One of the less as known cities in Hokkaido, Hakodate, is in fact one of the prettiest hidden gem Hokkaido has to offer. Livelaughtravel’s travel blog recently had an amazing opportunity to work with Hokadate’s International Tourism & Convention Association, and we asked them what are some of the best things to do and places within the city that a visitor must explore, and we gave them all a go. These are the top 9 things to do in Hakodate.
1. Mount Hakodate
We have all heard of Michelin star for restaurants/chefs, but do you know there’s also a Michelin Travel Green Guide that awards stars to location and spots that are deserving and recommended based off the same standards Michelin judges their food? Well, Mount Hakodate, is in the list and it was previously awarded 3 stars by Michelin’s travel guide as a must visit attraction.
Mount Hakodate is the crown jewel of the people of Hakodate and i’m almost 100% sure that when you ask a local on things to do in the city, they will almost certainly point you towards Mount Hakodate. The mountain itself stands at 334m tall and overlooks the city from the very edge. It is so high that you can see it almost instantaneously from the moment you enter the premise of Hakodate.
The top of Mount Hakodate has souvenir shops, a small theatre for concerts and movies, and a restaurant that allows you to see the city from a birds eye view. But the truth is, you do not need anything fancy when you have a view like that. In the day, you get to see the beautiful blend of blue skies, green mountains in the distance and modern civilisation comes together in one beautiful painting like harmony. In the night, the town likes up like a jewel in the dark, offering a spectacular breathtaking view of the entire city that is worthy on the back of any postcard.
There are 3 main ways to get to the top of Mount Hakodate. You can either drive (if you are self driving, on a guided bus or have a local driver), take the ropeway cable car up the mountain for a different ascending view or for the adventurous, you can trek up the mountain for an experience like no other.
2. Onuma Quasi National Park
Ok, so if I were to touch my heart and ask myself to pick any one of the 9 said attractions as my favourite, Onuma National Park has to be it. Of all the 9 attractions, this was one I truly enjoyed the most largely due to the view, the experience and also the timing in which we visited (Autumn/Fall), when the leaves were at it’s reddest and it was windy but neither too hot or too cold.
I’ve never been much for a city guy and I personally would choose nature/scenic travels over city visits any day. I love being able to stand in the midst of nature’s awe and just breathe in it’s beauty. So the good news is that Ōnuma Quasi-National Park has approximately 91 km2 radius of land and beauty for me to visit and breathe in.
The main 2 attractions & ways you can get around the park is either by bicycle or boat. Upon exiting the Onuma Koen Train Station, you would easily be able to spot bike rental shops within just meters from the station, where you can rent bicycles or tandem bicycles if you are traveling with a partner, that you can use to ride around the area for your very own “Winter Sonata” moment. I promise you it will be twice as romantic and amazing if you visit during autumn and the cool wind hits your face and autumn leaves fall around you as you cycle. I for one, lovedddddd that experience.
Alternatively, the national park also offers sightseeing boats that will take you around the lake. The boat ride lasts about 30mins in total and takes you to places that are not as easily accessible on foot. The boat also offers a scenic view of the active Mount Komagatake volcano.
But aside from taking the boat or cycling, I would still recommend people to take time to just walk around and explore the beauty of this entire area because if you are a fan of nature like I am, I promise you that you would love this place so much. My only regret of the day is that I did not spend allocate sufficient time to visit and walk around more areas of the park.
2.5 Table De Rivage Restaurant
As a sub point to Ōnuma Quasi-National Park; if you are visiting the park, you would also HAVE to dine at Table De Rivage Restaurant that is within the vicinity. Our blog focuses more on travel than our food blog, but we know good food when we have it.
The restaurant is a small cosy cabin in the woods that offers a relaxing ambience overseeing the lake and beautiful autumn leaves (if you visit in autumn) as you dine. They offer set lunch options and their beef stew was cooked to absolute perfection. The meat is so tender I salivate just writing this. A 10/10 must visit, but I would also recommend booking in advance as one of the Japanese guide I was with, told me that he tried to come here with his wife 3 times but it was always fully booked. That by itself, tells you how popular this place is.
3. Lucky Pierrot
A Fast Food Chinese Burger, whats so fancy? Well, try this.
So like most others, I walk into their store wondering whats all the queuing and hype about. On the plates of customers before me, all I see is an unassuming hamburger that really just looked like I could make from home if I wanted to. Then I started to realise the newspaper cuttings around the restaurant and started to wonder to myself if this burger could really be that good?
So I took my burger and sat down at the corner of the restaurant that oversaw the pier and started to dig in to my Lucky Pierrot burger, fries and drinks combo. With the very first bite, I immediately found out what THE hype was all about. The deep fried chicken fillet was fried so that it was crispy on the outside yet remains juicy on the inside. The chicken fillet is complimented by fresh lettuce for the extra crunch.
