Kanazawa is one of Japan’s hidden gems that is worth stepping off the well-beaten path between Tokyo and Osaka to explore.
With its rich cultural heritage from its heyday during the edo period, stunning gardens, and mouth-watering cuisine from Japan see, Kanazawa is a destination that might just be the best in Japan.
This Kanazawa Travel Guide will provide you with everything you need to know about visiting this charming city. It will cover the city’s top attractions, including the famous Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa Castle, and the Omicho Market.
It will also introduce you to the city’s rich cultural heritage, including its traditional crafts and geisha and samurai districts.
Whether you are planning a short visit or an extended stay, our Kanazawa Travel Guide will help you make the most of your trip.
Activities and tours In Kanazawa
Here’s a list of 8 popular tours and attractions in Kanazawa with accurate descriptions and links to the Viator pages:
- Private Tour from Kanazawa to Shirakawago, Hida Furukawa, and Takayama: Explore the historic villages of Shirakawago, Hida Furukawa, and Takayama on this private tour from Kanazawa, featuring UNESCO World Heritage Sites and stunning traditional architecture.
- Kanazawa Full-day Private Custom Tour with National Licensed Guide: Enjoy a fully customizable private tour of Kanazawa with a national licensed guide, allowing you to visit the city’s highlights and hidden gems according to your preferences.
- Shirakawa-go and Gokayama Two World Heritage Settlement Tour: Discover the picturesque villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, on this full-day guided tour that showcases the unique gassho-zukuri style houses.
- Kanazawa Half-Day Tour with Private Guide: Explore the beautiful city of Kanazawa on a half-day private tour, visiting key attractions like Kenrokuen Garden, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Higashi Chaya District.
- Kanazawa Night Tour with Local Meal and Drinks: Experience Kanazawa’s vibrant nightlife on this guided evening tour, including a delicious local meal and drinks at various venues in the city.
- Noto Full-Day Driving Tour: Discover the scenic beauty of the Noto Peninsula on this full-day driving tour, visiting highlights like the Wajima Morning Market, Ganmon Rock, and the terraced rice fields of Senmaida.
- Full-Day Tour of Kanazawa with Private Guide: Enjoy an in-depth exploration of Kanazawa’s history and culture on this full-day private tour, visiting sites like Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa Castle, and the Nagamachi Samurai District.
- Naoshima Half-Day Private Tour with Nationally Licensed Guide: Experience the art and architecture of Naoshima Island on this half-day private tour with a nationally licensed guide, showcasing the island’s renowned art installations and museums.
Choose from these tours and attractions to make your visit to Kanaz
Getting to Kanazawa
Kanazawa is located on the west coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island. There are several ways to get to Kanazawa, including by plane, train, and bus.
Kanazawa is easily accessible by train, with several options available. The fastest and most convenient way to get to Kanazawa from Tokyo is by taking the Hokuriku Shinkansen, which takes approximately 2.5 hours. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can use it to ride the Hokuriku Shinkansen for free.
Other options for getting to Kanazawa by train include taking the Thunderbird Limited Express from Osaka (approximately 2.5 hours) or the Shirasagi Limited Express from Nagoya (approximately 2 hours).
The nearest airport to Kanazawa is Komatsu Airport, which is located about 30 minutes away by bus or taxi. Komatsu Airport has flights from several major Japanese cities, including Tokyo, Osaka, and Sapporo. There are also international flights from Seoul and Shanghai.
There are also several bus options for getting to Kanazawa. The most convenient option is the Kanazawa Express Bus, which runs between Kanazawa and Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nagoya. The bus takes approximately 4-5 hours from Tokyo and Osaka, and 2-3 hours from Kyoto and Nagoya.
If you plan on doing a lot of traveling within Japan, it may be worth purchasing a Japan Rail Pass. The Japan Rail Pass allows unlimited travel on Japan Railways trains, including the Hokuriku Shinkansen that runs to Kanazawa. The pass can be purchased for 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days, and is only available to foreign tourists.
