Sapporo City Guide: Things to Do, Where to Stay, and How to Get Around 

In this Sapporo City Guide, you’ll discover Sapporo’s best accommodations, restaurants, and attractions. Plus, gain detailed insight on the best time to visit, the cost of travel, and how to get around while you’re there. Are you ready to start exploring?

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Jump Ahead:


Introduction to Sapporo

Sapporo sits on the west coast of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s islands. It was established in 1857 with a population of just seven people, but today boasts a population of nearly two million. It is the capital of the Hokkaido Prefecture.

Sapporo gained worldwide recognition in 1972 as the first city in Asia to host the Winter Olympics. It will also serve as one of the host cities for the Rugby World Cup 2019, with matches played in the Sapporo Dome.

Sapporo is renowned for its formidable ski pistes (a homage to the Winter Olympics), ramen noodle consumption, and for being the birthplace of the oldest brand of beer in Japan.

Japan’s fifth largest city offers many activities to enjoy and sights to observe – most of which depend entirely on the time of year you visit. Winter brings lashings of snow and annual ski festivals, while summer brings sprouting flowers and beer festivals in lush green gardens.

No matter when you visit, get ready to embrace the very best of Japanese culture, soak up the historical sites, and dine on traditional Sapporo cuisine.

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Fun Facts

  • Derives its name from “sat poro pet” which means “great dry river”
  • 20% of the city was destroyed during WWII
  • The Sapporo Snow Festival attracts two million visitors each year
  • Nicknamed “The City of Ramen”


Best Time to Visit Sapporo

Peak Season

The most popular and expensive times to visit Sapporo are the summer and winter seasons. In the winter you’ll enjoy ski festivals while the summer brings longer days and hotter weather. 

Winter Season: December – February

Summer Season: June – September


Shoulder/Low Seasons

If you visit Sapporo in its shoulder seasons, spring and autumn, you’ll enjoy reduced flight prices and fewer crowds. However, you won’t be able to enjoy the winter ski-season or the summer sun.

Shoulder/Low Seasons: March – May and October – December


Best Time to Visit for Festivals

Spring:

  • Sapporo Lilac Festival (May)

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Summer:

  • Hokkaido Shrine Festival (June)
  • Sapporo Odori Beer Garden (July/ August)

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Autumn:

  • Sapporo Autumn Fest (September)

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Winter:

  • Sapporo White Illumination (November/ December)
  • The Sapporo Snow Festival (February)

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Getting to Sapporo

You'll most likely arrive in Sapporo by airplane (certainly if this is your first stop in Japan). New Chitose Airport is the closest international airport to Sapporo at a distance of 48km. Once there, you can get to central Sapporo by subway, bus, or taxi.

How to Get to Sapporo by Subway

The subway station is on the basement floor of the domestic terminal building. Purchase a one-way ticket to Sapporo Station and board the Chitose Line. Trains depart every 15 minutes or so. Expect a 40-minute ride and a one-way cost of ¥1,070.


How to Get to Sapporo by Bus

You can also access buses on the first floor of the domestic terminal. Take one of the red-line bus routes into the city.

Bus stand numbers 14 and 22 will take you to downtown Sapporo. Bus stand numbers 13 and 20 will take you further east to Sapporo Beer Garden.

Buses depart every 15 minutes or so. Expect the trip to Sapporo to take just over an hour and cost around ¥1,030.


How to Get to Sapporo by Taxi

You’ll find taxi stands outside the first floor of the domestic terminal. Taxis are the most expensive form of transportation. A one-way fare to Sapporo will cost around ¥10,000.


Best Neighborhoods to Visit

Sapporo contains five main tourist districts and a number of smaller, off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods where you’ll find local fish markets, quirky coffee shops, and a number of hidden stores.

There are also a couple districts that provide a relaxing oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city center.

As with the rest of Japan, the city of Sapporo is relatively safe. You don’t need to worry about exploring on foot or traveling alone – though it’s always good to keep your wits about you!

