Dihua Street

Top choice historic site in Zhongshan & Datong

Image by Yuichi Ogura Getty Images

This former 'Centre Street' has long been known for its Chinese medicine shops, fabric market and lively Lunar New Year sundry market. After a decade of restoration, the street has also become a magnet for young entrepreneurs eager to breathe new life into the neighbourhood with cafes, restaurants, art studios and antique shops.

Díhuà Jiē was constructed in the 1850s after merchants on the losing side of an ethnic feud (over different groups' ancestor origins – all too common in Taiwan's history) in the Wanhua area fled to Dadaocheng (now Datong). The merchants prospered here (and some might say got their revenge) as the Wanhua port, further downstream, eventually silted up.

After Taiwan's ports were opened following the Second Opium War (1856–60), Western tea merchants flooded into the area and built handsome mansions and trading stores. Later, during the Japanese era, baroque and modernist architectural and decorative touches were added to many shops, making Dihua Taipei's most historically diverse street. The first house/shop on the street is at 156 Dihua St, Sec 1. Notice its low profile and narrow arcades. Further up the street, near Minquan W Rd, are typical shops from the late 19th century with arched windows and wide arcades. Closer to Yongle Market are the Western-style merchant houses and shops renovated during Japanese times.

On the 8th and 9th floors of Yongle Market is Dadaocheng Theatre, a popular venue for traditional performances.