There are also regional passes available, such as the Hokuriku Arch Pass, which allows unlimited travel on the Hokuriku Shinkansen and other local trains in the Hokuriku region.
Japan Rail Pass Price Hike
Note: The Japan Rail Prices Are Going Up A Massive 62% In October 2023, But there’s still time to snap up the old prices. Klook has pledged to sell at the old prices up to September 30th. This will let you activate your pass up until December 28th 2023.
Read more About it here.
Best Time to Visit Kanazawa
Kanazawa is a beautiful city that is worth visiting all year round, but the best time to visit depends on what you want to do and see. The city has a humid subtropical climate, which means it has hot and humid summers and cold winters. Here are some things to consider when planning your trip:
Spring (March to May)
Spring is a popular time to visit Kanazawa because of the cherry blossoms. The cherry blossoms usually bloom in late March to early April, and the city’s parks and gardens come alive with beautiful pink and white flowers. The weather is mild during this time, with temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 degrees Celsius. It’s a great time to explore the city’s outdoor attractions, such as the Kenrokuen Garden and Kanazawa Castle Park.
Summer (June to August)
Summer in Kanazawa is hot and humid, with temperatures averaging around 30 degrees Celsius. It’s a good time to enjoy the city’s beaches and water activities, such as swimming and surfing. The city also hosts several festivals during the summer, including the Hyakumangoku Matsuri in June and the Kanazawa Fireworks Festival in August. If you plan to visit during the summer, make sure to bring lightweight clothing and sunscreen.
Fall (September to November)
Fall is another popular time to visit Kanazawa because of the autumn foliage. The leaves usually start to change color in late October to early November, and the city’s parks and gardens turn into a beautiful array of red, orange, and yellow. The weather is mild during this time, with temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 degrees Celsius. It’s a great time to explore the city’s historical sites, such as the Higashi Chaya District and the Nagamachi Samurai District.
Winter (December to February)
Winter in Kanazawa is cold, with temperatures averaging around 0 degrees Celsius. It’s a good time to enjoy winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding, in nearby areas like Hakusan National Park. The city also hosts several winter festivals, such as the Kanazawa Hyakumangoku Snow Festival in February. If you plan to visit during the winter, make sure to bring warm clothing and snow boots.
Where to Stay in Kanazawa
Experience the beauty and history of Kanazawa by staying at these top-rated accommodations, each with unique and interesting features. From luxurious hotels to authentic ryokans and cozy guesthouses, here are our recommendations for your stay in Kanazawa.
- Kanazawa Tokyu Hotel: This elegant hotel is located near the famous Kenrokuen Garden and offers spacious rooms with modern amenities. The on-site restaurant serves delicious local and international cuisine, making it an excellent choice for a comfortable stay in Kanazawa.
- Kanazawa Sainoniwa Hotel: Experience the fusion of modern luxury and traditional Japanese elements at this hotel, featuring beautiful Japanese gardens and an on-site hot spring bath. Indulge in the exquisite kaiseki dinner or enjoy the Western-style buffet breakfast.
- Hyatt Centric Kanazawa: This stylish hotel is located in the heart of Kanazawa, offering easy access to major attractions. The hotel boasts contemporary rooms with city views, a fitness center, and an on-site restaurant serving local and international dishes.
- Kanazawa Hakuchoro Hotel Sanraku: This authentic ryokan offers traditional Japanese-style rooms, an on-site hot spring bath, and a tea lounge. The ryokan’s location near Kenrokuen Garden and Kanazawa Castle makes it an ideal choice for exploring the city’s historical sites.
- Nikko Kanazawa: Enjoy the luxurious ryokan experience in the heart of Kanazawa, featuring traditional tatami rooms, on-site public baths, and a variety of dining options. The ryokan is just a short walk from Kanazawa Station, providing easy access to the city’s attractions.
