The Best North Coast Day Trip from Taipei

The Best North Coast Day Trip from Taipei

Whenever private clients ask me how long they should spend in Taipei, many are shocked. “That seems like a long time,” they’ll say, when my answer is in the range of 3-5 days, depending on the overall length of their Taiwan trips.

It’s not just all the thing to do in the center of Taipei, I explain, but the variety of day trips you can—and should—take.

In particular, the question of Jiufen or Keelung (and my preference for visiting both, if it all possible) is one of the central pillars of my logic. If you’re tripped up on this as you navigate here, I hope you’ll continue reading!

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I Love Keelung and Jiufen for Different Reasons

To me, Jiufen vs Keelung isn’t really a fair fight—or a fight at all. I first fell in love with Keelung, for example, because it teased me. The lanterns at its famous night market, you see, don’t go on every night. And while you can eat to your heart’s content no matter when you go, I desperately wanted the “money shot.” So I kept going back, literally for years, until I finally got it (and obviously, discovered a lot of other treasures in the process).

With Jiufen, on the other hand, my initial return was much more practical. I’d first visited, you see, during a torrential rain and wind storm—I couldn’t see or do anything. When I went back, I upped the stakes, staying overnight (so I could see it lit-up at night) and also, so that I could hike nearby Teapot Mountain (which I’d also first seen in monsoon conditions) without needing to rush.


Ways to Compare Jiufen with Keelung

Ease of getting there

It’s reasonably easy to access both of these cities. Trains run directly from Taipei Main Station to Keelung at least a few times per hour. To reach Jiufen, meanwhile, direct buses will take you from both Taipei Main Station and Zhongxiao Fuxing Station to a bus stop right near the Old Street.

Ease of getting around

In some sense, the core attractions of Jiufen and Keelung are accessible on foot from their respective stations: Jiufen Old Street and the night market in Keelung. You’ll need to take secondary bus rides to reach other places, though these are all options; the onward buses don’t take much time.

Things to do

The aforementioned Keelung night market? That’s Miaokou Night Market, which is especially delightful to visit on Sunday nights, when its yellow lanterns light up. While in Keelung, you’ll also want to take a bus to Zhengbin Fishing Harbor. In Jiufen meanwhile, Jiufen Old Street steals the show, though you can also hike at Teapot Mountain.


Another way to decide between Keelung or Jiufen is food. Obviously, when it comes to sheer variety, nothing in Jiufen compares to Keelung’s night market, which many argue is the best in Taiwan. On the other hand, Jiufen is the original of the so-called “Taiwanese ice cream burrito,” which sees ice cream rolled in a crepe with peanuts and cilantro.

Landscape and townscape

Jiufen is built into a beautiful, green mountain with views of the ocean on most days (but especially clear ones). Keelung, meanwhile, is mostly flat, even though mountains rise all around the harbor. The reality is that both of these places are beautiful in their own way, even if Keelung is certainly more industrial than Jiufen.


Can You Visit Both Jiufen and Keelung in a Day?

Although Jiufen and Keelung aren’t far from one another as the crow flies, visiting both of them on the same day does require some forethought. Here’s how I would personally go about it:

  • Get a bus to Jiufen, whether from Taipei Main Station or Zhongxiao Fuxing
  • Enjoy the Old Street—and, if you go very early, a hike up Teapot Mountain
  • Take a bus from Jiufen to Keelung
  • If you arrive early enough, make a trip up to Zhengbin Fishing Harbor for a selfie
  • Eat your way through Miaokou Night Market in the evening, and ride the train back to Taipei
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Other FAQ About Visiting Keelung and Jiufen

Is there a train from Keelung to Jiufen?

The bad news? There is no train from Keelung to Jiufen, the latter of which is not served by train at all. The good news? If you can get over your fear of buses (I’ve noticed that many foreigners in Taiwan tend to have this), it’s reasonably easy to travel between the two cities.

Which one is better, Keelung or Jiufen?

Keelung and Jiufen are so different from one another that it’s impossible to say which one is “better.” What I will say is that if you’re a foodie, Keelung and its night market might be the better choice. For culture or hiking, meanwhile, Jiufen Old Street is more fulfilling.

How do I get to Keelung Night Market?

Getting to Keelung Night Market from Taipei is easy. Take a bus or train from Taipei Main Station to Keelung Station, and go out the main exit. Miaokou Night Market is about 10 minutes due east of the station. Well, it begins about 10 minutes from there, and extends another 10-15, depending upon how fast you walk.

The Bottom Line

Should you visit Jiufen or Keelung on a day trip from Taipei? Well, the optimal answer is that you visit both. Each of these places provides an utterly unique experience. In Jiufen, you can pair a day hiking Teapot Mountain with an evening along the Jiufen Old Street—which didn’t, for the record, inspire “Spirited Away.” Keelung’s main claim to fame, meanwhile, is Miaokou Night Market, though daytime day-trippers can visit colorful Zhengbin Fishing Harbor. Need more personalized insights on putting your trip to Taiwan together? Consider commissioning a custom Taiwan itinerary!


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