With a long history of colonization by the Spanish, the Dutch, the Chinese, and then the Japanese, something remains from all four cultures.
Taiwan is far more than just Taipei. The west coast of Taiwan is the most populous coast with a long history of colonization by the Spanish, the Dutch, the Chinese, and then the Japanese. All four of these cultures have left something behind on the island nation.
Major cities along the west coast are Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung. Here you can find what were once the major cities on the island until Japan turned Taipei into the capital.
From temples to Confucius, Taiwan’s largest port, to old culinary traditions, there is much to find on a journey down the west coast of Taiwan.
The second most populous city in Taiwan, Taichung is a sprawling city located in the Taichung basin in the center of the western coastline. With a population of 2.82 million Taichung was built up and planned by the Qing Dynasty during their occupation with the intent of it being the island’s new capital. Those plans wouldn’t come to pass as the Qing Dynasty forfeited the island to Japan who redirected their attention to Taipei.
Labeled, “the Kyoto of Formosa” during the Japanese occupation, Taichung is known for its warm sunny weather and relaxed atmosphere. Taichung is a major center of industry in Taiwan as well as the home of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts and the National Taichung Theater bringing art and culture to the city.
The only national-grade fine arts museum in Taiwan, the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts has an excellent collection of modern and contemporary Taiwanese arts. For travelers who appreciate art, this is an excellent location to check out what the local artists of the island have created.
Located in Taichung’s 7th Redevelopment Zone in the Situn District of Taichung, the National Taichung Theater is a 57,685 square meter opera house. Designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito with the help of Cecil Balmond, this opera house is a great destination to catch a show.
Bubble milk tea has become an international staple of Taiwan and this shop has one of perhaps only two legitimate claims to have invented it.
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The foodie capital of Taiwan, as well as Taiwan’s Ancient capital, Tainan is one of the few destinations in Taiwan where you can find fresh beef and many small but renowned shops. Tainan still represents the old Taiwanese tradition of adding sugar to just about everything. Sugar was once a symbol of wealth in Taiwan as it was so hard to come by, so adding to your food was a way to show off your income. The result is an abundance of sweet dishes in Taiwan and especially in Tainan.
Tainan is one of the few locations in Taiwan where ranches raise cattle for beef instead of just dairy production. This leads to Tainan being just about the only place in Taiwan where you can enjoy beef that was never been transported across an ocean or sea. A simple beef soup, thinly sliced strips of beef with broth poured over, is a common breakfast item in Tainan.
Famous for serving Taiwanese style tempura, as known as 甜不辣 (tian-bu-la) they have a great selection of different varieties as well as delicious beef rice bowls to pair with the meal. What they are most famous for is their soft-boiled egg coated in tempura.
Built in 1665, the temple was built alongside the National Academy as a bastion for education. It was constructed with the purpose of being a gathering place for instructors, lecturers, and intellectuals. Even to this day, students are common visitors to the temple as they pay their respects and hope for guidance from “The Great Teacher.”
The Dutch East India Company built the fortress over ten years from 1624 to 1634 in what was the town, now the district, of Anping. The Dutch had control over the western part of the island of Formosa (Taiwan) for 38-years. The fortress was built in a strategic location to help support and defend the trading interests of the Dutch in the reason. It would later change hands several times, but now it is a stunning tourist destination that's great to spend time exploring and snapping photos of.
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The Southernmost of Taiwan’s major cities, Kaohsiung is the third most populous city in Taiwan behind Taipei and Taichung. However, Kaohsiung is a much more sprawling city taking up a great deal of land along the southwestern coast and less boxed in by mountains than its northern counterparts.
Kaohsiung is the port capital of Taiwan with a massive harbor that brings trade and goods to Taiwan. The city is also renowned for its seafood and fine weather, with sunny days almost all year round. The occupants of the northern cities will often escape south to Kaohsiung during the rainy winter months to enjoy some sunshine, and its beaches, and to ferry out to locations like Qijin District along its narrow island.
For travelers that enjoy some time by the coast, this small district in Kaohsiung is along a small island the rest in the Kaohsiung’s harbor. With coastal attractions and some separation from the main of the city, this is a great location to seak out.
With the Confucius Temple on the northern edge of the lake and the two towers on the southern end, Lianchi Lake is an excellent way to spend much of your day. Little food stalls line the perimeter of the lake allowing travelers to refresh themselves while exploring.
Between Yucheng and Nanping Road, Rueifong Night Market is one of the must-visit locations in Kaohsiung. It is the largest and most popular night market in the city and is a great place to grab some delicious food after dark.
I am a writer and traveler who is originally from Northampton Massachusetts in the US. I have lived in Taiwan for five years and have used it as a home base to travel around Asia. Besides living in Asia, I spend a year living in and traveling around Seattle in the Pacific Northwest.

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