Kaohsiung is located in southern Taiwan and is the second largest city in Taiwan. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of things to do and and see these popular attractions in Kaohsiung, and it can be difficult to decide what is worth visiting and what isn’t. That’s where this post comes in! It covers the top 10 things to do in Kaohsiung, Taiwan so you can plan the perfect itinerary and hit all the best attractions.
The best part about everything on this list: they’re all free to visit! No entrance fee required.
What more could a tourist ask for? You get to visit world class attractions without breaking the bank.
Top 10 must visit popular attractions in Kaoshiung
Fo Guang Shan Monastery
You cannot skip visiting Fo Guang Shan Monastery while you’re in Kaohsiung!
It is the birth place of a modern, humanistic form of Buddhism. Construction on the monastery began in 1967 and took over 15 years to complete.
After originally being open to the public, Fo Guang Shan Monastery closed its doors in 1997 and didn’t allow the public to visit the monastery until 2000 president President Chen Shui-bian visited from Mainland China and requested that the monastery be open to the public once again.
And it has been ever since that visit!
Fo Guang Shan Monastery is composed of two separate areas: the monastery and the museum.
Most tourists only visit the museum because it is the most famous, but you should take the time to visit the monastery as well. It gives you a sense of how the monks live, and you’re able to see the temples the religion is famous for.
They’re absolutely gorgeous and worth visiting! You can’t enter the temples unless you’re there for prayer, but you’re able to walk around and view them from the outside.
The museum portion of Fo Guang Shan features exhibits on the history of Fo Guang Shan, Buddhist festivals, and art and artifact galleries.
Behind the museum is the attraction Fo Guang Shan Monastery is best known for. The Big Buddha.
It is the largest sitting bronze statue in the world and is 108 feet tall!
Big Buddha is one of those sights you have to see in person because pictures don’t do it justice and definitely one of the best attractions in Kaoshiung.
Lotus Pond Scenic Area
There are 13 different temples and pagodas around Lotus Pond! It is the perfect place to go if you’re looking to see a lot of different sights without spending much time in transit.
All of the temples and pagodas are unique and dedicated to a different god, but the Dragon and Tiger Pagoda is the most famous of all and one of the most popular attractions in Kaoshiung to visit.
It is the first image that will show up if you Google things to do in Kaohsiung, and it is the one sight every tourist visits when they’re in Kaohsiung no matter what.
The Dragon and Tiger Pagoda is said to reverse your luck. You enter through the head of the dragon and exit through the tiger then your luck is changed.
Who knew it was so simple to find some good luck?!
While the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas are what draw tourists to Lotus Pond, you should take the time to explore the other 12 temples and pagodas.
The Pei Chi pavilion is my favorite temple on Lotus Pond. It is dedicated to the Daoist god Xuan Wu who is God of the North Pole. The legend goes that Xuan Wu spoke through mediums and authorized the building of the statue.
Pei Chi is the largest statue built on the water in southeast Asia. The sword in Xuan Wu’s hand is over 38 meters tall to give you a sense of how big the statue is!
None of the temples have an entrance fee, but donations are encouraged. There are donation boxes at the entrance and exit of each temple.
You’ll never be pressured to donate though!
Cijin Island is the perfect day trip from Kaohsiung. It is only a 5-minute ferry ride from Kaohsiung, so you won’t waste any time on transportation!
Cijin Island is one the best attractions in Kaohsiung to visit because it gets you out of the busy city. The island is much more relaxed than the city, and you’re able to explore a tiny bit of nature.
There are beaches and a forested area, so you can make it feel like you’re away from people and the city. As long as you’re away from the main hub of Cijin Island where it is quite busy, you’ll instantly feel more relaxed.
The island has a number of attractions to explore.
The lighthouse and fort are the two most popular attractions for tourists to visit. They were both built in 1883 by the British and were used extensively during the Japanese in WWII.
