Adventuring to Sapporo, Japan? The dynamic, urban city with plenty of rural, green space is not to be missed. As Japan’s fifth-biggest, northernmost city and Hokkaido’s capital, Sapporo is home to a thriving culinary scene, quirky cafes, a pulsing nightlife and kind-hearted locals. As one of the most-loved destinations in Japan, Sapporo is also close to Hokkaido’s scenic mountains, cherry blossom parks, hot springs and the beach. Abundant in attractions, Sapporo is a year-round city to be admired. Summer is the season for lush greenery, floral colours, smooth Sapporo beer tasting and food festivals, while winter sees the Sapporo population double for the annual Snow Festival. Here are the best tips for the top 10 things to do in Sapporo, Japan.
Enjoy the Natural Scenic Beauty of Nakajima Park
Nakajima Park is a long-loved local spot with backdrop views of Sapporo’s skyscrapers and behind that, the majestic Mount Moiwa. Among the city’s intermingling of land and water spots, Nakajima Park is a relaxing, nature-rich, green space near the city centre. For a break from urban life, head to the park for a leisurely stroll and vibrant colours whatever the season. The park is home to Kamokamo river and Shobu Pond, a large lake with rowing boats for hire and pretty ornamental crossing bridges. With around 5,000 trees, including Japanese red spruce, yew, gingko, Ezo mountain cherry, black acacia and Japanese Elm, the park presents plenty of opportunities for tree hugging. Nakajima Park also features the Sapporo's Kitara concert hall and Leonard Bernstein Place, dedicated to the US conductor, composer and music teacher. The park is serviced by two subway stops and adjoins the buzzing Susukino entertainment district.
See Odori Park during Sakura Season
Due to its location in the northernmost part of Japan, Hokkaido’s cherry or sakura trees are the last to bloom. Spring arrives in late april and the trees flourish until May. Odori Park is a great place to view the cherry blossom trees, and it is located in the central area of Sapporo. The park is a well-frequented spot and a quiet haven in the midst of busy city life. The iconic Sapporo TV Tower sits in the easternmost part of the park. Built in 1957, it gives a scenic 360-degree view of both the park and the city. From its observation deck perched 90 meters above the ground, you can also enjoy the prime views of Ishikari Heigen and the Sea of Japan. To see the cherry blossoms, head westwards, away from the TV Tower and enjoy the greenery, fountains and wildlife.
Ski and Snowboard in winter
With long winters, many locals can be seen taking to the Sapporo and surrounding region’s slopes. Sapporo Kokusai Ski area is a snowy playground found west of Sapporo, which many consider the best way to spend a winter’s day. From downtown Sapporo, Sapporo Kokusai Ski site is about an hour drive away and there are shuttle buses from downtown. The spot is popular with Sapporo and Otaru locals and can get pretty busy on weekends, but off-piste and backcountry areas present a quieter option for skiers and snowboarders looking to get away from packed terrain and piste runs. With plenty of on-mountain eateries, the Family Restaurant Rabbit, Cafeteria Squirrel, Casual Inn Woodpecker, and Mountain Top Café Cuckoo mean you won’t go hungry. If you’re travelling with a family, Sapporo Kokusai Ski has a snow play area which is great for children. Home to sledging, a snow town, mini snowmobile rides, banana boating and hour long tubing, they’ll probably want to stay all day!
Hire a Bike in Summer
Why not take a trip by bicycle during your stay in Sapporo? If you’re visiting between mid-April and October, the Hokkaido northern landscape and countryside roads are best explored on two wheels. The average temperature in mid-summer is about 22°C and it rarely rains - perfect for cycling. Porocle is a community bicycle service available in downtown Sapporo. Bikes can be rented from more than 40 ports, and returned to any port. The One-day Pass is convenient for sightseeing. Head to the Porocle Counter or the Hokkaido-Sapporo Tourist Information Center and take your mobile phone and a piece of ID to register. You can start at the Sapporo TV Tower, then find the Clock Tower and Red Brick Office in the north, the Nijo Fish Market and Nakajima Park in the south, Sapporo Factory and Chitosetsuru Sake Museum in the east, and Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine in the west. Cycling is a peaceful, environmentally friendly way to explore Sapporo and enjoy its intertwining of urban, rural and cultural spaces.
