When most people think of Taiwanese architecture, one building springs to mind – Taipei 101. As the former tallest building in the world, 101 gets all the attention, but the truth is that Taiwan has so much more to offer in terms of compelling architecture. From temples to museums, here are some of the most interesting and historic landmarks in Taiwan.
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The High-Heel Wedding Church
It’s not actually an official place of worship, but since it hosts private wedding ceremonies, this giant shoe-shaped venue has become known all over the world as the ‘high-heel church’. It’s located in the fishing village of Budai in the Southwest Coast National Scenic Area and was the vision of the local tourism board. Their idea was to create a tourist attraction that would bring visitors to the area and boost the local economy. The idea for the shoe shape came as they sought a way to commemorate the outbreak of Blackfoot disease that blighted the local female population.
It’s a building that would look more at home in 18th-century Europe, with a bridge leading to it that looks like it was taken from ancient Greece. This is the Chimei Museum in Tainan, and it’s one of the most incredible museums in Asia. Let’s for a moment forget the fact that this is home to what Forbes magazine once described as the most surprising art collection in Asia. Let’s not even consider the fact that it’s entirely privately owned. The building itself is enough to draw thousands of visitors each year wanting to take photos of the amazing architecture.
Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum
This may be cheating a little, as this is more a collection of impressive buildings rather than just the one. Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Kaohsiung is a hugely impressive complex that features a pagoda-lined avenue and a massive sitting Buddha that dominates the landscape. It’s open to the public and a must-see for anyone visiting the southern city of Kaohsiung.
Dragon and Tiger Pagodas
Another religious site located in Kaohsiung lies on the edge of Lotus Pond. These impressive pagodas are said to be good luck for those who enter through the dragon’s mouth and out through the tiger’s. Painted in vibrant colors, the pagodas also offer a panoramic view of one of the city’s busiest recreational areas. Visit in the evening to witness the sunset and to see these amazing pagodas bathed in golden light.
National Taichung Theater
Located in the popular west-coast city of Taichung, National Taichung Theater is an opera house like no other in Taiwan. Designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito, the building was opened in 2016 and is as distinctive as you can get. Its curved and sloped walls give the impression that you’re walking through a giant coral reef, and its fountain area makes it a very popular spot in this hot and humid city.
As one of the most popular religious sites in Taiwan, Longshan Temple deserves to be on any tourist’s itinerary, and rightly so. This centuries-old structure is impressive not just because of its appearance but also due to the fact that it has survived bombings, earthquakes, typhoons and fires. The decoration throughout is both intricate and beautiful, and it’s a wonderfully peaceful haven in an extremely crowded and busy city.
The Grand Hotel
It is Taiwan’s most famous hotel and has played host to a long list of celebrities, dignitaries, and politicians throughout its history. The Grand Hotel lies in the Yuanshan area of Taipei and is often one of the first major buildings visitors see on their arrival in the city. It features classic Chinese architecture throughout, and its lobby is as impressive as its exterior. Here, visitors can enjoy afternoon tea in what can only be described as opulent surroundings.
Formosa Boulevard MRT Station Kaohsiung
It’s not that often that a metro station is recommended as a tourist attraction, but then again not every metro station features the world’s largest work of glass art. Yes, that’s right, an MRT (metro) station in Taiwan’s second city of Kaohsiung is home to the ‘Dome of Light’. It was created by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata and is a colossal 30 meters in diameter. Although it’s in one of the city’s busiest metro stations, it’s well worth a visit for some pretty amazing holiday snaps of commuters on their way to work.
Built by the Dutch East India Company in 1624, Fort Zeelandia is a fortress located in the Anping district of the southern city of Tainan. It served as an outpost for the Dutch who at that time were in control of much of western Taiwan. It may not be the defensive bastion that it once was, but this building is a symbol of Taiwan’s storied past, having been one of the most important stops on the local trade routes. Along with Fort San Domingo and Hobe Fort in Danshui, this is one of the oldest buildings in Taiwan that is open to visitors.
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