Out of all the towns and cities we got to visit on our 10-day trip to Taiwan, Jiufen was the most enchanting.
Many locals and tourists only make a day trip to Jiufen from Taipei for a couple of hours to stroll through Jiufen Old Street and take a photo of one of its famous teahouses—since its old-timey Japanese, lantern-strewn exterior evokes scenes from Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away.
But there is so much more to do in Jiufen than snapping a photo of the teahouse.
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For one, the locals of Jiufen were some of the most welcoming we met.
And two, the atmosphere of the town was typical of what you’d expect of a former Japanese gold mining town; adorable, sleepy, and mostly residential with lots of cats curled up on rooftops (oh, and rainy—Jiufen sees quite a bit of rain so be sure to pack an umbrella!).
Ultimately, Jiufen is a charming mountain town in Northern Taiwan with a unique history and mish-mashing of culture that deserves to be savored—don’t make the mistake of coming only for a day!
There are lots of fun things to do in Jiufen off the beaten path. And even though we stayed two nights in the town (highly recommend), we wished we had stayed longer.
In this guide, I’ll spill the tea about what to do and see in Jiufen on an overnight trip (ideally with 2-3 days/nights in your itinerary!).
7 Best Things to Do in Jiufen, Taiwan
Enjoy a Taiwanese Tea Ceremony in a Jiufen Teahouse
Jiufen is a popular tourist attraction for several reasons, but today, a lot of the attention stems from its teahouses (one in particular that gets a lot of photo clicks!).
And now that I’ve been in person, I get it!
For starters, the atmospheric Jiufen Old Street is a maze of red lanterns, cozy teahouses, and cute pedestrian alleyways and it simply transports you back in time. Or at least into a storybook (but the waft of stinky tofu will take you out of it rather quickly, I might warn…!)
Next, many Studio Ghibli fans have caught wind that the Amei Teahouse is rumored to have inspired the town that Chihiro finds in Spirited Away, and therefore make the journey from Taipei to see it in person and live out their fantasy.
However, Miyazaki has since denied Jiufen, or any particular teahouse, was the source of inspiration for the film.
What did introduce Jiufen to the global stage, however, was the film City of Sadness, as it was filmed on Shuqi Road (the street going down past Amei Teahouse).
Now that you know, you don’t need to get caught up in the hype!
Instead, the real experience to enjoy here is the tea ceremonies that Jiufen offer in their teahouses.
And yes! There is more than one teahouse in Jiufen.
Best Teahouses in Jiufen
Jiufen (Jioufen) Teahouse
The Jiufen Teahouse is credited with being Jiufen’s first teahouse, serving tea in Jiufen since 1991. Set in a historic 100+-year-old building, the Jiufen Teahouse is not just a teahouse but also an art gallery and ceramic workshop with local art, pottery, and crafts.
The vibes of this teahouse are extremely vintage, cozy, and authentic. The price for the tea set with dessert is a bit cheaper, too, at around NT $600.
You can’t go wrong with the Amei Teahouse, we found it to have one of the most scenic views of Keelung Bay, but the downside is its popularity.
The wait is long and it’s always busy. If you visit Jiufen on the weekend, you can expect to be waiting 1-2 hours to get inside. The teahouse only offers one set menu for NT $750 and includes an introductory pouring of the high mountain tea and a plate of typical Taiwanese sweets like red bean cakes, mochis, and sesame crackers.
There is also the Siddcha Teahouse and the Skyline Teahouse you can visit if the other two are fully booked!
You will also find lots of specialty tea stores on Jiufen Old Street. However, to experience the tea ceremonies I’d recommend making a reservation in advance.
Tour the Jiufen Goldore Museum
The Jiufen you see today on Instagram wasn’t always that way. Its history dates back to the Qing Dynasty in the late 1890s when the Japanese centered their gold rush efforts in this once-isolated village.
One of the best things to do in Jiufen is to uncover this history on a gold mining museum night tour at the Jiufen Goldore Museum.
The museum is family-owned and the tours are led in both English and Mandarin with the mission to keep the memory of gold mining in Jiufen alive.
Tours take you behind the scenes of how to mine for gold while recounting the history of the town and family business.
You can book this experience directly through your guesthouse or hotel in Jiufen, or call them at +886 913 833 099. The cost per person is NT $400 (or about $12 USD). Make sure to bring your walking shoes!
Note: This is different than the New Taipei City Gold Museum, which is located just a 10-15 minute drive past Jiufen, on your way to the coast.
Hike Up the Mount Keelung Trail for Panoramic Views
One of my personal favorite activities in Jiufen was hiking up Keelung Mountain for scenic views overlooking Jiufen and the surrounding mountains and coastline.
If you get the chance, I’d recommend doing this activity in the morning (or afternoon, if it’s not too hot). We went at sunset but departed a little too late and ended up walking down mostly in the dark (which was pretty too!).
The trailhead for this hike is easy to find, just off the main road curving up past Jiufen’s hillside (here it is on Maps).
Not many people leave Old Street to climb a couple of thousand steps up to the top, but the views are very worthwhile!
If you have more time and want to do another hike in Jiufen, do the Teapot Mountain Trail!
We didn’t have time for this hike due to rain, which is another reason why using Jiufen as a base with extra days in your itinerary is wise so don’t miss out on all there is to do here!
Ideally, you could combine the Teapot Mountain hike with a visit to the Baoshishan Lookout, Qitang Old Street, and New Taipei Gold Museum as they are all close to each other.
