Taiwan’s largest port, Kaohsiung, is a well-planned city with an eclectic mix of beaches, trendy cafés and historic sites. Its wide streets and harbor-side parks make it feel less congested than the island's capital, enticing many travelers to stay for longer than they originally planned.
Take a leisurely walk along the Love River, a former open sewer that has been transformed into a promenade lined with trees and sidewalk cafés. Check out the stores in Dream Mall, the second-biggest shopping mall in Asia. With an eye-catching Ferris Wheel on its rooftop, this massive mall is visible from almost all areas of the city.
Catch a ferry to Cijin Island, a thin district projecting right into Kaohsiung Harbor. This area is home to a busy retail and dining strip, known for its fantastic seafood. Walk along the sandy shoreline, go for a swim and bike around the island. Don’t miss the views from the top of the lighthouse.
Save time for the remarkable collection of temples, pavilions and pagodas set on the edge of Lotus Pond. This man-made lake is surrounded by a group of brightly colored and unusual monuments, including the Dragon and Tiger pagodas. Visitors are advised to enter through the enormous dragon’s mouth on one side, and exit through the tiger mouth on the other in order to symbolically transform their bad luck into good.
Head to the Old British Consulate in the late afternoon to watch the sunset. Set on a hill overlooking Kaohsiung Harbor, this 19th-century mansion has been converted into a pleasant café and museum.
Travel just outside the city to Fo Guang Shan, one of Taiwan’s most beautiful Buddhist monasteries. This serene complex, perched on Fo Guang Mountain, is home to grottoes, gardens, pavilions and hundreds of Buddha statues.
Kaohsiung is 4 to 5 hours away from Taipei by bus or 1.5 to 2 hours by high-speed rail. Metro and bus systems are available within the city, but it can also be enjoyable to explore by bike, with many special lanes allocated for cyclists.