HOME Hokkaido Hokkaido Sapporo / Chitose Your Trip to Sapporo City: Complete Guide (Events, Activities, Hotels, Savers & More)
Your Trip to Sapporo City: Complete Guide (Events, Activities, Hotels, Savers & More)

Your Trip to Sapporo City: Complete Guide (Events, Activities, Hotels, Savers & More)

Date published: 9 January 2020
Last updated: 10 August 2023

Discover the charm of Sapporo, a vibrant city in northern Japan known for its stunning natural beauty, delicious cuisine, and unique cultural experiences. From bustling markets to picturesque landscapes, Sapporo offers a memorable adventure for travelers of all ages.

Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, is a must-see destination that seamlessly blends a modern feel with nature. Renowned for its delightful cuisine, friendly locals, and year-round festivals, Sapporo promises an unforgettable experience for travelers seeking a taste of authentic Japanese culture.

Image: PIXTA

Table of Contents
  1. Is Sapporo worth visiting? What is so special about the city?
  2. What should I see in Sapporo? What are Sapporo's best attractions?
  3. When's the best time of year to visit Sapporo?
  4. How do I get to Sapporo?
  5. Is it easy to travel around Sapporo with kids?
  6. Is Sapporo expensive? What is a reasonable Sapporo budget?
  7. Where should I stay in Sapporo?
  8. What should I eat in Sapporo?
  9. Enjoy shopping in Sapporo
  10. Tips on visiting Sapporo
  11. Major events and festivals in Sapporo
  12. Read more about visiting Sapporo

Is Sapporo worth visiting? What is so special about the city?

Autumn leaves in Nakajima Park, Sapporo (Photo: PIXTA)
Autumn leaves in Nakajima Park, Sapporo (Photo: PIXTA)

Certainly, Sapporo is a must-visit destination! As Hokkaido's capital, it's a convenient starting point for exploring the region, thanks to its strategic location and excellent transport links through New Chitose International Airport. Especially if you're visiting Japan for snow, Sapporo is your place to go.

Sapporo stands out among Japanese cities for its wide spaces, which is something of a rare find in Japan. Unlike many other crowded urban cities, Sapporo boasts wide streets and open parks, making it an ideal city for exploration on foot.

Sapporo itself is a vibrant city of nearly 2 million people with a unique culture shaped by its rich traditions, art scene, and snowy climate. Its rich history, stunning landscapes, and events throughout the year make it a perfect destination for travelers seeking a mix of adventure and relaxation.

How much time should I spend in Sapporo?

To be able to see everything Sapporo has to offer, spending at least 3-4 days in the city is recommended. This timeframe allows for exploring its major attractions, sampling delicious cuisine, and experiencing the local culture without feeling rushed.

What should I see in Sapporo? What are Sapporo's best attractions?

Jozankei Onsen is a tranquil hot springs village just outside downtown Sapporo (Photo: PIXTA)
Jozankei Onsen is a tranquil hot springs village just outside downtown Sapporo (Photo: PIXTA)

Sapporo has a ton of great attractions for you to explore. Check out all these places to get the most out of this northern city.

