Here are 20 of the best things to do in Sapporo, recommended by locals. Whether you are a first-timer or a repeat visitor, if you see and do some of these you’re well on your way to becoming a Sapporo expert.
Sapporo is undoubtedly one of Japan's top tourist destinations, with widely known sites and events drawing visitors from near and far. While the tourist attractions and seafood and other restaurants listed in guidebooks are good, there are many more “hidden” options that may be of interest.
No matter how many of these things to do in Sapporo you experience, you’ll leave with wonderful memories of Japan’s north!
1. Enjoy the night view
Sapporo’s beautiful night view is often described as “a carpet of light,” and was selected as one of 2015’s “Three Great New Night Views in Japan.”
As an added bonus, there are multiple observation points, including the Sapporo TV Tower, JR Tower, and Okurayama, where you can take in the view from the ski jump.
The Mt. Moiwa Observation Deck is of particular interest and has the distinction of being one of the “One hundred Famous Moons of Japan” locations.
It should be at the top of any list of things to do in Sapporo. Speaking of up top, at 531m above sea level, it’s perfect for enjoying the nocturnal cityscape under the moonlight.
2. Eat the finest ice cream at the Snow Brand Parlor
You can’t talk about any things to do in Sapporo without mentioning Hokkaido dairy products, and “Snow Royal” ice cream, exclusively available at the Snow Brand Parlor, is a must-try.
This rich, egg-free ice cream has a smooth texture and an excellent flavor. The parlor also offers a wide variety of parfaits and Western dishes, making it an ideal spot to take a break from sightseeing.
Yukijirushi Parlor Sapporo Honten (Snow Brand Parlor Sapporo Main Store)雪印パーラー 札幌本店
- Address Taiyo-seimei Bldg. 1F, 1-31 Kita 2-jo Nishi 3 chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 060-0002
- Phone Number 011-251-7530
Hours: 10:00 - 21:00 (last order 20:30)
3. Relax at Odori Park
Odori Park extends for 1.5km east to west through the middle of the city. Seeing only the center of the park is satisfying, but taking a leisurely stroll from end to end is also pleasant.
Designed by Isamu Noguchi, the park features lush greenery, slides and other playground equipment, fountains, and rose gardens – plenty of ways to enjoy this urban oasis. One of the best is simply relaxing on a bench and munching on some of the park’s famous grilled corn.
4. Eat a seafood bowl for breakfast
Sapporo is home to plenty of places where you can enjoy fresh seafood, and the Nijo Market and the surrounding neighborhood is especially good for sampling seafood from all over Hokkaido. The fresh, tasty variety goes well with miso soup and there are numerous shops around the market that offer multilingual service.
5. Playing in the snow
In winter, Sapporo is dotted with things to do, given the city turns into a snowy playground! Takino Suzuran Park (pictured), Sapporo Dome, Sato Land, Hitsujigaoka Observation Deck, and the Historical Village of Hokkaido are large venues perfect for playing in the snow. Although each facility’s activities differ, there’s plenty of winter fun to be had, like tubing and sledding or building a snowman!
6. Try some soup curry - one of Sapporo's original dishes!
Soup curry, now popular nationwide, originated in Sapporo. It’s a curry that’s more like soup and features large pieces of chicken, potatoes, and peppers. Many shops serve this spicy soup, with plenty of options for customization so that you can compare a few.
7. See exciting, powerful animals
Surrounded by a forest, the Maruyama Zoo is full of natural wonder. The Polar Bear Museum and the Elephant House have opened in recent years, allowing visitors to observe the animals from all angles.
The zoo offers other thrilling experiences like feeding the animals and behind-the-scenes tours. The free-flight raptor demonstration is awe-inspiring, and you can see owls and other birds of prey flying up close.
8. Eat fresh, luxurious conveyor belt sushi
Conveyor belt sushi (known as kaitenzushi in Japan) is an excellent choice for a fresh, reasonably-priced meal in Sapporo. The number of shops that feature multi-language touch panel ordering has increased lately, making them even more convenient.
Be sure to pay close attention to daily recommendations to experience delicious seasonal menu items. Many shops also have a wide selection of side dishes such as fried foods and sweets to suit your tastes.
9. Climb Mt. Maruyama
Mt. Maruyama, located behind the zoo, is a popular hiking spot. The ascent to the 225m summit is about 1km long and takes about 30 minutes to complete. From there, you’ll have a superb view of the city.
The mountain is designated as a national natural monument, and its ancient forests will fill you with awe. Upon descent, it’s also good to take a break at Hokkaido Shrine.
10. Meet Dr. Clark's statue
The statue of Dr. William S. Clark, the first principal of Hokkaido University (founded as Sapporo Agricultural School), is one of Hokkaido’s most famous landmarks. Beyond the Hitsujigaoka Observation Deck on which the statue stands, you can see the vast cityscape.
It’s a common custom among tourists to pose for photos with their right hand extended like the statue. The pedestal bears an inscription of Dr. Clark’s famed quote, “Boys, be ambitious,” inspiring viewers to dream big.
Sapporo Hitsujigaoka Observation Hillさっぽろ羊ヶ丘展望台
- Address 1 Hitsujigaoka, Toyohira-ku, Sapporo 062-0045
- Phone Number 011-851-3080
Hours: May - June, Sept. 8:30 - 18:00, July - August 8:30 - 19:00, October - April 9:00 - 17:00
Admission: Adults 530 yen, elementary & junior high school students 300 yen
11. Stimulate your mind at Hokkaido University Museum
Hokkaido University is home to another statue of Dr. Clark, and has Japan’s largest campus, full of greenery and historic buildings. The former Faculty of Science building houses a hidden gem in the form of the university museum. You can see many valuable specimens, from minerals and plants to insects and fossils, free of charge. The building is made of elegant reinforced concrete and was constructed in 1929.
