Tainan (台南 Táinán) is in in Southern Taiwan and the oldest city in Taiwan.
After the island was handed back to the Nationalists and the communists retreated to the mainland, the capital was shifted to Taipei, and Tainan residents were harshly treated under the slightest suspicion of opposition to the new regime instituted by Chiang Kai-shek. Tainan and the rest of southern Taiwan remain fairly pro-independence to this day, since they have not actively thought themselves a part of China for the last century or so.
Modern Tainan is centered on the local TRA train station and Zhongshan Road, which runs through West Central District, though Anping District is the historical heart of Tainan. Anping is home to the Anping Old Fort (安平古堡；Ānpíng gu bǎo), the Anping Tree House (安平樹屋 Ānpíng shù wū) (a warehouse with massive banyan trees growing out of it), and numerous restaurants and food stalls. Qigu District in the northeast is noted for its history of salt production and the district's salt fields are also a popular attraction. Yanshui District is infamous for its notoriously fiery fireworks festival. Beyond the city center, the surrounding region is one of the major agricultural centers in Taiwan, and the amount of fresh produce may have inspired much of Tainan's snack food culture.
By planeFor flight options beyond the Taiwan Strait, the closest international airport is in Kaohsiung. From there you can take a train, bus, taxi, or rental car for a 45-minute to one-hour journey to Tainan. Flying into Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport is also another choice, though you don't have to go into Taipei proper and can just take the HSR train (1½ hours and NT$1350) from Taoyuan.
By trainTainan is a major stop on the Taipei - Kaohsiung High Speed Rail line (about NT$1500 one way from Taipei). Travel time is 1h45m from Taipei. The is a bit outside of town (NT$400 by taxi), and you might think it's the wrong stop altogether since the station is surrounded by parking lots and open rice paddies. There are free shuttle buses running from the city to the bullet train terminal.
You can also take the TRA (slow train) into in the city from Shalun TRA station (linked to the THSR station and NT$25 each way). Besides the THSR, standard TRA rail from Taipei can take 3½-6 hours depending on the type of the train. For example, a class 1 (4 hours) ticket from Taipei will cost NT$758. On the Southern line, trains run very frequently to Kaohsiung (1 hour and NT$70-100), to Taitung (3 hours and about NT$500) and, less frequently, to Hualien.
Tainan has good inter-city bus connections with other cities in Taiwan. Most of the bus companies have offices on Beimen Rd, north of the train station.
The best way to travel around the city is by car, bicycle or motorcycle. There are taxis and buses (公車 gōngchē), but they are not so convenient for non-Chinese speakers. There is a scooter rental shop next to the Tainan City TRA (slow train) station. Rentals cost around NT$600 per 24 hours. Whether a rental shop will check for a license varies from shop to shop.
All inner city bus routes pass through Tainan Station (train). There is a tourist information booth at the station with friendly staff (English speaking) who can show you how to use the bus system. On Sundays there are two free sightseeing bus routes (88 and 99) which can take you to and back from all the major historical sites.
If you do take a taxi just make sure you have a map you can point at or the business card of your destination. The taxi drivers are very helpful, but sometimes even Chinese speakers take roundabout ways.
There are thousands of scooters and motorbikes packing the streets and if you injure someone while you are driving in Taiwan, the local laws require you to pay for whatever the person you injured cannot. Try getting your insurance company to write a waiver for you to be insured before driving in Taiwan.
Anping FortIn the early 17th century, European seafarers came to Asia to trade and develop colonial outposts. In 1624, the Dutch occupied today's Anping and took ten years to build a fort named "Fort Zeelandia." After 1662, because Koxinga and his son lived here, it was named "King Castle," "Anping Castle" as well as "Taiwan Castle." The Japanese rebuilt it and named it "Anping Old Fort." Today, the only Dutch remains are the ruins of a semicircular bulwark and a section of the outer fort's brick wall; the root of an old banyan tree on the wall remains a witness to the fort's long history. Its commanding views of the ocean make it a popular place to watch the sunset. Nevertheless, the fort itself is not that impressing, and neither is the view from the tower during the day. Also, there is not much space in the tower, so it is questionable that many people will be able to enjoy the sunset. Hence, you could skip it for Anping Tree House instead.
Anping Tree Houseaddress: 108 Fort St., Anping DistrictAnping Tree House was built as the warehouse of Tait & Co. During the Japanese Occupation it was the office and warehouse of the Japan Salt Company. After World War II, the salt industry in Anping declined, and this area was abandoned. The aerial roots and branches of banyan trees wrapped around the building, combined with the soil, red brick and partial concrete wall creates an unusual sight.