  • Odori Park: Odori Park, located at the heart of Sapporo, is an urban oasis that stretches for over a kilometer, making the city greener a full of nature. The park's name, "Odori," translates to "large street," and true to its essence, it serves as the main venue for various events and festivals throughout the year.
  • Sapporo TV Tower: A striking symbol of Sapporo's skyline, the Sapporo TV Tower rises proudly over Odori Park, offering an unparalleled panoramic view of the city's splendor. Ascending to the observation deck at a soaring height, visitors are greeted with breathtaking vistas of majestic mountains, the bustling cityscape, and the meandering Ishikari River.
  • Sapporo Beer Museum: For beer lovers, the Sapporo Beer Museum presents a journey through the history and craftsmanship of Japan's oldest beer brand. Situated in the original brewery dating back to 1876, this museum allows visitors to delve into the art of beer-making, tracing the evolution of Sapporo's iconic beverages.
  • Nijo Market: Nijo Market, a bustling culinary hub nestled in the heart of Sapporo, greets visitors with an array of seafood and Hokkaido's finest produce. This vibrant market has been a longstanding culinary tradition, where fishermen and local vendors converge to showcase an impressive selection of freshly caught fish, crab, sea urchin, and other maritime delights.
  • Hokkaido Shrine: Tucked amidst the city's urban landscape, the Hokkaido Shrine stands as a sacred sanctuary and a testament to Japan's Shinto heritage. Revered for its spiritual significance and tranquil ambiance, the shrine's elegant vermilion architecture is a captivating sight for visitors seeking moments of reflection and respite.
  • Mt. Moiwa Ropeway: Nature enthusiasts and avid explorers find solace in the Mt. Moiwa Ropeway, a scenic ascent to the summit of Mount Moiwa, with amazing views of Sapporo city and its surrounding nature.
  • Shiroi Koibito Park: Named after the renowned "Shiroi Koibito" cookies, this captivating wonderland takes visitors on an immersive journey into the sweet world of dessert craftsmanship. Watch in wonder as skilled artisans mold delicate chocolate creations, explore the Cookiecraft Studio for hands-on baking experiences, and indulge in a delightful array of treats at the park's charming cafes.

When's the best time of year to visit Sapporo?

Sapporo's Kamokamo River is a peaceful place to see cherry blossoms in spring (Photo: PIXTA)
Sapporo's Kamokamo River is a peaceful place to see cherry blossoms in spring (Photo: PIXTA)

Spring (March to May): Spring is a delightful time to visit Sapporo as cherry blossoms bloom, casting the city in hues of pink and white. One of the best places to enjoy cherry blossoms in Sapporo is Odori Park, where in May you can stroll along the wide promenades lined with cherry trees. The Sapporo Lilac Festival, held from late April to early May, is another iconic event where visitors can admire the fragrant lilac blossoms at Odori Park. There is also a music festival, an outdoor tea ceremony, and a stamp rally.

Summer (June to August): Summer in Sapporo brings warm temperatures and lush greenery, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities. The city comes alive with various events and festivals during this season. The most notable one is the Sapporo Summer Festival, which usually takes place in July. This vibrant festival includes music performances, dance shows, food stalls, and spectacular fireworks displays. Another must-visit event is the Yosakoi Soran Festival in June, where teams perform dynamic dances through the streets of Sapporo, showcasing their colorful costumes and intricate choreography.

・Fall (September to November): Autumn in Sapporo is characterized by a captivating tapestry of vibrant autumn foliage, which typically peaks in mid-October. Many parks and gardens, such as Odori Park and Yurigahara Park, offer breathtaking views of the changing colors. The area around suburban Jozankei Onsen is a particularly famous spot for autumn leaf viewing. In September, the Sapporo Autumn Fest takes place, celebrating Hokkaido's rich culinary culture. Visitors can savor a wide variety of local dishes, including fresh seafood, dairy products, and seasonal vegetables. The festival also features live performances and craft exhibitions.

Winter (December to February): Winter is a magical time in Sapporo, especially during the Sapporo Snow Festival, held in early February. This internationally renowned festival attracts millions of visitors who marvel at the magnificent snow and ice sculptures displayed throughout Odori Park, Susukino, and Tsudome. The Sapporo White Illumination, held from November to March, transforms the city into a sparkling wonderland, with dazzling light displays illuminating streets and buildings.

There are also several ski resorts near Sapporo, and the city offers great access to resorts in Niseko, Rusutsu, and elsewhere. For more on skiing, check out this article about the 15 Best Hokkaido Ski Resorts & Tips - According to a Japanese Tourism Expert.

