In association with the Society for Promotion of Creative Tourism in Sapporo
The best things to do in Sapporo
Order a boat of sashimi
Creepy masks and vintage toys line the walls of this seafood restaurant, which serves up world-class fish. If you find it hard to plough through all that raw fish, ask them to cook up what's left for a change in flavour. Reservations recommended.
7F Kamiya Bldg, Minami 3 Nishi 4, Chuo
011 271 2694, 5pm-10pm, closed Sun & hols
End your night with a miso-flavoured slurp
A popular spot for post-booze noodles, Iso-chan is one of the Susukino Shin Ramen Alley's top shops and stays open until 5am (3am on Sundays). Don't miss the local speciality: miso-based Chuka Negi Ramen served with corn and a nice big chunk of butter.
Iso-chan: Inside of Shin Ramen Alley, Minami 4 Nishi 3, Chuo
011 533 4511, 8pm-5am (Sun 7pm-3am)
Peek at public art
Admire the impressive Glass Pyramid and other quirky open-air pieces at this extensive 'art park' designed by Isamu Noguchi. The place gets really snowy from early January to early March, but skis and snow shoes are available to rent.
Set your alarm for pastries
Organic-leaning, heartily topped pastries line the shelves, but you'll need to visit this newly opened bakery in the morning to get your hands on one of the super-popular breads – they'll all be gone by noon.
Pick out paper
Stocking more varieties of paper than we knew existed, Mabuchi is your one-shop stop for any and all letter-writing needs. Find it at the top of a flight of stairs, to your right as you enter the store.
Warm up like the locals do
Soup curry is one of Sapporo's best-known culinary inventions – sample it with shrimp-based soup and chunky veg at the funky Okushiba chain's original branch, which is set inside a traditional Japanese-style house.
Soup Curry Okushiba Shoten
See Sapporo's most famous building
Built in 1888, this red-brick neo-Baroque beauty makes a strong case for the title of most beautiful building in Sapporo, and the night-time light-up only adds to the splendour. There's a free museum inside.
Former Hokkaido Government Office
Taste a fusion monstrosity
'Ramen salad' is a popular izakaya dish in Hokkaido, and we have this eatery inside the Sapporo Grand Hotel to thank for the innovation. Try combining noodles and veg with a pint of Sapporo beer, brought in directly from the brewery.
Hokkaido Dining Big Jug
Descend into an arty tunnel
Alfresco art is everywhere in Sapporo, but some of the finest pieces are actually hidden underground: as the name suggests, this free gallery shows off local (and sometimes foreign) artists' work over a 500m stretch between Odori and Bus Center-Mae metro stations.
Sapporo Odori 500m Underground Walkway Gallery
Discover what lies beneath
This snake-like underground passageway is not only convenient on rainy or snowy days: it's also a popular shopping destination, with areas like 'Aurora Town' and 'Pole Town' set up to attract the masses.
Wish upon a padlock
Climb the 531m-high Mount Moiwa for a stunning view of Sapporo and – on fine days – Ishikari Bay. Couples who lock a padlock up on the deck and ring the 'Bell of Happiness' are said to live happily ever after.
Mount Moiwa Observation Deck
Lick the emperor's ice cream
Created exclusively for the Imperial couple back in 1968, the decadently rich Snow Royal ice cream can now be had by commoners as well – it's even available in parfait form. Also check out their amazing selection of other parfaits on offer.
Go apartment shopping
It may look like a normal apartment building from the outside, but each room here is actually a shop, café or workshop. Gather your courage and ring the doorbells – adventures await on the other side. Note: some shops only open on weekends.
Order a fish set for breakfast
If only the freshest marine treats are good enough for you – and fish for breakfast doesn't sound too offputting – this popular eatery inside the Nijo Fish Market is a must-visit. Head over from 7am and order the grilled fish set.
Nagamori: Minami 3 Higashi 1-8, Chuo
011 222 6733, daily 7am-6pm
Stick around for a puppet show
The first public puppet theatre in Japan, Nakajima Park's Kogumaza holds regular shows with entrance fees as low as ¥300, making it worth a stop even if you're just passing through the park. There are performances almost every weekend.
Sapporo Children's Puppet Theatre Kogumaza
Browse 9,000 records over lunch
A steadily growing record collection has forced it to relocate several times over the last 40 or so years, but this dedicated jazz café has always stayed true to its mission: to offer quality tunes and tasty grub to a diverse audience.
Put the fun into farming
This 'agricultural amusement park' aims to teach and inspire. Take a tour of the milk factory and try some freshly made soft serve in the building next door. Open from late April to early November.
