Things to Do in Hsinchu City with Kids
Hsinchu is a small city on the West Coast of Taiwan. That said, it doesn’t have a “coastal” feel to it at all. Unlike my Canadian home towns of Victoria and Vancouver, most of the time, I wouldn’t even know that the ocean is in such close proximity. Finding things to do in Hsinchu with kids was tricky for us when we first arrived here. It just wasn’t obvious and it was so hot! It was also our first experience in Asia with kids, so we were still getting over the culture shock.
In no particular order….
1) Hsinchu Eastern Gate, Downtown & Cheng Huang Temple
In 1826 a wall was constructed that surrounded Hsinchu city. The only remaining portion today is what is known as the Eastern Gate, located downtown. The photo opp here is great and this historical monument can lead to interesting history discussions. One really cool aspect about visiting the Eastern Gate is that you go through a tunnel to get to it. On most days, the tunnel is filled with young Taiwanese practising hip hop out of the sun. My kids love watching them and getting a glimpse into the youth pop culture.
Exploring the Streets
Heading either North or South from the gate will see you cruising along a canal with good walking space and plenty of trees. My kids loved watching the fish in the canal, and finding rock-hop paths out into the middle (Note: the canal mud, as you might expect from any pond, is pretty gross. An extra bag with spare shoes, socks and shorts is a good idea.). We’ve got the experience to back this up! Our three year old had a tumble into the water. Not fun! Although it’s not encouraged, you can feed the fish. Locals often bring fish food or chunks of stale bread for their kids to crumble and toss into the gaping fish mouths. There are benches, steps down to the water’s edge, and a few small stages where we’ve seen everything from pop singers to belly dancing!
Cheng Huang / City God Temple
If you head South, there are a series of small streets and fashionable shops off to the West between the Nan Men Hospital and the Southern entrance to the Hsinchu Central Market. This market leads into the Cheng Huang Temple, also known as the City God Temple. The market and temple are definitely worth a visit. There’s delicious food and the vendors are really nice. This is where I tried the infamous oyster omelette for the first time! It’s tasty, but I’m less keen on the sweet sauce they drench it in.
- Walking Distance from anywhere downtown, including the train station
Free / Cheap / Depends on what you buy – The food at the market is cheap. There are some boutique stores downtown which will be expensive, but there are also many less expensive stores or stalls to buy anything form clothes, to shoes to accessories.
2) Have a Mango Shaved Ice at daOnegong!
This place is an insider’s tip! It is DEFINITELY one of our top things to do in Hsinchu with kids. Shaved ice is this delicious bowl of ice shavings with fruit or bean toppings. Sometimes there’s a sauce drizzled over it and a scoop of ice cream.
We discovered daOnegong one day while exploring the neighbourhood surrounding the zoo. There are two things we love about this place.
- The Menu has pictures on it! It’s really easy to point to what you want if you don’t speak the Mandarin. Check it out here!
- There are many fruit toppings as opposed to simply bean toppings. The latter may not appeal so much to Western tastes, but the locals love it! Of course you can choose any flavour you like, but we cannot recommend enough the mango flavour.
- daOnegong is located at Number 40 Shipin Rd. It’s right across from the Gymnasium that boarders’s a park and temple. See the store here via Google Satelite
- Bus : There are many buses that go in the area.
- Walking: It’s a close walk from the Zoo, Glass Museum, Weekend Market. It’s about a 20 minute walk from Eighteen Peaks Mountain.
- The Mango Shaved Ice costs about 90 NT (less than $3 USD) for a bowl. We often get one bowl for two people.
3) Big City Mall
I can’t believe that I’m writing this down, because I truly hate malls, but in Taiwan they are very popular family destinations. Hsinchu is no different! For locals, going to Big City is definitely one of the top things to do with kids in Hsinchu City! And… I’ll admit…. that I do come here from time to time because there’s a free play space that is such a hit with my kids!
Why do the locals hit the mall?
