Should You Visit Huaxi Night Market, Taipei’s Sketchiest Market?

Traditional looking entrance to a shopping arcade in Huaxi Night Market, Taipei

There’s no doubt that Huaxi Street Night Market (華西街夜市) is the black sheep among Taipei night markets. Once known as Snake Alley, the market used to attract masses of tourists who came to watch live snakes being skinned there for their meat, blood, and bile.

Meanwhile, a red light district for local elderly is right next door, so it’s not uncommon to see prostitutes in the market.

I’ve visited Huaxi Night Market multiple over the last 15 years. Despite having three Michelin-recommended food stalls and proximity to famous Longshan Temple, I don’t think it compares to Taipei’s other major night markets (like Raohe, Ningxia, Shilin, Tonghua, or Nanjichang) when it comes to food. It is especially lacking in new, innovative, or vegetarian items (see my recommended night markets for vegetarians).

But I do still think it’s worth visiting to get a feel for the Taipei of times past and to taste some classic Taiwanese dishes. That’s why I still include it on my list of the best night markets in Taiwan.

In this article, I’ll introduce Huaxi and three other night markets connected to it. I’ll prepare you for what you may or may not see there and recommend a few of the most famous (and my personal favorite) food stalls. Then you can decide for yourself if it’s worth your time!

Huaxi Street Night Market Introduction

Two travels and some locals walking through covered Huaxi Night Market
Visitors in Huaxi Street Night Market

Huaxi Night Market is a covered night market stretching three blocks from south to north. It is the most famous night market in Wanhua District (萬華區, also called Bangka, Monga, Mengjia, or Mengxia district).

This is the oldest district in the city, the original walled Old City of Taipei. The district also home to the famous Ximending shopping district, which is about 20 minutes away on foot.

The southern entrance to Huaxi Street Night Market, found here, is just a few minutes’ walk from Longshan Temple, the most famous and important temple in the city.

Two women in red dresses shot from behind while walking through a covered night market
Night workers in Huaxi Night Market

From around the 1970s to 1990s, Huaxi Night Market was essentially a red light district. Food stalls were added to feed to the workers and their customers. To add to the market’s allure, vendors started skinning snakes live for spectators. At the time, this was considered an essential experience for many tourists visiting Taiwan.

Today, the red light district is still there, directly south of the Huaxi and Guangzhou night markets. It mainly consists of massage, hostess, and karaoke bars whose main clients are local elderly men. The workers themselves are mostly approaching senior ages as well (it only takes a quick stroll though to see what I mean).

This spills over a little into Huaxi night market, giving it a bit of a sketchy vibe. Still, it is totally safe to visit and you won’t see anything too wild.

A DVD store in Huaxi Night Market
Believe it or not, CD and DVD shops still exist in Huaxi Night Market

As for the snakes, with few Chinese tourists nowadays there is less demand for it. Society has also changed and few people want to see that anymore, including most younger Taiwanese.

The government also banned the snake killing performances in the 2000s. However, despite news that the snake shops were closing for good in 2018, I still saw two shops in Huaxi selling snake meat and liquor with blood or vile on my most recent visit (2023).

While I don’t recommend visiting them, I’ll still introduce their locations below.

A glass jar of clear alcohol with a real snake inside of it
Snake wine in Huaxi Night Market (shot in late 2023)

Overall, I find that Huaxi Night Market has very traditional, old-time Taiwan vibes and elderly Taiwanese are the most common patrons here. It feels like an ageing or dying night market, and there are more nail salons, elderly person’s clothing shops, and massage parlors than food stalls.

The connected Guangzhou Night Market, which you’ll have to walk through to get to Huaxi Night Market, is probably the most similar to other Taipei night markets. But even that one just doesn’t have enough outstanding foods for me to call it of the city’s best.

The Four Night Markets around Huaxi

A map of Huaxi Night Market and other night markets around it
Map showing the locations on the four night markets around Huaxi

While Huaxi Street Night Market is the most famous one, there are actually four connected night markets in the area.

