One of the oldest parts of Taipei city that has a distinctive character would be the area surrounding the infamous Snake Alley area near Longshan Temple. Here in the evening the area comes to life as a giant night market littered thru its many streets and alleyways. The area was once known as the red light district where people would venture to Snake Alley to get their fix on herbal tonics made with snake to supposedly give them that extra “man” boost (if you know what I mean). Nowadays however, the place has cleaned up significantly, and while you may not see the red lights anymore, the Snake Alley name still lives on… Here is a quick tour thru Snake Alley and the surrounding areas.
1.) Bopiliao Historic Block (Bopiliao Lishi Jiequ)
We start off the tour at Lane 173 Kangding Rd just on the north east corner of the intersection of Kangding Rd and Guangzhou Street. Here you will find one of the oldest surviving areas in Taipei that provide a glimpse of its storied Japanese colonial past. This entire block of shophouses have been marked as a historic preservation site, and only until recently a large scale restoration project took place. Now the area houses museums and art galleries.
Night shot of one of the alleyways in the Bopiliao Historic Block.
Street view with the red laterns hanging in the Bopiliao Historic Block.
2.) Night Markets on Xichang Street
As you walk west on Guangzhou Street, you will hit Xichang Street. During the night this is where the night market in the entire area really begins. One of the unique things with Xichang Street is that this night market seems to carry a more subtle, less flashy, and quieter atmosphere. You kind of get the sense that only the old folks hang around this area, and its actually quite true.
The night markets on Xichang Street – much more subtle than the other night markets in the area.
3.) Night Markets on Guangzhou Street
As you continue west on Guangzhou Street, and pass the Longshan Temple, and pass Xiyuan Road Sec 1, here you hit the more busier night market located all along the remaining portion of Guangzhou Street. As with all other Taipei night markets, its packed with stalls selling food! So its worth sampling a bite or two here…
The buzzing atmosphere of the night markets on Guangzhou Street.
Vendor selling dried cuttlefish.
Shops and food on the street…co-existing together in perfect harmony!
4.) Snake Alley (Hwahsi Night Market)
As you walk thru the Guangzhou Street Night Market, you will see a huge Chinese styled roof gateway. This marks the entrance to the infamous Snake Alley (also known as Hwahsi Night Market) that runs the length of Huaxi Street. As mentioned before, it has cleaned up significantly, and has been facelifted to become a tourist attraction. That being said, you will still see many restaurants and herbal shops here that sell snake tonics and other snake by-product dishes! Dare to try?
Entrance to Snake Alley.
Inside Snake Alley.
At the very end of Huaxi Street, which is the end of Snake Alley. Here, things kind of dimmer down as you enter a very old looking residential area.
5.) Qingshan Temple
As you reach the end of Snake Alley, and turn right onto Guiyang Street Sec 2, you will reach a very quiet residential area. The area is kind of interesting as it really feels you were brought back into time during the colonial era. Here you will see some very olden buildings slowly fading away as time goes by. However one landmark that still is thriving is the Qingshan Temple, which is build in the mid-1800’s, with its temple nicely preserved. However, I was too late when I arrived, and by then the temple was closed for the night. So if you do plan on entering the temple to check it out, do come earlier before 5pm!
The quiet streets on Guiyang Street.
One of the many old historical looking buildings just fading away in time.
6.) Qingshui Temple
As you walk towards the very end of Guiyang Street, Sec 2, you will see Qingshui Temple. Built in the late 1700’s this is another great temple from Taiwan’s storied past that is nicely preserved. Similarily with Qingshan Temple, you will need to reach there before 5pm if you want to stroll around inside the temple’s compound. I definitely got there too late, and all I got was a pic of the front door.
So this is it my quick guide around Snake Alley and its surrounding areas. It is a great place to check out at night to see what old Taipei felt like and to grab some late night snacks. As mentioned above, if you want to visit Qingshan and Qingshui Temples, then its best to come before 5pm. Hope you found this helpful!
Visitor’s Information to Snake Alley and Surrounding Areas:
Nearest MRT station: Longshan Temple MRT
Location map of Snake Alley and surrounding area:
1.) Bopiliao Historic Block
2.) Night Market on Xichang Street
3.) Night Market on Guangzhou Street
4.) Snake Alley
5.) Qingshan Temple
6.) Qingshui Temple
What other historical neighborhoods you visited in the world? Please share your experiences below in the comments! Cheers!