Our memories of Jiufen during our first trip were lovely ones: winding cobbled paths dotted with tea houses, hot soup to warm you up on a cold winter's day, and old houses nestled among the hills.
Because of those fond memories, we decided to pay Jiufen another visit this round. However, our experience was different, perhaps because we had three grouchy littles in tow, or maybe because we were visiting during one of the peak periods for travel in Taiwan. Jiufen was packed, even on a Monday, and its windy, cobbled streets felt less welcoming with all the jostling tourists, many who were carrying umbrellas because it was raining. A fair number of tourist attractions are closed on Mondays (eg. some exhibits at the zoo, certain museums etc), so that might have explained the crowd there (A side point: do your research on opening hours and days for museums and such when planning your trip).
I think in general Jiufen is lovely for a visit, but you might want to give this place a miss if you have a few littles in tow. Also, ditch the pram, since the cobbled walkways and crowds usually make it hard to navigate if you have one. And try your best to avoid the place on weekends.
Crowds aside, it is pretty interesting to shop there (you can read our Taiwan shopping guide here). We usually make a stop to look at ocarinas, and there are at least two ocarina shops in Jiufen. We always like browsing in the there, since it's quite amazing how the ocarinas can come in so many shapes and sizes!
There are shops selling all sorts of merchandise, though of course, these are quite touristy. We did make a stop to buy leather pouches, and the kids were rather fascinated at the process of how the shopkeeper would burn the leather to engrave names on the pouches.
We didn't make a stop in a teahouse, or visit any of the little museums there, but the kids had some fun spotting interesting crafts dotting the various houses there. They would spot glass pebbles embedded in the steps, upcycled art, and random paintings adorning the houses, and that kept them occupied for some part of the visit. The crowd did get to them, so after awhile everyone was cranky and whiny, so we decided to leave after lunch. (If you're wondering about the photo below, they were trying to mimic the cat painting. But Junior J decided he wanted no part of it, so he hid behind Papa.)
There's food aplenty in Jiufen, but we usually make a stop to eat beef noodles. Most shops do not have high chairs, so do bring a clip-on if you have a squirmy toddler!
And one thing that helps to keep our kids happy for sure: dessert. We love the taro balls here, and there are many dessert shops to visit after you had your main meal.
I'm not too sure if we'll come back to Jiufen if we visit Taiwan again, but I know we'll definitely not visit in November!
PS: This post is part of a series of posts for our third visit to Taiwan. For our trip itinerary, go here, and you can read about our first and second trips to Taiwan here, and here.