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When planning my trip to Taiwan, photos of Kaohsiung kept cropping up. What was this colourful place and why had I never heard of it before? It turns out there are loads of things to do in Kaohsiung so I’m happy I made it there during my Taiwan itinerary!
Before visiting Taiwan, I’d only really heard of Taipei. Taiwan is definitely a lesser-trodden travel destination, as I was quickly finding out by the lack of other backpackers around.
Kaohsiung is the second-largest city in Taiwan with a population of almost 3 million. This city on the south coast is known for its nearby islands as well as its urban city centre complete with skyscrapers and bustling night markets. While those things are great, you’ll find them in many cities around the world.
Personally, I was more interested in Kaohsiung’s colourful modern art scene which ended up wildly exceeding my expectations.
How to get to Kaohsiung
The best way to drive in Kaohsiung is by train. There are two options:
- The slower and cheaper Taiwan Rail trains (I advise to book at the station the day before as I couldn’t get the website to accept my international bankcard)
- The High-Speed Trains which can be booked on 12go, the best website for booking transport in Asia. The journeys are slightly more expensive but will save you plenty of time. As of 2022, Klook are offering 30% off HS trains from Kaohsiung; grab your voucher here.
For everything money-related, use my Taiwan budget guide!
How to get to Kaohsiung
It’s easy to get public transport around Kaohsiung. Your best options are:
Metro (MRT): the two lines meet at Formosa Boulevard with trains connecting stops around the city every 5-10 minutes. It’s convenient and super clean. In fact, it’s so orderly that eating and drinking is banned!
Right now, Klook are offering an unlimited MRT pass for US$5 so get yours now.
Light Rail Transit (LRT): this bright yellow overground train stops at many points of interest around the city.
City bus: there’s also a regular, efficient bus network. It’s very affordable with prices based on the zone. Trips under 8km cost just NT$12. Simply tap your EasyCard when you get on and off.
Kaohsiung sightseeing bus: the tourist bus visits all the main Kaohsiung tourist attractions with a choice of commentary languages including English.
Ferry – this connects the city with Cijin Island which is somewhere I recommend you check out.
Tip – get an EasyCard as soon as you arrive in Taiwan. You’ll get a discount on MRT, bus and ferry journeys plus you can pre-load them to save time on buying individual tickets. Buy yours now to pick up at the airport.
Stay connected with a Taiwan SIM card
SIM cards in Taiwan are relatively affordable so, to stay connected on the go, order one in advance of your trip for airport pick-up. You can get cards for 3, 5, 7 10, 15 or 30 days with UNLIMITED data starting from US$8.
Where to stay in Kaohsiung
In Kaohsiung, I stayed at Dreamwell Hostel which is a comfy, affordable base in a central location. There’s a big social area that was quiet during the day and doubled up as a co-working space. The dorms start at NT$360 a night and private rooms start at NT$1,300, complete with waterfall showers and the comfiest double beds.
Dreamwell Hostel hosts a language exchange on Tuesday nights which is a good way to meet locals and even learn some Mandarin! Book Dreamwell Hostel from US$12.
More places to stay in Kaohsiung
- Budget hotel: The Cloud Hotel is an excellent option in the city centre for simple but elegant accommodation with a buffet breakfast. Air-conditioned rooms include a TV and minibar. Check availability from US$36.
- Mid-range: For a centrally located 4* hotel which doesn’t break the bank, Harbour 10 Hotel offers a 24-hour front desk, fitness centre, modern rooms, and restaurant with a delicious breakfast. Check availability from US$68.
- Splash-out: Book a stylish room with a view at Silks Club. This 5* hotel features an infinity pool, gourmet restaurant, SPA and wellness centre, and a gym with a dedicated personal trainer. Rooms include a capsule coffee machine, motorised electric curtains and luxurious bedding. Check availability from US$235.
Things to do in Kaohsiung Taiwan
Now for the good bit! I had a lot of fun seeking out the many bright and colourful attractions in Kaohsiung. None of these activities take too long but some of the journeys around Kaohsiung are slighty time-consuming. I’ll include directions for each one.
1. Take a trip to the Lotus Pond
If you’re expecting a pond (and I can see why you would be, given the name), you’re bound to be impressed as this body of water measures an impressive 42 hectares! Hardly a pond.
