Savour delicious street food and discover nature at its doorstep. The harbour city has also made efforts to become an arts hub.
Perched just north of the island's southern tip, Kaohsiung is Taiwan's most modern city, a booming metropolis with a laidback, welcoming atmosphere and a wealth of things to see and do. In recent years Kaohsiung, a harbour city with strong maritime links, has made ambitious and successful efforts to transform itself into an arts hub. For travellers this means there has never been a better time to explore.
Nestled amongst the modern architecture are some historic gems, hinting at the city’s role as an important 19th-century trading post, as well as an abundance of temples and shrines. For foodies there’s no shortage of delicious street food alongside some higher-end eateries that will satisfy even the most discerning palate. And then there’s the shopping. With a number of large malls and street-level shopping districts, leaving Kaohsiung empty-handed isn’t easy.
Kaohsiung is also blessed geographically with some stunning natural scenery, with beaches, lakes, wetlands and mountains all within easy reach. What better way to round off a day of sightseeing than watching the sunset at Sizihwan?
Kaohsiung is most pleasant in the winter months between November and March, when the weather is relatively sunny and dry. Summer is the rainy season and can be fiercely hot.
Singaporeans and Malaysians can visit Taiwan for a period of 30 days without a visa. Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months and that you have a return or onward ticket. While citizens of 41 other countries (mainly EU, the US and Canada) are also visa-exempt, citizens of most other ASEAN nations will need to apply for a visa in advance.
New Taiwan Dollar. There are currency exchange booths and ATMs at Kaohsiung International Airport plus plenty of ATMs in the city itself, in every metro station and in all convenience stores, most of which accept international credit and debit cards.
Taxis are abundant in most parts of the city, but by far the easiest and cheapest way to get around is Kaohsiung's excellent metro system which has broad coverage and is cheap to use. The city also runs a public bicycle rental scheme from outside metro stations and other busy spots; you will first need to buy an I Pass at a metro ticket office.
Kaohsiung is generally very safe, even late at night, although attention should be paid when crossing roads due to the large number of scooters. There are numerous hospitals and general medical clinics throughout the city and, thanks to Taiwan's national health service, medical fees are generally very cheap.
Singapore has no official consular presence in Kaohsiung itself, but the Singapore Trade Office in Taipei does offer consular services to Singaporean citizens. It is located at the following address: 9th Floor, 85 Ren-Ai Road, Section 4, Taipei 106 (tel: (886) 2 2772 1784).
In an emergency dial 110. Police stations and police officers are a common sight in Kaohsiung. Walk-in inquiries should be directed to Kaohsiung City Police Department (#260, Jhongjheng 4th Road, Cianjin District), next to the City Council metro station.
|How are you?||Ni hao ma?|
|Fine, thanks||Hen hao, xie xie|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Qing wen!|
|Thank you||Xie xie|
|What's your name?||Ni jiao shen me ming zi?|
|My name is…||Wo jiao…|
|Nice to meet you||Jian dao ni hen gao xing|
|Are you on Facebook/Twitter?||Nin zai shi yong Facebook/Twitter ma?|
|Where’s an internet café?||Wang ba zai na li?|
|Where can I get a taxi?||Wo ke yi zai na li zhao dao chu zu che?|
|Where is the bus/train station?||Qi che zhan/huo che zhan zai na li?|
|A one-way/return ticket to…||Yi zhang dao…de dan cheng/shuang cheng piao|
|Do you have a room for one/two?||You yi/liang ren de fang jian ma?|
|When's check out?||Ji dian tui fang?|
|Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar?||Ni neng tui jian yi jia hao can guan/jiu ba ma?|
|A table for two, please||Qing gei wo liang ge ren de zhuo zi|
|A menu, please||Qing gei wo cai dan|
|The bill, please||Qing gei wo zhang dan|
|Where's the toilet?||Xi shou jian zai na li?|
Destination content brought to you by Insight Guides
Located across the city’s harbour entrance from the Former British Consulate, the Chihou Lighthouse has been the site of a lighthouse since 1883. The area offers superlative views across the city and the Taiwan Strait, while the nearby Chihou Fort makes for another interesting excursion.
Former British Consulate at Takao
Perched atop a hill overlooking the entrance to the harbour stands the Former British Consulate at Takao. Built in 1865, it is a superb example of colonial architecture and the building contains informative exhibits on the city and its history, as well as commanding views.
Lotus Lake and the surrounding area makes for a pleasant introduction to Kaohsiung’s religious fervour, with around twenty Buddhist, Taoist and folk shrines and temples within easy reach of each other. Look out for the iconic Dragon and Tiger Pagodas built over the lake itself and connected to the shore by a raised walkway.
One of Kaohsiung’s most popular night-time gathering spots, the Love River has been cleaned and the area landscaped, with attractive benches, streetlights and scenic night lighting added. Boardwalks run along both sides, filling up with walkers, joggers and sightseers at night. There are cafés with outdoor seating, plus live music and busker-type fun on weekends.