Popular day trips from Sapporo
  • Otaru: Known for its beautifully preserved canal area, this small harbor city is only a 40-minute train ride from Sapporo. You can visit the Otaru Canal, historical buildings, glasswork shops, and try some fresh sushi.
  • Noboribetsu: Famous for its hot springs (onsen), Noboribetsu is one of Japan's most popular thermal resorts. Don't miss the Jigokudani (Hell Valley) with its stunning geothermal landscapes.
  • Lake Toya: Approximately two hours from Sapporo, Lake Toya is a beautiful caldera lake. You can enjoy the beautiful scenery, take a cruise on the lake, and visit the nearby Showa Shinzan, a lava dome that formed in the mid-20th century.
  • Furano and Biei: These towns are famous for their picturesque flower fields, especially lavender, and rolling landscapes. The best time to visit is during the summer. Furano is also known for its ski resorts.
  • Asahikawa: As the second-largest city in Hokkaido, Asahikawa is known for Asahiyama Zoo, which houses various cold-climate animals. It's also the gateway to Daisetsuzan National Park, an excellent place for hiking.
  • Yoichi: If you're a whiskey lover, you can't miss the Nikka Whisky Distillery in Yoichi. It's an hour away from Sapporo and offers tours and tastings.
  • Niseko: Approximately 2 to 2.5 hours by car from Sapporo, Niseko is a world-renowned ski resort area that offers exceptional powder snow for skiing enthusiasts. In addition to its winter allure, Niseko also offers exciting activities during the summer season, such as rafting and trekking, allowing visitors to explore the stunning natural landscapes of the region.
  • Shiraoi: Around 70 minutes by limited express train from Sapporo, Shiraoi is home to the Upopoy National Ainu Museum and Park. This unique facility offers a captivating exploration of the history and culture of Hokkaido's indigenous Ainu people through engaging exhibits and interactive activities.

What should I pack for a trip to Sapporo?

Choosing what clothes to pack for Sapporo depends on the season (Photo: PIXTA)
Choosing what clothes to pack for Sapporo depends on the season (Photo: PIXTA)
  • Spring: Dress in layers, as the weather can be unpredictable. Bring a light jacket and comfortable walking shoes.
  • Summer: Light and breathable clothing is suitable, but don't forget an umbrella for sudden showers.
  • Fall: Pack warmer clothing for cooler temperatures, especially during the evening.
  • Winter: Prepare for the cold with heavy winter clothing, including insulated jackets, gloves, and boots.

How do I get to Sapporo?

Sapporo's Susukino neighborhood is popular for its shops, dining, and entertainment options (Photo: PIXTA)
Sapporo's Susukino neighborhood is popular for its shops, dining, and entertainment options (Photo: PIXTA)

Getting to Sapporo by air

Sapporo has an international airport called New Chitose Airport (CTS), which is well-connected to major cities in Japan and other countries. If you are coming from overseas, you can fly directly to New Chitose Airport from various international airports.

If you are already in Japan, you can take a domestic flight from major airports in Tokyo, Osaka, or Nagoya to reach Sapporo. The airport is about a 40 to 50-minute train ride from the city center.

If you need more help getting to Sapporo, check out our article on Finding the Best Transport from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo.

Getting to Sapporo by Shinkansen/train

If you are in mainland Japan, you can reach Sapporo by taking the Shinkansen bullet train and then transferring to a limited express train. The journey starts with the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station in Hakodate, Hokkaido (around 4 1/2 hours). From there, you can transfer to the JR Hokuto Limited Express train, directly to Sapporo Station. The journey takes around 3 1/2 hours.

To save on transportation costs during your trip to Sapporo, you may also wish to consider the following rail passes.

Recommended rail passes

Getting to Sapporo by ferry

For a scenic and leisurely journey, you can also take the Sunflower ferry from the Oarai Ferry Terminal in Ibaraki (north of Tokyo) to Tomakomai Port, which is south of Sapporo. From Tomakomai, you can take a train or bus to Sapporo.

Is it easy to get around Sapporo?

Sapporo is generally considered to be a very easy city to get around. The city's efficient and well-developed public transportation system makes it convenient for both residents and visitors to explore its various attractions and neighborhoods.