Spend a morning walking around it, stopping at the colourful temples of Lotus Pond which I’ll mention next. In addition, there are opportunities to try wakeboarding at Lotus WakePark and spot wildlife at Chau Tsai Wetlands.
The best way to arrive is by bus to the western corner of the lake (starting near the Tiger & Dragon Pagodas) or catch the MRT into Xin Zuoying station, a 25-minute walk away.
2. Dragon and Tiger Pagodas
These larger-than-life twin pagodas were some of the first photos I saw from Taiwan. Perhaps they’re even semi-responsible for my trip. These colourful pagodas are bright and fun, attracting hoards of tourists each day. They were built in the 1970s and have been popular ever since.
The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas are located at the corner of Lotus Lake. Entrance is free. You should enter via the dragon’s mouth and exit via the tiger’s mouth as going the other way around is deemed unlucky.
Make sure you climb the pagodas to get a gorgeous view out over the lake.
Getting to the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas: Catch the MRT red line north and get off at the Ecological District then catch a bus towards the lake. You can also get off at Xin Zuoying Station and walk which takes around 25 minutes.
3. Spring and Autumn Pavilions
Rocking the eternal Chinese sense of yin and yang, the Autumn and Spring Pagodas are built in bold, cartoon style, just like the Dragon & Tiger Temples. These actually predate their neighbour and were built in 1953 by the Chi Ming Palace.
At the Autumn and Spring Pagodas, there’s a long bridge over the Lotus Lake which leads to an island temple called Wuliting. This is a peaceful spot where I spent 20 minutes soaking up the views and chatting to an elderly Taiwanese man named Bobby who was keen to welcome me to his country.
4. Zuoying Yuandi Temple
Before you leave Lotus Lake, there’s one final temple to see, Zuoying Yuandi. This is built in a similar style to the other two, depicting images from Taoist mythology including colourful dragons and impressive warrior gods.
Like the others, entrance to this temple is free. You’ll find it towards Xin Zuoying Station at the north end of the lake. Worth a stop!
5. Rainbow Church (Cijin Island)
Leaving Lotus Lake behind and moving onto other things to do in Kaohsiung, enter Cijin Island! How ‘grammable is this rainbow archway?
Cijin Island is a little strip of land not far from Kaoshiung Pier. I wasn’t blown away by the island as a whole: things are quite spread out and there isn’t much to do. But there are some colourful sights to see so it’s worth a quick trip.
The most iconic sight from Cijin Island is the Rainbow Church. I visited it the day after Taiwan legalised same-sex marriage which felt poignant but wasn’t actually relevant. I hear there’s no particular meaning behind the modern art sculpture; it’s there to brighten the island and, I imagine, attract tourists! It does a great job, as does Taichung’s Rainbow Village, another vibrant Taiwanese location I recently had the pleasure of visiting.
Funny story – I arrived at the Rainbow Church early and had it completely to myself. I leisurely set up my tripod and, just as I was ready, a busload of tourists pulled in and all 30 of them proceeded to have their photo taken in front of the arch. After 20 minutes waiting, the heavens opened and I had to dismantle my tripod and run for shelter. A photo fail if ever I’ve known one!
Getting to the Rainbow Church: Most blogs will tell you to catch the MRT orange line to Sizihwan Station and take a ferry from the pier. However, I took the bus which dropped me right beside the Rainbow Church meaning I didn’t have to walk 20 minutes from the ferry port. To do this, catch the MRT red line to Caoya Station then wait for the R9 bus to the Coastal Park. This only costs NT$12 rather than 30 for the ferry.
6. Shell Gallery (Cijin Island)
Not far from the Rainbow Arch, a matter of metres in fact, is Cijin Shell Museum. It was closed when I visited on a Monday but any other day, you can go in to see 2,000+ species of sea life and precious shells, or simply snap photos of the sculpture outside. This enormous shell is very impressive and lined with gold.
7. Find the cutest bakery on Cijin
On Cijin Island, I found a cute bakery serving all sorts of pastries and moon cakes, as well as these adorable turtle desserts. They were sweet, glutinous and probably very unhealthy but they tasted delicious!
8. Pier 2 Art Centre
After exploring Cijin Island, I jumped on the ferry back towards the mainland to visit Pier 2 Art Center. This enormous outdoor art museum is one of a kind! I loved how it merges into the city rather than sitting inside a stuffy gallery with an entrance fee.
