Some people refer to Tainan City as the ‘Kyoto of Taiwan’. Like the famous Japanese city, Tainan is rich with history, religion and culture and has a high number of beautifully preserved landmarks. Taiwan’s former capital, Tainan City has, like the rest of the island, embraced modernity, but it doesn’t shy away from its past either. Tucked in between the 21st-century office blocks are stunning temples and shrines that recall the city’s complex, fascinating history.
Life in Tainan City moves at a relaxed pace, which makes it popular with Taiwanese people living around the rest of the island, as well as tourists from around the world. The other main reason travellers love to visit Taiwan’s former capital is to experience the city’s thriving foodie scene.
Taiwan’s strong religious devotion can be seen in its dazzling array of temples. Some of the best are located in Tainan City, such as the Confucius Temple, which is the oldest of its kind on the island. The City God Temple is an explosion of colour on a busy modern street, a 17th-century marvel dedicated to the god that looks after the souls of Tainan.
History here isn’t just temples and shrines, however. Tainan is also the home of the National Museum of Taiwan History, a stunning modern building that tells the story of the island and displays some stunning Taiwanese paintings and sculptures. Fort Zeelandia, also known as Anping Fort, is a remnant of Dutch trading connections to the city. The building and museum itself are impressive, but it’s also worth visiting for the old streets of Anping that extend out around the fort.
Feast on Tainan City’s famous food. The Tainan Garden Night Market is one of the best places to sample as many dishes as possible. Locals flock to the market for its pop-up hot food vendors and the sociable, busy atmosphere. Snacking is the way to dine here. Try ta-a noodles, a beef and shrimp dish, or wa gui, a savoury rice pudding, for authentic Tainan cuisine.
Tainan City is very well-connected to the rest of Taiwan. You can reach it by train, bus or plane from other major cities on the island, such as Taipei and Taichung. Once there, the city is fairly compact and many of the sights are clustered together. Explore the sightseeing districts of the city on foot to rub elbows with the locals and to experience its buzzing atmosphere first-hand.