Though we only spent three nights there (and one of them was when an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 struck), Tainan was one of our favourite places we visited in Taiwan. It’s a relatively small city with a reasonably walkable historical centre where most of the places of interest are to be found.
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It is actually the oldest city in Taiwan, something which is quite obvious when coming from other cities which we generally found to be rather ugly and clearly laid out on a very boring grid system. It’s also blessed with good weather year most of the year, never dropping below 15C even in winter. In summer, however, it can get into the low 30s with very heavy rainfall. Here are our six cool things to do in Tainan.
Visit the National Museum of Taiwan Literature 國立台灣文學館
Located in the former Tainan City Hall, this free museum has a variety of displays about the history of Taiwanese literature, including artefacts from the Japanese rule and from mainland China. There is some signage in English, but there is a lot that will be impenetrable if you can’t read Chinese. Nonetheless, it’s a pleasant space to wander around and even has some interesting displays including several on feminist, homosexual and erotic Taiwanese literature, which was a nice surprise.
People watch at the Confucius Temple 台南孔子廟
Just down the road from the literature museum, the grounds of this wonderfully calm 17th century temple are free to enter and make for a great escape from the traffic into an oasis of green and red. To enter the inner temple itself, there is a fee of NT$25 (€0.70).
While it is a tourist attraction, it is also a popular place among locals to relax during their lunch break, practice the diabolo or take photos with friends. Perfect on a sunny day!
- Address: 南門路2號
(Window) shop at the Hayashi Department Store 林百貨
I’m not normally a fan of checking out shops (that’s Zab’s thing), but this department store is quite unique. Spread across five floors in an Art Deco building, it sells off-brand, handmade and unique items ranging from postcards, soaps, scarves and cutlery to books, watches, chocolate and tea. There’s also a pleasant cafe on the top floor, which though it doesn’t serve any vegan food, does have some excellent tea.
Visit the Anping Treehouse 安平樹屋
Probably the most unusual site in Tainan, this former salt processing factory, which after being left abandoned for almost sixty years was overgrown with banyan trees is located in the Anping district of the city to the west of the downtown area. Entrance is NT$50 (€1.40) and includes entry to the adjacent building displaying rolls of calligraphy.
Wandering through the maze of ruined manmade structures taken over by huge, seemingly ever-expanding tree trunks is quite a surreal experience, and there is definitely something creepy but charming about the place.
Just beyond the treehouse, you can take a bridge over a canal to get views back towards the city, out towards the ocean and over the Taijiang National Park, a wetland area of great ecological value.
Wander around the West Central District
The oldest and arguably most interesting part of downtown Tainan is the West Central district, this is a refreshingly pedestrian-friendly area of town where you’ll stumble upon countless temples, boutique shops, hipster cafés and even some otherwise hard to find street art.
Eat at Dove Tail Cafe 慢慢鳩
Without a doubt, our favourite eatery in Tainan, this vegan café that also doubles as a carpentry workshop has a delightfully relaxed vibe and really cool handmade furniture. And it’s right on one of the cutest pedestrian-only streets of the West Central district.
The menu mostly consists of drinks, but there are also several vegan noodle soups and some other snacks. Service is not extremely fast, so come with some time and enjoy the atmosphere.
There are a couple of cafes and co-working spaces worth mentioning in Tainan, which you can read about in our digital nomad guide to Taiwan.
Bonus: where to stay in Tainan
Of our time spent in Taiwan, the JJ-W Hotel 佳佳西市場 in Tainan was probably the nicest hotel we stayed in and we would definitely recommend it. The room, while it had very little natural light, was quiet, comfortable and spacious enough without being huge. The shower was hot, everything was clean and there was even a fridge.
A big highlight for us was the cosy common area on the first floor, which served well as a workspace, but also a nice place to lounge around and watch the scenes on the street below through the huge windows while sipping a nice cup of complimentary tea or coffee. The staff were also some of the most helpful people in service positions we encountered in Taiwan and breakfast was pretty good and they were happy to veganise it for us.
Check out the hotel options for Tainan
You can also download this guide on the GPSMyCity app!