When I decided to visit Taiwan for the second time, one of the top things on my to-do list was a visit to Rainbow Village in Taichung. I decided to visit this as a day trip from Taipei and while I was tempted to just nip down and check out the pretty coloured buildings then hop on the first train back to Taipei for the afternoon (I love Taipei) that seemed like a bit of a waste of time – and so I started researching things to do in Taichung on a day trip.
The list got very long!
Every corner seemed to throw up a cute cafe, some amazing piece of art or mural – and, a quick comb of Instagram saw me double-tapping posts at a rate of knots.
This threw up a problem.
Taichung is actually Taiwan’s second most populous city and it’s huge with cool things to see both in and out of the city. Couple that with the fact that unlike Taipei or Kaohsiung, there’s not a metro or light rail (yet) to get you around it quickly meant the list of things I wanted to do was far longer than the one day in Taichung I had to spend!
So, I narrowed it down to the fun, unusual and super cute things I could find to do in Taichung city itself and set off on an early morning train from Taipei hoping to conquer as much of my one day Taichung itinerary as I could.
Even then, because of a transport hiccup, and the fact that I didn’t quite have a whole day to cover the ground, I ran out of time to see everything on my list….but, that doesn’t mean you will. So, let’s get started …
The Super Cute One Day Taichung Itinerary…
1. Rainbow Village
This tiny cluster of houses painted by one of the residents is possibly the number one attraction in Taichung right now and it is as adorable as it looks. Even if it wasn’t quite the little out of the way village in the hills that I had conjured up in my mind!
If you don’t know the full story of Rainbow Grandpa and how he started Rainbow Village, then head over to our longer post which tells you all you need to know about how things got started – and has more pictures and full directions on how to get there.
Rainbow Village doesn’t really have any set opening or closing hours, but I choose to go here first in during my one day in Taichung as it was near the high-speed railway station which is the quickest way to get from Taipei to Taichung.
Ten minutes in a taxi after pulling into Taichung’s high-speed station and we were wandering the bright alley-like streets admiring the stick figure cows and brightly painted birds.
It’s also good to get to Rainbow Village as early as you can to try and beat the tour buses. It really is immensely popular.
It doesn’t take long to see Rainbow Village – we were done in about 30 minutes – and after a bit of a snafu with transport (see the bus stop section below), I dropped off Mr Differentville in the Taichung Electronics District where he would spend a few hours twiddling about with components and bits of wire while I went to do my Taichung sightseeing.
Arranging to meet in a few hours outside the Fleet Street Cafe (easy to remember), off I went to my next cute destination…
2. Painted Animation Lane
This area of cutesy drawings is about a 20-minute walk from the electronics district and, if you’re not in a hurry you can divert past one of Taichung’s most famous sights, Chun Shui Tang – a tea shop that’s said to be the home of bubble, or Boba Tea in Taiwan. (expect queues).
Painted Animation Lane is full of paintings of favourite cartoons and anime characters – including Picachu, Mario, Lili and Stich, Totoro (the first pic you saw) and blue pigtailed Hatsune Miku whose hair I strongly envy.
Using the singular word lane is a bit of a misnomer as there’s actually two or three roads now covered in paintings and apparently more are on their way.
You’ll find Painted Animation Lane at Lane 100, Linsen Road, West District, Taichung City, Taiwan 403
Lots of pictures later, it was time to move on..
3. Museum Time
At this point, your next arty destination could be the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, and Digiark, the Modern Art Museum next door to it which will take a couple of hours to wander around.
I however, was in Taichung on a Monday, which is the day they are both closed! Yay, for brilliant trip planning!
So, I hot footed it to my next stop on my list of fun things to do in Taichung, the Shenji New Village…
Highly Specific Reader Note: any Zebra fans reading this, you’re going to want to take a small detour at this point to the Zebra Walking Cafe at No. 5號, Wuquan 1st Street, West District, Taichung City, Taiwan 403 – just so you can have a cuppa with zebra art on it!
4. Shenji New Village
Shenji New Village – or Audit Village as it’s also known – is a precinct of old houses from the city’s audit department that have now been turned into a precinct of super hip cafes and shops.
When I went the hot check in on Instagram was Grass Cafe, which has a working carousel inside, but my attention was diverted by the shop next door whose garden was full of Easter Island-style statues with little brown hats on.
Turns out I had stumbled upon the fantastically named LUHO Home of Puff – and the little hats represent the cream puffs that they are famous for.
Inside is a virtual carb explosion of adorable buns shaped like reindeer (as you might be able to tell by the snowmen I was there in December), turtles, Apanman and Totoro (There’s a bit of a Totoro theme in Taichung!) and more.
