Our recent trip down the west coast of Taiwan (starting in Taipei) ended in the sprawling coastal city of Kaohsiung. Although you may have not have heard of it before, there are many things to do in Kaohsiung and it is fast becoming a tourist hotspot due to its vibrant arts scene, beautiful outlying islands and incredible food, plus anywhere that calls it’s main waterway ‘Love River’ is alright by us.
We visited the city for a week and would totally recommend visiting this city as part of your Taiwan itinerary. Here are our top attractions and things to do in Kaohsiung:
Things to do in Kaohsiung:
1. Lotus Lake Temples
A short train or bus ride away from the city centre brings to you to Lotus Lake – one of the top Kaohsiung attractions and famous for its lotus flowers (hence the name). This is actually a man made lake that was built in the 1950s, as a way to entice more visitors to the area.
It is also famous for being home to several large statues and religious shrines – the most famous of these (and likely the ones you will have seen on Instagram) are the Tiger and Dragon Pagodas, the Spring and Autumn Pavilions plus the Beiji Xuantian Shang Di Pavilion.
Our favourite was the Tiger and Dragon pagodas as we had never seen anything like this before. In line with Taiwanese tradition, we visited by entering through the dragon’s mouth and out via the tiger’s jaws to hopefully increase our good fortune. This was a perfect spot to use our drone as the views of the lake from up high with its epic religious relics looks incredible. We didn’t crash the drone either, so the good fortune from exiting the tiger’s mouth must have worked!
2. Pier 2 Art Center
Pier 2 Art Center is an immense complex, spread over several old industrial warehouses right next to the port in the Yancheng District. Once a hive of fishing piers and international shipping trade, the area fell into disuse until it was revived in 2006.
From quirky pop-up shops (like the Moomin’s exhibition when we visited) to fun outdoor sculptures and murals, there is a lot to see here and it is one of Kaohsiung’s top things to do. Read our full blog on the Kaohsiung Pier 2 Art Centre.
3. Dome of Light, Formosa Boulevard MRT Station
Another unique Kaohsiung attraction, this has been described by many as the ‘…world’s most beautiful underground / train station’ and is one of the most popular things to see in Kaohsiung..
The Dome of Light can be found at the Formosa Boulevard MRT station and was designed by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata. It is the ‘world’s largest domed underground station’ and took over four years to complete and install (it is approx 30 metres in diameter, and made up of over 4,000 glass pieces). The Dome of Light is free to visit and there are several ‘light shows’ daily (although it is still spectacular if your visit doesn’t coincide with a show). Check out our blog post on Kaohsiung’s Dome of Light.
4. Cijin Island
Kaohsiung is home to Cijin Island – a ‘tropical paradise’ just a short five minute ferry ride from the city centre. The beaches here are suitable for sunbathing and surfing, plus you can walk along the coastal path (or hire a cyclo). Sites include the Rainbow Church, the Giant Seashell (no, really!), Tinamou Temple and the surreal sculptures in Turbine Park. The is one of our favourite Kaohsiung attractions – check out our guide to Cijin Island blog post >
5. Liu He Night Market
A Kaohsiung tourist night market, this predominantly street eats and foodie thoroughfare lines both sides of a city block that is closed to traffic at night. Renowned for its seafood due to being a coastal city, we visited most nights and sampled lots of local fare. Locals dishes we tried included beef noodle soup and a form of clam spaghetti.
There is plenty of seating down the main strip at Liuhe Night Market and it never felt too overcrowded – this was such a welcome relief after the disastrous trip to the Flower Night Market a few days earlier in Tainan, where it was just crazily busily and too overcrowded.
The prices may be a little higher than the local daytime markets, but it is still very cheap compared to western standards. Liuhe Night Market is open every night from 6pm, and to get here take exit 11 from Formosa Boulevard MRT station – which takes you to the eastern end of the market.
Note: another larger and popular night market to visit in Kaohsiung (that we didn’t have time to go to) is Ruifeng Night Market, located between the Yucheng and Nanping Road in the Buoying District (3 minutes’ walk from the Kaohsiung Arena MRT station).
FURTHER READING – 10 of the best night markets in Taiwan
6. The Kaohsiung Shoushan Love Lookout
A short (but fairly steep) walk from the Pier 2 Art Center complex takes you to the Shoushan LOVE lookout. Located just in front of the hilltop Martyr’s Shrine, the lookout opened in 2012 and is a superb (and free!) vantage point to see the whole of Kaohsiung including the surrounding port and mountains.
As well as an observation lookout, there is a huge metal ‘LOVE’ sculpture at the top (hence the name), which is very popular as a photo spot with romantic local couples (so you may need to either queue to get a picture or if that fails, shoulder barge as alas, not everyone signs up to the queuing etiquette). Read our full Shoushan LOVE lookout full blog.
7. Sanfeng Temple
Over 300 years old – but moved to its current location brick by brick only 40 or so years ago, Sanfeng Temple is one of the most beautiful temples we have ever explored. As there were no other tourists there when we visited, it felt even more special. We have also read that it is the regarded as a Taoism temple of south Taiwan, but with Northern style architecture.
