Written by Sandrine
5 Free Activities In Sapporo - Explore The City On A Budget
Get to know the beautiful city of Sapporo through art, history, and cultural events! Check out this list of five recommended free activities in Sapporo that can be enjoyed all throughout the year or only seasonally.
Sapporo is a great sightseeing destination in Japan, and with the city aiming to boost its tourism industry many activities and places have free admission. If you are finding yourself in Sapporo and wish to explore it on a budget, consider the following recommendations of free activities and places to visit. You will be able to enjoy the city's history, art scene, and cultural events for free. Some of these activities may be organized seasonally, but we recommend them for their cultural relevance to the city.
1. Odori Park Festivals
The city center’s famous Odori Park is home to many free festivals celebrating the different seasons of the year. The largest and most famous one is Sapporo Snow Festival held each year in February, which attracts thousands of visitors from all over Japan and East Asia. During this winter festival, you will be able to see wonderful snow and ice sculptures made by local artists and groups, as well as enjoying good food and the good company of the locals. The Christmas time brings the traditional German Christmas Market - a popular event leading up to the snow festival.
In the summertime, a flower festival takes over the park, with wonderful exhibits, installations, and arrangements in various sizes.
Odori Park is also home to the city’s Autumn Fest - a celebration focused on the local food culture. Each of these festivals is both enjoyable as a sightseeing destination, and an ideal place to experience seasonal cuisine. No matter what season you visit Sapporo, there is always something happening in Odori Park, so making a trip here an experience we warmly recommend.
2. Ainu Culture Promotion Center
The Ainu are an indigenous people of Hokkaido with a wonderfully rich culture. Visitors to Sapporo can learn about the Ainu culture at the Ainu Culture Promotion Center, a facility that is also known as "Sapporo Pirka Kotan". The center is located in the southern part of the city and has free admission all year round. In addition to its museum activities, displaying over 300 items like clothing and tools telling the rich history of the Ainu people, traditional Ainu ceremonies and performing arts are held here.
In January, the Asir-pa-nomi - the Ainu New Year's celebration will be held here, as well as the Ainu Culture Festival later in the same month. Other activities in the center include a variety of workshops that aim to teach visitors about Ainu traditions.
The center can be reached by taking bus No. 12 from Makomanai Station to Koganeyu Onsen bus stop.
Ainu Culture Promotion Center
Koganeyu 27, Minami ward, Sapporo
Website: Ainu Culture Promotion Center
3. Hokkaido University Campus Walking Tour
Arranged by the Sapporo International Communication Plaza, free walking tours of the Hokkaido University campus are given both in English and Japanese to locals and travelers who want to learn more about the rich history of the city. There is also an excellent walking tour in the autumn when the beautiful autumn leaves start to appear around the campus.
The tours are organized by volunteers from the Communication Plaza and are held between June 1st and October 30th on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 10:30 until 11:30. The starting point is the information center at the main gate of the university, which is a short walk from the north exit of Sapporo Station.
The tours will give you a detailed description of the various historical buildings located in the campus, as well as take you to the areas of the park that can be accessed and enjoyed by anyone. A walking tour takes approximately 90 minutes and it is recommended that you come to meet the volunteers by the information center some minutes before 10:30 AM.
4. Hokkaido University Museum
The Hokkaido University Museum is a very popular museum located within the Hokkaido University Campus. Dedicated to natural sciences, the museum also tells and celebrates the rich history of education in Hokkaido.
The museum runs temporary exhibitions on a regular basis, with its permanent collection displaying the university's rich research archive to the public. According to the city's website, an archive of over 10.000 academic documents are made available to the public. Very popular displays in this museum are the animal skeletons, including a prehistorical mammoth. Hokkaido University Museum has free admission all year round. Located inside the museum is also a souvenir shop and a cafe that sells Hokkaido specialties and sweets.
Kita 10-jo, Nishi 8-chome, Kita ward, Sapporo
Website: Hokkaido University Museum
5. Moerenuma Park
Moerenuma Park is a famous sculpture and architectural park in Sapporo that you do not want to miss when in the area. As introduced in our previous article on Moerenuma Park, this park is dedicated to the works of renowned American-Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi. There are quite a few grandiose monuments to see when visiting the park, so we recommend coming here when it's sunny outside and when you have at least one hour to spend.
Some of the most famous sights in this park include the famous glass pyramid "Hidamari" and the "Music Shell" monument. Both the pyramid and the "Music shell" can be entered as they also serve as event places from time to time. Find out the latest information on the activities being held at the park by taking a look at Moerenuma Park's official website in English.
Visiting the park at nighttime serves as a completely different experience as some of the monuments will have illuminations, creating a different view than during the daytime. The park is also an excellent cherry blossom spot in spring time.
Moerenuma Park is located outside the city center, and to reach the park you will have to take Higashi Chuo Buses number 69 or 79 from Kanjō Dōri Higashi subway station.
Sapporo, Higashi ward, Moerenuma kōen 1-1
No matter the season when you arrive in Japan, do stop by these museums and parks that show the richness os Sapporo's culture!