HOME Hokkaido Hokkaido Hakodate These 16 Things to Do in Hakodate Japan Will Make You Fall in Love With the Northern Wonderland
These 16 Things to Do in Hakodate Japan Will Make You Fall in Love With the Northern Wonderland

These 16 Things to Do in Hakodate Japan Will Make You Fall in Love With the Northern Wonderland

Date published: 20 April 2020
Last updated: 19 July 2021

Located in the south part of Hokkaido, Hakodate is one of the top cities for tourists. Dotted by old Western-style buildings, this city developed as the first international trade port in the country. There is a variety of ways to enjoy both historical exploration and shopping.

Here we will introduce the top 16 things to do in Hakodate, including the stunning night view from the Mt. Hakodate mountaintop observatory, the old exotic churches, historical monuments, and the red brick warehouses and souvenir shops.

Table of Contents
  1. 1. Enjoy a Romantic night View From Mt. Hakodate Observation Deck
  2. 2. Visit Hakodate's Majestic Hallast Orthodox Church!
  3. 3. See Japan’s oldest historical church, Motomachi Roman Catholic Church
  4. 4. Visiting the Star-Shaped Fortress, Goryokaku Park
  5. 5. Go Hakodate Souvenir Shopping at Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse Group
  6. 6. Hakodate Morning Market
  7. 7. Onuma Park
  8. 8. Catch the View of Hakodate Port
  9. 9. Hike Mt. Esan
  10. 10. Old Soma Residence
  11. 11. Former British Consulate of Hakodate
  12. 12. Trappistine Monastery
  13. 13. Chow Down on Seafood Bowls
  14. 14. Hakodate Ramen
  15. 15. Hakodate Port Festival (Early August)
  16. 16. Hakodate Illumination (December-February)
  17. Book an unforgettable experience in Hakodate!
  18. Recommended hotels in Hakodate

1. Enjoy a Romantic night View From Mt. Hakodate Observation Deck

1. Enjoy a Romantic night View From Mt. Hakodate Observation Deck

Located in the southwestern part of Hakodate City stands Mt. Hakodate, 334 meters above sea level. There is an observation deck at the summit of the mountain, accessible via ropeway, bus, and taxi.

Wipark Kulnirandorn / Shutterstock.com

As seen from the observation deck, the night view of Hakodate is said to be the most impressive night view in Japan and was included amongst the top three best night views in the world. It's the first point of interest on any list of things to do in Hakodate.

The beautiful curves that lie between the Tsugaru Strait and Hakodate Port with the scattered lights of Hakodate City have been nominated as the reason behind its magnificent beauty. The landscape has been likened to a box of jewels.

Because of its nighttime popularity and the crowds that come with it, we recommend arriving before sunset to grab the best spot for photos.

The best season for sightseeing in Hakodate is summer. However, you can really enjoy a romantic snowy view during the winter season. With the lights reflected off the snow, the beauty of the night view is even more amplified.

2. Visit Hakodate's Majestic Hallast Orthodox Church!

2. Visit Hakodate's Majestic Hallast Orthodox Church!

Nestled on the slope of Motomachi stands the Russian Orthodox Church, with its impressive white walls and cupolas (dome-style towers). Constructed in 1861 as an attached chapel of the Russian Consulate by priest Nikolai, who was assigned to advocate the missionary work of the Russian Orthodox to Hakodate in 1961.

The first sanctuary was destroyed by the Great Hakodate Fire of 1907 and was reconstructed into the current shrine of today in 1916, incorporating the Russian Byzantine style. It was designated as a Cultural Property of Japan in 1916.

The sound of this chime is also considered one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan. Alongside the church is a steep slope known as the "Cha Cha Nobori," from which you can see the two churches, the Hakodate Christian Orthodox Church and Hakodate St. John's Church.

3. See Japan’s oldest historical church, Motomachi Roman Catholic Church

3. See Japan’s oldest historical church, Motomachi Roman Catholic Church

At the top of the Daisan-zaka slope stands a Gothic-style church marked by its large bell tower. One of the oldest churches in the country, along with those in Yokohama and Nagasaki, it is a symbol of the resurrection of the mission of Christianity.

