Top 17 Things to Do in Nagasaki
What is there to do in Nagasaki, you ask? That's exactly what we've been asking ourselves as well, and the answer is: a lot! Find out what makes a trip to Nagasaki so exciting, right here!
The horrific nuclear bombing of Nagasaki that was to be the end of World War II is certainly the most prominent aspect of the city’s history. But, while this most significant event today indeed offers many compelling sites not just for history buffs, things to do in Nagasaki include so much more. Be it an abandoned island that appeared in a Bond movie or an amazing urban night time view from a mountainous observation deck, points of interest for tourism in Nagasaki are incredibly diverse. Whether you make it just a day trip from Fukuoka (you’ll have to compromise but it’s possible) or spend several nights, Nagasaki truly is a gem.
Following are the top places to include on your itinerary.
Nagasaki Peace Park
The Nagasaki Peace Park was built 10 years after the nuclear bombing as a site for memorial and peace promotion. It’s close to the hypocenter of the explosion, which is marked by a black monolith and a display of chilling statistics of the aftermath. A bit further on, visitors can look at actual remains of buildings that have been left untouched. Some pieces of the destroyed Urakami Cathedral, which was one of the largest in Asia until the nuclear attack, are still there today.
Another impressive highlight of the park is the almost 10 meters high Heiwa Kinen-zo, a 30-ton bronze statue which was created in 1955 by a local sculptor. The statue’s right hand pointing to the sky warns of the nuclear threat, its left hand stands for peace. The right leg is in a meditating position, while the other leg is ready to stand up and take action.
Overall, the Nagasaki Peace Park is an unmissable attraction for any Nagasaki traveler.
Address: Matsuyamamachi, Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture 852-8118 Access: Matsuyamamachi Station Opening Hours: 24 hours
Hashima Island (Gunkanjima)
There’s something about the ruins here that can really capture one’s imagination. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re on a small island in the ocean, maybe that the whole island basically consists of nothing else but these ruins, slowly being taken over by nature.
What Alcatraz is to San Francisco, Hashima Island is to Nagasaki. At least that’s the sense the abandoned island conveys, even though its function was different. Due to its shape, the island is commonly called Gunkanjima, which translates to Battleship Island. It was once a base for mining underwater coal and a tiny hometown for all the workers. But when the coal reserves were finished, everyone left at once, leaving behind furnished apartments, restaurants and schools.
Today, Gunkanjima has become largely popular and famous throughout the world. It was featured in the James Bond movie “Skyfall” as a hideout for the villain (Javier Bardem). Google has sent their street view photo team to make the tour around the remnants. And now, it has even been declared UNESCO world heritage. This came about not without controversy: during World War II, Koreans and Chinese war prisoners were used for forced labor in the coal mine, many of whom died because of the bad conditions.
The only way to set foot on the island today is to book a guided tour and take one of the three ferry companies for 3600 to 4200 yen. And a piece of advice: don’t forget sunscreen and snacks, and go to the bathroom before boarding the ferry, as there are no restrooms on Hashima Island.
Access: Ferry from Nagasaki Port
Mount Inasa (Observation Deck)
If you’ve ever been to Hakodate, Hokkaido, you might know about the famous view over the city from Mount Hakodate. The view over Nagasaki from Mount Inasa is lauded the same way, especially during nighttime when the city lights begin to glow. In fact, the two mountains are almost the same height as well, with 333 and 334 meters respectively.
For maximum effect, aim for early evening to reach the summit, as this is arguably the best spot in Nagasaki to see the sunset. A ropeway takes you up to the top, where you’ll find an observation platform and a restaurant. A walk up is also possible, and it’ll take you around 50 minutes.
From Nagasaki Station, there are two buses per hour which take about 15 minutes to the ropeway station.
Address: 〒850-0066 長崎県長崎市稲佐町364 Access: Bus from Nagasaki Station
Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum
In the area of the Nagasaki Peace Park, there’s a museum that’s focusing on the political background of the atomic attack in 1945 and the history of nuclear weapons development. And even if you know everything already, there’s a lot you won’t come across anywhere else.
