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When people travel to Taiwan, they often visit Taipei, Kaohsiung, or Taichung, and rarely explore past these major cities.
Tainan is somewhat of a hidden gem in Taiwan, which seeks to challenge this status quo.
With its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning architecture, there are so many things to do in Tainan that make it worthy of a pitstop on anyone’s travel plans.
From ancient temples to beautiful parks to delicious street food and bustling night markets, Tainan has so many attractions that will captivate you with its charm.
But if you’re not sure what to do in Tainan and why it’s worth a visit, keep reading to discover our insider travel tips and knowledge on Tainan for those looking for the best places to see, eat, stay, drink, and explore.
- Is Tainan Worth Visiting?
- 1. Explore Tainan's Temples
- 2. Visit the National Literature Museum
- 3. Try The Local Delicacy
- 4. Explore the Night Markets
- 5. Wander Around Anping
- 6. Mingle With The Locals in Hai An R
- 7. Shop Till You Drop!
- 8. Relax in Tainan Park
- 9. Attend A Festival in Tainan
- 10. Visit Tainan County's Monkey Mountain
- 11. Visit The Hot Springs in Guanzling
- 12. Hang Out In Blueprint Cultural & Creative Park
- 13. Take A Trip to Taijiang National Park
- 14. See Chihkan Tower
- 15. Visit Chimei Museum
- 16. Hike Qigu Salt Mountain
Is Tainan Worth Visiting?
Tainan is absolutely worth visiting. It’s the oldest city in Taiwan and is also the former capital, so it’s steeped in Taiwanese culture and history.
Although by western standards Tainan is a large city, it does not feel like a metropolis.
It has a distinctly old heritage city feel, and because it’s less explored by international visitors, it offers an authentic experience to anyone who travels there.
There is also a lot of support for the fine arts in Tainan. There are some fantastic modern art galleries and even art street.
Things to Do in Tainan
From historic landmarks to jaw-dropping nature sites, be sure to add the following attractions to your Tainan itinerary.
1. Explore Tainan’s Temples
There are a lot of temples in Taiwan, but as the oldest city, Tainan has an especially high concentration of them, several of which are very well-known.
The Tainan Confucius Temple is one of the most famous in the city, and dates back several centuries – though it has undergone renovations over the years and today looks like it was built yesterday.
It showcases traditional Taiwanese folk culture and has some of the most beautiful designs and reliefs.
Another prominent temple worth checking out is the Tainan Grand Matsu Temple, or Grand Mazu Temple as it’s sometimes known, which is the largest temple in Tainan.
This temple was the first Mazu temple built by the Taiwanese government, and is dedicated to the The Heaven God Mother – the most worshipped in Taiwan.
It therefore attracts hundreds of visitors each day, from around the world, and is one of the best places to glimpse into the country’s religious and cultural practices.
If you have more time, the Lady Linshui Temple and Baihe Lady Linshui Temple, which hold great historical and spiritual significance, are worth exploring.
2. Visit the National Literature Museum
The National Literature Museum is also an excellent place to learn about the country’s culture and history.
Established in October 2003, it holds the distinction of being the first national museum dedicated to literature in Taiwan.
Housed in the former Tainan Prefecture Office, a building constructed in 1916, this museum showcases the development of Taiwanese literature from ancient times to the modern era.
As you wander its halls, explore its extensive collection of Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese literary works, which allow you to gain insights into the rich literary heritage of the region.
3. Try The Local Delicacy
Taiwanese people are passionate about food, especially snacks, and Tainan is famous for having many of the best in the country.
In Taiwan most restaurants are small, only serve a few items, and have a specialty that they’re known for.
Since Tainan is so old, many of the recipes date back to the city’s early days during the Qing Dynasty.
Needless to say, street food stand and restaurant hopping is a fantastic experience here.
Be sure to try an oyster omelette, by far Tainan’s best-known specialty. Also, don’t forget to drink pearl milk tea, otherwise known as bubble tea, which originates in Taiwan.
If you get the chance, try some peking duck (about $8-9 USD for a whole duck), as well as coffin bread.
In Taiwan, it’s the small dumpy-looking restaurants with hundreds of years of history behind them that are best-known and are highly recommended. Here are a few of my favorite places to eat:
Shanghai Steamed Pork Buns | 上海好味道小籠湯包
This restaurant is famous countrywide for its soup dumplings, but all the dumplings are fantastic!
There’s no English menu, so if you don’t speak Chinese you will either need to enlist some help or resort to pointing at other people’s food to order.
Ten steamed dumplings here will run you about $1.50 USD. That’s plenty for most people, but I usually can’t resist ordering a second plate.
Vonny’s Garden Vegetarian Restaurant | 綠素界花果茶餐飲坊
As a buddhist country, Taiwan has some amazing vegetarian food. The fake meat (they even have fake sashimi) is unbelievable.
Vonny’s is a homey restaurant in an old house with excellent vegetarian dishes, great service, and an English menu.
