Hokkaido Travel Guide Winter

10 Best Things to Do in Sapporo in Winter

The autumn months are over and winter has now begun in the Hokkaido region of Japan.

It’s that time of year again where you are offered to do a lot of exciting outdoor snow activities alongside celebrating Christmas and the New Year. This is also a perfect time to taste a list of delicious traditional Japanese foods. Don’t you think so?

Snow sculptures of Sapporo Snow Festival. Photo Credit: takako tominaga at Flickr.

Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido, is one of the coolest winter destinations in Japan. Every year, the city itself boasts of hosting world’s most popular snow festival “Sapporo Yuki Matsui” in early February.

Besides, if you want to soak up in Hokkaido’s winter spirit; feel free to head to one of the best ski resorts located nearby the city.

In Sapporo, while traveling around in the winter months, it’s also a good idea to take a break in the shops and find some unique souvenirs to buy for someone you care about.

1) Ski Resort in Sapporo

Skiing at Sapporo Teine. Photo Credit: SAPPORO TEINE.

You can’t imagine how popular Hokkaido’s ski resorts are until you pay a visit to one of the most notable ones located across the region. For example, Niseko is a paradise for skiers, snowboarders, and other individuals who especially like to experience various sort of winter sports.

In winter, not every visitor to Hokkaido is fond of skiing, and often they ignore visiting Niseko, but wish to visit at least one ski resort located nearby Sapporo. That’s not a bad idea though.

If your travel itinerary does not include Niseko, you must be looking for some that are very easy to access to from Sapporo city. Am I right?

In Sapporo, the ski resorts such as Sapporo Teine Ski Resort, Sapporo Bankei Ski Area, Sapporo Kokusai Ski Resort, Mount Moiwa Ski Resort, and Takino Suzuran Hillside National Government Park are considered the best places to enjoy an amazing winter day. Visit one of these ski landmarks in Sapporo, and fill your trip with many happy adventures.

To learn more about Sapporo’s top ski resort, I highly recommend you to read this guide here.

2) Sapporo Yuki Matsuri

Sapporo snow festival at Odori Site. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

This is not only the most important and highly valued winter event in Hokkaido but also in Japan. In fact, Sapporo city is best known for this winter festival which usually takes places every year in early February.

The Sapporo snow festival is an unmissable winter festival in Hokkaido, offering various sizes of snow sculptures ranging from giant to small with snow slides, ice skating rink, and live music performances.

The festival is so magical that you would definitely fall in love with. The Sapporo Snow Festival will take place in Sapporo city from February 4 to February 11 in 2024.

3) Hot springs (Onsen)

Jozankei Onsen in the winter. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Whether you believe it or not that Japan is a country of hot springs (onsen). Indeed they can be found everywhere! When you visit Sapporo in winter, one of the must do things is visiting a hot spring resort located nearby the city.

A visit to Noboribetsu Onsen is a must thing to do in Hokkaido in winter, don’t you forget it!

Here we are talking about Sapporo, so can you tell me the name of a hot spring resort located in Sapporo or at the outskirts of the city? You can gladly pay a visit to Jozankei Onsen, which can be reached from downtown Sapporo by bus/taxi within an hour.

Jozankei, famed for its autumn beauty, has indoor and outdoor onsen bath facility including foot baths.

When the weather becomes very cold, you probably would not think twice about staying warm by considering some very useful tips and ideas. And one of the best ideas is obviously taking a warm bath at a designated onsen in Hokkaido.

In addition, together with Jozaneki Onsen, Asarigawa Hot Spring and Shikotsu hot Spring are considered the most popular hot spring resorts in Sapporo.

4) Ice Fishing in Sapporo

Enjoy Ice fishing on frozen Barato River, Sapporo. Photo Credit: Welcome to Sapporo.

Do you love fishing? Ice fishing is one of the most exciting things to do in Hokkaido in winter. Therefore, it will be a great experience if you have not tried it before.

For ice fishing, you can make your way to Barato River. It takes half an hour ride by car from downtown Sapporo to reach this popular ice fishing spot and you will be provided all sorts of fishing equipment.

There will meet a guide who explains you everything you need to know prior to ice fishing.

The weather out there is cold enough to make you crazy about it, so wear warm clothes such as winter jacket, cap, gloves, muffler, sunglasses, socks, and so on.

Never expect to catch a lot of wakasagi fishes there, but a few! Time will tell how many fishes you can catch. You can spend half a day at the site. Enjoy ice fishing to the fullest and taste smelt fish tempura.

5) Mount Moiwa

Night view of Sapporo City from Mt. Moiwa. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Mount Moiwa is known for its picturesque night view over Sapporo city.

At its summit, there is a designated observatory from where visitors are offered to enjoy scenic night view of the city. To get to the summit from foot of the mountain, visitors have to use the ropeway and then mini cable car.

