The wonderfully unique Hakodate, which opened its port in 1859 as a result of the 1854 Japan-U.S. trade treaty, is full of fascinating sightseeing spots and historical buildings that fuse Western and Japanese cultures.
It is impossible to see everything in a single day, so if you really want to enjoy Hakodate to the fullest, it is recommended to plan at least 2 or 3 days in this picturesque port city.
In this article, I will introduce the 24 best things to do in Hakodate Japan.
The totally unique Goryokaku was a fortress built to defend the Hakodate Magistrate’s Office, an office of the Shogunate that was established to oversee the north when the port of Hakodate was opened.
This was Japan’s first Western-style fortification and the reason for its unusual star shape is said to be because it was advantageous in eliminating the sight of attackers and it was more easily defensible against cannon attacks and invasion from enemies.
The Hakodate Magistrate’s Office was restored in 2010 and is the main attraction of the site along with the moat and surrounding parkland.
In spring, the area is famous for its 1,600 cherry trees in bloom, and in winter, the Dream of Goryo Star, an event in which the trees are lit up in the shape of stars, makes it a must-visit in Hakodate.
Here, next to the extraordinary Goryokaku park and fort the first tower was built in 1964 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the construction of Goryokaku. And the new 107-meter-high tower opened in 2006.
From the unobscured observation deck high in the sky, you can enjoy the beautiful star-shaped view of Goryokaku as well as the central Hakodate, the imposing Mount Hakodate, and the Tsugaru Straits.
The must-visit observatory is also pentagonal just like like Goryokaku and there are interesting exhibits where you can learn about the history of the area.
And don’t forget to test yourself on the scary see-through that allows visitors to see directly below.
This is one of the best things to do in winter as the view is breathtaking and the area is decorated with beautiful illuminations.
Hakodate Morning Market
The bustling Hakodate Morning Market is an early-rising seafood paradise close to the center of the city.
Early in the morning, you can see all the freshly caught seafood that Hakodate is renowned for.
The market is known as the face of Hakodate and began in 1945 when farmers in the suburbs began selling vegetables and fruits after the war.
The popular market was relocated repeatedly until 1956 when it moved to its current location.
With the addition of restaurants and stores selling delicious fresh seafood such as crab and salmon, the market became even more popular and now attracts about 5,000 visitors a day.
Popular items are often sold out before noon, so be sure to visit as early in the morning as possible.
The spectacular Hachimanzaka Slope is a famous street that has appeared in many movies and commercials and is named after the Hakodate Hachiman Shrine that once stood here.
The fabulous view of Hakodate Bay from the top of the hill combined with the rows of trees is spectacular, and the distinctive Hakodate Liaison Ship Memorial Hall can be seen in the distance.
The majestic Mount Hakodate is a famous night view viewing spot and is a must-see when visiting Hakodate at any time of year.
The scenic mountain rises 334 meters above sea level and juts out into the Tsugaru Straits. Hakodate is also called Gagyuzan which literally translates to the Lying Cow Mountain because from some angles it appears like a giant cow lying down.
A summit is an excellent place from which to view the amazing city of Hakodate which spreads out in a colossal fan shape.
This is no doubt one of the best things to do in Hakodate and as an attraction, it was given 3 stars by the Michelin Green Guide Japon.
Both the view at night and during the day is spectacular and around sunset is amazing.
The mountain can be climbed in about an hour each way, and there are many hiking trails that make it a great hiking spot as well. For the less active there’s also a ropeway.
Mount Hakodate Ropeway
The impressive Mount Hakodate can be reached by bus, cab, or even hiking but the most efficient and spectacular way to reach the summit is by ropeway which takes about 3 minutes as you ascend through the air.
There is also a restaurant at the top of the mountain at the ropeway station where you can enjoy a meal while taking in the spectacular view.
The ropeway stop is located in the Motomachi district and can be reached on foot along with a stroll around Motomachi and sightseeing in the Bay Area. From JR Hakodate Train Station, it is a 5-10 minute cab ride.
The Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse
The gorgeous Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse is one of the most popular things to do in Hakodate. The retro building consists of four sections: BAY Hakodate, a Western-style Museum, The Hakodate History Plaza, and Kanamori Hall.
