Tainan Night Markets

Hua Yuan Night Market

Hot, noisy, and intensely crowded, night markets reflect the heart and soul of Taiwanese culture.

Tainan Night Markets (Táinán Yèshì 台南夜市)

Anyone will tell you that the essential Taiwanese cultural experience is a visit to any of the island’s numerous night markets. Pubs and night clubs are mere subcultures compared to the mass-assembly of nightlife in Taiwan’s night markets, and many Taiwanese never tire of braving the crowds. Tainan is no exception when it comes to night market culture. In fact, much of the street market food you find all around the island originated at Tainan’s night markets. While you no longer have to travel to Tainan to eat danzai noodles or coffin bread, many visitors still make Tainan’s night markets a priority in their visit.

food stalls

A variety of food stalls line the aisles.

Night markets are essential to Chinese culture and have been around for more than a thousand years. They have a long and storied tradition, both on the mainland and on this side of the Taiwan Strait. In fact, much of the political and social history can be found in the bends and curves of night market culture. Under the Japanese, night markets were highly regulated. During the 1950’s, they boomed in Taipei due to the increase of migrant workers from the south. During the 70’s, merchandise like handicrafts and herbal remedies were replaced by off-sales of the Made in Taiwan boom. These days, those same light industry products are sold, but they usually come from China. Traditions involving night markets have changed with the seasons, but they have always been meeting grounds in which people have gathered to socialize, shop, and eat.

Game booths

Win a stuffed animal in a game of chance.

For newcomers, night markets are a lot to take in. On the one hand, they are crowded, hot, noisy, and unsanitary places. On the other hand, they are a vibrant sense-explosion, offering a multitude of affordable eating, shopping, and entertainment experiences all in one place.

Most markets are divided into separate sections for food, merchandise, and games. These sections all consist of small vendor stalls lined up in rows, competing with each other for the attention of the hoards of people trying to pack through the lanes. The food is usually of the xiaochi (literally: small eat) variety. Many food stalls offer Taiwanese staples, but many others are vying for business with foreign delights or anything new. You can find fruit, iced drinks, candy, pastries, wraps, food on stick, or even steak, just to name a few things on offer. Purses, costume jewelry, and T-shirts with bad English printed on them are the basics at the shop stalls, but like the food vendors, many sellers branch out to cover all manner of things. Most food and goods are cheaper here than in restaurants or stores, but don’t expect high quality. As far as entertainment goes, it’s usually off to the side or in the back of most night markets. There, you can find old-fashioned fairground games for kids or the young at heart. Try your hand and catching gold fish, dart-throwing, Mahjong Bingo, or any number of simple chance games.

Most markets are geared towards students, but families and people of all ages attend them. In fact, they are often the one place you can find people from all economic classes and walks of life.

Crowded food stalls at Hua Yuan Night Market

Crowded food stalls at Hua Yuan Night Market

One thing to remember about Tainan’s night markets versus those of Taipei is that they are not open every night of the week. Each one has it’s own nights, so check the schedule before heading out. Luckily, there is always one night market or another running. The largest night markets are the Hua Yuan (flower garden) Night Market in the northwest of the city, and the Da Dong (big east) Night Market in the southeast. These two run three nights a week on alternating nights, so one of these is open every day except Wednesday. The Qingren (Lovers) Night Market is set on the same location as the Hua Yuan, but it is smaller, and runs on alternative nights.  The other night markets are smaller, and I can’t say that I’ve been to any of them, but below is a schedule and address for each of them. Generally, they are all open from 6pm to 11:30 pm.

Hua Yuan Night Market (Huāyuán Yèshì 花園夜市)
Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays;  Haian Road, Section 3, between Lixian Rd. and Hewei Rd., North District. This is the largest night market in Tainan, and the largest fully-outdoor night market in Taiwan. Ample parking is provided here.

Da Dong Night Market (Dà Dōng Yèshì 大東夜市)
Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays; Linsen Road, Section 1, near Chongde Rd., East District. This is the second largest night market in the city. It is very popular on Friday nights, especially with NCKU students.

Qingren (Lovers) Night Market (Qíngrén Yèshì 情人夜市) – (EDIT – This one might not operate anymore.)
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; Haian Road, Section 3, between Lixian Rd. and Hewei Rd., North District. A smaller version of Hua Yuan night market, running on alternative nights.

