Night markets are popular spots for locals and tourists alike in Taipei, and the biggest, most structured one is the Shilin Night Market.
Shilin Night Market is a great place to visit just to witness Taiwanese culture first hand. There are loads and loads of people, especially on weekends, wandering through the narrow streets with shops on either sides and street vendors and food stalls scattered wherever there is spare space.
(Click on ‘More…’ to read about the markets and check out the amazing food pictures!)
Most of the food has been centralised into a massive food hall, directly across from the MRT station. To be honest there is nothing outstanding there – you can probably get better quality and tasting food outside – but the good thing is that everything is in one place, so you can sample different types of food, from massive fried chicken to sausages to cold noodles to ice desserts to local specialties. If your stomach can handle it, have a go!
It’s impossible to try everything inside the food hall even in two or three visits, but leave a bit a space in any case to try some of the stalls on the outside streets, which are usually smaller and can be eaten while you walk. There is this marinated fried chicken (from Hsinchu) which is just sensational. I wished I could have stuffed myself more and tried some of the other tempting delicacies.
As for the shopping, most of it is along the main night market strip, but there are various shops and street vendors scattered around the perimeters. The better quality stuff (such as clothes and shoes) is to be found in the shops lining the main street. The street vendors sell the cheaper, low-quality stuff (such as crappy ties, shirts, tracksuits and novelty goods) which are sometimes so cheap it makes you wonder whether there is something wrong with the product. But be warned – you usually get what you pay for!
Everything is cheap – or at least cheaper than elsewhere, but you need to be selective and know how to haggle in order to get the best prices. Unless the price is already insanely low, you should be able to shave a bit more off, sometimes a lot more. If you have the time and patience, take a look around and compare.
Spend at least a couple of hours there, but realistically you’ll probably need three or more if you intend to shop and actually buy stuff.
The easiest way there is via the red line on the MRT, but note that the nearest station is actually Jiantan (the stop before Shilin).