If you’re looking for a twist to your typical Japan itinerary for first-time travellers, throw some of the best things to do in Fukuoka into the mix.
As a major city of over 2.5 million people, the most interesting tourist attractions in Fukuoka (also called Hakata) span everything from shopping malls, temples, shines, and even the ruins of a 17th-century castle.
Not sure where to begin figuring out what to do in Fukuoka? Start planning your trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Fukuoka!
Best places to visit in Fukuoka
Shop ‘til you drop at Canal City Hakata
While Fukuoka has many historic sites, one of the best places to visit in Fukuoka is a modern development. Canal City Hakata is a sprawling shopping complex designed to emulate a small city.
The shopping mall has numerous multi-story buildings housing hundreds of shops and restaurants along with a few hotels, a theatre and a game centre. It also features a canal with water shows every 30 minutes throughout the day.
The fifth floor of the complex includes the Ramen Stadium, a section containing eight different ramen shops with dishes from across the Kyushu region.
You could easily spend an entire day of your Fukuoka trip exploring this massive complex.
Get a bird’s eye view of the city from Fukuoka Tower
Fukuoka Tower is one of the more impressive Fukuoka points of interest. It’s the tallest building in Fukuoka and the highest seaside tower in Japan.
Completed in 1989, the tower was built upon reclaimed land near Hakata Bay and offers views of Fukuoka and the bay from three observation decks.
The second observation deck sits at 120 metres and includes a café and lounge. Enjoy a meal or drink while overlooking the city. Just keep in mind that the prices are a bit steep compared to other establishments.
If possible, try to visit the tower in the evening. The Fukuoka skyline offers a spectacular display of lights as the sun begins to set.
Explore the Fukuoka Castle Ruins
If you only have 24 hours in Fukuoka, don’t skip a trip to the Fukuoka Castle Ruins. While not much remains of the 17th-century structure, the grounds have become a beautiful hilltop park with panoramic views of Fukuokabelow.
While walking the paths of Maizuru Park, you’ll come to several of the castle’s gates, towers, and turrets. The area also has several modern developments, including a sports facility and an art museum.
The castle ruins are an important part of the city’s legacy. The Fukuoka Castle town developed around the castle and eventually merged with Hakata to become the larger city that it is today.
Catch a gentle sea breeze at Momochi Seaside Park
Located on reclaimed land perched on the southern shores of Hakata Bay, Momochi Seaside Park (Shisaido Momochi) is one of the coolest places to hang out in Fukuoka.
This attractive modern waterfront area was originally built for the 1989 Asia Pacific Expo and continues to be a Fukuoka hotspot for visitors and locals alike.
Momochi Seaside Park, also called Seaside Momochi, is home to a number of interesting attractions to while away the day including Momochihama Beach, Fukuoka City Museum, the MARK IS shopping complex, and Marizon, a man-made island featuring a ton of great restaurants and local shops for your eating & shopping pleasure.
Stroll around the lake at Ohori Park
If you want to know where to go in Fukuoka to get away from urban development and enjoy some fresh air, visit Ohori Park. This sprawling park includes a large lake and multiple waterfront paths.
It’s a popular spot in Fukuoka for locals. You’ll likely see plenty of residents strolling, jogging, or cycling around the lake, especially in the morning.
Due to the size of the park, it’s also easy to enjoy some peace and quiet. Take a tranquil walk through the park or rent a paddle boat and travel out into the lake.
The park also has an art museum and a small traditional Japanese garden, providing a few extra activities that don’t involve crowds of tourists.
View colourful festival floats outside the Kushida Shrine
Your Fukuoka sightseeing tour will likely include a few stops at the city’s religious sites. Kushida Shrine is one of the more impressive shrines in the city.
Built in 757 A.D., the shrine features a large stone torii gate and grayish-white roof, instead of the typical bright red colours often used for Japanese shrines.
The shrine is also the site of the city’s largest annual festival – Hakata Gion Yamakasa.
Even if you miss the festival, you may still get to check out the floats. The shrine tends to keep the large floats on display throughout much of the year. You can also reach the shrine directly from Canal City Hakata.
