A Travel Guide to Keelung, Taiwan’s Northern Port City

Aerial view of Keelung, with Keelung Port and Keelung Islet in the background

Keelung (基隆 or Jilong) is a port city on the northeast coast of Taiwan. It is a popular cruise ship terminal, and many Taipei-bound goods enter Taiwan here.

Only 45 minutes from Taipei City by train, Keelung is within easy day-tripping distance and considered part of the Greater Taipei Region.

Keelung’s biggest claim to fame is Keelung Night Market, one of the best night markets in Taiwan, but there are enough worthwhile sights in Keelung to consider spending a whole day or night there.

In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know for visiting Keelung, including its top sights, how to get there, where to stay, what to eat, best tours, and more. If you prefer a listicle format with even more details for each attraction, see my guide to the best things to do in Keelung.

Keelung City Introduction

Stacks of shipping containers with crane and Keelung Port in the background
Keelung Port

Keelung was originally inhabited by the Ketagalan Taiwanese aboriginal tribe – you can learn about them at the Ketagalan Cultural Center in Beitou, Taipei City.

Why is the English name Keelung so different than the Mandarin pronunciation of the city, Jilong? Well, it’s complicated. In a nutshell, “Keelung” may have come from “Ketagalan”. Locals later called it “Kelang”, which means “chicken coop” in the Taiwanese language, after the shape of a local mountain.

In Chinese, that’s 雞籠 or “Jilong”. But the characters were later changed to 基隆, which sound the name but don’t mean chicken coop – they mean “prosperous land”.

Cement gun placement on a hill, with the ocean on the left and Keelung port on the right
Baimiweng Fort

Both the Spanish and Dutch built forts on the coast of Keelung, notably Ershawan Fort and Baimiweng Fort, which can still be seen there today. Keelung today is also known for several ruins of modern cement structures, like Agenna Shipyard Relics.

The Japanese quickly developed Keelung’s port. Today, it is the third largest port in Taiwan, after Kaohsiung Port and Taichung Port. The Japanese upgraded Keelung to a city of its own, separate from Taipei, in 1924.

Crowds of people blurred inside Keelung Night Market at night, with rows of yellow lanterns above
Keelung Night Market

Keelung Night Market first developed around the end of the Japanese period (1945). Many visitors today claim it is the best night market in Taiwan – it’s actually my personal favorite!

Although Keelung remains a city of its own, with a population of 360,000, it is considered part of the “Taipei–New Taipei City–Keelung Metropolitan Area”. Collectively, this is the largest population center in Taiwan.

It rains so much in Keelung that the city has been dubbed the “Rainy City” or “Rainy Harbor” (雨港), a play on words because it sounds similar to 漁港 or “fish harbor”.

Getting to Keelung

A large egg-shaped light installation in front of Keelung Train Station at night
Keelung Station

Local trains run from Taipei Main Station to Keelung in 45 minutes. Because these trains are local type, there are no seat numbers and you can’t book them. Just swipe your EasyCard (order here) or buy a ticket at the station before boarding. Find more info about which trains in Taiwan require tickets here.

There are also buses from various places in Taipei City to Keelung. A few useful ones are bus 1800 from Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT to Keelung and bus 1813 from Kuo Kuang Bus Station (here beside Taipei Main Station) to Keelung. The bus takes up to an hour, depending on traffic.

Many people like to visit Keelung Night Market at the end of a day trip to popular sights like Shifen Old Street sky lanterns, Shifen Waterfall, Houtong Cat Village, and Jiufen Old Street. Bus 788 runs from Jiufen Old Street to Keelung (50 minutes).

You could also take a taxi from Ruifang to Shen’ao Station then ride the Shen’ao Rail Bike to Badouzi Station (booking required), and then get to central Keelung from there. Yehliu, another popular attraction included on day trips like this one, is 45 minutes west of Keelung by bus.

Use GoogleMaps or the Bus+ app (see other useful apps for Taiwan) to find the bus times and bus stop locations.

A scooter parked with a view of some port cranes in the background
My scooter rental in Keelung

Keelung Tourist Shuttle 99 provides access to some of the most popular places in Keelung, including Waimushan Coastal Area, Keelung Station, Keelung Night Market, Ershanwan Fort, Zhongzheng Park, Heping Island Park, and Shen’ao Rail Bike.