A temporary cathedral was built in 1867, and the first church was established in 1877, however, was destroyed by the great fire. The current building was restored in 1923.

4. Visiting the Star-Shaped Fortress, Goryokaku Park

4. Visiting the Star-Shaped Fortress, Goryokaku Park

Another place that should top any list of things to do in Hakodate is a visit to Goryokaku Park.

Constructed in the 1860s, Goryokaku was Japan's first French architectural fortress and is characterized by its pentagonal star shape. It was the last base of the Shogunate Army in the Battle of Hakodate, the war between the new government forces and the former shogunate army after the reconciliation, but was surrendered in 1869.

Goryokaku is currently maintained as a park where you can freely stroll. It takes about 30 minutes to walk the perimeter. Remnants from the Battle of Hakodate, such as cannons and stone walls, can be seen throughout, and you can even enjoy boating along the moats in the summertime.

Thanya Jones / Shutterstock.com

The Hakodate magistrate office in the center of the park was established by the Tokugawa shogunate in 1864 as the base of the Ezo rule. It was dismantled after the Hakodate war, but in 2010 it was restored in its original Edo era style. You can see exhibitions of the history of Goryokaku and the restorative works in a 72-tatami mat room.

Isaac Mok / Shutterstock.com

You can see the pentagonal star shape from atop Goryokaku Tower. The tower stands adjacent to the park at 107 meters high. There are shops and restaurants on the 1st and 2nd floors and observation decks at the 86 and 90-meter points. From the observation decks, you can see the entire Goryokaku Park and the expansive 360 panoramic views from Hakodate City to Mt. Hakodate.

5. Go Hakodate Souvenir Shopping at Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse Group

5. Go Hakodate Souvenir Shopping at Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse Group
Thanya Jones / Shutterstock.com

Facing Hakodate Port in the Bay Area stands the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse, a group of brick warehouses. In the front is the Kanemori Youbutsukan or the "Western Museum."

It was originally built as a business warehouse in the Meiji Era but has been renewed and rebuilt as a shopping center.

A variety of shops line the hall, including about 20 shops that sell items from jewelry to Hakodate souvenirs, clothing and miscellaneous goods, and even some tax-free shops. There are even cafes in which you can easily enjoy delicious Hakodate sweets.

There are also shops and restaurants in the neighboring Hakodate Bay area, as well as glass craft shops and beer halls in Hakodate History Plaza.

Many shops sell items unique to Hakodate, such as soap made from Hakodate kelp, and squid-ink dyed cloth bags and pouches. At night, you can enjoy a romantic view as the exterior wall is lit up.

In the Hakodate Meiji Hall, you will also find specialty shops such as a music box store, and a store featuring glass goods.

6. Hakodate Morning Market

6. Hakodate Morning Market

Situated close to Hakodate Station, this interesting food market is popular with both tourists and locals.

The site is home to around 250 stores selling a range of Hakodate and Hokkaido delicacies, including fresh seafood, local vegetables, countless kinds of sweets, and chinmi (processed seafood products).

Most stores open early in the morning, so it's a great place to go for breakfast if you're an early riser.

7. Onuma Park

7. Onuma Park

Located just north of Hakodate, Ōnuma is a small nature resort area in a quasi-national park, dominated by an active volcano Mt. Komagatake.

Visitors can enjoy outdoor activities such as camping and cycling in a wonderful landscape of mountains, lakes and forests, all only 30 minutes by express train from JR Hakodate Station.

8. Catch the View of Hakodate Port

8. Catch the View of Hakodate Port

A popular sightseeing spot, the Bay Area of Hakodate offers extensive views of the city's attractive port.

Home to the famous Kanemori Red Brick Warehouses, visitors can stroll along stone walkways complete with old-fashioned street lights, while the shimmering reflections and night views are particularly beautiful after dark.

9. Hike Mt. Esan

9. Hike Mt. Esan

Mt. Esan is an active volcano located just a short distance east of Hakodate on the Kameda Peninsula.

