This post was updated in August 2019.
Tainan was the 2nd city we visited in Taiwan and I liked it even more than Kaohsiung. Tainan was the capital of Taiwan from 1683 until 1887 and there are many historic sites to explore.
Despite having a population close to 2 million, most of the things to do in Tainan are located in the very walkable city center. Or, do as we did and cycle your way around town!
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The best things to do in Tainan
We traveled to Tainan from Kenting National Park and spent 3 days in this lovely city. Tainan was a particularly interesting city for us to visit, because of the Dutch history (I’m Dutch, so it’s always interesting to visit places with a bit of a Dutch history).
In this post you’ll find:
- The best things to do Tainan
- What is the best time to visit Tainan
- Our Tainan travel budget
- Where to stay in Tainan on a budget
- How to get around in Tainan
Tainan itinerary: map and highlights
Tainan is famous for it’s many temples, but there are many other worthwhile places to visit as well. Check out the map below to see what to do in Tainan.
Our 3 day Tainan itinerary
- Tainan day 1: visit the City God Temple, Koxinga’s shrine, the great South gate and the Tainan Confucius Temple.
- Tainan day 2: visit Hayashi Department Store, the Land Bank of Taiwan, the Grand Mazu Temple and Chihkan Tower, Anping Old Fort and the (Anping) Grand Mazu Temple.
- Tainan day 3: visit the National Museum of Taiwan.
What to do in Tainan: itinerary day 1
After our excellent experience cycling around Kaohsiung, we decided to continue our explorations by bike in Tainan as well (more about the bike rental system in Tainan in the transport section below).
We cycled past the colorful City God Temple but didn’t go inside as it was very busy with local people. I never want to intrude too much when people are worshiping, whichever religion it may be.
Up next was Koxinga’s Shrine, I particularly liked the beautiful garden.
An interesting piece of history: Koxinga conquered the Dutch who had established several outposts in Taiwan and subsequently founded his own dynasty (the Kingdom of Tungning).
We continued to the Great South Gate. While the gate itself was quite nice, I loved the tree (pictured on the right) which is slowly but surely taking over the wall!
Our last stop of the day was the Confucius Temple, we strolled around the gardens and admired the beautifully decorated buildings, don’t you love those doors! The complex was built in 1665, pretty old indeed…
If you only have one day in Tainan, take a look at this full-day tour including many of the Tainan highlights listed in this article.
Things to see in Tainan: itinerary day 2
We started our second day on foot and walked from our hotel to the famous Hayashi Department Store, built during the Japanese rule of Taiwan. When the store had just opened, people used to queue up to ride the elevator, a novelty for that time (1932)!
Across Hayashi Department Store is the Land Bank, an impressive looking building for sure! Looks Greek, doesn’t it?
From the Land Bank, we walked to the Grand Matsu Temple, a national monument and a beautiful colorful building.
Across the temple is the Chikan Tower, rumored to have a secret tunnel leading all the way to Fort Zeelandia…
Next to the Chikan tower was a bike rental station and we hopped on a bike and cycled to Anping, the other district in Tainan you can’t miss! We cycled along the channel which offered some great city views.
It’s around 5 kilometers from the Chikan Towers to Fort Zeelandia, you could walk as well but we preferred our bikes.
For me, Fort Zeelandia was the highlights of our Tainan itinerary because I find it fascinating to imagine how people explored the world centuries ago.
Long before the arrival of planes, TV and social media… Sailing into the unknown, not knowing if you would ever return to your home country… Takes some real courage and a very adventurous spirit to sign up for such a journey!
Anyway, I digress. Fort Zeelandia was built by the V.O.C. on the shores of Southwest Taiwan in the early 17th century. The fort was used as a trading outpost for several years, but eventually the Dutch were defeated and left Taiwan.
The fort was our final stop of the day, from Anping district we cycled back to our hotel.
Places to visit in Tainan: itinerary day 3
On our third day in Tainan, we visited the National Museum of Taiwan History. We cycled there (about 8 kilometers) in the early morning and spent the majority of the day learning about the history of Taiwan.
Did you know this little island has been occupied by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Chinese and the Japanese?! I did not, I learned that and much more in the museum, a day well spent.
Get the excellent audio guide! We bought a combination ticket for 2 people including entrance fee and 2 audio guides for just 250NT.
The best time to visit Tainan
We visited Tainan mid-May and had nice weather. It was quite humid and hot, but we didn’t have any rain.
Monsoon season starts at the end of May and continues until September. During monsoon season it’s very humid and rainy so these months are not the best for a trip to Tainan.
Keep in mind that the winter months (December – February) can get relatively cold (around 10 degrees Celsius).
Altogether, the best months to visit Tainan are March/April and October/November. During these months temperatures are comfortable (around 25 degrees) and changes of rain are the lowest.
Tainan travel budget
As you can see in the itinerary above, we did a lot of sightseeing in Tainan. However, this doesn’t mean a visit to Tainan will break the bank.
In fact, it’s very easy to visit Tainan on a budget, during our 3 days in Tainan we spent approximately €50 per day (for us as a couple, so just €25 per person!).
Below you can find more information about our accommodation and how to get around Tainan city.
Where to stay in Tainan – Tie Dao Hotel
This hotel was excellent value for money: we only paid €17 per night for a small, but newly renovated, room! The location of the hotel is great, across the train station and next to a T-bike station (Tainan’s public bike rental).
Spotless room with a comfortable bed. The bathroom was modern, the shower was good, towels and toiletries provided. Hot and cold water dispenser in the hallway.
WiFi wasn’t great but overall it was much more than we expected for the price we paid.
Important note: we first got room 1319 on the 13th floor (which was being renovated at the time of our stay in May 2017). However, I asked for a different room because the room smelled strongly of cigarette smoke.
We got a renovated room on the 2nd floor (219) instead, which was very clean and didn’t smell at all.
How to get around in Tainan: transportation
Cycling is very popular in Taiwan, there are great public bike rental systems in place in Kaohsiung, Taipei, and Tainan.
Being from the Netherlands we are used to cycling everywhere, so for us, this was the perfect way to explore these Taiwanese cities while getting some exercise in the process (much-needed exercise because of all the delicious food in Taiwan).
In Tainan the public bike rental service is called T-Bike, you can find more information on this website. There is an app available (in Chinese) which you can use to locate a bike rental station.
In order to register your iPass at a T-bike station, you need a Taiwanese number. Unfortunately, you can only register 1 iPass per Taiwanese phone number in Tainan. Since we wanted to rent 2 bikes we used 1 iPass to rent a bike and 1 credit card, both worked fine.
Planning a trip to Tainan: in conclusion
That’s everything about our 3-day trip, I hope this article has given you an idea which places to visit in Tainan! You can download the list of things to do in Tainan below.
Do you want to read more about traveling in Taiwan? Also check out these posts: