4 Perfect Days in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Things to Do in KaohsiungKaohsiung (高雄; Gāoxióng) is the second largest city in Taiwan. Located in the southern part of the island, it is historically a port city. Through the colonization of the Dutch, Japanese and Chinese, the area’s culture and development were influenced by many foreign cultures. Visitors can still find the remains of such influence throughout the city.I put together Kaohsiung 4-day Itinerary to help you plan your visit to Kaohsiung. Hope it serves as a useful resource for you to have the best time there. If you find this guide helpful, I’d love to hear from you and please share!
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Day 1: Sizihwan
Sizihwan(西子灣; Xīzǐwān) is a must for all visitors to Kaohsiung. This bay area has everything for children, singles, couples, and families to enjoy the best of Kaohsiung. You can spend days here if you’d like.
Getting Around Sizihwan is easy to get to and around. You can reach via MRT, light rails or bus. For more information, read my other post: Getting Around in Kaohsiung: Transportation Guide.
Around the MRT Sizihwan station exit 1, you will easily spot bicycle and scooter rentals. Although Sizihwan is considered to be a pedestrian-friendly area, given Kaohsiung’s tropical weather, it might be a good idea to rent one. Plus, it’s fun and cheap. Why not?
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1. Takao Railway Museum
Sizihwan’s another name is Hamasen (哈瑪星), literally means “the coastal railroad line” in Japanese. During the Japanese Colonial era, the railroad line between Tainan and Takao (today's Kaohsiung) opened. The first train station in Kaohsiung once played an important role in the Hamasen’s industrial development as a land and sea transportation hub.
The station has recently been turned into a museum to exhibit the scenes of Taiwan Railway Cargo operations in its golden days. We took a friend’s family one time. Their young boy loved to get on a train and play around the outdoor area. He was too young to care about the indoor exhibit, but adults enjoyed.?Location: MRT Sizihwan station exit 2 ? Google Map ⏰ Hours: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Closed on Mondays.
2. Pier-2 Art Center
Right behind the Takao Railway Museum is a park. You can still see the old railways on the green-grassed playground. This is a popular spot both for local families and tourists on the weekends to go picnic or fly a kite.
The most popular activity among families here seems to be a miniature train ride. When my family visited, we rode this train. It was for my niece and nephew, but adults equally had fun! We bought Pier-2 Pass at the Hamasen Museum of Taiwan Railway located in the park. The Pass included admissions to special exhibits and came with a passport. The kids had lots of fun collecting stamps on the passport from various locations in the area. (Pass fares: 199 NT for adult and 149 for Children under 12.)
In its industrial days, this area used to be a warehouse cluster, storing fish powder and sugar supplies for the ships at the port. These warehouses were renovated to serve as a home for local artists. Some art studios are open to the public to craft their own jewelry, key chains, and leather goods.
?Pro Tips: A lot of first-time visitors miss out on the “other side” of the Art District. Walk outside of the main warehouse area. You will want to cross Penglai Road (蓬萊路) and walk alongside the Light Rail track. (See photo above.) There is a whole another area to explore!?Location: MRT Sizihwan station exit 2 ? Google Map ⏰ Hours: Open area. The museum opens 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.
3. SunnyHills (微熱山丘)
After exploring the area, I highly recommend stopping by SunnyHills. It is one of the most famous pineapple cake (鳳梨酥) shops in Taiwan. Located in the art district, the cafe itself and the surrounding areas are worth the visit.
The best part is, the moment you walk in, you are seated at a communal table and served with a free sample of their famous pineapple cake and green tea. When I say sample, I meant an individually-wrapped, full-size pineapple cake, not a tiny crumbled cut in a Tupperware. (Note: The tasting service is not available on the weekends.)
After a full day of walking, you can sit and chill at this cafe. The servers never rush you. There is no obligation to purchase their goods although you will want to buy some after tasting it.
?Pro Tip: Public restroom in the SunnyHills building is clean. But bring your own hand sanitizer as I noticed they ran out of soap on a few occasions.
