Hakodate is one of the oldest port cities in all of Japan. Located on the northernmost island of Japan known as Hokkaido, Hakodate is slowly gaining both local and foreign visitors. To help you decide what to do there, here are nine fantastic things to do in Hakodate, Japan.
How to Get to Hakodate
If you are coming from one of the other Japanese islands (including the major cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya, and Osaka), at some point, you’ll have to take the Tohoku-Hokkaido to get to Hakodate. To figure out your entire route, Google Maps and Apple Maps can help you out.
However, if you are coming from another city on the Japanese island of Hokkaido (such as Sapporo), there are many options to get to the JR Hokkaido station. Google Maps and Apple Maps will also be helpful in your navigation process.
Where to Stay in Hakodate
Four Points by Sheraton Hakodate
If you’re from the U.S. and you’re hoping for something familiar, try the Four Points by Sheraton Hakodate. Located just across the street from the JR Hakodate station, the Four Points by Sheraton Hakodate has a prime location. It also has a Western-style spa and a restaurant.
Room rates for the Four Points by Sheraton Hakodate start at 9,300 Yen (about $86) per night, depending on the season and availability.
Hakodate Kokusai Hotel
Overlooking Hakodate port, this modern-style hotel has a lot to offer. At Hakodate Kokusai Hotel, there is a breakfast filled with locally-caught seafood (Hakodate’s specialty), a relaxing hot spring, and delicious Japanese- and Western-style restaurants.
Room rates for the Hakodate Kokusai Hotel start at 12,709 Yen (about $118) per night, depending on the season and availability.
La Jolie Motomachi by WBF Hakodate
If you’re looking for a nice balance between Japanese influence and Western influence, La Jolie Motomachi by WBF Hakodate may be the accommodation for you. Between the elegantly decorated rooms and the lavish breakfast buffet, La Jolie Motomachi lives up to its name of “beautiful”. They even have a free smartphone rental service! That means, if you didn’t purchase an international data plan, they’ve got you covered.
Room rates for the La Jolie Motomachi by WBF Hakodate begin at 13,678 Yen (about $127) per night, depending on the season and availability.
Kappo Ryokan Wakamatsu
If you’re looking for a traditional Japanese hotel, Kappo Ryokan Wakamatsu is the option for you! Walk into a room with futon beds and wooden straw flooring. Relax by staring at the ocean view of the Tsugaru Channel, which is available from every room. Dine on several courses of traditional Japanese Kaiseki cuisine.
Room rates for the Kappo Ryokan Wakamatsu start at 33,637 Yen (about $313.52) per night, depending on the season and availability.
Capsule Hotel Hakodate
I suppose staying in a capsule hotel could be considered one of the things to do in Hakodate. Also located within walking distance from the JR Hakodate station, the Capsule Hotel Hakodate has quite a good location. The hotel also offers free WiFi, free bike rentals, and even a laundromat.
Capsule rates for the Capsule Hotel Hakodate start at 2,200 Yen (about $20.50) per person per night, depending on the season.
Things to Do in Hakodate
Catch a Squid at the Morning Market
Japan is well-known for its fish markets. The most popular one is Tsujiki Fish Market in Tokyo, but Hakodate has a fantastic fish market of its own. Hakodate Morning Market is bustling with vendors with live seafood, fresh seafood to cook at home, and cooked seafood to eat on the spot.
At the Hakodate Morning Market, there is a vendor with a large blue tub filled with live squid. You can pay 600 yen to catch a squid and have it prepared for eating within a minute! That’s definitely a unique animal encounter in Japan!
Pro Tip: Look for the vendor that uses fire to cook crab meat – that seems to be the most popular vendor for locals, regardless of which Japanese market you’re at.
Relax at the Yunokawa Hot Spring
Known as one of the best hot springs on the island of Hokkaido, Yunokawa Hot Spring is an amazing experience. The hot spring – locally known as an onsen – is completely natural. Locals of Hakodate come here throughout the year, as it is used as a public foot bath.
In the nearby area (but not at the Yunokawa Hot Spring itself), there is one of the most unique things to do in Hakodate. There is a small hot spring pool that is known to have Japanese snow monkeys that come to visit! They especially like to visit in the winter months to get warmed up.
Try Squid Ink Ice Cream at the Morning Market
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, Hakodate Morning Market has a couple of options for you and your taste buds. One of the most adventurous foods you can try at the morning market is squid ink ice cream. Ready to take on this culinary challenge? Keep your eye out for the signs!
Slurp Up Some Shio Ramen
One of the most popular Japanese dishes is ramen. This soup dish is popular in Hakodate because of its history as one of the earliest port cities in Japan. Shio ramen, which has a salt-based broth, is thought to have Chinese influence; hence, the importance of being a port city. There are tons of different little food nooks to get some delicious ramen in Hakodate, so go out, find one, and enjoy some!
Check Out the Slopes
No, I’m actually not talking about ski slopes. For some reason, the people in Hakodate really enjoy their roads with an incline. When I took a tour of Hakodate, the tour guide was constantly saying “this is the widest slope in Hakodate!” and “this is the oldest slope in Hakodate!” She did mention that one of the slopes was frequently used in Japanese movies, so perhaps that is part of the appeal.
Stare in Awe at the View from Mount Hakodate
Checking out the view from Mount Hakodate is easily the most famous thing to do in Hakodate. After taking a cable car to the top, Mount Hakodate provides a stunning view of the Oshima Peninsula and the Tsugaru Straits. The most famous view of Mount Hakodate is just around dusk when the lights of the city highlight the shape of the peninsula.
Visit the Famous Goryokaku Fort
The star-shaped Goryakaku Fort was built at the end of the Edo Period in order to defend against threats from Western countries. Not long after that, it became the location of a civil war between the shogunate army (those in power) and the Meiji government (those who took later took power).
However, the more popular reason for the Goryokaku Fort’s fame is the abundance of cherry blossom trees. Known in Japan as sakura, cherry blossom trees have become an iconic flower for the country. During the spring, the soft pink and white cherry blossom flowers bloom. In Goryokaku Fort, there one thousand cherry blossom trees, so, when they are all in bloom, it creates a magical experience.
Wander through the Rose Garden
If you don’t make it in the spring, you may be able to see the roses in bloom in the summer. At the Former British Consulate of Hakodate, there is a bright, colorful rose garden that is open to the public and will be sure to take your breath away (and hoard the storage space on your camera’s SD card).
Walk Among the Glittering Lights at the Hakodate Illumination
If you happen to miss both the cherry blossoms and the roses, perhaps you’ll experience the Hakodate Illumination. Each winter, the city of Hakodate decks out its streets in 50,000 twinkling lights! Add that to the freshly sprinkled snow, and you’ve got yourself a winter wonderland!
Have you ever visited Hakodate? Tell me about it in the comments! (I promise I’ll respond!)
Did you enjoy this post? Or are you planning to visit Hakodate in the future? Pin this post for later!
LOOKING FOR MORE JAPAN TRAVEL ADVICE? HERE ARE OUR FAVORITE JAPAN TRAVEL GUIDEBOOKS!
Disclosure: I may use referral links in this post, and I might make a commission on my recommendations at no extra cost to you.