Located on the western edge of Japan’s Kyushu Island, Nagasaki Prefecture is a beautiful blend of rich history and awe-inspiring natural landscapes. But that’s just scratching the surface! Here are some of the best things to do in Nagasaki that you shouldn’t miss.
Getting to Nagasaki on the Shinkansen
First things first, let’s talk about getting there. The Japanese Shinkansen or bullet train is something you’ll want to experience.
The moment you step onto the Shinkansen, you’ll understand why it’s Japan’s pride and joy. Smooth, swift, and silent, it feels like you’re gliding to your destination.
From Fukuoka’s bustling Hakata Station, the scenic countryside views will captivate you on your way to Nagasaki Station.
And if you’ve got a Japan Rail Pass, you’re in for even more convenience and savings. It’s especially handy because it also covers your unlimited rides on the Nagasaki Electric Tramways.
Pro-tip: While on board, grab a seat on the right for a clear glimpse of the Ariake Sea.
And remember, those bento boxes sold at stations? They’re the perfect Shinkansen companion. The Nagasaki specialty bentos are a culinary journey in themselves!
Explore Gunkanjima – The Battleship Island
Have you ever heard of Hashima Island, more commonly known as Gunkanjima or Battleship Island?
It’s a deserted island located just 15 km off the coast of Nagasaki, and it’s a surreal place that gives you a peek into nature’s power to reclaim.
Once teeming with coal miners and their families, it now stands abandoned and almost frozen in time.
The guided tour showcases the abandoned structures and paints a vivid picture of life during its heyday.
Fee: 4300 Yen for adults, covering the boat tour and island entrance.
Feasting in Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown
If you’re a foodie like me, Nagasaki Shinchi Chinatown is the place to be!
This is Japan’s oldest Chinatown, teeming with delicious food options.
Don’t leave without trying Nagasaki Champon, a hearty noodle dish loaded with seafood, meat, and vegetables.
Let’s not forget Kakuni-man, a delectable pork bun that’s too good to pass up.
Step Back in Time at Dejima
Have you ever heard of Dejima? It was Japan’s sole gateway to Europe in the 17th century.
Though not an island anymore, this fascinating piece of land is a living museum where you can glimpse how Dutch traders lived in Japan.
From the architecture to the artifacts, everything is meticulously preserved.
🎟️ Admission fee: Adults (510 Yen), High school students (200 Yen), Elementary and Junior High students (100 Yen).
Reflect on History at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
No trip to Nagasaki would be complete without paying respects at the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.
The exhibitions here are heart-wrenching, offering an in-depth understanding of that fateful day in 1945 and the aftermath. It’s a reminder of peace’s fragility.
Although I’ve learned about this disaster in History class, visiting this museum and learning about the suffering from the atomic bomb was real and haunting.
- Open hours: 8:30 am to 5:30 pm
- Admission fee: Adult (200 Yen), Students (100 Yen)
Find Serenity at Nagasaki Peace Park
Adjacent to the museum, this park is an oasis of serenity.
The sculptures dotting the landscape, especially the Peace Statue, embody hope. It’s a place to reflect, remember, and hope for a brighter tomorrow.
- Open hours: 8:30 am to 6:30 pm (or 5:30 pm from September to April)
- Admission fee: 200 Yen
Marvel at the Night View from Mount Inasa
Fancy one of the world’s top three night views? Head up to Mount Inasa!
A cable car ride takes you to an observation deck where Nagasaki sprawls out below like a sea of twinkling stars.
And with the rotating observatory? You get a 360-degree spectacle.
The best time to visit Mount Inasa is just before sunset, so you will see the city’s day and night views.
Tips: The ropeway ride takes five minutes and costs 720 yen (one way) or 1230 yen (round trip)
Have a fun day at Huis Ten Bosch (ハウステンボス)
Imagine wandering through tulip fields, admiring windmills, and experiencing Dutch culture – all while in Japan! That’s Huis Ten Bosch for you.
From theme park rides to cultural exhibits, it’s a delightful mix of fun and learning.