A Toroto-shaped puff was purchased.
And while I didn’t want to bite his head off (I’ve also been in this situation in Tokyo), once I did, I discovered he was full of chocolate custard and totally delicious.
You could easily spend an hour or more wandering around the shops and cafes in the Village and the nearby streets – and eating a lot of sugar.
As this is the cute tour of Taihung, as well as the Totoro puffs and Grass, you might also want to check out the frog cakes at CJSJ, spend some time with the cuddly residents of Magicat cafe and try the egg waffles at Yuciren. And that’s just a tiny smidge of what’s on offer. Seriously, you could fill your Instagram feed for a week around here.
If you love it, you’ll also like nearby Fantasy Story art precinct, which is full of independent shops selling everything from robots to handmade umbrellas.
5. Calligraphy Greenway
It has an unusual name, but this is basically a long strip of greenery connecting the south and north ends of this part of Taipei.
It’s home to a series of statues and art events. It’s also a nice place to sit and rest your feet from all the walking so far!
Head a bit further up the road though and your attention will be diverted by a giant ice cream. This means you’ve found…
6. I’m Talato
If you haven’t overdosed on sugar at Shenji New Village, you might want to stop off at I’m Talato and pick up an ice cream and shoot a few pics as it’s another place made for Instagram with giant ice cream scoops and cones for your pose with after you eat.
At this point I realised I was running late so I had to skip the ice cream and jump into an Uber to the other side of town.
Had I had more time though this is what else was on my cute and arty Taichung sights list in this area….
I would have checked out the Teddy bear filled the interior of Lulu’s Kitchen Witch Pumpkin House (seriously, Taichung has the best shop names).
I’d also have gone to check out the fantastic sunken cars and other odd exhibits at the CMP Block Museum of Arts open-air sculpture garden (although as I write this, it’s being redeveloped so you might want to check their webpage to see whether they’re open again yet when you get to visit). And lastly, I’d have gone to….
7. Sowing the Sweets
This absolutely incredible cake shop was to be my last stop as it didn’t open until 1pm so, even though it’s fairly close to Fantasy Story, I was going to double back to see it and head back to town from there.
Seriously, how I thought I was going to eat all that sugar in one day I’m not quite sure. As it was my pancreas and teeth were saved by my running out of time – but, I couldn’t write this piece without mentioning it – and thankfully the lovely team let me use their pictures.
So behold, the truly incredible cakes…
Sowing the Sweets were the original creators of the puppy cake (above) that was taking the internet by storm when I was in Taiwan. As I write this, they’re also making news for the seal-shaped one below.
They also do teddies, bunnies and other cute shapes that will traumatise you when you try and put a fork in them.
As I said, the shop opens at 1pm and you have to get to the shop early if you want to try a specific cake as they only make a certain number of each design a day.
It’s marked on google maps as 耕者有其甜 (dessert shop). The address is 234號, Huamei Street, West District, Taichung City, Taiwan 403
Warning, having tried a mousse version of the puppy cake in my guide to Unusual Things to do in Taipei I can confirm that all of your friends will shout at you if you put the pictures of you eating one on Facebook.
8. The Abandoned Building of Street Art
The reason I had to get back to Mr Differentville, rather than just ring him and tell him I was running late because I’d found 200 more things to do in Taichung than I had planned, was there was one place we both wanted to visit closer to the station – and we needed to go in daylight.
Thanks to the fantastic folk over at the Kathmandu and Beyond blog, I’d heard about an abandoned building close to Taichung station that had been taken over by a street art collective called Escape Plan X.
I love looking at abandoned sights, but because I’m a big fat chicken who is scared of authority, I don’t do as much urban exploring personally as I would like.
This building, however, while technically abandoned and part derelict in places is legally open to the public and you’re not breaking any rules entering it – so, it rapidly became a Taichung must-see.
Officially known as the Quianyue Building, it was home to an old night club on the top floor which was destroyed by fire.
Today, you can wander around the building, including the top (although it is dangerous up there so please be careful) and get a great view of the city – and, more importantly to me, floors five and six and the stairwells, have been taken over as a canvas for street artists and are filled with murals and tags.
The Boyfriend wandered around up top for a good half an hour and proclaimed it one of the highlights of his whole Taiwan trip (the other was the abandoned village of UFO Houses near Taipei).
If you’re more cautious (like me), you can just stick to the main stairwells and areas around them which are all concrete and still be wowed by the art.
Wear closed toed shoes though as there is broken glass and other hazards around.
