From heritage buildings to modern art marvels, Taiwan’s second-largest city has something for everyone. Here are 10 awesome and free things to do in Kaohsiung City.
Thanks to Erica, Travels With Erica, for sharing her top tips for budget travel in Kaohsiung.
Kaohsiung is the second-largest city in Taiwan and home to over 2.7 million people. It’s located in southern Taiwan at the very tip of the island, just a short train ride from Taipei.
Kaohsiung is incredibly popular amongst tourists, and it’s not hard to see why – there is no shortage of Taiwanese cultural attractions and things to do in Kaohsiung. The best part is that you can see most of Kaohsiung’s top attractions without spending any money.
This post shows you 10 of the most popular things to do in Kaohsiung City that are completely free!
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Kaohsiung quick links
Do you need a visa for Taiwan? Use iVisa to check your tourist visa requirements and apply for an expedited visa online.
How to get to Kaohsiung: High Speed Rail from Taipei (2.25 hours; from $40; buy tickets online here); High Speed Rail from Tainan (12 mins; from $6; buy tickets online here).
Where to stay in Kaohsiung: Hello House (budget); Kindness Hotel – Main Station (mid-range); Hotel Dua (boutique); Grand Hi Lai (luxury).
Best Kaohsiung city tour: Customised private tour with a local (from $30).
5 essentials to pack for Taiwan: A universal power adapter; an insulated refillable water bottle; a reusable stainless steel drinking straw (extra wide for bubble tea!); a travel raincoat for wet weather; a copy of the latest Lonely Planet guidebook for Taiwan.
10 free things to do in Kaohsiung
As you’ll soon see, many of the best things to do in Kaohsiung are absolutely free to visit. This makes Kaohsiung City the perfect destination for travellers on a budget.
1. Fo Guang Shan Monastery
Fo Guang Shan Monastery is one of the best free things to do in Kaohsiung and in Taiwan as a whole. I still can’t believe such an amazing place is free to visit.
Fo Guang Shan is a form of humanistic Chinese Buddhism that originated in the late 1960s. Kaohsiung and Fo Guang Shan Monastery are the headquarters for the religion, making this a popular destination for practicing and aspiring monks as well as tourists.
Fo Guang Shan is a 45-minute bus ride from central Kaohsiung, so you’ll have to pay for the bus fare to get there. It’s only a couple of dollars and well worth it!
The complex is home to one of the largest bronze sitting Buddha statues in Asia, known as Big Buddha. It sits at the end of a long pathway lined with 8 pagodas and is one of the most amazing sights you’ll see on your Taiwan itinerary.
If you’re lucky enough to visit Fo Guang Shan in the morning on a clear day, you’ll get the most incredible photographs of Big Buddha set against against the blue sky.
The monastery is open from 9am until 7pm Wednesday to Monday (closed Tuesdays).
2. Kaohsiung Central Park
Central Park is an underrated Kaohsiung attraction. It’s located in central Kaohsiung and is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours.
Inside the park, you can visit Kaohsiung Main Library and explore the various displays. You can also visit the Speaker’s Corner, an area of the park where locals like to gather to exercise, hang out, and play games.
The most popular thing to do in Central Park is without a doubt the water show. Held at least 5 times a day (more often on weekends) and lasting for 20 minutes, the water dancing on the lake is quite a spectacle.
3. Kaohsiung Museum of History
Of all the free things to do in Kaohsiung, I think the museum of history is probably the most underrated attraction! It’s a very small museum, but it offers a lot of information.
The museum is located right off Love River in an old government building. Exhibits discuss Kaohsiung’s history as a port town as well as the February 28 Massacre, a sombre but important part of Kaohsiung’s and Taiwan’s history. I personally think it’s important for tourists to visit the museum and learn about the tragic event.
The museum only has a couple of rooms, and it won’t take you more than 30-45 minutes to tour the exhibits. It’s open from 9am until 5pm Tuesday to Sunday (closed Mondays).
4. Love River
Since you’re visiting the Kaohsiung Museum of History, you may as well explore Love River while you’re in the area.
Love River is the main waterway that cuts through Kaohsiung and has played an important part in the city’s history since the beginning. It runs north to south and ends at Kaohsiung Harbour.
There are a number of things to do along Love River. Apart from walking the picturesque banks, you can take a boat ride on the water – the best way to take in the views in my opinion. Boats only carry 15 people, making it a peaceful way to see the river.
