Things to do in Taipei, Taiwan: Mazu temple's beer garden

Mazu Temple Beer Garden (photo by Joyce Tay)Mazu temple's beer garden

Did you ever see a church with its own beer garden? Probably not, but in Taiwan people have a more relaxed attitude to such matters.

For example: the beer garden in the Temple to the sea-Goddess Mazu, near Dihua Street. You might think that it's very disrespectful to put a beer garden here, but I would say it must be the mercy of the Goddess, that more than 40 family-run restaurants could make a living by her temple, and the hard-working people could enjoy very good food and beer in her courtyard at a bargain price.

There are many street restaurants around the temple, and people enjoy eating and drinking under the banyan tree in the temple yard. It's a place the hard working people have traditionally gone to relax after work. There are more than 40 authentic Taiwanese street food restaurants and food stalls.

I don't know why people always insist on trekking out to famous places like Shihlin night market, when they could easily visit the many interesting locations like this one, which might only be 10 minutes away from their hotels, for real local food and real local culture.

Maybe it's slightly misleading to call this a garden, as it's basically an open courtyard area with trees, but the atmosphere is relaxing, and it provides some breathing space and a break from the crowded city streets. This is not a five star hotel environment, obviously, but if you want to truly understand how real ordinary people in Taipei live, this is where you need to be.

What you can eat in the Mazu temple beer garden?

There are many different types of open air street restaurants right outside the Mazu temple. The most common type are stir-fry restaurants, mostly specializing in seafood. The ingredients are very fresh, meat and seafood are displayed in the fridge.
People order whatever they want to eat, then discuss with the chefs the best way to cook the ingredients. Of course, some of the dishes are written on the menu, but mostly are not. The restaurants will buy the best and freshest ingredients from the market. The chefs usually would suggest the best way to cook the ingredients.
For example: Steaming is the best way of cooking fresh fish; bamboo would be best accompanied by soy sauce and mayonnaise, when it's in season. If you are here to cool down after work or a long day seeing the sights, then pepper and salt shrimp, three cups squid or three cups mushroom, or deep fried oyster with pepper and salt would be best flavors to combine with a few beers.

How to order food and find a table in the temple courtyard?

Most of the street restaurants are right outside the Mazu temple fence. So you can order the food from the restaurants then find a table in the Mazu temple courtyard. Each restaurant has it's own tables, but they also allow the customers to bring some food from the other places.

This is a very easy way to order food from the restaurants: Most of the ingredients are on display at the front, so simply point at whatever you want them to cook for you. The chefs will do the rest for you. Even if you don't speak Chinese, they'll still choose an appropriate cooking method for whatever you point to (and you'll usually find that someone there knows the names of the most common ingredients and cooking methods in English, at least)
The restaurants don't normally sell beer or other drinks themselves. If you ask for beer, they will either get it for you, or point to a nearby shop which sells beer, soft drinks, water, and so on. Fortunately, everyone understands the word 'beer' in English.

Or click here to open a menu of many popular dishes that you can print out to take with you, so you can point to what you want. It's in English and Chinese.

Why is there a beer garden here?

About 200 meters away, there used to be a labor market under the Taipei bridge, the oldest bridge in the city. Every morning laborers and employers met each other under the bridge. Employers went there to find workers, while workers waited for a chance to earn some money for the day. Many of the workers walked across the bridge from their villages outside the city, as it was the only bridge at that time.

Dihua Street was the business center of Taipei for more than 100 years, starting from 1880. Mazu temple is the biggest temple on Dihua Street. It offers a place for people to worship the goddess of the sea, and a kind of social meeting place, or a place to just hang around, see what's going on and catch up on the latest news and gossip.

The beer garden was set up for those laborers under the bridge. Of course, it attracted many other ordinary people from the city, as it continues to do today. In fact, many taxi drivers like this beer garden, so if you go by taxi, they will be able to find it.

It is primarily a daytime beer garden, which does not open late, so try to get there well before 5pm.

The history of the Mazu temple

The temple was built in 1866. Mazu was the goddess of the sea, widely worshiped by southern Chinese people who lived on the coast. She looked after fishermen, and their families. This temple was built to bring Mazu's protection to the traders' ships as they roamed Europe, the US, south Asia and China.

The History of Taipei bridge

Built in 1889 by the first governor of Taiwan, it was originally a wooden bridge, but rebuilt in iron in 1920. Under the bridge, there used to be a labor market, many laborers lived in the poorer areas on the other side of the river, and crossed into Taipei every day to find work.

How to get the Mazu temple beer garden?

Address of the Mazu temple: No.17, Lane 49, Bǎo'ān Street, Datong District, Taipei
Chinese name and address : 慈聖宮 ,台北市大同區保安街49巷17號
The Mazu temple is very close to Dihua street. The entrance gate is actually on Yánpíng North road section 2, between no. 223 to 227 ( Chinese address: 台北市延平北路二段223至227號)

Businesses hours: From 9am to 5pm, every day.

The temple is about 5-10 minutes walk south of the nearest metro station. You can also get there directly by taxi, of course, show the driver the Chinese name (above).

Take the MRT orange line, get off at Daqiaotou Station, exit 1. There is a pedestrian crossing right outside the exit, so cross the big main road (Minchuan West Rd) under the bridge. When you have crossed that road, turn right and walk for 2 minutes along it to the next road junction and turn left onto Yanping North Rd, Section 2. Walk past the school, a large red brick building with a garden, keep walking straight across Liang Zhou Rd (there is a sign in English). Then you will see the entrance to the temple area, on the left side of the road: a large, ornate gate decorated with dragons. Go through and keep walking straight. You have arrived.

There are always maps of the local area inside metro stations.

We also offer a tour of Dihua Street and Dadaocheng, the area around the Mazu temple. Please click here for more details.

Photos by Joyce Tay


My girlfriend, sister, and I

My girlfriend, sister, and I did the Market and old Taipei tour (Dadaocheng and Dihua Street) with Jodie and discovered a part of Taipei that we never knew existed, even after living here for well over a year. Between the vibrant, lively atmosphere of the food market, the traditional storefronts and fair-trade shops, and unexpected beer garden (which served tasty, local food) beside the temple, it was a wonderful and highly memorable afternoon. Jodie is extremely knowledgeable about the area and very flexible--she was open to anything that we had questions about or wanted to try. We have returned almost every weekend since the tour for local snacks, gifts and foods. Our favorite part was the treat at the end of the tour: the best freshly squeezed citrus juice that I have ever had in my life.

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