Sapporo Travel Tips. An article sharing travel tips about visiting Sapporo. How to get there and more…
Sapporo is an unusual city. Not because of its location or its climate, food or its culture. As wonderful and unique as all of those things might be. It’s unusual because of how it came to be.
For a Japanese city it’s relatively young, founded officially in 1868. But in 1870 the government approached the United States for help in developing the city’s blank canvas. As a result, it is a city structure unlike anything else in Japan. With a city block grid system emanating from a large central park. Sounds familiar?
And as the city’s development progressed throughout the 20th century, that planning system was more or less adhere to. Resulting in the city we see before us today.
For a city that endures long and cold winters, there’s an admirable and undeniable warmth to Sapporo. That warmth radiates from its food, from its environment and its people. And if you spend some time here you’ll also notice a charm and quirkiness in this city that is immediately disarming and incredibly attractive.
How To Get To Sapporo From The Airport
Sapporo is served by New Chitose International Airport, located about 30 miles south-east of the city. Despite its small stature, the air corridor between this airport and Haneda in Tokyo is the third busiest passenger air route in the world. 9 million people a year fly between the two cities, making up nearly half of the airports total traffic.
The airport even has its own cinema. What a great way to take off the edge of normal airport proceedings.
No matter where you are coming from or going to, New Chitose International Airport is a highly efficient airport with strong public transport links into the city center. Your best bet by far is the Rapid Airport Service, which leaves every 15 minutes from the airport train station just underneath the arrivals.
The 37 minute journey will cost you just over a 1000 yen ($9). You buy your ticket from one of the machines in the terminal.
Alternatively, limousine buses operate door to door shuttle services from both the domestic and international terminals to the various hotels and landmarks in Sapporo. The journey can take up to an hour depending on your destination, but the buses are clean and comfortable.
Finally, while there are taxis, be warned that this is not a cheap option. The one hour journey from the airport to Sapporo will cost around 16.000 yen ($150).
Best Way To Get Around Sapporo
When you arrive in Sapporo, that unique grid system makes navigating the city extremely easy. With street addresses using the north = X, west = Y format. Even two of the subway lines appear to this pattern. With the Namboku Line running North to South and the Tozai Line running East To West along Odori, the city’s main thoroughfare.
Speaking of the subway, the Sapporo subway is a great way to get around the city. Single ticket start at just 200 yen ($2) and your fare is basically on how far you’re travelling. You can buy a subway only ticket, but you can also buy transfer tickets which allow you to switch between the subway and the streetcar or buses.
If you’re going to use the subway more than a couple of times, even for just a day it’s worth getting a one day travel card which for 500 yen ($5) on a weekend or 800 yen ($8) on a weekday gives you unlimited travel on the subway.
You can also get transfer one day cards which allow you to switch between the subway and streetcars and buses as well.
The sapporo streetcar service, which runs in a loop from the city center has been in service for well over a century. The earliest incarnation was the Sapporo stone horse car railway before the line was electrified in 1918 and it became the service that we know and love today.
Much like the subway, you can use your IC card to pay or you can put the exact change in the coin box as you leave the streetcar.
Taxis are abundant in Sapporo and you can hail one the old fashion way. Or you can use the Japan Taxi app.
Uber is not a thing in Japan, however if you have the Japan Taxi app you can use this to hail a cab pretty much anywhere. And also if you hail a cab just on the street and you find they’ve got a screen that supports the app, you can use it to pay for your ride. It’s really simple.
Best Places to Stay In Sapporo
Susukino: Nightlife and great food. It has become one of the biggest entertainment districts north of Tokyo and because it’s the entertainment hub of Sapporo, it’s very well connected to the subway and easy to find great restaurants, hotels, shopping and bars.
Recommended hotel: Ibis Styles Sapporo
Nakajima Koen: Central, yet peaceful and quiet. In the south of Sapporo is the Kakajami neighborhood with more of a relaxed atmosphere with parks and reasonably priced hotels. It’s a small district that most people stay in for the night, then travel to other places for attractions.