Hokkaido University Museum北海道大学総合博物館
- Address Kita 10-jo Nishi 8 chome, Kita-ku, Sapporo 060-0810
- Phone Number 011-706-2658
Hours: 10:00 - 17:00 (until 21:00 on Fridays June – Oct.); closed Mondays (or the Tuesday following a holiday), 12/28 – 1/4, and other temporary closures
12. Taste Jingisukan for the first time
Jingisukan (pronounced "Genghis Khan") is a local dish made using sheep meat. There are two main types: one in which the meat is marinated in a sauce made with garlic, ginger, and apple before cooking it, or another in which the meat is dipped in the sauce after cooking. Jingisukan goes well with beer, so it's a real pleasure to eat in the lively atmosphere of a beer garden.
13. Shop at Tanukikoji
Tanukikoji Shopping Street is the oldest shopping street in Hokkaido and one of the best places to go shopping in Sapporo. This long arcade extends from 1- to 7-chome West along South 3-jo. There are about 200 shops ranging from restaurants to souvenir and specialty shops, where you can enjoy shopping, eating, and drinking.
Honjin Tanuki-daimyo Shrine is located in 4-chome, and according to legend, stroking the shrine’s raccoon statue will bring business prosperity and ease in childbirth. There are other unique shops just outside the arcade from 8- to 10-chome, so why not stretch your legs a bit!
Check out the video below for more on Tanukikoji Shopping Street!
14. Eat Zangi
Zangi is fried chicken that has been seasoned with soy sauce or ginger. A kind of local soul food, it’s often served as a side dish at pubs, restaurants, and take-out shops throughout Hokkaido. It’s a simple dish, and you can enjoy a wide range of such seasoning, cuts, and portion sizes depending on which shop you visit.
15. Compare Hokkaido drinks
Sake is produced in various parts of Hokkaido, and varieties brewed using 100% Hokkaido rice are gaining in reputation. At the Chitose Tsuru brewery’s museum in Sapporo, visitors can learn how sake is made and sample some at the on-site pub. In addition to sake, other types of Hokkaido alcohol like beer, whiskey, wine, and craft gin are also available and it’s a great place to buy souvenirs.
Chitose Tsuru Sake Museum千歳鶴 酒ミュージアム
- Address 5-1 Minami 3-jo Higashi, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 060-0053
- Phone Number 011-221-7570
Hours: 10:00 - 18:00, closed New Year holidays
16. Enjoy the beautiful scenery at Hoheikyo Dam
Not only is Hoheikyo Dam Sapporo’s main water source, but it’s also a popular tourist destination where the surrounding natural beauty can be appreciated year-round.
In autumn, it’s a prime leaf-viewing site, and on Saturdays and Sundays, water is discharged three times a day in a loud, impressive display of sight and sound. Natural hot spring facilities near the entrance to the dam and authentic Indian curry sold at nearby restaurants make the dam an even more attractive place to visit.
- Address 840 Jonzankei, Minami-ku, Sapporo 061-2301
- Phone Number 011-598-3452
17. Make a Shiroi Koibito package
Shiroi Koibito Park is a facility where you can learn about and taste Hokkaido’s well-known “Shiroi Koibito” confection. There, you can also create your own Shiroi Koibito package in about 30 minutes using personal photos or those taken on-site. You can also make other types of souvenirs, perfect for creating fond memories.
18. Get a ski jumper’s view at Okurayama Observatory
Used in the 1972 Sapporo Olympics, Okurayama Schanze continues to serve as a ski jumping venue. When tournaments are not taking place, it’s also a popular observation site.
Riding the lifts used by athletes and taking in the scenery from the top of the jumping hill, you’ll almost feel like a ski jumper! You can also enjoy the superb view from mountain top restaurants and check out the museum dedicated to the Sapporo Olympics.
19. Check out the TV Tower’s TV Dad
Sapporo TV Tower has its own mascot – Terebi Tosan (“TV Dad”). There’s even a shrine dedicated to the popular character located on the tower’s observation deck, and the 3rd-floor “Nohohon Park” is covered with his image. There you can also take photos with an actual Terebi Tosan mascot, and the ground floor shop has plenty of Terebi Tosan souvenirs.
20. Savor some of Sapporo’s famous ramen
When asked about Sapporo’s characteristic foods, many peoples’ first response is “ramen.” Darumaken, located in Nijo Market, was founded over 70 years ago. Their delicious homemade noodles have a timeless taste and don’t use any chemical seasonings.
In addition to the shop’s original soy sauce flavor, curry-flavored ramen is also a favorite among diners. Due to Darumaken’s popularity, the noodles do sell out, so going there early is recommended.
- Address Nijo Market, Minami 3-jo Higashi 1 chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 060-0053
- Phone Number 011-251-8224
Hours: Open from 11:00 until food runs out; closed Thursdays
Sapporo has a wealth of attractive tourist destinations and experiences in addition to those listed here. If you have a friend in Sapporo, they may have their own top twenty, and after enjoying all the city has to offer, why not make your own list! Check out the video below for ideas on what else you can see in Sapporo!
Text by:minna no kotoba sha
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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