Tamsui, also known as Danshui, is situated in the northern part of Taipei and is known for its beautiful riverfront, scenic views, and delicious food. The district has a rich history, having been originally inhabited by indigenous people and subsequently settled by the Spanish and Dutch in the 17th century, before becoming a thriving trading port in the 19th century.
Today, Tamsui is a popular spot for both locals and tourists, offering glimpses into the past through its well-preserved architecture, traditional temples, and cultural sites. However, Tamsui is not just a historical attraction, as it is also famous for its delicious street food, including A-gei, fish balls, iron eggs, and shrimp rolls. In this blog post, we will explore Tamsui and showcase why this waterfront town is well worth a visit.
Getting to Tamsui
To reach Tamsui, take the MRT via the Tamsui-Xinyi Line (Red Line) to Tamsui Station. After exiting the station, turn left and head towards Tamsui Old Street and the waterfront. The travel time from Taipei Main Station to Tamsui Station is approximately 40 minutes.
Things to See and Do in Tamsui
Tamsui Old Street (淡水老街)
This vibrant street is lined with a wide variety of shops, food stalls, and vendors selling everything from souvenirs and handicrafts to local snacks and delicacies. Visitors can enjoy a wide array of mouth-watering street food such as shrimp rolls, a-gei, fish balls, iron eggs and mochi. A stroll through Tamsui Old Street offers visitors a chance to experience the unique sights, sounds, and flavours of Taipei’s local culture.
Most shops are open between 11.00am to 8.00pm, though some, such as Starbucks, remain open later. Since we arrived in Tamsui early, many shops had not yet opened, prompting us to embark on an exploration of the surrounding area.
Walking from Tamsui Old Street to Fisherman’s Wharf
We opted to take a scenic walk along the coastline from Tamsui Old Street to Fisherman’s Wharf, starting from the end of Huanhe Road, a pedestrianised street by the waterfront. The distance we covered was approximately 4.2km and it took us more than an hour to reach our destination as we frequently stopped to capture photos along the way.
On our route, we came across a Starbucks outlet offering a picturesque view of the Tamsui River and Guanyin Mountain. As we walked further, we encountered trendy bars and restaurants, tea houses, book shops, and residences with intriguing designs. Some of these establishments were housed in well-preserved colonial-era buildings, adding to the area’s charm.
We always enjoy taking such walks as they enable us to see the neighbourhood in a novel way, beyond the typical touristy spots. Alternatively, if walking is not your cup of tea, you could rent a bicycle and cruise along the coastal path. Another option is to take a ferry ride from Tamsui Pier to Fisherman’s Wharf, which is the preferred mode of transportation for many visitors.
Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf (淡水漁人碼頭)
Fisherman’s Wharf, situated on the western side of Tamsui District, is a fishing harbour that is very popular with couples and families. Its extensive boardwalk not only provides a picturesque view of the river, but also offers an impressive vista of the sunset. Moreover, the locality boasts numerous seafood restaurants that serve freshly caught seafood every day. Even though it has been transformed into a leisure and tourism destination, Fisherman’s Wharf still preserves its original purpose as a functional fishing port.
In addition, Fisherman’s Wharf is also a popular filming location for Taiwanese television dramas. If you are a fan of Taiwanese TV series, you might recognise various spots around the harbour.
Tamsui Lover’s Bridge (淡水情人橋)
The Lover’s Bridge is an iconic attraction in Tamsui that was inaugurated on Valentine’s Day in 2003, hence its name. This suspension bridge stretches over the river and illuminates at night, measuring a total length of around 196 metres.
Watching The Sunset
If you had to pick just one activity to do in Tamsui, watching the sunset would be it. The best location for this is the Lover’s Bridge. However, you can also experience a breathtaking sunset from the waterfront near Tamsui Old Street.
We returned to Tamsui by ferry after exploring the Fisherman’s Wharf. The ferry ride is a picturesque journey along the Tamsui River, offering stunning views of the city skyline and the surrounding mountains. Opting for the outdoor seating on the spacious boat would provide you with the best views of the river and its picturesque surroundings.
During the ferry ride, several interesting sights come into view, such as the Tamsui Lover’s Bridge, the Tamsui Old Street, and the historic Fort San Domingo. You can also spot many locals fishing along the riverbanks and enjoy the fresh sea breeze.
Here are some other attractions in Tamsui that we did not visit but might pique your interest:
Fort Santo Domingo (紅毛城)
Fort Santo Domingo is a historic fortress that was constructed by the Spanish during the 17th century and was later utilized as the British consulate in the late 1800s. At present, it serves as a museum that displays the history and architecture of the region. Additionally, the fort provides a sweeping vista of the Tamsui River and Guanyin Mountain.