To get into the building, make your way to the junctions of Luchuan West Street and Zhognshan Road. Walk up Luchan West Street and you’ll see what looks like an alley, head inside and you’ll come to the stairwells that take you up in and into the building.
Since we visited the building has apparently got a bit more popular, and the attempt to preserve it as a street art space more organised, so the artists that now live there might ask you for a small entrance fee.
Also, respect that some of the artists now use the building as their home. Be quiet, don’t enter anyone’s private space unless you’re invited and take your trash home with you.
After we’d spent a good hour exploring the art, it was time for us to head to the station as we had a date with some pugs in a bar in Taipei. But…
If you’ve still got time before you need to leave, you’re right by the ice cream shop Miyahara which is on pretty much every Taichung itinerary.
Described as looking like something out of Harry Potter it’s incredibly popular and you can queue for up to an hour to get one of their photogenic ice creams.
I didn’t which is why there’s no photo! But you can.
10. The Totoro Bus Stop: The Adorable Place I Had to Miss
Those who love Studio Ghibli need no introduction to Totoro and No Face, two of their most beloved characters and this bus stop in Taichung recreates the famous scene from My Neighbor Totoro, where the cuddly rotund one, first meets Satsuki as they shelter from the rain.
And, Taichung, you can take your place at the bus stop too.
But why is the bus stop faithfully recreated on the outskirts of Taichung rather than the middle of Tokyo, you ask?
That’s down to the owner of nearby company Home Doctor who loves making props and models decided to recreate the scene next to his property. They’ve also turned the business reception area into a Harry Potter inspired room – complete with an adorable Niffler.
The bus stop is located at No. 133, Qiao Cheng Road, Dali District, Taichung City, Taiwan.
This is about thirty minutes away from Rainbow Village in a taxi and my original plan was to grab a taxi to take us to the bus stop, which is kind of in the middle of nowhere, then jump on a bus and head into town to tick off the rest of my sights … but despite Rainbow Village being full of people, there were no empty taxis to be had!
After wasting a good thirty minutes trying various methods to get there, I had to scrap the Totoro plan and just find any bus to take us toward town. I was disappointed, but I know I’ll go back to Taiwan – and next time I’m going to spend a few days in Taichung, so I’ll get there. Thankfully, Jackie at the Life of Doing blog had been there and kindly let me use her photo so you can see how cute it is.
If you do want to head to the bus stop, make sure you have Uber loaded on your phone and allow some extra time for delays.
How to Get to and From Taichung from Taipei
If you’re going to follow my Taichung itinerary as suggested, you’ll need to catch the high speed train to Taichungfrom Taipei Main station will will take about an hour.
To check the timetable and fares for the High Speed Train to Taichung from Taipei, click here.
If you want to buy tickets in advance you can get a discount. Have a look at the offers here.
From Taichung high speed station, the quickest way to get to Rainbow Village is by taxi (if you’re travelling on a budget, then you can get the bus – check the Rainbow Village post above for details).
You can then get the no56 bus to close to Painted Animation Lane in about 45 minutes (or, jump in a cab which take about 30).
However, if you follow this one day plan you might not want to go back to Taipei on the High Speed Train.
We found that getting back to the high-speed station from Taichung centre was a lesson in not losing your mind while dealing with infuriatingly slow transportation.
I’d therefore suggest you get the high speed train to Taichung and a slower train back to Taipei from the station in the middle of town.
If you pick the right one of these they only take about an hour longer to reach Taipei than the high-speed train -and you can easily spend more than that trying to reach the high-speed station if you don’t get the timings right.
However, the ‘fastest’ of the slow trains don’t run that often so you will need to time things right to make it work. The red Puyo line is the fastest. You’ll find the times for those here.
So there you have it, my one-day itinerary for Taichung for those who love street art, sugar and cute stuff. I admit, I nearly didn’t write the post as my day didn’t go quite to plan – but then I figured, just because I’m rubbish at timekeeping, why should you guys miss out on all the cool stuff Taichung has to offer!
Is One Day in Taichung Enough?
It’s probably enough to cross off the main cute sights in the city, but it wasn’t enough for me. I haven’t even touched the surface of the cool cafes, street food, night markets and other things to do in Taichung that weren’t within walking distance of where I dropped Mr Differentville.
I think next time I go I’ll aim for at least two nights and three days in Taichung. I’ve still got things marked on my map that didn’t make it into this and haven’t started on the other areas and attractions like the Gomei Wetlands or day trips from the area to places like Sun Moon Lake. So, I guess you need to watch this space!