Chih-kan Toweraddress: 212 Sec. 2, Min-Tsu Rd., Central DistrictChihkan Tower s the landmark of Tainan and its most famous historic site. In 1653 the Dutch built "Fort Providentia" in the area, and the Chinese named it "Tower of Savages" or "Tower of Red-haired Barbarians." Even though Chihkan Tower has survived different historical periods, it retains its rich and graceful architectural aspects. Crammed with various kinds of steles, stone horses, weight lifting rocks, stone weights, ponds with colorful fish and nine stone tortoises carrying royal stele carved in Chinese and Manchurian, the courtyard looks like an outdoor museum. Chihkan Tower is particularly attractive at night.
Eternal Golden Fortressaddress: 16 Nanwen, Anping DistrictA 19th-century coastal fortress, it was built during the Qing dynasty and armed with cannons to defend against the threat of Japanese invasion. Bricks from the remains of Fort Zeelandia were used during the fort's construction. The squarish fort feels like a very big park aside from its thick walls and gate tunnel, and paddle boats are even available for rent in the moat surrounding the fort. There are sometimes musical events and performances in the evening.
Great South Gate
Sacrificial Rites Martial Temple
Confucius TempleA serene destination surrounded by a small park. Explore the temple, then go to the incredibly popular shaved-ice store right on the opposite side.
Koxinga Shrineaddress: 152 Kaishan Rd, West Central DistrictA small shrine dedicated to Koxinga, with plaques and information about his life. Locally known as Zheng Chenggong, Koxinga is an intriguing iconic hero of Taiwan, symbolic in different ways to different people and his image bent to fit whoever is in charge. He was a pirate to the Dutch, a brave and loyal general to the Chinese, a brutal conqueror to the Aboriginal tribes and a favored son to the Japanese through his mother. He was even a beacon of hope to the KMT in their aims to reclaim the mainland, though perhaps not the best example for them. The garden is quiet and serene, and a statue of Zheng Chenggong on horseback guards the entrance.
phone: +886 6 3568889address: 250, Changhe Rd Sec 1, Annan DistrictThe museum covers a broad overview of Taiwan's history from prehistoric beginnings to the present, illustrating various eras with large-scale interactive displays and dioramas. Temporary exhibits focus more of the museum's historical artifacts. Most of the exhibitions have clear English explanations. Besides the museum, the building sits in a large park and is architecturally interesting, focusing on harmonious integration with the environment and housing a huge wall of solar panels that generates enough electricity to power the exhibition hall.
National Museum of Taiwanese LiteratureLocated in a restored colonial-era Japanese building, even with the limited English on display this museum is fascinating. The coffee shop is good too.
address: 66 Wenhua Rd Sec. 2, Rende DistrictStarted by a private collector who has a vast collection of violins, many of them antique in nature and made by masters like Antonio Stradivari and Nicolo Amati. There's also various exhibits about Western art, weaponry and natural history. The building and surrounding park are astonishing in their incongruence and could have been transported entirely from classical Europe.
- Qigu Salt Mountain
- Jingzaijiao Tile-paved Salt Fields
- Caoshan Moon World (草山月世界), Zuozhen District. An interesting region of mud hills and badlands surrounded by thick bamboo forest and some tropical fruit farms. Take the Green bus from Tainan train station to Xinhua (新化), where it's worth wandering around to grab a bite and see the sights. Then take the Green 13 branch line in the direction of Zuozhen (左鎮) and get out at Ganglin (岡林). Walk past the restaurant and the church then turn right and keep walking. A scooter would make this trip much easier, but keep your eyes open for photo ops along the road. As of June 2017 the published bus schedule is not correct, so make sure to confirm with the staff at Xinhua bus terminal.
Tainan Parkaddress: GongYuan North RdBeautiful park in a central part of the city. Great for a relaxing walk or a stay of a few hours. It has many beautiful trees, flowers and a pond.
Uni-President Lions Baseballaddress: Tainan Municipal Baseball StadiumBaseball games in Taiwan are lively and light-hearted with a lot of chanting and cheering in unison. Beer and barbecues are even allowed in the bleachers. Stadiums are divided into home and away crowd, infield or outfield. Wear green and orange to blend in with the home crowd. The team does travel between stadiums for games, so check the CPBL schedule. The season runs from March to June and July to September.