Wusheng Night Market (Wǔshèng Yèshì 武聖夜市)
Wednesdays and Saturdays; Wusheng Road, a few blocks west of Wen Xian Rd., North District. Not easy to find, but it’s one of the longest running night market in the city.

Yonghua Night Market (Yǒnghuā Yèshì 永華夜市)
Thursdays and Sundays; Yonghua Road, Section 2, at Yonghua 4th St., Anping District. Probably the newest night market. It’s a few blocks past the Anping Carrefour.

Kaiyuan Night Market (Kāiyuán Yèshì 開元夜市)
Wednesdays and Saturdays; Kaiyaun Road at Linsen Road, Section 3, North District. On the northeast side, not far from NCKU.

Xiao Bei Night Market (Xiǎo Běi Yèshì 小北夜市)
Tuesdays and Fridays; Ximen Road, Section 4, at the intersection of He Wei Rd., North District. One of the oldest night markets in the city.

northern night markets

southern night markets

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Comments
9 Responses to “Tainan Night Markets”
  1. dennis says:

    oh wow awesome pics, make me wanna go so bad >< i love going to night markets, can't wait for the next time i go back for holidays

  2. Sar says:

    I finally got a chance to see one of Tainan’s night markets last week and although overwhelming at times since I have three kids, it was an amazing experience. The food was delicious, the drinks were yummy, and my kids loved the games. I also loved the night market in Taipei that I went to a few months back. I would definitely go back again but we are busy getting ready to finally go back to the states. I’ll miss Taiwan a lot.

  3. Arnaud says:

    When I fist went to Taiwan, on the first evening we went to the Da Dong market. It was a really exciting way to discover Taiwan. I still remember the deep fried ice-cream…
    Now I go there at least once every time I go to Taiwan. I just have never been able to take nice pictures there too many people. Yours are nice

  4. I can’t wait to visit Tainan’s night markets. I’m currently touring those in new and old Taipei and writing about them. If you’re interested, you can check my list here http://si.tc/yeshi I hope I can add Tainan to my list soon :)

  5. sp says:

    Is Kai Yuan still open? I have never seen it, and last year I asked a Taiwanese friend who lives at Lin Sen Road near Kai Yuan, but she had not heard of its being open — however, being originally from Tao Yuan and not having lived in Tai Nan that long, maybe she just did not know…I’d love to check it out since I’m an NCKU student (though I live closer to Da Dong than to NCKU or Kai Yuan Road). I’m also quite familiar with the Kai Yuan/Lin Sen intersection since I often go to Ming Chia Mei, and can’t understand where a night market would set up there.

    Thanks — your site is really informative.

    • tainancity says:

      I’m not sure if it’s open or not. I’ve never seen it as it’s on the opposite side of town from me. I was going on researched information instead of actual experience. I’ve only ever been to Da Dong and Hua Yuan. I’ve driven past Yonghua and Xiaobei, but the others I honestly can’t say for sure if they’re still open.

  6. sp says:

    Funny — just as you replied to my comment, I was looking at a Tainan map and saw the Kai Yuan night market site marked on there. It then jogged my memory that in 2009 I *did* discover the location of this night market — behind Ming Chia Mei on Kai Yuan Road, there’s a lot that I’m pretty sure is/could be used for the night market. You can’t really approach it from Kai Yuan directly, as I recall,but if when Lin Sen Road ends, you cross Kai Yuan and veer right on Bei Yuan Jie 北園街, then hang a right at the first Family Mart, you’ll hit it. (OK, that’s a pretty small street, so there is probably an approach from Kai Yuan that I just don’t know about…)

    I just looked at the map and this is marked as 永春夜市 rather than Kai Yuan/ 開元. Also, just a pinch further down Kai Yuan (towards Zhong Hua Road), on the same side of the street, the map marks something called 元寶夜市。

    I’ll ask around, look around, and see if I can dig up some information for you so this point can be updated if need be.

  7. sp says:

    p.s. Xiao Bei was still open as of fall 2009. I really like Wu Sheng — it’s about 1/3 the size of Hua Yuan but has most of the things you might expect to find. If you’ve been to your fill of night markets (like I have) but still want to browse and snack, it’s just the right size and doesn’t seem to get too crowded.

  8. thanks for the informative guide. :)

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