Friday, April 22, 2011

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Ximending 西門町, Taipei

4/22/2011 Taiwan Explorer

Ximending 西門町 (historically Romanized as Hsimenting, Shimending or Shimenting) is a popular neighborhood in Wanhua, Taipei's oldest district. Being the biggest center of youth culture and street fashion in the city (and probably in all of Taiwan), it's often labeled as "Harajuku of Taipei". Although Taipei is not Tokyo and Ximending is not Harajuku, there are some similarities between these two areas, but there are also vast differences. This post is intended to introduce Ximending to you, especially to those of you, who are considering to visit Taipei and heard about it, but want to know more. Please click on the links, they will lead you to my related posts (or to external information) and don't forget to check my map at the bottom of the post.

There's only 1 Ximending.

I will try to answer a very common question everyone asks me, before they come to Taipei: What to do in Ximending? I hope to provide you with a lot of useful information and links in order to help you plan your Taipei trip and your visit of this famous part. Whether you're old or young, if you come to Taipei, you have to see Ximending or you have not seen the real Taipei of today.

Here's my overview of the ten things to do in Ximending:

01 Learn about the history 認識歷史
02 Enjoy the atmosphere 享受氣氛
03 Observe fashionable people 觀察潮人
04 See performances 街頭表演
05 Go on a date 來個約會
06 Visit restaurants and bars 上餐廳逛酒吧
07 Do your hair 弄弄頭髮
08 Go shopping 逛街購物
09 Go to the gym 運動健身
10 Go to the cinema 看場電影

Scroll down to read more.

1 Learn about the history 認識歷史

The name 西門町 "Ximending" comes from the words 西門 "Ximen" (meaning West Gate in Chinese) and 町 "ding" (meaning neighborhood in Japanese). The West gate was built during the Qing dynasty, in 1882. China, who lost the first Sino-Japanese war in 1894, had to cede the sovereignty of Taiwan to Japan in 1895 and 50 years of Japanese rule over Taiwan had begun. The new Japanese government begun to expand Taipei and widen the roads. By 1905 the old defense wall as well as the West gate were destroyed in order to make way for a new boulevard, the today's Zhonghua Road 中華路. The area next to the former gate was named 西門町 (pronounced as Seimonchō) and was established as a business and entertainment district (source). The word behind the character 町 (pronounced tǐng, tīng, dīng) is very uncommon in the Chinese language and hence could be seen as a loan word from Japanese.

The Red House Theater 西門紅樓 was built in 1908 and is today one of the most remarkable buildings in the area. It used to be a public market until 1949 and was then converted into a theater (read more about the history on special post). Ximending was thriving in the 1930s, becoming a center of Taiwan's film industry. At that time most cinemas in Taipei were founded there and they remained popular until the early 1990s (source, today over 20 cinemas remain in the area). There are also many other historic things to see in Ximending: The lovely small temples, that wait to be discovered. The most notable are Ximending Mazu Temple 西門町媽祖廟 (see on Google Maps) and Jinde Temple 晉德宮 (see on Google Maps). If you're interested, how Ximending looked in the 1970s, go and see photos on this website.

Ximending today is a festival of lights.

The famous Hanzhong Street, near the Ximen MRT Exit 6.

The Party World building is famous for it's KTV lounges.

A police station near Ximen MRT: Ximending is very safe, so don't worry.

The famous Red House Theater from 1908.

A view from the Red House to the most famous part of Ximending pedestrian area.

2 Enjoy the atmosphere 享受氣氛

Ximending is very crowded at Friday night. There's a lot of young people, you can observe all kinds of styles and meet new people. Taiwanese are very friendly and easy to befriend.

Entering the pedestrian area.

3 Observe fashionable people 觀察潮人

You'll probably see the craziest hairstyles and the hottest outfits in Ximending.

Ximending will overwhelm you.

Ximending will be like a whole different Taipei.

4 See performances 街頭表演

Ximending has many street artists and performers. Enjoy it for free.

Many famous (and less famous) Taiwanese singers come to Ximending to perform on the street to introduce their new song or album. Below you can see Jolin Tsai 蔡依林, Taiwanese most successful solo singer perform during the day. Ximending is also famous for all kinds of gatherings, even flash mobs (see the video on the right). Wanna join? Why not.

5 Go on a date 來個約會

Find a cute girl/guy here or bring them on a date. It's a great place to start.

6 Visit restaurants and bars 上餐廳逛酒吧

Be it the famous Ah-zong's noodles or Korean tteokbokki, Ximending has a lot to offer.

Ah-zong's noodles are always very popular, it's a must-try food in Taipei.

You can also get all kinds of good bubble tea here.

Or go to one of awesome foreign food restaurants like this Indian place.

Or enjoy some wacky dining in the toilet themed restaurant named Modern Toilet.

7 Do your hair 弄弄頭髮

Ximending is full of hair salons, get your hair style here.

Yes, that's a hair salon, too (on top). Awesome, right?

8 Go shopping 逛街購物

Ximending is a Mecca for every shopper.

You have all kinds of clothes available here. Get styled in Ximending.

How about some creepy SpongeBobs for you?

Ximending, where else?

9 Go to the gym 運動健身

There are also many gyms here. Come and workout in Ximending.

10 Go to the cinema 看場電影

Ximending is the center of Taiwan's cinema, the first ones were founded here.

Ximending map
Ximending is very easy to find and explore. And there is much more to see then just the popular pedestrian area (click my map on the left to enlarge). There are temples and old buildings found all over the place. This used to be the old Taipei and partly it still is. The atmosphere is unique and captivating. If you come to Taipei, you need to visit. If you stay here longer, I'm sure you'll return quite often. I know I will. I hope you enjoyed my tour.

My posts related to Ximending:


Gayke, Ximending's crazy cake, December 2010
Eating out at Modern Toilet, May 2010
Ah Zong's flour rice noodles, February 2010


Getting a custom-made suit, June 2011
Ximen, West Gate of Taipei, July 2010
Ximending at night, February 2010
Ximending at day, March 2010
The Red House, August 2012

▷ BLOG NAVIGATION: Taiwan>> Taipei Travel Page>> Wanhua District>> Ximending