There are a few cities with as much variety and natural landscapes as Taipei. From pristine beaches and rolling mountain ranges to a cosmopolitan metropolis and traditional indigenous villages, Taipei has it all! Of the city’s many far-reaching districts, only one has had the privilege to host Taiwan’s movie industry elite, Japanese geishas and considered the home of Taiwan’s hot spring culture.
Beitou has been a cultural hotspot for decades and a geological one for millennia more! It has always been seen as the best day trip and getaway destination Taipei has to offer. So in that case, here are the best things to see during your time in Beitou.
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Due to the immense volcanic activity boiling beneath the surface of Taiwan, the country has a myriad of hot springs scattered across it. This colossal geological power is on full display in Beitou’s Thermal Valley, or more eerily dubbed Hell Valley.
The jade-green sulfuric pool maintains a toasty temperature of 80-100℃ year-round and keeps a steady haze of steam tickling against its surface like a witch’s cauldron.
The eerie green pool also makes for a perfect supervillain origin story as it’s actually radioactive! The mixing of the green sulphur hot springs and the lands of Beitou Creek produces an incredibly rare mineral known as Hokutolite or “Beitou rocks” which contains radium! So best not take a dip!
Beitou Hot Spring Museum
In a country known for its love of hot springs, Beitou has always been the getaway destination amongst the social elite. In centuries past, the streets were filled with dashing rickshaws and travelling Japanese geishas who were later replaced by Taiwan’s film industry big wigs during the country’s cinematic boom in the 1960s and 70s.
Of the many hotels that opened during that time, The Beitou Public Bathhouse had one of the most vivid histories. Built by the Japanese colonials in 1913, it became the biggest bathhouse in East Asia before being abandoned. Thankfully the bathhouse was saved by a group of teachers and students from Beitou Elementary School in 1994 who moved to reopen it as a public museum.
Beitou Public Hotspring
If all this talk of hot springs has got you jonesing for a dip in the toasty waters yourself, then don’t fret, there are plenty of places to choose from. The most popular choice (and the cheapest) is the “Millennium Hot Spring”, or the Beitou Public Hot Spring.
The 1000m2 open-air complex includes 5 pools in total, ranging from boiling to ball-shrinking freezing. If you just wanted a quick dip and be open to the elements, then this is the place for you!
Sulfur Valley Recreation Area
The entire northern half of Taipei is riddled with examples of its volcanic activity! None are more obvious or other-worldly than the landscapes in and around Yanmingshan, a dormant volcano which many believe could erupt again! So take the opportunity to explore the Sulfur Valley Recreation Area and Longfengu Valley while you still can!
Sulfur Valley is by far the more beautiful spot, with various lookout points that cover the spectrum of geological wonders. From steaming lakes to geysers spewing jets of water, it’s a natural encyclopedia of all things volcano! Plus you’ll get to see where Beitou gets all its iconic hot spring water!
The ultimate itinerary for the Taiwanese hot spring culture and a geological paradise.
Xinbeitou Historic Station
A familiar sight to see for the decades of tourists arriving in Beitou, the Xinbeitou Historic Station is a traditional wooden station that once connected the district to the centre of Taipei. Built in 1916 to bring tourists to enjoy the local hot springs, the station lost its purpose in 1988 following the arrival of the new Metro line.
These days the station holds exhibits which detail the station’s once vivid history. Be sure to check out the quaint little craft market beside the station as well as the free hand-soaking hot spring!
Ketagalan Culture Center
Taiwan is home to several indigenous tribes that have inhabited the island for many centuries. The lands surrounding Beitou were once home to the Ketagalan tribe who sadly no longer exist. To immortalise the tribe’s fascinating culture and of the 14 others in Taiwan, the Ketagalan Culture Center was built as the first indigenous museum in the country.
Inside the free museum are exhibits of various cultural, historical and spiritual artefacts of each tribe. The museum gives visitors a deeper understanding of not only Taiwanese aboriginals, but also the history of Austronesian people. The museum also showcases the early interaction of these tribes with the outside world, including the early Chinese settlers and the European colonists.
