Do you know that Tainan is the oldest city on the island? It is widely known as the “Capital City” for its over 200 years of history as the capital of Taiwan under Koxinga and later Qing rule. While the political, economic, and cultural center moved to Taipei in the 20th century (and remained so), the city is the focal point of visitors who come to Taiwan, with an impression that Tainan is just an “old city”. In fact, the city has a rich history that witnessed the changes on the island, and its redefinitions and renewal stories have given the city the nickname “the Phoenix City”. Therefore, for those who are planning to visit Tainan, be prepared to learn about the fascinating stories through the heritage sites, historic architectures, and important landmarks that shaped and established Taiwan for centuries, and to taste some of the most authentic Taiwanese delicacies in local night markets and local stores. Having said that, the city is also rejuvenated by the influx of art and creative communities – like many other cities in Taiwan, including Taipei, Taichung, or Hualien, Tainan has a number of art, cultural and creative parks that draws traffic from the younger generations. This is where the new blood can buy authentic and original designer products, seek new inspirations and ideas, and enjoy wonderful Instagram moments to share their view with the world through social media.
So here are some highlights that help planning the trip to Tainan and Kaohsiung.
Tainan Art and Cultural Creative Parks
Wenchuang Plus-Creative Tainan: “Plus Creative” is a historic building creatively restored and became a new attraction. It was a Patriotic Women’s Club and it was established in 1940. The original site was set up with the aim to protect the bereaved family from the war. The site was named the city’s protected heritage in 1998, the creative park was opened to the public in 2012, with an aim of promoting the creative industry. The park hosts cultural events, symposiums, and lectures, and sells designer products, without losing its original feature.
Blueprint Cultural & Creative Park: This is one of the most featured attractions in the city. The “blueprint wall” is a striking wall painting in a monotone on a ruined house. The blue fresco depicts an interior of a home using an old film development technique. Unfortunately, the original art piece was removed because of issues with the ownership of the site. Blueprint Cultural & Creative Park, sometimes it’s called the BCP is an area that perpetuates the spirit and dream to pursue a more artistic and creative community, and how art can be evolved in an old city harmoniously.
Tainan Cultural and Creative Park: Another restoration of the Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation. The project was part of a creative park initiative and Tainan is part of the five cities like Taipei, Taichung, Chiayi, and Hualien. The creative park is located by the Tainan Train Station – there are a couple of installation art in the yard and a great place to have a walk before boarding a train and leaving the city.
West Central District: Covering Hainlu Art Street, and Zhengxing Street, the district started off as an underground shopping mall construction site, and later the project was halted due to poor city planning. The ventilation systems that we installed in the middle of the road and the demolished houses that remained on the street were then left in the city for years until they become a canvas for the artists to express their unique point-of-view. It was later that the broad avenue reopened – bars and restaurants were set up within the old buildings along the road, giving the district an exciting scene of nightlife. Many of these places kept the original interior, and mindfully redecorated with a hippy and artistic vibe. Local artists like Liu Kuo-Tsang also helped beautify the neighborhood since 2004 with wall paintings that illustrate the Taiwanese way of life.
Within walking distance, Shennong Old Street was a busy street during the period of the Qin Dynasty. It was an important passage connecting the river to the city, and there are numerous alleys on both sides of the street. The streets are filled with old houses, creative stores, designer boutiques, and hostels. This is a wonderful Instagram location where the old mixed with the new. At night, the streets are lit up with lanterns and neon signs.
Hayashi Department Store: The old building has attracted a great number of international tourists, the department store was established by Japanese businessman Hayashi in 1932, and it was Taiwan’s second-largest department store (and the largest in South Taiwan). The building was named a city’s heritage site in 1998, and today, the department store is renovated in 2013, with an 88-year-old Japanese-style Shinto shrine on the roof of the house. Designer stores entered the department stores with a lot of historic features that remained since colonial times, including elevator counter clock, and the rips and scratches of bullet shots on the walls during the war. It is also a great place to buy local delicacies, snacks, and souvenirs!