Here are some aspects that contribute to the ease of getting around Sapporo:

  • Subway System: Sapporo has a reliable subway system that connects major areas within the city. There are three subway lines: Namboku Line (green line), Tozai Line (orange line), and Toho Line (blue line). The subway lines intersect at key stations, providing seamless transfers between different routes.
  • Bus Network: Sapporo's bus network complements the subway system, making it easy to reach places not directly served by the subway. Buses cover a wide area and are a good option for reaching destinations beyond the subway routes.
  • English Signage: Many signs and announcements in the subway and major transportation hubs are also displayed in English, making it easier for non-Japanese speakers to navigate the city.
  • IC Cards: Sapporo uses the same IC cards as other major cities in Japan, such as Suica or Pasmo. These cards can be used for both the subway and buses, allowing for seamless transfers and fare payments without the need to buy separate tickets.
  • Walking and Cycling: Sapporo is a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly city, especially in central areas and parks. Many attractions are within walking distance of each other. When it is warm enough, another option is to rent a bike. Porocle is a community-run rental bike service with bikes available at around 40 locations around the city. A 1-day pass costs 1,650 yen.
  • Taxis: Taxis are readily available throughout the city and can be hailed on the street or found at taxi stands. While they are more expensive than public transportation, taxis can be a convenient option, especially if you have heavy luggage or need to travel to specific destinations not easily accessible by public transit.

Is it easy to travel around Sapporo with kids?

Sapporo has a great variety of kid-friendly foods, too (Photo: PIXTA)
Sapporo has a great variety of kid-friendly foods, too (Photo: PIXTA)

Sapporo is a family-friendly city, and traveling around with kids is generally easy and enjoyable. The city offers a variety of attractions and amenities that cater to families, making it a great destination for visitors with children.

One of the highlights for families in Sapporo is the abundance of parks and playgrounds. These green spaces provide ample opportunities for children to run, play, and have fun. Odori Park, Maruyama Park, Moerenuma Park, and Nakajima Park are some of the popular spots where families can relax and enjoy outdoor activities together.

Moreover, Sapporo boasts various family-oriented attractions that both kids and adults will love. The Sapporo Science Center (note: closed until 2024), Sapporo Satoland, and the Shiroi Koibito Park are just a few examples of places that offer interactive exhibits, sweet treats, and entertaining activities specifically designed for kids.

Throughout the year, Sapporo hosts numerous events and festivals that cater to children. The Sapporo Snow Festival, held in winter, is a major highlight, where families can marvel at impressive snow sculptures. The Yosakoi Soran Festival and various seasonal events offer music, food, and games that are enjoyable for all ages.

Another significant advantage of visiting Sapporo with kids is the city's reputation for safety and cleanliness. With relatively low crime rates and well-maintained streets, parents can feel reassured as they explore the city with their little ones.

That said, parents must be careful when traveling around the city with children in winter. Streets and sidewalks are often covered with a layer of snow and ice, making it slippery. The Sapporo Pedestrian Space (Chi-Ka-Ho) makes it easy to get around much of the downtown underground, while the subway makes it easy to get around the city. Accordingly, when looking for a place to stay in winter, you may wish to choose to stay near one of the subway stations.

Is Sapporo expensive? What is a reasonable Sapporo budget?

The Sapporo Station area offers a variety of entertainment, food, hotel, and shopping options (Photo: PIXTA)
The Sapporo Station area offers a variety of entertainment, food, hotel, and shopping options (Photo: PIXTA)

Sapporo offers a diverse range of experiences, and while it is generally more affordable compared to some of Japan's major cities, it's important to plan your budget accordingly. The cost of living and travel expenses in Sapporo can vary based on factors such as the time of year, travel style, and personal preferences. When budgeting for a trip to Sapporo, consider key aspects such as accommodation, dining, transportation, attractions, and shopping.

Transportation in Sapporo is relatively affordable and efficient. The cost of using subways and buses can be budgeted, and you can consider purchasing an IC card like Suica or Pasmo for convenient fare payments.

