A Travel Guide to Hsinchu, Taiwan’s Silicon Valley

A guide to visiting Hsinchu in Taiwan

Hsinchu (新竹 xinzhu) is one of the more off-the-beaten-track places to visit in Taiwan. It consists of Hsinchu City and the separate Hsinchu county, both which I’ll cover below.

At most, some travelers make a day trip to Hsinchu county for visiting family-friendly attractions like Leofoo Village or Green World Ecological Farm. People are more likely to know Hsinchu for Hsinchu Science Park, a collection if 400+ high-tech companies based in the “Silicon Valley of Taiwan”.

But there is much more to Hsinchu than tech companies if you’re willing to put in the time. It has remote mountains to explore, aboriginal and Hakka communities, excellent hot springs in Jianshi, and the fun Neiwan small train to Neiwan Old Street.

In this article, I’ll cover Hsinchu’s popular and lesser-known sights, how to get to them, the best travel deals, and some famous local food specialties.

Hsinchu Introduction

Nick Kembel crouching among a group of meerkat statues on a staircase in Leofoo Village
Me and my army of meerkats at Leofoo Village in Hsinchu

Hsinchu is located in northwestern Taiwan, between Taoyuan City to the north and Miaoli county to the south.

Originally an aboriginal settlement, Han settlers founded Hsinchu city as “Tek-kham” in 1711 and renamed it Hsinchu (literally “new bamboo”) in 1878, referring to a bamboo wall protecting the city. There are still aboriginal settlements in the hills of Hsinchu county. Hsinchu is also known for its Hakka communities, especially Beipu, Guanxi, and Neiwan.

In 1979, Leofoo Village was opened in Hsinchu and remains Taiwan’s oldest and most famous theme park. A year later, the Taiwanese government established Hsinchu Science Park, mainly for semiconductor manufacturing. Besides high tech, the city is also known for its glass industry.

Today, Hsinchu City is separate from Hsinchu County. The county has its own seat (capital), Zhubei city. However, just like Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung, Hsinchu city and county will likely be merged into one entity in the future.

Zhubei (竹北, also spelled Jhubei) literally means “Hsinchu north”. There’s also a Zhudong (Hsinchu east) and Zhunan (Hsinchu south, but that one’s in Miaoli county). In the same way, there’s also a Taiwan north, center, south, and east (Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Taitung).

Getting to Hsinchu

A train driving past a rice field, with traditional locomotive car at the front and colorful trains cars behind
The Neiwan Small Train Line

Where you want to go in Hsinchu will affect how you plan to get there.

Leofoo Village is best reached by bus from Taipei (the bus is included in this Leofoo Village ticket deal), while Green World can be accessed by bus or HSR/train + bus – here are the directions.

Hsinchu city is on the regular (TRA) train line, taking 60 to 105 minutes to reach from Taipei. If you want to ride the Neiwan Small Train Line to Neiwan Old Street, you’ll need to go to Hsinchu city first and board the small train line there. It’s part of the TRA system, so you can search the times for Hsinchu to Neiwan on the TRA site. There are seven trains daily. Find out how to buy TRA tickets here.

Hsinchu’s High Speed Rail (HSR) station is actually located in Zhubei, the seat of the Hsinchu county. The ride from Taipei only takes 35 minutes. Check how close the HSR station is to where you want to go in Hsinchu city or county to decide if it’s worth the extra cost. Get discounted HSR tickets here and read my guide to the HSR train system.

Zhubei also has a station on the regular train line, in the Zhubei city center, while the HSR station is in the city’s east.

Where to Stay in Hsinchu

Hotel rooms overlooking an animal enclosure with a live giraffe in it
Leofoo Guanshi Resort

Leoofoo Village theme park has a fun but pricey hotel, Leofoo Resort Guanshi (see on Booking / Agoda) on site. The hotel balconies overlook an enclosure with giraffes, rhinos, flamingos, and other animals. When I visited, I even got to pet a lemur, which run free in the hotel area.

While Green World doesn’t have a hotel inside, you can stay in B&B nearby such as this one.

Looking down on some hot spring pools
One of several hot spring resorts in Jianshi

For a hot spring getaway, there are some great hot spring resorts in Jianshi township near Neiwan Old Street. We loved our stay at Hui-Lai Resort (see on Booking / Agoda), which has lovely hot spring pools beside a river and a kids water play area (summer only).

