One of the biggest and most important cities in Japan, Nagoya sits at the heart of Honshu Island. With its numerous sights, it is a treat for any traveler but be prepared to navigate the crowded streets in order to find the hidden gems of Nagoya’s history and culture. Nagoya truly embodies the story of Japan’s recovery after WWII, with impressive skyscrapers and numerous global companies being present wherever you look. It is an excellent place to learn about modern-day Japan, so prepare for an exciting day.
As is the case with most of Japan, the best time to visit Nagoya is spring or autumn. Spring is actually the peak of the tourist season due to the famous cherry blossoms, so if you want to get lower prices and avoid crowds, maybe aim for May. Autumn, on the other hand, has significantly lower prices and fewer tourists, so maybe aim for that if the cherry blossoms are not the main reason for your visit.
Summers in Nagoya are pretty hot and humid, with the typhoon season starting in August, which means the weather is less than ideal. Winters are relatively dry, but cold and windy.
As for the events, there’s always something going on in the city. You have your Nagoya Festival in early October, with parades in the city center; then there’s also the Nagoya Castle Summer Festival in August, and even the World Cosplay Summit, also in August.
But there are also some, hm, more interesting festivals such as the Tagata Fertility Festival with a big wooden phallus being the main star, and the Konomiya Naked Festival with loads of men wearing nothing but loincloths. Nagoya can be quite quirky like that.
- With approximately 2.3 million people, Nagoya is the fourth biggest city in Japan. Only Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka are bigger. However, the city’s metropolitan area is the third-biggest, with just over 10 million people.
- Along with Osaka and Tokyo, Nagoya is considered one of the three most important cities in the country.
- The city has a long and rich history, and its name was first mentioned at the end of the 2nd century AD.
- Nagoya is the birthplace of Toyota, whose HQ is just outside of the city.
- At the beginning of the 17th century, the city became the seat of the Owari, a branch of the Tokugawa family, who ruled Japan for more than 250 years. While under the rule of the Owari, Nagoya became famous as a cultural center.
Exploring one of Japan’s major cities in one day requires some planning, so you will want to have a reliable itinerary with you. But don’t be intimidated – Nagoya is an amazing city just waiting to be discovered. Here are the best things to see and do while in town. Enjoy!
The best way to start your one day in Nagoya is to head right on to Nagoya Castle. This is the most famous and most popular sight in the city, so getting here early can help you avoid big crowds. Shiyakusho Station is the fastest way to get to the castle, but Nagoya Station is within walking distance, too.
The castle itself was built in the early 17th century and served as the seat of the Owari, the most powerful branch of the mighty Tokugawa clan. It did suffer a lot of damage in WW2 but has since been restored to its full glory.
The main thing to see is the amazing Hommaru Palace, with more than 30 beautiful rooms and loads of works of art. It is full of intricately crafted details that were carefully restored in 2018, so keep your eyes open and try to soak everything in. Walls covered in gold with animals painted on them, lacquered gables, and carefully crafted wood are just some of the things that will make your jaw drop.
Stroll through Meijo Park
Right next to the castle is the amazing Meijo Park. It’s perfect if you need a calmer place where you can collect yourself and go over the impressions the castle has left on you. You can enjoy sitting on a bench near a pond, check out some of the statues scattered around the park, and generally take a moment to smell the roses.
Opened in 1931, the park is full of flowers which are in full bloom in spring. The area is divided in several separate sections, and there are also numerous cherry trees all over the place, which is another great reason to visit this place around April. The colors you see will leave you speechless, and if you’re looking for a place to picnic, this is probably the best location in Nagoya!
Toyota and Nagoya are inextricably linked, so visiting the Toyota Commemorative Museum should be the next thing on your itinerary. One of the biggest car manufacturers in the world today actually started out as a company that produced machines for the textile industry, and it’s very interesting to follow its transition through the exhibits here.
Interestingly, the museum is located in an old Toyota factory, and there are some things even kids will like such as the wind tunnel or the interactive playground over in Technoland. Of course, there is also a part dedicated to Toyota’s cars, so all in all, coming here is a great decision for anyone even remotely interested in technology.
At this point, you are probably getting quite hungry, so it’s time to stop for lunch. And there are quite a few great choices nearby.
Maruya, for example, is a very good unagi restaurant, and Midtown BBQ Nagoya will provide you with some awesome meat straight off the grill. Then there’s also The Kawabun if you’re in the mood for something Italian, or you can head to Ichiran Nagoya Sakae for some delicious ramen.
Many different cuisines are represented throughout the city, so doing a bit of research may yield some interesting results. Bon appetit!
You won’t have to go too far to find the next stop in this itinerary. Nagoya Science Museum is due south of Nagoya Castle, and it has a whole lot to show you.
When you come to the museum, the first thing you will notice is its huge dome. That is the planetarium, one of the biggest planetariums in the world. Apart from that, there are several other sections you can visit, with many interactive exhibits scattered throughout. Many of those have been designed specifically with kids in mind, but adults will find plenty to do and enjoy, too.
See what it’s like on Earth’s poles, experience firsthand the power of a tornado, and learn all about astronomical events. Places like this make you fall in love with science.
Now it’s time to head a bit south, to the Atsuta Jingu Shrine. All you have to do is hop on a train from Nagoya Station and exit at Jingu-mae Station or JR Atsuta Station. Both are mere minutes away from the shrine.
Founded at the end of the 2nd century AD, the shrine itself is incredibly important in Shintoism and sees millions of visitors every year. It is dedicated to Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, and houses Kusanagi, the sacred sword, one of the three Imperial Regalia that symbolize the legitimacy of an emperor.