Many of Sapporo's parks and outdoor attractions are free to enter, but admission fees may apply to certain museums, theme parks, or special events. Be sure to create a list of must-visit attractions in advance to plan for those expenses.

When shopping in Sapporo, you'll find a variety of options, from high-end boutiques to budget-friendly shopping streets and markets. Keep in mind your spending on souvenirs and other shopping items.

A reasonable budget for a mid-range traveler in Sapporo would be around 15,000 to 20,000 yen per person/day. This estimate includes accommodation (around 10,000 yen/night/two adults), meals, transportation, and some attraction fees. However, your actual expenses may vary based on your specific travel preferences and the duration of your stay.

For more budget-conscious travelers, it is possible to spend less than 15,000 yen per person/day by opting for budget accommodations, eating at more affordable restaurants, and exploring free or low-cost attractions. Careful planning and research will help you make the most of your trip to this captivating city without breaking the bank.

Where should I stay in Sapporo?

Sapporo Station area. (Photo: PIXTA)
Sapporo Station area. (Photo: PIXTA)

When deciding where to stay in Sapporo, it's beneficial to choose an area that aligns with your interests and allows easy access to major sightseeing destinations. Here are three recommended areas to consider:

Sapporo Station Area: The Sapporo Station area is right at the center of the city. It is the hub through which all of the city's subway lines must pass, making it the perfect location for convenient access to the rest of the area. It is also well connected with bus services, or if the weather is nice, you can enjoy the walk from here to other parts of the city center.

・Susukino: If you enjoy vibrant nightlife and diverse dining options, Susukino is the ideal choice. This bustling entertainment district boasts a plethora of restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues. It's a lively area that never sleeps, making it perfect for those who want to experience the city's energetic atmosphere. Additionally, Susukino is well-connected to public transportation, making it convenient to explore other parts of Sapporo.

・Odori: For those seeking a central location with access to iconic landmarks, Odori is an excellent option. This area is adjacent to Odori Park, a picturesque urban oasis where various festivals and events take place throughout the year. From here, you can easily stroll to the Sapporo TV Tower, offering breathtaking views of the cityscape. Odori is also surrounded by shopping areas, making it ideal for those who love to indulge in retail therapy.

For more areas and hotel recommendations, take a look at our article, Where You Should Stay in Sapporo: Best Areas & Hotels For Visitors.

What should I eat in Sapporo?

Seafood is just one of the delicious food options to try in Sapporo (Photo: PIXTA)
Seafood is just one of the delicious food options to try in Sapporo (Photo: PIXTA)

When it comes to what to eat in Sapporo, don't miss the opportunity to indulge in the city's famous and delicious cuisine. Some local favorites include:

Soup Curry: Sapporo is renowned for its distinctive Soup Curry—a flavorful Japanese curry with a unique soupy consistency. This dish typically features a rich broth infused with aromatic spices, accompanied by various vegetables and a choice of meat or seafood. The fusion of curry flavors and the comforting soup base make it a delightful and satisfying meal.

Jingisukan: For meat lovers, Jingisukan is a must-try specialty. This dish involves grilling succulent lamb or mutton alongside vegetables on a convex skillet, allowing the natural flavors to meld together. The name "Jingisukan" is inspired by the resemblance of the dish's shape to Genghis Khan's helmet. Enjoy the smoky and savory goodness of this Hokkaido barbecue delight.

Sapporo Ramen: Savor the iconic Sapporo Ramen, a beloved local specialty. This steaming bowl of goodness features toothsome wheat noodles immersed in a savory miso-based broth. Toppings often include slices of tender chashu (pork), green onions, butter, and sweet corn. Each slurp of this hearty and flavorful ramen is sure to leave you craving for more.

Ishikari Nabe: Perfect for winter, Ishikari Nabe is a comforting hot pot dish that showcases the bounty of Hokkaido's seafood. It typically consists of salmon and a variety of fresh vegetables cooked together in a miso-based broth. The combination of the delicate salmon and hearty vegetables makes this dish a delightful winter treat.

