Kanazawa is packed with first-rate sights to see, including one of Japan’s most famous gardens, as well as some great museums, and several beautifully preserved neighborhoods. Whether you’re looking for hidden gems, traveling alone, or want to tick off all the tourist attractions, this relatively small city offers something for everyone. Most of Kanazawa’s must-see sights are located around the lush green Kanazawa Castle Park and Kenroku-en Garden. Here are our top attractions in Kanazawa that should be on your must-do list.
A local’s favorite, this market is usually less crowded and more enjoyable than the famous Tsukiji in Tokyo and more spacious than the Nishiki market in Kyoto. Even though it is one of Japan’s hidden gems and lesser-known to most tourists it’s still packed with stall after stall selling locally caught seafood and a good selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you’re feeling hungry after exploring the top attractions in Kanazawa then Omicho Market is also the perfect place to visit. There are plenty of restaurants in the market where you can sample some of the stuff you see on sale.
English address: Aokusa-machi, Shimotsutsumi-cho
Kenroku-en Garden forms the green heart of Kanazawa and offers a large spacious garden with almost 12 hectares of lush, tranquil space to explore. The garden is one of the top three gardens in the whole of Japan according to locals. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a peaceful walk or to relax after a busy morning of exploring. The name means “six attributes garden,” which is a reference to a Chinese book that describes the six attributes of the perfect garden. One of the best things to do in this beautiful park is to just wander around, take in the picture-perfect vistas and explore the quaint traditional teahouses hidden throughout Kenroku-en Garden.
English address: 1 Kenroku-machi
D.T. Suzuki Museum
This monument and museum are dedicated to D.T. Suzuki who was the Japanese writer responsible for introducing Zen Buddhism to the West. It’s a great museum to explore if you’re looking for things to do in Kanazawa. The design of the museum as well as the many exhibits on display conveys the message of D.T. Suzuki and the religion he sought to explain to the world. This is the perfect place to find your Zen in Kanazawa as you walk around and contemplate the exhibits and empty your mind of distraction. Another highlight to look out for here is the water “garden” outside the museum, it’s always a favorite stop for visitors and you won’t want to miss out on this example of a fine traditional Japanese garden.
English address: 3-4-20 Honda-machi
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
This museum focuses on art produced since the ’80s and you can expect to see mixed-media pieces, videos, and installations that are playful, energetic, and thought-provoking. The museum holds a variety of display spaces and function rooms and the space is big enough to absorb the huge crowds that usually fill the place without it feeling over-crowded. The best time to visit this popular space is in the morning straight at around 10am just as it opens, and keep in mind that the museum is closed on Mondays.
English address: 1-2-1 Hirosaka
Kanazawa Castle Park
This park is well worth a visit if you’re searching for more lush spaces after visiting Kenroku-en Garden. Although nothing remains of the original castle today, there are a few more modern buildings standing throughout this hilltop park. The views alone make Kanazawa Castle Park a must-visit place. You can walk through some of the gates and climb up some of the reconstructed walls to enjoy the breathtaking views. On clear days, you can see as far as Mt. Hakusan.
English address: 1-1 Marunouchi
Higashi Chaya Area
Just a short walk east of Omicho Market or Kanazawa Castle Park, you’ll find the Higashi Chaya Area. This neighborhood is full of beautifully preserved geisha houses. Many of these houses have now been converted into restaurants or teahouses. This area is very popular and can get very crowded with tourists so the best way to explore it and is to stay clear from the main street area. If you’re really looking to explore off the beaten path during your visit to Kanazawa then cross back over the Asano River. On the north bank, facing the river, you’ll find the smaller and less crowded Kazuemachi Chaya Area, which is stunning.
English address: 1 Higashiyama
Nagamachi Samurai House Area
Another top attraction in Kanazawa is the Samurai houses in the Nagamachi Samurai House Area on the west side of the city, next to the Korinbo District. This is a neighborhood full of perfectly preserved samurai houses located along two canals that run through the area. Several of the houses have been restored and you can step instead of the entranceway of a few of them to get a glimpse of how a samurai lived back in the day. The best way to explore the area is to head north along the canal just behind the Kohrinbo 109 Building, then turning left at the first traffic light. From there head south again along the next canal. There are several restaurants and cafes scattered about for a quick bite or something to drink.
English address: Naga-machi
Commonly known as Ninja Temple or Ninjadera, the Myoryuji Temple was built by the Maeda lords, rulers over the region during the Edo Period. While the temple isn’t actually associated with any ninjas, it earned its nickname from all of its deceptive defenses. When the shogun imposed strict building restrictions as a way of weakening his regional lords, Myoryuji was designed to get around the restrictions and serve as a disguised military outpost. It was built with considerable defenses and escape routes so that its defenders could alert the castle in the event of an attack. If you’re looking for things to do in Kanazawa with the whole family then the Ninja Temple is a great place to explore with the whole family.
Kanazawa Phonograph Museum
This is one of the more unusual attractions in Kanazawa but a pleasant surprise, especially If you’re a musician or simply love antique stereo equipment. Across three floors you’ll find a great collection of old photographs that make up the Kanazawa Phonograph. There is a selection of amazing antique radio consoles from back in the day which is great for the kids to see, they’ll be surprised how far technology has come. Be sure to look out for the demonstration that takes place three times a day at the museum. A gentleman will demonstrate how several of the phonographs work which is fun to listen to. It’s a great place to visit with the whole family if you’re looking for things to do in Kanazawa with kids.
English address: 2-11-21 Owari-cho
Hashizume mon is the most important gate of Kanazawa Castle. It was restored to its former glory after over 130 years after it burnt down in the Meiji era. This gate also served as the main gate of the Ni-no-maru area. Although most of the castle was destroyed, today some of it has restored. You’ll find it close to Kenroku-en Garden which once formed part of the castle’s private outer-garden. The castle was the headquarters of Kaga Domain, ruled by the Maeda clan for 14 generations from the Sengoku period until the coming of the Meiji Restoration in 1871. It’s a great attraction to visit to get a glimpse of a bygone era.
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