?Location: Dayi Warehouse C11-1, The Pier-2 Art Center ? Google Map ⏰ Hours: 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. ☎ Tel: 07-551-0558
4. Sunset at the Love Hill
After resting your feet at Sunny Hills, you can head to the Love Hill, located in the nearby Shoushan. Love Hill is my favorite spot to enjoy the view of Kaohsiung and the harbor.
The best time to visit is around sunset. Take some photos around the LOVE sign with the blue sky and harbor as your backdrop. Enjoy the romantic view of the Sun going down under the sea.
?Location: Right in front of Kaohsiung Martyrs' Shrine. ? Google Map ⏰ Hours: Anytime. For sunset, get there by 4:30 - 6 p.m. depending on the time of the year.
✨Alternative: If you are relying on public transportations or your feet, Love Hill might be challenging to get to. Kaohsiung offers a few other places to enjoy the city view.
Former British Consulate at Takao would be my second choice. Since you would be already in Sizihwan, it’s easy to get to on foot. Walk along Shaochuan St. to Lianhai Rd., and you will see the sign. I have to warn you, though, the entrance to the British Consulate Residence is located on the hill. You will need to go up the stairs to the top to reach the ticket office.
The Consulate Residence hosts a permanent exhibit to showcase the history of Takao Port. Here, you can see a panoramic view of Kaohsiung harbor. English afternoon tea is available with reservation. Don’t forget to stop by the Consulate Office down the hill.
?Location: On the hill No. 20, Shaochuan St., Gushan District ? Google Map ⏰ Hours: 9 a.m. - 9 p.m., Monday through Sunday. Closed each Monday of the third week. ☎ Tel: 07-531-4170 ? Admission: 500 NT
85 Sky Tower is an iconic landmark and hotel with an observatory. The building is the second tallest skyscraper in Taiwan. The hotel’s 75th floor is an observation deck with Kaohsiung’s city view.
?Location: No.1, Tzu-Chiang 3rd Road, Kaohsiung ? Google Map ⏰ Hours: 9 a.m. - 10 p.m. ☎ Tel: 07-566-8818 ? Admission: 250 NT; 200 NT for students & children (free if under 110 cm tall)***
Day 2: Cijin Island & Ruifeng Night Market
1. Cijin Island
After breakfast, head out to the Gushan Ferry Terminal in Sizihwan. Cijin Island is located a 10-min ferry ride away from there. It is not a fancy ride, but you will get a quick view of Hamasen and Cijin Island from the upper deck.
The ferry will take you to the main street (旗津老街) of Cijin Island. If not already on a scooter, I’d rent an electronic bicycle in front of 7-11. At the end of November, we were walking and sweating profusely. It’s just hot all year around. Learn from my mistake and get a ride.
Once you get your ride of choice, drive away from the main street to Cijin Seaside Park. The ride along the bicycle road is breezy and pleasant. Be sure to stop by Rainbow Church (旗津彩虹教堂) to take a few shots. Then, continue riding to Cijin Windmill Park (旗津風車公園).
Now ride a bicycle back to the main street for lunch. My go-to restaurant here is Ya Jiao (鴨角). The seafood here never disappoints me. Salt & Pepper crab is my all-time favorite.
With a happy stomach, slowly stroll along the main street. Grab a sugarcane juice or stop by the Tianhou Temple (旗津天后宮). You might want to return the rented bicycle. It would be challenging to ride to the Northern part of the island.
The next stop is Cihou Fort (旗後砲臺). It is a historic site with scenic views. Some people have said this is another good place to enjoy sunset although I haven’t experienced it myself. Right next to it is Cijin Tunnel (旗津星空隧道). It is a nice breezy trail, especially during the hot summer. A beautiful sea view is awaiting at the end of the tunnel. Continue walking along the trail, you will get to Kaohsiung Lighthouse (高雄燈塔), which is another place to enjoy the sea and city view.
Now it’s time to head back to the city. Walk back to the Cijin Ferry Station for the ferry ride back to Kaohsiung.?Location: Gushan Ferry Terminal ? Google Map ⏰ Hours: Varies. ? Fares (one way): 20 NT with Easy Card or iPass. 40 NT in cash.