Aletheia University (真理大學)
Aletheia University, established by George Leslie Mackay, a Canadian Presbyterian missionary, in the late 1800s, was initially named Oxford College. It is recognised for its picturesque campus and splendid architecture, which encompasses a chapel and a charming lake. The original building of Oxford College on the campus currently functions as a historical museum that displays Mackay era artifacts.
Food and Drink in Tamsui
Here are some of the must-try delicacies when visiting Tamsui:
Iron Eggs (鐵蛋)
Iron eggs are a famous snack that has its roots in Tamsui and are definitely worth a try. Preparing these eggs is a time-consuming task, involving stewing quail or chicken eggs in a mixture of soy sauce and spices for three hours per day, followed by air-drying. This cycle is repeated over the course of a week before the iron eggs are finally ready. The resulting bite-sized treats possess a dense and chewy consistency, and boast a subtly sweet and salty taste.
A-gei is a classic snack hailing from Tamsui that consists of tofu packed with glass noodles and sealed using fish paste. The stuffed tofu is then deep-fried and served with a topping of sweet and spicy sauce, alongside fish ball soup.
Shrimp Roll (蝦捲)
The filling for these shrimp rolls comprises shrimp, ground pork, and spring onions. This mixture is then rolled up inside a wonton wrapper and deep-fried until the exterior is golden and crispy, while the interior remains moist and juicy. Before eating, you can spread either sweet chilli sauce or garlic sauce over the shrimp rolls to add flavour.
Fish Balls (魚丸)
Tamsui is renowned for its fish balls, but they differ from the fish balls that many of us are familiar with. These fish balls are similar to Fuzhou balls, where fish paste is stuffed with meat filling. When bitten into, the meat filling, which is fragrant with sesame oil, bursts with juices.
Almond Tea (杏仁茶)
I fell in love with almond tea when I visited Penang so when I saw this shop on Tamsui Old Street, I couldn’t resist getting a cup. The almond tea was very thick, rich, and fragrant, and not overly sweet.
Fried Durian Fritters （炸榴槤）
We tried the Fried Durian Fritters in all three flavours: Original, Taro, and Chinese Yam. While all three were tasty, the durian flavour was not particularly strong. It was likely due to the use of Monthong durian, which has a milder taste compared to other durian varieties.
The fritters were crispy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. Although a bit greasy, they were still enjoyable to eat.
Fried Cuttlefish 花枝烧
We tried the Fried Cuttlefish which was freshly fried upon order, so it was piping hot when served. There were different seasoning powder options available, including Curry, Chilli Pepper, Plum, Mustard, Pepper Salt, and Seaweed. The batter wasn’t too thick and had a crispy texture. The thick chunks of cuttlefish had a meaty, tender, and chewy texture, which we loved!
Fresh Milk Mochi 鮮奶麻糬
We tried the Fresh Milk Mochi which was served in a molten state. This was our first time trying mochi in this manner, and it was a unique experience. There was a wide variety of toppings to choose from, including ground peanuts, black sesame, desiccated coconut, red bean, oreo crumbs, and even thunder tea rice flavour.
We opted for two types: one in red bean soup and the other with ground peanuts. Both were delicious! They even provided picture illustrations to show how to eat the mochi using chopsticks.
Taro Ball Shaved Ice
This shop is situated close to Tamsui Lover’s Bridge in Fisherman’s Wharf. We opted for the Assorted Bowl which consisted of taro balls, sweet potato balls, glutinous rice balls, and red bean. We found it to be just as delicious as the famous one in Jiufen. The balls were QQ chewy. Very refreshing treat!
Whenever there’s a Xing Fu Tang outlet, you can bet that I’ll be lining up for it, haha. As I mentioned before, it’s hard to resist drinking bubble tea while in the birthplace of bubble tea, right?
We chanced upon a stall selling pretty packaged snacks while walking along Tamsui Old Street. I regretted not buying more of their handcrafted nougat and nougat crackers because they were the best I’ve ever tasted in Taiwan! I especially enjoyed the sweet and salty nougat crackers – savory spring onion crackers combined with sweet nougat (not too sweet) that was chewy and firm – it was a heavenly match!
Steakhouses like this are pretty common in Taiwan, especially at night markets. With each main course order, you get free-flow bread, soup, and soft drinks, making the meal very affordable. We didn’t have high expectations due to the low prices, but the steak and pork chop we had were delicious, and the portion sizes were generous.
Tamsui is a charming district in Taipei that offers a variety of attractions, historical landmarks, and delicious food. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just looking for a scenic spot to take a walk, Tamsui has something for everyone. Don’t miss out on this hidden gem in Taipei!
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