This art deco theater was opened in 1933 and it was the first theater to open in Yilan County. It is on the site of a lotus pond and cave that was part of a wealthy estate. This was an auspicious site but like many small family run theaters in Taiwan luck ran out around the 1990's and it closed. At first it was a regular theater with kabuki performances (a kind of Japanese theater) and traditional opera. After World War 2 it was converted to show movies. The roofless shell is all that remains though the facade details are well preserved. Metal sheeting has been put around to keep people out and there is clearly a caretaker looking after it. According to reports it will be repaired on a future date but I can't find specifics. Unusually there is a replica of the facade in the National Taiwan History Museum in Tainan. There are some good interior photos here. For an excellent collection of Taiwan’s independent movie theaters see here.
Around the theater are Yilan's market streets. The only building of some interest is the modernist produce market building from 1939. There's an older section but it seems mostly sheet metal these days.
On top of a large market building that would not be out of place in this article is a large temple called Nanxing. There aren't many rooftop temples around. The one on top of the Ambassador Hotel as the only major one in Taipei I can think of. It moved around a lot before a market demolition relocated it up here. The temple building is modern but there is a centuries old plaque from its first incarnation.
Yilan Art Museum
Located in an austere former bank building is Yilan’s small but well-finished art museum. When I visited there was a colorful exhibition by Huang Ming-Che. The staff are friendly and let me mess around with the old bank vault door. The building was constructed in 1949 after a previous structure was destroyed by wartime bombing. It can be seen prominently in this photo from 1950. The Bank of Taiwan donated the building to the city in 2012.
A little way out of the town center is the forlorn Confucius Temple. The structure is fairly modern but it lacks detail, even when compared to other Confucius temples. The grass is uncut and and there are plants growing between the roof tiles. There's a well researched blog post detailing the conflicts that led to the site being in this state here.
Central Yilan City doesn't possess much in the way of impressive temples. The two worth mentioning that I found were the City God and Zhaoying Temples. The City God Temple was built in 1813, though I'm not sure how much of the building is original. The carvings on this temple are very detailed and the white tile color scheme works well. It's a low slung and slightly oppressive temple. I've read it was built like this on purpose as it is a Yin temple, but I'm relying a bit on Google translate here and don't know the folklore around this. This temple is unusual as you must enter through the middle door. Usually this door is for the gods only and mortals need to enter on the either the left or right side (usually the right). This was done to make sure worshipers look right at the city god straight away. Just up the road is Bixia Temple though it is fairly ordinary.
Zhaoying Temple is located on Zhongshan Road and is the only temple in the city inscribed as a tier 3 historic monument. It is a Mazu temple dedicated to the sea goddess but unusually for a Mazu temple it faces mountains. When it was built 200 years ago it faced the sea but a local feng-shui master decided that if it faced the mountains academic prowess in the city would improve. So it was moved to this location and turned around. Apparently the scheme was successful and imperial exam pass rates improved. For some reason I completely forgot to take pictures of this temple so you'll have to take a look here for a picture.
The Rear Station Area
I spotted a couple of potentially interesting sites behind the station and went to quickly check them out. The first I'd assumed was something military but it was a Forestry Bureau complex. Parts of it are disused but most of it is used and guarded. It didn't look particularly interesting in any case. The second site was a large house along a canal. This occupies a big plot of land that someone is using for farming. The house itself is a fairly uninteresting 1950's building with a mostly collapsed roof, so I wrote that one off too.
On the way back from the station I spotted a strange round brick building. This was a water tower for refilling steam trains built in 1919. I'm surprised something like this has survived the frequent earthquakes here. It was across some tracks and there were some soldiers around so I couldn't see a way to get any closer. This is clearly where tanks and military trucks are loaded and unloaded onto freight trains.