In this post, we’ll help you find the best things to do in Hakodate to make the most of your time here.
Hakodate, the charming Japanese city, receives a lot of local and international tourists each year.
It is the first Japanese harbour city to have opened to international trade after the country’s isolation era.
Claimed to be one of the most beautiful spots for starting your journey, the city is situated in the shadow of the impressive Mount Hakodate.
The city includes everything from eye-catching sights, rich history, beautiful handicrafts to some of the most delicious food stalls in the world.
Another great thing about Hakodate is the amazing countryside surrounding it. This means that you can always plan your trip to the lush parklands, national parks and local villages if you have enough time.
READ MORE: Plan your trip to Japan with our comprehensive Japan Travel Guide.
The Best Things to Do in Hakodate
Here’s my guide to the top things to do in Hakodate for your first trip here!
1. Explore Mount Hakodate
Mount Hakodate is known for its night view and is a must-visit when visiting Hakodate.
To get to Mount Hakodate, take a ropeway from the base of Mount Hakodate. It will help you reach the summit in around 3 minutes.
The best time for the night view of the city is half an hour after the sunset. This is the time when the lights in the city are turned on and the sky turns to twilight colours.
Don’t miss this time as it makes for wonderful photographs and memories.
Enjoy the stunning night view and the contrasting city lights in the backdrop of the pitch-black ocean and the narrow terrain.
2. Walk Around Tsugaru Fort
Tsugaru Fort, located right at the top of the stunning Mount Hakodate, is the main highlight of Hakodate that you can’t miss when visiting.
You can easily reach the fort via a ropeway to get to Mount Hakodate’s top. Once you reach the top, walk past the west battery and hike towards the east and the south batteries.
You will also find a number of picnic tables just outside the fort to refresh yourself while enjoying the breathtaking views of the surroundings.
3. Try the Squid
As odd as it might sound, squid is the main highlight of the seafood in Japan. Hakodate lies just next to the sea which is why it is famous for its seafood.
You will find it as the main ingredient of almost all the dishes in Hakodate – and I’m not exaggerating.
The most renowned dish goes by the name of Hakodate shio ramen, which is ramen noodles cooked in a squid stock instead of the usual pork-based broth.
Ika-Meshi is another famous dish to try during your tour to Hakodate. It is a dish that contains stuffed rice with the ubiquitous cephalopod.
4. Tour Fort Goryokaku
Built in 1864, Fort Goryokaku is one of the first forts with a western-style design construction in Japan.
It has a star-shaped construction which you can explore only after climbing to the top and looking back over its structure.
The fort is not in the same condition as it was in the past old days. However, you can still enjoy it by going for a walk in the pretty cherry trees lined up along the pathways during the sakura season.
This becomes a wonderful sight during the spring season when the cherries blossom.
While it is equally mind-numbingly beautiful to wander around the blooming trees, I highly recommend making a trip up to the top to admire the beauty of the fort from above!
5. Shop at the Hakodate Meijikan
Hakodate Meijikan is the perfect place to shop for souvenirs. You will find tasteful items from glassworks, art boxes and handicrafts to teddy bears, along with all the other items.
Hakodate Seafood market is located nearby, where you can have fresh seafood as well as desserts. Among the desserts, Rusama-ya-Sweets is quite famous.
6. Attend the Port Festival
If you’re wondering what to do in Hakodate and you happen to be here in August, you have to check out the Port Festival!
The festival extends over 6 days and is considered as one of the main town events.
Unsurprisingly, squid dance is the highlight of this festival, along with Hakodate’s famous and best foodstuff.
7. Visit the Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse
Kanemori Red Brick Warehouse was once a storehouse. Now, it is turned into a shopping complex.
Visitors go there to shop for different items from fashion, household goods to the special Hokkaido souvenirs.
You can also try out soft-serve ice cream made with fresh milk. A hot tip is to spend your evenings here.
The area is well lit at night and makes for a perfect photograph come night. The pictures look especially dreamy during the rainy days.
8. Day Trip to the Nakamura-ke Residence
The neighbouring Esashi lies just 70 kilometres from the city and is one of the best day trips from Hakodate.
This Japanese part was famous for its herring trade during the 18th and 19th centuries. It used to be an important central hub in the old days.