  1. Guangzhou Street Night Market (廣州街觀光夜市, also called Bangka or Meng Xia Night Market 艋舺夜市): This night market runs east to west, from the southwest corner of Longshan Temple here for a few blocks to the west, ending here. You’ll actually walk down this night market to find the start of Huaxi Night Market.
  2. Huaxi Night Market (華西街觀光夜市): The most famous one, running south to north. You can easily find the start of it in the middle of Guangzhou Night Market due to its iconic entrance gate here at the southern end and more like it at the northern end.
  3. Wuzhou Street Night Market (梧州街觀光夜市): This one also starts on Guangzhou Street Night Market, at the western end of it. It also runs a few blocks south to north, parallel to Huaxi Street Night Market, but one block west of it.
  4. Xichang Street Night Market (西昌街觀光夜市): The last one is not quite connected to the others but very close. It starts just to the east of Longshan Temple, at Herb Alley (青草巷) and runs a few blocks to the north.
An old bicycle food stall cart in a night market
You’ll need to walk down Guangzhou Street Night Market to get to Huaxi
Lit up night market stalls and big red lantern
Wuzhou Street Night Market is parallel to Huaxi and one block over

My Recommended Walking Tour

Here I’m going to recommend a walking route that will take in all four of these night markets. I’ll recommend the most famous food stalls (including all three Michelin ones) and some dishes that I personally enjoyed at each night market.

A row of fortune teller kiosks in an underground mall
Fortune Tellers under Longshan Temple

When you arrive at Longshan Temple MRT, follow the signs to Longshan Temple Underground Street (龍山寺地下街商場).

There you can rows of fortune teller kiosks and you can try traditional Taiwanese tea at LiuYu Teahouse (柳隅茶舍).

A traditional teahouse in Taipei with no one in it
Traditional teahouse below Longshan Temple

Take the escalator up to the street and you’ll find yourself in Bangka Park, where elderly local men play Chinese checkers.

If you’re there early enough, check out the late afternoon (3:45 to 5 PM) chanting ceremony in Longshan Temple. I recommend catching the tail end of this, as the night markets will be just starting to open around 5 PM.

Note that this ceremony also takes place twice every morning (6 to 6:45 and 8 to 8:45 AM), so it’s also a great place to begin a day of sightseeing in Taipei. You can also pray for future love at Longshan Temple – find out exactly how to do this here.

A row of elderly women wearing black robes, kneeling down in front of a Buddhist-Taoist temple shrine, shot from behind
Chanting ceremony at Longshan Temple

Just to the east of Longshan Temple, walk though Herb Lane (location here) to see the various Chinese herbs and medicines on display. Taste a cup of unique herbal tea, iced or hot, at this shop.

A row of shops with all kinds of Chinese herbs on display
Herb Alley between Longshan Temple and Xichang Street Night Market

Herb Lane connects to Xichang Street Night Market. This night market is not like most in Taipei – it’s more focused on fruit, clothing, and needy persons selling various items and trinkets from sheets laid out on the ground.

This is not really common for night markets in Taipei and almost feels like you’ve stepped into the past or perhaps somewhere in Southeast Asia.

A night market vendor cuts big watermelon slices
Watermelon vendor in Xichang Street Night Market

It’s interesting to take a quick look at this night market, but you’ll most likley be saving your stomach space for later. The only “famous” food vendor here is Chengji Original Pork Ribs Soup (誠記原汁排骨湯), which is here on the right side just a few steps in front the entrance. The shop is open 24 hours (find other 24-hour restaurants in Taipei here).

After visiting Herb Lane and Xichang Night Market, walk back past the entrance of Longshan Temple and then further west to find the start of Guangzhou Street (Meng Xia) Night Market here.

A sign that says 艋舺夜市 and a busy night market street below it
Entrance to Mengxia Night Market

In the first block of Guangzhou Street Night Market, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a typical Taiwanese night market, with food stalls on either side of the road.