To visit some of the more remote off-the-beaten-track spots I’ll cover below, I recommend renting a scooter here for the day. You’ll need an IDP or local Taiwanese motorcycle license.

Where to Stay in Keelung

Although it’s very easy to take the train or bus back to Taipei after visiting Keelung Night Market, some people decide to spend the night in Keelung so they don’t have to do this.

I recommend Drizzle Inn (see on Booking / Agoda) for budget-friendly accommodation very close to Keelung Night Market.

For a larger hotel, Evergreen Laurel Hotel (see on Booking / Agoda) is a little dated, but it has a swimming pool and port views. It is located right at the side of the port.

Top Things to Do in Keelung

Rows of yellow lanterns above crowds in Keelung Night Market
Keelung Night Market

Keelung Night Market (基隆夜市, also called Miaokou Night Market) is by far the most common reason travelers come to Keelung. The market is built up around Dianji Temple and is recognizable for its rows of yellow lanterns. It is a 10-minute walk from Keelung train station. If you’re coming by bus, you may be able to get off a little closer.

Near Keelung Night Market, there’s also Renai traditional market (仁愛市場) in the daytime and tuna auctions at Kanziding Fish Market (崁仔頂漁市) in the middle of the night.

It’s impossible to miss Keelung Port when visiting Keelung. The city is built up around it and it is surrounded by rows of cranes and huge piles of shipping containers.

Giant neon blue letters spelling Keelung on a wooden port plaza
Maritime Plaza is best visited at night

When you walk from Keelung Station to Keelung Night Market, walk along Maritime Plaza (海洋廣場) on the port. The plaza has several artworks and light installations. In the evening, the plaza comes alive with visitors and lights.

A short walk up a flight of stairs from the edge of Keelung Night Market, Khoo Tsu-song Old Mansion (許梓桑古厝) is the remains of former local politician’s house dating to 1913. The mansion is overgrown with vegetation and offers a cool view of Keelung.

An old Chinese building with plants growing over it
Khoo Tsu-song Old Mansion above Keelung Night Market

10 minutes walk from Maritime Plaza, at the base of Zhongzheng Park (see below) is the brand-new Keelung Tower (基隆塔). You can enter through an old air raid shelter or taker an elevator to the top to enjoy sweeping harbor views.

Zhongzheng Park (基隆中正公園) is one of the best places to visit in the daytime in Keelung. The hilltop park has commanding views of the port.

Take a bus, taxi, or walk up to Big Buddha Temple, where there are children’s activities and several Buddhist statues, including the giant white Guanyin Statue overlooking the port. You can even climb up inside the statue.

A large Taiwanese temple on top of a forested hill, with one tall building behind it
Zhupu Altar

Also in Zhongzheng Park is Zhupu Altar (主普壇), a large temple overlooking the city. This temple is the focal point of Ghost Month activities in Taiwan during the Ghost Festival (7th lunar month, usually in August).

On the road up to Zhongzheng Park, there’s a secret Totoro mural hidden here. You can also travel past the park to Ershawan Fort (二沙灣砲臺), the remains of a Spanish fort, but there isn’t much left of it.

A tall white Kuanyin statue with some kids riding little cars around in the foreground
Guanyin Statue in Zhongzheng Park

Another major Keelung landmark that is hard to miss is the Hollywood-style white letters KEELUNG on the hill behind Keelung train station, which at night become digital screens. If you’ve got the energy/time, you can even walk up to them.

At the northeastern entrance to Keelung Port, Heping Island is an excellent getaway. Heping Island Park (和平島地質公園) features some lovely natural saltwater swimming pools and coastal scenery.

Watch for Zhengbin Port Color Houses (正濱漁港-彩色街屋) – one of Taiwan’s top spots for Instagram photos – and Agenna Shipyard Relics (阿根納造船廠遺構) just before the bridge to the island. 

A rectangular natural swimming pool
Natural swimming pool at Heping Island Park

Further east from there, National Museum of Marine Science and Technology (國立海洋科技博物館公園) is a large ocean-themed museum.

From there, you can walk to iOcean (another marine museum), coastal Chaojing Park (潮境公園) or hop on the Pingxi train line at Haikeguan Station or Badouzi Station (considered one of the most beautiful train stations in Taiwan) to connect to Ruifang, Jiufen Old Street, or Shifen.