I thought I found gold, a hidden gem not known to the world, but I was wrong. The world actually already knew and I was the one keeping up. Lucky Pierrot was chosen as the Number 1 top hamburger not just in Hokkaido, but all across Japan. The Best Burger in Japan, right there in Hakodate, within an unassuming chinese burger chain.
4. Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse
Since you are already at Lucky Pierrot, cross the street and visit Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse. On the outside, it looks like a run down building that has nothing much to it. And that is very true because the warehouse was initially built in 1909 and the Hakodate people subsequently refurbished it to what it is today. Inside, it is a modern mall that has shops selling various souvenirs, food, gallery etc.
For those in the Instagram know, the warehouses would also make a good instaworthy location for you to take your photos for the gram.
Alternatively, there are also bicycles that you can rent to cycle along the pier in which the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse sits.
5. Goryokaku Tower / Goryokaku Park
The Goryokaku Park we know today wasn’t what it is today in the past. In the past, it was known as Goryokaku Fort and it was built way back during the Edo Samurai Era as a fort against imperialist western forces.
Surrounding the fort, are moats that were strategically placed to form a unique star shape design, viewable from the 107m high Goryokaku Tower. The Goryokaku tower also serves as an 360 degrees observatory deck of the entire Hakodate. Visit at sunset to capture the beautiful scene of the sun setting in the distance and it’s rays bouncing off the glittery surface of the star shaped moat.
What’s also interesting about the Goryokaku Park/Tower is that over 1000 cherry trees were planted around the moat making it one of the most spectacular places to view cherry blossoms in all of Hokkaido. In the other seasons such as autumn, these trees also showcases a beautiful array of red autumn leaves for a sight to behold.
6. Yunokawa Onsen Area
I personally have not met anyone who does not like Japanese Onsen, and I’m no different. Soaking in an Onsen is relaxing and have been said to provide medical health benefits, so people from around the world flock to Japan just to experience it.
So if you are in Hokadate Hokkaido, lucky you, because the Yunokawa area is famous for Onsens! It is literally an Onsen Resort area with plenty of Ryokans, Inns and Hotels catered just for this purpose.
What was particularly interesting for me was that if you have seen Livelaughtravel’s instagram, is that they actually offered FREE foot onsen areas directly by the road, where locals stop and soak their feet after a long walking day. Feel free to just join in the fun and dip your feet right in. The hot onsen water is god sent especially during the colder seasons such as winter or autumn.
For those wanting to taking it to the next level, you can also stay in one of the Ryokans that offer free onsen baths. We personally recommend staying at Chikuba Shinyotei Ryokan. It is a traditional Japanese Ryokan that serves dinner directly in your room. Their onsen bath is splitted by genders and offers both indoor and outdoor onsen baths you can dip in.
Find the cheapest rate for Chikuba Shinyotei Ryokan when you head to Hakodate here:
7. Motomachi Area
Fan of architecture? Looking for insta worthy spots? Wanting to take a nice stroll? If the answer is yes to any of the above, Motomachi area is the place for you.
The Motomachi neighbourhood is a peaceful area that allows you to take a quiet afternoon stroll while enjoying the sub urban view of Hakodate. The slopes in and around the area gives it an Asian San Francisco like vibe which makes it all very insta-worthy.
What’s also unique about the area is that you will realise that there are quite a few houses with a Japanese theme first floor but a western styled theme second floor. This is because of the history of Motomachi and how the local culture was influenced by the west.
8. Miharashi Park
The locals call it a park, but it’s really more of a huge garden with over 150 types of trees, flowers and plants. But i’m not going to bore you with details about the trees, instead, I want to tell you about how beautiful this place is if you visit during autumn. Miharashi park is widely accepted as THE place to visit when you visit Hokdate in Autumn. It offers the prettiest view of Maple leaves that come in an almost poetic mix of red, orange and yellow. To top that all off, this area is also opened and lit up at night so you can still enjoy the beauty of the leaves even in the dark.
9. Hakodate Morning Market
Hokkaido is surrounded by sea and is best known for their seafood; Hakodate being suited just by the coast, has the freshest seafood of them all. If you are a fan of seafood, Hakodate Morning Market is a must visit. Here you can find over 250 stores selling vegetables, fruits, souvenirs and seafood, which yes, includes the famous Hokkaido King Crab.
Think fresh seafood and fruits at a fraction of the price you get elsewhere. As you walk along the Hakodate Morning Market, it is also common to find purposefully built tanks of live squid caught that morning along the roads. You can try to catch one with a rod and if successful, the chef would then use it to turn into a fresh plate of squid sashimi you can consume on the spot.
The Donbori Yokocho area within the Hakodate Morning Market is also famous for it’s Seafood Rice Bowl; that is literally steaming rice topped with some of the local raw seafood.