Keelung City

Keelung City - Taiwan

Home to colourful shrines and fabulous, street food-fuelled night markets, this Taiwanese city is also a gateway for magical island and mountain escapes. Maud Rowell explores

Travel Time 1hrs 10min

Why go?

This compact, quiet port city in north Taiwan has a colourful history – its Spanish, Dutch, Chinese and Japanese influences are easy to see in its landscape and food scene. Close to Taipei but off-radar to many, Keelung has much going for it, including dramatic rock formations and a vibrant night market home to excellent street food. It’s also a great jumping-off point for Taiwan’s other highlights – the kinetic capital is less than 35km away, while more bucolic escapes include the Pingxi District, where Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is a must-catch February spectacle. The start of the year sees Keelung in glorious technicolour: expect turquoise seas, verdant peaks and beguiling mists.

What to do

Surrounded by mountains, Keelung undulates toward the waterfront in a jigsaw of colourful houses, old forts and winding alleyways. Get your bearings at Keelung Zhongzheng Park. An early-morning jaunt will leave you towering high above the city and provide a great overview of the harbour. Meander between colourful shrines, pavilions and vertiginous statues and keep your eyes peeled for Zhuputan Temple. The Waimu Shan Seashore is a 5km strip of coast which ends near Aoditong fishing village with the area’s only beach. Nature-lovers can pootle over the suspension bridge to Heping Island, a diving spot that offers a tide pool and the city’s only castle, built by the Spanish in the 1600s. Nearby Peace Island is known for its rock formations and gorgeous sunrises. While Miaokou night market is reason alone to visit Keelung, don’t miss nearby Qingyu Hall. Ascend the ramshackle steps to discover the abandoned 1930s property; its architecture draws on native Taiwanese and colonial sources with window frames carved to look like bamboo. Overrun by plants, including a giant banyan tree, the building captures Taiwan’s melting-pot past. For something more modern, the National Museum of Marine Science and Technology, in Chaojing Park, has the lowdown on the wonders of the deep, as well as mountain and sea vistas; from March until May the red algae are in full bloom.

Where to stay

When it comes to a bed for a night, most of Keelung’s offerings sits happily in the ‘well-located and comfortable’ bracket. Evergreen Laurel Hotel 00 886 2 2427 9988, hotels.com" target="_blank" >hotels.com">hotels.com" target="_blank" >hotels.com">evergreen-hotels.com" target="_blank" >hotels.com is a quick walk from Keelung’s night market and has an indoor pool and great port views. For something cosier, try Herb Art Hotel 00 886 2 2425 4688, herbart.com.tw – it’s compact, modern and offers live music. There’s also Hua Du Hotel 00 886 2 2420 2277, eng.taiwan.net.tw with ornate touches, 360-degree city views and an airport shuttle-bus service.

Where to eat and drink

Arguably Keelung’s most famous attraction is its Miaokou night market. A feast for all the senses, it’s built in an L-shape around a temple in the centre of the city. Follow your nose to discover some of Taiwan’s best street food: grilled pork-chop sandwiches, garlicky ‘one-bite’ sausages (stall 43-1), barbecued squid, oyster omelettes (ô-á chian), aromatic braised pork rice (lu rou fan), thick crab soup with you fan, a glutinous rice (try it at stall 5), and sailfish with chilli, ginger, sugar and soy sauce. A shaved ice from stall 37, Shenji Paopao (established in 1976) is a right of passage, as it the area’s pineapple cake – no-frills Lee Hu Cake Shop, near the market, is renowned for it. Elsewhere, Seafood Dumpling House on Zhongzheng Road, near Heping Island, prepares dumplings using local seaweed. Tokiya Keelung 00 886 2 2425 5500, Xinyi Road is a slick Japanese restaurant that makes the most of the local catch and offers harbour views. Tasty 00 886 2 2425 3600 serves up well-cooked steaks and grills.

Time running out?

Kanziding Fish Market is Taiwan’s largest. Opening at midnight, it’s at its most thrilling from 1-2am, when local chefs barter over a huge variety of top-quality produce.

Map

Travel Information

Travel Information

Currency is the New Taiwan dollar (TWD or NT$). Time is eight hours ahead of GMT. Flight time from London is around 13 hours. The train from the airport takes around 1.5 hours and costs £5.

Getting There

China Airlines flies direct from London Gatwick to Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport. airchina.co.uk
EVA Air flies to Taipei via Bangkok. evaair.com

Resources

The Taiwan Tourism Bureau offers a host of information on getting around, where to eat, festivals and hotels. taiwan.net.tw

Average daily temperatures and rainfall

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min Temp1081012202223171717
Max Temp25252832323333343434
mm212212000200

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