There are so many relicts and objects on display, like a replica of the actual bomb that hit Nagasaki (“Fat Man”), as well as a showcase of how parts of the city looked immediately after the explosion. To some, the most chilling piece will be the deformed wall clock that’s been found 800 meters from the hypocenter, with its hands stopped at 11:02 – the exact time the bomb struck.
Entrance fee is 200 yen. The museum is closed on New Years holidays.
Address: 〒852-8117 Nagasaki-ken, Nagasaki-shi, 平野町Hiranomachi, 7−7番8号 Access: Hamaguchimachi Station/Matsuyamamachi Station Opening Hours: 8:30 - 17:30, last admission 17:00
Nagasaki National Peace Memorial Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims
Next to the Atomic Bomb Museum, a separate remembrance hall was built in the early 2000s to commemorate the atomic bomb’s victims. Documents and photographs of individual stories of people directly affected offer a rare insight into the past horrors. Parts of the monument have even toured around the world to promote the anti-nuclear cause.
Address: 〒852-8117 Nagasaki-ken, Nagasaki-shi, 平野町Hiranomachi, ７−８ Access: Hamaguchimachi Station Opening Hours: 8:30 - 17:30
Dejima and Dejima Wharf
During Japan’s isolationist period between the 17th and the 19th century, trade with foreign merchants was strictly regulated and virtually limited to the Nagasaki Port. Dejima was an artificial island originally built to house Portuguese traders, but when they later were banished because in Japan’s eyes Christianity was spreading too quickly, the Dutch and the Chinese were the only ones left allowed there. Dejima literally became a Dutch trading post.
Today, the area has been turned into a lively quarter with shops, restaurants and bars. The complete historic appearance of the trading post can be observed in a replicated miniature model of Dejima (see image above).
Address: 〒850-0862 Nagasaki-ken, Nagasaki-shi, Dejimamachi, 1−1−109 Access: Dejima Station Website: Dejima Wharf
Meganebashi (Spectacles Bridge)
At first, it might not look like it, but the Megane Bridge that spans the Nakashima River has a long history that outlived many generations. In fact, it was one of the first stone arch bridges in Japan when it was built in 1634 by a Chinese monk. Its nickname, Spectacles Bridge, comes as no surprise when you look at the arches’ reflection on the water.
A fun challenge is to search for the small heart-shaped stone that was integrated into the mural. It’s said that whoever finds and touches it will get an extra portion of luck in love.
Address: 〒850-0874 Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki, 魚の町 Access: Nigiwaibashi Station
The Glover Garden in Nagasaki’s south is dedicated to a Scottish trader who helped modernize Japan in various ways even before the Meiji period. It was built in an impressive style that was very popular at the time in Britain and takes visitors back to another era. Yearly, almost two million tourists come here to enjoy the architecture’s aesthetics, sit by the beautiful koi fish pond and stroll through the magical park.
For an equally gorgeous hotel, check out the nearby Setre Glover’s House Nagasaki.
Address: Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki, Minamiyamatemachi, 8番1号 グラバー園内 Access: Ishibashi Station Opening Hours: 8:00 - 21:00 (until 18:00 off-season)
Nagasaki boasts an incredible variety of both Japanese and international food. Local specialties include champon, a noodle soup similar to ramen.
In our article on Nagasaki restaurants we introduce some of the very best places to find champon and other great food.
Fukusai-ji (Zen Temple)
That’s right. There’s a temple in the form of a turtle with aluminum children and a Buddhist statue on its back in Nagasaki. Fukusai-ji is a Zen temple that has been around for centuries, but got completely destroyed by the atomic bomb attack. In the 1970s, the turtle head, which hadn’t existed before the World War at all, was added to the rebuilt version.
If that wouldn’t already be reason enough for a side trip, know that another curiosity awaits once you step inside. The interior of the large statue is hollow and holds the string of a giant pendulum, which circles over a memorial for thousands of victims of the nuclear attack.
