Planning a solo trip to Sapporo, Japan? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- The largest city on Hokkaido Island, Sapporo is home to nearly 2.7 million people in the metro area.
- The modern city is among the nation’s youngest, having developed from a population of just 7 members in 1857.
- It is the prefecture’s main political, cultural and economic channel.
- The city held the 1972 Winter Olympics, the first ever held in Asia.
- Nickname: The City of Ramen
- Currency: Japanese Yen (JPY).
- Spoken languages: Japanese.
- Best time to visit: from January to March for the wonderful snow season and the world-renowned Sapporo Snow Festival. Alternatively, visit from April to September for a pleasant, mild climate.
- Arriving via airport: New Chitose Airport (CTS) is served by Chuo, Hokuto Kotsu and Donan bus lines with tickets dependent on distance; JR bus Airport Express for ¥1,040 one-way. Taxis pick up passengers from the arrivals hall and charge ¥12,000-14,000.
WHERE TO STAY
- The best hostel for solo travelers in Sapporo: Untapped Hostel. Super clean (even by Japan standards), warm, friendly owners, and right next to the train station. Features an on-site restaurant and bookstore cafe. Book this one ahead of time (not many hostels in Sapporo, so the best ones fill up fast).
- Chūō-ku is the focal point of the city, a well-planned district awash in entertainment and culture through the many landmarks, which include the Sapporo TV Tower and Odori Park.
- Susukino is a fun congestion of bars, restaurants, karaoke lounges, teahouses and more, perfect for those who like to be central to the action.
- Sapporo is Japan’s easiest-to-navigate city, with city blocks named and numbered according to the point of the compass.
- The city’s organized transportation system consists of the subway, tram and privately-owned bus companies. One-day passes for unlimited use of the subway cost ¥800 while a one-day pass for unlimited use of the network costs ¥1000.
- The Hokkaido Rail Pass provides unlimited access to JR trains and buses in all of Hokkaido, with a 3-day pass priced at ¥15,000 and a weekly-pass at ¥22,000.
- Taxis are readily available around the city and can be hailed from the street. Meters start at ¥580 with a 20% surcharge between 23.00-5.00. Dial 881 311 or 581 2454 to pre-book.
- Drinking age is 20, and last call is 4 AM.
- Susukino is home to the largest and most varied entertainment scene, with bars open all night catering to the young professional crowd.
- Sapporo Station has a lively pub scene that caters to a casual crowd.
- Odori offers its takers a vibrant music scene, favoured by local and international bands.
- Great bars for foreigners: Bearfoot Bar (top pick), Rad Brothers, Beer Inn Mugishutei (craft beers), and Beer Cellar Sapporo. For a cool “Blade Runner” themed bar with a view, stop by Electric Sheep Bar.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Sapporo TV Tower watches over the city, a landmark that holds an observation deck at 90 metres, shops and restaurants.
- Odori Park is a symbol of Sapporo, a major cultural destination famed for its activities as it hosts the annual Snow Festival in February and the Bon and Yosakoi summer festivals.
- Sapporo Beer Museum is a museum dedicated to the history of beer in Japan and in particular to Sapporo beer, one of the oldest and most popular brands in the country.
- Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art hosts exhibits on contemporary art
- Sapporo Clock Tower is the oldest building in the city and one of the few remaining Western-style structures, a symbol of the American assistance received in developing the city.
- Nijo Market features fresh local produce such as Hokkaido melons and seafood such as sea urchins and salmon roe.
- Sapporo Art Park allows visitors to appreciate its outdoor museum, craft studio and workshops from a beautiful park setting.
- Moerenuma Park is the last wish by the late sculptor Isami Noguchi. The grounds feature several interesting designs, from the Sea Fountain to the Glass Pyramid and are a popular summer and winter destination.
- Hokkaido is the birthplace of Sapporo beer, first brewed in 1876 during the Meiji period.
- Shiroi Koibito is the ubiquitous souvenir, a premium sandwich cookie that translates to “white lover,” made with white chocolate between two wafers of shortbread.
- Great restaurants in Sapporo: Daruma Main Shop (griddle-cooked lamb), Sushizensusukinoten ($$$), Nagoyakatei Shiroishi-hondōri (conveyor belt sushi), Soup Curry GARAKU (Japanese curry), kohashi soba ($$$), Emmy’s Kitchen (best Mexican in town), Delhi Gardens (Indian).
- Crazy about Ramen? Head to Ganso Ramen Yokocho (Original Ramen Alley) and you’ll be spoiled for choice. A whole alley of ramen!
- Sweets/desserts: Bisse Sweets, Kitakaro L.
- Where to find good cheap eats: Ramen Yokocho is a lane packed with shops selling Sapporo’s famous ramen for budget-friendly prices. For great Yakitori on a budget, head to Kushidori Tokeidaidori.
- Dangerous areas: none – Sapporo is a very safe city.
Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days