Tainan is an incredible city located in Southern Taiwan with a lot to offer to travelers. There are plenty of things to do in Tainan: history, culture, religion, and nature, among others, will keep you busy for a couple of days. Read on to discover what to do in Tainan and some of the city’s best attractions.
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What to do in Tainan:
1 – Visit Anping Old Fort
Also called Fort Zeelandia, Anping fort was built in 1624 by the Dutch. Originally made of planks and sand, the fort was gradually rebuilt with bricks. The fort used to be surrounded by water but got silted little by little during the 19th century, and lost its importance over time. In 1874, Japan invaded Taiwan and took possession of the fort, adding several buildings to the structure, and destroying others. In 1975, it was turned into a tourist attraction.
Today, not much of the original fort built by the Dutch remains to be seen, apart from the fort walls and the ancient well. Most of the buildings you’ll see have been extensively renovated or build by the Japanese.
The place is really interesting, and you get a nice view of Tainan from the surveillance post. Around the fort, you’ll find several streets full of small shops, it’s nice to stroll around the neighborhood. This part of the city is really busy.
Entrance fee: NTD 50
On the other side of the fort, opposite the fort entrance, there’s an old traditional Taiwanese house you can visit. The house has been turned into a shop.
2 – Get spooked at Anping Tree House
This old warehouse was abandoned and later got covered by a Banyan tree, locals believe the house is haunted and the place definitively has a spooky vibe. In many countries in Asia, people believe Banyan trees are home to spirits.
Entrance fee: NTD 50
3 – Discover the Japanese architecture
Having been colonized for 50 years by Japan, Tainan is full of old Japanese buildings and houses. Across the city, you’ll often notice Japanese era shop-houses. The National Cheng Kung University is also a good example of Japanese architecture.
Some of the houses can be visited such as the Old Japanese Patriotic Women’s Association building. Recently renovated and offered to the city, the house is now a small museum. The entrance is usually free unless there’s a special exhibition going on.
4 – Grab a bite at old Julius Mannich Merchant house
Taiwan opened to foreigner traders and merchants in 1858, soon after, several trade companies opened offices in Tainan. Julius Mannich was a German merchant specialized in sugar and camphor. He started building his house in 1874. The Japanese occupation made it difficult for foreigner merchants to trade and the house was abandoned in 1901, then turned into government offices.
The house was turned into a small museum in 1986, and a restaurant and beer garden were added recently. The house is one of the only European colonial houses you’ll see in Tainan.
6 – Shop at Tainan’s oldest department store
Hayashi Department Store was built in 1932. It’s the second store of its kind build in Taiwan, and the first building to have a mechanical lift. Today, the five-story building is a Municipal Heritage Site and is a great place if you want to shop from local designers and craftsmen.
7 – Take a stroll in Nammen weekend Flower market
You’ve probably already noticed but Taiwanese people love plants, you’ll see them in front and inside of every house anywhere you go. Nammen is a busy place during weekends and is worth a stroll, among the local flora. The market is only on Saturdays and Sundays, it usually starts around 8 am and finishes at 5 pm.
8 – Immerse in local life in Singda Harbor Fishmarket
Another great place to feel like a local and immerse in Taiwanese culture, the fish market is most busy during weekends. About 20 km south of Tainan, a stroll through the market is a good way to start a day trip along the coast. You can also visit nearby Golden beach and make a few stops along the way to several small villages.
The market is located in Jiading Township. It’s actually a crowded tourist attraction as the market is still really traditional.
9 – Learn Taiwan’s History in the National Museum of Taiwan History
The National Museum of Taiwan History is perfect if you want to learn more about the country’s history. The permanent exhibition “Our Land, Our People: The Story of Taiwan” is really well organized and super interesting. You’ll learn a lot about Taiwanese history, culture, and traditions.
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Official website
10 – Learn your future in Matsu Temple
Matsu is the sea goddess and one of Taiwan’s most important deity. Before being elevated to the rank of God, Matsu was a simple mortal. Born in Fujian, China, in 960 AD, she was known for having achieved several miracles such as having rescued her family from an ocean storm. She died at age 26 and acquired the status of Goddess.