As well as lots of colourful street art, Pier 2 Art Center boasts some giant 3D sculptures like this roaring red serpent. You can also wander through a section of shops in refurbished warehouse buildings, stopping at coffee shops and boutiques.
Pop inside the Visitor’s Centre to grab a free map of the area.
Getting to Pier 2 Art Center: The nearest stations are Yanchengpu and Sizihwan, both on the MRT orange line.
9. Hike Monkey Mountain
Hiking Shoushan Mountain, also known as Monkey Mountain, is a fun and adventurous thing to do in Kaohsiung. It got its nickname from Dutch invaders who dubbed it ‘Ape Hill’ due to the many rock macaque monkeys still found here today.
Found in Kaohsiung’s Gushan District beside the coast, it’s the easiest and best place in Kaohsiung to escape the city and go for a hike. The trail takes around 3 hours to complete and isn’t overly difficult, gaining 200m elevation over 5km.
Make sure to wear comfy shoes (proper hiking boots not necessary) and enough water especially in hot weather. Another tip for the hike is not to feed the monkeys! They may pester you – and other hikers – once you feed them once.
Visitor’s info: There are two main entrances to the park, one beside Dragon Rock Cold Spring (which is also worth a visit, as is the nearby Longquan Shrine Temple) and the other pinned here. The best way to get there is by taxi, or by foot from Sizihwan or Gushan stations.
Don’t miss the LOVE Lookout point which offers the best views for miles around of mountains and the ocean!
10. Wander through Central Park
If you don’t have time for a full hike up Monkey Mountain, take a breather in Central Park.
Here you’ll find the Urban Spotlight installation featuring a walkway of lights (best visited at night) often hosting public performances, plus the Literary Museum, Lee Ko-Yung Memorial Library and a cafe.
The park is well connected by public transport: simply disembark at Central Park Station.
11. Linya Street Art Village
This is the most colourful thing to do in Kaohsiung for sure! I love street art so it was always going to be popular with me but, honestly, I think this place will impress anyone.
Lingya Street Art Village is the product of a 2017 initiative that saw 50 street artists from 50 countries paint the town red, orange, pink, blue – you name it! Entire apartment blocks are covered. Now, how do I move into one?
There’s a clear animal theme at Lingya with murals showing fish, pets and realistic birdlife. The giant bookshelf image is one of the first things you see when you emerge from the MRT station.
Getting to Lingya Street Art Village: Oddly, the street art village isn’t mapped on Google but it’s not hard to find. Arrive into Weiwuying Station on the MRT orange line and you can’t miss the vibrant murals covering apartment blocks along the main street.
13. Find more Kaohsiung street art near Culture Centre Station
If you haven’t had your fill of street art in Kaohsiung yet, there’s one other awesome spot to check out. Just 3 stops on the MRT orange line from Lingya Street Art Village (Weiwuying Station) is the Culture Centre Station, nearby two of the biggest pieces of street art in Kaohsiung.
I’m pinning both their locations below so you can easily find them. They’re a 5-minute walk apart.
‘Outgrowing’ by Mona Caron
Rumour has it that this impressive piece of Kaohsiung street art is the largest in Asia. You need binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens to see the top. It’s made up of hundreds (or perhaps thousands?) of small tiles, each perfectly slotted together to create the impression of one giant work of art.
The artist responsible is Mona Caron, a new favourite of mine. She’s a Swiss artist now based in the States. She’s painted skyscrapers all over the world including an even bigger one in Ecuador that I’m dying to see.
Getting to ‘Outgrowing’: Beside a small park off Wufu 1st Road, this piece of Kaohsiung street art can be found here. You could also enter Hele Breakfast Restaurant into Google as it’s just beside it.
Bird by Bamboo
This giant piece of Kaohsiung street art was created by a young local artist, Bamboo Yang, who I now follow on Instagram. In the same style as Mona Caron’s Outgrowing piece, it’s all made up of tiny tiles. I loved the dreamy purple and blue tones, as well as the level of detail.
In the same alleyway are two other colourful pieces of Kaohsiung street art: this impala and giraffe below.
Getting to Bird by Bamboo Yang: Find the alley between Kaohsiung Cultural Center and Water Tower Park pinned here.
