The coastal city of Kaohsiung is a major commercial hub and quickly becoming one of the best travel destinations in Taiwan.
If you’re limited to one day in Kaohsiung, take the time to get to know this vibrant southern city and its unique features.
Behind the skyscrapers that take up the landscape, you’ll find a laid-back metropolis filled with historic attractions, tourist markets, and large public parks. It’s also a diverse city with a mixture of tastes and styles found in the cuisine and architecture.
Taiwan’s second-largest city has undergone a cultural renaissance. Once an industrialized port town, it’s recently re-invented itself. Visitors to the city will find wide streets, leisurely cafes, cycling lanes and even swimming beaches. They’ll also find vibrant jazz bars and world-class museums.
Don’t know where to start? Plan your trip with this complete 1-day Kaohsiung itinerary…
Table of Contents
- What to do in Kaohsiung in 24 hours: A complete one-day itinerary
- Spend your morning wandering around Lotus Pond
- Take in impressive sculptures at the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts
- Ride a gondola down the Love River to the harbour
- Explore Cijin Island and the towering Kaohsiung Lighthouse
- Cross the Iron Bridge to Holy Rosary Cathedral Minor Basilica
- Stroll through Central Park on your way to the shopping district
- Finish your trip with food and shopping at Liuhe Night Market
- Where to stay: The best hotels for 24 hours in Kaohsiung
What to do in Kaohsiung in 24 hours: A complete one-day itinerary
As with most of our one-day city itineraries, this Kaohsiung itinerary covers the most recognizable attractions and hidden gems. You’ll have time for a little bit of everything, including visiting the landmarks and shopping at crowded markets.
While Kaohsiung is one of the most populous cities in Taiwan, it’s also incredibly pedestrian-friendly. You can walk from the north end of the city to Cijin Island in the south in just about two hours.
During your trek across the city, your itinerary includes stops along a scenic river and a few chances to experience the local food and shopping.
Spend your morning wandering around Lotus Pond
Thanks to the various attractions located around the Lotus Pond, it’s the perfect place to start your tour and the highlight of any Taiwan itinerary. The large man-made body of water is located just north of the downtown and off the main expressway.
Most hotels in the area offer shuttle rides to the pond, so try to arrive as early as you can to avoid fellow travellers. When you get to the pond, start at the northern edge. It will allow you to explore the Kaohsiung Confucius Temple.
The temple is in the centre of the park adjacent to the pond. It’s typically empty, giving you a chance to walk around and take photos without tons of tourists in the background.
Work your way south along the western edge of the pond. You’ll pass a few other temples before reaching the twin Dragon and Tiger pagodas.
The towers are seven stories tall, reaching out of the pond and connected to the land via a short bridge. The towers stand out due to their odd colour scheme of red pillars, yellow walls, and orange tiles.
Other attractions in the area include the Old City of Zuoying, Wuliting, Zuoying Yuandi Temple, and the Spring and Autumn Pavilions. You could spend an entire day visiting these sites but you’ll need to keep moving to see the rest of the city.
Take in impressive sculptures at the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts
From the Old City of Zuoying, travel south to find the modern sculptures outside of the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts. This is the lengthiest leg of the journey. If you don’t want to spend the next 45 minutes walking, you can take a taxi.
The museum is part of the Neiweipi Cultural Park, containing several other developments. You can visit the sculpture park or ecology park before entering the museum.
You’ll step into a large lobby with a service counter and a basic information system. Travel directly to the Sculpture Hall to see the main highlights of the museum.
The sculpture hall has a four-story open air space. You’ll get a little dizzy walking around the hall while craning your neck to see all the massive sculptures. From the sculpture hall, you can reach any of the main exhibition rooms.
Ride a gondola down the Love River to the harbour
The museum is just a few blocks north of the famous Love River but you’ll need to walk about 15 minutes to the east to find the boat rentals and gondolas.
The area next to the river includes a large riverside park called the Love River Park. The park often has live bands and lots of food stalls.
Take a moment to grab something to eat. You can finish a quick snack while waiting in line for the boat.
If you’re looking for a romantic experience, hire a gondola. If you’re traveling with family, you could take one of the group tours with boats holding about 15 people.
No matter what type of boat you choose, you’ll slowly work your way down the river. The short ride is a requirement when visiting the city even if you’re only in Kaohsiung for one day.
You can see a large portion of the downtown area from the comfort of the boat as you gradually make your way to the harbour. You’ll pass under the Kaohsiung Bridge and see a few of the attractions that you’ll visit later in the day.