2. Ruifeng Night Market
If you still have energy, perhaps night market would be a great place to grab dinner. Taiwan has no shortage of night markets. But Ruifeng Night Market (瑞風夜市) would be my suggestion.
The fun part of night market is to eat your way out with small, cheap foods from various stalls. Here, you can get a variety of night market favorites such as oyster pancakes, stinky tofu, jumbo fried chicken, grilled seafood, fried whole squid, as well as fresh fruit juice, milk tea and ice cream.
Another attraction here is game stalls. Consider it as the Taiwanese version of State Fairs in the U.S. The night market also offers various shopping from clothing and shoes to cell phone accessories.
?Location: From the MRT red line Kaohsiung Arena station, take an exit 1. Walk one block. ? Google Map ⏰ Hours: 4 p.m. - 12 a.m. Closed on Wednesdays.***
Day 3: See the Biggest & Tallest Buddhist Statues
1. Fo Guang Shan (佛光山)Located about an hour drive away from Kaohsiung, Fo Guang Shan is the biggest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. On my first visit, I was impressed by how much details and elaborated efforts were made into every corner of this enormous site on the mountainside. Then, I was overwhelmed by its architecture and the Big Buddha. No wonder why it is internationally recognized as a holy ground among Buddhists!
Before I do anything at Fo Guang Shan, I like to eat lunch at Hai Lai Restaurant in the front hall at the Memorial Center. The restaurant offers delicious, creative vegetarian dishes.
Once walking out the front hall into Big Buddha Terrace, you will immediately see the eight symmetrical pagodas leading to Fo Guang Big Buddha. It is truly an amazing view. Although I’ve visited this place many times, it amazes me every single time.
While the eight pagodas have some exhibits, the main hall hosts more valuable exhibits. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed inside. But I can confidently tell you that your visit to Jade Buddha and Golden Buddha Shrines would be worthwhile. Be sure to pay attention to the elaborate decorations on the walls, too. The Life of the Buddha exhibit was educational. Since I’m not a Buddhist, it really helped me understand Buddhism.
After taking a look at the Memorial Center, take a shuttle bus to Fo Guang Shan Monastery. Only recently, I discovered that I’ve been missing out the whole half of Fo Guang Shan! Be sure to visit the Monastery next door.
The shuttle bus will drop off near the reception center. Here, you have an option to hop on a cart. But walking is really not bad at all. A bit of hill up through hundreds of golden Buddhas, you will reach the top of the hill where Great Buddha stands high. The view from the hilltop is beautiful!
Walk down the hill and continue walking towards the Main Shrine. Along the path, you will see cute stone sculptures of boy monks and a serene garden. The main shrine houses three Buddha statues. Looking at those Buddhas and surrounding walls, a solemn moment sat in with me.
?Location: In front of the High-Speed Rail Zuoying station, take a bus from the platform 2. (fares: 70NT). You will see a "佛光山" (Fo Guang Shan) sign. It will take about an hour to get to the Fo Guang Shan Memorial Center. You can take the same bus back to the Zuoying Station on your return. Hop on a free shuttle bus between the Memorial Center and the Monastery. ? Google Map ⏰ Hours: 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. (closes on 8 p.m. on weekends) Closed every Tuesday. ☎ Tel: 07-656-1921
2. Lotus Pond (連池潭)
Once you are back to Zuoying, visit the Lotus Pond. The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas (龍虎塔) are probably the most popular attractions in the Pond. In Chinese culture, the dragon symbolizes auspicious powers and controls water and rain. Tiger is the king of animals, which symbolizes bravery and power.
When we visited the site, we overlooked a sign in front of the pagodas because it was written in Chinese. Apparently, the sign directed visitors to go into the dragon’s mouth and come out of the tiger’s mouth. We were told that it would get rid of any bad luck and bring good luck. At that time, we did it anyway without knowing. Whew!
Inside the body of the dragon and the tiger, we saw paintings, supposedly telling the Buddhist and Taoist stories. Because we were not really familiar with these religions, we just had to aesthetically appreciate them. If you are wondering as I was, I heard that Buddhism and Taoism are often worshiped together in Taiwan.