Free parking and cool clean air
Well, first and foremost, Big City is an escape from the heat and sun, with guaranteed free parking if you spend money. If you spend just 1 NT, you get 3 hours free parking. If you spend 1000 NT you get 5 hours free parking. That said, the parkade gets busy fast! To get your free parking validated, just take your receipts to one of the info booths along with your parking chip, right before you leave. There’s an info booth on Level 1 and on B1 just next to Uniqlo. So either get here early or be prepared to wait! My locals friends have also told me that the air in Big City is filtered. So they like to go there as an escape on days when the air quality is very bad.
Secondly, Big City has good food options. You have the main food court on the 4th which is always super busy during peak eating hours. Then you also have little restaurants and cafes spread out throughout the malls. B1 Level also has quite a few little restaurants and bakeries to tempt your taste taste buds.
Taiwanese people are quite the foodies and eating out is a big part of their culture. During weekends, especially, many families will choose to only eat out as to be able to truly relax and enjoy their days off and family time.
It goes without saying that there would be shopping at Big City Mall. Big City offers everything from boutique shops, to your standard fast fashion shops like H&M and the GAP to the Sogo department store. People will often say that Big CIty it’s too expensive, which I think is true in most cases. For instance, I would NOT buy my camping and outdoor gear at Big City.
I would however, peruse the sale rack for kids stuff at H&M. Uniqlo (kinda like a Japanese H&M) is very popular. It’s the go-to store to buy light mesh baby onesies or mesh kid shirts. These are a MUST during the hot and humid Taiwanese summers. City Super offers healthier and organic groceries. It also has a selection of higher quality home-wear and kitchen wear. It’s expensive, but can definitely be the place to go for that one item that you cannot find elsewhere! In my case, for the longest time, that item was a “cheap” (200NT) sugar free peanut butter. They have since stopped stocking that brand, and I last time I was there, their cheapest sugar free bp was over 300NT. So, it’s hit and miss, but definitely fun to walk the aisles and see what’s there.
Big City has many family friendly entertainment options. Of course they almost all cost, but such is life!
The FREE kids play space!
I’m not joking! There’s this amazing free kids space just next to Big City. It’s government run and is open to children under 12 years old. In my opinion, it is much more suitable for younger children: newborn – 8 years old. There’s a space for them to balance and be physical, a library, a room with blocks, dinosaurs, trains etc, make believe centres with kitchen sets, doctor suits etc, and much more! There’s even a designated space for 0-2 years old and a nursing room.
I love this place and THIS is what brings me to Big City. I usually come here for a morning session, go for lunch, do a quick shop or peruse and go home. That’s half a day!
WHAT YOU MUST KNOW ABOUT THIS KIDS’ SPACE
- HOURS: It’s open Tuesday – Sunday and it has three 1.5 hour sessions: 10-11:30am; 1:30-3pm ; 3:30-5pm
- GETTING THERE: This play space is technically just beside Big City. It’s so close though that it’s connected to the SOGO department store by a 20 feet bridge on the 3rd floor. Big City doesn’t open until 11am, however, so if you are aiming for the 10am session, you need to access it from outside of Big City on Zhongyang Rd. Check out this Google Street Map picture here to see the entrance. Where you see a man entering in a white shirt, is where you enter to take the elevator up to the 3rd floor.
- IT CAN BE BUSY! It can fill up quickly, so I usually go for the morning session when it’s less busy and I arrive 30 to 40 minutes early. I bring snacks and colouring to entertain my kids while waiting.
- THE RATIO to enter is one adult for two children. So you cannot enter alone as a mom of three. I tried this once! Nor can three adult enter for only one child. But Two adults for one child is fine.
- Lining up: There are two queues for lining up. The inner line (the one closest to the elevator) is for Hsinchu residents. Determining residency is a complicate thing and I think this only really applies to some locals. Many locals will live in one city but their residency might still be somewhere else. So, as a tourist or expat holding an ARC, you will want to go to the outer line (the one closest to the wall). There will be many locals in this line too.
- Registering: When it’s almost time to enter, a staff member will come by for signing up. You need to provide your child’s name, age and your address. This could be your Airbnb or hotel address if you are visiting. The staff speak enough English to be able to tell you what to write where.
More Entertainment at Big City!
Here’s a list a few more things to do with kids in Hsinchu’s Big City mall
- Cinema (4th floor)
- A little art gallery ( 6th floor)
- Ice skating and rollerblading (7th floor)
- Arcade, bowling and other similar games (8th floor)
- Driving mini cars ( for younger kids – located outside, visible
- A kids play space – NOT FREE – (on the second floor – same street access as the free kids space.
