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Taiwan’s oldest city and ancient capital, Tainan is steeped in history and located on the southwest coast of Taiwan. A joyous mix of the old and new, there are so many things to do in Tainan.
Tainan is revered for its ancient temples and fortresses – it was even the island’s capital for over 200 years until 1887 under the Qing dynasty.
As well as beautiful old buildings and modern street art, Tainan is home to some of the best Taiwan street-food plus sublime side-streets packed full of lanterns and old tea shops.
From night markets to old movie theatres, creative parks to ‘coffin bread’ (better than it sounds), there are so many things to do in Tainan (and eat and drink!)
Here is our guide to the top things to do in Tainan, Taiwan (2023):
Table of Contents
Things to do in Tainan
1. Anping Treehouse
Taiwan’s national tourist board calls the neighbouring (and historic town) of Anping one of the ‘best small tourist towns’ in Taiwan – so this really is one the top things to do in Tainan.
Along with the Old Fort (see below), the main historic attraction here is the Anping Treehouse. The Anping treehouse itself is actually a former warehouse that was abandoned for many years and allowed to go to ruin, overgrown with banyan trees.
Anping Treehouse in Tainan opened to the public in 2004 and is now one of the most popular Tainan tourist attractions – the best way to describe it is ‘Angkor Wat’ meets ‘Shoreditch warehouse chic’ (seriously!)
It doesn’t sound that cool but walking around the Anping Treehouse ruins with roots pushing through the foundations everywhere is fascinating. Think of Ta Prohm temple in Siem Reap and you’ll see what we mean.
The entry price for Anping Treehouse as of summer 2023 is around $2 USD / £1.65 – discounted Anping Treehouse tickets can be bought from Klook here >
A top Tainan tourist spot, find out more about our visit to the treehouse and how to get there, read our full Anping Treehouse in Tainan blog >
2. Anping Old Fort / Fort Zeelanda
A short walk from Anping Treehouse brings you to Anping Fort (also known as Fort Zeelanda).
Anping Fort can be seen for miles around and was built in the 1620s by the Dutch East India Company, to act as an international business centre. As trade at the time depended on military force to control the markets, the value of the area to the Dutch was mainly in its strategic position – tactical eh!
As well as exploring the Anping Fort walls and original bastion, you can climb up steep stairs to a viewing tower, providing 360 degree views of the local area (although there are narrow stairs up so not great if you don’t enjoy heights).
To get to Fort Anping easily from Tainan train station, jump aboard bus 2, 88 or 99.
The entry price for Anping Old Fort as of summer 2023 is around $2 USD / £1.65 – discounted Anping Old Fort tickets can be bought from Klook here
For more information on visiting, read our dedicated Anping Old Fort / Fort Zeelandia blog >
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3. Grand Mazu Temple
Grand Mazu temple (aka the ‘Great Queen of Heaven temple) is Tainan’s most revered place to worship and is dedicated to Mazu, the patron deity of fisherman.
It is open seven days a week (free admission) and you witness a great number of local people paying their respects when you visit – there are around 500 Mazu temples in Taiwan but this is one of the most visited temples in Taiwan.
The statue of Mazu here is around 300 years old with the site dating back to 1664 (although the temple has gone through many renovations and changes over the years, including earthquakes and fires).
Such in Mazu Temple’s popularity and beauty, a Taiwanese creative agency recently (in 2022) launched an accurate digital recreation of the temple in the Metaverse. Online visitors can light virtual lanterns and have fortune poems – but the real thing will always be better.
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4. Blueprint Creative Park
Taiwan is famous for its creative parks (especially in Taipei) and Tainan is no exception – home to independent, quirky shops, food stalls and pop up art installations and murals. Blueprint Creative Park came to be after local artists expressed a desire to be able to legally paint on walls somewhere in Tainan.
Working with local artists, the local Government converted old Japanese Government dormitories into a Blueprint Cultural Park (hence its ‘shabby chic’ appearance).
