If you’re wondering what to do in Sapporo, we have you covered! Sapporo is the capital of Japan’s northernmost prefecture – Hokkaido. The most recently settled of the Japanese archipelago, this region was once home exclusively to the distinct ethnic group, the Ainu people. Today, however, Sapporo is about as Japanese as you can get.
With oodles of ramen in store for hungry travelers, a good collection of centuries-old Western-style buildings, and plenty of mountains with nature and ski opportunities, there’s a lot to do here. We’ve narrowed it down into the 15 top things to in Sapporo so you can streamline your trip!
The Best Things to do in Sapporo
Get the lay of the land at Sapporo TV Tower
One of the top Sapporo sightseeing activities is the Sapporo TV Tower. Much like Tokyo Tower, Sapporo’s 147-meter tall functional Eiffel Tower look-alike is a communications tower first and foremost. But it’s actually older than its capital cousin – predating it by two years – with construction starting in 1956.
Both of these towers were designed by Tachū Naitō, dubbed ‘Dr. Tower’ for designing similar communications towers in Nagoya and elsewhere.
But it’s not all about receiving terebi (TV) signals. You can go up to the viewing deck of Sapporo TV Tower at 90 meters to get a pretty awesome view of the iconic Ōdōri Park. You’ll also get a 360-degree panorama of Sapporo and the surrounding mountains.
- Location: Sapporo TV Tower
- Cost: ¥720
- Tips: Go for sunset and watch the city light up
Stroll along Ōdōri Park
Once you’ve seen the size and scale of the huge Ōdōri Park from 90 meters in the air, it’s time to head back down to the ground to explore it for yourself by the power of your own two feet.
This very, very long park slices right through the heart of the city, stretching on and on for 13 blocks – around 1.5 kilometers. Though it’s called a park, it’s actually a really, really wide street that was originally intended as a firebreak when it was created in 1871.
The seasons of Sapporo are reflected in the park. During summer, you’ll find lush green lawns where people enjoy their lunchbreaks (it’s right in the business district). In winter, it’s blanketed in snow. The park hosts many different festivals throughout the year and is home to more than 92 types of trees. It’s also where you’ll find a Christmas Market in December, you can come here and actually feel like you are at a European Christmas market!
- Location: Ōdōri Park
- Cost: Free
- Tips: Make a beeline for Black Slide Mantra sculpture
Test the brews at Sapporo Beer Museum
Sapporo is a city famous for its beer. There’s a company that’s even called Sapporo that brews beer – and it’s at the Sapporo Beer Museum where you can learn all about it… and try a few for yourself. The Sapporo Beer Museum is a Sapporo attraction that can’t be missed.
Set inside a brick-built sugar factory dating back to 1890, the beer museum charts the history of Japan’s first beer. Here you can learn all about the origins of Sapporo Beer, there are English and Japanese translations and even tours for ¥500 if you want a guide. You can try out a number of the beers brewed by Sapporo today – including the Sapporo Classic, only found in Hokkaido. You can even sample the Fukkoku Sapporo Bakushu, a pilsner brewed according to methods used all the way back in 1881.
Then head next door to chill out in Sapporo Beer Garden – for more sampling, of course, making for a perfect afternoon in the sun. Snacks are also available and there is a gift shop inside.
- Location: Sapporo Garden Park
- Cost: Admission free / Beers ¥200-300
- Tips: You don’t need a guided tour; much of the signage is in English
See historic buildings at Kaitaku-mura
For more history, and to see just how varied the architectural heritage of Japan has been over the past hundred or so years, a trip to Kaitaku-mura has got to be one of the best things to do in Sapporo.
Also known as the Historic Village of Hokkaido, this is essentially an outdoor museum with many reconstructed – and original – buildings dating over the past century and a half during the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa eras.
There are various areas to explore – from mountain villages to farmland and city suburbs. It really shows how much of an influence the West had on Japan in its early years of being opened up, with ornate Victorian styles to gawp at alongside traditional Japanese buildings.