Five Tourist Districts

  • Nakajima Koen: Nakajima Koen offers a calm environment surrounded by parklands and cultural attractions. You’ll find delights such as Nakajima Park, Sapporo Winter Sports Museum, and Sapporo Concert Hall in this quiet neighborhood.

  • Susukino: Head to the Susukino district for a slice of action and endless entertainment in the form of karaoke bars, restaurants, and teahouses. Come evening, this is the place to be to soak up the very best of the city’s nightlife.
  • North of Sapporo Station: Here you’ll find the majority of the city’s most popular attractions, including Sapporo Racecourse, Sapporo Brewery, and Hokkaido University.
  • South of Sapporo Station: Botanical Gardens, historical buildings, and exquisite architecture await you in the south. This area is the renowned administrative quarter of the city. The main attraction here is the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art.
  • Odori Koen: You’ll find the Odori Koen district in the center of Sapporo. This district is renowned for hosting some of the city’s best and biggest festivals, including the Summer Festival and Snow Festival. Visit the popular area known as Maruyama Park to explore its two sports stadiums, Shinto shrine, and the island’s oldest zoo.


football-icon-3Sports Fanatic?

Head south of the city to the Toyohira-Ku ward to explore the Sapporo Dome stadium. If you’re traveling to Sapporo for the Rugby World Cup 2019, you may want to book accommodation in Toyohira-Ku to be close to the stadium.


Medical Emergencies in Sapporo

If you need medical attention during your trip to Japan, you’ll find many medical facilities throughout Sapporo. Use the tool at the bottom of this page to find medical facilities for your language, location, and symptoms. Call your chosen facility to schedule an appointment.

Call 119 in situations where you need emergency medical attention and need to be transported. Operators at this number only speak Japanese, so you may need to ask others for help if you do not speak the language.

Japan has universal health insurance for residents, but visitors to the country will have to pay medical expenses out of pocket. Purchase travel medical insurance to reduce the impact of unexpected medical expenses covered by your plan.

Learn what travel medical insurance is or discover why you may need it for your trip to Japan.


Lodging Options in Sapporo

Whether you’re after a quirky apartment rental, a luxury 5-star hotel, or a budget-friendly guesthouse, Sapporo has a range of accommodations to suit all requirements.

Below are some accommodation options for the budget, mid-range, and luxury traveler.

If you’re in the city to soak up some of the best annual sports (including skiing, rugby, and football), we’ve also provided a list of accommodation close to Sapporo Dome.

Budget Lodging

  • Hotel Potmum Sapporo: On-site restaurant and bar, modern facilities, spacious rooms
  • Airbnb: Studio apartment, 10 minutes from Sapporo station, modern and bright
  • Airbnb: Open-plan flat, easy access to Sapporo station, clean and bright


Mid-range Lodging

  • The B Sapporo Susukino: Close to Odori Park, free Wi-Fi, simple decor
  • Airbnb: Central apartment, ideal for families or couples, sleeps three
  • Airbnb: Modern studio flat, city views, superhost


Luxury Lodging

  • Royton Sapporo Hotel: 5-star hotel, luxurious and sophisticated rooms, 3-minute walk from Odori Park
  • Airbnb: Ski chalet, 5-bedroom guesthouse, luxury countryside lodge
  • Airbnb: Luxury apartment, central location, modern amenities

Lodging Close to Sapporo Dome

  • Sapporo Park Hotel: 4-stars, on-site restaurant, 15-minute drive from Sapporo Dome
  • Hotel Sulata: 4-stars, modern resort, 15-minute drive from Sapporo Dome
  • Airbnb: Sleeps 6 people, ideal for a group of sports fans, close to Sapporo Dome and Sapporo Beer Museum


Transportation Options in Sapporo

Getting around Sapporo is relatively easy thanks to the city’s vast network of subway lines and public bus routes.

Subway

The Sapporo City Subway is the cheapest and most convenient way to explore the city. The subway is split into three different lines: Nanboku (green), Tozai (orange), and Toho (blue). The subway lines provide easy access to the city center and Sapporo’s highlights.

The City of Sapporo website lists all ticket prices. Prices for individual rides generally range from ¥200 to ¥370. City explorers will want to purchase a day-pass with unlimited rides for just one price.

