Kanazawa is a culturally significant city located between the mountains and the sea. The city, often known as Little Kyoto, is home to a diverse range of attractions that assist to reflect the region’s tradition and history.
Kanazawa has various places to see and activities to do, from the center castle park to the neighboring ancient neighborhoods.
If your next visit to Japan brings you via this underappreciated gem, you should be able to see much of it in a day or two. The only difficulty is determining where to begin.
Do you need assistance in arranging your trip? Begin with this list of the best Kanazawa attractions.
Best Places in Kanazawa, Japan
Take a stroll around Kenrokuen's peaceful scenery.
Kenrokuen is still one of Kanazawa’s top attractions. It is often considered one of the best three Japanese gardens in the world.
The walking routes go through a well-kept environment with mild streams, ponds, and native plant life.
Visit Seisonkaku Villa in the southeast part of the garden while you’re there. It’s an Edo-style mansion constructed for a previous lord’s mother. You may also access the garden from the villa, making it simple to explore both locations.
Make sure to include this location on your Japan itinerary, particularly if you’ll be there during cherry blossom season. The garden offers a lovely ambiance with the trees in blossom and the area lighted up with lights.
Explore the Kanazawa Castle Site's reconstruction.
Any list of things to do in Kanazawa includes a visit to the old Kanazawa Castle site. The castle is no longer standing, but some of the buildings remain. Two storehouses and a large gate remain.
The city also has plans for renovation, including the gradual reconstruction of some of the historic structures. You can see the freshly constructed turrets, storehouse, garden, and gates.
The castle’s garden is much smaller than Kenrokuen’s, yet it is just as gorgeous. Take a stroll over the little bridges that link many islands surrounded by ponds teeming with huge goldfish.
The castle park’s central position also allows for easy access to other attractions like Omicho Market, Oyama Shrine, and the geisha area.
Explore the Ninja Temple's secret stairs and passages.
The Ninja Temple, as one of the most unique Kanazawa attractions, offers more than meets the eye. There are several traps, secret entrances, and hidden tunnels throughout the interior.
The temple is not linked with ninjas, but it does boast an impressive array of fortifications. Historians think the fortifications enabled the area rulers to exploit the structure as a concealed military station.
Tours are provided, however, the guides only speak Japanese. Fortunately, the temple offers English-language guides.
The Ninja Temple, located in the Teramachi District, is one of the numerous temples in the region immediately south of the city. There are also several noteworthy booksellers, art galleries, and apparel stores in the area.
See how the geishas kept the Higashi Chaya District entertained.
Higashi Chaya, often known as the geisha area, is home to numerous restored and renovated teahouses.
Only a couple of the buildings provide entertainment in the form of geisha performances. The rest are a combination of stores and museums. The majority of these establishments are concentrated along a single street in the area.
One of the teahouses is still in business and open to the public. Tea service is included with entry, allowing you to travel back in time.
Another teahouse has been turned into a museum, containing chambers where geishas used to perform as well as a cooking area with different instruments and equipment.
Experience samurai culture at Nagamachi Samurai District.
If you only have 24 hours in Kanazawa, make a point of seeing one of the ancient areas, such as Nagamachi. The region is known as the samurai district, and it has a few original samurai residences.
The majority of the area has been renovated, including realistic replicas of the ancient residences. Walking through Nagamachi might seem like you’re reliving scenes from your favorite samurai films!
Fortunately, one of the original residences is still in good condition and available to the public.
The Nomura Clan House is a tiny attraction that provides insight into the lives of old samurais.
The Shinise Kinenkan Museum, which is nearby, allows visitors to view how a traditional pharmacy appeared. The rebuilt pharmacy has shelves packed with herbal treatments as well as a counter operated by a mannequin dressed in traditional attire.
Shop for food and taste the local flavor at Omicho Market
Omicho Market is the place to go in Kanazawa for fresh fish and local cuisine. The crowded fresh food market sells a wide variety of local fruits, vegetables, fish, and meat. There are also various eateries in the market area.
It’s generally one of the first locations people visit since it’s close to Kanazawa Station and the old site of Kanazawa’s castle. There are around 200 vendors and stores in the neighborhood.
While the majority of the merchants offer fresh food, there are also clothing, flowers, crafts, and culinary appliances or tools available. The busiest times are early in the morning and around lunchtime. During these times, most restaurants will have long queues for both residents and visitors.
Get your cultural fix at Oyama Shrine
Your Kanazawa sightseeing tour should include a visit to some of the area’s temples and shrines. If you only have time for one, go to Oyama Shrine.
The shrine was established in 1599 and is dedicated to a former feudal ruler. It is primarily known for its gate, which was created by a Dutch architect. It combines Asian and European elements, as well as religious themes.
A Dutch-style stained glass window may be seen in the second story. The shrine on the bottom level resembles most other shrines, with a blend of Japanese and Chinese design features.
View unique exhibits at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
Aside from cultural and historical monuments, Kanazawa also has art installations at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.
The museum, which opened in 2004, offers a variety of exhibits as well as one-of-a-kind works of art. It’s within a few blocks of the castle, as are many of the other attractions.
The circular construction is one of the most recent buildings in the city center, with no front, rear, or main entrance.
It also includes several public spots where you may unwind and rest your legs. There are a library and children’s workshops among these locations.
Admission is free, although contributions are encouraged, as with any museum.
Where to stay in Kanazawa for sightseeing
Kanazawa is one of Japan’s most famous tourist attractions, so there are lots of options when it comes to finding the finest places to stay in Kanazawa. The majority of Kanazawa’s notable attractions are concentrated in and around the city center. This is without a doubt the best spot to begin exploring the lodging sector. Here are a couple of our top selections for Kanazawa’s best hotels.
Hotel Pacific Kanazawa: Possibly the most affordable alternative in the city center, with light and cheerful contemporary rooms. Omicho Market, Kanazawa Castle, and Kenrokuen Garden are all within a 5- to 10-minute walk.
Hotel Nikko Kanazawa: A fantastic mid-range luxury option situated just adjacent to JR Kanazawa Station. The large rooms are all placed above the 17th level and provide fantastic city views.
Mitsui Garden Hotel Kanazawa: A trendy and stylish modern 4-star hotel from a reputable and well-known Japanese business. Aside from the spacious accommodations, visitors will enjoy the top-floor onsen, which has views of the city and the surrounding hills.