrapped into a roll of ice-cold goodness.
Opening hours: 10AM – 7PM (Mon – Sat), closes 8:30PM on Sun
Address: No. 20, Jishan St, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224 [224台湾新北市瑞芳区基山街20号]
9) Grandma Lai’s Taro Balls (賴阿婆芋圓)
Taiwanese Taro Balls have since entered Singapore’s market, coming in an assortment of flavours and toppings. But nothing beats eating a bowl of traditional chewy taro balls in Jiufen Old Street amongst the locals at Grandma Lai’s.
Opening hours: 7AM – 9PM
Address: No. 143, Jishan Street, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224 [台湾新北市瑞芳区基山街143号224]
Other Things to Do in Jiufen
Sheng-Ping Theatre (昇平劇院)
Built in 1934, Sheng-Ping Theatre 昇平劇院 is one of the first film theatres in Taiwan. It was ultimately closed in 1986 due to the dwindling population of Jiufen. After being used as a film location in a 1989 Taiwanese film, A City of Sadness 悲情城市, Sheng-Ping Theatre gained attraction again and is now being conserved.
The theatre sometimes shows reruns of old-time Taiwanese movies and operas at certain times of the day, so do try to catch one if you have time to spare in Jiufen.
Opening Hours: 9:30AM – 5:30PM (Mon – Fri), closes 6PM on Sat and Sun
Address: No. 137, Qingbian Road, Ruifang District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 224 [224台湾新北市瑞芳区青边路137号]
A-Mei Tea House (阿妹茶樓)
Another iconic landmark made famous through films is A-Mei Tea House. You might recognize it from Hayao Miyazaki’s 2001 movie, Spirited Away. Touristy is what A-Mei Tea House has become due to its popularity, but it’s still a nice backdrop for photos and worth checking out when at Jiufen!
If you’re averse to crowds, there are other tea houses such as Artist Teahouse and Skyline Teahouse with equally stunning views, just a stone’s throw away from A-Mei.
A-Mei Tea House
Opening Hours: 8:30AM – 12AM (Last admission at 10PM)
Address: No. 20 Shixia Alley, Ruifang Town, Xinbei, Taiwan [台湾新北市瑞芳镇石厦巷20号]
Jiufen Chipao Rental Shop
Photo credit: @qey89757 via Instagram
It’s becoming a recurring theme for us to dress up in kimonos or yukatas overseas when the opportunity arises. We even rented one in Taiwan’s Hinoki Village! But when in Jiufen, it’s probably more appropriate to don a traditional Chinese outfit instead.
Head to Jiufen Chipao which provides qipaos, shoes and accessories for ladies, as well as cheongsams for men and children. The outfits only need to be returned before the shop closes at 7PM, so there’s ample time to explore Jiufen’s alleyways and stop for plenty of photos.
Cost: From ~S$35
Opening hours: 2PM – 7PM
Address: No.34, Qiche Rd., Ruifang Dist., New Taipei City 224, Taiwan
Jiufen and Shifen Guide
We hope that this itinerary has piqued your interest in visiting the quaint townships of Jiufen and Shifen. In today’s rapidly changing world, it’s nice to have somewhere to remind us how vibrant life used to be in the yesteryears. Not forgetting how convenient it has now become to cover these two towns on a day trip!
*Pro-tip: Remember to pre-book your Jiufen & Shifen shuttle bus for a hassle-free trip!
Read also: 8D Taiwan Itinerary: Insider’s Guide to Hidden Adventures from Taipei to Kaohsiung via THSR
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I write about the gold rush day.
Re Peanut Ice Cream Roll: It’s cilantro, not parsley.