Tainan Walking Tour: Retracing Taiwan’s Oldest Streets

This post was last updated on October 14th, 2013

Our first visit to Tainan was almost exactly a year ago. We didn’t plan to make exploring the historic streets of Tainan an annual event, but Andrea Bocelli happened to be performing there this past weekend. And because my husband is ahhh-mazing, he surprised me with concert tickets to see the Italian opera singer I’ve been slightly and quite randomly obsessed with since we came to Taiwan. A pretty good birthday present if I do say so myself. I know not everyone is on the Andrea Bocelli bandwagon, but I get goose bumps every time he belts out in that rich, velvety tenor voice of his. And I couldn’t have been more delighted by the concert, even if we had to don ponchos to combat the light drizzle permeating the outdoor venue. Good thing I wore those heels…

Andrea Bocelli Tour Tainan

A Cruising Couple in Ponchos

Tainan is probably one of my favorite cities in Taiwan. I know, I know. If you’ve ever read our blog before, chances are you’ve heard me claim ‘such and such’ to be my favorite spot for something or other. But there really is a special feeling about Tainan. Perhaps it’s because, as the oldest city on the island, Tainan emanates history and tradition. In the exposed redbrick walls that tell tales of Dutch colonialism at Fort Anping; in the ancient temples and shrines that have remained authentic in the face of modernization; in the delicious street foods that tell stories from centuries past—each strand comes together to weave the tapestry that is Tainan, both past and present.

Old Street Tainan Taiwan

Tainan is easily walked, although it might leave you sweating a bit during the hot summer months. Regardless, there’s no denying that walking is the best way to stumble upon the numerous temples and historical remnants that decorate the alleyways. To help you along, here’s our guide to strolling past Tainan’s best attractions:

Walking Guide: Tainan

 

Chihkan Towers (Fort Provintia)

The Dutch first laid the foundation to this old fort in 1653, although today most of the features have been reconstructed. Kindly enough, the local people no longer call it the Tower of Red-Haired Barbarians, which was so eloquently used to describe it during Dutch occupation. The grounds to the Chihkan Tower are picturesque, and at night the entire premises lights up, providing an ideal backdrop for concerts and music performances. Entrance to the Chihkan Towers is 50NT per person, 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Chihkan Tower Tainan Taiwan

Chihkan Tower Turtles Tainan Taiwan

Chihkan Towers Tainan Taiwan night

Chihkan Tower Statues Tainan Taiwan

Sacrificial Rites Martial Temple

Just across the street from the Chickan Towers, this temple is said to be one of the oldest and best-preserved temples in Taiwan. The God of War, Guandi, is at the center of the Sacrifical Rites Martial Temple, and government officials and businessmen have been flocking to pay him alms since the 1600s.

God Of War Temple Tainan Taiwan

 

Confucius Temple

Built in the late 1600s, the Confucius Temple was the epicenter of culture and education in Taiwan, and regarded as the highest institute of learning at the time. The grounds are lovely, with elegant banyan trees providing shade for those practicing tai chi (or just observing from the comfort of their bench on the sidelines).

Confucius Temple Tainan Taiwan

bench observer

*Note: Alongside the Confucius Temple you can find the highly popular Lily Fruits Stand serving up Cua Bing, or shaved ice. If you’re willing to wait (which we weren’t), you can have fresh fruit, peanuts, beans, and condensed milk mounted upon a heaping of shaved ice.

Fuzhong Street

Across from the Confucius Temple and through the stone archway is the charming Fuzhong Street. A hub for artists and coffee shops, this is the perfect tree-lined avenue to stroll down while taking a breather from all the temples. It’s quite unique for Taiwan, and reminds me more of the outdoor markets so common in Europe.

Fuzhong St Tainan Taiwan

 

Old Fort at Anping (Fort Zeelandia)

Another remnant from the Dutch, this fortress provided the Dutch East India Company with an ideal port and sea-defense location in Taiwan. Unfortunately for the Dutch, their small army didn’t last long against the Chinese forces rallied behind Koxinga, and they surrendered in 1662. Since then not too much has been happening at the Old Fort, although it is still a nice place to wander around while learning a bit about Taiwan’s history.