Of course, taking a boat rides costs money. But you can easily explore the river by foot, and it won’t cost you a penny.
5. Lotus Pond Scenic Area
The Lotus Pond is probably the most famous and popular thing to do in Kaohsiung. The area is home to the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas as well as a number of other great sights.
Plan to spend a few hours here to see some of Kaohsiung’s top attractions all in one small area. You have to walk quite a bit to see everything, but it’s worth the effort!
The must-sees at Lotus Pond are the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas and Pei Chi Pavilion. The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas are said to reverse your fortunes. Enter the Dragon Pagoda and exit the Tiger Pagoda, and you’ll have good luck!
If you climb to the top of the pagodas, you’ll get a stunning view of Lotus Pond and all the different pavilions.
Pei Chi honours the Taoist god of the North Pole. It is one of the largest water statue in Asia and certainly a breathtaking sight to see. Having the water as a backdrop makes the colourful details look all the more impressive.
There are a number of other temples and pavilions around Lotus Pond that you should take the time to visit as well. Some of my favourites are the Spring and Autumn Pavilions and the Five Mile Pavilion.
6. Pier-2 Art Center
Pier-2 Art Center is a repurposed warehouse district in Yancheng that has been transformed into a creative hub. The complex features a number of indoor exhibits that you can wander through.
The area also a number of large outdoor art pieces that you can view. They range from statues of pop culture figures to traditional Taiwanese artworks with a twist. The area is open to the public to view at no charge and is a great way to get a feel for modern Kaohsiung.
The Center is open from 10am daily.
7. Cijin Island
Cijin Island is another hugely popular attraction in Kaohsiung. Located a short 15-minute ferry ride from the mainland, the island is home to a number of must-sees.
The most popular things to do on Cijin Island include the lighthouse and Rainbow Church. The lighthouse was built by the British in 1883 and was later used extensively when Japan occupied Taiwan. Now it is open to tourists to visit.
Rainbow Church is located along the beach and is a very popular place to snap a few pictures. There is often a long queue to get a picture of the modern sculpture so be sure to allot a decent amount of time for this attraction.
Many people rent bikes to tour Cijin Island, but it’s easy enough (and free!) to walk around the island as well.
8. Martyrs’ Shrine
Martyrs’ Shrine was originally constructed by the Japanese but was later repurposed to honour fallen Taiwanese soldiers.
Similar in design to the Martyrs’ Shrine in Taipei, Kaohsiung’s version is a beautiful pavilion decorated with ornate carvings, a coin roof and colourful paintings. The main hall is surrounded by manicured gardens. Unlike in Taipei, there is no procession here.
Because it’s located on a hill, the shrine also serves as an amazing viewpoint for a panorama of Cijin Island, the harbour, and Kaohsiung City.
The Martyrs’ Shrine is open from 8am until 5pm daily.
9. The Dome of Kaohsiung
Formosa Boulevard Station is the main metro station in Kaohsiung and the only point where the red and orange lines intercept. If you’re riding the MRT, chances are you’ll pass through this station at least once or twice.
Not only is Formosa Boulevard a critical transport hub, it also happens to be one of the most beautiful metro stations in the world.
The main floor of the station features the Dome of Lights or Dome of Kaohsiung, a huge artwork made from stained glass. Featuring 4,500 separate panels spanning 2,000 metres, it’s actually the largest stained glass artwork in the world.
This is truly something you need to see in person to appreciate!
10. The Former British Consulate
Visiting the Former British Consulate might just be the most underrated free thing to do in Kaohsiung City.
The building itself has a very interesting history. First constructed in 1879 using materials brought over from mainland China, it served as a British outpost after Taiwan’s harbours in Kaohsiung, Keelung and Tamsui were first opened to foreign trade. During WWII, the walls were painted with white cement to protect it from bombings. Thankfully, it didn’t see too much damage.
When Taiwan was turned over to China after the war, it served as a weather bureau for 41 years. In 2003, the building was named a historic landmark and converted into a museum.
Visitors can now tour the interior of the building, where a number of photographic displays and important historical documents can be viewed. There is also a range of restaurants and cafes in the area, making this a great place to stop for lunch or dinner.
The Consulate is open from 9am until 7pm daily (9pm on weekends).
More Taiwan travel resources
- Photos of Taipei to inspire your visit
- Guide to Keelung, an alternative day trip from Taipei
- The best pedestrian-friendly walking cities in Asia: Taipei and beyond