One of the main highlights of a visit to the island of Hokkaido is the chance to visit its capital city which is the mighty Sapporo. This part of the island is known for being one of the most exciting cities in this part of Japan and you can come here and enjoy both the modern and more traditional side of Japanese life.
The city is known for its winter themes attractions such as a winter festival as well as some stunning ski resorts on the outskirts of Sapporo. You can also try some of the delicious food that Hokkaido is so well known for including juicy hairy crabs, and this is of course the home of the iconic Sapporo Beer.
Despite the fact that the city has a population of around 2 million people, you will also be able to enjoy your own space in the many parks dotted across Sapporo and you can also get out into the surrounding countryside and enjoy mountain vistas which are studded with quaint traditional Japanese temples.
Here are the 25 best things to do in Sapporo…
1. Tour the Ishiya Chocolate Factory
If you want to do something a little sweet on your trip to Sapporo then you may want to visit the Ishiya Chocolate Factory.
You can take a tour of the facility and find out how they make the chocolate here, and their signature treat is the white chocolate known as ‘shiroi koibito’ which is a specialty of Hokkaido.
You can also dine in the onsite restaurant and enjoy a cake buffet as well as check out a robot show and a toy museum.
If you are travelling with younger visitors then this is definitely one of the top attractions in the city that is not to be missed.
2. Attend Sapporo Snow Festival
Sapporo Snow Festival is the main social event in the city and is known for its amazing ice sculpture competition.
The festival takes place every year at Odori Koen and starts at the beginning of February.
Visiting ice sculptors come from all over the world and you can also find attractions for children such as ice castles and igloos.
If possible come at night when the ice sculptures are illuminated with different colored lights, but keep in mind that it can also get rather crowded.
3. Walk around Asahiyama Park
Asahiyama Park is one of the prettiest of its kind in the city and is covered in a gorgeous flower garden which is a riot of color throughout the year.
The park is popular with amorous young couples, and the best time to come here is in the springtime when you can enjoy the gorgeous cherry blossoms.
If you are here in the autumn then you can also take in the burnt orange fall colors and this makes a nice spot to get away from it all and find a corner of calm in Sapporo.
4. Catch a game at Sapporo Dome
Sapporo Dome was the host of the FIFA World Cup in 2002 and now it serves as the home ground of a range of baseball teams such as the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
You may not immediately think of baseball when you think of Japan, but you will even find traditional snacks like hot dogs here and you can catch a number of games throughout the season.
If you are a baseball fan or just fancy seeing something a little different in Hokkaido then this is an excellent choice.
5. Check out the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art
Art lovers should make sure not to miss the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art which sits in the middle of a pretty park with rambling lawns.
The museum is dedicated to showcasing modern works of art which were made primarily by Japanese artists but you will also find some Western works on display as well.
They also have rotating galleries of visiting artists so make sure you swing by and check out what’s on when you are in town.
6. Buy some chocolate
Sapporo is well known on the domestic tourist scene and many locals choose to buy chocolate as a souvenir of their trip.
The signature treat in Sapporo is known as shiroi koibito which means ‘White Lovers’ and, as the name suggests, this is a kind of white chocolate which is smeared inside a wafer.
You can buy the chocolate all over Sapporo for a sweet taste of the city long after you leave.
7. Check out the Clock Tower
The Clock Tower is known for being one of the most iconic buildings in Sapporo and it dates from 188 when it was built in honor of what is now Hokkaido University.
There is also an explanation here of how the Clock Tower came into existence.
This is a very popular spot in Sapporo so make sure you leave some time here to take pictures as it can get rather crowded.
8. Visit Odori Park
Odori Park is the most famous green space in Sapporo and this is also one of the best loved spots in the city.
The park unfurls over some 15 blocks and you will find that it makes an excellent place to come and enjoy an afternoon stroll.
Odori Park is covered in trees, flowers and fountains and if you come here in the autumn you can also enjoy the gorgeous copper fall colors.
9. Check out the views at Sapporo TV Tower
Sapporo TV Tower is one of the most recognizable buildings not just in Sapporo but also the whole of Japan.
The tower is a rather surprising attraction in Sapporo as it is modeled on the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.
You can travel up to the observation deck here which is located at a height of some 90 meters and take in the gorgeous views over Sapporo, so this makes a good choice if you are new in town and looking to get an overview of the cityscape.
10. Tour the Sapporo Beer Museum
One of the main attractions in Sapporo is the Sapporo Beer Museum which showcases one of the city’s most famous beverages.
The museum is owned by the wider Sapporo Brewing Company and you can take a guided tour of the facility and learn how the beer is made and how it got its start.
There are galleries to fill you in on the history of the beer and you can also end by sampling a range of different blends.
11. Explore Hokkaido Pioneer Village
Located just outside the center of Sapporo is the Hokkaido Pioneer Village which is the place to come if you want to know the history of industrialization in this part of Japan.
There is an old model of a railway station here and many of the buildings on show date from the beginning of the 20th century.
There are also lush gardens here which make a great place to wander in the late afternoon and you will also find a number of dainty shrines on show.
12. Climb Moiwayama
Moiwayama is also known as Moiwa Mountain in English and this is one of the most magnificent mountains in the area.
It sits just outside of Sapporo and you can come here and take a cable car to the top so that you can enjoy the spectacular views back over the city.
Many people also choose to come here at night as the lights twinkling across Sapporo are truly magical.
13. Check out Nijo Ichiba
Nijo Ichiba is often billed as the fish market equivalent of the famous Tsukiji in Tokyo.
This is the place to come to check out a huge range of fish and seafood which is brought to the market fresh every day.