We continued walking to get to Yuandi Temple Beiji Pavilion (北極亭) with a huge statue of the Great Emperor of the North Pole. The 21.8-meter statue is the tallest god statue on the water in Southeast Asia.
The Lotus Pond hosts many other temples and pavilions. But after checking out the famous ones, we decided to call it a day.
?Location: From the Zuoying station, go to exit 2. Take bus 301 or Red35. It takes about 10 min. ? Google Map***
Day 4: Hiking Mountain with the Wild Monkeys
1. Shoushan (壽山)
Given Kaohsiung’s unpredictable tropical weather, I highly recommend starting your hiking by 10 a.m. at the latest. Otherwise, you might suffer from heatstroke. So if you prefer to rest, skip to the next activity.
However, you will not regret getting up early. While you will get a good work-out, Shoushan’s hiking trails are not that difficult. I see hikers of all ages from young children to grandparents all the time. The trails offer many vista points where you can enjoy the view of Kaohsiung while resting. Isn’t it an enticing reward to get up early?
If you are interested in seeing monkeys up close and personal in the wild, Shoushan is the place to be. The monkeys here aren’t afraid of people, so you will have a plenty of opportunities to take photos of them. As long as you mind your own business and keep a safe distance, they should be harmless.
I’ll warn you, though, these monkeys can get aggressive, so be vigilant.
Words of Wisdom (or warning!):
- Do NOT attempt to touch or pet monkeys. Who knows which one has tempers?
- Do NOT feed them.
- Do NOT bring foods. They will snatch it out of your hands, or steal your bag.
- Do NOT scream or attempt to kick them. They will outnumber you.
?Location: Drive or bike to Shoushan Zoo. Walking up the hill from the parking lot, you will see the entrance to the hiking trail. ? Google Map
2. Yan Cheng Pu (鹽埕埔)
Back in the 70s when my parents-in-law were dating, Yan Cheng Pu was the “hot” place to be. Since then, the area has not been changed much until the recent revival of the district, where creative entrepreneurs took the initiative to renovate old buildings and develop business.
Thanks to the preservation of classic structures, walking along the alleys of Yan Cheng Pu is like going back in the old times. But the best part is…while many stores have come and gone, traditional eateries have survived with multi-generations carrying on their delicious recipes.
Our favorite place to go after hiking is Yan Cheng Pu's eatery alley, also called Da Gou Ding (大溝頂). Qi Yu Wan (旗魚丸)'s wonton soup and pork belly bun (割包; guabao) are the best in town. They only cost 50 NT and 45 NT respectively. Also, it’s a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, and totally appropriate to swing by casually after your hike.
After lunch, we usually walk deeper into the alley to get my mochi fix at A-Xian (阿線麻糬). Their specialty is seasonal fruit mochi. During the mango season in summer, I get the mango mochi (80 NT) with a huge chunk of fresh mango inside the chewy mochi. It’s heavenly delicious! Another favorite is strawberry matcha. When both are not in season, I usually get the peanut or black sesame mochi (35 NT each). After burning some serious calories from hiking, I don’t feel bad at all to inhale this yummy piece of carbs down!?Pro Tip: Bring cash! Most establishments in the Yan Cheng Pu's eatery alley are cash only.
?Location: From MRT Yan Cheng Pu station exit 2. ? Google Map ⏰ Hours: Varies by the restaurant.
3. Nap Time
I rarely allow myself to take a nap while traveling. But, hey, you’ve earned it after waking up early and hiking the mountain under the Kaohsiung’s heat. Why not going back to the hotel, take a shower and rest up?
4. Love River (愛河）
Love River is best to visit in the evening. Not only is the view better, but also you can avoid the blazing sun.
I’ll say this. Don’t expect too much. It’s nice to stroll or bike along the river. I think it’s a nice way to go easy on your last evening in Kaohsiung. But that’s about it.
There are some cafes and bars along the river, where you can grab a beer or coffee. You can take a boat tour if you’d like, although I would not personally recommend it.? Google Map
What was your best experience in Kaohsiung? What else would you like to know about Kaohsiung?