Tourists arriving in Taipei who are hoping to pass their days in the city living the hipster or even bohemian life should put southern sections of the city at the top of their list of areas to stay. Possibilities include places near MRT Guting Station (古亭站) or along the Zhonghe-Xinlu Line (4號中和新蘆線, No. 4), near the Taipei-New Taipei border. From there, it’s easy to begin a one-day hipster journey.
We begin at 8 in the morning with breakfast at Ryou Cafe (日楞咖啡), on Pucheng Street near the MRT Taipower Building Station (台電大樓站). Judging from the crowd it is clear that hipsters do not deserve their reputation for being late sleepers and late risers. The dishes’ ingredients originate from small local farms in Taipei, and everything from the menus to the writing on the walls was hand-written. While the food does not arrive quickly (be patient!), once you try the eggs and breads you will see that it is worth the wait.
After finishing breakfast, we cross Roosevelt Road and follow Tingzhou Street to Kishu An Forest of Literature (紀州庵文學森林) on Tongan Street. This Japanese-era home, which hosts artistic and cultural events, is worth visiting in the daytime to admire the architecture and surrounding environment.
Next we return to Shida Road then turn onto Longquan Street to see what treasures we can find at Jiu Xiang Ju (舊香居) bookshop. The proprietor put a great deal of time and effort into the interior arrangement and placement of the cultural, history and arts books sold in the shop. Culture vultures are sure to find something that interests them. Outside there are also several fruit stands that are worth a visit.
On the way to Gongguan (公館), situated directly across from the Taipower Building (台電大樓) on Section 3 of Roosevelt Road, is the basement-level bookshop Cheng Da Book City (政大書城). While some readers favor the convenience of online bookstores, for many Cheng Da remains a publishing Mecca. Its prices are competitive with online sellers, and the books are arranged according to publisher, not topic. This is more convenient for members of the publishing industry who are often in search of a book from a particular publisher.
What could be better after browsing for books than a cup of coffee? Aura Café
(微光咖啡), tucked away in an alley off Section 3, Roosevelt Road, follows in the footsteps of Norwegian Wood (挪威森林), a shuttered café that was a mainstay among the artsy Gongguan crowd during the 90s. Here we take some time to browse the collection of books before stopping at the Joie Éternelle (永樂座) basement bookstore just a few alleys away. In addition to selling new and used books, it also occasionally hosts informal discussions. As we continue onwards and reach National Taiwan University (NTU, 台大), opposite the main gateway is a mustvisit: eslite Bookstore (誠品書店). While the eslite Xinyi branch is tops in terms of inventory and the Dunhua South Road branch is most popular, the NTU branch sets itself apart with the youth-oriented and academic books displayed on its shelves and display windows, which cater to the university crowd. The difference is most apparent when comparing the “book of the month” selections at the Xinyi and Dunhua South Road branches to those at the NTU branch. Meanwhile, on the fourth floor of the same building is the Water Like Bookstore (若水堂) , which specializes in books written in simplified Chinese characters. To learn more about the latest releases in China or to locate hard-to-find, specialty books, such as biographies or lyrics of western rock artists, Water Like is worth a try.
After browsing though the selections at eslite and Water Like, we walk to the other end of Section 3, Roosevelt Road to take a break at the café Kafka by the Sea (海邊的卡夫卡), a name that was inspired by a novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. Located in the basement of the same building is the Riverside Live House(河岸留言), which frequently hosts live performances, and in a nearby alley is a music store connected to the Mollie Used Books (茉莉書店) chain. Here we can find popular Mandarin and Taiwanese music, western and East Asian albums, and classical music and movies. Closer to Gongguan, tucked away among a busy cluster of clothing and apparel shops is the NTU branch of Mollie Used Books. This quaint shop has a wide variety of books along with a selection of old domestic and foreign magazines, including several hidden treasures!
At night, if you are interested in a live music show then The Wall in Gongguan is a great place to see bands from Taiwan and abroad. To ensure entry at this popular spot, it is best to buy tickets in advance. Continuing on, we return to our startingpoint, Ryou Café, to have a late-night snack at a nearby Japanese style restaurant popular among entertainers and best known for its lightly salted and dried seafood. As this packed single-day itinerary shows, southern Taipei is a wonderful place to explore.
Ryou Café 24-1, Pucheng St.
Kishu An Forest ofLiterature 107, Tongan St.
Jiu Xiang Ju 81, Longquan St.
Cheng Da Book City B1, 301, Sec. 3, Roosevelt Rd.
Aura Café 9, Ln. 269, Sec. 3, Roosevelt Rd.
Joie Éternelle 1F, 6, Aly. 21, Ln. 283, Sec. 3, Roosevelt Rd.
eslite NTU Branch 98, Sec. 3, Xinsheng S. Rd.
Water Like Bookstore 4F, 98, Sec. 3, Xinsheng S. Rd. Kafka by the Sea 2F, 2, Ln. 244, Sec. 3, Roosevelt Rd.
Mollie Used Books Music Store 17, Aly. 10, Ln. 244, Sec. 3, Roosevelt Rd.
Mollie Used Books NTU Branch 1F, 2, Ln. 40, Sec. 4, Roosevelt Rd.
The Wall B1, 200, Sec. 4, Roosevelt Rd.