Tainan Attractions – What To Do, Eat & Where To Sleep

We loved our visit to Tainan in Taiwan – the oldest and arguably the most historically interesting city in Taiwan. It is commonly referred to as the “Capital City” given its 200 plus years as the centre of power under the Koxinga and then the Qing dynasty rule from the mid 17th to mid 19th centuries.

Today Tainan is home to numerous Taoist temples, Buddhist temples and churches which make the city a lovely place to wander and explore.

Its potential as a trading post was recognised by the Dutch East India Company in the early 17th century. The Company established a fort in Anping (then known as Tayouan), which was soon expanded and renamed Fort Zeelandia. This became a hugely important centre for Dutch trade between China, Japan and Europe.

Remnants of this crucial period of Tainan’s history remain on display throughout Anping and, along with the beautiful temples, provide a fascinating backdrop to one of Taiwan’s most interesting cities.

One of the many beautiful temples in Tainan

Here you’ll find all the top things to do, where to eat, where to stay, how to get there and get around, and the best time of year to visit.

Tainan Attractions

There are plenty of things to do in Tainan to keep you occupied for days. Here are some of our favourites that we would recommend for your Tainan Itinerary:

Chimei Museum

The elaborate entrance to Chimei Museum

Chimei Museum, established in 1992, houses a surprisingly impressive and eclectic private collection of fine arts, musical instruments, armor and weapons, antiquities and artifacts, and an amazing natural history gallery.

The museum moved to its current location in the Tainan Metropolitan Park in 2014. The park is large, and very nicely manicured with a very European feel, especially as you walk across over the lake on the bridge lined with Greek and Roman Gods. 

The bridge leading to Chimei Museum

The building itself is impressive even before you get inside, maintaining the European feel with classical proportions, colonnades and a large dome.

The museum’s founder, Shi Wen-long, is a capable amateur violinist, and the museum boasts the world’s largest violin collection, displays of how to make violins and plenty of other very interesting musical instruments.

However, our kids’ (and us to be fair) loved the armor and weapons galleries and especially the natural history section. Covering a large portion of the ground floor, the natural history gallery chartered life from its very beginning through to the modern-day, displaying dozens of taxidermy animals from throughout the world. The kids were enthralled and demanded that we go back for a second look before we left – always a good sign after a long day out!

Where is it: Chimei Museum is located just under 8km south of the Tainan Station.

How do you get there: Taxi is the most efficient way to get there, and should take about 20 minutes.

How much is the entrance fee: Adults NT$200 (US$6); students NT$150 (US$5); children under 6 years are free.

Anping Tree House

Amazing Anping Treehouse

The Anping port was opened up to international trade in the 1850’s with the signing of the Treaty of Tientsin. Taking advantage of the opportunity to trade sugar and camphor, Tait & Company built a merchant house and warehouse close to the port in 1867.

In 1911, the property was acquired by the Japan Salt Company, which subsequently abandoned the warehouse, leaving it to be engulfed by the surrounding banyan trees. 

You can easily spend an hour or so exploring the house and amazing Banyan trees

The result is quite spectacular, and, since opening in 2004, it has become one of the most popular tourist must-sees in Tainan. With stairs and platforms delicately built in amongst the trees and the crumbling building there are plenty of places to get that perfect shot, so make sure you come along with your camera fully charged!

Instaperfect Anping Treehouse

The Merchant House is also open to the public and is well worth a look to give you some more detail about the history of this fascinating area.

Where is it: Anping Tree House is located about 6km west of the Tainan Station and about a 250m walk north from Fort Zeelandia.

How do you get there: Taxi is the most efficient way to get there, and should take about 20 minutes. Alternatively take the number 88 or 99 bus from opposite the Tainan Station on the south side of the road, though this has the potential to take more than an hour.

How much is the entrance fee: Adults NT$50 (US$2); Children NT$25 (US$1).

Fort Zeelandia / Anping Old Fort

Fort Zeelandia in Tainan

Fort Zeelandia, or Anping Old Fort was built by the Dutch East India Company between 1624 and 1634.

Occupying an elevated site in an otherwise flat area, the fort was built less for defence against an attacking enemy, but rather to keep out the local population and provide a good vantage point to oversee trade.