Most people talk of the actual original 3D blueprint installation here, and you can’t move for people taking selfies – it is definitely one of the most Instagrammable spots in Tainan, along with the Anping Treehouse.
However, whilst we can see its charm and clever use of perspective, this part of the park was our least favourite, as it was looking quite run down when we visited (hopefully it has been refurbished since). The other Blueprint Creative Park murals and installations were spot on though!
Various pop-up events happen at Tainan’s Creative Park from Design Weeks to Pokemon pop-ups and the coffee shops here are always cute and charming- this is one top Tainan tourist spot and a ‘blueprint’ for success.
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5. Tainan Park
Although not really on the tourist map, we saw Tainan Park on the map (still shown by its former name of Zhongshan on some older Tainan maps) and decided to have a sunset walk there early one evening,
Very much under the radar of tourist things to do in Tainan, the serenity and beauty of the huge floating pavilion made this park really stand out.
As well as the pathways that arch around the Tainan Park / Zhongshan lake, there are several arched footbridges, lily bonds and smaller pavillions to discover.
In addition, there is one of the few Qing dynasty stone archways still remaining in Taiwan (it is incredible to find such a historic relic so unexpectedly and unannounced in the middle of the park).
The locals (especially the elderly population) make good use of the park, with large groups congregating to chat, play chess or perform tai chi / exercises – it is a popular jogging spot in Tainan too.
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6. Hayashi Department Store
Tainan’s Hayashi Department Store is like stepping back in time in Taiwan, akin to visiting Selfridges or Liberty in London.
Six stories in height and relatively compact (don’t expect a huge modern department store), Hayashi Department Store was opened in 1932 during the Japanese occupation and to this day still has its original lift / elevator in working order.
The highlight for us was a visit to the rooftop where there are several food outlets (and a lovely tearoom), with a gorgeous gift shop and shrine dedicated to the owner. We coincided our visit at sunset and were treated to glorious views of the city.
One of the best things to do in Tainan’s Hayashi Department Store is visit the rooftop where there are several food outlets (and a lovely tearoom), with a gorgeous gift shop and shrine dedicated to the owner.
Try to coincide your visit to Hayashi Department Store with sunset and enjoy glorious views of the city.
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7. Chin Men Movie Theatre
The Chin Men Movie Theatre is a historic Tainan cinema / theater that famous Taiwanese film director Ang Lee (Sense and Sensibility, Hulk) used to visit as a young boy.
Chin Men is also the only theatre left in Taiwan that still displays hand drawn movie posters, many of which can be seen outside the theatre and on the surrounding streets.
Created and lovingly hand-painted by Yan Jhen Fa for the last 50 years, his eyesight is now sadly starting to deteriorate so the tradition may soon die.
Specialising in older, second run movies, when we visited the Chin Men movie theater, we saw large intricate hand painted posters for Logan (Wolverine), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody.
We read that you can sometimes see Yan Jhen Fa at work as he often paints his movie masterpieces on a vacant lot across the road from the Chin Men Theatre, but unfortunately he wasn’t there the day we visited. Yan Jhen Fa is still hard at work, recently creating a special Coldplay mural in Taipei’s Ximending.
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8. Tainan Flower Market (Night Market)
‘Blooming’ heck – so we had read a few articles about how good and authentic the Tainan Garden Flower Night Market is. Chock full of Taiwanese street food fare and tasty tidbits, we were personally a bit underwhelmed by it compared to all the other Taiwanese night markets we had previously visited.
So yes, there are a lot of stalls at the Garden Night Market in Tainan, but the food is all very similar and can get very busy down the narrow lanes at peak periods.
When we eventually found quiet moments we were able to order ourselves some famous Tainan Coffin Bread, a bag of fried chicken and several other local snacks. It is also very cool to sit with the locals at the crowded tables and see what they are eating.
