Jiufen is a good day-trip destination from Taipei. Jiufen used to be an isolated small village until the discovery of gold in the surrounding mountains during the Japanese occupation in the late 19th century. It then quickly developed into a busy town due to the gold rush. Many buildings in the town remain unchanged to this day, reflecting both the Japanese and Chineses influence on architecture and culture. Jiufen experienced a tourist boom after the award winning movie " A City of Sadness " (悲情城市) (Venice Film Festival) was filmed in the area in 1989. Today, in a maze of lanes and alleyways winding through the mountains, Jiufen is filled with retro-style cafés, food stores, tea houses, souvenir shops, as well as fantastic views of the ocean (on a clear day).
We had a high expectation of Jiufen but similar to our night market experience, Jiufen didn't deliver. The mountain streets in Jiufen were narrow and crowded so there was a lot of pushing and shoving. That alone wouldn't be an issue for us as rush hour on New York subways could be just as crowded. However, the narrow streets in Jiufen actually carried two-way foot traffic and the traffic flow coming from opposite directions brought us to suffocating complete stops multiple times. Food sanitation was also not up to western standards, like the night markets in Taipei. All the famous food spots had long lines. The weather didn't help either as it was overcast the whole time. Ah Gan's Taro Balls is supposed to have a great mountain/ocean view but all we got was a grey view like this .
We took Uber to and from Jiufen which cost us ~NT900 ($30) each way. The ride itself was about an hour one-way but on the way back, we had to wait 20+ minutes for the car to arrive as Uber was not as readily available in Jiufen as in Taipei. We looked into other options as well such as local train/bus or group tours . Overall, we think Uber is the best transport option considering both convenience and value (especially if you have two or more travelers in your group).
Go to Jiufen on a non-holiday non-weekend day with sunny weather to avoid big crowds and have a good view. Consider staying overnight too if possible ... the night scene with all the lantern lights is supposed to be very pretty and there are less crowds at night.
If you speak Chinese, you can book a private 10-hour Jiufen tour provided by a Chinese operator for the same price (~$150) of a group tour provided by a western operator (such as the ones you can find on Tripadvisor).