On the right, Si Fang A Jiu Braised Pork Rice Wanhua (四方阿九魯肉飯 萬華店) is a very popular restaurant among locals, selling braised pork rice (滷肉飯 or luroufan), bento boxes, and rib soup.

You can’t miss the entrance to Huaxi Street Night Market when you get to it. Hang a right and dive right in.

A large traditional entrance gate that says Huaxi Street Tourist Night Market on it
The entrance gate to Huaxi Street Night Market

You’ll only have to walk a few steps in to see the first snake meat shop on the left, Jindai Medicinal Foods Shop (金代山產藥膳坊). You can’t unsee or not feel sorry for the large snake that’s usually on display in a cage at the front.

A shop selling snake meat in Snake Alley (Huaxi), with a snake in a cage at the front
Note the snake on display at the front

Just one minute further, the second snake meat shop is on the right, called Asian Turtle Snake Shop (亞洲鱉蛇專賣店).

While I don’t recommend patronizing either of these shops, if you do decide to, their most popular items are snake soup and shots of traditional liquor mixed with snake blood, bile, and venom.

A shop front with a turtle on the sign
Another snake meat shop (note the English mistake on the sign – “Sanke Soup”)

For something more wholesome, I recommend stopping for a traditional dessert at Beigang Sweet Soup (北港甜湯), just a little further down on the right. The shops is run by an elderly couple and has been going for over 55 years.

I really enjoyed my bowl of taro congee (芋頭粥), which came with big chunks of taro and longan. I went for cold (冰的), and it came ice cold, but in winter you can opt for a hot version of all their sweet soups.

They also have red bean soup (紅豆湯), pudding toufu dessert (布丁豆花), and grilled mochi (烤麻糬).

Close up of a metal bowl of dessert congee with taro and longan and a metal spoon in it
Refreshing chilled taro congee with longan

Next up, watch for Tainan Tan Tsu Mien Seafood (華西街台南擔仔麵海鮮餐廳, with a location on the left then another here on the right – the sign says T.T.T.M Seafood).

I don’t necessarily recommend dining here, but I mention it because this is a classic old-timey institution where locals once went to enjoy a fancy Tainan-style seafood feast, complete with white tablecloths.

Take a peek inside either branch to get a feel for what many Taiwanese who grew up going to Huaxi would now consider nostalgic.

A glass street food vendor full of rows of different fruits
Fresh fruit juice stall

At the end of the first block of Huaxi Street, there’s a popular fruit juice stall on the right.

Cross the street into the second covered street of Huaxi Night Market. Hokkaido Fresh Squid (北海道新鮮魷魚) will greet you on the right. Try their whole grilled squid served with garlic chili paste and wasabi if that tickles your fancy.

A few more stalls on the street include pigs feet stewed in Chinese herbs here and black pepper buns here.

A traditional looking food stall with red lantern and sign that says 小王煮瓜
Wang’s Broth, the most famous stall in Huaxi Night Market

But the real reason to walk this far down Huaxi Street Night Market, for most people, is to reach Wang’s Broth (小王煮瓜), the most famous food stall in all of Huaxi Night Market.

Wang’s Broth was catapulted to fame after it obtained Michelin Bib Gourmand status and has stayed there ever since the Taipei guide was first released in 2019.

The stall’s most famous dish is steamed minced pork with pickles in broth (清湯瓜仔肉). Their braised pork rice (滷肉飯) and stewed pork (焢肉) are also popular. See this article to find out what makes their dishes special.

There’s even now a branch of Wang’s Broth at Taoyuan International Airport (T2 departures area), but it just isn’t the same as the original stall here in Huaxi Night Market.

A hand holding a guabao in front of the shop sign for Yuan Fang Guaobao in Huaxi Night Market
Yuan Fang Guabao (“源芳刈包掛包” by Johnson Wang is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Just after Wang’s Broth and also on the right is a second food stall that has been recognized by Michelin, this time in 2020: Yuan Fang Gua Bao (源芳刈包).

The stall does classic guabao or “Taiwanese hamburgers”, which consist of a fatty slab of pork belly in a steamed bun with peanut powder and cilantro. They’ve also got four types of traditional soup with offal.