- Big City is walking distance from anywhere in the downtown area
- Many busses stop at or near Big City
- FREE bus shuttle between BIG City Mall and the SOGO Department store near the Hsinchu train station.
- More info on how to get to Big City here
- Free – very expensive. Depends on what you get and what you do!
4) Chinghua University
Chinghua (pronounced by locals as “Chingda”) University is a beautiful walking or picnic outing. The campus itself is beautiful and has many interesting nooks. There’s a little lake where people like to gather. You’re not suppose to feed the fish in the lake, but many people allow their kids to do so. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a heron dive down into the pool of fish and catch his lunch! There’s also a tasty waffle stand near the lake.
Not far away, you’ll find a student cafeteria with a Macdonalds, a 7 eleven and a few fast food Taiwanese restaurants. Socrates Cafe is also in the area. It’s expensive, and I never go there to eat or drink, however they sell secondhand English and Chinese books for adults and children for very cheap. There are also a few cute and friendly cats that hang around this cafe.
- The main entrance is on Guanfu road between Guanfu High school and Wastons pharmacy. My favorite entrance, however, is a small path tucked in just between Guanfu Highschool and the scooter parking lot.
- BUS: There are many buses that run along Guanfu road this is probably your best best. Or you can walk if you are nearby.
- Free – relatively cheap. An outing her won’t cost much. You can even bring all your own food and drinks. Waffles at the stand are around 30-45 NT ($1-1.50 USD). Drinks are the same price or a little cheaper.
5) The Weekend Market and Flower Market
The weekend market runs both Saturdays and Sundays, starting at noon. It has a bit of everything: food, drinks, nic nacks, plants and carnival style games for kids. Often they even have a bouncy castle section for 100 NT per kid. The location of this market is great – it’s close to the zoo, a great playground, the aforementioned shaved ice, the glass museum and public transportation is readily available.
- The market is located here, on Shipin Rd
- Bus (There are stops on Shipin Rd and on Dongshan for sure.)
- Free – relatively cheap. It’s a market, so prices are quite good! If you buy a bunch of things and play some games, then it can add up.
6)Eighteen Peaks Mountain
Eighteen Peaks is a small mountain located within Hsinchu City. It’s a great way to enjoy nature without leaving the city. It offers wide paved paths (some with stairs) throughout the mountain. There are many sitting areas and benches where you’ll see people hanging out, or families picnicking. I’ve even seen some families bring push bikes for the kids. It can get quite busy here on weekends, but we still enjoy it. It’s great people watching!
The Botanical Gardens is an area of Eighteen Peaks where they’ve made an effort to label plants and trees and give thorough explanations. When I went, it was mid week and I was literally the only person there! It kind of had a run down feel to it in that the labels were dusted over and the toilets were not really maintained. But apart from that, the area was beautiful. My toddler enjoyed walking around the flat bits. I went on to walk a 20 minute loop with her on the carrier which was lovely.
- Walking: Depending on where you are, Eighteen Peaks is quite accessible by foot. There’s a path near the Mackay hospital that gets you there quickly. It’s also not far from the zoo neighbourhood ( 15 mins walk).
- Bus: There are buses that will drop you off nearby (the #1 and # 5608). The #20 stops at the entrance of the Botanical gardens.
- Free. Bring your own water and snacks and enjoy nature! Sometimes there are fruit vendors near the entrance and on a few trails, so you could buy a few things.
7) Hsinchu Library
I mention the Hsinchu library more so for the parents who have maybe just moved here and are desperate to find a way to entertain their wee ones and stay out of the heat. The Hsinchu library has a small selection of children’s books in the basement and quite an inviting environment to sit and read. There’s even a nursing room. I’m not a fan of how the books are organised – I feel like the younger kids can’t reach enough of their age appropriate books. But aside from that, it’s a fine outing. The staff is friendly, and if you live in Hsinchu and have your ID and local address, then you can get your membership.
- The Hsinchu library is located downtown, on Nanquing Rd. It’s within walking distance from Big City mall or there’s a bus stop just outside.