The shrine also has a treasure hall where visitors can see more than 4000 different objects, and a new museum (Kusanagi-kan) dedicated to swords and you can even pick up a sample to get a feeling of the weapon.
As the sun sets, you should head to the Port of Nagoya, which is the best way to end your day in this amazing city. There is a great amusement park here with a huge Ferris wheel from which you can enjoy some spectacular views thanks to the completely transparent gondolas.
You can also hop on a Nagoya Port Night Cruise that shows you the city from a completely different perspective. It takes about an hour and shows the passengers the parts of the city that really look amazing at night. Perfect if you’re in town with your significant other.
If you still have energy or are just in the mood for a drink or two, head back to the city center because there are some great places there. Midland Square Sky Promenade, for example, provides fantastic views of the city from more than 200 meters, plus there is a nice little bar there, too.
Hoshigaoka Terrace is another good choice, especially if you’re looking for a place where you can shop because this mall has plenty of great restaurants and cafes that go along great with the chic shops.
For something truly authentic, you may want to visit an izakaya, which is essentially a Japanese pub. You will find loads of them in Nishiki 3-chome, a part of the city that’s very popular with the locals when it comes to having a good night out. Of course, bars and restaurants abound as well, so you will have a lot of fun exploring this part of the city. Try a bottle of Kirin Classic Lager if you’re a beer lover!
Where to stay in Nagoya?
Nagoya Prince Hotel Sky Tower
453-6131 Aichi, Nagoya, Nakamura-ku Hiraike-cho 4-60-12 Global Gate 31F, Japan
Not only does Nagoya Prince Hotel Sky Tower offer plenty of five-star luxury to every guest, but it’s also located in a tower that provides spectacular views of the city. The rooms start from the 32nd floor and are incredibly comfortable, coming with free toiletries and coffee machines, among other things. They serve ice cream for breakfast here, the hotel has a great fitness center, and you can easily exchange currencies. Everything you need for a luxury stay!
Nagoya JR Gate Tower Hotel
450-6660 Aichi, Nagoya, Nakamura-ku Meieki 1-1-3, Japan
Nagoya JR Gate Tower Hotel is connected to the JR Nagoya Station via a shopping mall, so getting to and from it won’t be a problem. It too is located in a skyscraper, so you will be able to enjoy an amazing view, as well as a great breakfast made using local ingredients at the top of the building. The rooms are very well equipped, with plenty of amenities, and the hotel also has a fitness center. Services such as dry cleaning and currency exchange are also available.
LAMP LIGHT BOOKS HOTEL Nagoya
Mere minutes from Fushimi Subway Station, LAMP LIGHT BOOKS HOTEL Nagoya has a unique feature on the ground floor. The 24-hour library/cafe/coworking space is a great place to enjoy some peace and quiet or to get some work done if you need to. The rooms are very well equipped and come with free toiletries, toothbrushes, and a hairdryer, among other things. Everything is impeccably clean, and the staff is always there to help you, so you’ll really like your stay here, especially if you’re a bookworm.
Trip & Sleep Hostel
460-0011 Aichi, Nagoya, Naka-ku Osu 3-27-29, Japan
There are some great hostels in Nagoya, too! Trip & Sleep Hostel is just the place you want to stay in if you’re looking for a comfortable, quality hostel. It is surrounded by some excellent shopping and dining options, with beds that have curtains around them to give you some extra privacy. Perfect cleanliness is a given, and the hosts are extremely friendly and helpful. The best hostel in the city!
Japan is a fascinating country, and Nagoya is no exception, so if you want to stay and explore this part of the country for more than just one day, you will have plenty of great choices for a day trip. Here are some of the most popular choices to reach from Nagoya.
You can get to Inuyama from Nagoya in just half an hour by train, and this is a trip that’s well worth making. Primarily because of the Inuyama Castle, a beautiful if diminutive castle above the Kiso River. Furthermore, the castle town is full of traditional houses, which makes for a great photo op, and in summer you can see the local fishermen using cormorants to catch fish, a tradition going back more than 1300 years.
It will take you about two and a half hours to reach Takayama, but this effort will be rewarded with some incredible mountainous scenery. Wonderful and fully preserved buildings from the Edo period are the main feature of this calm town, with numerous shops, cafes, and restaurants located in them. Try Hida beef (a type of Wagyu beef) and relax and recharge your batteries.
Ise is a great choice for a day trip from Nagoya if you want to learn more about Japan’s culture. The main sight here is Ise Jingu, the most important shrine in the country when it comes to Shintoism. However, the town itself is quite lovely, with many traditional houses, shops and restaurants, and everything is packed when New Year celebrations start. You can hop on a train and be here in an hour and a half.
Gamagori is a very interesting option for a day trip, with some quite unusual and unexpected places to visit. One such example is Laguna ten Bosch, a Dutch village/amusement park where you can enjoy some nice rides. Gamagori is also home to a hotel that is run completely by robots, a small island with a shrine you can visit, and a fruit park where you can pick your own fruit. Plenty to do and enjoy here, just an hour away from Nagoya.
- If you’re not planning to rent a car, a one-day pass or a weekend pass for Nagoya’s public transport is the next best thing. It covers both buses and subway rides, so you will be able to easily get around.
- Nagoya is a pretty good city for cyclists, especially when it comes to the city center. Don’t be afraid to rent one – you can do it via an app or get it from some of the hotels in the city.
- Plan ahead if you’re traveling by bus. It can be tricky to get off at the right stop because everything is in Japanese. You best be prepared and know how many stops you need to travel.
- Tipping is not customary in Japan.
- The subway network is exceptionally well organized, with six different lines covering pretty much the whole city. If you have to be somewhere quickly, this is the transport method you want.
Make sure you have everything you need
What to pack for your next trip?
Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully.
Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times.
Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.