If you want to stay in Hsinchu City, Huatai (see on Booking / Agoda) is a decent budget option near the train station, while the Ambassador is finer accommodation.

Visitors doing business in Hsinchu Science Park are often put up in the Sheraton Hsinchu (see on Booking / Agoda) in Zhubei.

Top Things to Do in Hsinchu

I’ll separate the below into attractions in Hsinchu City, Zhubei City, and Hsinchu county.

Hsinchu City

A long row of traditional food stalls with a temple roof rising up behind them
Hsinchu’s most famous temple is buried in a food market.

Hsinchu’s city center rarely makes it onto travelers’ Taiwan itineraries. If you do find yourself there, there are a handful of things worth visiting.

Chief among them is Hsinchu City God Temple (新竹都城隍廟), the most important City God (cheng huang) temple in Taiwan. It may not strike you as super different than most other temples in Taiwan, but once a year (13th to 15th days of the Seventh Lunar Month), it hosts one of Taiwan’s most boisterous celebrations (see “Hsinchu events” section at the end).

Many traditional food stalls, Hsinchu Central Market (新竹中央市場), and Chenghuang Temple Night Market (新竹市城隍廟夜市) are all around the temple.

A traditional arched gate with Chinese style roof in a traffic circle in Hsinchu
Hsinchu’s East Gate

Hsinchu East Gate (竹塹城迎曦門 or yingximen) is an original arched gate dating to 1826, now in the middle of traffic circle.

Nearby, Hsinchu City Hall (新竹市政府) is a lovely brick building dating to the Japanese colonial period. Near the East Gate, you can still see films in a hertiage, 1933 theater called OR Lightbox (新竹市影像博物館).

Hsinchu has a couple cat cafés, like Three Cats (三隻貓) and Cat Island (貓嶼).

On the other side of the train station, you’ll also find Hsinchu Zoo (新竹市立動物園), Taiwan Insect Museum Hsinchu (台灣昆蟲館 – 新竹館), Hsinchu Glass Museum (新竹市玻璃工藝博物館), Hsinchu Confucius Temple (新竹孔廟), and a weekend Flower Market (新竹假日花市).

Courtyard and main hall of a Confucius Temple in Hsinchu
Hsinchu Confucius Temple

In the south of the city, Green Grass Lake (青草湖) is a spot for a casual stroll.

On the coast, there’s a seafood market, kite-flying area, and lovely boardwalks at Nanliao Fishing Harbor (新竹南寮漁港).

There’s another boardwalk and wetlands at Xiangshan Boardwalk (賞蟹步道) – reminiscent of but less famous than Gaomei Wetlands in Taichung.

Zhubei City

“Tofu Rocks” on the river between Hsinchu City and Zhubei

Zhubei, the seat of Hsinchu county, has a center filled with residential skyrises. The city grew rapidly in connection with Hsinchu Science Park.

I don’t recommend going out of your way to visit Zhubei. But if you do find yourself there, perhaps on a business trip to Hsinchu Science Park, you can explore some old Hakka houses at New Tile House Hakka Cultural District (新瓦屋客家文化保存區) or see the Tofu/Chessboard Rocks (豆腐岩) and go cycling along the Touqian River.

Hsinchu County

Hsinchu’s most appealing attractions are in the county, not the city.

Two kids going down a water ride with giant dinosaur at Leofoo Village Amusement Park
Leofoo Village

Leofoo Village (六福村) is Hsinchu’s most famous attraction. This is Taiwan’s original and most famous theme park. It combines animal safari, amusement park (with four huge themed areas), and waterpark.

Leofoo Village is most commonly done as a day trip from Taipei. Deals like this will save you money. Guanxi Old Street nearby is popular among locals.

Little Ding Dong (小叮噹科學主題樂園生活大師會館) is another amusement park in Hsinchu county with a science theme. Despite the concerning name (Ding Dang is actually the Chinese name for Doraemon, but you won’t see him there), it’s fun for kids.

And, uniquely in Taiwan, you can try indoor skiing or tobogganing there. Buy your tickets here.

Two colorful macaws standing on a branch
See macaws at alpacas at GreenWorld Ecological Farm

Green World Ecological Farm (綠世界生態農場) is more focused on animals, with macaws, alpacas, butterflies, animal shows, petting zoo, tropical plants, and more. It’s essentially a zoo but with more a natural setting, more space, more activities, and better food.

