Jiufen is a picturesque city in northeast Taiwan, known for its winding, maze-like paths, tea houses, lanterns, and coastal setting. Jiufen Old Street alone is worth the trip to the area!
Jiufen is famous for supposedly serving as inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki’s acclaimed film Spirited Away. As one of my favorite movies, I knew I had to visit Jiufen on my trip to Taipei when I heard about this connection. However, this story isn’t true: Jiufen actually has nothing to do with Spirited Away.
Even so, Jiufen is still a gorgeous place to visit. The city also has a unique history and culture. It developed quickly in the late 1800s after the discovery of gold turned the town into a gold rush hot spot.
In addition, Jiufen has a distinctive style and architecture, which comes from being built by the Japanese during their colonization of Taiwan. Jiufen still retains some of these Japanese-style buildings, reflecting the area’s history.
Altogether, the narrow alleys, tea houses, and buildings of the Old Street and mountainous and coastal terrain give Jiufen a special, slightly magical ambience.
Located about 21 miles/35 kilometers east of Taipei, Jiufen is quite accessible. You can pretty easily reach the city by public transportation from Taipei; we took a bus to get there directly. So Jiufen makes for a great quick trip away from Taipei.
This post will go over some things to do on a day trip to Jiufen, with a focus on activities around Jiufen Old Street. However, you could easily extend your trip by a day or two if you’d like to enjoy Jiufen more slowly. Do note that these photos might not be the most up-to-date, as they were taken in 2016.
1. Explore Jiufen Old Street
Some of the shops around Old Street
Making the Old Street especially striking are the colored lanterns hanging across every walkway. As such, Jiufen gets more beautiful as it becomes dark and the lanterns light up the evening.
Many of the lanterns are a vibrant, dramatic red. So while Miyazaki has said inspiration for Spirited Away didn’t come from Jiufen, it’s easy to see some similarities between the two.
While I only went to Jiufen as a day trip, I definitely think it’d be worth staying one night to fully experience the city all lit up at night.
2. Take in the mountains and coast
Views like this are one of the advantages of visiting a mountainous seaside town!
3. Visit A-Mei Tea House
The A-Mei Tea House is perhaps one of the most recognizable sights of all of Jiufen. With its Japanese-style architecture, greenery, lanterns and lights, this tea house is very beautiful.
Even if you don’t go inside, you should definitely make some time to admire this Jiufen icon; when people think of Jiufen, they often first think of A-Mei Tea House. Buildings like this are part of the reason Jiufen has a Spirited Away-like atmosphere.
A-Mei Tea House at night
One of the great things about this tea house is that they are open late. When other shops and restaurants have closed, you can enjoy some tea here, well into the evening.[Click here to read about a quintessential Japanese tourist destination.]
4. Experience a tea ceremony
Tea, snacks, and implements
Shots of our tea ceremony
Bonus shots of the tea house itself
I’m sure some of multi-story tea houses offer great views of the city and coast on their verandas, so definitely consider taking your tea outside if the weather is good.
5. Stop by a temple
Look at how vibrant the dragons are, even in overcast weather!
If you haven’t visited many temples on your trip to Taiwan, it would certainly be worthwhile to stop a few minutes and admire the architecture and decorations of a temple or two in Jiufen.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure on the name of this particular temple (sorry!), though I can find many photos of its roof with the coast in the background.
Bonus: Some Ghibli-inspired Photos
Totoro and the A-Mei Tea House
A variety of things were carved into the rock
I’m not sure of the exact location of these name carvings, but I’m sure you could find them with a bit of exploration.
Like visiting places that blend cultures? Then Macau is the perfect destination for you!