Meals here range from around $2.20 USD for noodles or rice, up to around $8 USD for the fake steak.
Shangri-La Hotel | 香格里拉
Shangri-La Hotels are known to be one of the most extravagant hotel chains in the country.
Most upscale hotels and shopping centres in Taiwan will also have a very upscale buffet restaurant serving exotic foreign cuisines, sushi, steak, seafood, and the like.
They are normally all you can eat and all you can drink (including beer and wine). If you are looking for an exceptional meal, visit Tainan’s Shangri-La for the best buffet in town.
4. Explore the Night Markets
The night markets are, of course, always entertaining. Among the most popular ones is the Tainan Garden Night Market, boasting around 400 vendors and serving as Taiwan’s largest night market.
Opened in 1999, it attracts locals and tourists alike, providing a wide variety of delectable street food and unique shopping opportunities.
Another notable night market is the Wusheng Night Market, Tainan’s oldest operating market since 1984, with approximately 250 market stands and food stalls. Here you can indulge in local delicacies, explore the bustling atmosphere, and immerse themselves in the lively energy of these night markets.
The Tainan Jade Market is also definitely worth a visit. It’s open Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday.
5. Wander Around Anping
Anping is the oldest neighbourhood in Tainan, which makes it the oldest in Taiwan. It is said that Anping is where Chiang Kai Shek first landed when fleeing China.
Here you will find some of the biggest and oldest temples in Taiwan, the Anping Old Fort, also known as Fort Zeelandia, (which was built by the Dutch as defence against invaders) and beautiful historical character alley lined with specialty food shops and artisans.
Walk down Yanping Street, otherwise known as Anping Old Street, which is the oldest street in the city and is known for its market stalls.
Another landmark in Anping worth checking out is the Anping Tree House, which is a former warehouse that has been reclaimed by nature. It gets its name from the roots of banyan trees that cover the building.
6. Mingle With The Locals in Hai An R
Locals and expats alike can often be found relaxing with friends and people-watching on tea shop patios on Hai An R., Tainan’s ‘hip district’, which is also a fantastic area for shopping.
Hai An Rd. is the location of a city-funded art project, and many buildings are adorned with murals.
The area around Hai An Rd. is also the old center of town and former red light district, so it has a character and charm all its own.
7. Shop Till You Drop!
Like I mentioned above, Hai An Rd. has fantastic clothing and jewelry on the road and, especially in the back alleys nearby.
Another great shopping street is BeiMen Rd., the main road in the middle of town that runs past the front of the train station.
It’s also a fantastic place for shopping. If you are looking for cheap computer parts, there are two large computer malls here with everything that you could imagine.
It has very good clothes shops (although not as awesome as Hai An Rd.).
Hayashi Department Store is another popular place to shop in Tainan.
8. Relax in Tainan Park
Just north of the train station on Bei Men Rd., you will find the Tainan Park, the largest in the city, complete with a lake and a pagoda suspended above it.
Tainan Park is a picturesque oasis that offers a serene escape from the urban buzz.
Steeped in history, the park dates back to the Qing Dynasty and was once a private garden of a prominent official.
Today, visitors can stroll along winding paths, admire vibrant flowers, and relax by the water’s edge.
9. Attend A Festival in Tainan
Every year, shortly after Chinese New Year, there is an unbelievably dangerous fireworks festival called the Yenshuei Fireworks Festival.
It takes place in the nearby township of Yenshuei. During this festival thousands of fireworks are shot directly into the crowds.
Every Chinese New Year Tainan also hosts a fantastic Lantern Festival. Almost any time of year you are likely to see some sort of parade for a god’s birthday (Daoism has a LOT of gods).
10. Visit Tainan County’s Monkey Mountain
I’m a big fan of Tainan County’s Monkey Mountain, which is a 750 meter high mountain known for its macaque population. It’s about a 40 minute drive east of town near the town of NanHua in Tainan County.
There are fantastic hiking trails and you’re almost guaranteed to see hundreds of macaques, in addition to an enormous Buddha statue and a beautiful temple.
It’s also free to enter, which makes it my top free thing to do in Tainan.
11. Visit The Hot Springs in Guanzling
If you want to get out of the city for a while, head to Guanzling, which is home to fantastic hot springs, mud baths, and hiking trails, as well as a pool of burning water (it burns as natural gas bubbles up from fissures in the earth beneath).
Nestled in the serene countryside, Guanziling is a place to recharge your batteries. Soak in the hot springs, which boast medicinal qualities that are believed to alleviate various ailments and promote relaxation.
12. Hang Out In Blueprint Cultural & Creative Park
Nestled in the heart of Tainan, Blueprint Cultural & Creative Park is a multi-purpose park, formerly known as “the First Judicial New Village,” that was once the dormitory for Tainan Prison employees.
Today, it has been transformed into a vibrant hub of creativity, featuring art studios, shops, and cultural events.
