Incredible Things to Do in Jiufen, Taiwan’s Spirited Away Town

Photo by NH/Shutterstock

Incredible Things to Do in Jiufen, Taiwan’s Spirited Away Town

With the town's glowing lanterns, extravagant traditional tea houses and tantalizing roads winding up the mountain, it's easy to see why Jiufen is often touted as the inspiration for Studio Ghibli's acclaimed Spirited Away. Nestled up the side of a mountain off the coast of Northern Taiwan, Jiufen or Chiufen is a paradise of scenic views and picturesque streets that makes for the perfect trip to Taiwan

At a short drive from the capital, Taipei, there's plenty to do in this former gold mining town to make it worth the journey. Whether you're visiting for the night or just as a day trip from Taipei, here are some of the top things to do in Taiwan's beautiful town of Jiufen.

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Incredible Things to Do in Jiufen, Taiwan’s Spirited Away Town

Hike to Keelung Mountain

View of Keelung Mountain near Jiufen, Taiwan

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While most people just walk around the town, enjoying the scenic views of the coast from viewpoints around Jiufen's winding streets, the best scenic spot in Jiufen takes some effort to get to. For those with a little time to spare, Mount Jilong or Keelung Mountain is a short but fairly tiring hike, which will take most people about 30 minutes to get to the top. Along the route and at the summit you'll get sweeping vistas all along the coast towards Keelung city, along with panoramic views of Jiufen's landscape and the mountains in the background.

Be aware that the weather in Jiufen is often poor and rains frequently, although it's often only for short periods. If it's raining when you get to the town, head to other spots in the town and climb the mountain when the weather clears up.

Eat Famous Foods at Jiufen Old Street

Peanut ice cream wrap, a popular food at Jiufen in Taiwan

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Apart from its fame as an enchanting hillside town, Jiufen is also particularly famous for the food sold there. Walking down the old street will take you on a culinary journey through Taiwan's street foods, snacks and desserts.

Some of the classic things to eat at Jiufen include 'yuyuan' a kind of sweet taro ball soup - popular at Lai Ah Po Yu Yuan (賴阿婆芋圓). The delectable fish ball soup at Zhang Ji Traditional Fishballs and ice cream rolls, which you'll find at multiple places. Shi Mi Dian Jiufen First Stinky Tofu (食謎店 九份第一家臭豆腐) is highly recommended if you're feeling more adventurous. The Taiwanese style sausages sold around the streets of Jiufen are delicious too if you still have stomach space to eat.

Explore the Ghost Town Atmosphere

Famous teahouse in Jiufen, Taiwan

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Bustling with tourists visiting the town as a day trip from Taiwan's capital of Taipei, almost everyone leaves Jiufen with the last bus to Taipei, making the town practically deserted during the late hours of the evening. Even vendors at the food stalls and markets often live in nearby cities such as Keelung (Jilong), heading out of town after closing up shop. Overnight visitors are scarce, as the nightlife itself is fairly non-descript here.

Walking around the deserted, dimly-lit streets gives the town an incredible eerie ghost town-like feel to it that's well worth staying over to see. For fans of Spirited Away, the atmosphere in Jiufen is uncannily similar to the film during this time.

The best way to explore the town after dark is by staying overnight at one of the guesthouses here. It's also possible to see the eerie atmosphere of the town while taking public transport however. The last bus to the port city of Keelung leaves later than the last bus to Taipei, during which you'll often find the crowds have left.

Sip Tea and Watch the Sunset at a Traditional Teahouse

Sunset view of Jiufen,a popular town in the mountains of North Taiwan

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The traditional teahouses of Jiufen are incredibly atmospheric, offer a traditional tea experience, many of which house incredible views over the coastline. Time it perfectly by visiting one just before sunset and watch as the towns along the coast start to light up. The night view from Jiufen is even more stunning than in the day, and shouldn't be missed. When finished, explore the old street's charm when traditional red lanterns are lit up.

While A-Mei Tea House is one of the most famous (and expensive), there are plenty of other teahouses that offer stunning scenery and have just as good an atmosphere.

Explore the Winding Streets of Jiufen

Chinese red lanterns lit up in Jiufen, Taiwan

Photo by t.a.m.m.y/Shutterstock

Don't do what most tourists do and just walk down part of the old street, the famous teahouse and then head back. The town is full of picturesque spots and views along with temples and a character you won't find anywhere else on the island. Take a couple of hours to walk around all the winding streets of Jiufen Old Street and beyond and you'll be rewarded.

How to Get to Jiufen

Mountainous Landscape around Jiufen, Taiwan

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Getting to Jiufen from Taipei is easy and straightforward. The simplest way is to take a direct bus (No. 1062) from just outside exit 2 of MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing Station. A newer bus (965) also takes passengers to Jiufen from several places in Taipei such as Banqiao and Ximen. The journey takes around an hour, depending on traffic.

If you're looking to explore Keelung and the famous Miaokou Night Market after Jiufen, there are numerous buses that go from Jiufen to Keelung. Trains depart regularly from Keelung back to Taipei.

For those who don't mind transferring, you can also take a train from Taipei to nearby Ruifang Station and then take a bus from there to Jiufen. You can also take a taxi from Ruifang to Jiufen, it'll take about 15 minutes and costs around NT$200.