Tainan is one of Taiwan's oldest cities – it was the country's capital for 200 years. It's still an important cultural hub, with everything from cutting-edge creative districts to ancient relics lining the streets. Religious festivals fill the area around Tainan's 17th-century Confucian Temple with colour throughout the year. Under strings of paper lanterns overhead, vintage 'shophouses' have been transformed into boutiques, tiny museums and whimsical cafes. In the evening, a labyrinth of night markets serve up Taiwanese treats such as shrimp rolls and oyster omelette.
As in many Taiwanese cities, Tainan hostels tend to be welcoming and beautifully decorated. You can stay in a contemporary accommodation filled with books, a refurbished old house with cosy vintage-themed furniture, or a designer Tainan hostel filled with art. As well as free, high-speed Wi-Fi, you'll often find curtained dorm beds, personal reading lights, and complementary toiletries on offer. A couple of hostels in Tainan have a roof terrace or café, and one even has a yoga studio where you can take drop-in classes.
Tainan's central area is Anping District. This part of the city is home to historic sites such as the Dutch-era Fort Zeelandia, and food stalls galore along Old Street. The city's South District includes the Gold Coast area, known for scenic sunsets and oyster farming. Across the river from Anping, West Central District has the Blueprint Culture and Creative Park, a lively spot full of murals, boutiques and a giant robot sculpture. Found here too are the pretty, landscaped Tainan Wu Garden and lovingly updated Art Deco Hyashi Department Store.
As well as richly decorated temples, Tainan is home to unique sights like the Anping Tree House, an abandoned merchant house in the old part of the city. Overgrown by a gigantic banyan tree, it's rumoured to be haunted. See the city's thriving contemporary culture by catching a percussion show at Ten Drum Rende Creative Park. Flower Night Market has the widest range of food on offer, and fairground-style game stalls are among the most popular attractions here.
From Tainan Airport it's around an hour by bus to the city centre. Taiwan's efficient rail system means that it's easy to travel between cities – a high-speed rail train from Taipei takes less than 2 hours. Buses are a scenic way to travel around the country, and Taipei is 5 hours from Tainan by bus. To get around the city itself, you can take local buses or rent a T-Bike (Tainan's bicycle share rental scheme).