Sprawling parks, skyline views from a mountain peak, relaxing hot springs and a memorable morning market—Hakodate has it all. Known as one of the oldest port cities in Japan, it is a main area in Hokkaido, the second largest island in Japan. Though it is a laid back city, it carries a ton of history and cultural things to do which makes it interesting place for tourists and locals alike.
From the mountains to the rivers there’s a lot of attractions and things to do in this city and here are some of the best.
Hakodate Bucket List: 15 Things to Do in Japan’s Port City
1. ✦ Shop at the Hakodate Morning Market “Asaichi”
The Hakodate Morning Market is a bustling local food section with more than 300 shops and eateries selling a variety of seafood to fit any palate—from dried cod to fresh crab to tanks filled with live octopus. One of the main attractions is the squid fishing, you literally do the fishing yourself from the water tanks and the shopkeeper then cooks your catch for you. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.
But, that’s not all that you will find and the market, they also have fruit, vegetables and soft cream cones (a Japanese must try!).
Learn more about the market here.
2. ✧ See the View From Tachimachi Cape
3. ✦ See the Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward
The Old Public Hall of the Hakodate Ward is a notable building because the rooms are reserved for members of the Imperial family. But, the bright and cherry exterior makes for great photographs!
4. ✧ Visit the Hakodate Hachimangu Shrine
5. ✦ Stroll Through Onuma Quasi-National Park
Many people think of Japan as only a big city place with modern architecture, flashing neon lights and the quirkiness of the things to do in Tokyo. But, there is also so much nature that you can find in every prefecture. If you head just 20km north of Hakodate to the Onuma Quasi-National Park you will be immersed in it.
Located at the foot of mount Komagatake, Onuma is loaded with attractions and fun things to do for every season. There is canoeing, horseback riding, cycling, lake cruises, snow hiking, riding the buggies and so much more. After exploring the park, cool down at Brauhaus Onuma beer garden for a sip of the local Onuma beer, get some local food at a nearby restaurant or just chill with a soft cream cone.
6. ✧ See the Gate at Koryu-ji Temple
7. ✦ Take in the Panoramic Night View from Mount Hakodate
Mount Hakodate elevates about 334 meters and gives the best city views. You can get to the top by the Mt. Hakodate Ropeway (an aerial cable car), car or bus. The ride up the mountain by taking the ropeway all the way to the viewing point takes only about 3 minutes and is one of the most exciting ways to go.
Viewing a city from an elevated angle yields better results, especially when the sky is clear and the night lights twinkle. This city is not short of lights for sure and this is clearly observed by the contrast of the dark sea embracing it on both sides. Now that is what you call a panoramic view!
Remember to dress warm as temperatures drop way up there!
8. ✧ Shop at the Old Hakodate Post Office
9. ✧ Visit an Onsen Hot Spring
If you want to experience something to rejuvenate you? How about a visit to an Onsen. An Onsen in Japanese is a natural spring, found in many parts of the country and known to be therapeutic. One not to be missed is the Yunokawa Hot Spring Resort situated near the main airport and just near the ocean. It is a large hot spring just a stone’s throw from the ocean! The Noboribetsu Hot Springs is another popular one and has 9 varieties of water.
Related: 10 Must-Visit Hot Springs in Hokkaido
10. ✧ Stroll Along the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouses
11. ✧ Visit the Trappistine Monastery
The Trappistine Monastery is a convent that was established in 1898 by eight French nuns who came to the area to spread Christianity. Also known as the Lady of the Angels’ Convent, it was rebuilt in 1927 in a mix of Gothic and Romanesque styles after being destroyed by a fire. Though you can not go inside the monastery, you can tour the front courtyard and the museum to get a glimpse into their monastic life. Plus, the handmade sweets and butter sold at the souvenir shop are perfect gifts to take home.
12. ✧ Pay Your Respects at the Foreigners’ Cemetery
13. ✧ Take a Selfie on Hachiman Zaka Slope
Hakodate is filled with hilly streets, but none more popular for taking pictures than on Hachiman Zaka Slope. So, take a selfie on the street that extends to the harbor and the sea.
14. ✧ Attend a Jingisukan BBQ in the Park
15. ✧ Explore the Site of Goryokaku
Get ready to be mesmerized by the architectural style the site of Goryokaku embraces, which is a star shaped design (hence it’s other name of Star Fort). Built in 1855 this fort was used as a shield from invasion by the Russians, now it is a beautiful park.
You can get the best panoramic view of the park from the from the Goryokaku tower observatory which is 107 meters high. Every season will bring a different scene—in the Spring the cherry blossoms are in bloom, in the fall there are colorful autumn leaves and in the winter the park is covered in snow.
With such a blend of different things to do, this gem of a place called Hakodate has to be on your things to do list on your next visit to Japan. We hope your bags are packed and ready for the adventure!
If you don’t want to navigate Hakodate on your own you can See the Highlights of the International Harbor Town Hakodate on a Voyagin tour. Also, if riding the Shinkansen Bullet Train (that goes up to 320km per hour!) is a bucket list worthy experience, you can get tickets here.
Essential Tips for Visiting Hakodate
Getting There: From Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, there are multiple domestic flights via JAL, ANA, and Air Do that arrive in Hakodate Airport. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From the airport to the city center, you can use the bus, take a shuttle or take a taxi. An Airport shuttle bus operates every 20 minutes between the airport and Hakodate Station. To travel by train, you can take the JR Tohoku/Hokkaido Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, and transfer to the relay train to Hakodate Station in central Hakodate (5 hour trip).
Where to Stay in Hakodate: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. Four Points by Sheraton Hakodate (moderate) is a great choice that is located next to Hakodate Station. For something on the less expensive side, try Pension Jokura Guesthouse located in Omachi. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the Hakodate Kokusai Hotel. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Driving in Hakodate can be a bit of a challenge and parking fees can be expensive, but if you choose to rent a car, RentalCars.com has great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of options. Taxis are available all over the city, but the best way to get around is by Hakodate’s well-established tram system. Buses are also a convenient way to travel around Hakodate.
City Transportation Pass: A day pass for unlimited use of trams and the Hakodate Bus (excluding the airport shuttle bus), is available for ¥1000 per day, and ¥1700 for 2 days. You can purchase these passes at Hakodate Station, any tourist information center or your hotel’s front desk.
Best Tours in Hakodate: You can find some of the top tours at Get Your Guide or Viator, and here are some top ones:
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing at Travelex Insurance.
Universal Adapter: Your American plugged equipment will need an adapter. I use the Celtic Universal Adapter, which has brought me around the world with no problems.
My trip to Hakodate, Japan was hosted by the JNTO. All opinions my own.