The southern Taiwanese port city of Kaohsiung is making headlines for shiny new arts venues, but there’s another kind of place to savour the local creative scene: cafes. Head to these four cafes in Kaohsiung for rotating exhibitions, hands-on workshops and a dose of comfort food.
Conveniently located near the Kaohsiung Cultural Centre, the three-storey isArt Gallery is where arts lovers congregate to browse books, participate in workshops and talks, and peruse rotating exhibitions. It’s also where they fill their stomachs with hotpot – the extensive vegetarian and vegan options include a chrysanthemum soup base – and health-conscious multigrain congee concoctions. For an especially local treat, pair its signature ‘bitter tea oil’ thin noodles with a traditional Taiwanese plum juice. With traditional Chinese furniture throughout and art hung everywhere, frequent patrons will tell you that not much has changed since the space opened more than 30 years ago – and that’s why they keep coming back.
Behind a green door awaits this refurbished, industrial-style loft space with all the trappings of a modern cafe and bar. ‘Gien jia’ means ‘picky eater’ in Mandarin – but even the choosiest of gourmands will find something they like from the seasonal menu, which may feature roasted chicken with caramel lemon butter; handmade pasta with clams and fresh herbs; smoked milk fish and elderflower honey sweet potatoes; or white gourd cheesecake. Gien Jia ’s walls feature paintings by local artists, there for you to admire and potentially purchase to bring home. For art in action, observe the chefs at work from the glass-doored kitchen space.
A relaxing vibe washes over you upon entering the bright, airy Le Jardin du Gourmet . One wall is piled high with books, and the upstairs floor hosts exhibitions of photography, sculptures and paintings as well as mini-concerts. Cakes, French pastries and savoury pies are available at the downstairs cafe (if you’re craving a heartier meal, order from the Japanese food menu). It’s easy to while away the afternoon here – there’s even a tranquil little zen garden on the premises.
For something a little different – and more hands-on – this cafe space doubles as a textile workshop, where you can learn to create your own works of art. Taking up multiple floors of an old house, each level has its own function: the first is a cosy cafe, the second acts as a gallery space, and the third and fourth serve as textile studios. Fill your stomach with comforting dumplings and baked goods or cool down with a fruit spritzer, then settle in for a few fun hours of learning about traditional handiwork, fabric dyeing and the art of making trendy crafts.
This story was originally published in May 2019 and updated in September 2020