Ten-Drum Culture Village: The village was a sugar mill in the Rende District of Tainan and it was left untouched for a long period of time when the village was abandoned. It’s about 30-minute away from the city center, but it’s continuously renovated and updated with a touch of its original warehouse design during colonial times. The highlight of the village is for sure a showcase of the Grammy-award-winning Ten Drum Art Percussion Group.
Tainan Art Museum: The museum is the most iconic art facilities that are for the art-lovers. The art museum is divided into two buildings. Building 1 was constructed with ochre yellow tiles in Art Deco architecture style for being the Tainan Police Station during the colonial period. Building 2 is a modern white architecture with a sleek, innovative, and complicated structure. The museum showcases Taiwan local artists’ iconic artworks like Chen Cheng-Po, Kuo Pai-Chuan, and Hsu Wu-Yung; with temporary themed exhibitions like the ancient art of temples and palaces.
Shuei Jiao She Cultural Park: The cultural park is a manifesto of Japanese architecture and art exhibits. There are eight zones of the park, including the Literature Salon, Aviation Playground, Special Exhibition Gallery, History Museum, AIR Tainan Hall, Community Canteen, and more. The exhibitions are presented to the audience with a wide range of media from words, interactive games, garments, photographs, and more. It’s a great place for family visitors to visit, and Shue Jiao She Cultural Park’s unique landscape is a great place for photography.
Qiaotouhaitan Park (Bridge-end Beach Park): At the end of Anping’s district, the park is a promenade by the ocean and there are walking trails featuring a long wall with graffiti. The surrounding of the park has quite a lot of natural and man-made sceneries that create a great photography spot, such as the path under the old trees and the huge stone anchors by the ocean.
Chimei Museum: The museum is a private museum on the outskirt of Tainan and it was established in 1992 by Shi Wen-long of Chi Mei Corporation in the Rende District. There are five categories of its art collection, including Fine arts, musical instruments, natural history and fossils, arms and armor, antiquities, and artifacts. In fact, it has the world’s largest violin collection and an impressive ancient weapons and sculpture collection. Notable artworks include El Greco’s Saint Martin and the Beggar, Jules Breton’s The Blessing of the Wheat, and Hans Makart’s Four Allegories of Music.
Anping and Historic City Center
Hopping on a bike, explore the historic quarter of Anping, the oldest district in Tainan. In 1624, Dutch traders established a fort on this sandy peninsula. Less than 4 decades later Chinese forces drove the Dutch from the island forever. Wander the fort’s ramparts, and the nearby ruins of a merchant house held together by banyan roots, the perfect metaphor for a city that embraces its past. Key attractions include its landmark, the Anping Old Fort, Anping Tree House, Grand Mazu Temple, and Former Tait & Co. Merchant House.
Closer to the city center rises Chihkan Tower, Taiwan’s first official seat of power, and today, the keeping place of many of the city’s earliest records and treasures. Tainan is also known as “The Kyoto of Taiwan”. Tainan’s temples are places where ritual and daily life intertwine, from residents quietly praying for guidance to festivals noisy enough to wake the gods. Just across the road from Chihkan Tower is the Sacrificial Rites Martial Temple. Pay respect to Guan Gong, the patron saint of soldiers, then pause for a while beneath the shade of the temple’s 300-year-old plum tree. Pass through the gates of the Confucian Temple, just as students have for over three and a half centuries. Created as Taiwan’s first center of higher learning, the temple remains a touchstone for students who still come to pray for exam success.