Explore Cijin Island and the towering Kaohsiung Lighthouse
When you reach the harbour, look for the pier offering ferry rides to Cijin Island and the Kaohsiung Lighthouse. The ferry ride only takes a few minutes and drops you off near Qi Jin Old Street.
The street is lined with small shops and cafes on one side and the beach on the other. You can stop and get something to eat at one of the cafes or rent a bike and explore the island.
You’ll only have an hour or two to travel around Cijin Island so you may need to choose between a few different destinations. You could travel to the top of Kaohsiung Lighthouse and get a panoramic view of the city or spend time browsing the shops on the boardwalk.
If you go to the lighthouse, you can also check out Cihou Fort. The historic fort sits at the peak of a hilltop with views of the harbour. If you choose to continue along the boardwalk, you’ll eventually come to Qijin Coastal Park and Cijin Windmill Park.
Cross the Iron Bridge to Holy Rosary Cathedral Minor Basilica
After an hour or so on Cijin Island, it’s time to take a ferry back to the city and the country’s oldest Catholic Church.
Located on the other side of the Love River, Holy Rosary Cathedral is a 19th-century church. Take the recently renovated Lingyaliao Iron Bridge across the river to reach the church.
With just 24 hours in Kaohsiung, you’ll need to hurry at a few of the stops. The church is one of the attractions that you can quickly check out and move on.
Snap a few photos and admire the façade. The Romanesque and Gothic architecture stand out next to the more modern buildings surrounding the harbour.
If it’s still early in the afternoon and the lines aren’t long, take a peek inside. The interior features a large main hall with vaulted ceilings and stained-glass windows.
Stroll through Central Park on your way to the shopping district
When you finish looking at the exterior of the church, take the road in front of the church several blocks east until you reach Central Park.
It’s a large public park surrounded by numerous restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops. Most travellers simply stop by the park on their way to the shopping district. Besides a beautiful landscape and a few sculptures, there isn’t much to see.
A couple of decades ago, the area included basketball courts, tennis courts, a library, and a large parking lot. The district’s swimming pool and sports arena were also housed in the park. In the 1990s, the city removed all those features.
While the park doesn’t offer a lot to see or do, it’s a pleasant area with grassy and wooded landscapes that provide an escape from the urban jungle. It should take you about 15 to 20 minutes to walk from the southwest corner of the park to the northern exit.
Of course, if you’re ready for a break, you can rest on one of the benches and appreciate the scenery. Just make sure you don’t rest too long, as there are still more things to do & see in Kaohsiung.
Finish your trip with food and shopping at Liuhe Night Market
After the serene landscape in the park, the crowded streets around Liuhe Night Market may come as a shock. It’s one of the busiest areas of the city with vendors opening in the early evening.
Your tour of Kaohsiung in 24 hours wouldn’t be complete without shopping at a local market. The bustling market contains over 100 stalls, mostly selling food.
It’s the best area in the city to test the local street food. Pork, beef, seafood, and noodles are common ingredients but you’ll also discover unique options such as stinky tofu and grilled squid.
If you’re searching for clothing, electronics, and other consumer goods, you just need to walk around the block. The streets surrounding the market contains numerous shops selling almost anything you can imagine.
By the time you finish feasting on street food in the market and browsing the shops in the area, you may need to call it a night.
For those wanting to experience the city’s nightlife, travel a few blocks south of Central Park toward 85 Sky Tower and Singjhong Night Market. You’ll find several city blocks lined with clubs and lounges catering to all age groups.
Where to stay: The best hotels for 24 hours in Kaohsiung
Although it’s nowhere near as big as Taipei, choosing where to stay in Kaohsiung isn’t always simple either. There are a hundreds of options to choose from with varying quality. For most travellers with a short layover in Kaohsiung, Xinxing and Zuoying districts are the best places to start your search. Staying in either area you’ll be close to the city’s top attractions and main transportation hubs.
- Hotel Lainn: If you’re on a tighter budget, you can’t do much better in Kaohsiung than this modern hotel. Rooms here are comfortable & spacious and the location close to Liuhe Night Market is superb.
- The Howard Plaza Hotel Kaohsiung: For a dash of extra amenities, this mid-range hotel is an excellent choice in Kaohsiung. Besides the contemporary rooms, you’ll love working out in the gym and chilling in the outdoor pool & hot tub.
- Hotel Indigo Kaohsiung Central Park: One of Kaohsiung’s top luxury pick, this hotel is among the hippest in the city with its pop art inspired decor and sleek modern furnishings. The chilled-out rooftop bar with views over Kaohsiung is an absolute gem.