Anping Fort Tainan Taiwan

Anping Fort Tainan Taiwan View

 

Anping Old Streets

My favorite part about the Old Fort area is the surrounding historical streets. Exposed, crumbling redbrick guides the way, and it’s easy to get lost here retracing the footpaths of the early Dutch settlers. The key is to get off of the vendor-lined Yanping Street and onto the quiet side roads that beckon to be explored.

Exposed Brick Tainan Taiwan

 

While you’re burning all those calories from walking about, be sure to recharge with a few of the ‘xiaochi’, or small snacks, Tainan is famous for.

 

Danzi Noodles

Peddler's Noodle Soup Tainan Taiwan

Danzi noodles consist of a sweet and tangy noodle soup, complete with minced pork and a single shrimp. We chose to try the famous dish at the Chihkan Peddler’s Noodles Shop, where the nostalgic décor and historic building make up for the fact that the store has only been operating since 2002. It takes an entire day to adequately prepare the minced pork, but the hard work certainly pays off. These noodles are delectable, and offer a uniquely sweet flavor when compared to other noodle soup dishes readily available in Taiwan.

 

Coffin Bread (Guancai Ban)

Coffin Bread Tainan Taiwan

Don’t be turned off by the appearance of this dish—it actually tastes quite similar to chicken potpie. Originally a dish of Chinese peasants, this poor man’s food consisted of chicken liver, mixed with vegetables to create chowder that could then be poured into the remnants of stale bread (resembling a stone coffin). Today your chances of finding liver coffin bread are slim to none; chicken, seafood, and pork are the newer, tourist-friendly versions offered up by street vendors.

 

Oyster Omelete

Oyster Omlete Taiwan

You’ll find this dish all over Taiwan; however, it is said to have originated in Tainan. Egg batter is mixed with small oysters, green onions and potato starch to produce a thick, chewy omelet. Not our favorite dish, but worth a try.

Whether you’re seeking political history, spiritual reverence, or great chows, Tainan has something to offer visitors in a distinctly authentic way. We have put together our  own personalized Tainan walking tour that hits the highlights. Plus, if you’re really lucky, you can time your visit with Burning Boat Festival and watch a 40-meter boat set alight by explosives. Totally awesome.

 

Have you been to Tainan? Any insider tips to add? Let’s hear them below!

 

27 Comments

  1. It looks lovely. I can understand why it would be your favourite place. I’m a big fan of the turtle fountains!

    Reply
    • Thanks! I have to admit, I took wayyyy to many pictures of those turtle fountains. They’re just so unique! They actually date back to the 1700s and have Chinese and Manchu inscriptions on them, if you happen to be interested in the historical part :-)

      Reply
  2. We’ve never been to Taiwan unfortunately, but we hope to make it one day. The photos of Chihkan Towers are great. The whole place looks so spiritual and peaceful. Nice scenery, so much like China at some point.
    Agness recently posted…First Impression of Guilin, ChinaMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thank you! We haven’t been to China, but definitely hoping to go. We’ll have to exchange travel tips in the future :) The Chihkan Towers are probably my favorite part about Tainan-as you mentioned, they are just so peaceful and relaxing!

      Reply
  3. When we headed to Taiwan after the Philippines, we literally only knew that we would land in Taipei and then take it from there. We fretted over all the various cities we could visit on the west coast and wound up settling on Tainan. I am so glad we did, as it wound up being the unexpected hit of our entire time in the country! We spent 3 days there and loved just wandering around the historic district, getting lost down little alleys and just seeing where our feet would take us. There was just so much art in so many unexpected places and the food was fantastic too. Tainan is one of my number one cities where I feel like it pays off to get lost!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Getting Away From it All in CamiguinMy Profile

    Reply
    • That’s so awesome! I told one of my Taiwanese co-workers you said this today, and she just couldn’t understand because she said it was “too hot” haha. I couldn’t agree with you anymore though-it’s definitely a great city to get lost in and just see what you stumble upon. Looks like you had an amazing time in the Philippines. Making me a bit jealous actually, because it’s been exactly a year since we were last there!

