It was revealed this week that a new poll has found that Kenting Street (墾丁大街) is officially the worst night market in Taiwan. It was evidently a hotly contested battle for the dubious distinction, with Kaohsiung’s Liuhe Night Market (六合夜市) coming a close second and Taipeis Shilin Night Market (士林夜市) completing the top three.
Several recent scandals in which stall-holders appeared to be trying to exploit gullible tourists with overpriced food have been cited as factors in the outcome of the poll. But the truth is that many of Taiwan’s most popular night markets have seen a decline in quality in recent times. Captive audiences and sky-high rents for stalls have seen many food stalls pushing up prices, while the quality of their fare has gone down.
It is quite common to visit these tourist night markets these days and see very few Taiwanese visitors there at all. These markets are no longer what they consider to be traditional night markets. So, where should people go to get a genuine and high-quality night market experience? In this article, I am going to profile my favorite night markets around Taiwan. It’s all subjective of course, so why not share your favorite night market with us on Facebook or Twitter and tell us why you think it is one of the best.
5. Feng Chia Night Market, Taichung-逢甲夜市
Feng Chia Night Market. (Wikimedia Commons image)
Feng Chai Night Market in Taichung is one of the biggest and most famous in the city. Situated close to Feng Chia University, the captive student audience ensures that prices remain mostly affordable while the quality of food is also expected to meet local expectations. It is a street market, but a sprawling one, taking over an area approximately one kilometer wide, with every street and alleyway lined with stalls and the shops behind mostly selling related goods too.
There is no shortage of food stalls at Feng Chia with every traditional night market snack imaginable available here. The large student customer base means that there are plenty of international snacks on offer too.
They also help to support a huge range of trendy clothing and accessory stalls that can be found here too. Feng Chia might be home to the biggest selection of merchandising stalls and shops of any night market in Taiwan. There is certainly very little you cannot find here. Street games are a little harder to come across, but there are a few of these stalls dotted about too.
4. Hua Yuan Night Market, Tainan - 花園夜市
Tainan Flowers Night Market. (Wikimedia Commons image)
Hua Yuan Night Market is often referred to by its translated English name, the Tainan Flower Night Market. It is located on Haian Road, Section 3, in the city’s north district and is the biggest in the city. It is a relatively new addition to Tainan’s night markets, having first opened in 1999, that has not held it back. It now claims to be the largest fully-outdoor night market in the country.
Being the biggest does not necessarily mean it is the best, but in the case of Hua Yuan, there is certainly a case to make. It opens alternate days to Dadong Night Market, so you can visit this one on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. All three nights attract big crowds. The biggest attraction at Hua Yuan is undoubtedly the food. There are an enormous number of food stalls selling every sort of food imaginable. All the Taiwanese street-food classics can be found along with some local Tainan specialties. There is also no shortage of international food stalls available too.
There are plenty of game stalls to be found too and, unlike some other night markets, prices at these seem to have been kept at a more reasonable level. There is also a big range of merchandising stalls, with more than just the usual wares for sale. At Hua Yuan you will find everything from branded clothes and the latest fashions, to accessories, stationary, and even groceries.
3. Guanghua Night Market, Kaohsiung -光華夜市
Guanghua Night Market. (Screenshot from YouTube video posted by wongvictory)
At first glance, Guanghua Night Market does not look like it has much to offer. It is not an especially big market and is located on Guanghua Road, in the Kaohsiung's Linya District, which is not closed to traffic during opening hours. That makes for a rather chaotic, and at times frankly dangerous, feel to the place.
So, why is Guanghua Night Market on the list. Primarily because it is one of the oldest and most authentic night markets in the whole country. Guanghua has been in operation for more than 60 years and began organically as a series of stalls around the old Guanghua Theatre. Over time, the market shifted to its current location, but many of the 100+ stalls have been on the market for many years and their cuisine has not altered in that time.
For a night market, prices at Guanghua are extremely affordable and the quality of the food is exceptionally good. Dishes such as dumplings, noodles, grilled sandwiches, and meat balls are popular, but there are lots more to choose from. There is not too much in the way of street games and merchandise at Guanghua, but if you want a taste of authentic street food at affordable prices, it is one of the best markets in the country.
2. Dongdamen Night Market - 東大門夜市
Dongdamen Night Market. (Photo by flickr user Yen)
Dongdamen Night Market, which is located in downtown Hualien, right next to the coast, must be one of the largest night market sites in the whole of Taiwan. It is situated on a relatively modern site, which used to be the city’s train station. Today, it is a huge bazaar and there are frequently live events and music concerts being held right next to the market, with visitors able to wander freely between the two.
As the site is a fairly modern one it has been designed with the large night market crowds in mind. This means there is no edging through crowds to get to your favorite stall at Dongdamen. It has been designed with wide alleyways meaning those who are buying can get to their chosen stalls, while those just looking around can stay in the middle. Well, that’s the idea anyway, it does not always work out that way.
Dongdamen has a massive array of food stalls to choose from, many of which offer fare unique to Taiwan’s east coast. But all the most popular night market dishes can be found too and there are a lot of street games and merchandise stalls to choose from as well. Being located in Hualien, prices are generally much more reasonable than in many of the cities in the west of the country, which helps to make Dongdamen a great night market experience.
1. Dadong Night Market, Tainan - 大東夜市
Dadong Night Market. (Photo by flickr user LH Wong)
Dadong Night Market is the second largest to be found in Taiwan’s oldest city, Tainan. It is located on Linsen Road, Section 1, near Chongde Road, in the city’s East District and is only open on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays. Friday is the night to go if you want to experience the hubbub of a big crowd as many students from the nearby National Cheng Kung University (成功大學) descend to let off steam after a long week studying.
The highlight of Dadong night market is undoubtedly the food. There is a huge range available and unlike many other large night markets, prices have remained reasonable and the quality is still, mostly, good. You will find all the night market staples here, and also some interesting local indigenous dishes which are well worth trying.
All the usual games stalls can be found at Dadong too, as well as merchandise stalls selling badly spelled t-shirts and mobile phone accessories. One unique feature which is well worth checking out is the outdoor auctioning, which is something only ever found in a handful of southern Taiwanese night markets.