12. Eat a local breakfast at Xing Long Ju
It wouldn’t be a trip to Taiwan without sampling a traditional cooked Taiwanese breakfast! Ingredients like youtiao (fried dough), bao buns and danbing (egg crepes) are staples, best served with soy milk.
14. Find the Dome of Light at Formosa Boulevard Station
The Dome of Light sculpture inside Formosa Boulevard Station is a colourful, free thing to do in Kaohsiung. This 30-metre dome was completed by Italian artist, Narcissus Quagliata, known for his glasswork, and took 4 years to be completed.
Nowadays, it’s a popular Kaohsiung attraction that’s easy to access: Formosa Boulevard is the cross-over point between the MRT red and orange lines so you can access it via either line.
15. National Science and Technology Museum
For a huge range of informative and interactive exhibits relating to Taiwan and the world, you can’t do better than Kaohsiung’s Science and Technology Museum. With six floors of exhibits, it’s one of the largest science museums in Asia so it’s best to pick one part of the museum and do it thoroughly rather than try and see everything during one visit.
With so many interactive aspects to the museum, it’s even a good one to bring kids to. Don’t worry if you get hungry: there are 2 restaurants on site! Entry is just NT$30.
16. Sanfeng Temple
To take Instagram-worthy photos, plan a trip to Sanfeng Temple. Wander below countless red hanging lanterns past vats of spiralled incense, with the elaborate temple looming above you.
But it’s not just a photo stop: with 300 years of history, Sanfeng Temple is a fantastic place to learn about Taoism and observe locals at worship.
Sanfeng is nearby Liuhe Night Market (more about this place to come) so, if you visit the temple late in the afternoon, you can combine these two Kaohsiung attractions. If that doesn’t suit, I recommend visiting early in the morning before the temple site becomes too crowded.
Sankuaicuo is the nearest train station or you can catch an affordable taxi from anywhere in Taipei.
17. Liuhe Night Market
Liuhe Night Market is one of the biggest and best-known markets in Taiwan dating back to the 1940s and brimming with food, gadgets, souvenirs, handicrafts and more. The area transforms from a main road during the daytime to a pedestrianised street in the evenings where families, couples, friends and solo travellers congregate.
It’s open 7 nights week, specialising in seafood such as shrimps, seafood congee and even quails eggs with whole prawns inside! It’s easy to reach from Formosa Boulevard station: simply follow exits 1 or 11.
Some locals will tell you this market is too ‘touristy’ and there are better places for authentic eats. With that in mind, let’s move onto my next thing to do in Kaohsiung…
18. Eat like a local at Rueifong Night Market
After the staff at my hostel explained that Liuhe Night Market is more of a tourist market, I headed straight to Rueifong Night Market, beside Kaohsiung Arena Station, to eat with the locals.
With over 1000 stalls to choose from (yes, really!), I browsed around before settling on a delicious scallion pancake: deep-fried dough folded over with cheese and a gooey egg inside.
I also tucked into a giant takoyaki ball. Takoyaki is a Japanese food made from squid and fried batter, cooked in small ball-shaped moulds. Usually, you get a serving of six but this particular stall sold singular giant ones full of sweet potato, fish, prawns and squid. So tasty and just NT$60 ($2)!
Read next: the best Taiwanese dishes to try
Rueifong is open Tuesdays and Thursdays-Sundays so don’t make the mistake of showing up hungry on a Monday or Wednesday when it’s closed!
19. Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum
The Fo Guang Shan Temple complex was already a popular place to visit in Kaohsiung but it became even more famous in 2011 when the Buddha Museum was built to showcase a tooth thought to belong to the Buddha himself.
Although it’s a bit of a trek from the city, it’s worthwhile to admire the tallest Buddha in Taiwan, sitting at an impressive 108 metres. Wander between the towering pagodas on either side of the walkway as you approach the enormous statue.
Visiting info: The monastery is open from 8am-5pm while the museum is open from 9am-6pm (closed Tuesdays). Entry is free. To get there, take a bus destined for the complex OR a shuttle bus from Harvard Express HSR station OR the 8501 Foguangshan line bus from Zuoying HSR station. If that sounds complicated, it’s a stop on Klook’s city sightseeing tour.
20. Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts
Almost 3,000 works of art can be seen at Kaohsiung’s most popular gallery. Exhibits vary from paintings to statues and calligraphy. Even the building itself is somewhat of a masterpiece, located in an 8-hectare complex home to 16 gallery rooms, a library, sculpture room and more.