Riding the Neiwan Small Train Line from Hsinchu city to Neiwan is one of the top things to do in Hsinchu.

Crowds of Taiwanese people walking on Neiwan Old Street, with small shops and vendors lining either side
Neiwan Old Street

Neiwan Old Street is one of the best in Taiwan. What is an Old Street, you might ask? It’s essentially a daytime market running along a street with lovely heritage buildings, often nicely restored.

Neiwan is a Hakka community and former mining village. Neiwan Old Street is one of the best places in Taiwan to try traditional Hakka pounded tea (擂茶 or leicha). See the “What to Eat in Hsinchu” section at the end for more info about this and other food specialties on the street.

There’s also a beautiful suspension bridge beside Neiwan Old Street and some children’s games like small cars to drive, robot rides, excavator diggers, and so on.

Nick Kembel with blue hair holding his young son in a hot spring in Jianshi, Hsinchu
My son and I in a hot spring in Jianshi township

A short drive from Neiwan, the primarily aboriginal township of Jianshi (尖石鄉) has the county’s best collection of hot spring resorts.

We love this area and have enjoyed soaks at Huilai (會來尖石溫泉渡假村), Tianran (天然谷溫泉會館), Zhaori (新竹朝日溫泉民宿), and Jingping (錦屏美人湯館). You’ll need a car, or you may be able to request pick-up in Neiwan from some of the resorts.

If you like camping, there are also some excellent, remote campgrounds such as this one in Jianshi. When we went, we saw cherry blossoms, sea of clouds, fireflies, and there’s even a small pool for kids.

The only catch is that it’s hard to get there. Search “campground” (露營區) in the area on GoogleMaps for several more options.

A cherry blossom tree with mountainous view behind it
Cherry blossoms at a campground in Jianshi

Also in Neiwan area, Lavender Forest Jianshi Store (薰衣草森林新竹尖石店) is the Hsinchu branch of the famous Lavender Cottage in Taichung. Come in January or February to see the lavender at peak blooming.

Buy your tickets here for a discount, but you’ll need to find a way there from Neiwan – there are no taxis in the area.

Every October to January, this persimmon farm (衛佳柿餅教育農園) in Hsinchu becomes a hot spot for photographers. You can see highly photogenic racks of the orange fruits drying in the sun. Expect big crowds, especially on weekends. It’s a 15-minute drive from Hsinchu HSR station.

Looking up at racks of orange persimmons drying in the sun in a traditional house courtyard
Famous persimmon farm in Hsinchu

Beipu Old Street (北埔老街) is another popular Old Street in a Hakka community. Locals flock there on weekends. A 10-minute drive south of Beipu town, Beipu Cold Spring (北埔冷泉), essentially a human-made waterfall on a creek, is another magnet for locals, especially in summer.

Further down in Emei township, there’s a ginormous bronze Maitreya statue at Nature Loving Wonderland (大自然文化世界) on Dapu Reservoir. It’s best to drive to Beipu and Emei from Zhudong.

A giant bronze Buddha statue in front of a temple at Emei in Hsinchu
Giant Buddha at Emei

You can then continue on to Lion’s Head Mountain (獅頭山 or shitoushan), famous for its hiking trails and the chance to sleep in a temple. The mountain park is shared by Hsinchu and Miaoli – I cover it in more detail in my Miaoli article.

For another amazing drive, hire a scooter in Zhudong and ride up to Qingquan (清泉部落), a remote aboriginal community in the mountains with a waterfall, suspension bridge, hot spring, and campgrounds. It’s a beautiful journey.

Best Hsinchu Tours & Deals

A boy bending down and petting a lemur on a balcony
Tame lemurs at Leofoo Resort Guanshi

Here’s a private tour of Hsinchu focusing on Hakka culture, or you can hire a private driver and make your own itinerary.

Get your tickets for Leofoo Village (including transportation from Taipei), Green World Ecological Park, Lavender Cottage, or Little Ding Dong theme park online to save money.

How to Plan Your Hsinchu Itinerary

Nick Kembel holding his son with a traditional Taiwanese lion behind them during Lunar New Year festivities
My son and I on Neiwan Old Street during Lunar New Year

For most visitors to Hsinchu, they will just come in on a day trip from Taipei or spend part of their day there on the way to somewhere further south, like Miaoli or Taichung. This is what most people do for Leofoo Village, Green World Ecological Park, Neiwan, and so on.