Looking down on a train station right beside the coast, with coastal mountains in the distance
Beautiful Badouzi Station

You can also ride the Shen’ao Rail Bike (booking required) from Badouzi Station to Shen’ao Station, where you can take a stroll to the coast. Elephant Trunk Rock used to be a popular attraction here, until it fell into the sea in December 2023.

Going west from Keelung Port, Fairy Cave Temple (仙洞巖最勝寺) and Buddha Hand Cave (佛手洞) are two interesting cave temples accessible by local bus.

You’ll need a scooter to reach Keelung Lighthouse (基隆燈塔), Baimiweng Fort (白米甕砲臺), or for the trailhead to Qiuzishan Lighthouse (球子山燈塔).

Dawulun Beach near Keelung, Taiwan
Dawulun Beach

Keelung’s Dawulun Beach (大武崙白沙灘) is one of the closest beaches to Taipei and can be reached by bus from Keelung. The Keelung tourist shuttle goes to Waimushan Shore Walk, from where you can walk 15 minutes to the beach (read more about Taiwan’s best beaches).

Keelung Islet (基隆嶼) is the small but distinctive island you can see just off the coast from Keelung. See below for boat tours to the island, and read about other cool Taiwan islands.

Best Keelung Tours

A young girl from behind, wearing a hat, overlooking a natural swimming pool at Heping Island Park
My daughter at Heping Island Park’s natural swimming pool

To have a local show you the best food in Keelung Night Market, join this Keelung Night Market food tour.

There are no tours focusing only on Keelung attractions, but this excellent day tour from Taipei includes Heping Island Park in Keelung plus Jiufen Old Street, Shifen Old Street, and Shifen Waterfall.

Heping Island Park tickets can be purchased here, or entrance is included if you have a Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass.

Here’s a popular boat tour to Keelung Islet.

To make a customized day tour from Taipei, hire a driver here.

How to Plan Your Keelung Itinerary

A row of colorfully painted houses facing a fishing harbor
Zhengbin Color Houses

Many day trippers will just tack on Keelung Night Market and Maritime Plaza at the end of their day, after visiting Shifen Old Street, Shifen Waterfall, and/or Yehliu.

To see more of the attractions I covered above, plan to spend a whole day in Keelung. A popular itinerary is to ride the train from Taipei to Keelung Station, then the Keelung Tourist Shuttle to some of the following: Zhengbin Color Houses, Heping Island Park, National Museum of Marine Science & Technology, Shen’ao Rail Bike – then finish at Keelung Night Market.

Another popular option is to visit places like Shifen and Jiufen first, then hop in a taxi from Ruifang to the eastern end of Shen’ao Rail Bike (Shen’ao Station), ride the rail bike to the western end (Badouzi Station), then take the Keeliung Tourist Shuttle to Keelung Port and Keelung Night Market. Just make sure to get there before the last Rail Bike departure.

To see some of the more remote attractions I mentioned, it’s best to hire a scooter if you can.

What to Eat in Keelung

It goes without saying that you’ll find the best array of foods at Keelung Night Market. I cover the most famous food stalls in my guide to binge eating your way through Keelung Night Market.

A bowl of noodle soup with yellow lilies in it
Ding Bian Cuo noodles

One Keelung-specific specialty to try in the night market is dingbiancuo noodles (鼎邊銼, try here), which is made from chunks of noodle, yellow lilies, and fish/meat balls. Keelung is also known for its excellent tianbula, or fish cakes (甜不辣, try it here in the night market).

Some other must-try items in the night market are slushy pao pao bing here, pig knuckles here, thick crab soup here, and nutritious sandwiches here (they aren’t nutritious at all, but they are delicious).

Here are some vegetarian options in the night market.

A deep fried bun filled with tomato, cucumber, egg, and creamy sauce
“Nutritious Sandwich” in Keelung Night Market

In the daytime, you can find traditional food vendors in Renai traditional market. In the middle of the night, watch for one sashimi vendor in Kanziding Fish Market.

For seafood, head to Waimushan Fishing Harbor (外木山漁港) – the old building full of vendors is run down, but the seafood is fresh. You can also find lots of seafood restaurants around Badouzi Fishing Harbor (八斗子觀光漁港). 

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