Eat Your Way Through Jiufen Old Street
Walking through Jiufen Old Street is likely the first thing you’ll do when arriving in Jiufen. While the decorations and dozens of boutiques and lanterns are nice, the real reason to come here is to eat Taiwanese street food.
This cobbled alleyway is thick with street food vendors, tea shops, souvenir shops, and beyond.
It can actually be a little overwhelming, especially if you’re just arriving mid-day along with hundreds of other eager (or hungry) tourists.
So what should you eat in Jiufen Old Street?
Street Food in Juifen
You will find all sorts of Taiwanese street food in Jiufen—from fried squid to stinky tofu to noodles to dumplings, and beyond.
Besides popping into a cozy tea house for Oolong High Mountain tea and miniature sweets, the word on the street (literally) is that you need to try the famous Jiufen taro balls.
Taro balls are a typical Taiwanese dessert made of taro (a root vegetable) and often mashed with sweet potato starch or mung bean.
And while you can find taro balls all over Taiwan, the ones in Jiufen are quite well-known (and my Taiwanese friend confirmed this when she asked me first thing if I had tried “Jiufen’s taro balls” when I told her my Taiwan travel plans).
You can find some at “A Gan Yi Taro Balls” on Zhongshan St, located here.
We saw quite a lot of… interesting… street food along Jiufen Old Street (duck tongue, anyone?). But we stuck to our comforts and dined on xiaolongbao (soup) dumplings and giant pork buns (both of which were amazing 👌 🤤). That restaurant is located right beside the taro ball shop, too! You can’t miss it.
If you are vegan/vegetarian, you won’t find very much in Jiufen.
There is one Taiwanese vegan food stall that we found (慈鴻素食) and it was one of the top meals we had in Taiwan (really!). The vegetarian steak and rice dish was so good. Super friendly service and great prices, too. Find them on Jishan St here.
🌈 Additionally, check out Qitang Old Street beyond Jiufen—it’s much less “touristy” than Jiufen Old Street and features a quaint alley with rainbow stairs.
Visit the Historic Shengping Theater
In its heyday, it held Taiwanese opera performances, and later in the 1930s, became the main entertainment venue for gold miners working in Jiufen.
Today, the theater still hosts tourists and occasionally shows old films and documentaries. Entrance is free and you can stop in rain or shine from 9am to 5/6pm.
Take Sunset Photos at Tian Gong Temple
One of the best things to do in Jiufen is to simply get lost in the maze of residential streets (that said, please be mindful of private property!).
When doing so, we came upon the Jiufen Tian Gong Temple (九份天公廟), and turns out it was the best local spot for taking photos at sunset.
The view you have of the sea and mountains from this location is magnificent — so many layers! (A telephoto zoom is recommended!)
Stop to See the Golden Waterfall
On your way from Jiufen to the coast (near the Jinguashi area), there is a roadside waterfall you shouldn’t miss out on!
The Golden Waterfall (黃金瀑布 Huangjin Falls or Golden Falls) is one of the most popular waterfalls in northeast Taiwan (Shifen Falls and Lingjiao Falls are two others).
What’s particular about the Golden Waterfall near Jiufen is its rusty color.
It’s not clear if the name is due to its golden rocks or from Jiufen’s gold mining history, but either way, it’s a beautiful place to visit.
If you want to do more nature travel in Taiwan, then you should also pay a visit to Taroko Gorge near the coastal city of Hualien. There are gorgeous natural gems on the east coast, not just up north!
As you can see, there is a lot to do in Jiufen beyond the teahouses, which is why planning an overnight stay is highly recommended to enjoy the area more locally.
Now let’s put it all together into an itinerary!
The Perfect Jiufen Itinerary
How to Spend 2-3 Days in Jiufen
Day 1 in Jiufen
Whether you take the train, bus, or drive to Jiufen from Taipei, you’ll want to take it easy on your first day.
After checking into your hotel and dropping your bags, go ahead and sign up for the Jiufen Goldore Museum night tour for either that night or the next. Since tours may fill up, plan ahead.
Then, head out into town. Depending on the time of day, you can start wandering around Jiufen Old Street to get familiar with it before navigating your way to one of the teahouses. Again, either have a reservation for the teahouse ready or drop in to reserve it for the next day.
For sunset, head to the Tian Gong Temple for photos. If you’re in the teahouse for sunset, you can save the temple for another evening (and vice versa).
Day 2 in Jiufen
The first thing to do on day two in Jiufen (weather depending) is to hike up Mount Keelung for amazing views over the mountains, town, and sea.
Once back in town, head to Day Eat Teahouse & Co. for brunch. They serve Taiwanese tea, desserts, and American/European-style breakfast with sausages, eggs, and fruit—all in a cozy setting.
Today, explore the historic Shengping Theater, and the Jiufen Gold Museum, or take a day trip to the coast stopping at the Golden Waterfall along the way.
When evening falls, head back into Jiufen Old Street for street food and photography.
The entire heart of Jiufen becomes a different place at night when all the lanterns light up the buildings and houses (in particular, the Amei Teahouse).
Don’t forget to eat your weight in soup dumplings and Jiufen taro balls. 😉
Day 3 in Jiufen
Despite all efforts, sometimes activities take longer than planned. So in case you missed out on something the days before, take your last day to roam around and finish exploring the town.
If you have extra time in your itinerary and enjoy the outdoors, I’d recommend hiking the Teapot Mountain Trail and trying another tea ceremony in another teahouse, to have a different experience.