The beautiful ArtYard is a relaxing place for tea, coffee and craft shopping
ArtYard ( 67, Sec. 1, Dihua St)- Converted from a historical building built in 1923 near the Xiahai City God Temple, the airy and relaxing ArtYard is consisted of a craft shop, art gallery, tea room and cafe. Some of the beautiful ceramics are sourced from Japan, but others are locally produced including their own brand, Hakka blue. I love the small courtyards within the building and the retro South St. Delight tea room… if only this were in London, I would probably visit it everyday even if I am not really a tea lover!
Further down the street inside the A.S.Watson building, there is smaller ArtYard (1, Lane 32, Sec. 1, Dihua St), which houses a textiles studio/ shop InBloom, Bookstore 1920s, Luguo cafe and Thinker’s theatre. These artistic lifestyle shops and cafes blend extraordinarily well in this old neighbourhood and has given it a new spirit without destroying its soul.
ArtYard: InBloom and Bookstore 1920s
Walking towards the Taipei Train Station into the Datong district, there are two gems hidden in a narrow alleyway… Ri Xing Typography ( 13, Ln 97, Taiyuan Rd) is a small factory that houses the world’s last complete set of traditional Chinese character molds for lead-type casting. This family-run factory was founded in 1969 and it now hopes to turn the factory into a museum and digitise lead type into computer fonts as part of its preservation and restoration plan.
The factory is not very big but it is like a living museum full of lead types. With only Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau still using traditional Chinese characters these days, preservation is essential to pass on this irreplaceable heritage. Hence the owner’s effort to preserve this heritage is highly commendable.
Last of its kind: Ri Xing typography shop
Opposite the Ri Xing typography shop is another wonderful letterpress workshop and stationery shop, 324 print studio ( No. 16, Lane 97, Taiyuan Rd), created by artist/ illustrator, Yang Jung-Ming. This shop not only sells letterpress stationery but it is also full of vintage curiosities. I am always excited to find independent and quirky shops like this when I travel, when streets around the world are becoming more homogenous, shops like this is like a breath of fresh air!
A letterpress lovers’ haven: 324 print studio
Not far from the MRT Zhongshan Station, there is a colonial-style building ( built in 1926) that once served as the residence of the U.S. ambassador. This building was abandoned for almost 20 years before it was turned into SPOT Taipei Film House ( 18, Sec. 2, Zhongshan N. Rd.) in 2002. It is run by the Taiwan Film and Culture Association with the international acclaimed Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien as its president. Apart from an art house cinema, it also houses a gallery, a coffee shop and a branch of Eslite Bookstore that stocks a large collection of film-related materials and local designs and crafts.
Spot Taipei film House and shop
Between MRT Zhongshan Station and MRT Shuanglian station, there are many interesting independent shops including:
Booday ( No.18-1, Lane 25, Nanjing W. Rd), a Taiwanese lifestyle brand that sells t-shirts, fashion accessories and stationery. All the products are handmade in their studio including a range of cute letterpress cards. The small shop also has a cafe upstairs with regular art exhibition and even cooking classes.
Next to Booday is Lovely Taiwan, a gallery-like shop that promotes Taiwanese culture and sells crafts made by local artisans including the Taiwanese aborigines.
One of the most interesting design magazines in Taiwan is called PPaper ( No. 2, Lane 26, Section 2, Zhongshan North Rd), this publishing house also has a retail outlet in the area selling stationery, home and fashion accessories ( N.B. the shop is only open from Wednesdays to Sundays).
Ruskasa ( No. 15-1, Lane 26, Section 2, Zhongshan North Rd) is a Taiwanese handmade furniture shop that delivers simple but well-crafted wooden furniture that are similar to the styles of the Japanese and Scandinavian.
Hidden in an alley near the Museum of Contemporary Art is 61 Note ( No. 6, Alley 10, Lane 64, Nanjing West Rd), a small gallery/ cafe/ shop that stocks timeless and well-crafted Japanese designs that are hard to find in other local shops.
Top left: Booday and Lovely Taiwan; top right: PPaper shop; Main: Ruskasa; Bottom left: 61 Note
Earthtree/ Motherhouse ( No. 8, Lane 20, Section 2, Zhongshan North Rd) both share the same retail space and values, selling fair trade and eco-friendly products. Earthtree carries People Tree and Nepali Bazaro, while Motherhouse is a Japanese brand that specialises in leather handbags and accessories produced in developing countries.
Walking into Mymilly zakka ( No. 6, Lane 33, Section 1, Zhongshan North Rd) is like wandering into a neighbourhood household store in Japan ( or a Japanese family’s home)… it is cosy and full of wonderful Japanese household products including tableware, stationery and textiles. A sweet shop!
Similar to the bamboo shops in Kaohsiung, Lin tien Coopery ( 108 Zhongshan N Rd Sec 1) is the last of its kind in Taipei. Housed in a Japanese style red brick building, this shop has been trading at the same spot since 1928. The founder, Lin Xinju had worked as an apprentice and learned his skills from his Japanese master before setting up his own store. The shop still sells handcrafted buckets and barrels made form red cypress like it did all those years ago, amazing!
Top left & main: the wonderful myMilly Zakka shop front; Top right: Colourful birdhouses above Earthtree/ Motherhouse
Food & drinks:
Next to the Lin tien Barrel Store is a Baroque style red brick building that has been carefully restored and converted into Monument cafe ( No. 2, Changan West Rd) by its passionate Taiwanese owner. A lover of historical architecture, he hired a restoration team from Tainan and after 8 months’ of work, the cafe was born in 2006, and it even won him a restoration/ architectural award in 2007.
Home to much of the Japanese colonial administration under the Japanese occupation, this area is still full of Japanese restaurants, though the most popular one must be Fei Chien Wu ( 1F., 13-2, Alley 121, Chungshan N. Rd., Sec. 1). This cafeteria-style restaurant is famous for its low prices, generous portions and grilled eel! It is not a place to linger but it is fast, tasty and very reasonable. Arrive either earlier or later to avoid long queues at the busy lunch hour!
Almost opposite the myMilly Zakka is a dark brown Japanese style wooden building which used to be a former residence of a Japanese photographer almost 90 years ago. The building was restored by a local architect and now the ground floor functions as The Island cafe ( Lane 33, Section 1, Zhongshan North Road) with the architect’s office on the first floor. This cafe reminds me of the cafes in Karuizawa, Japan… dim, subtle, atmospheric and very relaxing. A perfect spot for a light lunch or coffee after some sightseeing in the area.
Main: Monument cafe; Middle & bottom left: The Island cafe; Middle right: Grilled eel over rice at Fei Chien Wu; bottom right: Lin Tien Barrel Store
There are many other interesting shopping areas in Taipei such as Yongkang St and the East district, but I will save it for some other time…