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Hualien City is the major city of Hualien County on the east coast of Taiwan. A jumping off point for many of the great activities the east coast has to offer as well as the incredible Taroko Gorge, almost anyone that travels the east coast of Taiwan will pass through hualien at some point.
Hualien is a laid back city, nestled between the mountains of Central Mountain Range and the sea. It doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of Taipei, but the streets are narrower, the buildings smaller and the distances between sites closer.
While most people will come to Hualien City to explore the beautiful nature that is around it, there are also plenty of things to do in the city itself.
Having a day to spend in the city is a great option and will allow you some down time between the adventuring. But what are the best things to do in Hualien City if you only have a day? Read on to find out!
Top 8 Things to see and do in Hualien City
Nambin park is located right next to the sea a short walk away from the main city of Hualien.
The large grassy area and playgrounds make it great for kids. The proximity to the sea gives the air a salty taste. And statues of Buddha make the park feel like you’re also at a religious site.
Hualien Cultural and Creative Industries park
This park is set in the former sake distillery that was built under Japanese occupation. After years of being derelict, it has recently become a hub for the arts and culture scene in Hualien. With locals selling handicrafts under temporary marquees to musicians performing to no one in particular but creating the mood.
Dongdamen Night Market
The Dongdamen nightmarket is one of the best things to do in Hualien. Open from 6pm until midnight every day, the wide variety of stalls here will overload all of your senses.
With a variety of craft stalls, drink stands, kids activities and a mouth watering array of food, there is something for all the family in Dongdamen. Beer can be bought at many of the stalls which can be washed down after eating BBQ meat, noodle dishes or the famous potato on a stick. If after all that food you’re still hungry, try out the local Taiwanese dish of sweet taro balls!
One of the smaller parks in hualien, the proximity of the beach and sea of Beibin Park means it is a great location to hang out with friends, enjoy a bike ride on the cycle paths or enjoy the playground inside.
On good days, this is a popular spot to come to catch a glimpse of sunrise and watch other early risers enjoy their morning exercise.
The Pine Garden was built upon this hill in the 1940’s as the headquarters of the Japanese military in the area. It gave views out to sea and along the coast to seek any enemy attacks.
With gorgeous pine trees in the surroundings, giving the building its name, it is now a historical museum explaining its use by the Japanese and holds an art gallery on the top floor.
Hualien Martyr Shrine
The Hualien Martyrs Shrine was originally built as a Japanese Shinto Shrine under occupation at the start of the 20th century. After being rebuilt in the 1980’s it’s now a shrine to those that fought against the Japanese and communists.
It is a beautiful structure that can be enjoyed from all angles with a large square in the middle. The views across the city and towards the mountains are worth it by themselves.
Hualien Stone Sculpture Museum Park
This park has a number of sculptures made out of stone with the main museum holding stone art from across the region. The park outside is free to visit and has plenty of artworks and sculptures on display.
The museum is open 9am-5pm Tuesday to Sunday for NT$20 and has far more exhibits and information on the craft of stonemaking.
Walk along the Hualien River
Hualien River cuts the city in two, with a seemingly quieter area to the north east of the river, and the main city centre to the south.
From the hospital, past the Martyrs Shrine and all the way down to Beibin Park, a path runs along the river crossing grassy meadows, steep banks and eventually out to sea. Frequented by joggers and elderly walkers, its gorgeous stroll on a clear day that gives you the chance to take it slow and enjoy Hualien.
Things to do around Hualien
Hualien City is a great place to base yourself, but the real fun and adventure in Hualien County can be found outside the city limits.
The best thing to do in Hualien is to visit Taroko Gorge. This may just be one of the best thing to do in Taiwan! With dramatic mountains either side of the lush greenery and temples dotted along the way, this is a must see.
At certain times of year, its possible to go whale and dolphin watching from Hualien. If you’re lucky enough to be in Hualien form April to October, see if you can hit the ocean. If staying on dry land is more your thing, relax on the beautiful Qixingtan Beach just to the north of the city.
Being on the coast with such dramatic mountains around, Hualien is also a jumping off point for nature hikes, waterfalls and extreme activities such as white water rafting. No matter what you come to Hualien for, you won’t be bored!
How to get to Hualien
It is easy to get to Hualien with a fast and slow train from Taipei running frequently throughout the day. To get from Taipei to Hualien, get on at Taipei Main Station. Slow trains cost from NT$283 and faster trains taking just over 2 hours cost NT$440.
Hualien train station is on the main east coast line from Taipei to Taitung and trains run frequently the length of the east coast.
It’s possible to fly to Hualien with weekend services to Taipei and irregular services to Taichung and Kaohsiung the Hualien airport just to the north of the city.
If you’re taking a road trip around Taiwan, Hualien is on the main East Coast Highway which has dramatic views and plenty of stopping off points. Take your time with the drive but it can be done in under 3 hours from Taipei or just less than 4 hours from Taitung.
Getting around Hualien
Hualien is a very walkable city. With a majority of the attractions within walking distance of each other. There’s also the option to cycle using the excellent cycle paths along the coast and river with bikes (and mopeds) available to hire close to the train station.
There’s also a local bus network that extend across the city with most routes starting or ending at the train station.
Where to stay in Hualien
Hualien has a variety of accommodation options with most budget options close to the train stations including a couple of hostels. The best Hualien hotels are along Zhongshan Road with more mid range options including the Byeyer Hotel which I stayed in. Large rooms, excellent amenities and a good breakfast made it good value for money. There are also upmarket resort hotels just outside the main city such as the Parkview Hotel.
Things to do in Hualien, Taiwan
After struggling to find much information online, I hope this guide will give you everything you need to know about what to do in Hualien when you visit. Whether its relaxing by beaches, visiting museums or eating until your full, Hualien is a fantastic place to escape the bustle of Taipei on your visit to Taiwan!
Check out my other posts for travelling around Taiwan:
- The Perfect 3 Day Itinerary for Taipei
- Hiking Taroko Gorge on a Day Trip from Taipei
- Culture Shocks for a First Time Visitor to Taipei
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.