The wonderful building houses a variety of stores and restaurants and the space is an extraordinary fusion of Meiji-era romance and new Hakodate culture.
If you’re looking for souvenirs or a quick snack, this is the place to go.
Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden
Hakodate Tropical Botanical Garden is a popular sightseeing spot in Hakodate and is famous for its resident monkeys who love nothing more than bathing in its hot springs.
The monkeys can be seen bathing from December to Golden Week in May.
In the botanical garden, visitors can view many rare tropical flowers and trees. In addition to the greenhouse, there is a children’s playground and a footbath.
This lush park with a panoramic view of the harbor below it is also famous as the place that gave the city its name.
Hako means Box in Japanese and the name Hakodate came from the fact that a box-shaped mansion was built in the present area during the Muromachi period.
The Hakodate Magistrate’s Office was located here during the Edo period, and later it served as the Hokkaido Hakodate Branch Office Building.
In early summer the area is a popular spot for roses, attracting many local residents and citizens and the former British Consulate is also on this site.
The park is a 5-minute walk from Suehirocho stops on the Hakodate City Tram.
Motomachi Catholic Church
The dazzling Motomachi Catholic Church stands along Daisanzaka Slope and is the oldest Roman Catholic church in Japan dating back to 1859.
The church is characterized by its unique Gothic-style steeple which was rebuilt in 1923.
The church has a solemn atmosphere, and the 33-meter tall tower, which seems to define the atmosphere, has a bell attached to it, which echoes in the exotic atmosphere of the port city of Hakodate
This is one of Hakodate’s most popular areas and both the Motomachi Catholic Church and Haristos Orthodox Church can be found here.
Although you are not allowed to take pictures inside the church, the exterior and the entrance are extremely photogenic
Hakodate’s famous and iconic hamburger restaurant, Lucky Pierrot, is very popular among locals and visitors that has won the Grand Prix local burger competition. Each of the 17 restaurants in the city has a different theme, and the interior is unique.
The most popular Hakodate-style local burger is the Chinese fried Chicken Burger with a sweet and spicy flavor. The burgers are made to order, so although it may take some time before they are ready, you can enjoy a freshly made, hot burger.
The educational Hakodate Museum is in the Former Kanamori Western Goods Store that was built in 1880 and features a nostalgic brick construction from the Meiji era.
The Museum’s exhibits include an extremely valuable Swiss-made music box that was purchased on a trip to Europe and the United States in 1892.
There’s also a fascinating diorama that shows the prosperity of the store during the Meiji era, a wax-tube phonograph, and even a fabulous old ice cream machine.
The expansive Hakodate Park is one of the most popular urban parks in modern Japan, with ample green space and featuring a monument to the poet Ishikawa Takuboku.
There’s also the municipal museum, and Hokkaido’s first stone bridge measuring approximately 10 meters along with a small zoo.
Old Hakodate Public Hall
Built-in 1908, this beautifully symmetrical wooden building is a graceful blend of Japanese and Western styles.
The elegant design conveys the splendor of the time and dresses and other costumes are available for rent, allowing visitors to take commemorative photos in the style of Meiji and Taisho Romanticism.
Former British Consulate in Hakodate
The former British Consulate in Hakodate was established in 1859, the same year the port of Hakodate opened to the outside world.
The fascinating building, with its mix of Western-style white walls and arched windows and its Japanese-style tiled roof, was rebuilt at its current location after 1913severalmber fires.
In 1940, Hakodate City acquired the facility from the British government and used it as a dormitory for es, and later, in 1992, the building was reopened and opened to the public.
Inside is the fascinating Kaiko-Museum, which shows what the consulate used to look like back in the day and what Hakodate was like when the port was opened to foreign trade.
After visiting the consulate, you can take a break at the Victorian Rose tea room and enjoy a relaxing English-style afternoon tea with a cup of authentic tea in hand.
The charming café is wonderfully decorated with antique furnishings imported from England and from inside the cafe, you can see a beautiful rose garden.
Until the middle of the Showa period (1926-1989), the Daimon area was Hakodate’s most popular entertainment district but with the decline of the fishing industry, the main drinking area was taken over by Honmachi in Goryokaku, and the area became completely desolate.