At the street end, again on the right, is a third Michelin-recommended stall, Chang Hung Noodles (昶鴻麵點). It does surprisingly simple noodles in a light and meaty broth, with the option to add a braised egg (always say yes to the egg).

A covered area of Huaxi Street Night Market with no people in it
Massage parlor at the tail end of Huaxi Night Market on a slow night

At his point, the covered night market ends, but there are more food stalls on the next block. I didn’t find anything worth noting, though, so you can turn back from here.

Once you reach the start of Huaxi Night Market, continue venturing west down Guangzhou Night Market. You may be tempted by the tasty-looking wheel cakes served here.

A man is flipping some wheel-shaped cakes on a night market stall grill
Wheel cakes at 丸田飛碟燒

On the right side just before the next block, I recommend taking a seat at Liang Xi Hao (兩喜號).

This small restaurant has a large menu, but I especially recommend their thick cuttlefish stew (花枝羹), which comes with bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, and big chunks of cuttlefish, as well as their deep fried burdock tempura (炸牛蒡天婦羅), both pictured below.

Liang Xi Hao has a second location closer to Longshan Temple, just across the street from Bangka Park here and both are open all day.

A plate of tempura and a thick soup on a table in a restaurant
Fried burdock tempura and cuttlefish stew

At the intersection of Guangzhou and Wuzhou streets, I also really liked Donggang Marlin Sticks (東港旗魚串). For only TWD 30, you can two sticks of deep fried marlin fish cake.

You get to add the sauce and wasabi yourself before eating. The stall is in the middle of the street.

A hand holding up a deep fried fish cake with bowls of sauce and wasabi below
Choose your own sauce for these marlin (fish) sticks

On the left side next to the above, there’s also a popular fish cake (甜不辣 or tianbula) vendor called Dingtop Tempura (頂級甜不辣).

Between the three dishes I’ve just recommended (burdock tempura, marlin fish cakes, and tianbula), just go for one of them, as they are all quite similar. There’s no need to try all three, unless you just really love fish cakes.

A food stall with steam and yellow sign
Dingtop Tempura

If you’re ready for dessert at this point and want something light and refreshing, go for aiyu jelly (a lemony jelly made from seeds of a fig tree) at Miss Iced Aiyu (懷念愛玉冰) at the southwest corner of the intersection.

A female street food vendor with a big tub of aiyu jelly
Aiyu is always a refreshing dessert

If you’ve still got energy and stomach space, venture from this intersection north into Wuzhou Street Night Market.

To be honest not much jumped out at me in this night market, but you can still take a look to see if anything catches your eye.

A row of food vendor in a night market in Taipei
The start of Wuzhou Street Night Market

This market its mainly known for its quick fry (快炒) style restaurants. These are local eateries common throughout Taiwan where you choose from a variety of seafoods and vegetables on display and they will fry them up for you – ideal to visit with a group of friends.

I’ve actually come to this night market with my friends specifically for these restaurants. It’s fun to sit at the small tables on the street for hours, drinking beer and slowly ordering seafood dishes to share.

But if you are night market hopping, it’s unlikely you’ll be sitting down for a full meal at this point.

Yellow menu board with lots of seafoods on display at a night market stall
Seafood options at a quick fry restaurant

This night market also has a Tainan-style eel noodles stall, which is rare to find in Taipei. Read more about this dish in my guide to Tainan’s night markets.

Zhou-Style Roasted Mochi (周式燒麻糬) at the end of the street is also said to be one of the best in the area for traditional mochi. One of my Facebook group members said her family always goes back to it for nostalgic purposes.

A big round metal vat with rounds balls of mochi boiling in water
This mochi stall marks the end of the night market.

Now that your Huaxi Street night market tour is finished, I recommend walking back to Longshan Temple again.

The temple looks totally different and has a very peaceful atmosphere at night. Get there before they close the gates at 9:45 PM.

The front of Longshan Temple lit up at night
Longshan Temple looks extra inspiring at night

Leave a Comment