Beitou Travel Guide

Beitou (Peitou) is a geothermally active region about half an hour by MRT from Taipei. A prime tourist spot for domestic and international tourists, it's famous for its hot springs, Japanese history, and its geothermally active park and spring. To reach Beitou take the red MRT line towards Tamsui Station or Beitou Station, transfer at Beitou Station to the Xinbeitou Line, which reaches XinBeitou Station (the hotspring area) in a few minutes (one stop). From there it's a few minutes walk to the HotSprings Park. A trip to Beitou could easily take a whole afternoon, or could if necessary be combined with a trip to Tamsui.

First Things First

1. The museums are closed on Mondays.

2. Bring a swimsuit if you plan to go to the public hot spring.

First Things First

1. The museums are closed on Mondays.
2. Bring a swimsuit if you plan to go to the public hot spring.

History

The geothermal activity of Beitou found its first use centuries ago as sulphur mines, however they were never very successful, and caused serious health concerns for the miners.

Japanese Era

In 1896 a Japanese businessman from Osaka, Hirita Gengo (平田源吾), set up Taiwan's first hot spring resort in Beitou (then known as Hokutō Village  / 北投庄. The region quickly developed into a thriving and prosperous tourist destination, complete with its own railway connecting it to the Tamsui railway (the precursors to the two MRT lines of today). In 1923 it welcomed Prince Hirohito (better known for other reasons) who enjoyed an onsen (hot spring bath) at the bathhouse, which was then the largest bathhouse in the Japanese empire and is now the Beitou Hot Springs Museum (below).

Post-Japan

After the Japanese defeat in World War II Beitou became very neglected, as the new Chinese rulers didn't care for hot springs, and their take-over created so much political, social and economic turmoil that a pleasant soak in hot springs was far from the minds of most Taiwanese. That began to change in the 1990s, when Taiwan was well on its way to democracy, livelihoods were improving and Taiwanese were beginning to take weekends and recreation seriously for the first time in a generation. Major resources were poured into Beitou to restore it to its former Japanese style, and it quickly grew into the prime tourist attraction it is today.

Sources: An excellent article on Beitou's History, the Takao Club's article on Hirohito's visit, Wikipedia on Beitou.

Hotsprings

For many tourists a hot spring is an essential stop in Beitou, if not the main purpose for going. Hotsprings resorts line Guangming Road (opposite the park) with more upmarket places generally further from the park, with many offering shuttle services to Xin Beitou Station. Many offer both public and private hot springs. It should be noted that Beitou is very touristy, and, much like other public hotsprings resort areas in Taiwan such as Wulai and Jiaoxi, many people question the authenticity of the hot spring water. For anyone new to hot springs or just visiting Taiwan for a short while visiting a hot spring will probably be a relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable experience (whether the water is real, fake or a mixture of both) but a hot spring connoisseur from Japan may be wise to save their Yen for their next visit to the Japan Alps, and enjoy a historical tour of Beitou instead. If you do indulge in a hotspring in Beitou note that prices are significantly higher and onsen more crowded during the weekend (especially the public onsen below), so try to fit a trip to Beitou in on a weekday. Prices are likely to change on the time, so it's best to either book an overnight room online (through Agoda, Booking,com etc) or for a public bath just walk down the street, check photos and prices and decide where you'd like to go.


Public Hotsprings

In traditional Japanese hot springs (known as onsens) bathers are separated by gender, who must bathe au naturel. While many westerners are at first uneasy about this, most soon become quite comfortable with it. It's essential to wash oneself fully at the attached public showers before entering the public bath, for obvious reasons. While it would be unthinkable to Japanese or foreign onsen enthusiasts to wear a swimsuit in an onsen, the majority now offer mixed-gender onsens in which swimwear is required. Prices for public onsen generally start at around NT300, or for a cheaper, outdoor experience try the Millenium Hotsprings.

 Millennium Hot Springs

 
Queues outside the Millenium Hot Springs (Friday afternoon).

These public hot springs offer a chance for a soak in true onsen water for as little as NT40 (plus NT20 for a secure locker if you need one). This makes them enormously popular, so they can become very crowded, sometimes so much so that there can be long queues just to get in the door. If you're going to go, try to make it on a weekday. They offer a variety of pools at different temperatures, and on the right day can be very relaxing. Being mixed gender swimsuits are required (so don't bring your Japanese friends!) but overpriced ones are sold there if you need one. Opening hours vary but are generally from very early in the morning until late at night.

Private Hotsprings


Private bath, Sweetme Onsen Hotel (~ 1000 TWD per hour)

Equally popular are smaller baths rented privately by couples or groups, either by the hour or as an overnight hotel package. A small bathtub generally starts at around 1000 per hour (sometimes less for a very basic one on a weekday) and goes north from there. Hotel bookings generally start at around 5,000 per night.