Tainan remained a powerhouse in one of life’s most important aspects, food! This is where the city’s indigenous, Dutch, Japanese, and Chinese heritages all come together. Forget chic restaurants and fancy décor, the best food here is found on the streets. Follow the aromas that drift through the city like the proud ghosts of past generations of past Tainan cooks, the servings are small and affordable, so you can try everything. Tainan is like one big traveling feast! That’s why Tainan is also called “The city of snacks”! One of the best places to sample Tainan specialties, like its legendary oyster omelets, is on its market. Tainan offers over two dozen night markets, but none quite compare to the sheer size, color, and energy of the city’s favorite, the Flower Night Market. One dish that I would recommend: Anping Tofa.
Kaohsiung Art and Cultural Creative Parks
The Pier-2 Art Center: “Pier-2” is one of the earliest art zones in the South of Taiwan. Like many other art zones, it was originally an abandoned warehouse that was constructed in 1973. These warehouses were left untouched until the local artists’ petitioned to convert and remake them into an art center in 2006. Today, the art zone is continuously expanding and changing. The art district consists of more than 13 buildings many of which are now functioning as exhibition and performance spaces, hosting themed and temporary exhibitions and events. Many of them are also a common ground of art markets, with graffiti and sculptures scattered on the promenade. It’s close to the city center and within a walking distance from Yanchengpu MRT Station, with the addition of two LRT stations passing through the pier in 2017.
Ten-Drum Ciaotou Creative Park: This is another art and cultural space tied with the Ten-Drum Percussion Group. The creative park is not as commercialized as some of the other cultural parks, and instead, it has a strong artistic ambiance, by revitalizing the old sugar mill. The park has a green and lush environment, with a focus on traditional music performances. Catch a show in one of the theatres, or simply enjoy a day off wandering in the parking area.
Meinong Cultural and Creative Center: The center is located in the Meinong district and it’s a multi-purpose park. The center was once a police station constructed in 1902, and it was the political and economical center of Meinong. The main building of the creative center retains Baroque and Japanese architectural elements, and it’s a popular and iconic place for art lovers to visit. Check out the Rock and Roll Coffee ship and the library, which hosts cultural and DIY workshops regularly.
Kubic: Kubic was established in 2017, and it’s a container mall and art cluster, inspired by Seoul’s Common Ground. It’s an area for local artists to share their innovative and creative ideas. The containers are painted in bright colors and not only do the containers have a number of designer shops, but also the venue of many art festivals and events. The green lawn of Kubic has symposiums and activities basically every week. Check out their website for more information about the activities schedule and details.
Kaohsiung Instagram Spots and Cultural Venues
Jiu Zhen Nan Han Pastry Cultural Concept Store: Jiu Zhen Nan is a century-old business, started in 1890. Today, Jiu Zhen Nan still insists on hand-made Han Pastry, and the concept store aims to promote the old Taiwanese flavor with a historic touch. Visitors can make a reservation to experience the cake-making in person.
The British Consulate at Takow: The British Consulate at Takao is a former British consulate constructed in 1865 in Gushan District, Kaohsiung, Taiwan. It has been designated a historic site by the Ministry of Culture. Situated on the peak of Shaochuantou, the consulate overlooks Sizihwan Bay and the Port of Kaohsiung. Take a walk from Pier-2 and the old building offers a moment of serenity from the crowd in the city, more, they can enjoy the view of Kaohsiung’s modern skyline and Qijin Island.
Formosa Boulevard Station: Formosa Boulevard is a station of Kaohsiung MRT located in Sinsing District. The station has gained public attention for its colorful design of the hall “Dome of Light” for being the only interchange station between the two metro lines in the city. The dome was designed by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata.
The station was named after the city’s Formosa Boulevard project, and the stained glass panels depict images of the 2009 World Games.
Kaohsiung City Highlights
Apart from art and cultural spaces, Kaohsiung has a number of historic and family attractions that draws visitors from the region, like the 85 Sky-tower, Love River, Dragon, and Tiger Pagodas, Kaohsiung Eye Ferris wheel, and National Science and Technology Museum. Stay-tuned for the upcoming articles about the travel itinerary and plans to explore the city of Kaohsiung!