To experience how this place looked like in those days, visit the Nakamura-ke Residence, a beautiful home constructed using cypress stone and wood.
It once belonged to a rich merchant and is quite well known since it was built with wood and stones without the use of any nails at all!
This makes it quite unique in construction and worth visiting for all the tourists that visit Hakodate.
9. Explore Motomachi
Motomachi, which used to be a trading port, is now a sightseeing area with various buildings. You can find the building’s design influenced by different cultures from American, Russian to English.
You can also find a Russian Orthodox Church by the name of Hakodate Orthodox Church depicting the influence of Russians in the region.
The church bell rings at 7 am every Saturday and Sunday morning. Interestingly, it is also listed as one of the 100 Best Soundscapes in Japan.
Take your time to explore and stroll through the streets of Motomachi that are a unique fusion of the Eastern and the Western culture.
10. Visit the Hakodate Museum of Northern People
Hakodate Museum of Northern People is situated inside a building that was once the bank of Japan. The construction goes back to 1926.
The museum is an ode to the Ainu culture, providing a beautiful look at the native culture which is unknown outside of Japan.
You’ll learn about interesting snippets of Japan’s past, including the primeval groups in Japan such as Sakhalin, belonging to an island located to the North of Hokkaido (currently part of Russia).
READ MORE: Check out this list of the best places to visit in Japan to add to your itinerary!
11. Meander through Onuma Park
Onuma Park, located just 20 km to the North of Hakodate, is a site worth visiting. It is known for its island-dotted lakes, picturesque volcano and the famous Mount Komagatake.
You can plan a one day trip to Onuma park from Hakodate or stop by it on a journey between Hakodate and Sapporo.
Many trains pass between the two cities at the Onuma Koen Station, the central railway station.
The most attractive point of the park is situated between the two lakes – Onuma (large lake) and Konuma (small lake). You can explore it easily by walking around it.
In fact, many walking tours are already available to help you explore the lakes’ islands and peninsulas, which are interconnected by small bridges in easy 15-60 minute walks.
You can also rent a bicycle at 500 yen/hour and 1000 yen/day. Going on cycling tours, you’ll be led around lake Onuma following the main road instead of the lakeshore for most of its distance. It still makes for a nice area to explore.
You can also enjoy sightseeing boating tours at 40 minutes interval during summers. Each tour is about half an hour long and really adds a lot to this list of the top Hakodate attractions.
Other activities which you can enjoy in the Onuma park include tennis, fishing, canoeing and camping.
12. Visit Matsumae Castle
Matsumae is a former castle town located west of Cape Shirakami, the south part of Hokkaido. It lies only 20 kilometres across the Tsugaru Strait from Aomori, Matsumae.
This town was known for its shipping trade and was protected by a garrison at Matsumae Castle, the only Japanese style castle built on Hokkaido.
Matsumae Castle’s original keep has been compromised many times over the centuries. However, it is reconstructed each time.
The current structure displays a selection of artifacts of the local Matsumae clan, with some items belonging to Ainu.
You can also find a theme park by the name of Matsumaehan Yashiki. This depicts the Matsumae town of the Edo period with 14 buildings such as a shipping agent, a magistrate’s office, a merchant house and a guard station.
You would also find life-sized mannequins in the park. Period costumes are also available for rent while exploring the town.
13. Stroll around Hakodate Bay
Hakodate Bay is another amazing spot present in this scenic city. Located between the Morning Market and the Motomachi district, you will love strolling here.
The view is scenic during the day and turns extremely romantic at night due to the presence of red warehouses’ lights.
Visit Meijikan, for a special experience. You will find ninja outfits and other funny dresses inside this shop.
14. Experience Autumn Leaves at Kosetsuen Park
Also known as Miharashi Park, it is one of the most amazing places to visit in Hakodate during Autumn.
You can get to the park by bus in 40 minutes. Experience the autumn leaves which are lit up from Oct to mid-Nov.
15. Learn History at Old Soma Residence
This is the private residence of Soma Teppei, a wealthy merchant. The English audio guide will tell you about Japanese culture and Hakodate’s history and you can see an elegant garden.
It is located near Yunokawa Onsen and costs ¥540 (round-trip).
