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No trip to the west coast of Taiwan is complete with a trip to the sprawling coastal city of Kaohsiung.
Although possibly not as well known as Taipei on the tourist scene, there are many things to do in Kaohsiung, from its vibrant arts scene, beautiful outlying islands and incredible street food – plus Kaohsiung calls it’s main waterway ‘Love River’ so bonus marks for that!
We’ve previously visited Kaohsiung for a week and would totally recommend visiting this part of western Taiwan as part of your next Taiwan itinerary.
From the luscious Lotus Lake temples to Kaohsiung’s famed Dome of Light, likely the most beautiful station in the world, here is our guide to the things to do in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in 2023:
Table of Contents
Travelling to Kaohsiung, Taipei
As Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s third biggest city (after Taipei and Taichung) plus the most populated place in southern Taiwan, there are many transport options to get here.
Going to Kaohsiung via Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR)
We visited Kaohsiung via the Taiwanese High Speed Rail System (HSR), starting in Taipei and finishing in Kaohsiung – as part of this itinerary. We also visited Taichung and Tainan on the way, finishing in Kaohsiung.
You can buy discounted Taiwan High Speed Rail one way tickets between Taipei and Kaohsiung (plus other stations) via this Klook HSR booking link >
Please note these discounted Taiwan High Speed Rail 2023 tickets are exclusive to overseas tourists and you will need to show your passport upon redemption.
If arriving from Taipei you should take the Taiwan High Speed Rail 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.
There is an alternative and much cheaper TRA train from Taipei (Tze-Chiang Limited Express train) but the journey time is so much longer at around 4-5 hours.
Kaohsiung by bus
You can take a bus from Taipei to Kaohsiung for as little as $15 one way (prices correct as at June 2023) – the quickest coaches / buses from Taipei to Kaohsiung take a little over four hours.
Flying to Kaohsiung
Kaohsiung International Airport is the second busiest airport in Taiwan (after Taipei) and has many international direct flights to and from it.
Getting around Kaohsiung
Things to do in Kaohsiung:
1. Lotus Lake Temples
A short train or bus ride away from downtown Kaohsiung brings you to Lotus Lake – one of the top Kaohsiung things to do / attractions and famous for its eponymous lotus flowers .
Kaohsiung’s Lotus Lake is actually a man made lake that was built in the 1950s, as a way to entice more visitors to the area – it definitely seems to be working! The annual Kaohsiung Lantern Festival also often takes place at Lotus Lake.
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 pagodas at Lotus Lake are 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.
Using a drone at Lotus Lake
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!
Please ensure you check the up-to-date local drone regulations in Kaohsiung as they may have changed since our trip to Kaohsiung.
YOU MIGHT LIKE: Watersports at Lotus Lake at Liantan Water Skiing Theme Park >
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, this area of Kaohsiung fell into disuse until it was revived in 2006.
The whole Pier 2 Art Center area is usually abuzz with families, friends and teenagers out shopping, browsing or going to the various pop-up exhibitions. There is a lot to see and do here so make sure you give yourself at least a couple of hours to fully explore this ‘pierless’ part of Kaohsiung.
From quirky pop-up shops (like a Moomin’s exhibition when we visited) to fun outdoor sculptures and murals, there is a lot to see at Pier 2 Art Centre and it is one of Kaohsiung’s top things to do.
To reach Pier 2 Art Centre, take the orange line on the KMRT to Yangchengpu Station (exit 1), or take the Light Rail tram to Dayi Pier-2 station.
You might like – a city tour of Kaohsiung >
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.
Kaohsiung’s 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 main Formosa Boulevard MRT station itself is as you’d expect of any Taiwanese MRT station but it is the Dome of Light that makes this so special and unique.
The four parts that comprise it (water, earth, light and fire) symbolize birth, growth, glory and destruction respectively, and refer to Taiwan’s democratic process and reform.
The MRT is one of the best ways to get around Kaohsiung – save money in Kaohsiung with unlimited train travel for 24/48 hours. Get your unlimited Kaohsiung MRT Pass >
You might like – A Classic Kaohsiung Attractions Day Tour >
4. Cijin Island
Kaohsiung is home to Cijin Island – a ‘tropical paradise’ just a short five minute ferry ride from main harbour in downtown Kaohsuing.
The Cijin Island beaches are beautiful but in a rough and rugged kind of way – the beaches at Cijin Island are also popular for sunbathing and surfing. You can walk along the coastal path (or hire a cyclo).
Along the boardwalk from the main Cijin Island beach, you’ll come across possibly the island’s most famous attraction, the Rainbow Church. It is more of a contemporary art installation than an actual church – although Instagrammers do seem to worship it!
Other Cijin Island sites include the Giant Seashell (no, really!), Tinamou Temple and the surreal sculptures in Turbine Park.
