A standard search engine returns more than 1 million results when you input the question “What to do in Sapporo on vacation.” Anyone who plans to see one of Japan’s most interesting cities, Sapporo, should spend some time before departure finding out about the best things to do while there.
It’s not enough to head to Japan with a simple list of “places to go.” You need pertinent details, honest opinions from someone who’s been there, and a narrowed-down list, not 1 million suggestions.
Five Things to Do, With Alternates
So, what are the five best places to spend your precious vacation time and money while in Sapporo? You don’t want to fork over a substantial sum of money and end up doing or seeing something you’d rather not see or do, right? That’s where the following list comes in. It’s your personal guidebook to the best stuff to do while visiting Sapporo.
Personal Taste Makes the Difference
Granted, not everyone has the same idea of “fun” or “interesting.” Some travelers want to spend most of their time outdoors, while others would rather go to museums and indoor attractions. Does a chocolate factory interest you? What about a beer museum, a park, a hopping nightlife district, a park, a market, or a breathtaking mountain landscape?
It all depends on personal taste to a certain extent, which is why the following list offers an alternative for each entry. Choose between the two and move on to the next item. Some travelers will have time to do everything, while others will have to be more careful with their schedules and choose accordingly. Here are the “top five” items, placed in pairs so you can choose as you move through the list.
Sapporo is Not a List
Keep in mind that Sapporo is much bigger than any list, especially one that only includes five or ten highlights. So feel free to add a little bit of your own research into the mix and come up with your itinerary. That’s really the smartest way to travel and allows you to use your time most efficiently.
1. Sapporo Beer Museum or Sapporo Art Park
One is more “family-friendly” than the other. Guess which?
Sapporo Beer Museum: Sapporo is known all over the world for its beer, which rivals German varieties for its deep flavor, full-bodied aroma, and awesome taste. Even people who aren’t big fans of beer will enjoy the Sapporo Beer Museum.
And you don’t need to be an adult to take the tour and discover exactly how beer is made. That aspect of the tour alone is well worth the time. After discovering how all those organic ingredients combine to become beer, it’s time to learn about the fascinating history of Japan’s beer industry.
The three-story museum costs nothing to enter and there’s even a small display about the history of Sapporo beer that includes signs, tools for beer-making, posters, and classic beer bottles. The in-house bar is on the second floor and there’s a wonderful little restaurant on the first floor.
Connected to the museum is a full-fledged outdoor beer garden and a shopping mall called Ario Sapporo. At the beer garden’s food stand, be sure to order one of Hokkaido’s most famous local dishes, the Genghis Khan. It’s fantastic mutton that you’ll never forget.
At the end of the tour, participants are allowed to take part in a beer tasting, which includes as much beer as you care to drink (or can possibly drink) in 30 minutes. This is by far the most popular part of the tour and one that past visitors love to talk about.
Sapporo Art Park: Sapporo is a town of many parks, but this one is special. Art enthusiasts fall in love with the place because it is simply a very exotic museum set in the woods. The small entry fee of 700 yen is quite reasonable considering all the amazing artworks you can view.
In addition to the huge circle of yellow “people,” one of the most intriguing works in the entire museum, there are nearly 100 other exhibits, ranging from sculpture to paintings and everything in between. For parents with children in tow, the museum offers several interactive art-related games and activities that are truly fun for the whole family.
2. Moerenuma Park or The Curb Market
Both are family-friendly, but kids will probably enjoy the park more than the market.
Moerenuma Park: A creation of famed artist Isamu Noguchi, Moerenuma Park is not a typical city park by any definition of the word. In the warm summer months, the park has a tiny beach within its perimeter, but the rest of the year it functions mainly as an outdoor museum and features several famous works.
The pyramid made of glass is one of the most photographed objects in Sapporo, but many of the sculptures are breathtakingly beautiful as well. There’s even a ski area in the park, playground equipment for kids, and various sports fields.