The summit sits 618m above sea level and is home to sulfur-belching steam vents and wonderful panoramic views.

It takes about one hour to hike to the top of the mountain from the car park at its foot.

  • Mt. Esan
    恵山
    • Address Misakicho, Hakodate, Hokkaido 041-0521

10. Old Soma Residence

10. Old Soma Residence

The Old Soma Residence is located next to Motomachi Park and was the private home of a well-known and wealthy merchant called Soma Teppei.

Built in 1908, the residence houses many interesting paintings, documents and antiques and is notable for an architectual style which is representative of Hakodate.

  • Old Soma Residence
    旧相馬邸
    • Address 33-2 Motomachi, Hakodate, Hokkaido 040-0054

11. Former British Consulate of Hakodate

11. Former British Consulate of Hakodate

An attractive building which was used as the British Consulate between 1913 and 1934, it now functions as a small and well-preserved museum, and displays inside chart the history of Hakodate up until the opening of the port. The tea room is particularly popular, and guests can enjoy sipping black tea as they admire the attractive English-style rose garden.

12. Trappistine Monastery

12. Trappistine Monastery

One of Hakodate's many notable western-style institutions, this impressive building in beautifully manicured grounds serves as a Catholic convent.

Founded at the end of the 19th century, the existing church building dates back to 1927. It displays a mix of Gothic and Romanesque styles, including features such as high-quality exterior brickwork and semicircular-arched windows.

  • Trappistine Monastery
    天使の聖母トラピスチヌ修道院
    • Address Trappistine Monastery, 346 Kamiyugawa-cho, Hakodate, Hokkaido 042-0914, Japan

13. Chow Down on Seafood Bowls

13. Chow Down on Seafood Bowls

As a city surrounded by the ocean on three sides, Hakodate's seafood is as fresh as it comes. The "seafood bowl" (kaisendon) is, therefore, one of Hakodate's must-try dishes and looks as good as it tastes.

Usually made from a mixture of various kinds of seafood, including slices of tuna, salmon, scallops, shrimp, crab, squid, fish roe, and sea urchin, all served on a bed of fluffy rice. A good chance to enjoy some of the freshest seafood in Japan!

14. Hakodate Ramen

14. Hakodate Ramen

Ramen is one of the most popular dishes in Japan, and comprises of noodles served in a delicious broth. The flavor of the soup base tends to differ from region to region, with the Hakodate variety being characterized by a light salty taste. This is fairly typical of ramen in Hokkaido, as kelp or seafood is added to the standard chicken or pork soup base to create a unique and traditional flavor.

15. Hakodate Port Festival (Early August)

15. Hakodate Port Festival (Early August)

The largest summer event in Hakodate, held in early August.

On the first day there is an impressive fireworks display at the port, and this is followed by parades with floats and a variety of traditional dances mostly performed by locals.

Over 20,000 people take part in a colorful five-day celebration, and visitors are welcome to participate in Hakodate's special "Squid Dance," a dance of simple and easy to learn movements which brings people together.

16. Hakodate Illumination (December-February)

16. Hakodate Illumination (December-February)

Held from December 1st to late February, Hakodate's picturesque streets are lit up with around 50,000 lights to create atmospheric night views only seen in the winter.

The sloping Hachimanzaka and Nijukkenzaka streets are lined with trees which are lit up and glitter especially brightly when fresh snow lies on the ground. Churches, the Old Public Hall and many buildings in the Bay area are lit up too, so wrap up warm to enjoy the spectacle while strolling the streets. The illuminations can be seen daily from 5pm to 10pm.

Book an unforgettable experience in Hakodate!

Make your trip extra memorable by booking one of these recommended tours on our partner site, Voyagin!

Recommended hotels in Hakodate

  • Hanabishi Hotel
    • Address Yunokawa-cho 1-16-18, Hakodate, Hokkaido, 042-0932
      View Map
    • Nearest Station Yunokawa-onsen Station (Hakodate Tram Line 2 / Hakodate Tram Line 5 )
      4 minutes on foot

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    Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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