This pretty harbour town is equal parts quirk, relaxation and sobering history.
Set in the southwest of Japan, Nagasaki is a picturesque port city with a mountain backdrop and a beguiling mix of architectural styles, despite having a history renowned for its tragedy. And while that history is acknowledged in the museums and moving monuments, the Nagasaki of today is a scenic and lively waterside hub that bubbles with a unique trading backstory (and current-day cruise ships), natural beauty and a food scene that celebrates an inbuilt blend of Chinese, Japanese and European cuisine.
Beyond the city itself and within Nagasaki Prefecture, you’ll also find phenomenal national parks made up of multiple islands, lush beach resorts, relaxing hot springs and kaleidoscopic foliage. You’ll also find a great restaurant scene, good shopping and, surprisingly, a replica Dutch village famous for its seas of brightly coloured flowers.
Things to do
With a massive nod to the Dutch influence in Nagasaki’s history, Huis Ten Bosch opens in new window is an incredible theme park that features a life-sized version of an old Dutch village, complete with windmills, museums, canals and cafes, alongside theme park rides and sweeping displays of tulips. It’s also home to the world’s biggest Festival of Lights and has a hotel on site that is completely staffed by robots. Oh, and an owl forest. And a chocolate-themed magic house. Are you there yet?
Sombre history, peaceful reflection
It’s impossible to separate Nagasaki, the city, from that horrific event in 1945 that killed 74,000 people and wounded another 75,000. The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum details that devastating day with pictures, artefacts and stories from survivors. The nearby Nagasaki Peace Park, which commemorates the victims and encourages reflection, contains two parks, a memorial museum, a stunning piece of sculpture and a black monolith positioned at the very epicentre of the explosion.
If you want to catch a night view that will send your Instagram into overdrive, take the Nagasaki Ropeway up to the 333m peak of Mt Inasa opens in new window where you can take in the sight known as the ’10-million dollar view’. Rated as one of the top three night views in Japan, you can take in a 360-degree view of the surrounding area, with lights blanketing the hills rising up around the harbour. Time it to catch the sunset.
Hashima Island, (also nicknamed ‘Gunkanjima’ - Battleship Island - for its resemblance to a battleship) was an undersea coal mine with a completely functioning town and a population of around 5000 people on the surface. But when the coal ran out, the residents had to move on, abandoning the island and its township in the early 1970s. It’s a fascinating and ghostly spectacle, though not without controversy, and you can take a guided tour or cruise around it.
Wrap up some shopping
Shopping in Japan is a thrill of delicate pleasures – so much care is taken by shop assistants as they wrap your precious purchases. If you want to get your shop on in Nagasaki, head to the Hamanmachi Shopping Arcade opens in new window, which is Nagasaki’s biggest shopping street. You’ll find a bustling range of shops and restaurants, and it’s in a handy central location. It’s undercover too, if the weather isn’t being your friend.
Nagasaki Airport (NGS)
Distance to Nagasaki City 18km
Bus Nagasaki’s airport is actually located on an island in the city of Omura. Buses opens in new window take a lot longer than expected due to the winding, mountainous roads, so budget for between 45 and 67 minutes to get to central Nagasaki by bus, depending on which of the three routes you take. Fares are roughly ¥900 yen one-way.
Taxi Taxis opens in new window are much quicker to central Nagasaki, taking around 35 minutes on the expressway. Fares are around ¥9560.Back to top
When to go
When you’re planning your trip, you’ll get the best of Nagasaki between April and May, and September and November. June and July can get pretty wet. Nagasaki also loves a festival, generally revolving around food or flowers. There are brewery festivals, oyster festivals, lantern festivals and tulip festivals – and that’s just the beginning. You’re bound to stumble upon a chunk of Nagasaki’s unique flavour.Back to top
Buses, trams and taxis are the preferred modes of transport around Nagasaki. You can also rent a bike, but just remember that it’s a pretty hilly town, so don’t rely on two wheels if you’re not physically up to it.
Buses cover both downtown and suburban areas. You can buy a daily pass or pay as you go – just take a ticket when you get on the bus, then put it in the ticket box near the driver when you get off and you’ll be charged for the distance you’ve travelled.
Trams are probably your best option. Every fare costs the same flat rate (just ask for a transfer ticket if you need to swap routes) or you can get an all-day pass. There are four colour-coded routes and very clear maps to show you the layout.
You can hail a taxi in the street or at a taxi rank. Most taxis are cash only.Back to top