Visit the wooden Buddha at Tochoji Temple
If you want your Fukuoka trip to include visits to iconic temples, you’ll want to take a trip to Tochoji Temple. It’s known for having the world’s largest wooden Buddha statue.
The temple is not far from Kushida Shrine and a scattering of various smaller shrines and temples near the river. You could take a walking tour of the various religious sites and never leave a four-block radius.
When visiting the temple on the weekends, you’ll encounter larger crowds.
If you want to enjoy the serenity of the temple without standing shoulder to shoulder with other tourists, go early in the morning or during the weekdays.
Unwind with drinks and karaoke in the Nakasu Nightlife District
If you’re wondering what to do in Fukuoka at the end of the day, visit Nakasu. This small island in Hakata Ward is the main nightlife district in Fukuoka.
It includes dozens of pubs, nightclubs, and karaoke bars packed together between narrow streets. Multiple footbridges connect the island with the rest of the downtown area.
Most of the bridges are incredibly short. In fact, you may not even notice that you’re crossing water.
The red-light district here is a lively place throughout the night and the perfect spot to taste the local cuisine.
Besides bars and clubs, the district includes numerous yatai food stalls serving delicious street food to the late-night revellers.
Dazzle at Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine
The largest Shinto Shrine in Fukuoka and one of the most important Tenmangu Shrines in Japan, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine is a must-see while visiting Fukuoka.
This lovely & peaceful shrine is dedicated to Tenjin, a deity enshrining the 9th-century Japanese poet, politician & academic Sugawara no Michizane.
Exploring Dazaifu Tenmangu starts at Shinjiike (Lake Shinji), a heart-shaped pond that marks the boundary of the inner shrine. It’s spanned by a handsome pair of bridges connected to island’s representing the past, present, and future.
Once you’ve entered the shrine via the bridges, keep on the lookout for the main hall (honden). Although originally built in 919, the building you see today “only” dates back to 1591. Thanks to its over 400-year-old existence, the honden is, deservedly, listed as a Japan Important Cultural Property.
Besides the shrine buildings, Dazaifu Tenmangu is also a great place for spring plum blossom viewing. The grounds are home to about 6,000 plum (ume) trees spanning 200 different species!
The nearby Kyushu National Museum, detailing the history & culture of the Japanese island of Kyushu, is also a worthwhile detour for history-buffs.
Watch the dolphin and sea lion shows at Marine World
There are other things to see in Fukuoka besides shrines and historic sites, such as the city’s aquarium. Located in Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, Marine World Uminonakamichi has a diverse selection of marine life and a stadium-sized pool with daily sea lion and dolphin shows.
The aquarium includes 70 tanks with over 350 marine species, including sharks, sea otters, and spotted seals. It also has numerous interactive activities that are fun for both children and adults.
The largest tank measures 2,000 square metres and is used for the sea lion and dolphin performances while the second-biggest tank houses over 120 sharks.
Where to stay in Fukuoka for sightseeing
As one of Japan’s largest cities, choosing where to stay in Fukuoka is not always cut and dry. For most travellers, Chuo Ward and Hakata Ward, where you’ll find the main train station, are the two best areas to stay. Here are a few of the top hotels in Fukuoka to start your search…
- Richmond Hotel Fukuoka Tenjin: This budget-friendly hotel, just steps away from Tenjin Station, gets high praise from guests for its spacious and comfortable rooms.
- Hotel Okura Fukuoka: Located in the heart of the Hakata Ward, this luxury hotel provides guests with a massive smattering of amenities, including 10 dining options, an indoor pool, and an on-site microbrewery. Be sure to book early as this is one of Fukuoka’s most popular places to stay.
- Grand Hyatt Fukuoka: If you’ve ever had the pleasure of spending a night at a Grand Hyatt, you’ll know just what awaits at this top Fukuoka luxury hotel. Located in the Canal City complex, this 5-star hotel offers large rooms decorated with the chain’s characteristic warm tones along with a host of amenities, including a fitness centre, hot tub, restaurant, and two on-site bars.