Pier-2 Art Center
The driving force behind Kaohsiung’s creative renaissance, Pier-2 Art Center is made up of converted warehouses next to the city’s harbour district. Playing host to exhibitions, festivals, music and theatre performances, this is one place art and culture lovers can’t miss. Exhibitions change regularly and range from the abstract and challenging to more commercial crowd-pleasers.
Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts
An impressive, large-scale museum set in beautifully landscaped surroundings, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts symbolises the city government’s support for the arts and has a busy schedule of international and domestic art exhibitions. Major shows from Taipei tend to travel here, but have the added bonus of being far less crowded. Modern display techniques make viewing exhibitions here a pleasant experience.
When it comes to shopping Kaohsiung may not have the reputation of its northern neighbour, Taipei, but the city is just as good a shopping destination. Things start late here, so have a leisurely morning and kick off your bargain-hunting mid-afternoon, taking in the sights along Zhongzheng Wedding Street. At the crossroads of Formosa Boulevard MRT station, this street is filled with large-scale wedding outfitters and photography studios. This may be window-shopping for most visitors but the luxurious interiors, garish building facades and wedding dresses make for some spectacular sights.
A ten-minute stroll towards the south of Formosa Boulevard, following Zhongshan 1st Road, will bring you to Central Park. East and south from the Park is the Shinkuchan Shopping District, which attracts hip young shoppers with its independent boutiques and cafes. Many of the shops have a strong focus on street-wear but for those willing to look, there’s something for everyone. Shopping districts in Taiwan are also home to drinks stores selling various pearl teas and fruit concoctions.
From Shinkuchan you could either round off your shopping with a trip to The Eslite Bookstore, a ten-minute walk to the south, or head back past Formosa Boulevard to Liuhe Night Market, which starts at 7pm and runs until after midnight. There’s no better place in Kaohsiung to sample the city’s snacks and local delicacies, as well as shop for souvenirs and cut-price bargains. The crowds mean that this isn’t for the faint-hearted but they make for a very lively atmosphere.
Zhongzheng Wedding Street, Shinkuchan Shopping District, The Eslite Bookstore, Liuhe Night Market.
Kaohsiung is justifiably very proud of its cultural heritage, and alongside a multitude of historical sights the city now also boasts several modern gallery spaces and museums. Packing in a number of sites in one day will require an early start; the best way to begin is with a morning stroll up to the Former British Consulate at Takao. With commanding views over the city and its harbour, the restored consulate building is a beautiful example of colonial architecture. Exhibits inside tell the story of Kaohsiung’s history and present as Taiwan’s most important port.
Once finished exploring this hilltop haunt, stroll back down the hill bearing east along the harbour towards the city centre. It’s a 1.5km (0.9 mile) walk to the Pier-2 Art Center which now forms Kaohsiung’s creative heart. Made up of converted warehouses, and with a dynamic and interesting exhibition programme, it gives an insight into the state of both international and Taiwanese art. This is also a good place to grab lunch, with Pasadena a reliable, popular choice of restaurant.
No culture vulture’s trip to southern Taiwan would be complete without a visit to some of Kaohsiung’s temples or shrines, and the area around Lotus Lake, in the city’s northern Zuoying District, is the perfect place to do this. Some twenty or so Buddhist and Taoist shrines of various ages and architectural styles are gathered in a small area. Watching the sun set behind the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas is a magical way to end the day.
Former British Consulate at Takao, Pier-2 Art Center, Lotus Lake.
Kaohsiung is a serious culinary destination, and has no shortage of great local and overseas dishes. Start the day by finding one of the city’s ubiquitous local soy milk and dumpling stores, which open at 4.30am and serve as breakfast fuelling stations. Try a steamer of pork-filled xiaolongbao dumplings or a bowl of savoury soy milk with deep-fried dough. For another authentic local experience, look out for the roadside stalls selling rice noodles with fresh oysters and (optional) tripe.
As afternoon approaches, head east from Kaohsiung Main Station and into Under the Banyan Tree, a pleasant Hakka eatery set inside a quiet courtyard. There is a large Hakka population in the rural areas around Kaohsiung, and this is reflected in the city’s restaurant scene. Try the Hakka ‘small fry’ – a traditional combination of fried dried squid, strips of lean pork and celery – or the mashed garlic with tender pork.
Home to one of Taiwan’s most important commercial fishing fleets, Kaohsiung is an obvious destination for seafood fans. It doesn’t get much fresher than when sitting within sniffing distance of the fishing boats, and this means a trip to Cijin, the islet that makes up most of Kaohsiung harbour’s western edge. Numerous seafood restaurants like Wan San Seafood line the roads around the ferry port and along Cijin 2nd Road. Tuck in to a feast of Taiwanese favourites like fresh sashimi, deep-fried oysters with basil, clam and ginger soup, and more varieties of fish than can be found in most aquariums.
Soy milk and dumpling stores, Under the Banyan Tree, Wan San Seafood.