From then on, fishermen and sailors prayed to her before leaving, carried icons of her and built temples for her. That the way Matsu got known in Taiwan, statues of her started appearing in Taiwanese temples around the 17th century.
Today, around 800 temples dedicated to Matsu can be found in Taiwan, protecting the temple you’ll always see two demons. Originally evil, they were brought to heel by Matsu and became her soldiers.
The Matsu temple in Tainan is really magnificent. There you can ask the god for your future. You’ve probably noticed the Taiwanese people in temples throwing lunar crescents and picking up a stick. They’re actually asking about something to the god. In Matsu temple, you’ll find explanations in English on how to do it. So if you want, you can give it a try. You’ll first have to tell the god a couple of information about yourself, then throw the crescents to see if it’s a good time to ask your question. If yes, you’ll have to pick a stick and ask if it’s the right one, if not you have to pick another one and ask again. When you find the right stick, you check what this stick means and you’ll have the answer to your question.
11- See people possessed by a God in Nankunshen Temple
Nankunshen Temple was built more than 300 years ago. Originally built in Beimen, it had to be moved to its current location due to a flood. This temple is really big, with several different buildings worshiping 5 different Royal Lords. During their birthday, at the end of April, many people from Tainan visit the temple to celebrate the event. They use firecrackers to celebrate god’s and saint’s birthdays, and usually, parade in the streets before going to the temple. During these types of festivities, some people usually get possessed by the god (people can also get possessed when the god is mad because he’s being forgotten). You will notice easily the possessed people, they’re usually barefoot and shirtless and walk in a strange way.
The temple in itself is magnificent, look for the huge golden tablet, its estimated worth is around 600 million NTD (20 million USD). What better use for so much money?
North of the temple you can check out the Dakun Garden, it took 20 years to finish this Jiangnan-style landscape garden. The area is really peaceful and great for a stroll.
12 – Meet God’s very special army in Longqi Wenheng Temple
In Taiwanese temples, you’ll always see some types of protectors guarding the god, usually generals and spirits. In Longqi Wenheng Temple, the god as a really special guard squad made of Avengers and Transformers. There are about 20 of them protecting the god. I don’t know who had this brilliant idea but I find it really funny. You won’t see this in many temples, it’s even probably the only one in Taiwan.
The temple is dedicated to Guan Yu, worshiped as Guan Gong in Taiwan. He’s the god of war and is particularly worshiped by businessmen, policemen, and gang members. Guan Gong is a symbol of wealth and loyalty. He was a general during the civil war that led to the collapse of the Han dynasty in the 3rd century and was known for his sense of honor and brotherhood.
13 – Enjoy the panoramic view at the 308 Restaurant
More in the mountains, not far from Longqi Wenheng Temple, you’ll find impressive views over Tainan. 308 restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy the perfect landscape. The view from their terrace is impressive. You don’t have to eat there, just order a tea or something and you can use their facilities.
Use the Chinese name to find it on Google maps: 洪代表 創始店308高地景觀餐廳
14 – Take selfies in Crystal Church (Shui Jing jiao tang)
Crystal church is only nice if you like to take pictures or are nearby. Apart from taking selfies, there’s absolutely nothing to do here, even if it’s a famous Tainan attraction. It’s not really a church, more like a venue. No one is really sure what it has been build for. You’ll notice in Taiwan many places are just made to take selfies.
15 – Jingzijiao Tile-paved salt fields
I saved the best for the last, the salt-fields were the highlights of my trip to Tainan. The best time to go is for sunset, the place really becomes magical. The area is not very big and there’s an observation tower to get a view of the surrounding fields. There’s also a café where you can buy colored salt or salted tea latte (I tried it for you, my advice: don’t).
Tainan is really famous for its salt fields, in the factory nearby (you’ll see it on your way) there’s a huge salt mountain. They build a platform and you get to climb on top of it if you want.
Related posts to help you plan your trip to Taiwan:
- Best places to visit near Kenting National Park
- 21 things you didn’t know you could do in Taitung
- Best day trips from Kaohsiung
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