This site is backed by the Nopporo Forest Park, which is full of easy trails that can be explored even in winter.
- Location: Kaitaku-mura
- Cost: Admission ¥800
- Tips: Try out the Winter Life Experience if you want to know about harsh wintery conditions!
Visit the Sapporo Snow Festival
Possibly the most famous thing about Sapporo (okay, maybe after its beer) is the Sapporo Snow Festival. Once more of a domestic affair, this huge winter festival is now truly international, attracting well over two million visitors each year.
One of the most iconic aspects of the festival are the snow sculptures in Ōdōri Park. Using around 30,000 tons of snow, the sculptures – also carved from ice – are made over the course of a month and range from fantasy castles to popular characters like Doraemon.
How did it start? Middle school students in 1950 began making sculptures out of all the snow that everyone dumped at Ōdōri Park from snow clearance. The rest is history, and today, each festival boasts over 200 sculptures from all over the world. The Sapporo Snow Fest usually runs the first two weeks of February and is one of the top things to do in Sapporo in the winter.
- Location: Ōdōri Park
- Cost: Free
- Tips: Book well in advance; hotels get full quickly
Admire the flowers at Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park
Sapporo, and Hokkaido in general, might seem to be a perpetually wintery destination, where there’s always snow and ice. But once winter passes and the snows melt, this 400-hectare hillside park comes into bloom.
A literal rainbow of colors spreads through the grasslands when various flowers – particularly different tulip varieties – bloom. It’s an easy to reach slice of spring and summer color. There are even waterfalls to discover as well as woodlands.
In winter, however, sometime around the Christmas period, this park changes its name to Takino Snow World. There’s even cross country ski courses here; short and medium courses for beginners and intermediates, and 10-16 kilometer-long courses for advanced skiers.
- Location: Takino Suzuran Hillside National Park
- Cost: Free (ski lift and rental are not free though)
- Tips: Go in summer for some truly vibrant photo opportunities
Play a game of park golf
Golf may seem like a weird way to spend your time in Sapporo, but honestly, this is one of those fun things to do in Sapporo that you should at least try once. The sport – if it can be called that – of park golf originated in Sapporo. If you’re wondering just what the heck that is, let us explain.
This is just like real golf, except you’re only allowed one club. The ball you hit is bigger than a golf ball but smaller than a baseball. The holes vary in length, complete with bunkers and greens. Sort of like mini-golf… but less zany.
Most towns in Hokkaido, where it’s pretty popular, are proud of their local park golf course, so just imagine the reaction when a foreigner turns up to play! It’ll be an experience, that’s for sure.
- Location: Hakkenzan Park Golf Course (in apple orchards surrounded by mountains)
- Cost: ¥300-500 a game
- Tips: Don’t take it too seriously!
Tuck into a big bowl of ramen
Though ramen is big news throughout Japan, Sapporo has its own way of doing things. In general, the broth here is famed for its miso (fermented soybeans) base – yes, miso, like miso soup.
There are other variations featuring shoyu or soy sauce based broth, originating at Darumaken at Nijo Market (still there), but miso is the thing that says Sapporo ramen like no other.
While you can get a taste of the history of Sapporo ramen at the slightly gritty Ramen Yokocho, Ramen Kyowakoku provides a cleaner, more touristy experience, where you can try Hokkaido-wide varieties. Menya Saimi is also a very famous standalone joint and a great place where you can eat in Sapporo.
- Location: Almost anywhere
- Cost: ¥750-1000 per bowl
- Tips: Don’t snack beforehand
Explore the leafy Hokkaido University Botanical Garden
One of Sapporo’s must-see sights, Hokkaido University Botanical Garden boasts 400 plant varieties spread over 14 hectares. It’s not just the sheer amount of flora to be seen here, but also the fact that this is hands-down the oldest botanical garden in Japan, constructed in 1886.
It began life when a student at the university traveled around Japan to collect native plants and trees. Accordingly, there are a load of different landscapes represented here, all set in gently sweeping hills.
Most interestingly of all, the garden displays around 200 herbs and other plants that were historically and traditionally used by the indigenous Ainu people as food and medicine.
