Blog / Culture

Tainan: The City That Never Changes (But Keeps Getting Better)

The ancient city of Tainan is very close to Life of Taiwan’s heart. Between them, the founding team has lived in Tainan for well over half a century.

The great appeal of Tainan, the reason why visitors come back again and again, is that it never changes. The former capital’s most famous landmarks, such as the Confucius Temple, look as though they’ll be here until the end of time. Fast-food eateries and culinary fashions from afar come and go, but the city’s fabulous street food is a constant.

Yet… in this blog post I’ll be talking about some additions to the cityscape that make Tainan an even better place to visit. In the city that was Taiwan’s capital for 212 years, innovation thrives alongside preservation.

The first of these is the new Tainan Art Museum. TAM Building 1 (top photo), which will open its doors to the public in mid-December, will offer around 1,000 square metres of gallery space. That will be quadrupled when TAM Building 2 is ready.

Building 1 was a police station between its completion in 1931 and 2010. Following a thorough renovation, it manages to look brand new yet classical. Building 2, currently under construction 350m to the west, will be radically different. Designed by Shigeru Ban (already well-known in Taiwan thanks to his Paper Dome not far from Sun Moon Lake), Building 2 will feature an auditorium, classrooms and exhibition spaces, ‘capped with a pentagonal roof canopy and softened with lush terraces and landscaping. An outdoor sculpture park and public recreation area will allow the museum’s inner contents to bleed into its surroundings and activate the city.’

Two attractions in the heart of Tainan are currently under renovation and should open once again to tourists sometime in the first half of 2019. One is the 17th-century Confucius Temple. The other is the Old Weather Station and the meteorology museum it houses. Probably the oldest government building in Taiwan to survive from the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945), this 1897 structure has been nicknamed ‘the pepper-pot’ on account of its unusual shape.

A far larger ongoing project is rerouting the railway that runs through the center of Tainan into tunnels in order to free up land and eliminate level crossings. The colonial era station building is being preserved; the upstairs part (see photo on the left) is to be opened to the public for the first time in decades. Tainan is truly a city which evolves and improves, yet manages to maintain it essential and wonderful character. Book your tour now!