Old canons at the fort

There is a pleasant walkway within the walls of the lower level, or outer fort, and then steps up to the inner fort with cannons (which our kids loved playing amongst) and nice views. There’s also a small shop selling souvenirs, ice creams and even beer, which you may feel you’ve earned!

A climb up the watchtower is also worth the effort for even better views of looking back towards the city.

Where is it: Fort Zeelandia is located about 6km west of the Tainan Station.

How do you get there: Taxi is the most efficient way to get there, and should take about 20 minutes. Alternatively take the number 88 or 99 bus from opposite the Tainan Station on the south side of the road, though this has the potential to take more than an hour.

How much is the entrance fee: Adults NT$50 (US$2); Children NT$25 (US$1).

Anping Old Street

A seafood products store at Anping Old Street

Spending some time wandering through Anping Old Street is a must when you visit the neighbourhood. The route runs along Yanping Street, just down from the entrance to Fort Zeelandia.

Heading there during lunchtime is perfect, allowing you to take advantage of the numerous food stalls that line the street. There are delicious sausages, peanut candy, the unpleasantly named (but actually quite tasty) pig blood cake, coffin bread, lots of fruit and juices and plenty of other tasty treats.

It’s also a great place to do some shopping for little trinkets to take home. There are plenty of shops and stalls willing to lend you a hand if you’re not sure what you should be getting!

As you wander through the neighbourhood, you will also come across a number of small temples giving you the perfect opportunity to take a few minutes of quiet contemplation amongst the beautifully ornate surroundings.

Shrimp rolls – dip in the delicious sauces and condiments they provide and you’ve got a delicious lunch!

We stopped in for some yummy lunch at Chou’s Shrimp Rolls, which was a block south of Yanping Street. As you would expect with the name, the fried shrimp rolls were very good. We also really enjoyed the noodles.

Where is it: Anping Old Street is located about 6km west of the Tainan Station just south east of the main entrance to Fort Zeelandia.

How do you get there: Taxi is the most efficient way to get there, and should take about 20 minutes. Alternatively take the number 88 or 99 bus from opposite the Tainan Station on the south side of the road, though this has the potential to take more than an hour.

How much is the entrance fee: Free – though you might want to spend some on the food and souvenirs!

Tainan Art Museum II

The exterior of the new Tainan 2 Art Museum

On our final day in Tainan we were heading back to our hotel when we walked past the very newly opened Tainan Art Museum II (opened late Jan, 2019). It was so new that it hadn’t been on any of our must-do lists, but it was a very impressive building, so we took advantage of the free entry (a temporary promotion) and had a look inside.

The interior of Tainan Art Museum 2

The building is cavernous and light filled, with over 2,500 square meters of exhibition space across 16 exhibition rooms. The is also a children’s art center, a cafe and restaurant.

Most importantly there is some very interesting art from Taiwan and around the world. Well worth a couple of hours!

Where is it: Tainan Art Museum II is located about 1.5km south west of the Tainan Station.

How do you get there: It’s a 20 minute walk from Tainan Station, otherwise a Taxi should take about 5 minutes. 

How much is the entrance fee: Free at the moment, with charges to be published soon.

 

Hayashi Department Store

Beautiful shrine on the roof of Hayashi Department Store in Tainan

One of the most interesting things we did during our time in Tainan was visit the Hayashi Department Store,  which gave a fascinating insight into the cultural development of Tainan over the last 80 years.

The department store was founded by Hayashi Houichi, a Japanese immigrant who had come to Tainan in 1912. After building his fortune opening clothing stores over the subsequent 20 years, he then opened the Hayashi Department Store in 1932.

It was the second department store to open in Taiwan, following only days after the first opened in Taipei. As such, it was primed to take advantage of the modernisation of the country, with electricity, telephones, automobiles and a new cafe culture reaching the wider population.

It’s had a varied history since that time. After being damaged by air raids during WWII, the building was transformed into offices by the Taiwan Salt Factory and it remained out of action as a department store for almost 70 years.

The good news was that the building remained largely original and was classified as a Municipal Heritage Site in 1998, with restoration work being completed by the Tainan City Government in 2013.

The store is now fully functioning. It’s a lovely space that also takes time to recognise its journey with old photographs on display. 