Address: 〒850-0052 Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki, Chikugomachi, ２−５６ Access: Nagasakiekimae Station Opening Hours: 8:00 - 16:00
Ōura is a Roman Catholic church close to the Glover Garden in southern Nagasaki. It is also officially and dramatically called the “Basilica of the Twenty-Six Holy Martyrs of Japan”. The church gained fame because it helped bring to light the many Christians in the Nagasaki area who had to hide to avoid persecution. To honor them, a white marble Virgin Maria was shipped over from France. The 2016 Martin Scorcese movie “Silence” revolves around those Christians from Nagasaki. The Ōura Church is both an interesting place historically and a beautiful building as such.
Address: 〒850-0931 Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki, Minamiyamatemachi, ５−３ Access: Ishibashi Station Opening Hours: 8:00 - 18:00
Among the places in Nagasaki where the presence of Chinese culture is noticeable, it’s probably most obvious here. The grounds below this Confucius Shrine are even legally Chinese territory, governed by the Chinese embassy in Japan. It has been an important place for Nagasaki’s Chinese community since its building in the late 19th century.
Part of the complex is also a museum, where among other things you’ll find a model of the world’s first seismograph – a Chinese invention. Admission fee is 600 yen. On their website there’s an English guide to everything you can find in the shrine in PDF format.
Address: 〒850-0918 Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki, Ouramachi, １０−３６ Access: Ishibashi Station Opening Hours: 8:30 - 17:30
Like the Dutch merchants were not allowed outside their Dejima island when in Nagasaki, the Chinese were to stay in the area today known as Chinatown. Annually during Chinese New Year, the Nagasaki Lantern Festival fills the alleys with lights, hundreds of lanterns and a bustling crowd to celebrate. An unmissable festival if you’re in town in January!
Address: 〒850-0842 Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki, Shinchimachi, １０−１３ Access: Tsukimachi Station
Nagasaki Seaside Park
The Nagasaki Seaside Park is a green park by the waterfront next to the Dejima Wharf. It’s just about perfect for a peaceful stroll, a picnic on the green meadow or yoga with a gentle sea breeze whooshing through your hair. Kids will love the watery stones to play on and watching the ships enter the port.
It’s a fantastic oasis of tranquility and is easily combined with a visit to the close-by Glover Garden, Ōura Church and Confucius Shrine.
Address: 〒850-0843 Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki, 常盤町22−17 Access: Shimimbyoin-Mae Station
Ioujima Beach Resort and Yasuragi Onsen
In need of a day to relax? Roughly 20 minutes from the Nagasaki Harbour, a wonderful beach can be reached by ferry. This curved swimmer’s paradise is a full-on summertime retreat waiting for your company. On the same coast further south, the Yasuragi Ioujima also offers a beautiful onsen (Japanese hot spring) with sea views.
If laying on the sand or in the onsen the whole day doesn’t feel like enough activity to you anyway, just go for a rental bicycle for a few hundred yen and cruise around the island.
Address: 〒851-1201 Nagasaki Prefecture, Nagasaki, 伊王島町1-2129 Access: Nagasaki Port Ohato Terminal
This may not be a thrill seeker’s cup of tea, but why not experience the city from a commuter’s perspective? Maybe the tram is your vehicle of choice anyway to get to some of the other attractions, but a ride through the city itself is a great way to do sight- and people-watching.
Nagasaki’s electric trams are operated privately and successfully since 1915. A regular fare ticket is 120 yen for adults and 60 yen for kids.
Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture
The Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture tells the story of Nagasaki as the only corner of Japan open to foreign exchange during a long period in Japan’s history. But it’s not just passive looking-at-things here. You can actively participate yourself during crafts classes and drama performances. Admission fee is 600 yen.
Address: 〒850-0007 Nagasaki-ken, Nagasaki-shi, Tateyama, 1 Chome−1−1−1 Access: Sakuramachi Station Opening Hours: 8:30 - 19:00 (closed every 3rd Tuesday of the month)
Nagasaki Attractions Map
We’ve put all sightseeing spots on a map to give you an overview.
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