Recommended hotel: Sapporo Park Hotel
Kita Ward: Urban and connected. Located in the north Sapporo this region is more residential than commercial. It’s well connected to the railway system and also the home of the Hokkaido University. It’s ideal for anyone looking for a relaxed stay that is not too far away from the central.
Recommended hotel: Hotel WBF Sapporo North Gate
What To Eat And Drink In Sapporo
While you can of course get regional food on the staples we associate Japanese cuisine with like rom, sushi, noodles etc. The variety of the food is so broad to be almost unrecognizable when compared to each other.
Sapporo are no exception. The climate and geology on this island support an entirely different range of crop and livestock. And its relatively late settlements meant that the established culinary practices had yet to take hold. The result is a food culture that feels familiar, while being utterly unique.
The Nijo market is a great place to experience the best of Sapporo’s food offerings. The wonderful thing about this market is that you can get rice bowls with all kinds of locally sourced seafood that you can either buy to take home and cook, or you can have them in one of the beautiful rice bowls.
There are all sorts of combinations, but the classics are uni (sea urgent) and salmon roll. Or salmon sashimi and crab. The crab is the superstar of the sea food and is not to be missed. But you have to get there early. They open at 7 in the morning and by 10 it’s all gone. It’s not cheap, about 2500 yen ($25) for a set, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Sapporo as a city is known across the country as for its buttery, rich miso ramen. Now, there are ramen joints across the city, but you need to have ramen miso in the very place that it was invented. Ramen alley right in the middle of Sapporo.
Despite the slightly incongruous name the Genghis khan Mongolian BBQ is a classic Sapporo dish. Considered the favourite soul food of Sapporo, some people will have these grills in their homes. Unusual for the japanese cuisine, the primary meat is lamb from Australia or New Zealand. But in many cases you’ll be able to find locally raised sheep.
It pares greatly with beer, so what better place to consume in than in the Sapporo Brewery that serves the beer that made the city famous.
No matter how great the service and food was, do NOT tip. It’s considered extremely offensive and insulting in Japan. It can be interpreted that you are somehow better than the person that served you or the service they provided was beyond what they normally provide.
Top 7 Things You MUST Experience In Sapporo
- Viewpoints and the Olympics
Sapporo has a plentage of viewpoints to experience the city from. It also hosted the 1972 winter olympics. And much of the infrastructure not only remains intact, but is accessible to the public. So if you’re gonna pick one vantage point it’s highly recommended to take the cable line up to the top of the former olympic ski jumping slope.
- Sapporo Beer Museum
Sapporo is Japan’s oldest beer brand. Founded in 1876 by Siebei Nakagawa. At just 17 years old he traveled alone to Germany to learn the craft that would make him and ultimately his city world famous. Visit the museum to learn the history of how it all got started and to get a taste of the city’s fine local beers.
- Odori Park
Lush green area with year-round events. A beautiful way to spend an hour or two relaxing and taking an afternoon walk.
- Yuki Matsuri
A festival that is held every February, which is one of Japan’s top festivals. Since its beginnings in 1950 where students built snow sculptures – it now holds an international snow sculpture contest and more than 2 million people visit annually.
A collection of historical buildings that shows the diverse experience of the 19th century Hokkaido. Victorian town halls, massive villas built in traditional japanese style and many more. Most buildings can be entered and it’s a great way to experience the local culture.
This large park on the outskirts of Sapporo is covered with attractive green nature and massive dramatic features that make this park a unique place. Pyramid glass buildings, huge fountains, and many more beautiful sculptures and landscapes that will make for a great afternoon spent.
- Historic Village & Hokkaido Museum
An open air museum in the suburbs of Sapporo that exhibits around 60 typical buildings from all over Hokkairo from 1868 to 1926. With four different sections: a town, fishing village, farm and mountain village. Located in Nopporo Forest park around 15 minutes from the central station.
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