Milk no Sato
Sip artisanal Joe in a traditional home
Home-roasted, hand-drip coffee in a gorgeous 70-year-old wooden house – your mid-afternoon break doesn't get much better than this. If you're feeling peckish, try the excellent croque-monsieur or something off the extensive dessert menu.
Enter the bear house
The polar bears are the stars of the show – especially the pup born in late 2014 – but this superb zoo also offers plenty more wild highlights. Look out for the new Africa Zone, open in October 2015. Kids aged 15 and under enter for free.
Ponder some rocky art
Sculpture collective Cinq has turned this former nanseki ('soft stone') quarry into a surreal outdoor art exhibit, complete with a Colosseum-like stone piece and several fortress-like structures. Rocky art can be viewed in the south area, while the north area offers an observation deck.
Ishiyama Green Space
Savour sublime sushi on the cheap
In Sapporo, even the conveyor-belt sushi is something else: the nigiri at Toriton go for as low as ¥130, but the quality can't be faulted. This branch is a little out of the way, which means you probably won't have to queue up to savour treats like local scallops and prawns.
Kaitenzushi Toriton Maruyama
Hunt down choice choc
Making the most of local ingredients, these Sapporo-based chocolate artisans' creations are treats for both the eyes and the taste buds. Their buttery, just-right Pain au Chocolat tends to sell out in the blink of an eye.
Munch on Sapporo soul food
It might not look like much at first sight, but locals swear by this chain eatery that deals in two Sapporo staples: curry and gyoza dumplings. Order the Miyoshino Set for a taste of both.
Say prayers amongst squirrels
Hidden among the lush greenery of a 20-hectare grove is one of Hokkaido's most important shrines, famed for its sakura and plum trees. June's matsuri (traditional festival) is a great time to visit – when you do, keep an eye out for the resident squirrels.
Crack a local brew
Craft beer is booming in Hokkaido, and the island's multitude of brews is best sampled at this laidback bar. Make sure to combine your pick of the six North Island beers with some juicy sausages or homemade liver mousse.
Beer Bar North Island
The best things to do in Sapporo
Kit yourself out for the chilly season
Sapporo offers a wealth of outdoor activities. Gear up for a weekend camping trip on the ground floor of this store, or head upstairs for pro-grade sleeping bags, tents and weather-resistant clothing – you'll really need the latter during Hokkaido's winter.
Combine beer with history
Swig a brew or two over some lamb hot pot in a historical building – this pretty structure dates back to 1890 and serves up delicious 'jingisukan' (a mutton dish named after the Mongol warlord Genghis Khan). The Sapporo Beer Museum next door is also well worth a visit.
Sapporo Beer Garden
Feast on curry at an onsen
Pure hot spring water and open-air baths? Sure, but the real draw here is the restaurant's heavenly curry, fastidiously crafted by Nepali and Indian chefs. More than worth the 80-minute bus trip from Sapporo Station.
Explore the flavours of Hokkaido
Fine French cuisine made almost exclusively with seasonal Hokkaido ingredients equals pricey, right? Not at the relaxed Moliére: prix fixe lunches start at ¥2,800 and dinners at ¥6,800.
Make a dozen toasts
Make your way around the dozen or so small watering holes and restaurants housed in this building just off the Tanuki-koji shopping arcade. Dishes range from soup curry to street grub with most eateries only opening in the evening.
Minami 2 Nishi 7, Chuo
Meet Japan's oldest barman
With almost 60 years of experience, Yamazaki, the owner here, is the oldest active bartender in Japan. He doesn't work every evening any more, but don't fret – his colleagues fill in with aplomb.
Fill up on working-class chicken
Beloved by the city's hungry masses, Hotei serves up ample portions in a no-frills atmosphere. Their fried Zangi chicken goes perfectly with sweet-and-sour sauce – but try it without condiments first.
Chinese Cuisine Hotei:
1-2 Minami 1 Nishi 9, Chuo, 011 272 4050, 11am-10pm (Wed until 2pm, Sat & hols until 9pm)
Show off your 'Made in Sapporo' wear
Dealing in fine leatherwares for a good 20 years now, Kusaka stocks a wide variety of items, but their bags are especially worth consideration. Products by local artisans and artists are plentiful at the shop, which also houses a workshop. Open Friday to Monday.
Turn on the romance over cocktails
Looking to impress a date? The selection of 59 cocktails combined with ultra gorgeous night views at this hidden gem of a bar provide the optimal setting. If possible, pick the second window seat from the back – you just might get lucky.
