These are my carefully selected 15 best things to do in Tainan, the oldest city in Taiwan. I included gems like Fort Zeelandia, Du Xiao Yue for its epic Dandan noodles, Chun Sui Tang - the inventor of bubble tea, mega gachapon machine and the bizarre chicken butts delights on Shennong street.
Buy Tickets for Tainan
Tainan, Taiwan's oldest city, often overlooked by international tourists, holds a special place in my heart. This hidden gem, rich in history and culinary delights, became a must-visit destination for me, particularly due to its Dutch heritage, dating back to its founding by the Dutch in 1624. The city's historical significance is evident in the well-preserved Dutch VOC fortresses, Zeelandia and Provintia, which were monumental fortifications of their time. As a Dutch descendant, exploring Tainan was like tracing the footsteps of my ancestors.
Best Places for Travel in Tainan
1. Du Xiao Yue
Most famous noodle joint in Taiwan known as Dandan Mie, established in 1895 and favorite restaurant by well known movie director Ang Lee.
2. Gachapon Machine
Taiwan's largest gachapon machine which holds giant surprise balls with grand price, 2 flight tickets to Japan. 100NT per try!
3. Fort Provintia
Tainan is the oldest city of Taiwan, Fort Provintia used to be part of the old Dutch VOC colony of Formosa.
4. Win Chang Beef Soup
Tainan is most famous for its delicious beef soup, also try their incredible beef tongue stir fry.
5. Oyster Shell Cement Museum
Cement was hard to come by in the old Dutch colonial days that's why they used oyster shells, sugar and sticky rice.
6. Tree House
Former Tait & Co Merchant House which has an massive warehouse engulfed by nature. The museum contains lots of Dutch history, maps and VOC ship models.
The city's reputation as Taiwan's food capital is well-deserved. Tainan's culinary landscape boasts an array of local produce, ranging from the famous mango shaved ice to the delectable beef noodle bowls known as dandan noodles at Du Xiao Yue. Moreover, Tainan is the birthplace of bubble tea, with Chun Sui Tang being the original restaurant that created this globally beloved drink.
7. Fort Zeelandia
The original headquarters of the Dutch VOC company on Formosa, this massive fort was run from 1624 until 1662 when Koxinga banished the Dutch from Taiwan.
8. Anping Old Street
First commercial street of Taiwan where you can buy delicious treats like almond tofu, my number 1 favorite!
9. Chun Shui Tang
The original restaurant where bubble tea was invented, bubble tea refers to the little round tapioca balls on the bottom of your milk tea.
10. Shennong Street
Beautiful and cozy street with historic sites, temples and stores. Fantastic spot for photography and an evening walk.
11. Chicken Butts
Near a place called 茶研室 you will find a very cozy outdoor patio for refreshing Taiwan beers and chicken butts.
12. Mango Shaved Ice
Most epic mango shaved ice in Tainan at a place called 冰鄉, ingredients; mango, shaved ice, mango ice cream and sweet condensed milk.
My journey began at the Dutch Fort Provintia, the administrative center of the Dutch East India Company in Taiwan. The fort's construction, using a unique mortar blend of crushed oyster shells, sugar, and sticky rice, is a testament to the resourcefulness of its builders, considering the scarcity of cement on the island. This historical marvel left me in awe of the ingenuity of the era.
13. Garden Night Market
Largest night market of Tainan, sadly only open 3 days per week: Thursday, Saturday & Sunday.
14. Muse Nightclub
The only nightclub in Tainan but definitely a good one, even on a Wednesday night this place was epic and offers all-you-can-drink for $25!
15. Silks Place
Beyond luxury hotel I've ever stayed at! This 5 star hotel has incredible suites and a rooftop pool with often live music in the evening.
Exploring Tainan's ancient Shennon street by night was a highlight, with its charming historic shops and a cozy atmosphere. The local cuisine offered a unique experience, including the unusual grilled chicken butts, a bizarre yet intriguing local delicacy. Du Xiao Yue, the oldest noodle shop in Taiwan, established in 1895, was a culinary revelation. Their signature dandan noodles, milk fish, rice eel, and fried shrimp rolls are a must-try. Not to be missed are the savory beef soup and beef tongue at Win Chang restaurant.
Fort Zeelandia, a significant Dutch VOC fortress on the Anping peninsula, was the pinnacle of my visit. The fort, which remained under Dutch control until 1662, houses an extensive collection of Dutch artifacts from that period. The scale model of Fort Zeelandia is particularly impressive, symbolizing the stronghold's historical importance. The siege by Koxinga, resulting in the fort's surrender and the eventual retreat of the Dutch to Batavia (now Jakarta), marks a pivotal moment in Taiwan's history.
While Tainan may not boast a bustling nightlife like Taipei or Kaohsiung, it does have MUSE Tainan, a vibrant nightclub. The all-you-can-drink party for 700 NT ($25 USD) was an unforgettable experience, highlighting the Taiwanese culture of responsible drinking.
In summary, my trip to Tainan was an enriching journey through time, cuisine, and culture. The city's blend of historical significance, culinary excellence, and unique experiences makes it a destination worth revisiting. Tainan, with its hidden treasures and historical depth, is a city that continues to fascinate and beckon for future exploration.