The preserved elevator at Hayashi Department Store

When you’re there make sure you take the elevator to the top of the building. The elevator was only the second installed in Taiwan, and it’s great fun. Then, when you get to the top you’ll be greeted with some fantastic views of the city.

 

Where is it: Hayashi Department Store is located about 1.3km south west of the Tainan Station.

How do you get there: It’s a 15 minute walk from Tainan Station, otherwise a Taxi should take about 5 minutes. 

How much is the entrance fee: Free.

 

Chihkan Tower

Iconic Chikhan Tower

Sitting on the site originally occupied by Fort Provintia, built by the Dutch in the mid 1600’s, Chihkan Tower was rebuilt built in the 19th Century after the fort was destroyed in an earthquake.

The attractive tower is now one of the most popular landmarks in Tainan, housing Haisheng Temple, Wengchang Pavilion and Penghu College. Outside there is a culturally significant statue of Koxinga accepting the surrender of the Dutch.

Where is it: Chihkan Tower is located about 1.3km west of the Tainan Station.

How do you get there: It’s a 15 minute walk from Tainan Station, otherwise a Taxi should take about 5 minutes. 

How much is the entrance fee: Adults NT$50 (US$2); Children NT$25 (US$1).  

Tainan Temples

Tainan is blessed with a large number of beautiful temples dotted throughout the city. As you wander around you will happen across neighbourhood temples tucked behind houses and shops and around quiet corners. Most are elaborately decorated, regardless of their size, making them the perfect place to sit and contemplate life.

However before you venture inside any temple, it’s best to be aware of some simple rules of etiquette:

  • Mind what you’re wearing. It’s best to cover your arms and legs wherever possible. Long trousers, and a cardigan or pashmina would be perfect.
  • Remove shoes and hats before entering.
  • Keep quiet. Be respectful of people there to pray by keeping talking to a minimum, turning your phone to silent and not using a flash when taking photographs.
  • Don’t touch or point at the altar or decorations.
  • Don’t show your teeth (cover your mouth when yawning etc) or the soles of your feet.
  • Be respectful to nuns and monks by standing when they enter the room and making sure you do not walk between them and the altar when they are praying. Feel free to talk to them if they engage with you. Greet them by bowing with your hands held together in front of you.
  • Feel free to make an offering. There will usually be a table in the temple with food or flowers on it. 
  • Also, feel free to light an incense stick. We did this in most temples we went into and made a small donation (a dollar or two is fine). 
  • Interestingly you should enter the temple with your left foot first, and exit with your right foot first. This creates balance in the world and in your life.

 

Once you have the basics sorted, make the most of the opportunity to explore some of the best temples in Taiwan! We managed to visit a few during our stay in Tainan – our favourites included:

-The God of War Temple: situated on Yongfu Road, just south of Chihkan Tower.

-Tainan Grand Mazu Temple: a few doors to the west of The God of War Temple on Tongfu Road.

-Temple of Kuan Kong: on Xinmei Street, 200m south west of The God of War Temple.

-Grand Mazu Temple: immediately south of Anping Old Fort.

-Anping Guanyin Pavilion: located one block to the south of Anping Old Street and just across the road from a restaurant serving very good fried shrimp rolls.

There are plenty more – all of them great. Just give yourself at least an hour or two to wander around and enjoy.

The Best Tainan Accommodation:

Throughout Taiwan, there is a great range in the quality of accommodation. There are certainly lovely hotels available, but these come at a cost. Our budget was more limited, and so our expectations were for functional and clean, without too many frills.

We split our time in Tainan between a mid-range hotel and an apartment, booked through Booking.com.

Dynasty Hotel

No. 46, Chenggong Road, North District, Tainan City, Taiwan 704.

Situated 500m directly west of Tainan Station, this Tainan hotel was very easy to walk to once we got off the train.

Our room at Dynasty Hotel, Tainan

 

Our bathroom at Dynasty Hotel, Tainan

It was simple and clean, however the decor is a little dated (as with many Taiwan hotels). It was in a convenient location for transport and we did use both the bus and taxis to ease the weary legs of the kids. Anping is still about 6kms away, so transport is required to explore that side of the city.

Check prices and book the Dynasty Hotel here

Forget Go Home B&B

Zhongzheng Rd, Tainan, Tainan City, Taiwan 710.