Cruise around Kujukushima islands
Kujukushima isn’t just one island. It’s a mesmerizing collection of 208 islands, each with a unique charm.
Whether you’re kayaking, sailing, or just cruising, these islands promise adventure and serenity in equal measure.
Those islands are also seen on the opening credits of the famous Tom Cruise film “The Last Samurai.”
You can book the Kujukushima sightseeing cruise ticket and explore the beautiful natural wonders of the Kujukushima islands with a 50-minute ride on the Pearl Queen (a white, multi-deck ferry) or Pirate Boat Mirai (the first electric-powered eco-boat).
Relax in Unzen Hot Springs
If you’re looking for a day trip from Nagasaki, Unzen would be an excellent choice.
Nestled amidst the mountains, Unzen is more than just a spa town. The geothermal activity here creates an almost otherworldly landscape, with steam vents and bubbling pools known as “hells” (which sound scary but are truly fascinating to observe).
If you’re seeking peace, the rustic ryokans, with their traditional wooden architecture, offer a serene escape.
Stroll Down Memory Lane on Nagasaki’s Dutch Slope
If you’re keen on historical architecture, the Dutch Slope (Oranda-Zaka) in Nagasaki is a delightful place to visit in Nagasaki.
Oranda-Zaka is like walking into a European postcard but in Japan. With cobblestone paths and European-style houses, every step here echoes tales of Dutch traders.
There’s no rush here. Take your time, perhaps grab a coffee from one of the chic cafes, and drink in the ambiance.
Soak in Breathtaking Views from Glover Garden
Glover Garden is that perfect blend of history and nature.
Located atop Minamiyamate Hill, it offers a breathtaking view of Nagasaki Harbor. But don’t be fooled by its name.
Yes, there’s greenery and beautifully preserved Western-style mansions that’ll transport you to the 19th century.
- Open hours: 8 am to 6 pm (or until 9:30 pm in the summer and peak seasons)
- Admission fee: 610 Yen
Pay a Visit to Oura Catholic Church
If you’re near Glover Garden, make sure to stop by Oura Catholic Church, which is both a spiritual sanctuary and a history lesson rolled into one.
The Gothic-style Oura Church is a testament to Nagasaki’s resilience and faith.
Marvel at the stunning stained glass windows, and feel the serenity that seeps from its walls.
- Open hours: 8 am to 6 pm
- Admission fee: 1000 Yen
Attend the Nagasaki Lantern Festival
If you visit Nagasaki in February, you cannot miss this enchanting festival!
Celebrated during the Chinese New Year, the Nagasaki Lantern Festival is a nod to Nagasaki’s deep-rooted Chinese heritage. And, it’s mesmerizing!
Every corner bustles with vibrant performances – think dragon dances, traditional Chinese music, and acrobatics.
Food stalls tempt you with the delicious aroma of Chinese-Japanese fusion dishes.
The best part? Those intricately designed lanterns, their soft glow, painting every street, alley, and square in hues of red, yellow, and gold.
Visit Nagasaki Koshibyo Confucius Shrine and Historical Museum of China
For anyone keen to peel back the layers of Nagasaki’s cultural tapestry, a pit stop at the Confucius Shrine and Chinese Museum is a no-brainer.
Confucius Shrine was erected by Chinese folks living right here in Japan. Built in the late 1800s, this spot is a heartwarming tribute by the Chinese diaspora to the legendary philosopher Confucius.
Every step inside feels like you’re in a time machine. Those richly detailed carvings, vibrant tiles, and tranquility that just… make you want to take a deep breath and soak it all in.
And nearby is the Historical Museum of China, where the story of Nagasaki’s Chinese connection truly unfolds. It’s like walking through the pages of a gripping history book.
The exhibits paint tales of the Ming and Qing dynasties and the brave Chinese adventurers who made their way to Nagasaki, sharing their vibrant traditions, mouth-watering cuisine, and timeless philosophies.
Marvel at Sofukuji Temple
When you think of Japan, temples are probably on your must-visit list, right?
