Is it time to visit Taiwan? Yes, it is – and here are the finest cities to explore besides Taipei.
We love packing our bags and making a trip to East Asia – Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong are some of our favourite travel destinations. One country that has us in a permanent chokehold is Taiwan. There are just so many things to see and do here, from discovering temples and museums to chowing down glorious street food at the night markets. So we’ve compiled a travel guide to Taiwan with the top cities worth adding to your itinerary.
Taiwan travel guide: Best cities you should visit
Located in southern Taiwan, Kaohsiung is the country’s third largest city and is known for being an industrial hub. Today, it has transformed into a global metropolis with laidback vibes, contemporary art, and scenic views of the port. It’s also a bike-friendly city, with numerous cycling paths within the parks.
You must check out the Dome of Light, which can be found at Formosa Boulevard Station (aka one of Taiwan’s most beautiful MRT stations). This public art installation comprises over 4,500 coloured glass pieces covering 660 square metres. Created by renowned Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata, Dome of Light tells the story of human life in four themes: water, earth, light, and fire. A little bit like Avatar Aang, but not quite.
When you’re done, make your way to Lotus Pond, which is surrounded by impressive Buddhist temples and monuments, including the Spring and Autumn Pavilions. There are the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas here too – it’s said that you can reverse your fortune or gain more luck by running directly into the dragon’s mouth and out of the tiger’s. No harm trying, right?
Enjoy a lovely stroll along the 15-kilometre Love River, which is littered with cool cafes and runs all the way to Kaohsiung’s port. Be sure to reach Glory Pier, situated at the east end of the river, when the sun goes down. Here’s where you can watch a laser light show.
What’s the most populated city in Taiwan? That would be Taichung, which sits on the west coast. If you’re aware of your bubble tea history, you’ll know this city is where everyone’s favourite milk tea was created. So, it goes without saying that you should pop over to Chun Shui Tang, one of the teahouses that originated the drink.
Street art fans, you’ll have a ball of a time pointing out all the cool murals Taichung has to offer. We never fail to drop by Rainbow Village, chockful of vibrant paintings and uplifting images. Every spot is a good place to capture photos for the ‘gram! Don’t miss Painted Anime Lane, a funky little alleyway filled with artwork of familiar childhood favourites like the Mario Brothers, Angry Birds, Pokemon, and even Mr Bean!
Want more interesting attractions? Well, here are a few places to note: Carton King Creative Park, an aesthetically pleasing site where everything’s made of paper; Zhong She Flower Market, a ginormous floral field with various blooms and props such as a windmill and a carriage; and the 921 Earthquake Museum, a memorial showcasing one of the worst natural disasters to hit the country.
Of course, we have to mention Sun Moon Lake. Located in Nantou County, this famous alpine lake is designated as one of Taiwan’s national scenic areas and a top place to visit. Forget the hustle and bustle of the city and spend a full day cycling around and taking in the breathtaking scenery, hike up Maolan Mountain, and visit Wenwu Temple.
Head southwest and visit Tainan, the oldest city in Taiwan and the country’s former capital. Here’s where you can discover rich history, culture, and tradition, gorgeous natural beauty, and iconic landmarks. This is a charming destination that we have to include in our travel guide to Taiwan.
First up: Chihkan Tower, built in 1962 by the Dutch and originally known as Fort Provintia. Explore the beautiful courtyard, where you can see nine stone turtles that symbolise longevity and strength, as well as a broken-legged stone horse. Inside, you’ll find artefacts and learn more about the landmark’s history. Don’t forget to make a wish on the second tower’s upper floor!
You also have to pay Anping Treehouse a visit. This popular attraction is named after the enormous Banyan tree on its premises and contains several interesting places worth checking out, such as a former merchant house and a quirky souvenir shop. Tainan also features several fascinating museums. Besides the National Museum of Taiwan Literature, all frankfurter lovers must drop by the Black Bridge Sausage Museum.
Make a beeline for Snail Alley, one of the cutest lanes in this city. It really plays up the snail theme, from the adorable artwork and colourful street art dotting the area to Patisserie Le Paradise, a cosy cafe that sells snail-shaped cakes. Maybe you’ll even get a glimpse of actual snails here! When you’re done for the day, take your shoes off and relax at The Spring.
If you have time to spare, we recommend taking a day trip to Keelung, around an hour from Taipei. This underrated seaside locale is also nicknamed “Rainy Port” because it often rains a lot here – over 200 days every year, in fact! While it may be a small city, that shouldn’t put you off from visiting it – there are still plenty of things to see and do.
Its most famous attraction is the Miaokou Night Market. Often touted as Taiwan’s best night market, it boasts a variety of delicious street food such as thick crab and spare rib soups, fried fish paste tempura, “nutritious sandwiches” (deep fried bread filled with sausages, braised eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, and mayonnaise) and shaved ice dessert.
A stone’s throw away from the night market is Khoo Tsu-song Old Mansion, an abandoned house built in 1931 for a prominent Taiwanese politician. The ruins are located on a hillside, offering panoramic city views. Check out the decorative tiles, round windows, and beautiful detailing on the frames while exploring this place. We reckon the mansion would’ve been a great place to live in, if it wasn’t in shambles.
Don’t forget to whip out your cameras and snap pics of the colourful houses at Zhengbin Fishing Harbour – these remind us of Joo Chiat’s shophouses. While you’re here, see if you can spot a boat called Folk Art, Taiwan’s first floating art museum.
We’re not going to miss out on Taipei if we’re compiling a travel guide to Taiwan! The bustling capital has something for everyone: art and culture, history and tradition, nature and wildlife… it’s a modern city every tourist will love.
Studio Ghibli fans should know Jiufen, notably for resembling the ghost village in Spirited Away. This tourist destination is famous for its traditional teahouses and red lanterns, though it’s a tad small and tends to get crowded. We recommend visiting early in the morning or sticking around after 4pm.
The expansive Liberty Square (it measures 240,000 square metres) is home to three significant landmarks: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, National Theater and Concert Hall. They’re all within walking distance of each other; the memorial hall truly stands out, thanks to its impressive architecture. Don’t be intimidated by the steps! You should also visit the National Palace Museum, which boasts a permanent collection encompassing over 8,000 years of Chinese history. Drop by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum instead if the past is not your thing.
Looking for something fun to do? Hit up Ximending, which is often regarded as the Harujuku and Shibuya of Taipei. This district has a thriving nightlife scene and is a good place to shop. It’s also the main ‘hood for the LGBTQ+ community – if you can’t tell by the colourful crossing, known as Rainbow Six, at Ximen MRT station – so queer travellers will feel more love here. We also recommend hitting up Huashan 1914 Creative Arts Park, where you can have a picnic or check out an art exhibit.
With our handy travel guide, you have no excuse to do last-minute planning for your Taiwan trip.