As of the time of writing:

  • One-day pass: ¥830
  • One-day weekend/holiday pass: ¥520

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Buses

Buses let you explore the city while enjoying the sights as you ride. Hop aboard the Toshinnai 100 Yen Busto travel to some of central Sapporo’s best attractions, monuments, and museums for cheap. Purchase tickets at bus and train stations or onboard the bus.


Rail

Overground trains run across the entire island of Hokkaido. You’ll want to consider purchasing a Hokkaido Rail Pass if you’re planning to explore the island beyond Sapporo. The Hokkaido Rail Pass offers unlimited access to JR trains (including the airport subway route) across the island.

  • 3-day pass: ¥15,000
  • Weekly pass: ¥22,000


Car Rental

Car rental depots are available at the airport and in the city center for those who prefer to have their own vehicle to roam the city. This is easily the most expensive option, but it does give you more control and privacy.


Things to Do in Sapporo

You’re going to be spoiled with choices for things to do, monuments to visit, and attractions to admire during your time in Sapporo.

Here are some favorite attractions around the city, listed by category:  

Sports Venues

Sapporo Dome:

The city’s primary stadium for baseball and football events. Hosted the opening ceremony of the 2017 Asian Winter Games and will host Rugby World Cup 2019 fixtures. 

  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round
  • Cost: Observation deck entrance fee: ¥520
  • Address: 1 Hitsujigaoka, Toyohira Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 062-0045

Mount Teine:

Make the most of Sapporo’s ski season and enjoy the fresh white powder at Mount Teine. But skiing isn’t the only popular activity here. Snowboarding and tobogganing are big winter sports too.

  • Best Time to Visit: Winter
  • Cost: Sapporo Tiene 1-day lift pass: ¥5200
  • Address: Heiwa, Nishi Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 063-0029

Atsubetsu Park Stadium:

This multi-use stadium served as the main venue for the 44th National Sports Festival in 1909. It is currently used for soccer matches and holds over 20,000 fans.

  • Best Time to Visit: Spring – autumn
  • Cost: Varies by game
  • Address: 1 Chome-2-1 Kaminopporo 3 Jo, Atsubetsu Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 004-0033, Japan

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Art Museums

Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art:

Iconic art museum displaying contemporary art pieces from both local and international artists.

  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round
  • Cost: Adult admission: ¥510
  • Address: 17 Chome Kita 1 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0001

Sapporo Art Park:

Open-air museum, craft studio, and outdoor artist workshop.

  • Best Time to Visit: Spring/summer
  • Cost: Varies depending on exhibit
  • Address: Geijyutsu-no-Mori 2-chome 75, Minami-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 005-0864

Shrines

Hokkaido Shrine:

The most visited shrine in Sapporo and a popular spot for viewing cherry blossoms. Hosts the Hokkaido Shrine Festival - one of the largest festivals in Hokkaido.

  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round (mid-June for the festival)
  • Cost: Free
  • Address: 474 Miyagaoka, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 064-0959

Parks

Odori Park:

Gathering point and heart of the city. This green oasis hosts some of the city’s best festivals including the annual Snow Festival and Bon and Yosakoi summer festival.

  • Best Time to Visit: Summer or winter
  • Cost: Free
  • Address: Odori Nishi 1-chome, Odori Nishi 12-chome, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0042

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Asahiyama Park:

Escape the hubbub of the city with a stroll through this beautiful park, packed with plants and animals. Visit during the spring to see the iconic cherry blossoms. 

  • Best Time to Visit: Spring/summer
  • Cost: Free
  • Address: 4 Chome Sakaigawa, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 064-0943

Moerenuma Park:

Beautiful sculpture park featuring the work of Isami Noguchi.

  • Best Time to Visit: Spring/summer
  • Cost: Free
  • Address: 1-1 Moerenumakoen, Sapporo, Hokkaido 007-0011

Shopping

Tanukikoji:

1km street lined with over 200 shops.  The perfect place to shop whether rainy or sunny thanks to the outdoor roof.