READ MORE: Add these great things to do in Japan to your itinerary!
16. Wander the Hachiman-zaka Slope
Hachiman-zaka Slope connects a picturesque port via a hilly road. This particular slope in Japan is quite famous throughout the country and is definitely worth visiting.
You will see roadside trees illuminated during the winter. Come night, the light from the trees and the port also gives it a romantic touch.
17. Take a Hike at Mt. Esan
Mount Esan is a 618-meter-high active volcano. You can hike it for fun as it would only take an hour, making it one of the best free things to do in Hakodate.
It is part of Esan Prefectural Natural Park on the Kameda peninsula located far east of Hakodate.
18. Bathe at a Natural Sea Onsen
Mizunashi-Kaihin Onsen is a natural hot spring where tourists visit for a bath. Pack your swimming costume if you plan to have a bath here.
It is suitable for bathing in both the summer and the winter season, but only when the tide is low. Located near Mt. Esan, it is a little difficult to access.
19. Shop at the Morning Market
Taking a trip to the Morning Market is recommended for all shopping enthusiasts.
This market is famous for local treats including fresh seafood. You can buy fresh and juicy crabs in addition to dining at some of the most amazing seafood restaurants situated right next to the market.
I highly recommend reserving your lunch here as you cannot taste fresher Japanese seafood anywhere else.
One of the famous local specialties goes by the name of donburi, which is a rice bowl full of freshly caught seafood.
20. Eat at Daimon Yokocho
Daimon Yokocho is an alley with 26 restaurants. It is more of a food street that lies near the station.
This is the best place for experiencing Japanese nightlife and experiencing Japanese paper and bamboo lanterns that are well lit up during the night.
Hakodate Travel Guide
Now that you know what to do in Hakodate, we want to help you make your other plans as well by sharing the best time to visit Hakodate as well as the best accommodations and places to eat in the city.
Best Time to Visit Hakodate
Wondering when is the best time to visit Hakodate?
June, July, August and September are the best months for planning your trip to this beautiful Japanese city. The weather is quite warm during these months.
However, July and August are also the months when it receives heavy rains. The coldest months are in January and February.
For the swimming enthusiasts, the best time to visit Hakodate is during the month of August as it is considered the best month for swimming.
Best Places to Stay in Hakodate
All these places are ideal options for budget accommodations in Hakodate. The environment is clean and the food served at breakfast is typical of Japanese standards.
In other words, you won’t be disappointed!
Toyoko Inn Hokkaido Hakodate Ekimae Asaichi
With prices around $50 per night, this is a great value for the location. The hotel is located near a JR station and the morning market.
And it offers excellent breakfast, parking facility, Wifi and air conditioning.
HOTEL MYSTAYS Hakodate Goryokaku
This is a great budget-friendly choice.
It is another great choice as it offers all the facilities you would want including breakfast, an in-house restaurant, wifi and air conditioning.
Hotel WBF Hakodate ~ WATATSUMI
Conveniently located near the train station and also has a market nearby. You can easily eat from many restaurants located nearby.
Best Places to Eat in Hakodate
For grabbing the Yakitori lunch Hasegawa Store Bay Area is where to be. Everything here is in Japanese but thankfully, the instructions are in English.
The workers are more than happy to help you in ordering food. The food is highly raved and will certainly satisfy your hunger.
Asaichi Dining Store No. 2 is the best place for trying seafood at an affordable price. Located on the second floor of the morning market, it is conveniently located at a quick walking distance from Hakodate Station.
Shigechan Sushi is a small restaurant with a friendly environment and a delicious menu. This is one of the best sushi restaurants to try in Hakodate that promises an affordable price.
Rokkatei Goryokaku is one of the hidden gems in Hakodate. The cafe and the pastry shop are simply excellent.
Sushidokoro Kihara is an upscale restaurant that offers the best sushi in town. You can be sure of the freshness of the seafood.
L’oiseau par Matsunaga serves amazing food and top-notch service. One word to describe it – exquisite. An ideal place to bring somebody you’d want to impress.
Every dish is thoughtfully prepared at Ryotei Fumoto. They give meticulous attention to the presentation of their food and the ambience, service and food are highly raved about.