In addition, there you find a cozy restaurant. Order your favorite dishes from the menu and enjoy the evening eating out there and viewing Sapporo’s incredible night view from the observatory.

After a day trip to Sapporo’s most popular attractions, you may consider heading toward Mt. Moiwa after the sunset. That’s the best time and obviously the best way to enjoy the whole evening in Sapporo.

6) Sapporo Beer Museum and Sapporo Beer Garden

Sapporo Beer Garden during winter. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Sapporo Beer is one of the top beer brands in Japan. If there is one thing I enjoy about Sapporo food culture, that’s surly Sapporo Beer. The taste of Sapporo Beer cannot be expressed in words. That’s what I believe. You’d better try it yourself.

Opened in 1877, Sapporo Beer Museum is a unique landmark for anyone who loves to taste variety of beers while traveling the world.

It exhibits so many interesting things that include the history of beer in Japan as well as the process of beer making.

Next to the beer museum, there you find the Sapporo Beer garden. It’s a building that comprises several restaurants. The famous Hokkaido food – Genghis Khan/Jingisukan is served here. It’s one of the top 10 must eat foods in Hokkaido.

7) Sapporo White Illumination

Sapporo White Illumination. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Whenever you visit Sapporo, there is one place in the city that you can’t miss visiting. Guess what?! Have you figured it out already or I have to mention it here?

The main venue of the Sapporo White Illumination is held in the Odori Park, and this is the place you must visit during your stay in Sapporo.

The event provides a great Christmas and New Year Eve atmosphere with thousands of colorful illuminated lights, making the area a truly winter wonderland. The views of the illumination from the observatory of Sapporo TV tower are very mesmerizing.

Therefore, alongside talking a walk into Odori Park I highly recommend you to get to the observation platform of the tower, and enjoy the night views of the surrounding city and park.

8) Day trip to Otaru or Asahikawa

Otaru Canal during the Snow Light Path Festival. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Staying in a hotel located downtown Sapporo is much better when you think of planning some day trips from the city. For many visitors to Hokkaido, Sapporo is the right place to stay in.

The reason behind this is, from Sapporo it’s easy to make some awesome day trips to Otaru, Asahikawa, Jonzakei and so on. In fact, those three places are said to be the most popular day trip destinations from the city.

Otaru and Asahikawa can be reached either by bus or train, while getting to Jozankei is possible only by bus. If you want to make the most of your time in Hokkaido, visiting Otaru and Asahikawa would be a great idea, no doubt.

Whether you return on the last train or before, make sure you enjoy and experience everything you encounter. Please note majority of tourists visit Otaru from Sapporo as part of their day trip.

It also indicates that you don’t have to stay overnight there but in Sapporo.

9) Foods and Restaurants

Sapporo Ramen! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

I always believe that there are plenty of passions to run after in Sapporo. So far in this post, you have been suggested a number of things to do in Sapporo during the winter months and of course there are other things yet to be known.

There are many travel experts around the world who share their awesome travel stories that include day trip guide, places to eat, and must eat foods, budget guide, accommodation and transportation recommendation and so on.

If you are one of them, you certainly want to explore Sapporo’s best restaurants to eat out, and the foods that you must try.

To pursue your passion, you have got to know the must-eat foods of Hokkaido and best places to eat. For a perfect breakfast I tell you to go to Nijo Fish Market.

Locals and tourists like go there in the early morning and enjoy breakfast with fresh seafood of different kinds. To try famous Genghis Khan, you must visit Sapporo Beer Garden.

In search of best soup curry restaurant in Sapporo, you should head towards Soup Curry GARAKU. Make your way to Sapporo Ramen Kyowakoku (Republic), located on the 10th floor of the Sapporo Esta complex building. This is where you find many ramen shops to try various kinds of ramen dishes.

If these are not enough to put smile on your face, then ask me. I will share more with you.

10) Shopping in Sapporo

Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade in Sapporo. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

There are many notable places to shop in Sapporo. Most of them are good, while some are really great to explore to find some beautiful souvenirs. Tanukikoji – a shopping arcade, is the oldest shopping area in Sapporo.

I heard people saying that finding nice souvenirs at Tanukikoji shopping street is easy and fun. This is obviously the best place in Sapporo to find out cheap souvenirs.

Furthermore, you can go to Sapporo Factory, Sapporo Stellar Palace, Sapporo Central Wholesale Market, PASEO, and Sapporo Esta. Find other popular shopping areas in the city here.

Upon arrival at New Chitose Airport, you start experiencing the best that Sapporo has to offer during winter.

My favorite thing about this time of year is visiting snow festivals, onsen, eating out with friends, and walking in the snow. Thanks for reading and enjoy your holidays in Sapporo this winter!

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