Da-dao-cheng is an old community very close to the Taipei Main Station. In addition to the 3 MRT stations nearby, there are many bus routes that go through the area.
You should not have any trouble getting here by public transportation. If you happen to drive, there are 3 underground parking lots, in Da-dao-cheng, on Tacheng Street and Chaoyang Street respectively.
We don't recommend driving during the New Year shopping season. Coming from other cities, you can walk along the pedestrian arcades on Tacheng Street from Taipei Main Station. The walk is within 3 kilometers.
It's about 2 kilometers north of MRT Airport Station A1 exit and 3 kilometers north of Taipei Main Station.
You can see an array of fabric stores along the way. Coming from the crowded Taipei Main Station, you will soon be in a community full of vintage houses and cultural spirit!
The shift in street views from metropolitan to almost rural is surprisingly unique.
Heading north along Tacheng Street, you will come across Nan-jing West Road and a home decoration shop, renovated from a vintage house. This is the entrance to Di-hua Street.
Located in the vicinity of Tam-sui River, Da-dao-cheng Wharf used to be a main shipping port for Taipei City. Di-hua Street and Yanping North Road run parallelly to Tam-sui River. Along with Da-dao-cheng wharf, they make up the Da-dao-cheng area.
It was the most affluent commercial trading center in Taiwan during the Qing dynasty. Today, it still functions as the distribution hub for dried food and groceries, attracting huge crowds during the New Year shopping season every year.
During the Age of Discovery in the late 19th century, Da-dao-cheng was the prime financial trade center in Taiwan. Goods, such as tea and camphor, were exported worldwide from here.
The top five foreign firms at the time all had offices here for tea exportation. This area was also the distribution place for Chinese herbal medicine.
Up until the 1960s in the mid 20th century, the textile industry had a long period of prosperity; similar to Liverpool, Britain and Malacca, Malaysia, the buildings became dilapidated after the community passed its prime and lost its momentum.
The community seems to have frozen in time and stayed in the past.
Renovated vintage Baroque houses – A classic with a tinge of modernity
Walking on Di-Hua Street, you are surrounded by entire blocks of Baroque-style buildings constructed during the Japanese colonial era. These buildings were renovated in order to restore their lost luster after the decline of Da-dao-cheng.
This is the earliest westernized community in Taiwan. There's also the very first western-style restaurant Bolero around the corner. The European spirit is palpable here in this community.
At Di-hua Street entrance, there is a tourist information center. Free maps are there for you to grab. There are various books written about the history and recent development of Da-dao-cheng.
Despite the European touches, the area is full of local essence.
For instance, there is a fresh juice stand on the corner of a Baroque-style building. The menu is displayed in 3 languages: Chinese, English and Japanese. We got ourselves some lemon and guava juice.
Both drinks have the rich taste of Taiwan fruits, reminding you the goodness of this prolific fruit island!
Continue walking ahead, and there are Watson and Company and Yong-la Plaza. Watson is a historic site, renovated to become a tea house and cafe. The first floor displays artifacts available for purchase.
Upstairs on the second floor, there is a cafe. You can have a cup of coffee here while enjoying the frontal view of Yong-la Plaza through the window. It's quite a relaxing delight!
As we mentioned briefly, Da-dao-cheng was a crucial city for the Taiwan textile industry much like Liverpool. Yong-la Plaza is a fabric market full of unique local dishes and fabric shops.
Feel free to experience those local dishes next to the plaza. In the crowded little alley, there are 3 food stands.
One specializes in Braised Pork Rice, another sells Swordfish Vermicelli, and the last one sells Fried Spanish Mackerel Chowder originated from Tainan.
The Swordfish Vermicelli usually sells out in a flash, be sure to come earlier if you like to try it. We ordered Braised Pork Rice and Chicken Rice.
The Chicken Rice here is very special. They sprinkle Braised Pork flavor on it. The Fried Spanish Mackerel Chowder we got tastes authentic and delicious!
There is also an old tofu pudding shop in the plaza, offering various edible flavors.
We also mentioned about Di-hua Street being the distribution hub for Chinese herbal medicine. Walking past pedestrian arcades, you can smell rich Chinese medicine. This is also a trade center for dried food and groceries.
You can find myriad snacks imported from Japan and America, or food ingredients. Indigenous mullet roe, pineapple jellies and even imported cubilose are available, making the area feel like an enlarged version of a supermarket in Chinatown!
Di-hua Street still serves some commercial functions, but it has declined significantly compared to the past.
A group of young people came to rebuild this community from Di-hua Street to Yanping North Road 5 years ago. Art stores, cafes and various small stores can be found. Similar to Malacca, some of them were renovated from traditional longhouses.
Inside a longhouse, we went through an art store, long hallway and courtyard to get to the cafe for a cup of coffee. Entering some of these longhouses and then exiting the back door on the other side, you may find yourself in another small alley.
Having a cup of tea, coffee or a glass of beer here in the longhouse is a treat akin to sitting inside a living museum.
There are various longhouse cafes, each offering a unique style and atmosphere waiting for you to explore!