Over the years, Taiwan
has taken influence from the many different nationalities that have inhabited the island, including the Indigenous Taiwanese, Dutch
, Spanish, Japanese
, and Han Chinese. Recently becoming more influenced by Western cultures, today Taiwan is a mixture of heavy urbanization, stunning natural scenery and an array of spiritual and cultural sites. With so much going on, we have selected some of the best places to visit.
Mengjia Longshan Temple
Located in Taiwan’s capital, the Mengjia Longshan is the oldest temple in Taipei, first built in 1738. The temple was originally created during the Qing Dynasty, and its colorful walls and gold ceilings are typical of Taiwanese classical architecture. Over centuries of natural disasters and war the temple has been completely rebuilt and restored to its former glory. Twice a month, Buddhists, Matsu and Taoists come to the temple to worship together, often bringing food and flowers, which fill the temple. As you approach the temple you will be greeted by the first of three gates, a stunning waterfall.
Mengjia Longshan Temple, No. 211, Guangzhou St, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10853, +886 2 2302 5162
Taiwan Confucian Temple
Initially built in 1665, The Confucian Temple in Tainan City was created in order to educate intellectuals and provide a place for lectures to take place. Over 300 years old, Confucianism focused on humanism and the realization of man as inherently good, and served as one of the leading doctrines in Taiwan, while playing a pivotal role in the organization of education and spiritual rites. Architecturally representative of Southern China, today the temple serves as a place for various cultural events and is a popular visiting spot for both locals and tourists.
Taiwan Confucian Temple, No. 2, Nanmen Rd, West Central District, Tainan City, Taiwan 700
Fort Santo Domingo
Testament to Taiwan’s rich history and European influence, Fort Santo Domingo was built in 1629 by the Spanish, although the site has been home to both Dutch and British since. Today it is used as a museum, and although the site is relatively small, a guide is useful in order to fully grasp its many different uses. Situated in Xinbei, the fort has been altered by both the Dutch and British, who constructed stone walls and added the British Consulate. With a view overlooking the Danshui River, the temple is a beautiful place to visit towards the end of the day.
Fort Santo Domingo, 251, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Tamsui District, +886 2 2623 1001
Gradually built in the 17th century between 1624 to 1634, Fort Zeelandia (today Anping Fort) was erected by the Dutch in the Southern area of the island off of the coast of Tainan. An interesting place to visit in order to learn about the relatively brief occupancy of this area by the Dutch, the fort is home to a museum that provides detailed insight into the rich history of Southern Taiwan. Initially named Orlande by the Dutch upon its creation, the fort acted as an important stronghold for many early settlements in the surrounding area of Anping.
Fort Zeelandia, No. 82, Guosheng Rd, Anping District, Tainan City, Taiwan, +886 6 226 7348
Longteng Bridge Remains
A striking look into the history of Taiwan, the ruins of Longteng Bridge are evidence to some of the shattering earthquakes that have been witnessed by the country, more specifically the two major quakes occurring in 1935 and 1999, which severed the bridge and destroyed many of the buildings within Sanyi. The bridge was constructed during colonial Japanese rule of the area in 1905, and today the site is a quiet spot for visitors. The nostalgic feel of the bridge is highlighted by the famous Shengxing station, which contains several Japanese artifacts and is located near to the bridge site.
Longteng Bridge Remains, 367, Taiwan, Miaoli County, Sanyi Township
The site of Liberty Square consists of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, the National Concert Hall and the National Theatre, which are situated either side of the square. A landmark in Taipei city, the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall was built to commemorate the former president, Chiang Kai-Shek. A striking structure of white marble walls, a contrasting roof of deep blue and a front garden of bold red flowers emanates a regal grand design and the colors of the Taiwanese flag. Surrounding the hall are the 62 acres of garden and the National Theater and Concert Halls, which host regular cultural events and shows from internationally acclaimed performers.
National Palace Museum
National Palace Museum | © peellden / Wikimedia
National Palace Museum
With a collection dating as far back as the tenth century, the National Palace Museum has a vast array of arts and artifacts, of which they can only display only one per cent of at any given time, due to the incredible quantity accumulated. Focusing on Chinese culture, the museum regularly rotates its exhibitions in order to best display this range of historical items. Deemed by many to be the best collection of Chinese art in the world, the museum houses everything from paintings, calligraphy and pottery to jade and ceramic statues.
National Palace Museum, No. 221, Section 2, Zhishan Rd, Shilin District, Taipei City, Taiwan 111,
Hsinchu City God Temple
Evocative of Taoist temples, the Hsinchu City God Temple is a building full of color, with parts of the inside seeming dark and sometimes even menacing. Located in front of the temple is a bustling traditional market, selling an array of different foods and other mysterious goods. As you enter the temple you are greeted by a pair of colorful bluestone lions, and inside the rooms of the temple are lined with large statues with faces contorted with intimidating looks. Revered as the most superior City God temple in Taiwan, towards the rear of the building you will find educational information on its construction and history.
Hsinchu City God Temple, East District, Hsinchu City, Taiwan 300
Fo Guang Shan Monastery
The headquarters of the Monastic order of Fo Guang Shan or Humanistic Buddhism, this monastery serves as the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, with over ten temples and two collages, in addition to its gardens, school and meditation rooms. There is a different feel between the old and newer parts of the monastery, which in recent years have undergone some renovation. Home to huge Buddhist statues, this 55-acre site is a place of peace and tranquility. A look into the spectacular culture and history of the fascinating religion of Buddhism, the monastery is a feast for the eyes, while the relaxing sounds of wind chimes greet you as you explore the grounds.
Fo Guang Shan Monastery, No. 153, Xingtian Rd, Dashu District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan 840, +886 7 656 1921
Dragon and Tiger Pagodas
Among some of the more traditional Taiwanese landmarks are the Dragon and Tiger pagodas in Lotus Lake, Kaohsiung City. These incredible structures are said to bring visitors good luck, if they walk through the dragon mouth and exit from the tiger’s mouth. Inside you will see paintings depicting heaven and hell, the original purpose of which was to encourage do-gooders and threaten those with malicious intent. Built in 1976, the pagodas are seven storys high and house further paintings of Confucius and the Jade Emperor’s palaces. The pagodas are situated on the stunning Lotus Lake, the shores of which are dotted with other cultural and spiritual landmarks.