- Yunokuni Tensyo: Immerse yourself in a traditional Japanese atmosphere at this ryokan, boasting beautiful Japanese gardens, an open-air hot spring bath, and tatami rooms with futons. The on-site restaurant serves exquisite kaiseki cuisine, offering an unforgettable dining experience.
- Guesthouse Ochakare: This charming guesthouse features Japanese-style rooms with tatami floors and futons. The friendly hosts provide a welcoming atmosphere, making it the perfect choice for travelers seeking a cozy and affordable stay in Kanazawa.
- Kanazawa Guesthouse Stella: Located in a quiet neighborhood, this guesthouse offers both private and dormitory-style rooms, along with a shared kitchen and common area. The guesthouse is a short walk from major attractions, making it a convenient base for exploring Kanazawa.
- UAN Kanazawa: This modern guesthouse combines traditional Japanese aesthetics with contemporary design. Featuring a mix of private and dormitory rooms, UAN Kanazawa also offers a shared lounge, kitchen, and rooftop terrace, providing a comfortable and social atmosphere for guests.
Top Things to Do in Kanazawa
Here are some of the top things to do in Kanazawa:
1. Kenrokuen Garden
Kenrokuen Garden is one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan and is a must-visit attraction in Kanazawa. The garden is located in the heart of the city and is known for its stunning landscapes, ponds, and cherry blossom trees. Visitors can also enjoy tea ceremonies and traditional Japanese music performances in the garden.
2. Explore Kanazawa Castle
Kanazawa Castle is a historic castle located in the center of the city. The castle was built in the 16th century and is now a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can explore the castle grounds and learn about its history at the museum located inside.
3. 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art
The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is a modern art museum located in Kanazawa. The museum features a variety of contemporary art exhibitions and installations, as well as a beautiful outdoor sculpture garden. Admission is free for children and students, and there are discounts available for those with JR passes and other travel passes.
4. Take a Stroll Through Higashi Chaya District
Higashi Chaya District is a historic district in Kanazawa that is known for its traditional teahouses and geisha performances. Visitors can take a stroll through the district and enjoy the beautiful architecture and traditional Japanese atmosphere.
5. Omicho Market
Omicho Market is a bustling market in Kanazawa that offers a wide variety of fresh seafood, fruits, and vegetables. Visitors can sample local delicacies and purchase souvenirs to take home.
There are plenty of more things to do in Kanazawa which we cover in our in-depth guide:
Read More: Things To Do In Kanazawa
Kanazawa Food Guide
Kanazawa is known for its fresh seafood and traditional Japanese cuisine. Visitors can enjoy a variety of dishes that are unique to the region. Here are some must-try foods:
- Kaga vegetables: These vegetables are grown in the Kaga region and are known for their freshness and flavor. They are often served as a side dish or in a salad.
- Kanazawa sushi: Kanazawa sushi is made with fresh, local seafood and is known for its simple, yet flavorful taste. It is often served with soy sauce and wasabi.
- Gold leaf ice cream: Kanazawa is famous for its gold leaf, which is often used to decorate food. Visitors can try gold leaf ice cream, which is vanilla ice cream topped with a sheet of gold leaf.
Shopping in Kanazawa
Kanazawa is a perfect destination for those who love shopping. The city is home to many unique shops and markets that offer a wide range of products, from traditional handicrafts to modern fashion items. Here are some of the best places to shop in Kanazawa:
Omicho Market is a bustling indoor market that sells fresh seafood, fruits, vegetables, and other local products. The market has been around for over 280 years and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kanazawa. Visitors can sample fresh seafood and local delicacies at the market’s many food stalls, or purchase souvenirs and gifts from the many shops that line the market’s streets.