At the end of a long winding road leading up one of the many mountains throughout the district, Shanguang Temple stands as a tranquil little respite. Despite its quite simple nature, the real star of the show here is the incredible view back towards the valley.
The temple is also the prime spot to come enjoy the cherry blossoms each year which bloom throughout the temple grounds.
Hidden amongst Beitou’s upscale resorts, Beitou Museum is a wonderful look into the history of the district. Housed in one of the best-preserved wooden Japanese buildings in Taiwan, the museum was once a booming hot spring hotel before it was used to house kamikaze pilots during WWII!
The museum houses rotating exhibits both on Japanese and indigenous culture in Taiwan, and even has a large Japanese-style banquet hall on the 2nd floor! Be sure to stay for the authentic multi-course kaiseki meal in the museum’s restaurant.
The ultimate guide to the iconic night market infamous for selling snake meat and glassfuls of blood and venom!
Located at the side of a peaceful little creek, Beitou Public Library is by far one of the most beautiful sights to see in the district.
Built in 2006, the structure is meant to resemble a wooden ship and has actually been classified as completely green! The solar panels on its roof provide energy while an enormous proportion of the water is collected from the rainwater that gathers on the roof! On top of that, it makes for quite a photo too!
Remains of Tenguan Hot Spring Hotel
In a town of many hot spring hotels, a few have more significance than others! That’s the case with the Tenguan Hot Spring Hotel, which sadly no longer remains.
Opened in 1896, it was the first hot spring hotel in Beitou. It later become a treatment facility for wounded soldiers during WWII. Following a brief reopening as yet another hot spring hotel, it sadly fell to disrepair, leaving behind nothing but a stone staircase and a few columns. A tragic bit of history left to crumble.
Marshal Zen Garden
The Marshall Zen Garden is one of the most beautiful bathing and dining options available in Beitou. Yet another renovated hot spring hotel from the Japanese era, it was also used to house Japanese kamikaze pilots during the war!
The picturesque gardens were also used for the house arrest of Chinese General Zhang Xueliang and were finally converted into a zen garden in 1984. Quite a history with this one!
Puji Temple is one of the few surviving Japanese-era Buddhist temples in Taiwan. Also known as Tesshin-in, it was built in 1905 with donations from railway workers. Today, the wooden temple is a dedication to Guanyin, who locals think of as the spirit of the hot springs. To this day, traditional Japanese-style ceremonies are performed regularly on the temple grounds.
Now you’re finished with Beitou, how about going to see Taipei’s other hot spring hotspot?
The ultimate itinerary for exploring the indigenous hot spring town on the outskirts of Taipei, Wulai!
Longnice Hot Spring
Yet another hot spring hotel worth mentioning, but this one has a pretty incredible claim to fame! Though Tenguan Hotel may have been the first hot spring hotel in Beitou, Longnice is the oldest continuously running bathhouse in the district.
Even better, the hotel was once visited by Japanese Crown Prince Hirohito himself! Too much incredible history in these bathhouses!
Keeping with our historical theme, the Plum Gardens were once the summer getaway of Yu Youren, a famous Chinese scholar and politician. Not only that, but it also played a part in the war as an air raid shelter!
As well as its immense history, the gardens themselves aren’t bad either! The yard is filled with lush bushes of sweet olives and juicy plum trees which bloom just before the arrival of the cherry blossoms. One of the many peaceful sights to see in Beitou!
Fuxing Hot Foot Spa
If you don’t have the time to visit a hot spring, you can at least dip your toes in one! There are a total of three free foot-soaking hot springs in Beitou. They’re found in Quanyuan Park, Sulfer Valley and Fuxing Park, the latter of which is just a stone’s throw away from the subway station.
The “green sulfur” pools are said to be effective in treating chronic skin diseases, aching muscles, and promoting metabolism. It’s the perfect way to start or even finish your Beitou adventure!
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