~ Things to Do in Hakodate ~
How are you? Here in Tokyo, it’s sunny and a little cool, but since you’re looking for things to do in Hakodate, you probably don’t mind crisp weather!
Traveling all the way up north to visit Hokkaido and especially Hakodate is not the most obvious choice. But, believe me, you won’t regret coming to this dreamy pink and white food paradise.
Hakodate is actually one of my favorite cities in all of Japan! And that’s not only because I’m a huge foodie…
From a starlike cherry blossom viewing spot to sparkling winter fantasies. From Michelin-rated night views to breathtaking landscapes. This lovely city really offers everything.
There’s even a famous hot spring resort just around the corner!
And…yes! The morning market for (sea)food lovers right next to Hakodate station, of course! Something for everyone, don’t you agree?
There are actually so many interesting things to see and do in Hakodate that it might be hard to fit in everything.
So to help you plan your trip I’ll first show you the top tourist attractions in Hakodate. You can easily visit all of them in 2-3 days. But in case you are faster or you have more time I’ll tell you the rest as well. That’s why this is your ultimate list of things to do in Hakodate!
So let’s start with the must-see tourist attractions!
Top Things to Do in Hakodate
Take the Mt. Hakodate Ropeway and get mesmerized by Hakodate’s sparkling night view
The night view is beautiful all year round and so you can come here anytime. However, the recommended time to see it is 20-30 minutes after sunset. I’d rather come here a little bit earlier, though.
The vista during daytime is lovely, too and like this, you can also avoid the crowds when taking the Mt. Hakodate Ropeway.
Besides the free observation platform, you can also find a few restaurants and souvenir shops at the top of the mountain. In the restaurants, you can enjoy the night view while indulging in the local cuisine.
Another thing you could do is hike up Mount Hakodate or hike around the summit.
What: View & Hiking
When: All year round, come here around sunset
Where: 35 min (5km) from Hakodate station, near Motomachi
Costs: Free (Admission), ¥1,500 (Ropeway)
Morning Market (Hakodate Asaichi)
Start your day with a bowl of rice topped with fresh seafood and explore the market’s other delicatessens
I hope you are a food lover as I am. If yes, you’ve just found paradise! Hokkaido is in general extremely famous for its marine and dairy products and has a lot of delicious food.
For some shopping at the fish market is even the No. 1 thing to do in Hakodate.
Yet here at Asaichi, Hakodate’s morning market, you can get some of the freshest and best seafood ever. I had a red caviar sea urchin bowl and even after all the years living in Japan, I’m still blown away by the taste and its freshness!
Sea urchin might not be for everyone due to its strong taste, but it’s one of Hakodate’s specialties next to crab, shrimp, and squid.
The market opens really early in the morning at 5:00 (or 6:00 in winter) and you can shop and eat here until noon. Eating raw seafood for breakfast might be unusual but it’s worth it!
Besides all the tasty seafood you can also find a great variety of veggies, fruits, and sweets. A unique activity you might want to try is squid fishing. You can even watch the chef preparing the squid sashimi if you want and dare to.
What: Food & Shopping
When: Every day until noon, come here in the morning (for breakfast)
Where: Right next to Hakodate station (5 min)
Costs: Free (Admission), Seafood bowls start from ¥1,500
Stroll around the flowery park and take a look at its awesome star shape from Goryokaku Tower
Another thing you definitely shouldn’t miss is this former Citadel. It’s the real star among Hakodate’s tourist attractions and so unique you won’t find it anywhere else in Japan!
In early May the star-shaped fort turns into a pink wonderland. With its 1600 cherry blossom trees, it is one of the best cherry blossom viewing spots in Hokkaido.
If you want to see the cherry blossoms you should be here in the first or second week of May. In that case, you should also try Hakodate’s unique Hanami barbecue and eat “Jingisukan” under the sakura trees.
But don’t worry too much if you can’t make it for the Hanami season. The light purple wisteria tunnel later in spring/summer is beautiful, too. And even in winter the snow covered and illuminated grounds look extremely stunning.
After exploring the grounds of the Citadel don’t forget to take a look at it from above! Goryokaku Tower is right next to the park and the observatory will reveal its real beauty!
What: Cherry blossom park
When: Cherry blossom season is from late April to mid-May
Where: 30 min (4km) from Hakodate station
Costs: Free (Park), ¥900 (Tower)
Walk up and down the picturesque slopes and wander through exotic-looking historic buildings and churches
This district is located at the foot of Mount Hakodate and makes for a good walk after eating yourself through the morning market.
Just walking up and down the slopes overlooking the port and exploring the neighborhood is a lot of fun. If you want you can also go inside the buildings. Entrance to some churches is free, but for most buildings, you have to pay a small fee.
Some of the more popular buildings are Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward, Hakodate Orthodox Church, Motomachi Roman Catholic Church, Hakodate St. John’s Church and the Former British Consulate of Hakodate.
When seeing pictures of Motomachi your first thought might be “Why should I bother coming here when I can see that at home?”
It’s true that most of the buildings, churches, and residences here are Western-style. However, if you look closer and explore the inside you’ll discover all kinds of unique features.
Especially the Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward is a great example for the perfect fusion of traditional Japanese patterns with Western architecture. That is probably also the reason why it’s the top tourist attraction in Motomachi.
Besides the Western-style buildings, you can also find some temples and shrines, which makes walking through the neighborhood feel very exotic.
Last but not least there is a very unique ice cream stand where you can try squid ink ice cream!