The Higashichaya District is a historic geisha district that is home to many traditional teahouses, shops, and restaurants. The district is famous for its beautifully preserved wooden buildings and traditional architecture. Visitors can stroll along the district’s narrow streets and enjoy the atmosphere of old Japan, or shop for traditional handicrafts and souvenirs at the many shops that line the streets.
Korinbo Shopping District
The Korinbo Shopping District is a modern shopping area that is home to many department stores, fashion boutiques, and restaurants. The district is located in the heart of Kanazawa and is easily accessible by public transportation. Visitors can shop for the latest fashion items or enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants in the area.
Kanazawa Nightlife Guide
Kanazawa is a beautiful city with a rich cultural heritage, but it’s also a great place to party at night. Here’s a quick guide to the best nightlife spots in Kanazawa:
The Katamachi district is the heart of Kanazawa’s nightlife. It’s a bustling area with plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants. You’ll find everything from karaoke bars to craft beer pubs here.
The Teramachi district is another popular nightlife spot in Kanazawa. It’s a quieter area than Katamachi, but there are still plenty of great bars and restaurants to check out.
Day Trips from Kanazawa
Kanazawa is a beautiful city with a rich history and plenty of attractions to keep visitors occupied for several days. However, for those who have more time to explore the region, there are several excellent day trips that can be taken from Kanazawa. Here are some of the best:
Takayama is a picturesque town located in the Japanese Alps, about two hours from Kanazawa by train. It is known for its traditional architecture, narrow streets, and beautiful temples and shrines. Visitors can also sample local delicacies such as Hida beef and sake. Take the JR Limited Express Wide View Hida train from Kanazawa to Takayama, which offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
Shirakawa-go is a UNESCO World Heritage site located about 50km northeast of Takayama. It is famous for its traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, which have steep thatched roofs that resemble hands folded in prayer. Visitors can explore the village and learn about the local way of life, or take a hike in the surrounding mountains. There are several bus tours that depart from Kanazawa and visit Shirakawa-go and other nearby attractions.
Wajima is a small fishing town located on the Noto Peninsula, about two hours from Kanazawa by bus. It is known for its lacquerware, which has been produced in the area for over 400 years. Visitors can watch artisans at work, visit local museums, or stroll through the town’s traditional streets. Take the Hokutetsu bus from Kanazawa to Wajima.
For visitors who plan to take several day trips from Kanazawa, it may be worth investing in a travel pass. The Hokuriku Arch Pass can be a good option, which allows unlimited travel on JR trains and buses in the Hokuriku region for 7 consecutive days. There are also several regional passes available, such as the Noto Kagaribi Pass, which offers unlimited bus travel in the Noto Peninsula area.
Practical Tips for Visiting Kanazawa
If you’re planning a trip to Kanazawa, here are some practical tips to make your visit smooth and enjoyable:
One of the easiest ways to get around Kanazawa is by using the local bus system. The bus routes are well-marked and easy to navigate, and there are several bus stops located near major tourist attractions.
Kanazawa has a wide range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly hostels to luxury hotels. If you’re traveling on a budget, consider staying at a hostel or a guesthouse, which offer affordable rates and a chance to meet other travelers. If you’re looking for something more upscale, there are several high-end hotels located in the city center.
Kanazawa is known for its fresh seafood, so be sure to try some of the local specialties while you’re here. One popular dish is kaisen-don, a bowl of rice topped with a variety of fresh seafood. Another must-try is the local specialty of gold leaf ice cream, which is topped with a generous sprinkling of edible gold leaf.
While English is spoken in many tourist areas, it’s always a good idea to learn a few basic phrases in Japanese before your trip. This will help you navigate the city and communicate with locals more easily. Consider downloading a language app or phrasebook to help you get started.
Kanazawa has a humid subtropical climate, with hot summers and cold winters. If you’re visiting during the summer months, be prepared for high temperatures and humidity. If you’re visiting in the winter, be sure to pack warm clothing and a good pair of boots, as the city can get quite cold and snowy.