- Location: Hokkaido University Botanical Garden
- Cost: ¥420 / ¥120 in winter
- Tips: On May 4 when admission is free!
Have a look at Hokkaidō Jingū
One of those Sapporo points of interests that you can’t miss is Hokkaido Jingu. Situated within the grounds of Maruyama Park, Hokkaidō Jingū – or Hokkaidō Shrine – was founded in 1869, making it one of Hokkaido’s oldest shrines. Originally, it was built to honor the ethnic Japanese pioneers who were exploring and charting this northernmost, Ainu-populated outpost.
While the shrine itself is pretty impressive, the surrounding nature steals the show, as it so often does at Shinto shrines. The mountainous setting is one thing, but the trees here are beautiful when the plum blossom and then cherry blossom springs into life; Maruyama Park itself is good for a wander.
The festival (matsuri) every June starts here: a procession of people in Heian-era (11th century) costumes carrying four portable shrines – or mikoshi – to the center of the city. Expect much revelry.
- Location: Maruyama
- Cost: Free
- Tips: Pick up cherry blossom tea as a souvenir
Ascend Mount Moiwa
Though there are pretty decent views of the city from the Sapporo TV Tower, you can get magnificent views from the top of 500-metre-tall Moiwa-san (Mount Moiwa). “How do I get up there?” we hear you ask. By ropeway, of course.
Well, it’s not just ropeway. It’s firstly by ropeway, for the first five minutes, then the cable car for two extra minutes over primeval forests, soaking up views of Ishikari Bay on the way.
The observatory on the summit is one of the top 100 places in Japan to view the moon from. It’s also an excellent spot for seeing the lights of Sapporo glitter after the sun has gone down.
- Location: Mount Moiwa
- Cost: ¥1700
- Tips: Go after dark (but go early)
Take a day trip to Otaru
Just outside Sapporo itself but close enough that it makes a super convenient day trip, Otaru is a cool place to visit. With its romantic, Western-style buildings, old warehouses, and canal, it’s steeped in history.
Otaru was actually the original terminus for Hokkaido’s first railway system, so – back in the day at least – it was big news. That was also thanks to the herring industry here, which is no more. Today the Victorian-style gas lamps and the grand Western buildings of Nichigin-dori provide remnants of its glory days.
For Instagram fiends, there’s the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival; every year in mid-February, tiny snow lanterns hide candles along the canal and other areas to beautiful effect.
- Location: Otaru
- Cost: ¥640 by train from JR Sapporo to Otaru (free with JR pass)
- Tips: Try bakudanyaki – a giant version of takoyaki (fried balls of batter and octopus)
Peruse Nijo Fish Market
One of the best places to visit in Sapporo is the Nijo fish market. Gone is the down-to-earth madness of Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. However, Sapporo has its own very busy, very local version in the form of Nijo Fish Market.
Pushing more than a century in age, what began as rows of fishermen selling their catch from Ishikari Bay is now a pleasingly loud and crowded affair of grocers, bars, and noodle stands.
Here, you can see locals picking up the specialty of Hokkaido crab, scallops, and sea urchins, amongst other delicacies of the sea. You can try out ultra-fresh sashimi and sushi either in lunchboxes made right in front of you, or even from samples.
If you can speak a bit of Japanese, or get lucky with an English-speaker, you can chat with the sellers themselves about the history of the market.
- Location: Nijo Fish Market
- Cost: Free
- Tips: Get there early (open from 6 am)
Discover the unearthly Moerenuma Park
Set to the northeast, 12 kilometers from Downtown Sapporo, is this unlikely candidate – unlikely because Moerenuma Park used to be a waste treatment plant set on the meandering banks of a river.
Though gross in origins, over the last 23 decades, the land has slowly been reclaimed from the wasteland it used to be, making it green again – green and arty.
That’s because it’s filled with weird and wonderful sculptures designed by late Japanese sculptor Noguchi Isamu. The Glass Pyramid is the icon of the park, while various other sculptures and water features are stark and eye-catching. This is one of the best things to do in Hokkaido if you’re a keen photographer or art fan.