The Sweetme Hotel (bath pictured above) is a few minutes walk from Xinbeitou Station, beside the Su vegetarian restaurant, and gets good reviews on Agoda, where it can be booked for around NT4,000 (two people, including breakfast).


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Beitou Park


Beitou Hotsprings Park

The Beitou (北投溫泉親水公園, also Beitou Hotsprings Park and Qin Shui Park) was, when it was built in 1923, the largest park in Taiwan. It offers pleasant walking paths along the geothermal river, and at places it's possible to immerse one's feet in the hot water. Inside the park is the Hot Springs Museum, the Beitou Library and the (public) Millenium Hot Springs.

Beitou Library

Taipei City Library, Beitou Branch

The Taipei City Library Beitou Branch is a remarkably eco-friendly structure for a Taiwanese government building (or any building). It's made of sustainably logged wood, has large windows to capture light and heat, is well insulated, recycles water from the roof for toilets and even has solar panels on the roof. It's one of the most charming libraries I've ever been to, and is a very popular place to read, study or just sit out the afternoon, especially among students. It offers free wifi and power outlets, and a small range of English reading material for adults and a fairly large collection for children.
Source: Beitou City Government

Opening hours: 9:00PM-5:00PM Mon-Tue, 8:30AM-9:00PM Wed-Sun.


Beitou Hot Springs Museum


Beitou Hot Springs Museum

Following the defeat of the Japanese empire during WWII and the subsequent handover of Taiwan to the the Chinese Nationalists, who didn't much care for hot springs, this beautiful colonial building was used for various government purposes and then eventually abandoned. Like so many beautiful old Japanese buildings it fell into a bad state of disrepair and plans were made to demolish it to make way for a controversial new gondola up to Yangmingshan, which has met great opposition from the local community and been plagued with scandals and widespread concerns about the safety of building such a structure in a geothermal region.

Take your slippers off and enjoy the beautiful tatami!

In 1994 a group of students and teachers from Beitou Elementary School recognised its historical significance, and petitioned to have it protected. The government finally acknowledged the building's importance in 1997, upon which they restored it and opened it as the museum it is today.

Essentials

Opening hours: 9:00am - 5:00pm
Admission: free


Plum Garden


Plum Garden
 The Plum Garden (梅庭) is the beautifully restored summer retreat of renowned calligrapher and politician Youren Yu (于右任). It's a beautifully restored 1930s Japanese home and garden, and while there's not a lot to see, it's worth a visit while you pass through the park or on your way to Geothermal Valley, Puji Temple of Beitou Museum.

Essentials


The plum garden is right beside the entrance to the Millennium (public) Hot Springs. It's small enough that it's easy to miss it, and assume that it's part of the hot spring facility. Address: 6 Zhongshan Road.
Tuesday - Sunday 9:00-5:00
02-28972647
Website

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Geothermal Valley


 
Geothermal Valley (地熱谷, also Hell Valley) is an large pool of steaming geothermal water. It's one of Beitou's most famous attractions, and a popular spot for photographs with a steamy background against a lush green backdrop. It's about a ten minute walk from the park, and not far from the Puji Temple.

Essentials

open: Tue - Sun 9:00-5:00
Admission: free
 Top  History  Hot Springs  Puji Temple  Beitou Museum   See Also  

Puji Temple




Puji Temple (普濟寺) is a beautiful Japanese Buddhist temple not far from Geothermal Valley. Construction began in 1905, and was completed in 1915 with help from donations by Japanese railway workers. It has been very well preserved. Like Chi'An Ching Hsou Temple in Hualien, it was founded by the Shingon School of Buddhism, the only significant Buddhist group today to encourage compassion for animals and vegetarianism. While it's a beautiful spot and well worth a visit, it's important to note that it's an active religious site, and not intended as a tourist attraction. The temple is reached via steps from the road.

Essentials

Open: 8:00am - 7:00pm
112, Wenquan Rd., Beitou 
Website



The Beitou Museum (北投文物館) is home to around five thousand pieces of Taiwanese folk craft from the Qing Dynasty until the 1970s, and is housed in the best-preserved Japanese building in Beitou, which has been beautifully restored, complete with two small stone gardens. In its day was the most luxurious hot spring hotel in Taiwan. The museum also has a cafe and restaurant (vegetarian meals must be ordered two days in advance). It's somewhat inconvenient to reach (a not-so-pleasant 1.5km walk or taxi ride) but is well worth the effort.

Accommodation


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Like nearby Tamsui, most people visit as a day trip from Taipei, but it's well worth spending a night in Beitou, especially if you'd like to try the luxurious Hot Spring hotel experience.

Map





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