If you hear about Hokkaido you will mostly think about the beautiful nature, good food and its biggest city Sapporo. But there is a second big city south of Hokkaido close to Aomori. Hakodate is a nice fishing city with an very old charm.
From Tokyo you can reach Hakodate with the new Hayabusa Shinkansen which runs directly to Hokkaido in around 3 ½ hours. Alternative you can also go there by airplane. Vanilla air has very reasonable flights to going to Hakodate.
I´ve been there during the summer and want to recommend the 10 best things to do in Hakodate:
1. Ride on the old tram
The first thing you will see when arriving in Hakodate is the very old cute tram running around. Especially if you are a train lover, you will really enjoy a ride on the tram. They have very old trams but also some modern. The old ones still have their old interior like the old wooden floor. Unfortunately the tram is very small, that´s why it is not recommended to bring big suitcases inside. There are only two lines running around most of the tourist attractions. You can buy a tram day pass for 600 Yen at the tourist information or pay the fee inside the tram. Every ride costs around 210 – 250 Yen depending on how far you are going. The pass also gives you some discount in some restaurants or you will get postcards for free at some tourist attractions.
Hakodate is popular for its Fort Goryokaku which has the shape of a star. The best place to see the whole Fort is from the Goryokaku Tower just next to the park. The tower is 107 meter high and has a nice viewing platform on the top.
3. Fort Goryokaku The star shape of the Fort dates back from the 16 th century. At that time many fortresses were build in Europe, which walls were surrounded around the whole city. By the increased use of cannons the structures of the fortifications were improved and star shaped forts developed. With the expansion of European colonies throughout the world, that form spreaded everywhere.
Nowadays there is no longer a fortress in Hakodate. Instead you can walk around a nice park, whose center is an old shrine. Many old fortress walls are also still there.
4. Night walk at the port
The harbor of Hakodate was one of the first opended to foreign people. That´s why many traders from western countries and also China moved later to Hakodate. The port with many ferries and nice yacht is very beautiful especially in the evening when all will be light up. There are also many nice restaurants and cafes from where you will have a beautiful view to the port.
5. Shopping at the Red Brick Warehouse
If you are already at the port you should visit the Red Brick Warehouse. Those old warehouses were used for trading long time before. But nowadays, you will find small shopping streets inside the warehouses. There are typical tourist shops but also some nice craft and art shops. Also you can find restaurants and small snack bars inside.
6. Walk around Motomachi
Just a few 100 meters away from the port is the residence area Motomachi. As soon as the port was open to foreigner, they build own houses in Hakodate. In the Motomachi area are many western style buildings and also some churches. Especially the old city hall looks very beautiful and you can also take a look inside. Motomachi is on a hill, that´s why you can have a great view over the city from there.
Besides the Fort Goryokaku Hakodate is also very popular for its amazing nightview. The best place to see that view is from the mountain Hakodate. There is a ropeway close to Motomachi which brings you to the top of the mountain. A roundtrips costs 1280 Yen, but watch out you will not be alone. It is amazing crowded with foreign tourist because that view is so popular. It is even possible to have an romantic date in one of the restaurants on the top of the mountain, but an early reservation is required.
8. Morning Market
Just a few meters away from Hakodate station is the Morning Market. You can get very fresh fish, vegetable and also fruits there. They have some small restaurants, which are selling the morning fish. Even if you don´t like fish it is nice to walk around the market.
One of Hakodates specialties is “ikameschi”. It is a japanese dish composed of squid cooked with rice inside. You can find that dish at most of the restaurants in a small or big version, depending on the size of the squid. Sometimes it is even filled with mochi rice which is my favorite.
10. Onuma Park
The Onuma Park is just 30 minutes by train away from Hakodate station. The park is famous for its picturesque islands, which lie in a lake as well as the majestic volcano Mt. Komagatake. The park is just a few steps away from the station. There are several hiking trails across the small islands. Alternative you can also take a boat trip or rent a bike. If you are deciding for the hiking trails, you will see many beautiful small bridges and water lilies everywhere.