- Location: Moerenuma Park
- Cost: Free
- Tips: Hire a bike (also free) to explore the park
Hit the slopes
Hokkaido is famed for having some of the best, most beautifully powdery snow in the world, providing some of the most prime skiing and snowboarding spots you’re likely to find anywhere in the world. Hitting the slopes is the best thing you can do in Sapporo in the winter! Seriously – we go back to Hokkaido every year – it’s that good! Sapporo has its fair share of places where you can get your ski on, of course.
The closest place to the city is a still-working relic of the 1972 Winter Olympics held here – Sapporo Teine. Quite literally on the edge of the city, and set on Mt. Teine, there are two zones here for different abilities. There’s the family-friendly beginner slopes of the Olympia Zone and the Highland Zone, for seasoned skiers.
Teine, however, gets crowded at the weekends. So it’s a good thing there are a total of six ski resorts in and around Sapporo. These include Mount Moiwa Ski Resort and the Sapporo Bankei Ski Area, the latter of which boasts English-speaking instructors.
- Location: Various
- Cost: Around ¥5000 per day for ski/snowboard rental
- Tips: You can get different/better ticket deals depending on your group size
Try Genghis Khan
Sapporo has so many great places to eat. We were wondering what to eat in Sapporo one night while there and figured we would give the famous Genghis Khan a try. Genghis Khan (Mongolian barbecue) is a Hokkaido local dish that consists of grilling mutton and vegetables on a unique grill that has a raised mound in the center. The most popular place to try Genghis Khan is in Sapporo and regarded as a soul food by locals.
Genghis Khan is more of a dinnertime meal and usually involves several rounds of beer to wash down all the flavors.
Genghis Khan is served tapas style where you can order as much as you like on an ongoing basis. You will also receive a side of delicious sauce to dip your meat and vegetables in. At the end of the meal, it is very common to drink that side of sauce signifying you are done and satisfied.
- Location: Sapporo Genghis Khan (Main Shop)
- Cost: Budget around ¥3000 per person for a good meal with beer.
- Tips: You’ll likely have to wait for space. Get to the restaurant before it opens and wait in line to ensure yourself a seat (we did this!)
Have Conveyor Belt Sushi
If you are curious what an extremely popular Japanese food is, let me introduce conveyor belt sushi.
Conveyor belt sushi is a quick and cheap meal in Japan. Sushi is made and sent out onto a train like a conveyor belt which will rotate around the restaurant. Guests can grab what they please and then at the end of the meal, the waitress will come to tally up the plates to give a total for the meal.
The plates are different colored, and the higher grade sushi goes on more expensive dishes, which is all color coded. Typically you can get two pieces of nigiri for ¥100 to ¥200, and then the prices go up from there depending on the cut of fish.
You can easily walk out of a sushi conveyor belt meal feeling stuffed off high-quality fish for under ¥1000. That’s the price of bad/mediocre sushi in the United States! We’ve tried many conveyor belt sushi restaurants traveling around Japan, but the best we’ve ever had is in Sapporo. Hanamaru Sushi is located inside the Sapporo Train Station and is extremely popular and delicious.
- Location: Hanamaru Sushi
- Cost: Get full for ¥1500 per person.
- Tips: There is almost always a wait for Hanamaru. Get here as early as you can so you can at least get a number and walk around the train station. We waited about two hours!
Enjoy a Yakitate Cheese Tart
If there is one dessert in the world I would fly half way around the world for it’s the Yakitate cheese tart only found on Hokkaido. Hokkaido is famous in Japan for their high-quality milk, and that means Cheesecakes in Hokkaido are renowned. They are all delicious, but I found the Yakitate Cheese tart to be the best.
This is a cheesecake baked in the oven after pouring cheese mousse in cookie dough. Then the outside shell is a crispy cookie, with the cheesecake in the center. There’s a Kinotoya Bake shop at Sapporo Station where you can get one (or six) and one at New Chitose Airport as well.