We visited during the Chinese New Year festivities so the temple was adorned with hundreds of red lanterns strewn across every available space, with a steady stream of well wishers and worshippers. There are several floors to explore – make sure you head up the staircases at the rear of the temple, up two flights of stairs, to get the best views of the temple.
8. Love River
Is there a more beautifully titled river in the world than the ‘Love River’? Kaohsiung has definitely made something special out of its waterfront. The riverside parks, cafes and boardwalks reminded us of London’s Southbank or a summer’s day along the Rhine in Basel. In fact, it feels even more European when you see the Italian gondolas glistening in the evening sun along the river here.
Very much the focal point of the Kaohsiung city, the locals really appear to have taken the Love River to the hearts (naturally) and it is a haven for picnics, dog walkers and waterfront diners.
We were fortunate enough to visit Kaohsiung during Chinese New Year when the banks of the Lover River played host to the Kaohsiung Lantern Festival. To read more about the festival and Love River, read our dedicated blog.
9. Day trip to Tainan
If you have a spare day in your Kaohsiung itinerary then you might want to consider visiting the charming city of Tainan (Taiwan’s former capital). Tainan is only 1 hour away by local train and there are lots of things to do in the city. Check out our guide to Tainan blog post.
How to get to Kaohsiung
Kaohsiung has an international airport and is served by the low cost airline Air Asia (get hunting for those bargain fares!). The airport is connected with downtown Kaohsiung via the MRT and the journey takes only 15 minutes!
The best way to get to Kaohsiung from other parts of Taiwan is by train. If arriving from Taipei you should take the Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR) from Taipei Main Station to Kaohsiung’s HSR Zuoying Station (you can connect to downtown Kaohsiung City by taking a short MRT ride). The journey takes around an hour and a half and costs approximately TWD 1500. You can book your ticket online with Klook for convenience.
There is an alternative and much cheaper TRA train from Taipei (Tze-Chiang Limited Express train) that costs only TWD 843 – but the journey time is so much longer at around 4-5 hours.
It is best to book your seats on these popular routes well in advance (especially during the Taiwan public holidays like Chinese New Year).
If you are coming from nearby Tainan like we did, there are many options – the bus, high speed rail or the local train. We recommend taking the local train (801) from Tainan city centre for TWD 106. The journey is 1 hour long from Tainan’s main station and the trains depart every 20 minutes – taking you straight into Kaohsiung’s city centre.
How to get around Kaohsiung
Kaohsiung has a really easy to use transport network for getting you to all the main places of interest in the city. They have an underground train system (MRT/KRT) with 2 separate lines (red and orange), plus a light-rail system (LRT), and an easy to use bus network.
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 rides on the MRT, buses, local trains and ferries. These can be purchased and topped up in metro stations plus convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Family Mart.
Pocket WIFI rental in Kaohsiung
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.
We really enjoyed our stay at FX INN – Kaohsiung on Zhonghua Road. The location was great with two MRT stations within a short walk, plus plenty of 7-Elevens nearby! We stayed for 4 nights in total and for our last 2 nights we were upgraded to a suite with a large and spacious separate TV/lounge room.
Here are some other highly rated accommodation suggestions for all types of budget in Kaohsiung:
Hostel accommodations that come highly rated include:
Legend Hotel Pier2
Hostel with private and dormitory rooms near Pier2 Art center. Check out prices and availability for Legend Hotel Pier2
Brand new guesthouse located near Formosa Boulevard metro station with private and dormitory rooms. Check out prices and availability for AHIRUYAH
If you are looking for something mid range then these hotels are in excellent locations with great reviews:
Kindness Hotel Shinkuchan
Comfortable hotel a 5-minute walk from the Shinkuchan Night Market with buffet breakfast. Check out prices and availability for Kindness Hotel Shinkuchan
Just Sleep Kaohsiung Station
Clean and spacious hotel located a 5 minute stroll away from Formosa Boulevard MRT Station. Check out prices and availability for Just Sleep Kaohsiung Station
Alternatively if you are looking for something more special then treat yourself to a stay at one of these beautiful hotels in Kaohsiung:
Silks Club Kaohsiung
Modern and stylish hotel with rooftop infinity swimming pool and SPA and wellness area. Check out prices and availability for Silks Club Kaohsiung
Park Lees Hotel
Elegant hotel with floor-to-ceiling windows and 3 minutes walk from MRT Kaohsiung Arena Station. Check out prices and availability for Park Lees Hotel
Comfortable hotel with hot tub in each room and 5-minutes walk from Love River. Check out prices and availability for Starhaus Hotel
More Taiwan blog posts
- Highlights of Taipei, Taiwan
- The best Taiwanese food – ultimate Taiwan food guide
- Highlights of Taichung, Taiwan
- Taipei to Kaohsiung – the perfect 9 day Taiwan itinerary
- Highlights of Tainan, Taiwan
- The best of Taiwan’s 7-Eleven stores
- Visiting Houtong Cat Village on the Pingxi Line, Taipei
- Everything you need to know about the Anping District in Tainan
- Tasting local delights on a food tour in Xinyi, Taipei