Not sure what Nagoya has to offer? Hint: probably more than you think. Japan’s 4th largest city has popular theme parks — including the new Ghibli Park — as well as traditional attractions, like the Grand Sumo Tournament, held in summer. Read on for all our top recommendations for what to do in Nagoya.

Pro tip: Pick your favorite suggestions from this list and then book a private customized tour.

Convinced already? Here’s how to get from Tokyo to Nagoya.

Haven’t really heard of Nagoya? It’s okay, we don’t blame you. Most travelers usually only pass through Nagoya on the Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka (or Kyoto).

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But, thanks to the new Ghibli Park, we imagine more people will be stopping in Nagoya from now on. And of course there are all the other things to see and do (and eat!) in Nagoya.

1. Top pick: Ghibli Park

Explore the magical world of Studio Ghibli

We recommend booking this package that includes Ghibli Park tickets and one night’s accommodation.

Ghibli Park is the long-awaited Studio Ghibli theme park, the only one of its kind in the world (though Tokyo has the smaller Ghibli Museum).

Like Ghibli Museum, Ghibli Park is a celebration of all things Studio Ghibli. We expecially like how many of the displays make you feel like you’re really in a Ghibli film. There are lots of exhibitions and immersive spaces — but no big rides, or anything digital.

Ghibli Park is a must-visit for Studio Ghibli fans of all ages. | Photo by Maria Danuco

While you can buy tickets directly for Ghibli Park, it’s a somewhat complicated process that must be done months in advance. Instead we recommend booking this package that includes Ghibli Park tickets and one night’s accommodation.

Ghibli Park is located in Aichi Commemorative Park on the outskirts of Nagoya. Want to know more? We have a full guide to Ghibli Park for you.

2. Grand Sumo Tournament (July)

Summer is the season for sumo in Nagoya

Always wanted to see sumo? Nagoya’s annual Grand Sumo Tournament takes place every July. It’s a great opportunity to see a sumo tournament, especially if you missed the Tokyo ones. The tournament lasts for about two weeks, and the tickets usually go on sale sometime in May.

3. Ōsu shopping district

Browse the shops and visit Ōsu Kannon

Love shopping? Then Ōsu shopping district may well be the place for you — it has over 1200 shops after all. Don’t expect high-end luxury brands though, Ōsu is more laid back than that. Expect to find shops selling vintage clothing, anime and pop culture merch, and other assorted goods.

You know you want to explore here. | Photo by Maria Danuco

There are also plenty of places to grab a drink and a bite to eat, ranging from restaurants and cafés, to street food and numerous izakaya (Japanese style bar).

Pro-tip: Book a private tour with a local English-speaking guide to make sure you visit all the best spots.

Detour: Ōsu Kannon

While you’re in the area don’t forget to swing by Ōsu Kannon, a Buddhist temple on the western side of the shopping district. It was originaly built in 1333, in Gifu Prefecture, but was moved to Nagoya in 1612.

It’s an interesting place to visit, and much calmer than the nearby shopping area. If you’re in the mood you can feed the pigeons, or catch a puppet show at Karakuri Clock. The 6-minute mechanical puppet show tells the story of Muneharu Tokugawa (1696-1764), who contribued a lot to the economic and cultural growth of Nagoya during his lifetime.

4. Legoland Resort Japan

Get creative at Japan’s largest lego park

From ¥4,800 for adults
Book here for a discount

Legoland Resort Japan is aimed for children but is still fun for adults. Along with classic theme park rides and attractions, Legoland has hands-on lego building workshops and a factory tour.

We especially liked all the lego sculptures you can find around the park — complete with signs showing how many lego bricks were used and how long it took to make. Oh, and did we mention that even the food is lego shaped?

You can only get this lego brick if you go on the legoland factory tour. | Photo by Maria Danuco

You can buy tickets at the gate on the day, but we recommend booking online in advance for a discounted price of ¥4,800 for adults or ¥3,500 for children.

Legoland is set on an a small island on Nagoya Bay, south of the city center, but easily reachable by train. It takes about 30 mintues to get there from Nagoya Station, with no need to transfer. For more details about getting there (and other things), check out our guide to Legoland Resort Japan.

5. Atsuta Shrine

An important shrine in a beautiful wooded park

Atsuta Shrine is a famous and very important Shinto shrine in Nagoya. It’s dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu and houses a legendary sword called Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi.

