While this little port city is normally seen on a day trip from Taipei, I highly recommend giving it at least two. In this Jiufen itinerary guide, I’m laying out all you can do and see while you’re in this magical place.
I’m pretty sure I saw Jiufen on just about every blog and friend’s recommendation list when I was planning my itinerary. While most did full-length day trips from Taipei, I decided to spend two nights there so I could properly explore the area and, hopefully, avoid some of the more hectic crowds.
This itinerary is based on what I did (and wish I had done) and is a little more organized than I was when I went. (I feel like this is a running theme in my blog posts…!) I also hope the weather is MUCH warmer and sunnier for your visit because it was rainy and cold for mine!
A Jiufen Travel Guide
Why You Should Visit Jiufen, Taiwan
First of all, I guess I should get into why you should even bother visiting Jiufen. I think the way it lands on most people’s lists is through the absolute masterpiece that is Spirited Away*.
Hayao Miyazaki is an absolute visionary when it comes to animation, and this movie may be his magnum opus. One of the main inspirations for the designs is the lantern strewn alleyways of Jiufen. Apparently, Miyazaki has denied this, but if you watch the movie and see photos near Shengping Theater, there’s no denying a similarity.
Even before Miyazaki animated Jiufen, it was already a fairly popular tourist area. During the 1900s it became a gold mining town under Japanese occupation, which is why the architecture is still so unique today. After WWII, the need for mining declined and gradually Jiufen became a tourist area.
Its popularity grew in the nineties after the release of A City of Sadness (悲情城市). The movie, which was set in Jiufen, became incredibly popular and critically acclaimed (it has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes). In return, it put Jiufen on the map for Taiwanese tourism, and now it’s one of the most popular destinations in the country.
A 2-Day Itinerary for Jiufen
I spent two nights in Jiufen, arriving in the evening, having one full day, and leaving in the middle of the third day. I wouldn’t recommend this because I really only had one day to do anything. By the time I arrived on the first night, it was already dark, raining, and cold, and when I left on the third day it was pouring.
If I did it over, I’d arrive at my Bnb in the morning and do the following itinerary:
Head to Riufeng Station to visit some of the places nearby. There’s a train (more like a subway train) and at the station they layout the different stops. The big three are:
- Houtong Station – This is a little cat village one stop over from Riufeng! I didn’t get a chance to go because of my own time management skills, but friends went and loved it. I mean, it’s cats. Where do you go wrong with cats?
- Shifen Station – You’ll get off here for the gorgeous waterfall, and you can also hang out along the train rails. If you want to read more about seeing the Shifen Waterfall, read this post.
- Pingxi Station – Pingxi is famous for its lantern festival, though you can release your own lanterns throughout the year (you can also do this at Shifen).
**NOTE: I should say if you’re concerned about the environment, you may want to withhold participating in releasing lanterns unless you’re sure you can find someone who only uses the traditional materials. I couldn’t on my own, so I simply chose to watch.
What I would do is first go to Shifen for the waterfall. It’s a bit of a walk from the station, and the falls area has its own little shops. All in all, I’d carve out 90 minutes – 2 hours to enjoy. You can also get some food at the different stalls at the station.
Then head over to the Houtong for the cat village and play with some kitties for as long as you can.
Finally head back to Jiufen at night to see it all lit up. You can catch a bus back from Ruifeng Station to Jiufen depending on what stop you want, but I just took a taxi back.
They have set prices around 200 NTD. It’s kind of expensive for how long the drive is, but it was also nice not standing up on a bus for 10 minutes after being packed into the train like a sardine.
In Jiufen, check out the Shuqi Road near Shengping Theater at night. It’ll be crowded but it’s still really stunning! My best advice is to go up to the Skyline Tea House. There’s one that gives you this view:
The entrance is right by one of the viewing platforms, and there’s a lady guarding the stairs up to the main area. Just let her know you’re going up for tea. She’ll tell you a price of the tea, just say okay. Up there ask to be seated outside so you can take photos. I just got a simple milk tea, and it was pretty delicious! They also had some food, but I think the kitchen had closed by the time I got there.