- There’s a pay parking lot just in front of the library. The cost is the same as street parking ( 20 nt/hour).
8) Cycling Nanliao’s Coastline
Nanliao is the fishing harbour which offers the start of a 17 kilometers paved cycling path for the entire family to enjoy. While you’re there, you can also explore the fish market or have a tasty lunch upstairs. FYI, from our experience, the restaurants upstairs offer no English menu and it can be quite daunting to try to eat there. We actually didn’t stay, but we’d like to go back with a local to enjoy some fresh seafood!
There are a few bike shops where you can rent your own bikes, or you can bring your own.
- DRIVE: This is by far the easiest option because it is a little out of the way. Parking is readily available.
- BUS: There’s a direct bus from the Hsinchu bus station which is only a 3 minute walk from the downtown strain station. Google Maps says that the trip takes about 56 minutes, but from my experience in Hsinchu, Google is a little off with public transport. The trip never takes as long as it says it will.
- CYCLING: We have yet to go there by bike, but it seems feasible. We know people who have done it. You’re mostly on the road, but then at times there are paths.
- Free to cheap. If you bring your own bikes, then you don’t need to pay for bike rental. Bike rental, however
9) Hit up a Playground
This might seem like a no-brainer, but kids need to play. When we first moved here, we struggled with this because it was too hot to go play outside during the day. We would see all these empty playgrounds and we thought it was a cruel joke. Then a week in, our Airbnb hosts invited us to go play with them at 4:30pm. We arrived at the park and were amazed to realise that this was when the parks became alive with children and families.
Below are a few of our favorite local playgrounds! I’m sure there are plenty more! Please leave a comment if you know of or discover new ones!
This is a fantastic park just one block away from Big City. I often come here after a big City trip if travelling by bus as it’s on route. This park offers many separate play structures, including big sandpits, and these huge cement slides, which are kinda the thing here. There’s plenty of green space to sit or for the kids to run around. There’s my favorite steam bun place across the street and a few tea shops including Coco’s if you’re needing a refreshment. My kids LOVE it here and can spend hours upon hours here. The only downside is that there is no toilet. For the little one ones, I’ve just had them water a tree if it’s number one, but for myself I’ve had to lug the kids to Big City or, tag team toilet runs with a friend. It’s not ideal.
This playground is the one next to the zoo and it’s great! It has many play structures, especially for climbing. If you explore the green area around the park you’ll find turtles in the pond. The bonus here, is that you are in a neat neighbourhood. You’ve go the zoo (which I’m not a fan of, hence it not being on my list), the weekend market, the glass museum, and little shops to explore nearby. daOnegong is practically across the street, and for parents, there’s a great coffee on Shipping Rd. This neighbourhood also has one of our favorite beef noodle soups.
*Extra bonus for residents: The owner of Flying Young Store across Shipping Rd from the park speaks English and is very nice. When you buy inline skates from him, you can attend the free lessons offered at the park every Saturday and Sunday from 4-5:30pm. These are amazing! We attend these almost weekly. It’s a great way to be part of the community. The lessons are all in Mandarin, but my older daughter follows along easily despite not understanding a lot of the details.
Tung Yuen Elementary School
This was the first playground we ever really visited in Hsinchu so it holds some sentimental value for us, but it’s also a great place for kids to run and play. Don’t be turned off by the fact that you’re entering a school and that there is a security guard there. Just keep going through and you’ll get to the playgrounds. There are two playgrounds in the school courtyard as well as balance beams. There are also washrooms located here, but bring your own paper! If you pass the playgrounds, heading right, you’ll find a big cement slide which is always a hit with the kids. Further along, there’s a running track, where the locals will be walking and more playgrounds. I highly recommend this playground and I bet there are many more out there!
Things To Do in Hsinchu with Kids
So folks, if you find yourself here with your family, head on out and explore the town. If you’ve just moved here with young ones, take it easy but get out! There are plenty of things to do with kids in Hsinchu City, but I’ll be the first to admit, that they are not always so obvious! Approach locals and expats. You’ll make friends! People are generally very friendly and happy to help! If there’s something I can help you with, leave me a comment or send me a message via the contact me page! I’m happy to help! Happy Exploring!