The Curb Market, aka “Jogai Ichiba”: Travelers to Hokkaido learn very quickly that the island is a place for skiing, snow, and food. The food in Sapporo is fresh, delicious and plentiful. Choose from seafood (the best there is), meat, fruits and vegetables of all kinds. Even Japanese who aren’t from Sapporo comment about how fresh and natural the food tastes.
The Japanese call this market “Jogai Ichiba.” The selection is unbelievable. Fresh, beautiful produce straight from the farm and seafood right from the ocean will make your mouth water as you walk through the large venue. As a tourist, you likely won’t have access to a kitchen but that’s not a problem. Just visit any of the dozens of restaurants on site and enjoy anything that struck your fancy during your stroll through the market.
The prices are reasonable and the food tastes great, so make sure to try at least one or two things that you are attracted to. Many visitors try salmon, sea urchin and other choices that aren’t available, totally fresh, in many places.
3. Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill or Mt. Moiwa
If you only have time for one outdoor scenic spot on a particular day, choose one of these locales. They both have spectacular views of the area.
Hitsujigaoka Observation Hill: Kids will fall in love with this “sheep park” where there’s a cute little chapel, a barn where the sheep can take refuge indoors, a giant statue of Dr. W.S. Clark, who helped build the local agricultural college, and a quirky gift shop that sells very cool souvenirs from Hokkaido and the local area. The view of Sapporo from this spot is one of the best you’ll get anywhere in the city.
Mt. Moiwa: Mt. Moiwa is a favorite of repeat visitors to Sapporo. There’s a cable car system going up and down the mountain, challenging hiking trails, and a spectacular view of both Sapporo and the Sea of Japan. As lookout spots go, this is the cream of the crop.
4. The Chocolate Park or The Hokkaido Historic Village
Kids and adults love both of these places so you can’t lose when you choose either one.
The Chocolate Park (aka Shiroi Koibito): The company that creates the famous Shiroi Koibito chocolate cookies owns this unusual sweets factory. Children absolutely love this place because you can see the chocolate being processed through the assembly line and made into white and dark cookies.
There are even some interactive sessions where you can create your very own sweet cookies. But that’s not all, because the “park” includes a wonderful restaurant and a fun gift shop that offers all varieties of chocolate candies and treats. If you like chocolate, you will enjoy this place a lot.
Hokkaido Historic Village: The village is more of a show than a place. It’s a very interesting stop on the far side of Sapporo that has been built as a near replica of what the city looked like more than a hundred years ago.
Take a horse-drawn trolley down the main city street, which will give you a clear view of all the old-style buildings made from stone and wood. There are harvest festivals and a complete atmosphere from Japan’s “Frontier Era” days of the mid-1800s through the early 1900s.
There’s also a museum on the grounds that displays hundreds of interesting artifacts from Hokkaido’s history. This little village is both educational and lots of fun, for kids and adults. It deservedly gets placed on just about everyone’s list of the “best things to do in Sapporo.”
5. Susukino Entertainment District or Takino Park
One is for the whole family, the other is for adults only.
Susukino Entertainment District: The premier nightlife and entertainment area of the city. It is home to the very best ramen shops in the region, the late-night bar scene, dozens of full-service restaurants, pachinko parlors, karaoke spots, and a few dance halls. For adults only, of course, but one of the best evenings out you’ll have.
Takino Park: If you’re not a “nightlife” person, then try Takino Park’s amazing variety of activities for the whole family. There are all sorts of interactive artworks like the gigantic “rainbow net.” Kids enjoy climbing on the massive crocheted creation and some adults do too. There’s an expansive green area for outdoor walks or picnics, depending on the weather. All of the art in the park, including the massive sculptures, are there to be touched and explored, which is why kids enjoy this place so much.
Think about Coming Back in a Year or Two
Sapporo is a large, bustling city full of incredibly fun things to do. You could spend a month just checking out the top restaurants, not to mention museums, entertainment venues, parks, and quaint neighborhoods.
Like any other Japanese city, Sapporo is a wondrous place to see for the first time. If you have a chance to return, as so many travelers do, you’ll have a better idea about your own, personal favorite spots in this city of beauty and excitement.