Sicao Lushe Tunneladdress: 360 Dazhong Rd, Annan DistrictFound in Taijiang National Park, there are two boat rides to observe the marine life and migrant birds of a mangrove swamp reserve. The rare black-faced spoonbill can be seen here. The shorter route takes about 30 minutes, while the longer one is about 70 minutes. Queues are roughly the same time as the boat rides themselves, and weekday boat schedules only run a few times per day.
Yanshui Beehive Fireworks FestivalMeant to chase off evil spirits, fireworks are piled into a structure resembling a beehive and set off at street level, which makes it a racuous celebration that requires full-face helmets and fire-retardant jackets for participation.
Anping Old StreetPreserved plums (酸梅 suānméi) are a popular item.
Far-East Department Storeaddress: 60 Gongyuan RdThe department store focuses more on midrange consumers. Downstairs food-court offers good selection of restaurants and Hong Kong-based supermarket Wellcome.
address: 55 Zhongyi Rd Sec. 2On its opening in 1932, the building boasted a then state-of-the-art elevator, which still works. It was bombed during World War II and still has bullet marks to show on the rooftop, next to its Shinto shrine. Located on what was once the richest shopping street in Tainan, the site fell into disuse until restoration of its elegant interior was completed in 2014. It is now home to another department store selling Japanese and Taiwanese food and handicrafts. Tainan Land Bank diagonally across the road from the store is also a stately Japanese-era building.
Shinkong Mitsukoshiaddress: 162 Zhongshan RdThe department store focuses on both high end products and mainstream fashion. Luxurious brands such as Chanel, Hermes, Ferragamo can be found in the department store. Men's fashion includes Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Polo Ralph Lauren, Nautica, Esprit and more. There's also a movie theater inside. Two food courts offer various Asian, western cuisine and fast food chains. There is also a newer, more modern Shinkong Mitsukoshi at 658 Ximen Rd Section 1.
Tainan is often known as "the City of Snacks" (小吃城). In addition to the wide variety of food available at night markets, the city also has an abundance of street vendors specializing in tasty and cheap dishes. Oysters in particular, are favored in Tainan, from the long association with Anping port. Try the oyster omelette (蚵仔煎 kèzǎijiān / o-a chen), and oysters and thin noodles (蚵仔麵線 kèzǎi miànxiàn / o-a mi soa~) which are cooked differently from those up north. Danzai noodles (擔仔麵 dānzǎi miàn) should not be missed either. Coffin toast (棺材板 guāncaibǎn), fried bread stuffed with various ingredients, such as chicken, beans, seafood, vegetables and milk-based sauces, was also invented here.
There are over two dozen night markets of various sizes in and around the city. Regardless of size, night markets all possess an abundance of stalls selling clothing, shoes, jewelry, toys, food and drink. Some even have live entertainment. Most night markets are only held on certain days of the week. Check before going.
Garden Night Marketaddress: Haian Road, Sec. 3, between Lixian Rd and Hewei RdThe biggest and most famous open-air night market, there are tons of food stalls and game booths set up in a gigantic parking lot, but be warned that this market can get very busy (i.e. mosh pit busy) on some days.
Da Dong Night Marketaddress: Linsen Rd, Sec. 1Very popular among the local university students, especially on Friday nights.
Du Hsiao Yuehaddress: 16 Zhongzheng RoadA famous purveyor of dan zai mian, also known as peddlers' noodles because it was made to be sold by fishermen on the roadside. It's a small dish of noodles in pork-shrimp broth, decorated with a single shrimp and delicately balanced with a dash of garlic on top. This is the original branch, and they have opened more stores elsewhere in the country, including one on Yongkang St in Taipei and another in Taoyuan International Airport.
- Beef soup
- Eel noodles
- Rice cake (碗稞 wǎnkē)
- Don't forget to try the shrimp rolls (zhou-shi) down along the canal.
- Andi's Party Corner sells traditional Austrian food and beers, an oddity in Tainan.
DessertsTainan has a pronounced sweet tooth, and nowhere is this more evident than in their love of sweet treats.
- Elite Cake (狀元糕 zhuàngyuan gāo)
Imma Bakeryaddress: Shulin St.Coffee house with breads, cakes, cookies, etc. An Israeli chef and Western style.
There aren't many shiny modern nightspots in Tainan; the city delights in retro bars instead, leveraging on its history and countless number of traditional houses to give a intimate, laidback feel. A smattering of Mandarin or Taiwanese will open more doors in terms of nightlife, otherwise it would be easier to stick to expat hangouts where the owners speak English. Some of the bars provide taxi service if you get too drunk.