IMPORTANT: Old Public Hall of Hakodate Ward is closed until April 2021
What: District with many historic buildings & churches
When: Day and night, but most buildings close at around 19:00
Where: 20 min (~2km) from Hakodate station, near Mount Hakodate
Costs: Free or between ¥300 – ¥1,000
Explore the lake’s islands and bridges on foot or enjoy other outdoor activities like cycling and canoeing
If you’re not only a food lover but also a nature lover like me than this is the second paradise that awaits you in (well, near) Hakodate.
Onuma is a 45 min train ride away from Hakodate. It’s a quite large quasi-national park where you can enjoy all kinds of outdoor and winter activities. It’s perfect for a day-trip from Hakodate or as a stopover on your way to Sapporo.
The park’s main attractions are the reflection of Mt. Komgatake in the lakes as well as the trails and bridges leading around and connecting them.
The reflection of the active volcano is not only breathtaking but also one of the New Three Views of Japan. It just takes about one hour to stroll around the lakes, so even if you’re not into hiking or nature I really really recommend you to check it out.
From April to December you can also enjoy cycling and canoeing. And in winter you can ride snowmobiles or sleds on the frozen lake or do ice fishing.
What: Nature & Outdoor
When: On a fine day
Where: 30km (45 min) north of Hakodate
Admission: Free. The prices for activities you can check here
Enjoy the sea breeze and the beautiful scenery of the blue ocean and the red brick warehouses
Hakodate Bay is another scenic spot in this lovely city. It’s right in between the Morning Market and the Motomachi district.
Apparently strolling around here was another star-awarded recommendation by the Michelin Green Guide. However, I couldn’t find it on the webpage anymore. Nevertheless, it’s a very beautiful spot!
The vista is beautiful during the day and looks extremely romantic at night when the red warehouses are lit up.
If you want to have a special experience you should go to Meijikan. Inside this shop, you can rent Kimono or funny dresses like ninja outfits. Dressed in your favorite costume you can go for a stroll in the bay area.
One of the things you have to check out are the Kanemori red brick warehouses. They are a row of warehouses that were renovated and transformed into a big shopping mall and entertainment complex.
There are more than 40 different shops that sell accessories and all kinds of souvenirs. You can also find an electronic store that is popular and the Hakodate Beer Hall serving locally brewed beer.
So shop until you drop inside these stylish malls and eat Hakodate’s most popular dessert. If you have a sweet tooth you have to check out Hakodate Pastry Snaffle’s or Petit Merveille.
What: View & Shopping
When: In Feb, Jul and Aug some events and firework displays take place here
Where: 10-20 min (1-2km) from Hakodate station, near Motomachi
Costs: Only what you buy
Yunokawa Onsen Resort
Soak in one of the many Onsen with ocean view or enjoy an unforgettable overnight stay at one of the magnificent Ryokans
Yunokawa is a big hot spring resort just half an hour away from Hakodate. It’s the Onsen hot spot in Hokkaido and very popular among visitors and locals.
There is also an Ashiyu (foot bath) which you can try for free and countless Inns & Hotels with public and private bathing facilities.
One of the best things about Yunokawa Onsen is the incredible ocean view. From many of the Onsen, you can overlook the sea and sometimes you even have direct access to the beach.
If you want to experience to stay overnight at a traditional Ryokan this is the place in Hakodate! Besides Japanese inns with amazing bathing facilities, you can also find the Ryokan designated for the Showa emperor.
What: Onsen & Spa
When: Colder seasons, but there is a festival and fireworks display in late Aug
Where: 35 min (5.5km) from Hakodate station
Costs: Free (Ashiyu), ¥400 – ¥1,500 (Onsen)
These are the best sightseeing spots and the things I recommend you to do in Hakodate. To fully enjoy the time at Yunokawa Onsen hot spring resort I would plan in 3 days. Otherwise you can easily do all of this in 2 days.
If you need more inspiration or want to explore what else you can do in Hakodate just keep reading!
Other Sights in Hakodate
So after getting to know about the must-sees in Hakodate, let’s look at some other possibilities.
Especially if you are into nature, history or hot springs there are a few other sights you might want to check out.
Natural Sea Onsen
Mizunashi-Kaihin Onsen is a natural hot spring bath in the ocean so bring your swimsuit. You can bath here in summer and in winter, but only when the tide is low. It looks so cool that I really want to go there! The only problem is that it’s hard to access.
What: Natural Hot Spring
Where: Mt. Esan
This park which is also called Miharashi Park is the most beautiful place to visit when you are in Hakodate during autumn. It takes about 40 minutes to get there by bus, but the autumn leaves are worth it. The leaves are lit up from Oct to mid-Nov.
What: Park & Autumn Leaves
Where: Yunokawa Onsen
Costs: ¥540 (round-trip)
This ferry has been kept as a memorial and turned into a museum. However, compared to the Seikan ferry Hakkodamaru in Aomori (sister attraction) this one doesn’t look as neat. So I don’t recommend you going inside.
IMPORTANT: Temporarily closed due to repair
Where: Bay Area
What do you think about the sights? Have you been there or do you plan to go?
If you have any questions, you can ask me in the comments below!
Now that we have fallen in love with this little city, let’s check how to get to Hakodate and where we can stay!
If you’re planning to visit Sapporo you might also want to check my list of Hotels with Onsen in Sapporo that use water from a natural hot spring.
Another insanely beautiful place in Hokkaido is Furano. Have a look at the beautiful lavender fields that cover Furano’s hills in July.