  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round
  • Cost: Mix of upmarket and bargain basement stores
  • Address: Tanukikoji, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0062

Sapporo JR Station:

If you’re looking to grab a souvenir before you head home, the Sapporo Station shops are your best option.

  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round
  • Cost: Slightly pricey due to location
  • Address: 4 Chome Kita 6 Jonishi, Kita, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0806

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Nijo Market:

Fresh local produce including Hokkaido melons and sea urchins.

  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round
  • Cost: Free
  • Address: 1 Chome Minami 3 Johigashi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0053

Popular Activities

Sopporo Beer Museum:

Learn the history of beer production on the island and taste the country’s oldest beer brand

  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round
  • Cost: Free tour or paid tasting
  • Address: 9 Chome-1-1 Kita 7 Johigashi, Sapporo 065-8633

Sapporo Snow Festival:

A must-do event if you visit in February. The Snow Festival celebrates all things icy. It features ice sculptures, igloos, and ice castles.

  • Best Time to Visit: February
  • Cost: Free to explore, activities cost extra
  • Address: Multiple locations, primarily Odori Park

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Off the Beaten Track

Climb Moiwayama:

Moiwa Mountain is located just outside Sapporo city center. It is an excellent destination for hiking and other outdoor adventures.

  • Best Time to Visit: Summer
  • Cost: Free
  • Address: Moiwayama, Sapporo 064-0942

Scenic Views

Sapporo TV Tower:

Landmark attraction featuring observation deck, shops, and a restaurant.

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  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round
  • Cost: Adult admission: ¥720
  • Address: 1 Chome Odorinishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo 060-0042

Sapporo Clock Tower:

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Oldest building in the city and one of the few remaining Western-influenced structures. Offers panoramic views over Sapporo.

  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round
  • Cost: Adult admission: ¥200
  • Address: 2 Chome Kita 1 Jonishi,
    Chuo Ward, Sapporo 060-0001


Best Dining and Drinks in Sapporo

Sapporo is home to many restaurants, cafés, and bars serving local delicacies and an assortment of gourmet treats synonymous with the region. Get ready to dine on hairy crab from the seafood market, slurp ramen noodles from a food cart, and sip Sapporo beer in a late-night bar or beer garden. Sapporo is a foodie’s delight!

Where to Dine

  • Ramen Yokocho: A street lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants selling the famous Sapporo ramen noodles. A great place to grab a quick bite to eat for cheap.
  • Sapporo Jyogai Ichiba: From the outside, this market might look a little off-putting, but it serves some of the best hairy crab in town!
  • Hiraku: This elegant restaurant serves a delightful array of fresh seafood dishes. Opt for the Kegani dish to sample the local crab.


Where to Drink

  • Sapporo Beer Garden: Popular bar serving local beers and light bites. Charges a small entrance fee.
  • Odori: Bustling neighborhood with a vibrant music scene and plenty of bars with live music.
  • The Bow Bar: Perfect for a late-night drink, the low-lit Bow Bar houses a staggering number of whiskies.


Sapporo Delicacies You Have to Try

  • Shiroi Koibito: A sandwich cookie made with white chocolate and shortbread wafers.
  • Ramen Noodles: A miso dish that became synonymous with the city during the aftermath of WWII.
  • Hairy Crabs: Kegani (hairy crab) is served boiled and known for its sweet flavor. Kegani typically comes straight from the fishing waters surrounding Hokkaido island.

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"What Else Should I Know Before I Visit Sapporo?"

  • Smoking is banned across the city in the central districts, and the act is only permitted in designated smoking areas.
  • The legal drinking age is 20. Last call is 4:00 a.m. in most late-night establishments.
  • The best method of payment cash, not card. Exchange your money at home before departing. Keep some cash on you when exploring, but always split it into different pockets or bags. Hide the rest in your accommodation.
  • Some subway lines run women-only carriages. The only men allowed are children and elderly passengers. The Namboku (green) and Tozai (orange) lines both enforce this rule up to 9 a.m.


Explore Additional Resources for Your Sapporo Travel Adventure:

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