Nanzo-in Temple in Fukuoka, Japan

Fabulous Fukuoka

I was at a sushi restaurant in Kanazawa recently, chatting with a young British traveler, when the topic of things to do in Fukuoka came up. “I wasn’t even sure if it was worth visiting,” the young woman explained, noting that she’d only decided to stop a night in the city because the cheapest flight to Seoul she could find left from there. “But I’m open to suggestions.”

I talked through a few of my favorite Fukuoka attractions before passing her my business card, but I also spoke to a larger truth: That Fukuoka is higher underrated, even—and especially—considering it’s one of the largest cities in Japan.

Will she navigate to this website and read this article before her Fukuoka trip? I’m not sure, although I hope she will. Regardless, you’re here now—and I’m confident my advice will help you on your way.

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Where to Stay in Fukuoka

I’ll get to some of my favorite Fukuoka things to do in just a second, but before that I wanted to breach the important topic of Fukuoka accommodation: Where to stay, both in terms of your location and specific hotels. In general, I would say the closer you can be to Hakata Station (the main rail depot of Fukuoka, as well as the Shinkansen hub of northern Kyushu), the better. Location, location, location!

In terms of individual Fukuoka hotels I recommend, I recently stayed at Tokyu Stay Hakata, and was impressed not only by the location, but by the quality of the rooms, the excellent service and even the breakfast (which I typically find underwhelming at hotels in Japan). Other places to stay in Fukuoka include the five-star Miyako Hotel (for higher-end travelers) and the Fukuoka hostel WeBase Hakata, which budget travelers will love.

My Favorite Things to Do in Fukuoka

Explore the Temples of Gion

 

Like Kyoto, Fukuoka has a district called Gion. And while it would be inaccurate for me to say that Fukuoka temples like Kocho-ji and the Kushida Shrine are on par with the classic, timeless sacred sites in Japan’s former capital, they’re nothing to sneeze it. This is especially considering that the majority of Fukuoka Gion is completely devoid of tourists, especially when compared to the hordes that haunt the one in Kyoto.

Catch Some Rays at Momochi Seaside Park

 

If you’re on the hunt for a Fukuoka beach (and don’t plan to seek sun and surf elsewhere in Kyushu, which is preferable), the good news is that Momochi Seaside Park is perfectly acceptable. Its sands are golden and its sea is clean—and, depending upon which way the sun is shining, you can hide in the shade of iconic Fukuoka Tower, assuming you don’t want to get a tan. It’s also a fantastic place to watch the sunset!

Have a Meal at the Fukuoka Yatai (or Don’t)

 

It surprised my British friend to learn that one of the best things to do in Fukuoka is eat—specifically ramen, which is so iconic here that “typical” ramen throughout Japan is known as Hakata ramen. Aren’t in the mood for sumptuous pork broth or handmade noodles? Head instead to the island of Nakasu, just to the west of Gion, where you’ll find a small row of yatai, or food stalls. (Don’t take too much of what I wrote in my piece about the stalls, which focuses mostly on my personal issues, to heart.)

Enjoy the View from Atago Shrine

 

While a trip to Atago Shrine might not quite quality as seeing Fukuoka off the beaten path, this outstanding viewpoint is nonetheless so quiet (and devoid of foreign visitors, anyway) that it’ll feel that way. To get here, whether you’re able to catch sunset or simply enjoy the blue hour setting in, ride the Fukuoka City Subway to Muromi, from which Atago Jinja it’s a 15-minute (but largely uphill) walk.

Take a Day Trip (or Three)

 

As much as I love Fukuoka’s city center, one of my favorite things to here is take day trips from Fukuoka. The most obvious option is to ride the train westward to the castle town of Karatsu, which is located in Saga prefecture. An option closer to the city (which, as a result, is more of a half-day trip) is Dazaifu Tenmangu, which is about 30 minutes south of Hakata Station by direct bus; or to Nanzo-in reclining Buddha, about 30 minutes to the east. Yet another option, also in Saga prefecture, is the Yayoi-era archaeological site of Yoshinogari.

How Many Days in Fukuoka Should You Spend?

Assuming you follow my suggestions, more of less, for things to do in Fukuoka, I’d recommend between 2-3 days in Fukuoka. This allows you to enjoy at least one full day in the city center, plus take 1-2 day trips. In general, I’d also say that shorter stints in Fukuoka fit better into larger trips to Kyushu, while a long weekend (or even longer) is better if you’re only traveling to Fukuoka during your visit to Japan.

As far as how to structure a Fukuoka itinerary 4 days (or longer)? My first recommendation would be to find an Airbnb property and “live” in the city instead of just camping out there as a tourist. Secondly, I’d probably recommend digging deeper into Fukuoka neighborhoods, and perhaps visiting secondary sights I haven’t mentioned yet, such as the ruins of Fukuoka Castle and Ohori Park (which, sorry to those of you who love it, I do not consider a huge priority for a short trip to Fukuoka).

Is Fukuoka Worth Visiting?

As my British friend and I paid our tabs and shook hands goodbye, I wondered whether she would take to heart my advice, not only about what to do in Fukuoka specifically, but my general point: That this underrated Kyushu city is absolutely worth visiting. I guess I’ll find out in a couple of weeks if she emails me to tell me how right I was. Or wrong—as much as I love Fukuoka, I do suppose the city’s not for everyone.

What I will say is that if you follow my suggestions for a Fukuoka itinerary (or, if you don’t have 2-3 days, you adapt them downward according to the amount of time you can spend here), it will exceed your expectations. And it might just leave a nice enough taste in your mouth—the ramen, and otherwise—that you return to they city. (I will say, for what it’s worth, that I enjoyed Fukuoka much more the second time around!)

The Bottom Line

Whether you were looking for things to do in Fukuoka or are simply seeking to understand this underrated city better, I have a feeling you’ve found what you’re looking for. A trip to Fukuoka will exceed your expectations, even if all you can do here is have a bowl of ramen or explore a temple or two in Gion. Likewise, Fukuoka makes a great kick-off to your trip to Kyushu, and also works as a standalone city trip, assuming you’re coming from elsewhere in Japan or Asia. Commission a custom Japan itinerary to make sure to enjoy Fukuoka to the fullest extend possible.