- Location: Kinotoya Bake Shop
- Cost: Get one for ¥140
- Tips: Get two – one for later!
Hit Up an Arcade
Arcades are everything in Japan, and there are plenty to stay entertained at in Sapporo. If you’re in the mood for loud noises, bright lights, and lots of virtual fun then heading to the arcade is one of the top things to do in Sapporo at night.
Here you can play all sort of games with your friends, play dress up, or use “the claw” to score a stuffed animal. The options are endless.
- Location: Various around Sapporo
- Cost: As much as you want to spend.
- Tips: Bring cash!
Discover what lies beneath the city
Sapporo is a sprawling city with two people. That’s very evident from just walking around the busy streets, but did you know there is much more underground.
Yes, going underground is one of the best things you can do in Sapporo, especially in the winter when you’re trying to escape the cold. Underground you can find endless shops, cafes, and places to eat!
- Location: You’ll find the entrances on many street corners
- Cost: Free
- Tips: In the winter this serves as a great way to get around the city instead of freezing above ground.
Where to Stay in Sapporo?
Sapporo has some fabulous Airbnb’s to choose. To feel more at home, we use Airbnb – you can check out some tips and read more about getting an Airbnb coupon code here. Or take this coupon for your first stay!r
Karaksa Hotel Sapporo
This hotel has a great location only a 4 minute walk from Susukino. It’s near the Susukino entertainment distric so is great if you’re after things to do in Sapporo at night. Rooms are spacious for Japan!
Hostel Ten to Ten Sapporo Station
This hotel is close to the University and has dorm rooms for those on a budget in Sapporo, but also private rooms if you want privacy!
What to Pack for Japan?
Delsey 24″ Spinner
Delsey makes my favorite hard side luggage, and after five years of travel around the world, they have yet to let me down. Plus their bags look incredibly stylish, have heavy duty wheels, TSA approved lock and two full packing compartments with tie-down straps and a zippered divider. If you want something different, check out our other favorite carry on luggage pieces.
Carry on Backpack
As far as design the Knack Expandable Backpack is one of my favorites in the travel world. Everything about this pack has been well thought out, and I’m impressed by the organization of the pockets and the ridiculous amount of features in such a small layout. Serious kudos to the designers of this pack. There are a lot of travel backpack companies popping up these days, but the vast majority of them are lacking in terms of build quality — not the case with this pack.
Travel Water Bottle
The tap water in Japan is clean, so there is no need to buy plastic water bottles and contribute to our world’s plastic problem. We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well and also keeps drinks warm when need be. See all of our favorite water bottles here.
Smith Lowdown 2
If you’re visiting during the summer, you will want sunglasses in Japan. Smith makes my favorites. The Chromapop lens technologyis like seeing the world with a fresh set of our eyes. They enhance contrast, reduce glare, and reflection for grand vision while driving, walking around town, or out on the water. We also love the style of glasses for anyone who likes to live an active lifestyle.
It is considered rude to wear your shoes inside in Japan so most places will give you slippers to walk around with once you take your shoes off at the door. However, I never found these slippers comfortable and would rather have my own from home.
You’ll be doing a lot of walking in Japan, especially if you are hanging out in cities like Tokyo, Kyoto, Sapporo, or Hiroshima. Make sure your feet don’t want to kill you and get a pair of good men’s walking shoes or women’s walking shoes.
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Japan. Our favorite pocket-sized point and shoot camera for quick trips are the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm. To up your photography game, a bit consider the Fuji X-T3. We just bought that camera and found the images to look amazing. Check out our other travel cameras here.
Check out some of the best sellers right now and pick up a copy. There’s nothing better than enjoying a good book under the comfort of a Japanese katsu table. I’ve recently upgraded to the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s small, has touchscreen functions, and a backlight so that I can read at night without a harsh glare.
Japan mainly uses the Type A plug like North America, but there is generally no socket for the grounded portion. Make sure you find a good universal adapter like the one I have to keep you charged. Otherwise, you may struggle to find one once you land.
We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage.
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