Enjoy shopping in Sapporo

Sapporo Factory, on the city's east side, is a popular shopping center (Photo: PIXTA)
Sapporo Factory, on the city's east side, is a popular shopping center (Photo: PIXTA)

Sapporo offers two main shopping districts: Sapporo Station and Odori Park areas.

Around Sapporo Station, you'll find large commercial facilities like Sapporo Stellar Place, Sapporo ESTA, Daimaru, and Tokyu Department Store, housing various domestic and international fashion brands. With direct access to the station, you can conveniently shop even on rainy or snowy days.

Hokkaido Shiki Marche, located near the ticket gates of JR Sapporo Station, offers a wide variety of classic Hokkaido souvenirs, regional delicacies, and specialty products, making it a convenient facility for souvenir shopping.

In the Odori Park area, department stores like Mitsukoshi, Marui Imai, PARCO, and MEGA Don Quijote are situated. Tanukikoji Shopping Street, with a history of over 100 years, is also located here. You can explore long-standing stores and find Sapporo-themed items as well as products from Hokkaido.

Further, Tanuki COMICHI, a shopping center near Susukino, features a total of 20 food and produce shops. Nearby, is the shopping mall Moyuk Sapporo, and in the autumn of 2023, the shopping center Cokono Susukino will open in Susukino.

And if you venture beyond Sapporo, there are two popular outlet malls: Chitose Outlet Mall Rera near New Chitose Airport and Mitsui Outlet Park Sapporo Kitahiroshima in Kitahiroshima, along the route from the airport to Sapporo.

What souvenirs should I buy in Sapporo?

When souvenir shopping in Sapporo, make sure to include these iconic mementos that will remind you of your trip:
・Shiroi Koibito cookies: Treat yourself to the world-renowned Shiroi Koibito cookies, delightful creations that harmonize luscious white chocolate with buttery goodness, an absolute must for any sweet tooth and are perfect for sharing with loved ones back home.

Sapporo Beer: Bring back the essence of Hokkaido with Sapporo Beer, one of Japan's oldest and most beloved breweries. This locally crafted beer is a testament to Hokkaido's brewing traditions and a delightful way to reminisce about your time in Sapporo, especially if you enjoyed it during the lively Sapporo Beer Garden experience.

・Hokkaido Dairy Products: Experience the rich taste of Hokkaido's dairy heritage with high-quality milk-based souvenirs. From creamy cheeses to heavenly ice creams, these delectable treats are sourced from the region's pristine farms, offering you a delightful taste of Hokkaido's bountiful nature and culinary excellence. Share the tasty goodness with friends and family to spread the joy of your Sapporo adventure.

Tips on visiting Sapporo

The flower fields of Furano are a popular day trip destination from Sapporo (Photo: PIXTA)
The flower fields of Furano are a popular day trip destination from Sapporo (Photo: PIXTA)

・ATMs: Access to cash is convenient in Sapporo, as international ATMs are widely available in convenience stores and post offices throughout the city. You won't have trouble finding a place to withdraw money, ensuring you have funds for your adventures.

・Tour Guides: While Sapporo is easy to explore independently, considering a tour guide can add depth to your experience. A knowledgeable guide can provide valuable insights into the city's history, culture, and hidden gems, enriching your journey.

・Safety: Sapporo is generally a safe destination for travelers. However, like in any city, it's essential to exercise basic safety precautions and keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas and on public transport.

・Solo Travel: Traveling solo in Sapporo is a delightful experience, as the city's friendly atmosphere and excellent public transportation make it easy to navigate and enjoy. Embrace the freedom to explore at your own pace and make new connections with locals and fellow travelers along the way.

Recommended Sapporo tours

Major events and festivals in Sapporo

The Sapporo Snow Festival, held each February, is one of the city's most popular events (Photo: PIXTA)
The Sapporo Snow Festival, held each February, is one of the city's most popular events (Photo: PIXTA)

Read more about visiting Sapporo

*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.

Share this article.

Limited time offer: 10% discount coupons available now!

Recommended articles for first-time visitors to Hokkaido