You’re able to walk along the ruined walls of the fort, and you get a fantastic view of the entire island and Kaohsiung harbour. You have to walk up a small(ish) hill to get to the fort and lighthouse, but it is well worth it for the view.
Rainbow Church is another not to be missed attraction on the island. It is a huge piece of colorful art that uses the ocean as a backdrop.
It is the place to go if you’re looking for the perfect Instagram photo (as long as you’re willing to stand in line to get it).
The line to get a photo at Rainbow Church is always at least 10 or 15 people deep. If you want that perfect Insta-worthy picture, you’re going to have to wait in line for it, but it’ll be worth it!
One Last Stop Before You Leave
The last thing you have to do on Cijin Island is have shaved ice. It is a traditional Taiwanese dessert made from shaved ice topped with mangos and condensed milk.
I don’t know how they do it, but the shaved ice on Cijin Island is the best I’ve had in Taiwan. It is the perfect snack to cool down after exploring the island before hopping back on the ferry to Kaohsiung.
There are a number of shaved ice stands on the main street on Cijin Island. They’re right before you get back on the ferry near where you can rent a bike.
You won’t regret stopping for shaved ice before heading back to the city! It is delicious.
Formosa Boulevard Station
Formosa Boulevard Station is the main metro station in Kaohsiung and is the only station where the Orange and Red lines intersect.
The station is home to the largest stained glass artwork in the world called the dome of lights. It is made of over 4,500 panes of stained glass and covers 2,000 square meters.
The artwork is located on the main level of Formosa Boulevard Station before you go through the turnstiles and enter into the paid zone.
The artwork is incredible and makes Formosa Boulevard Station one of the most beautiful metro stations in the world.
The dome of lights also serves as a wedding venue, so if you’re looking to get hitched in Kaohsiung, this may be the venue for you and one of the most unique attraction in Kaohsiung that you’ll see eventually.
Martyrs Shrine was originally built as Takao Kotohira Shrine in 1910 during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. It was originally dedicated to Omononushi-no-Mikoto and Emperor Sutoku.
In 1920, the Taiwan Governor-General asked for the shrine to become a place where people could worship Prince Yoshihisa who was the first known member of the Japanese Imperial Family to die outside of Japan.
The shrine was renamed Martyrs Shrine in 1946 when the Chinese took over control of Taiwan. It was destroyed in 1972 when the relationship between China and Japan became tense but began to be rebuilt just a year later at the request of the mayor of Kaohsiung.
Since the rebuilding was complete in 1978, Martyrs Shrine has remained a place to honor the lives lost during Japanese occupation.
The shrine stands on a top of a hill overlooking Kaohsiung city and Kaohsiung harbor, and it gives you best the bird’s eye view of Kaohsiung.
You have to walk up a small hill to get to Martyrs Shrine, but it is well worth the effort to visit this popular attraction in Kaoshiung!
Lihue Tourist Night Market
Night markets are a staple in Taiwan, and Kaohsiung is no exception. It has countless night markets all over the city, but Lihue Tourist Night Market is the most popular and famous attraction in Kaohsiung to experience.
It is located right outside Formosa Boulevard Station, so you can easily pop in to see the dome of lights before heading to the market.
You’ll find all the traditional Taiwanese street food at Lihue Tourist Night Market. There is something for everybody no matter what your dietary preferences are.
Yes! This means a few vegan options as well.
You should be sure to try the black pepper buns. They’re an extremely popular market food and always have a long line of people waiting to get one.
A bun is stuffed with pork or beef and lots of black pepper. The buns are slow cooked in a clay over and served hot.
Other popular items include stinky tofu, fried taro balls, fried chicken, and oyster omelets.
I recommend trying the corn on the cob. It sounds basic, but something about the spice mixture they put on it makes it irresistible.
The market is open every day. It opens at 6pm and stays open until the wee hours of the morning.
Kaohsiung Museum of History
The Kaohsiung Museum of History is one of the most historically important things to do in Kaohsiung.