And while plenty are across the country, Sofukuji Temple has its unique charm.
Constructed in the 1600s, this temple is pure Chinese architecture in the heart of Japan, representing the significant Chinese influence in Nagasaki.
The intricate carvings and sprawling incense-filled halls are like pages from a rich, vibrant history book.
Walk Across Meganebashi Bridge
Meganebashi is another place to visit in Nagasaki.
With its two arches perfectly reflecting in the water, it looks just like a pair of glasses!
This centuries-old stone bridge is probably one of the most Instagram-worthy spots in Nagasaki.
But beyond its beauty, there’s history. It’s the oldest stone arch bridge in Japan, and its resilient structure has seen it stand firm against time and nature.
Explore the Nagasaki Seaside Park
Last, but definitely not least, is the serene Nagasaki Seaside Park. If you love a mix of urban views with a touch of nature, then this park’s for you!
Overlooking the port, the park offers panoramas of azure waters and ships passing by. I loved lounging on the grassy knolls, watching the sunset over the harbor.
And, if you’re up for a leisurely walk or bike ride, the well-laid paths guide you through blooming flowers and art installations.
It’s the perfect respite after a day of exploration, a place to breathe in the sea breeze and watch as Nagasaki’s city lights begin to twinkle.
Where to Stay in Nagasaki
For convenience, you might want to consider lodging near Chinatown in Nagasaki city.
If your itinerary includes Huis Ten Bosch and Kujukushima, staying in Sasebo could be more practical.
For a unique experience, consider traditional Japanese inns, or ryokans in Nagasaki. These provide a taste of classic Japanese hospitality, complete with tatami rooms, onsen (hot springs), and delectable kaiseki dinners.
Useful Things to Pack for Nagasaki
- Comfortable walking shoes for city exploration.
- A light jacket or cardigan, as evenings can get chilly.
- Portable umbrella or raincoat.
- A guidebook or map of Nagasaki.
- A camera or smartphone for capturing memories.
- Japanese phrasebook or translation app.
- A power adapter for Japanese sockets.
- Personal medications and a basic first-aid kit.
- Reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.
- Snacks, especially if you have specific dietary preferences.
FAQs about Things to do in Nagasaki
Why is Nagasaki a significant historical city in Japan?
Nagasaki is pivotal in world history, primarily due to its tragic past during World War II when it became the second city, after Hiroshima, to face an atomic bomb attack. Its long-standing interactions with foreign traders, especially the Dutch, have also shaped its unique cultural landscape.
Is Nagasaki just about its war history?
Absolutely not! While its wartime history is essential, Nagasaki boasts a diverse range of attractions—from the scenic beauty of Kujukushima to the vibrant energy of Shinchi Chinatown.
What’s the best time to visit Nagasaki?
The spring and autumn months offer pleasant weather, making them ideal for sightseeing. Plus, the cherry blossoms in spring add a magical touch to the cityscape.
Is Nagasaki’s cuisine different from the rest of Japan?
Due to its multicultural influences, especially Chinese and Dutch, Nagasaki’s culinary scene is unique. Be sure to try Kakuni Manju and Chanpon!
How many days are ideal for exploring Nagasaki?
A 3-4 day trip should allow you to soak in the major highlights. However, consider extending your stay if you’re keen on a deep dive.
Is Nagasaki family-friendly?
Yes, with attractions like Huis Ten Bosch and various museums, there’s something for every family member.
Visiting Nagasaki is like opening a book filled with captivating tales, each page revealing a blend of cultures, histories, and breathtaking landscapes.
Once a gateway for foreign traders, this city still resonates with echoes of ancient exchanges, global influences, and undying spirits.
Whether you’re tracing the legacies left behind by Dutch and Chinese traders, or finding solace in the poignant tales of peace and resilience, Nagasaki ensures a profound journey for every traveler.
But beyond its storied past, lies a city bursting with life, vibrant festivals, and an unmatched culinary scene that promises a delightful gastronomic journey.