You can explore quirky bookstores, indulge in delectable snacks, and discover local artwork and pieces of handmade craftmanship.
13. Take A Trip to Taijiang National Park
Just outside Tainan on the southcoast is the captivating Taijiang National Park, which was established in 2009 and is famous for its picturesque coastal landscape and marine wonders.
From pristine beaches to lush wetlands, the park is a patchwork of diverse ecosystems, and is one of the best places to see the Black-Faced Spoonbill.
Walk along the scenic trails, grab your binoculars and look out for migratory birds, or just catch the sunset over the ocean, Taijiang National Park is the perfect nature retreat from the bustling city.
14. See Chihkan Tower
Another historic landmark in Tainan is the Chihkan Tower, which was originally built by the Dutch in 1653 as Fort Provintia.
Today, it’s a museum that allows visitors to learn about Tainan’s past, marvel at its architecture, and wander through the tranquil gardens.
15. Visit Chimei Museum
The Chimei Museum is a private museum that contains an impressive collection of Western art, musical instruments, weaponry, and natural history.
Established in 1992 by Shi Wen-long of Chi Mei Corporation, this museum is famous for its renowned collection of paintings and classical music instruments from around the world.
The Chimei Museum is also a piece of architectural beauty and is worth visiting for its design alone.
16. Hike Qigu Salt Mountain
If you’re looking for more unique things to do in Tainan, be sure to discover the enchanting Qigu Salt Mountain.
Although named a mountain, this is more of a hill that reaches approximately 6 stories high, made entirely out of salt. It was once Qigu Salt Field’s salt pile, but when they closed their doors in 2002, the salt mountain was abandoned and the salt naturally clumped together, making it easy to climb.
Once at the top, you’ll witness panoramic views of the surrounding landscape of the Jingzijiao Wapan Salt Fields that stretch as far as the eye can see.
Getting To and Around Tainan
There are lots of budget airlines in Asia that fly to Taiwan. Some of the most common are Tiger Airways, when travelling to or from Singapore, or Cebu Pacific when travelling to or from the Philippines.
You’ll find plenty of Air Asia flights when travelling to or from Malaysia, as well as Cathay Dragon, the budget version of Cathay Pacific, if passing through Hong Kong.
It’s really not worth the money or trouble to fly inside of Taiwan. You can easily get to the Taiwan high speed rail from Taipei, which is much more convenient.
Note that Tainan HSR Station is located outside the city center, and you will need to catch another train from Shalun Railway Station (5 minutes walk away and connected by a walkway, so you won’t get lost) to Tainan Train Station.
Although Taiwan has a good local train system, I much prefer to travel between cities by bus. The cost is similar, but the busses are incredibly luxurious.
I strongly recommend travelling by HoHsin (the red bus). Each seat is the size of a Lazy Boy, has massage settings, and its own screen for watching moves and playing video games.
The price is comparable to a train ticket, and they have service between major cities at least once an hour 24 hours a day.
When it comes to getting around Tainan, the bus system is very difficult to navigate and seldom used.
Taxis, however, are quite affordable. You can get to most places in the city for $3-6 USD.
Renting a scooter is also a good option, as they are better than cars for navigating the crowded streets. There are several scooter rental shops behind Tainan Station, and scooters can be rented for $25-30 USD/day.
Best Time of Year to Visit Tainan
The best time of year to visit Tainan is November and December, which are the months when the weather is by far the most pleasant.
It’s like North American summer. Not too hot, nice and dry, sunny most days.
Where to Stay in Tainan
When visiting Tainan, there are several areas that offer good accommodation and are close to the major tourist attractions and landmarks.
The West Central District is a popular choice, known for its bustling atmosphere and numerous attractions.
If it’s your first time, I recommend staying in the Anping District, with its historical sites and charming Old Street, it offers a more authentic experience.
For those seeking a tranquil stay, the Fort Provintia area provides a peaceful ambiance.
The Tainan Park neighborhood is also a great area, which offers a blend of natural beauty and cultural landmarks.
A good all-round accommodation is the Kindness Day Hotel which is centrally located in the city center, has spacious and homey rooms, and a good price tag to match.
Another popular choice for those who want a little luxury is Silks Place Tainan, which is a 5* hotel within walking distance of Tainan city’s historic attractions.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Tainan
I love Tainan because the locals are so incredibly warm and friendly. It’s a city that’s so vibrant, so charismatic and so unique, that I want every traveler to discover it.
I hope this guide helps you plan your visit to Tainan and gave you some inspiration for what to do there. You may also like these posts: 19 Awesome Things To Do In Taipei, Taiwan and 20 Best Things to Do In Taiwan With Kids
Bio: Matt Gibson is a travel writer, photographer, blogger, who is passionate about eco-friendly adventure travel. Matt lived in Taiwan for six years, founded an island-wide magazine called Xpat Matt, and speaks Mandarin Chinese like a four-year-old with a lisp. Matt’s Adventure Travel Blog, Twitter