A popular southern entry point into the island of Hokkaido, the coastal city of Hakodate traces its roots back to Japan's feudal era and was one of the country's first ports to welcome international trade. You can still see signs of global influences in its neighbourhoods' clapboard residences and trundling streetcars.
Aside from catching the spring cherry blossoms, most Hakodate itineraries revolve around two pivotal experiences: witnessing the nighttime view from atop Mount Hakodate and shopping at the morning market. A ropeway provides the easiest route to reach the mountain peak; be sure to arrive early to catch the sunset from its observatory before the city dissolves into twinkling lights. Early risers, meanwhile, get their kicks at Hakodate's morning market, which stocks Hokkaido hairy crabs, squid and other fresh seafood.
History lovers will find lots to love in Hakodate. You can hop on a streetcar to reach Motomachi, a sloping neighbourhood home to historic churches, parks and consulates. The Warehouse District along the waterfront is another highlight, where red-brick warehouses have been converted into stylish restaurants and shops. Step further back in time with a visit to Goryōkaku, a 19th-century star-shaped fort whose overgrown ruins are now a picturesque stage for the city's famous cherry trees.