Eat Ramen in Susukino
Ramen Alley in Susukino is frequented by locals and visitors alike. Ramen, a steaming oily or creamy broth, with fresh mizuna, green onions, bamboo shoots, hints of garlic, pepper and ginger, melt-in-your-mouth soft chashu or sliced, roasted pork and juicy noodles is a firm favourite here. Best-eaten in Susukino, a neighbourhood known as one of Japan’s biggest entertainment districts, the dish can be followed by a visit to one of the districts chilled out bars, buzzing nightclubs or nighttime cafes.
Spend the Morning at Nijo Market
Nijo Fish Market is a community market in central Sapporo, open to the public from 7am daily. Both locals and tourists visit the market to shop for fresh local produce and seafood such as crabs, salmon eggs, sea urchin and various fresh and prepared fish. Dine at one of the markets many restaurants for a truly local breakfast experience. And make sure you try donburi. Don is a sweeping term referring to a dish of fresh raw seafood or sushi over warm rice. In most eateries, you can choose and order the seafood toppings of your choice. Order the local tsukkomeshi, shrimp, oysters or salmon roe. One of the most popular dishes in Hokkaido, Kaisen Don can be found easily in many restaurants, but is tastiest and most affordable at the fresh fish market.
Admire the Sculptures of the World-Famous Snow Festival
Held in the scenic Odori Park, Susukino Site and Tsu Dome Site, the Sapporo Snow Festival is an once-a-year winter paradise of enchanting snow slides, rafting, concerts, night time events, interactive light displays and extraordinary ice sculptures and intricate statues. Occuring in the first and second weeks of February, the Sapporo Snow Festival welcomes around 2 million visitors; sculpture and art lovers, families with children, solo travellers and Hokkaido locals. Odori and Susukino sites are open from February 4th to February 11th 2019, and Tsu Dome Site is open from January 31st to February 11th 2019. Sapporo Snow Festival tickets fly fast, so it’s advised to get tickets and accomodation booked as soon as possible in order to score them at a reasonable price. If you can arrive a few days before the festival begins, tickets will be cheaper. The dazzling crystal-like sculptures are at their most beautiful at the beginning of the week; so make sure to see them in the early February days.
Drink Sapporo Smooth at the Beer Museum
Sapporo Beer is one of the oldest and most loved beer brands in the world and therefore a must try when in Sapporo. It has been brewed in the city since 1877. The Sapporo Beer Garden, located within the Sapporo Garden Park is home to the“beer town” made up of heritage red brick buildings. The Sapporo Beer Museum, found inside, was opened in 1987 and is a former brewery and distillery from the Meiji Period. The museum introduces the history and development of Sapporo beer in Japan and the distillery process. For a taste of Sapporo’s world-famous beer, try the all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink option at the Sapporo Beer Garden. The main Kessel Hall main dining area has a unique ambience, with a brewing cauldron dating to 1912.
Visit the Historical Village of Hokkaido
An open-air museum on the outskirts of Sapporo, the Historic Village of Hokkaido (Kaitaku No Mura) features about 60 structures spread out over an area of 54 hectares. The period buildings are from the Meiji and Taisho eras (mid-19th to early 20th century) and have been recreated to present what life in Hokkaido was like when Hokkaido's development was carried out on a large scale. There are four different sections: a town, fishing village, farm village and a mountain village. With remarkable attention to detail, inside the buildings you can see fully furnished rooms with tools, books, equipment, and clothing consistent with the era. The reconstruction of past Hokkaido daily living is well worth a visit for a unique day out.
Leave Town and Visit Peaceful Ranshima Beach
Beach season in Hokkaido starts from late June and runs until late August. Of course you can go to the beach before or after this, but the shops, food stalls and bars will be closed and there will be no-one on the beach even if it is a glorious, hot, sunny day. Head to Ranshima Beach and visit the quaint beach located in a cove surrounded by mountains and trees. Approximately two hours from Sapporo city by car, Ranshima is a great option for visitors hoping to avoid the crowded, party atmosphere of Hokkaido’s more popular tourist beaches. With smooth sand and clear water, this beautiful beach is a must-visit for Sapporo visitors looking to unwind and relax by the sea.
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