Pearl milk tea (珍珠奶茶, zhēnzhū nǎichá) is a must drink in Tainan. Look out for shops where it is made directly to order! Fruit drinks and desserts are always refreshing in the sticky summer heat too.
TCRC Baraddress: 117 Hsinmei StA bar hidden in a little side alley, but probably one of the busiest in Tainan. They don't have any menus, with drinks made on request, though the standard cocktails are happily made strong.
phone: +886 6-215-9377address: No.26 Lane 371, Fucian Rd.An intimate and laid-back cafe bar. Travel and friendship are the themes.
Kinks Pubaddress: Lane 232, No. 25 Qingnian Rd
Taikooaddress: 94 Shennong St
- Dirty Roger, Dongmen Rd. (close to the Railway station).Excellent small bar. Used to be very hip, still very good. Every Music imaginable.
- The Armory, Gongyuan Rd. Good for beers and sport
- Willies Second Base, for beers, sport, food and pool upstairs
The Hangout Barphone: +886 6 226-4861address: 128-132 Gongyuan RdNice bar to relax, play pool and watch sports. They also have good burgers and steak, free public computer and WiFi.
address: Beimen RoadGreat partly outdoor pub and bar near Tainan. Wonderful friendly owners and delicious food ranging from pizza to falafel.
phone: +886 6 2211239address: No. 39, Alley 20, Lane 158, Section 2, Zhongyi RoadThis is a guest house of a nice and relaxed Taiwanese-Japanese couple. The toilet is a little weird next to the kitchen and only separated by a curtain, if this bothers you. But the rest is authentic and friendly. FB .
phone: +886 6 226-3171address: 155 Beimen Rd Sec 1Free internet and breakfast.
phone: +886 6-358-0972address: No.26 Lane 371, Fucian Rd.In the city center. Most must-see sites and popular eateries can be reached on foot within 5-15 min.
phone: +886 62211239, +886 973713482address: No. 39, Alley 20, Lane 158, Zhongyi Road Section 2 (忠義路二段158巷20弄39號)A nice and cosy hostel right in the centre with laid-back staff and nearby café. They maintain their price even during the expensive Saturday/Sunday night. FB .
Cheng Kuang Hotelphone: +886 6 222-1188address: 294 Beimen Rd Sec. 1The hotel is a little old, but the rooms are OK for the price.
phone: +886 6 215-0174address: 261 Nanmen RdLarge single room including private bathroom NT$550/Double room. Open 06:00-00:00, hot water only from 18:00-00:00. They no longer offer dorm rooms.
phone: +886-6-7034543address: No.76-2, Zhongzheng Rd., West Central Dist., Tainan City 700WiFi, free internet, kitchen, living room and laundry plus very helpful and friendly staff.
address: No.28 Lane 18, Dasyue Road15-minute walk from the train station.
phone: +886 6 214-2988address: 115 Yong Fu Rd Section 1
Dynasty Hotelphone: +886 6 225-8121address: 46 Chengkung Rd
Cambridge Hoteladdress: 269 Sec 2 Mintzu Rd
phone: +886 6 702-8888address: 89 Section West, University RdFive-star property near the train station (regular, not HSR). Free internet (wired and non-wired).
phone: +886 6 213-5555address: 660, Shi-Men Rd, Sec.15-star property adjacent to an enormous Shin Kong Mitsukoshi department store. Nearby Confucius temple and the Chihkan towers.
phone: +886 6 289-9988address: No. 1, Lane 336, Chunghua E. Rd., Sec. 3, Tainan City4-5 star property about 10 min south of the train station (regular, not HSR). Free internet.
NoiseAdding to the constant flow of traffic in the streets, Tainan also host the greatest number of temple parades in the country which means loud fireworks at potentially any time of day. Moreover, fighter jets performing low passes over the city are a frequent occurrence every day (sometimes up to 30 times a day!), so people who are sensitive to such loud events should be wary.
- Guanziling – One of Taiwan's best-known hot spring areas.
- Fo Guang Shan – The largest and most impressive Buddhist monastery of Taiwan, just 1 hour southeast of Tainan.
- Kaohsiung – The second largest city of Taiwan, and a port city that took over Tainan's place as the Harbor City, one hour south by TRA train.
- Chiayi – The next northern city and natural jumping off point for the beautiful Alishan, e.g. by the scenic narrow-gauge Alishan Forest Railway.
- Kinmen – If Tainan is the bastion of Taiwanese identity, then Kinmen is an interesting study at the opposite end of the spectrum as a pair of islands inextricably tied to the Chinese mainland.