If you love Asian food, you can’t miss Taiwan, the food capital of the region. This unique little island, given the nickname “Ilha Formosa” (the Beautiful Island) by 16th-century Portuguese settlers, abounds with delicious traditional dishes brought over by mainland Chinese immigrants in the 20th century, influenced by native aboriginal culture, as well as Japanese and other international cuisines.
The best way to sample the cuisine, of course, is to visit Taiwan’s ubiquitous night markets. When the sun goes down, the streets of most major cities light up with the hustle and bustle of vendors hawking their wares and food stands to spill fragrant scents onto crowds of locals and tourists looking for a good deal or a bite to eat.
Whether you are looking for local specialties like chewy oyster pancakes and the infamous stinky tofu, or the Taiwanese version of crunchy large fried chicken or ice cream wrapped in a crepe, you can find all of this and more at any of the following night markets below.
Arguably the largest and most famous night market in the entire island, Shilin Night Market is located conveniently next to the MRT Jiantan Station and attracts hundreds of tourists and locals every night. The market features general merchandise and local cuisine, with a Night Market Food Court located along the western edge. Feast on the reasonably priced fried chicken stake, bubble tea (which was originally invented in Taiwan!), and, of course, don’t forget to give the famous stinky tofu a try!
If you come early to the night market, feel free to take a look at the Martyrs’ Shrine nearby, built to honor fallen Kuomingtang soldiers after the Chinese Civil War.
Another major hot spot, particularly for tourists and visitors, is the Raohe Night Market, one of the oldest night markets in the capital city. This 600-meter single pedestrian path in the Songshan District is lined with cozy shops and stalls, carnival games, and fascinating late-night foods and snacks.
Easily accessible from the MRT, the entrance of the night market is located right next to the Songshan temple and is conveniently situated beside a clothing outlet in Wufenpu and the Taipei New Horizon Shopping Complex. For an unforgettable night, shop to your heart’s content at the clothing outlet or shopping center, and then fill your belly with the well-known pork pepper buns, giant grilled squid, mochi, and of course Taiwan’s signature beef noodle soup!
Located seven minutes away (on foot) from the Keelung train station, the Keelung (pronounced “Jeelong”) night market is one of the most famous night markets in the country. Known for its seafood, visitors to the Keelung night market will be able to enjoy the fresh sea breeze as they stroll along the boardwalk beside the water and enjoy the sight of large ships docked at the harbor.
The night market wraps around a local temple in the center of the city and is particularly well known for its lush seafood. From milk crab and stir-fried king crab legs to its barbecue squid and cuttlefish, Keelung night market is a definite must-visit for the seafoodie visitor!
This night market/shopping town located within walking distance of Feng Chia University offers not only delicious foods and fashionable clothing for sale, but Taichung is also known for selling the cheapest, most fashionable mobile phones.
Comprised of one street, Feng Chia night market offers cheap and delicious and unforgettable foods and a friendly atmosphere–a true sensory feast for both eyes and tongue. Moreover, visitors are encouraged to rent an iBike (an iBike station is located at the main intersection of the Feng Chia road) and travel green through the area.
If you’re looking for churros, scallion pancakes, sweet potato balls or pork-stuffed rice-sausages, this is the night market for you!
The Zhongxiao night market was historically the late-night snack center of choice during the Japanese colonial period. It was here that locals feasted on grilled duck, oyster vermicelli, and all sorts of seafood. It was also here where the Ding Wang Spicy Hot Pot originated.
Zhongxiao is well known for its delicious food. Located next to the Third Market, Zhongxiao opens as the Third Market closes (around 4 pm). Some of its must-try dishes include bamboo rice, sugarcane juice, and, of course, Zhongxiao BBQ.
This upscale commercial district located in Taichung, Taiwan features not only a university (Tunghai University) but also a fixed store night market. Different from traditional open-air street markets, Tunghai night market is hugely popular with students, staff, and professors from nearby Tunghai U, and also features a melting pot of fusion cuisines and brand-name clothing.
Perfect for the foodie-shopper, Tunghai Night Market offers an array of irresistible snacks, from chicken steak burgers and steamed meatballs to braised dishes and chicken feet gelatin!
This grid-shaped market is considered one of the busiest and most popular night markets in Kaohsiung. Located in the Zuoying district, Rui Feng is open Tuesday nights and Thursday through Sunday nights from 6:30. With a two-decade-long history, this L-shaped market offers late-night snacks, entertainment, and shopping. Due to its location, most Ruifeng local visitors are students and office workers, and it sports a variety of low-cost dishes to appeal to guests.
Some of Ruifeng’s most famous dishes include Wanguo steak teppanyaki, brown sugar bubble tea, papaya milk tea, and Mongolian barbecue.
Located in Taiwan’s largest southern city, the Ling Ya night market is a favorite among the locals. Designed for the focused foodie, the Ling Ya night market solely features food stalls, including such delectable options as squid and eel noodles, Taiwanese salt and pepper (deep fried) chicken, braised pork rice, and white sugar cake.
This market is easy to navigate because the stalls are arranged neatly in two rows, so you will never have to fear getting turned around in large crowds or maze-like winding streets.
As a bonus: because more folks in the southern part of Taiwan speak Taiwanese (in addition to Mandarin), you can take the opportunity to practice sharpening your Taiwanese skills as you order food from the local vendors. (“Ji Koh?” means “How much?”)
No matter where you go in Taiwan, you are sure to have an unlimited number of choices of delicious foods to try. But to soak in the excitement and flavor of Taiwan, unfiltered, make sure you spend some time wandering through its iconic night markets. Wishing you an unforgettable food-lover’s adventure in the Beautiful Island!