If you are especially interested in visiting many sights in Hsinchu, you could consider to make Hsinchu city or Zhubei your base. But be prepared for some slow bus rides and long distances between attractions. Depending on which sights you want to visit, hiring a driver may be a good idea.

If you’re able to rent a scooter (IDP or local scooter license required), then I recommend hiring one in Hsinchu City or Zhudong, then riding through Beipu and Emei to Lion’s Head Mountain. This could be done as a day trip, or you can spend the night at Shitoushan Quanhua Temple then come back the next day, or continue with more exploring in Miaoli.

What to Eat in Hsinchu

An indoor food market with a food vendor on the right
Indoor food market connected to Hsinchu City God Temple

In Hsinchu city, the market around Hsinchu City God Temple has tons of traditional street foods.

In the daytime, it is a bustling indoor food market, while at night it transforms into Chenghuang Temple Night Market. (Read about other night markets in Taiwan here!)

A close up of a half eaten fried ball of taro held by someone's fingers
Delicious deep fried taro balls

In this market, I highly recommend the deep fried mashed taro balls at 林家芋泥球. You can find this small stall (afternoon and evenings only) on the outside row of shops facing the City God Temple Plaza. They are one of the few vegetarian options in the night market – here’s how to find vegetarian and vegan food in Taiwan.

I also recommend trying a bowl of “thick thick soup” (稠稠的羹, pronounced “gege gee” in the Taiwanese language). This is a Hsinchu-only specialty of thick soup with squid, crispy pork, celery, and cabbage, with a hint of sweetness. Find it at this famous stall or similar versions at others.

Close up of a small bowl of soup with pork, squid, and small celery garnish
Hsinchu thick soup
About a dozen bawan (Taiwanese meatballs), some with red swirls on the them, sitting in a metal vat of oil
Bawan in Hsinchu City God Night Market

Bawan (肉圓), a Changhua specialty, are also common in Hsinchu and sold at many stalls in the City God day/night market.

There’s a branch of Din Tai Fung, Taiwan’s most famous restaurant, here in the Hsinchu city center.

On the coast, Nanliao Fishing Harbor (南寮漁港) is the place to go for fresh seafood.

Several stacked metal trays of Hakka brown sugar cake
Hakka brown sugar cake in Neiwan

In Neiwan, expect to find lots of local Hakka delicacies, especially dried tofu (豆乾 or dougan), brown sugar cake (黑糖糕 or heitanggao), rice dumplings (粽子 or zongzi), and mochi (麻糬).

Neiwan is also the best place in Taiwan to try Hakka pounded tea (擂茶 or leicha). This is made by pounding tealeaves with nuts, grains, and herbs then adding water. It is served hot or cold, often with puffed rice on top and mochi on the side.

Two hands of an elderly person using chopsticks to dip some mochi balls in peanut powder and a pitcher of Hakka pouned tea with rice puffs on the top
Traditional Hakka pounded tea at 阿珠客家擂茶 in Neiwan

We loved the Hakka pounded tea at this shop in Neiwan, and you can even pound your own for a DIY experience.

At Guanxi Old Street or Beipu Old Street, you can find more Hakka specialties like brown sugar cake, dried persimmons, and Hakka wide rice noodles (半條 or bantiao).

Close up from above of a dish of wide rice noodles, or Hakka bantiao noodles
Hakka bantiao noodles

Hsinchu Events

A group of Taiwanese aboriginals dancing in a big circle with red attire and a bonfire in the foreground
All-night aboriginal dance of the Saisiyat tribe in Hsinchu

The Hsinchu City God Temple puts on one of Taiwan’s loudest traditional festivals, the Hsinchu City God Parade (中元城隍祭) on the 13th to 15th days of the 7th lunar month, which usually falls around August. As a part of the Ghost Festival, the gates to the underworld are opened and the City God does an inspection of the city.

Leofoo’s water park is open from mid-June to the end of September – grab your chance to cool off!

Once every two years (2022, 2024, 2026, etc) in November, the Saisiyat Aboriginal Tribe (賽夏族) of Hsinchu and Miaoli put on their “Festival of the Short People” (Pasta’ay or 矮靈祭) in their sacred space in Wufeng township of Hsinchu or in Miaoli.

I was lucky enough to attend this all-night dancing fest several years ago and will never forget it. Consult this group run by some knowledgeable expats if you’re interested in attending.

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