Wander around Jiufen and enjoy the views! If you really want to try and get the area around Shengping Theater without the crowds, I’d try getting up and going early in the morning. That was my original plan on my third morning, but the rain ruined that!
Some other things to do in Jiufen:
- Eat all the street food! Jiufen has its own night market. I accidentally walked through it at one point, and it was just a little too crowded for my patience levels. My BnB also made delicious soup every day, so I wasn’t really motivated to get food. If you do go, Jiufen is famous for its taro balls.
- Hangout at a teahouse. Listen, Taiwan loves milk tea more than I do, and they know how to make it so it’s not too sweet. Relax, and if it’s nice, catch a sunset! The Amei Teahouse* is the most famous one, but I actually liked going to the one across the way so I got to see Amei from afar.
- Buy tea + handmade ceramics. If you’re looking for unique souvenirs to bring home, look into the different teas and handmade ceramics. There are also very cute postcards around if you look for them.
- Hike nearby Mt. Keelung. The weather was way too bad for me to even think of going for a hike, but the nearby Mt. Keelung is supposed to be great for views and takes about 2-hours roundtrip. Apparently, on a very clear day, you can see all the way to Taipei 101 in the distance!
- Visit the different museums – There are at least three museums I can think of off the top of my head: the gold museum, the mask museum, and the kite museum. I’m sure there are more I’m missing!
Jiufen Accommodation – Where to Stay
There aren’t a ton of options in Jiufen, and almost all of them are pretty expensive compared to Taipei or Hualien. However, I did find the cutest place called Jiufen Aromatherapy Bnb*. It’s a little hard to find, and the owner actually had to come meet me to show me, but it was just lovely. I’ll have to write a full review on it, but it was maybe a 5-minute walk from Shengping Theater another 5-minutes in the opposite direction of a bus and taxi stop. Check here for rates + availability
Also, as my host said, “Inside is your Bnb and outside is the cat’s BnB.” I mean, this view alone to wake-up to…
How to Get to Jiufen
Taipei to Jiufen
There are a few different options from Taipei to Jiufen:
The easiest/most convenient way is to take a train. You can check the schedule here. Make sure it says Taipei/Keelung, Taipei to Pingshi/ShenAo Line, Ruifang. Like this:
You’ll leave from Taipei Main Station (台北車站), which you can get to easily on the subway.
From Ruifang Station, you can grab a bus into Jiufen, but it’s much easier to just take a taxi for about $205 NTD. I’d figure out where you’re staying or ask your host to send you the nearest stop to show the driver or to see which bus to take.
Another option is to take a shuttle bus. Klook as a shuttle bus* from Taipei’s Ximen Station (西門). It’ll take you to Shifen before Jiufen. Just let them know you won’t be returning.
Because I was starting to get sick and it was raining, I just took a taxi from Jiufen to Hualien, and I imagine the costs would be similar vice versa. My host actually called a taxi cab, and I wound up paying about $1,000 NTD (~$34 USD). It was worth it to not have to wait in the cold or lug my things around. It was originally a little more, but when I said I’d just take the train, he lowered it to $1,000 NTD.
Anyhow, if you’re with a small group and have a lot of luggage, this might be an easier option than using a shuttle bus or the train!
Hualien to Jiufen
I actually got to Hualien by booking this tour with Klook*. I wanted to see Qingshui Cliff, and I just thought it’d be nice to just load my suitcase into a car and relax for the journey instead of navigating public transportation.
If you don’t want to use a driver, then you’ll have to just go to Taipei from the train station and follow the Taipei – Jiufen instructions.
And there you have it! A 2-day Jiufen itinerary guide to help you organize your next trip.
Taiwan Travel Guide
- General Taiwan Trip Planning