 

The amazing slide at Forget Go Home B&B in Tainan

Only a few blocks (approximately 2km) south of Dynasty Hotel, we booked in a real treat for the kids, and one of the most unique and fun places to stay that we experienced anywhere in Asia. This small apartment had a very cool mezzanine bedding area for the kids with its very own slide down to the ground!

The kids were really looking forward to staying there, and had a ball when we arrived. It really was a lot of fun for two or three nights. The apartment was also very clean, with a good bathroom, and we got a voucher for McDonalds over the road for breakfast, which was also a hit with the kids!

Check prices and book Forget Go Home B&B here

Other recommended options:

Top End Tainan Hotels:

Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel

The rooms are spacious, and the location is within walking distance of the train and bus station plus many attractions. This hotel also has a gorgeous rooftop pool.

Check prices and book the Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel here

Silks Place Tainan

Guests at Silks Place love the great hotel location and service from the staff. It’s very central, close to Hayashi Department Store and the Confucius Temple.

Check prices and book Silks Place Tainan here

Mid-range Tainan Hotels:

FX Hotel Tainan

FX Hotel is only a 10-minute walk from Chikan Tower, putting you in the heart of all the action. The rooms are well-maintained and new.

Check prices and book FX Hotel Tainan here

La Plaza Hotel

Guests recommend the breakfast buffet at La Plaza Hotel, and it’s great location close to many of the city’s temples.

Check prices and book La Plaza Hotel here

Budget Tainan Hotels:

ECFA Hotel

If you’re watching the budget, then ECFA Hotel is a good choice – guests comment on the great value spotlessly clean rooms and good location.

Check prices and book ECFA Hotel here

Ying Dai Hotel

A great value for money hotel with very clean bathrooms and individual water dispensers provided in rooms!

Check prices and book Ying Dai Hotel here

 

Visiting Taipei with kids? Check out our complete comprehensive guide now!

Where to Eat in Tainan:

 

Delicious beef noodle soup, a staple of Taiwanese cuisine

Like most places in Taiwan, there is great food on offer in Tainan. In particular we loved the Tainan night markets. They always offer yummy Taiwanese food for all the family,  as well as interesting sights and good shopping opportunities. Our favourites included:

The Garden Night Market

Situated just under 2.5km north west of Tainan Station (about half an hour’s walk or 10 minutes in a taxi), the Garden Night Market is one of, if not the, biggest and most popular markets in Tainan. Be prepared for throngs of people, but if you’re happy to battle the crowds you will be rewarded with good food options, as well as games and shopping. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the stinky tofu. Open Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 5pm.

Ta-Tung Night Market

This market is 2.5km southeast of Tainan Station (again, about half an hour’s walk or 10 minutes in a taxi). It too offers a huge variety of local and international cuisine, along with plenty of shopping options. There’s even a section offering massages to ease your weary muscles after all that walking (and eating). Open Monday to Friday from 5.30pm.

Wusheng Night Market

This is the place to come to get your fix of market games. The are plenty of options to satisfy your pinball, shooting or throwing requirements, as well as a healthy number of delicious eating options. The market is located just over 2.5km west of Tainan Station and is open from 6.30pm Wednesday to Saturday.

While we made the most of the night markets in Tainan, there are also plenty of great restaurants to try. We found a very good, simple restaurant specialising in fried shrimp rolls a block south of Anping Old Street. It’s called Chou’s Shrimp Rolls, so no surprises what it specialises in! It’s well worth a visit when you’re in the area, plus there is a lovely Taoist temple just across the road.

The food in Tainan is cheap, so take some risks. Go places where there are a lot of locals, and just get stuck in. We very rarely had any food that we didn’t enjoy!

 

 

Travelling from Taipei to Tainan

Tainan is located just over 300km (186 miles) south of Taipei on the west coast of Taiwan. This represents a drive of about 3.5 hours on good motorways. However the best option to get between the two cities is train, cutting the travel time considerably and allowing for a more relaxing experience.

 

Us aboard the train from Taipei to Tainan

Travel by Train

The trains in Taiwan are clean and efficient and a very good transport option used extensively by  both locals and tourists. You have two options for getting from Taipei to Tainan:

1.Many people will opt for the High Speed Rail (HSR), which will get you to Tainan in under 2 hours depending on stops. It’s an experience in itself and perfect if you’re in a hurry! 

