A QUICK GUIDE TO DADAOCHENG
Taipei’s Oldest District
Simply walking the streets of Dadaocheng is a pleasure. As the oldest district in Taipei, there’s a lot of history here. It’s felt in the architecture, the goods spilling out of every shopfront, and the fascinating museums dedicated to specialist local subjects. Dihua Street, the narrow artery running through the centre of the district, is impossibly pretty. Yet the area remains surprisingly un-touristy. So much so that we didn’t even make it here till our second visit to Taipei.
Somehow it had flown under the radar, missed amongst all those must-see Taipei attractions. But it’s a fascinating place to explore, especially if you have an appreciation for historic buildings, traditional crafts and hip Taiwanese design. It’s certainly worth an afternoon of your time, or even a couple of days if you prefer a slower pace of wandering. We encourage you to take to the streets and see what you find, but to get you started here’s a few of our favourite spots.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Dihua Street is the heart and soul of Dadaocheng district. It’s the oldest street in Taipei and every narrow shopfront tells a story. Architectural influences range from mock Baroque to Japanese and Southern Fujian. Stretching around a kilometre from north to south, it could easily take you a few hours to wander, taking in the history as you stroll. Many of the places mentioned in this guide are found on, or nearby, Dihua Street.
*Keep your eyes peeled for the great local walking map, available in shops and cafes around Dadaocheng*
This wonderful little corner house museum is worth a visit for the terrazzo flooring and rooftop view alone. But be sure to leave enough time to take in the rest too. Originally a Chinese Medicine shop, this historic building was opened as Museum207 in 2017. Exhibitions here change every few months, focusing on a specific theme about local culture, customs or history. Cherishing The Old was on display during our visit, focusing on reusing, repairing and repurposing old things. Past exhibitions have included those about Taiwanese terrazzo art, traditional doors and window design, and Taiwanese gifting culture.
No. 207, Section 1, Dihua Street
Wednesday – Monday 10am – 5pm (5.30pm Sat, Sun & National Holidays)
This hard-hitting museum is dedicated to the comfort women of the Japanese occupation era. Opening on International Women’s Day 2016, the permanent exhibition displays historical and cultural relics, telling the story of Taiwanese comfort womens’ suffering and their human rights movement. There’s a cafe on site and shop selling goods on behalf of female entrepreneurs and charities.
No. 256, Section 1, Dihua St
Wednesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
WHAT TO BUY
There’s something wonderful about the mix of old and new in Dadaocheng. Traditional produce, sold for over a century in this district, sits beside contemporary design stores, creating a balance of nostalgia and modernity all at once.
Dadaocheng’s history lies in the wholesale merchandise industry, with tea being at the forefront of the export trade from the mid-19th century on. A number of historic tea factories and shops remain, scattered along Dihua Street and beyond. Pop in for a brew, or just to admire the atmospheric interiors.
Charming, colourful, practical and a Taiwanese classic! The A ma bao is a great souvenir to pick up. They come in all colours and sizes, spilling out onto the pavement at a number of shops along Dihua Street.
Modern Taiwanese Crafts & Design
Alongside revamped stores specialising in the merchandise of old, you’ll find a number of creative spaces and design shops selling contemporary products, housed in historic buildings. Art Yard 1 is a great place to start your browsing, with a bookshop, textile design store and more on offer. Wander up Dihua Street and you’ll find pottery shops, boutique clothing stores, and craft workshops galore.
WHERE TO EAT
You’ll find everything from street food to contemporary fusion cuisine in Dadaocheng. One of Taipei’s best night markets is also nearby, a great option for trying a variety of Taiwanese classics.
For a quick but filling bite to eat on the go (or sitting in) stop by this Zongzi sticky rice dumpling store. They offer a variety of fillings, including veggie and vegan options, all utterly scrumptious. Steamed buns are also available. There’s an English menu with pictures, making it easy to decipher what lies inside the steamed bamboo leaf parcels.
No. 88, Section 1, Dihua Street
Ningxia Night Market
A little east of Dihua Street is bustling Ningxia Night Market. No trip to Taipei is complete without a visit to at least one of these quintessential Taiwan eateries, and Ningxia is one of our favourites.
Things kick off nightly from around 5:30pm til late, with a couple of lines of food stalls, plus permanent restaurants along the side. A few stalls have tables and chairs, otherwise munch as you go. Be sure to wait in line for the deep fried taro balls, Michelin recommended oyster omelette at Yuan Huan Pien, and moreish king oyster mushrooms at a stall by the northern entrance.
Ningxia Road, Datong District
Nightly 5.30pm – midnight
Set through the back of a beautiful old Taiwanese house, Peacock Bistro dishes up fusion cuisine with an emphasis on locally sourced produce. It’s a cosy spot for brunch or a late night dinner, washed down with a cocktail or glass of wine.
No. 197, Section 1, Dihua Street
Wednesday – Monday 1130am – 1030pm (last food orders 9pm)
URS329 Rice & Shine
This old rice shop, run by fifth generation local rice traders, serves up traditional Taiwanese food in atmospheric surroundings. It’s open for lunch and dinner and specialises in set meals, with three appetisers, soup and freshly ground rice accompanying your choice of main. The restored red brick building is over 100 years old, an absolute beauty.
No. 329, Section 1, Dihua Street
Daily 12pm – 3pm (last orders 2.30pm) & 530pm – 9pm (last orders 830pm)