Cijin Island is easily one of our favourite Kaohsiung things to do and attractions – check out our guide to Cijin Island blog post >
You might like – Things to in Ximending, Taipei >
5. Liuhe Night Market
A tasty tourist treat, Kaohsiung’s Liuhe Night Market is predominantly a street food thoroughfare that lines both sides of a city block – it is a busy road by day but closed to traffic at night.
Renowned for its seafood due to being a coastal city, we visited Liuhe Night Market most nights whilst staying in Kaohsiung and sampled lots of local fare. Popular local dishes to try whilst in Liu He night market included beef noodle soup and their take on clam spaghetti.
There is plenty of seating down the main strip at Liuhe Night Market and it never felt too crowded – in its heyday, Luihe Night Market would often have upwards of 150 to 200 stalls, but the number post COVID seems to have dwindled a tad.
As well as street food at Liuhe Night Market, locals love to play fairground style amusements and fun games.
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.
You might like – 7-Eleven Heaven – a guide to Taiwan 7-Elevens >
6. Ruifeng Night Market
Another popular large night market to visit in Kaohsiung is Ruifeng Night Market, located between the Yucheng and Nanping Road in the Buoying District (3 minutes’ walk from the Kaohsiung Arena MRT station).
One of the best night markets in Kaohsiung, this site can get a little crowded as locals and tourists alike eat dishes such as beef noodles, takoyaki and grilled squid
The Ruifeng night market in Kaohsiung runs from around 5pm most evenings (closed Monday and Wednesday until late (usually midnight) – the market doesn’t usually start to get busy until after 8pm.
7. 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 Kaohsiung Shoushan Love Lookout opened in 2012 and is a superb vantage point to see the whole of Kaohsiung including the surrounding port and mountains. It is also one of the best free things to do in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
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).
8. Sanfeng Temple
Built over 300 years ago and moved to its current location brick by brick only 40 or so years ago, Sanfeng Temple is one of the most beautiful temples in Taiwan we have ever explored.
As there were no other tourists there when we visited Sanfeng Temple, it felt even more special. It is regarded as a Taoism temple of south Taiwan, but with Northern style architecture.
We visited Kaohsiung during the Chinese New Year festivities so Sanfeng Temple was adorned with hundreds of red lanterns strewn across every available space, with a steady stream of well wishers and worshippers.
Safeng Temple has several sublime storeys 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 and Kaohsiung.
9. 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 South Bank or a summer’s day along the Rhine in Base.
In fact, Kaohsiung’s Love River feels even more European when you see the Italian gondolas glistening in the evening sun along the river here. Bella bella – a little piece of Italy in Kaohsiung. Love (River) this? Book your romantic gondola in Kaohsiung 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.
10. Kaohsiung Lantern Festival
Kaohsiung is renowned for its annual Lantern Festival, which usually takes place in late January / early February every year.
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 what to expect at the Kaohsiung Lantern festival, read our festival guide here.
*Note the Lantern Festival (2023) most recently took place at Lotus Lake, not the Love River, so it may look a little different now.
You might like: a trip to Jiufen, Taiwan’s most beautiful hillside town >
11. Takao Railway Museum
Time to take a ride on a miniature bullet train. Kaohsiung’s Railway Museum near the Pier 2 Art Center is fun for all ages (little kids and BIG kids).
The museum is a former railway station – Kaohsiung Port Station. After the last ever train left in 2008, it is now Taiwan’s best-preserved cargo station.
Trainspotting in Taiwan? You can also see huge steam passenger locomotives and freight locomotives on display.
You might like: best themed 7-Elevens in Taipei, Taiwan (2023)
12. 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 and oldest city).
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 Taiwanese 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!).
Tainan is only 1 hour away by local train and there are lots of things to do in the city.
13. Kaohsiung 85 Observatory (closed temporarily as at 2023)
One of the most striking looking buildings in Kaohsiung if not the whole of Taiwan. The 85 Sky Tower is the tallest building in Southern Taiwan and once had an observatory but this has closed down in recent years (it is mainly offices and accommodation now). Spoiler alert, it is also only 83 floors high so they rounded it up to 85 to make it sound better!
14. Kaohsiung Musuems
There are several museums to enjoy in Kaohsiung including
- The National Science And Technology Museum >
- Hamasen Museum of Taiwan Railway >
- Wooderful Life wooden game zone and museum >
- FLOMO Stationery Museum; one of Taiwan’s most famous and historic stationery brands >
Our final thing to do in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
15. Go on a guided tour or visit attractions in Kaohsiung
If you fancy a local to show you around, Kaohsiung tours and activities include:
Kids will love Austin Land in Kaohsiung >
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:
Hostel accommodations that come highly rated include:
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
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