    • Standard Adult Fare – NT$1350 (US$43)
    • Standard Child Fare – NT$675 (US$22)
    • The train station is situated out of the city so you will need a taxi to get into the centre.

 

2. A TRA (Taiwan Railway Administration) train will give you a more sedate and cheaper, but still very comfortable trip south, and take while it takes a little longer it’s sometimes nice to while away an extra couple of hours taking in the countryside. The trip will take you approximately 4 to 4.5 hours depending on the number of stops.

    • Fare – NT$738 (US$24).
    • The Tainan train station is located close to the centre of town allowing you to walk, get the Tainan City bus or get a short taxi to your accommodation.

 

Travel by Car

Hiring a car and driving yourself is a relatively easy option in Taiwan. We caught the train south from Taipei as far as Kaohsiung, then rented a car to drive from Kaohsiung to Hualien. Driving around the southern part of the country was beautiful and incident free. 

Driving from the north will see more traffic, however the drivers are generally courteous and the roads are good.

As mentioned above, driving will take approximately 3.5 hours, however there is always the risk of traffic slowing the journey.

There are a number of well known rental car companies operating out of Taipei, and you should be able to secure a week’s rental for under US$60 per day with pick up and drop off at the airport or Taipei Main Station.

 

Travel by Bus

With the efficiency of the trains, the bus would only be an option if budget is the key consideration.

The trip from Taipei to Tainan will take between 4 – 5 hours traffic dependent, and costs approximately NT$370 (US$12).

Getting Around Tainan

Details of the bus to Anping from the main train station – plenty of stops!

Right throughout Taiwan we mostly used taxis and trains. Taxis were very competitively priced, and it was interesting to see that there were no ride sharing options that had seemed to make an inroad into the market.

We did try the Tainan bus to go from Tainan Station to Anping (US$1.50 for the four of us), and this was definitely cheaper than a taxi, however it did take a long time. We quickly reverted back to taxis given that the return trip only cost about US$7.00 in the taxi. Sometimes waiting for a bus when the kids are tired just isn’t worth it!

Handy tip: Most things are in Chinese in Tainan with not a lot of English spoken. Use Google Maps on your phone when you’re travelling around the town to help with directions (we used it on board the bus to know which stop to alight at), landmarks and showing taxi drivers where you want to go!

The Best Time to Visit Tainan:

Tainan, and Taiwan in general, is a great place to visit all year round, but it pays to be aware of what to expect in different seasons.

The winter months when we visited (February) was actually a great time to visit. We were lucky not to experience any rain and the temperatures were very mild – lows of around 16 degrees with most days being a very pleasant 21-23 degrees. This seems to be unusual however as temperatures are normally a bit cooler than this, and it does generally rain a lot in December and January.

Spring during March to May is a fabulous time to visit – Taiwan tourism is starting to show that it’s a great alternative to busy Japan and South Korea for cherry blossom season, and they were just starting to come into bloom during our visit.

In the summer months of June to September Tainan weather will be hot and humid so you would need to factor this into your sightseeing during your tour, and maybe take things a little slower.

On the positive side, it’s the perfect excuse to indulge in an icy cold Bubble Tea and eat lots of shaved ice to keep cool! June to October is also typhoon season in Taiwan, so you will need to bear this in mind if you visit during this time and be prepared for any interruptions this may bring to your travels.

Autumn or fall is also a great time to visit Taiwan, the cooler temperatures will make it more pleasant to visit the many Taiwan tourist attractions.

Finally, special consideration needs to be given if you’re visiting Taiwan during the Lunar New Year season like we did. There are pros and cons – there’s a wonderful festive atmosphere as everyone is celebrating this special time of year, and there are lots of different foods and snacks to try that you won’t find at other times of the year.

However many places will close for the holidays, so you need to check opening and closing times carefully and be prepared that some Taiwan attractions will not be open. It’s also a very busy time for public transport as people move around the country, so book train and bus tickets in advance and factor in extra time for traffic if you’re travelling by car.

Many tourists from neighbouring countries also visit Taiwan during this time, so many attractions will be busier than usual.

Enjoying the elaborate entrance to Chimei Museum in Tainan

So there you have it! All the top things to do, see and eat in the beautiful city of Tainan. Let us know if you have any questions below!

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