      Reply
  4. Okay we need to go … and go with YOU! Totally loved this and I have to say – never been really attracted to Taiwan before. Think we could go … with Montecristo? What are your thoughts on that? Would he be allowed to be in my arms, in his sling bag etc? I even have a bike basket for him!
    Montecristo Travels (Sonja) recently posted…Montecristo Travels Poem #1My Profile

    Reply
    • Thanks Sonja!! Taiwanese love their cute miniature dogs, and they carry them in purses, bring them inside restaurants, the works! He would definitely be allowed everywhere :) The only delay might be getting him in-Taiwan doesn’t have any rabies, so I think the quarantine process is a bit lengthy. Not entirely sure about how that works though. Please let us know if you are thinking of coming! I really think you would love it :)

      Reply
      • Oh poop … just looked 21 day quarantine. That’s just silly. I get having the vaccine for rabies and all … but 21 days of quarantine? wow.

        Reply
  5. P.S. My Mom was an Opera singer … so I am with you regarding Bocelli. Not the “best” in terms of technique but … his HEART is in his voice. Would love to see him in concert… what a fabulous gift!
    Montecristo Travels (Sonja) recently posted…Montecristo Travels Poem #1My Profile

    Reply
  6. What a fabulous post! I think I’d love the red brick and windy streets too. I’d love to visit Taiwan one day – everything I know is from blogs and each time I discover an unknown treasure that makes Taiwan a very favourable destination.

    I loved this: “Tower of Red-Haired Barbarians”. Yes, it’s not very nice but really illustrates how locals must have felt under colonial rule!
    Mandy recently posted…Stick Figures, Aliens and Wild Creatures in East LondonMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thanks so much Mandy! I have a bit of a thing for exposed brick, so Tainan was such a fun place to photograph :-) I also thought the Tower of Red-Haired Barbarians was quite clever-I would love to know what other phrases like that exist!

      Reply
  7. Lovely photos, Tainan looks like a place you can easily get lost in and explore! My sort of place.
    Naomi recently posted…Jaime GarzónMy Profile

    Reply
    • There is a lot to see no matter where you wander in Tainan. The best part about it… it’s a city with sidewalks! A luxury that is almost nonexistent in the city we live in. It’s nice to be able to explore without the fear of being clipped by scooters or blue trucks.

      Reply
  8. I’m going to be teaching in Tainan starting in August and it hasn’t been the easiest place to find info about. I was glad to stumble upon your blog and will be seeing what else you have to say about Taiwan in general. Looks like I have a great year ahead of me. Can’t wait to try some coffin bread and oyster omelettes!
    Josh @ I Ran So Far Away recently posted…Josh vs. Fear: FlyingMy Profile

    Reply
    • Tainan is a fantastic place. It really is our favorite city in Taiwan! I hope you like it as much as we do. Thanks for stopping by and if you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ask. :-)

      Reply
    • There is so much to see in Tainan. It is a great city to just to stroll. Hope you can make it someday.

      Reply
  9. Hey there, nice to meet you two! ^^
    I am a driver-guide in a travel agency, roundTAIWANround, in Taiwan. I personally feel touched by your detailed introductions about Taiwan (I believe my colleagues all feel the same) and I will definitely start reading all your works from now on! We have Chinese and English facebook pages that we post all things about Taiwan and I shared your Tainan Walking Tour today. And, since you asked people about how they will have a different way of a Tainan tour, we provided our Tainan Package Tours for your reference in my post, but I think you have a wonderful itinerary already. Thank you so much and please let’s keep in touch!
    https://www.facebook.com/WhatTaiwanTourGuidesAreDoing/posts/374376326027395

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for sharing! We love Taiwan and always recommend it to travelers! We look forward to keeping in touch :-)

      Reply
  10. Came upon this post the last day of our week in Tainan. As we were headed toward the Chihkan Tower area we stopped at Chihkan Peddler’s Noodles Shop at your suggestion. I had the Danzi Noodles and wow were they good. My only regret is not discovering this post and place sooner – it was one of the best meals we had here and super super affordable (our entire meal, appetizer, two mains, and two drinks were less than 300 NT!) My daughter is an exchange student here for the year, I’m sure she will be visiting and enjoying this shop frequently. Thank you!!!

    Reply
    • So happy to hear that and thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience. We miss the food from Taiwan so much all the time :)

      Reply
  11. It’s in reality a nice and useful piece of info. I am satisfied that you simply
    shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this.
    Thank you for sharing.
    H. Brown recently posted…H. BrownMy Profile

    Reply

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