What you need to know
Dadaocheng is historic neighborhood that's being revived by a new breed of creatives and trendy shops. Here's our selection of secret hot spots for you.
Every fashion designer or stylist in Taipei knows about Yongle Market (永樂市場) in Dadaocheng. Some of my friends have settled in the neighborhood and I've learned something new about the district through many interesting stories. When it was time to open a store my own, I chose a location in Dadaocheng without any hesitation.
In the past few years, more interesting stores are opening in Dadaocheng, a historic neighborhood that's being revived by a new breed of creatives, so I decided to share my favorite local hidden gems in Dadaocheng.
When it comes to my favorite coffee shop in Dadaocheng, it has to be Pallas Café. Apart from its hand-brewed coffee, Pallas Café is known for its delicious pudding and curry. The food and beverage feels almost as if it's home-made, and that's one reason the Pallas Café can’t be replaced by any other coffee shop.
The bookcase in-store also reflects the owner’s personal tastes, while the seating area reminds me of the ambiance in Tainan. The third floor is where the owner roasts his own coffee beans and it's occasionally used as an exhibition space. Recently, the store extended its opening hours, so you can drink there at night, too. It’s a blessing for people who live nearby (me!).
Address: No. 14, Lane 14, Dihua Street Section 1, Datong District, Taipei
Near Pallas Café, there's an independent bookstore called Bookstore 1920s, which is located on the first floor of the Small Arts Courtyard.
This Japanese colonial-era building was originally a Watson’s Pharmacy. It was one of the first old buildings to be renovated since the Sedai Group took on the project to revive Dadaocheng. Jou Yi-cheng, the founder of Sedai Group, became known during the Wild Lily Movement in the '90s as a political worker and later for the neighborhood's revival.
As the name implies, the Bookstore 1920s sells works centered around the philosophy of Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水), Taiwan’s famous physician-turned-activist in the early 1900s. It’s a place with strong Taiwanese roots, boasting a treasure of national history, culture, and philosophy. Due to the influx of Japanese tourists, there are also many great Japanese books to be found in the store.
Address: No. 34, Section 1, Dihua St, Datong District, Taipei
Speaking of Chiang Wei-shui, I have to introduce this eclectic store with an owner who adored Chiang and accidentally rented the old site of Chiang's Da’an Hospital. The first floor of Walkingbook Restaurant features a bar that sells coffee and alcohol, with the interior design depicting the landscapes found between Taipei and Yilan. The second floor houses a Taiwanese-style restaurant and the third floor functions as a library space. The library only opens once per month for an event named "No Reading, Only Drinking Library," which attracts all kinds of alcohol-loving hipsters in Taipei.
Address: Datong District, Section 2, Yanping North Road, 103, Taipei
Not too long ago, an upscale pizza store dubbed Pizza Has a Face opened across from the Walkingbook Library. Featuring sparse decorations, neon logos, and a DJ booth, the trendy vibe of this joint has quickly earned a fashionable reputation among the locals.
I'm not a huge fan of pizza, but even I couldn’t resist the texture of the pizza crust combined with beer here on a summer day.
Address: No. 28, Section 2, Yanping North Road, Datong District, 103, Taipei
If you head north on Yanping North Road, you can’t miss the retro First Record Shop. The building might seem like just another Japanese colonial era remnant at first glance, but the store has been in business for close to 60 years and is an absolute classic. Sporting an exhaustive collection of old Taiwanese CDs, cassettes, and records, the shop used to be a hangout for all walks of life who adore music. Celebrities used to come in and out of the now-closed theater across the street. Although the glory of those days is long gone, graying uncles and aunties are still hanging out here while enjoying the dumplings that are being sold by the record shop owner.
Address: No. 88, Bao'an Street, Datong District, 103, Taipei
6. Old Ideas
Old Ideas opened its doors in August 2019. The bar seems to draw from some of the magic that the First Record Shop brought to the street, with laid-back and nostalgic tunes emitting from its lounge speakers. My friends all flocked to its opening event, given the owner is a former member of Underground, the famed music venue at the NTU campus that was unfortunately shut down.
The bar has regular DJ performances every week. This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to have a chat with friends here as the songs are curated to contribute to the chill ambiance of Dadaocheng. Apart from a bar and a disorganized bookshelf, the building also has a small art gallery on the second floor.
Address: No. 38, Lane 14, Section 1, Dihua St, Datong District, 103, Taipei
The epicenter of the Dadaocheng commercial district was originally situated around Dihua street, with the streets between Nanjing West Road and Minsheng West road marking the south-side. This area is home to a lovely tea house called South St. Delight, located just on the second floor of the Artyard, next to the Xiahai City God Temple. The teas and deserts on the menu are made by the classic stores in the district, but these stores are re-introduced in a new fashion. The owner has kept some of the historic objects in the house, and we can feel the mixture of old and new in South St. Delight.
Address: No. 67, Section 1 Dihua Street, Datong District, 103, Taipei
Near the north street, some fascinating stores have started to pop up too, like the Fú Dàu Pastry Studio. As the Chinese name suggests, the bakery uses rice to create tasty soufflés. This Taiwanese take on the soufflé, swapping flour for rice as the main ingredient, quickly became a specialty. The Fú Dàu Pastry Studio is another great demonstration of how Western and Taiwanese styles can be infused, with delightful results.
It also houses a beautiful shrine to the local gods. Eating here feels a bit like visiting your Taiwanese friend’s family, because the owner often strikes up a conversation with visitors in a welcoming way.
Address: 1F, No. 68 Minle Street, Datong District, 103, Taipei
Next to Dadaocheng park, you can find a really precious antique store called the Qinjing Old Warehouse. The shop is a real trip down memory lane with its retro furniture, classic tea wares, and many other relics and trinkets on display. The nice owner is somewhat of an artifact hunter and is somehow able to find any object you ask for. To my surprise, his small business is flourishing and the store displays new items on each visit.
Address: No. 153, Minle St, Datong District, 103, Taipei
The best place on Dihua street for getting a sweet souvenir is definitely Lin’s Wagashi Confectionery, which specializes in Japanese-style delicacies and desserts. The shop moved to the end of Dihua street after being located on the other side for more than 60 years. Luckily, its signature desserts, like the Dorayaki and Ichigo Daifuku, remained unchanged. It’s also a great place to get some pineapple cakes that offer a more delicate taste than the traditional ones. You can order a Monaka set at the window for only NT$50, along with a cup of tea, perfect for concluding a leisurely afternoon.
Address: No. 247, Section 1, Dihua St, Datong District, 103, Taipei
Dadaocheng is a wonderful place colored by the fragrances of herbal teas, coffee, delicious food and temple incense. Wandering around the many old buildings and various nameless alleys will make sure you never get bored. Besides the stores mentioned above, there are countless others of museums, bookstores, authentic rechao (熱炒) and secret little bars to explore. There’s no doubt you will soon curate your own list of favorite spots from this area.
The article was originally published in Chinese on Every Little D, a Taipei-based lifestyle website under TNL Media Group.
TNL Editor: Jeremy Van der Haegen (@thenewslensintl)
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