The second biggest city in Taiwan tends to be overlooked with other destinations such as Taipei, Hualien and Tainan, but when I was backpacking in Kaohsiung I got really surprised by this city!
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Kaohsiung’s bustling atmosphere, colourful places and arty vibes are a perfect combination for a couple of exciting days in the city.
In my backpacking adventures I mostly go towards places of natural beauty and avoid spending much time in the cities and don’t get me wrong, Kaohsiung is no exception.
I really enjoyed my visit to this city and there are plenty of things to do in Kaohsiung, however, I’d not spend more than 2 or 3 days over there as there are many more mountains and beaches to explore in Taiwan!
Kaohsiung is located just 20 minutes away by train from Tainan, as you surely have put the oldest city of Taiwan on your itinerary already this is the chance to add a new destination without causing much of a diversion if your schedule is tight!
Where to stay in Kaohsiung
On my days backpacking in Kaohsiung I stayed at the cheapest hostel in town. Single Inn Kaohsiung Linsen is more a hotel-feeling hostel, with large dorms but many empty beds, there’s an ok breakfast included and best of all, you can use the public baths (Japanese style onsen) for free!
Now, where’s the catch on why this place is so cheap I hear you ask.
Well, I can only think that this place has seen better days, all the areas are pretty clean but the public bath looks like have not been properly maintained for at least 15 years! (I did see staff cleaning every morning though), so when you walk into the baths just think that you’re in a 80’s gangsters movie as the place has a certain charm.
These are the top things to do in Kaohsiung for a 2-day visit:
Immerse yourself in Art at Pier 2!
The Pier 2 Art Center used to be an abandoned warehouse area which in the early 2000’s was transformed into a bustling hub for creativity after a persistent group of local artists pressured the local government to rehabilitate this otherwise wasted piece of land.
Now there are dozens of artworks spread all over. It’s a really pretty walk and it’s really fun to explore and be surprised by the new findings.
This is a wonderful success story that as an art lover makes me consider Pier 2 Art Center as one of my favourite places in all of Taiwan!
You can easily get to Pier 2 by MRT, LRT and buses. Nearby there’s also the KW2 port that can take you (or bring you back) to Ci Jin Island.
Definitely my favourite thing to do in Kaohsiung! such a cool place!
Take the shortest ferry (in the world?) to Ci Jin Island
The ferry to Ci Jin Island takes just a couple of minutes and when you arrive you actually feel that you’re on a different city!
The short ferry ride offers great views of the harbour which predominantly features the second highest tower in Taiwan, the 85 Sky Tower.
In Ci Jin you can do lots of stuff and can easily spend a full day there!
Wander around, rent a bike and tour the island, rent a surf board and test your skills at the beach, check the star tunnel, check the lighthouse and fort, try the freshly caught seafood, visit the night market for some street food, and most importantly if you’re looking for those popular insta places, go and check out the Rainbow Church.
The return ferries run every 5-15 minutes until around 11pm so it’s super convenient to go there!
Pay the ferry ride with your Easycard and you will save about 30% of the already cheap price!
So many things to do in Ci Jin Island!
Eat like there’s no tomorrow at the night markets!
One of the many things that I love in Taiwan is the night market scene! in Kaohsiung you have two main markets: Liuhe Night Market and Ruifeng Night Market.
The best thing about these street food heavens is that you can cheaply try new things and be surprised by “ingredients” you don’t even know what they are!
Every time I visited a night market in Taiwan I finished the evening super full as there’s so much on offer and so many deliciously looking meals on display.
My technique to not feel “guilty” of missing out on something is to at first wander all over the market to scout the best and more intriguing looking stalls and then start my dinner fest!
An interesting thing for the western tourist on these markets is that you don’t see anyone drinking alcohol, the Taiwanese people love their milk tea (they invented it!) and that’s what you will normally find at the markets along some fresh fruit and sugar cane juices.
If you have not try it yet, you MUST try the stinky tofu. Believe me, it taste sooo good! not at all like the disgusting smell around it when they cook it.
Change your luck by entering a dragon’s throat!
One of the most recognisable icons of Kaohsiung is the Tiger and Dragon Pagodas.
According to the tradition, entering a dragon’s throat and coming out a tiger’s mouth symbolises turning bad luck to good fortune. Not really sure how they tested that theory! 🙂
Climb up to the highest point of the 7-story pagodas for great views of the Lotus Lake and other adjacent pagodas.
The Tiger and Dragon Pagodas are free to enter, although there’s a donation box at the entrance and they give you a postcard with all donations.
Brightly coloured and richly decorated, among its paintings and sculptures you can expect to find many beautiful details on your visit.
In the area near the pagodas you can find many places to eat and drink. There are also quite a few temples and pagodas within a short distance walk.
Take a stroll around the Love River
Kaohsiung can get really hot during the day, but in the evening it cools down (just a little bit) and the city bustles with colours.
The Love River is said to be as important for the citizens of Kaohsiung as the Thames for Londoners.
If you’re visiting the Pier 2 Art Center you can walk towards the Love Pier and then follow the river for colourful city views.
Put colour into your commute at a stunning metro station!
Continuing with the arty vibe of Kaohsiung, the centric Formosa Boulevard station has the world’s largest public art glass installation.
The Dome of Light designed by Narcissus Quagliata and you will find it next to the Liuhe Night Market.
The dome tells the story of human life in four chronologically arranged themes: Water: The Womb of Life; Earth: Prosperity and Growth; Light: The Creative Spirit; and Fire: Destruction and Rebirth, with an overall message of love and tolerance.
As this is a central station which was close to the Single Inn hostel where I was staying, I ended up admiring the installation at different times of the day.
I recommend visiting after you finish your eating feast at Liuhe Night Market as I found not many people at that time of the evening.
Feel free to ask any questions if you’re looking for more ideas on things to do in Kaohsiung!
Are you travelling around the country? have a look at my other backpacking adventures in Taiwan for more inspiration!