It is often overlooked by tourists, but it helps you understand the history of the city and the dark times it has gone through.
The museum is housed in what used to be Kaohsiung City Hall. It is a very small museum with only a few exhibits, but it is very informative.
The top floor is where the rotating exhibits are held. They’re often related to Kaohsiung’s history as a port city and involve interactive elements.
The bottom floor is dedicated to the February 28 Massacre.
The February 28 Massacre was a dark time in Taiwanese history. The Chinese violently suppressed a Taiwanese anti-government uprising, and it was the catalyst for what is known as the White Terror.
An estimated 5,000 to 28,000 Taiwanese died during the February 28 Massacre and countless more went missing, were killed, and imprisoned during the White Terror.
This was the start of the Taiwan Independence Movement and is one of the most significant events in modern Taiwan history.
The February 28 Massacre actually started in the building that houses the Kaohsiung Museum of History, so you get to walk through the building that impacted Taiwan’s fate as a country.
The museum is free to enter, and I highly recommend you take the time to visit it. Your visit won’t last longer than 30 minutes, but you’ll leave with a deeper understanding of Taiwanese history.
I think it is important to understand the history of a city you’re visiting, and there is no better place to learn about Kaohsiung’s history than at the history museum.
Pier II Art District
Pier II Art District is a more hip and modern part of Kaohsiung. Most of the things to do in Kaohsiung are historical and cultural sights, but Pier II Art District is the exception to that!
The are was originally a warehouse district, but it was taken over by artists and was eventually designated an art zone.
You’ll find art galleries, cafes, and street art throughout the district. There are even giant sculptures in the streets you can admire.
Pier II Art District is walking distance from the ferry terminal that takes you to and from Cijin Island.
It is the perfect place to visit after Cijin Island! The vibe is chill, so you can keep the relaxed feeling from Cijin Island going longer.
Love River is the main river in Kaohsiung and is the lifeline of the city. The river flows into Kaohsiung harbor and served as an important trade path in the past.
Nowadays, you can walk along Love River and stop at a river-side cafe for a drink and live music.
The river is too long to walk the entire length of, but there are boat tours you can take if you want to see the whole river.
I personally think strolling along the river for an hour or so is the perfect way to see the river, but the boat tours are very popular as well.
Xinjuejiang Shopping District
Xinjeujiang Shopping District is where young people go to buy clothes. It is the place to go if you’re looking for trendy (and sometimes weird) clothing.
The district is full of small shops and street stalls owned by locals. A number of the shops have the same items, so if you find something you like, be sure to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best price.
From my experience, the clothing sold in Xinjuejiang is pretty good quality. Much better quality than you’ll find at a lot of other shopping districts in Taiwan. The sweater I purchased at the market has past the test of time and is still in good condition a year later.
Even if you’re not in the market to buy anything, Xinjuejiang is worth checking out. It is fun to wander through the streets, see the hot new styles, and grab a snack at a food stall.
Kaohsiung is one of the best cities in Taiwan for tourists. There are countless things to do in Kaohsiung, and you’ll find something you enjoy no matter what you’re interested in.
The city is full of historical sights that helped to build modern Taiwan. You’ll learn so much about Taiwan and its culture through exploring Kaohsiung.
The fact that all the major attractions in Kaohsiung are free to visit makes the city a budget traveler’s paradise.
You get to visit world-class attractions without spending a dime!
Kaohsiung should be on everybody’s Taiwan itinerary, and I hope you add it to yours!
I suggest spending at least three days in Kaohsiung. You won’t feel rushed but will still get to experience everything the city has to offer.
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Guest post Bio
Erica is an avid solo traveler who has been to over 40 countries. She loves spending long periods of time in each country to get a sense of the country and culture. Erica’s favourite travel activities include attending local theatre and dance performances, wandering through museums, eating way too much food, and riding every rollercoaster she comes across.
Erica with Travels with Erica
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