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Experience Taiwan’s Vibrant Night Markets

There’s a popular saying in Taiwan: “If you visit Taiwan and don’t go to a night market, it’s like you’ve never truly been to Taiwan.” For Taiwanese people, visiting night markets is a daily routine, which is why you’ll find numerous night markets in every city, offering a wide variety of food and shopping opportunities. Night markets typically open at 5 o’clock in the evening and close around midnight. Once you step into a night market, you’ll be mesmerized by the lively atmosphere, bustling crowds, and an incredible array of food made from diverse ingredients. In Taipei, the capital city alone, there are more than 10 night markets of varying sizes, including the renowned Shilin, Ningxia, and Raohe night markets. Among them, Shilin night market holds a special place as the most famous night market in Taiwan, with a history dating back to the early 1900s.

Ningxia and Raohe night markets are also well-known for their local delicacies and even offer massage salons. Even if you’re already full and not in the mood for eating, you can still enjoy the night market atmosphere by engaging in traditional Taiwanese board games. For foreign visitors, a visit to the nearest night market is often the first thing on their itinerary when they arrive in Taiwan. It’s like stepping into a carnival full of surprises. In fact, even world-famous celebrities like Will Smith and Hugh Jackman have explored the vibrant charm of Taiwan’s night markets.


Night Markets dates back to 19th century

According to historians, night markets in Taiwan have a history spanning over 200 years. When Han Chinese first arrived in Taiwan in the 17th century, they brought along their rich food culture. The Fujian and Guangdong people, prominent settlers during the Qing Dynasty period, started selling their delicious fare on the streets, carrying their food on poles placed on their shoulders. While physically demanding, this became their primary source of income at the time.

During the Qing Era (1644-1911), Han settlers began building temples all across Taiwan. They also cultivated the land and celebrated festivals where food and drinks were served to everyone. Whenever Taiwanese people gathered, snacks would naturally accompany the festivities. This led to the emergence of food and drink stalls around temples in Taiwan. For example, the famous tourist spot known as “Huaxi Jie” or “The Snake Alley Night Market” came into existence due to its proximity to the Longshan Temple. Another well-known night market is the “Miao Kou Night Market” in Keelung City, which can be translated as “Temple Entrance” in English. This night market also formed due to its close proximity to the Dianji Temple. Other cities in Taiwan, such as Tainan, Taichung, and Kaohsiung, are also famous for their bustling night markets. Notably, Fengjia (Feng Chia) Night Market in Taichung is described as the largest night market in Taiwan, home to an estimated 15,000 shops, restaurants, and stalls.

Night markets are not only important for tourists but also a significant source of income for over 500,000 people in Taiwan. Unfortunately, when the pandemic hit the world in 2019, Taiwan’s night markets suffered a significant downturn. In 2020, Taipei witnessed the closure of 13,606 businesses, resulting in increased unemployment in the city. However, it’s heartening to see night markets once again bustling with people from all around the world. If you’re planning a visit to Taiwan, be sure to make a list of the night market foods you want to try.  Your night market tour will be an unforgettable experience filled with tantalizing flavors and cherished memories.

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