To make sure you get the best of the day’s catch you need to come here as early as possible and you can also find some delicious sushi restaurants dotted close to the market which sell amazingly fresh sushi and sashimi sourced straight from the market which is also much cheaper than many other spots in the city.
14. Explore Hokkaido University Botanical Garden
The Hokkaido University Botanical Garden is one of the prettiest gardens of its kind in the city and you will find a range of different attractions here.
There are several scenic rock gardens as well as a lilac garden and you can also check out a greenhouse.
There are other smaller gardens dotted around which are organized according to different themes and there is also a museum which will fill you in on some of the history of Hokkaido.
If possible try and get here in the spring time when everything is in full bloom.
15. Visit Hokkaido Museum
If you want to know more about the history of Sapporo and wider Hokkaido, then head to the Hokkaido Museum.
Here you can tour a number of galleries that will take you back in time and you can even check out woolly mammoths that have been preserved.
The museum also tells the story of the industrial period in Hokkaido along with some ancient steam engines and you can also check out the more modern side of the city with an explanation of its contemporary history.
Many museums in the area struggle with English signage but Hokkaido Museum has a range of interesting and engaging English explanations so that you will be able to get the full story of the history of this region.
16. Walk around Moerenuma Park
Anyone looking for a green space in the city should head to Moerenuma Park which unfolds over a number of acres and is a top spot if you want to relax and unwind.
The park is known for its lush lawns and is gorgeous attractions which are also rather unexpected at times.
One of these is a large glass pyramid which towers over five storeys and there is also a mountain here which you can climb and look out over Sapporo.
The park also provides free bicycles for visitors which is one of the best ways to take in the sights here.
17. Try the local food
The signature foodstuff in Sapporo is the hairy crab which is also called kegani.
The crab is fresh and delicious, although you need to note that it is not cheap! There are a number of famous crab restaurants all over town and you will be able to tell when you have found one as they usually have a large model of a plastic crab hanging over the door.
Ramen is also a famous here and comes with a miso paste stock for a salty kick.
You can also try the famous Sapporo soup curry which is basically a soup that comes with a curry sauce and this is one city that is known for its foodie scene in Hokkaido so whatever you choose you will not go hungry on a visit here.
18. Go skiing
Sapporo is known for its winter sports and if you want to go skiing then you need to head to Mount Teine which is the most famous ski mountain in the region.
This was also the spot where the Winter Olympics took place in 1972 and this is an excellent place for all kinds of skiers as there are some beginner, intermediate and advanced runs.
You can also try other snowy activities here such as snowboarding and tobogganing.
19. Sample the ice cream
Hokkaido has a famous dairy industry and this means that you will find plenty of ice cream in the city.
Adults looking for a more exciting kind of soft serve however are also in luck, as Sapporo has a range of ice cream parlors of a different style.
One of the best places to sample Sapporo’s signature ice cream is at Milk Mura where you will be served a mug of delicious ice cream which is presented to you along with a chaser of liquor.
You also get an ice cream refill here for free and can choose up to three different shots of liquor to go with this milky treat.
20. Visit Jozankei
If you want to get out of the center of Sapporo then consider a trip to Jozankei for the day which is around an hour away.
Here you will find a scenic satellite town which is known for its onsen and hot springs so this makes the ideal spot if you want to get escape the city and relax and unwind, and you can also check out the parks here.
These become a riot of color in the autumn and there are a few other spots of interest such as Houhaikyou Dam which also offers you some pretty vistas across the wider countryside.
If you are looking for a day trip when you are staying in Sapporo then this is hard to beat.
21. Stroll around Kaitaku-mura
Kaitaku-mura is the name for a neighborhood that is known for its gorgeous historical buildings and models that take you back to the Sapporo of old.
It is located in Nopporo Shinrin-koen and you can check out some amazing architecture from the 19th century here.
Some of the homes were built in the Victorian style while others are opulent merchants’ home that would have been constructed as a result of the riches of the herring industry.
One of the best things about touring this area is that many of the buildings are open to the public so you check out the interiors as well.
22. Have some fruit
Hokkaido is known for its dairy industry and also its delicious fruits and vegetables.
Sapporo is no slouch in this area and you can check out the local markets where you will find amazing produce such as strawberries and juicy melons.
Also make sure to look out for kuwanomi which are the local mulberries that come from Souen and are usually extremely sweet.
They are often made into a toothsome sticky jam which makes a great souvenir of a trip to Sapporo.
23. Tour Hokkaido Ainu Center
If you want to learn more about the Ainu who are the indigenous ethnic group from Hokkaido, then you need to head to the Hokkaido Ainu Center.
This is a small facility that belongs to the Hokkaido Ainu Association but they have a range of interesting galleries here that tell the story of their history.
You will also find artifacts on display such as textiles and jewelry.
24. Admire the Okura-yama Ski Jump Stadium
The Ski Jump Stadium is another famous spot in Sapporo and is known for its slope which was built onto the side of Okura-yama or Okura Mountain during the Winter Olympics in 1972. You can climb to the top of the jump which is located at a height of over 133 meters and you can also try a simulator in the museum here which will show you what it would be like to actually ski down this amazing incline.
25. Visit the 100th Anniversary Memorial Park
The 100th Anniversary Memorial Park is located close to the Hokkaido Pioneer Village so it makes sense to visit both of these at the same time.
The main reason why people visit the park is to try out the large tower that stands here and you can climb to the top and then look out over the rest of Sapporo.
This is also a good place to come if you want to check out some of the natural scenery here as the park is encircled by some of the prettiest mountains in the region.