There is much fun to be had too watching the amusement stalls, where revellers try to pop balloons with darts or win prizes with children’s fishing rods.
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9. Guohua Street
Guohua Street is easily one of the best things to do in Tainan and a top Tainan tourist spot – it is a busy, narrow shopping road packed full of cool shops and eateries, but do watch out for the mopeds!.
There is just so much to see (and eat) here, and it seems to be very popular with the Tainan students – we tried a few street food dishes (including a Korean pancake from Little Korea).
We even noticed a food stall that had such a big queue that they had a resident DJ complete with decks to keep the crowd entertained as they queued.
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10. Shennong Street
Possibly the prettiest and most picturesque street in Tainan, Shennong Street used to be the main entrance for the river ports during the time of the Qing Dynasty – it used to be the busiest area in the whole of the city, as merchants and buyers would enter and exit from the port here.
Shennong Street in Tainan has a glut of gift-shops, but the overall aesthetic is still rather pleasing (although the arcade machines on the street by the main entrance are not so in keeping with the character of the local area).
We visited Shennong Street during Chinese New Year so the walls were adorned with red Chinese lanterns, and each shop was taking part in a decorative lantern competition, which they had proudly displayed outside their stores.
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11. Tainan Street Art
Art attack! Don’t forget to keep your eyes out for Tainan’s creative and alluring street art. It is all around (from street furniture to road signs) as you roam the streets (some easier to find than others).
The beauty of Tainan’s street art is that it changes regularly so you never know what you are going to find.
Alas, there also used to be a dedicated Museum of Street Art (the outdoor 3D mural reminded us a little of Super Mario) but as of 2023, this appears to be closed down.
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Try Tainan’s local dishes
Some of Taiwan’s best street-food, there is lots of tasty local food to try whilst in Tainan
12. Coffin Bread
A snack made of a very thick piece of white bread that’s hollowed out and fried to make a crunchy box shaped ‘coffin’ – which is then filled with a creamy stew of either chicken, vegetables, mushroom or seafood.
13. Danzai noodles
A bowl of oil noodles in a broth with coriander, black vinegar and garlic, then topped with minced pork and prawns – a very popular dish in Tainan.
A Southern Taiwanese specialty, milkfish is flaky in texture and best served fried or steamed. There is even a museum in Tainan dedicated to the fish – the Milkfish Palace.
15. Oyster Omelette
This dish is super popular throughout the whole of Taiwan and is made with fresh oysters, eggs, sweet potato starch and bean sprouts, then topped with a sweet and sour sauce.
16. Other Places to Eat in Tainan
Anping Chou’s Delicacy
Whilst exploring the Anping district, we stopped for a quick snack/lunch at Anping Chou’s Delicacy (or Chou’s Shrimp Rolls) – a Tainan City institution which has been serving customers since 1965. We opted for two of their famous and tasty deep fried shrimp rolls, plus a pork rice noodle dish.
Address: 125 Anping Road, Anping District, Tainan City 708
Ba Fang Yun Ji Dumplings
Although not authentic, we also made good use of the popular Taiwanese chain restaurant Ba Fang Yun Ji Dumplings.
We ate several of our lunches here during our 3 weeks in Taiwan – tasty (if a tad too salty) and so crazy cheap they suit any backpacker’s budget. They have an English menu behind the counter so you just need to ask for it!
Address: 197 Chenggong Road, Tainan City
17. Tainan Art Museum
Opened in 2019 and spread over 2 buildings, Tainan Art Museum displays over 400 years of local and national art across 35 different galleries.
Once Tainan’s Police Headquarters, this is now one of Tainan’s most popular museums and is within walking distance of Tainan train station.
Our final thing to do in Tainan
18. Tainan Day Trips and Tours
Tainan Historic Sites Pass
2023 UPDATE: This pass seems to be currently unavailable
If you are planning on visiting all of the popular historical sites in Tainan then you might want to consider purchasing a Tainan Historic Sites Pass.