If you’re a big art fan, dedicate 2-3 hours to exploring the Museum of Fine Arts. The gallery is surrounded by a huge park with a pond and wetlands so why not dedicate half a day to the area?
Visitor’s info: Open from 9.30am-5pm; closed Mondays. To get there, ride the Light Rail to the Museum of Fine Arts Station.
21. Eat sushi
When I first arrived in Taiwan, I was eating nothing but Taiwanese food. However, the Japanese food was just too tasty, affordable and authentic so I ended up eating a lot of sushi in Kaohsiung.
One of my regular haunts was Sushi Express, which I believe is a chain, across the road from Dreamwell Hostel. The food goes around on a conveyor belt and it’s 30 TWD ($1) per plate.
22. Stroll the banks of Love River
Dividing the city in two, the 15km Love River (also called Ai River) is a beloved attraction in Kaohsiung. Its pedestranised banks are scattered with shops, cafes and parks making it an idyllic place to wander in good weather. So pleasant are the surroundings that it became a popular place to go on dates, earning it the name ‘Love River’.
For a fun and romantic thing to do in Kaohsiung at night, board a boat cruise. The city skyscrapers illuminated night are a sight to behold.
Take a leisurely walk all down the river path to…
23. Glory Pier
At the mouth of Love River you’ll find a popular area to relax and wander: Glory Pier. Enjoy the outdoor cafes or catch a cultural performance (including the annual New Year’s party). Better yet, catch a sunrise or sunset: the reflections over the water are spectacular.
Exit at Glory Pier Light Rail Station or ride the MRT to Central Park and walk for 15 minutes.
24. Take a day trip to Taichung
If you run out of things to do in Kaohsiung (which I find unlikely unless you’re there for a really long time), there are plenty of places to visit near Kaohsiung.
Taichung city has been put on the map in recent years by the Rainbow Village, a cultural and colourful collection of houses saved from demolition by an elderly artist.
Other things to do in Taichung include eating the best ice cream in the world (in my humble opinion) at Miyahara, enjoying Liuchuan Riverside Walk and Taichung Park, trying the original bubble tea at Chun Shui Tang and eating a traditional Taiwanese breakfast at Taichung Second Market.
High-Speed Trains take just 45 minutes from Kaohsiung to Taichung; book on 12go.
25. Take a day trip to Tainan
This ancient city on Taiwan’s west coast is the place to go for temples, fortresses and other historical sites detailing over 300 years of history. Chihkan Temple, Anping Old Fort & Treehouse, Grand Mazu Temple and Chimei Museum are a few of the best places to learn and sightsee.
High-Speed Trains to Tainan take just 15 minutes from Kaohsiung Zuoying station costing from NT$75 (US$3); book on 12go.
Thanks for reading my Kaohsiung guide!
I hope you’re excited for these colourful things to do in Kaohsiung. I really enjoyed my time in the city, especially finding the amazing Kaohsiung street art. Enjoy!
Check out some of my other Taiwan posts:
- The ultimate 2 week Taiwan itinerary
- How expensive is Taiwan? Complete budget guide
- 25 travel tips for Taiwan
- Taipei itinerary & travel guide
- Guide to visiting Jiufen and Shifen
- The ultimate Taiwan food guide
- Taroko National Park itinerary from Hualien
- How to visit Taichung Rainbow Village + the story behind it
- How to visit Yehliu Geopark from Taipei
- 10 facts about Taiwan to know before visiting
See you next time for more adventures,
Note: While I was a guest at Dreamwell Hostel during my stay, all opinions are my own.
Ps. Liked these things to do in Kaohsiung? Pin this for later!
TAIWAN QUICK LINKS
Getting there – it’s easy to arrive by flight. I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates.
Stay connected with an unlimited 4G SIM card for 3, 5, 7, 10, 15 or 30 days.
In my opinion, Lonely Planet offer the best guidebooks. Get the latest Lonely Planet Taiwan.
Car hire – I recommend RentalCars.com for car hire in Taiwan and around the world.
For Taiwan High Speed Trains, use 12Go. The search feature allows you to compare prices and durations.
I use Booking.com for accommodation. They have the best range of hotels and self-catering apartments, plus you can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
For activities, I use GetYourGuide and Viator as they both have a huge range of affordable tours.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!