Fukuoka is considered one of the best destinations in Japan for first-time visitors to the country. It’s a major city with a population of over 2.5 million, but less intimidating and easier to navigate compared to Tokyo.
As a modern Japanese city, there are plenty of things to do in Fukuoka. It’s got enough shopping malls to keep you busy, along with temples, shrines, and the ruins of a 17th-century castle. It also has an active ferry service that takes people across the Sea of Japan to neighbouring islands Ikishima, Tsushima, or all the way to Busan, South Korea.
You can also visit parks with traditional Japanese gardens or climb to the top of Fukuoka Tower for a better view of the city.
Not sure where to begin? Start planning your trip with this guide to the best Fukuoka attractions…
Table of Contents
- What to do in Fukuoka: Top attractions & places to visit
- Shop ‘til you drop at Canal City Hakata
- Get a bird’s eye view of the city from Fukuoka Tower
- Explore the ruins of Fukuoka Castle
- Stroll around the lake at Ohori Park
- View colourful festival floats outside the Kushida Shrine
- Visit the wooden Buddha at Tochoji Temple
- Watch the dolphin and sea lion shows at Marine World
- Unwind with drinks and karaoke in the Nakasu Nightlife District
- Where to stay: The best hotels for sightseeing in Fukuoka
What to do in Fukuoka: Top attractions & places to visit
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 as 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 region.
You could easily spend an entire day 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 highest seaside tower in the country.
Completed in 1989, the tower was built upon reclaimed land near Hakata Bay and offers views of the city and 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 city skyline offers a spectacular display of lights as the sun begins to set.
Explore the ruins of Fukuoka Castle
If you only have 24 hours in Fukuoka, don’t skip a trip to Fukuoka Castle. While not much remains of the 17th-century structure, the grounds have become a beautiful hilltop park with panoramic views of the city below.
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.
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 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.
Visit the wooden Buddha at Tochoji Temple
If you want your Japan travel itinerary 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.
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. Marine World 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.
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 city’s main nightlife district.
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 is a lively place throughout the night and the perfect spot to taste the local cuisine. Besides bars and clubs, the district includes numerous food stalls catering to the late-night revellers.
Where to stay: The best hotels for sightseeing in Fukuoka
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 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 a 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.