The pass gives you one-time entry to the following historic sites: Anping Old Fort (Old Fort Zeelandia), Anping Tree House, Chihkan Tower (Fort Provintria) and Eternal Golden Castlealso. PLUS the pass also gives you unlimited rides on Tainan city buses for 24 hours. Order a pass online with Klook and pick up from Tainan train station.
How to get to Tainan
Kaohsiung is the nearest international airport and is served by the low cost airline Air Asia (get hunting for those bargain fares!).
A taxi from Khaosiung airport to Tainan will take around 40 minutes, or you can take a combination of train and subway which will take around 1 hour 20 minutes. Plan your route in advance online using Rome2rio.
The best way to get to Tainan from other parts of Taiwan is by train. The Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR) is super fast and arrives into HSR Tainan Station (Note: this station is a little bit out of the city, so you will need to take a bus or taxi to get to your hotel). You can book your high speed rail tickets online with Klook for convenience.
There is an alternative and much cheaper TRA train from that arrives at Tainan station (in the city centre) and is half the price of the high speed rail. However the journey time is over twice as long, but is a great choice for travellers who are on a budget and not time limited.
It is best to book your seats on these popular routes well in advance (especially during the Taiwan public holidays like Chinese New Year).
Alternatively you can travel to Tainan in style from Taipei in this private chartered car >
Taiwan 5 Day Joint Train Pass
You can book a Taiwan 5 Day Joint Train Pass for overseas travellers which gives you unlimited travel for 5 days on Taiwan High Speed Rail and Taiwan Railway trains. Click here to book your Taiwan 5 Day Joint Train Pass on Klook >
Tainan to Taipei / Taipei to Tainan
It is easy to take a bus between Taipei and Tainan starting from as little as 12.85 USD / £10 one-way (bus prices correct as of June 2023).
The bus journey between Taipei and Tainan takes around 3.5 hours when taking an express bus.
How to get around Tainan
There is no underground metro system in Tainan but they have a great bus network. The Tainan tourist shuttle bus (88 and 99) runs daily and takes you to all the major places of interest in the city. Fares are around 36 TWD one way, or you can buy an all day pass from Tainan train station.
The regular City bus covers most of the city and fares are 18 TWD one way. Most of the bus routes start outside the main Tainan train station. We used the city bus a handful of times, and found them very easy to use – using google maps on our phones to plan our routes.
If you are staying in the city for a while you might want to consider purchasing an iPass which you can use to pay for your bus rides in Tainan, and also in Taipei and Kaohsiung. These can be purchased and topped up in convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Family Mart.
Hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus
The city has recently introduced a new and fairly cheap double decker sightseeing bus which you can book online in advance with Klook here.
Pocket WIFI rental in Tainan
Having a pocket wifi device was super handy during our trip. We pre-ordered one online with Klook and collected the device at Taipei airport and dropped it off at Kaohsiung’s airport. The rental cost was pretty cheap at only £1.25 per day, and we were both able to connect our phones to it.
More Taiwan blog posts
- The best things to see and do in Taipei
- Kaohsiung travel guide, Taiwan
- Taichung travel guide, Taiwan
- Shoushan Love lookout and Pier 2 Art Center in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
- Houtong Cat Village – a fun day trip from Taipei
- Taiwan’s night time markets – a photo guide
- A guide to ‘7-Eleven’ in Taiwan
- The Modern Toilet – a poo themed restaurant in Taipei
- Tasting local Taiwanese dishes on a food tour in Taipei
Here are some highly rated accommodation suggestions for all types of budget in Tainan!
Some hostel accommodations that come highly rated include:
If you are looking for something mid range then these hotels are in excellent locations with great reviews:
Alternatively if you are looking for something more special then treat yourself to a stay at one of these beautiful hotels in Tainan:
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