Then the enchanting Daimon Yokocho was opened in 2005 to revitalize the area. While retaining the atmosphere of the old bar area, Daimon Yokocho offers a wide variety of places to enjoy delicious food.
There are unique Hakodate-style sushi restaurants, seafood taverns, oden restaurants, ramen shops, Genghis Khan restaurants, international restaurants, and many more.
Each shop is small and compact, with an atmosphere similar to that of an old-time food stall, making it an unforgettable place for a drink or a meal.
The fascinating Trappistine Monastery is located on a small hill on the outskirts of Hakodate and from late April to mid-May, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, the pure white statue of Mary is a beautiful sight with the deep pink cherry blossoms.
The quiet atmosphere and the pure and innocent figure of Marija make a moving and refreshing scene.
Founded in 1898 as Japan’s first women’s contemplative convent, the present cathedral was rebuilt in 1927. You can tour the outer rooms and there is a store with some great milk soft serve ice cream.
The Trappistine Monastery is a famous cherry blossom viewing spot in Hakodate.
Onuma Quasi-National Park
For those with some time in Hakodate we highly recommend visiting Onuma Quasi-national Park. It is just a 30-minute ride from Hakodate Station on the limited express Hokuto train and is such a beautiful example of the ample nature that the wonderful island of Hokkaido has on offer.
At the picturesque Onuma National Park, you can enjoy the reflection of Mt. Komagatake on the mirror-like surface of the lake in summer and the frozen lake surface and snow-covered mountains in winter.
Canoeing, horseback riding, snowmobiling, hiking, and other recreational activities can also be enjoyed each season throughout the year.
Seiko-Hakodate Liaison Ship Memorial Museum Mashu-maru
The fascinating old Liaison Ship named Mashu Maru is located near JR Hakodate Station and the morning market.
The Mashu Maru, which operated in 1988, is moored at the former Hakodate No. 2 Quay, where the ferry actually embarked in its heyday, and is preserved and open to the public for viewing.
The mighty and proud Mashu Maru looks as if it could almost start moving at any moment and for an admission fee of 500 yen for adults, you can enter the ship and see the wheelhouse and radio communication room that have been wonderfully preserved and appear in their original state.
On the third floor of the ship is the New Salon Kaikyo where you can grab a cup of coffee while gazing out to sea.
Russian Orthodox Church
This is the first Russian Orthodox Church in Japan and was built as a Russian consulate and chapel.
The elegant Russian Byzantine-style building, designated as a National Important Cultural Property, makes a picturesque backdrop for photos with the sea in the background.
Yunokawa Onsen Hotsprings
The tranquil Yunokawa Onsen is one of the three major hot spring areas in Hokkaido and has a long history as a place to take a dip. The distinctive hot spring source water is vitalizing, and a large amount of water is produced naturally here.
Yonokawa onsen is easily accessible from Hakodate Station and Hakodate Airport, making it a convenient base for sightseeing in the area. There are a wide variety of accommodations, including some fantastic luxury ryokans.
Location: Yukawa-cho, Hakodate City, Hokkaido
Access: Approximately 25 minutes by bus from Hakodate Station
Where To Eat In Hakodate
Here’s the best places to Eat in Hakodate
Sukiyaki Asari Honten
This wonderful and long-established restaurant specializing in sukiyaki has a history of more than 110 years together with the nearby Asari Butcher Shop, which was established in 1901.
The restaurant’s motto is to provide quality meat for casual dining and you can taste carefully selected Japanese black beef in a rustic private Japanese-style room.
Address: 10-11 Horaicho, Hakodate
Business hours: 11:00 – 21:20 (last order at 20:30)
Lunch menu 11:00-13:00 (closed on Sundays and holidays)
Where To Stay In Hakodate
Hakodate Onuma Prince Hotel
This is a wonderful resort hotel located in the scenic Onuma National Park. The hotel boasts a full range of facilities including hot springs, golf, and zip lines, as well as dinner using local ingredients and a breakfast buffet with a variety of dishes.
More Things To Do In Hakodate And Surrounding Areas
Here are a few more ideas for the best things to do in Hakodate during your next trip.
- Attend the Hakodate Port Festival which runs for six days at the beginning of August
- Check out the modern architecture of the Hakodate city office
- Eat Hokadate’s famed fresh seafood including the squid dance dish.