While the shrine and its lore are very interesting, to be honest, our favorite part was the forested area surrounding it — which reminded us a lot of Meiji Jingū in Tokyo.

Visit one of the most important Shinto shrines. | Photo by Maria Danuco

You could easily spend an hour or two wandering through the lovely wooded park, and finding lots of small shrines and altars along the way. But even better, when you get tired, you can head to Kusanagi Hiroba, a plaza area that was redesigned in 2021.

Set around the pond, Minami-Shinike, the plaza features beautiful rest areas, a souvenir shop, and a restaurant selling kishimen (Nagoya-style flat udon noodles).

6. Nagoya Castle

One for the history buffs

Nagoya Castle was originally built in the early 1600s, but was mostly destroyed during World War 2 fire bombing. However, some parts have been restored and are open to the public.

It’s an excellent place to go and learn about castle life during the Edo Period (1603-1867). The Honmaru Palace is especially good for this, as it has lots of signage in English and Japanese explaining the purpose of each room.

Nagoya Castle’s reconstructed main keep circa 2023. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Tickets cost ¥500 for adults, but if you have a day pass for the Me-Guru Sightseeing Bus that’s discounted to ¥400.

7. Tokugawa Garden

An historic, Japanese-style garden

Tokugawa Garden is another site in Nagoya with a long history. It originally belonged to the Owari-Tokugawa clan, however they turned it over to the city of Nagoya in 1931. Tokugawa Garden was opened to the public in 1932, but like Nagoya Castle it was destroyed in firebombing during World War 2.

The garden was only reopened to the public again in 2004. These days, it offers a calm escape from city life. We especially love the large pond at the center of the garden, not only is it full of koi fish, but it’s beautfully clear.

Take a peaceful stroll and feed the fish. | Photo by Maria Danuco

You can get tickets for ¥300 for adults, but if you have a day pass for the Mei-Guru Sightseeing Bus it’s only ¥240. You can also buy combo tickets for Tokugawa Park and the Tokugawa Art Museum which is next door.

8. Nagoya City Science Museum

Home to a really cool planetarium

Nagoya City Science Museum’s claim to fame is that it’s home to one of the world’s largest planetariums. Of course, this is in addition to a number of impressive displays and exhibitions on all areas of science. It’s definitely the kind of place where you can easily spend an entire day, especially if you’re into science and technology.

Inside is even more impressive. | Photo by Maria Danuco

While you can get museum-only tickets for ¥400 for adults, we recommend splurging for the combo museum and planetarium tickets for ¥800. Or, if you’ve bought a day pass for the Mei-Guru Sightseeing Bus, those prices are discounted to ¥360 for museum-only tickets and ¥720 for combo tickets.

9. Miso katsu

Try Nagoya’s most famous dish

When you’re hungry in Nagoya there are lots of local specialities to choose from. But if we have to pick just one to recommend it would be miso katsu.

Miso katsu is a variation of tonkatsu, or breaded and deep fried pork, topped with a sauce and often served with rice. Nagoya’s version is also served with a special sauce made of red miso. This sauce gives miso katsu a much richer flavor that regular tonkatsu.

The top half is red miso sauce, the lower half is regular tonkatsu sauce. | Photo by Maria Danuco

If you’re unsure about the flavor, some restaurants offer a half-half dish — as in half of the tonkatsu is topped with regular sauce and the other half is topped with red miso sauce. We love this because it really allows you to compare the different flavours and settle on which one is your favorite.

10. Day trip: Shirakawagō

Visit the Japanese countryside

In the mood to travel further afield? Then head out to Shirakawagō. This picturesque village in Gifu Prefecture might seem a little far from Nagoya, but it’s a popular day trip.

Shirakawagō is a World Heritage Site that has maintained a lot of its traditional architecture. During winter it’s especially popular, and there are even light up events to make the village even more fairytale like.

shirakawago gifu japan
As pretty as a picture. | Photo by iStock.com/stockstudioX

If you want to make a day trip of this, we recommend joining a tour. It includes a round-trip bus fare from Nagoya and you can upgrade to include lunch as well.

While we do our best to ensure information is correct, pricing and other details are subject to change. Last updated: January 2024.

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Filed under: Things to Do

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