Moscow Mule Okurayama:
12-10-17 Miyanomori 4, Chuo
011 622 7577, daily 6pm-3am
Have award-winning paella
Although 'Japan's best paella' might not sound like a surefire quality guarantee, this two-time winner of said award actually does make rather excellent Spanish cuisine. Book in advance to taste their championship-clinching dish.
Munch on magnificent mutton
Committed carnivore? You'll have a field day feasting on the lamb shabu-shabu and other fine mutton dishes at this cheery izakaya. They also specialise in ramen with shabu-shabu soup.
Kita 7 Nishi 5, Kita
011 716 6801, daily 5pm-11pm, closed Sun and hols
Row a boat before bar hopping
One of the many parks in central Sapporo, this one offers everything from a concert hall to boating opportunities, and is located just a 10-minute walk from the city's central entertainment district Susukino.
Snack like a northerner
Old-school sweets are the speciality at the venerable Senshuan: try the bean paste-filled Northman, a pastry that hasn't changed much since hitting shelves back in 1974. Also take the opportunity to sip their fresh ground water, which they use in the bakery.
Detour to Cuba
Locals sing the praises of this unlikely eatery, which continues to conjure up authentic Cuban grub and quality mojitos far up in the frozen north. Look for the red, white and blue flag outside the door.
Nishi 6-8 Minami 3, Chuo
011 219 8870, daily 6pm-3am
Eat, pray, shop
A whopping 200 shops and restaurants line this 900m-long arcade that's come pretty far since opening in 1873. Grab a quick lunch, stop by Tanuki Shrine to pray for luck in business, or just take in the old-school vibe. The 7-chome area, with its Singaporean joints and izakayas, is great for bar-hopping.
Tanuki-koji Shopping Arcade
Dig for quirky finds
As the name suggests, this antique store sits along a highway. That ease of access just might be the reason it came to stock such an eclectic collection of items – from Ainu regalia to vintage furniture.
Trace the origins of a virtual pop star
Vocaloid geeks may know that Hatsune Miku was born in Hokkaido. Her parent company, Crypton, runs this café and shop that's stocked with official merchandise as well as items made by local artists. Free wi-fi available.
Appreciate juicy island beef
Meat lovers can't afford to skip this steakhouse, founded to introduce lamb-loving locals to the joys of fine beef. In order to ensure quality, all the meat used here comes directly from a single farm in rural Shikaoi Town.
Stroll through the heart of Sapporo
Cutting across the city centre, Odori Park offers the classic Sapporo photo op: a highway of greenery leading up to the landmark TV Tower. Summer sees beer gardens spread out on the lawns, while the famous Snow Festival takes place here in mid-winter.
Hike the art-filled hills
Hidden among lush hills outside the city, the Art Park combines an impressive contemporary art collection with an expansive outdoor zone (open late Apr-early Nov) featuring 74 sculptures. Wear comfy shoes and prepare to walk.
Sapporo Art Park
Play in the snow
Its waterfalls and flowers are beautiful in spring and summer, but where this park really shines is in the winter fun department: try skiing or sledding down a 200m tube at full speed.
Takino Suzuran Hillside Park
Travel to a strange past
What happens when you collect random retro paraphernalia for over 30 years? You have to set up a museum to hold all your stuff, which is how this place came about. Marvel at TVs, matchboxes, lingerie and more from days gone by – entrance is free and photography is allowed.
Retro Space Saka Kaikan:
3-7-3-22 Nijyuyonken, Nishi
11am-6.30pm, closed irregularly Sat, Sun and hols
Ride the rapids
Natural beauty is never far away in Sapporo – the banks of this urban river are always populated by pedestrians and cyclists, while daring rafters take to the waters in spring, from late April to early June. You might even catch a glimpse of salmon swimming upstream.
Stop for top seafood
Sapporo's streets are littered with quality izakayas, and this one, which is on the basement floor near the main station, ranks among the city's top seafood specialists. The appetisers alone are enough to introduce you to the rich food culture of Hokkaido. Imbibers will want to explore the extensive sake and shochu menu.
B1F Miyazawa Kogyo Bldg, Kita 7 Nishi 4, Kita
011 716 1000, 5pm-12pm (Sat and days before hols until 11pm), closed Sun and hols
Chat with culture connoisseurs
Functioning as a café, bar and arty lounge, Provo is a favourite hangout for many of the city's culturati. Regular events take place here, and the background tunes never disappoint.