What to do in Hiroshima: The best sights and our travel tips
Hiroshima, the metropolis in the west of the Japanese main island Honshu, was the last stop of our trip to Japan. The city is inextricably linked to one of the most terrible events in human history. The first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
It’s such a strange feeling to actually be in the place where this tragedy happened over 70 years ago.
Of course, the memorials commemorating this horrific event are among the most important sights in Hiroshima. But the city also has a lot more to offer.
And to make it clear from the start: we really liked Hiroshima.
In this post, we’ll be presenting the most beautiful sights in Hiroshima and sharing our best tips for the city with you.
Is it dangerous to visit Hiroshima?
If you’re wondering whether a trip to Hiroshima is dangerous at all, let us assure you: No, it isn’t.
What to do in Hiroshima: Our highlights
The number of sights in Hiroshima is relatively limited. Still, there’s a lot to discover here. One day should give you enough time to see all the places featured here.
Peace Memorial Park
The Peace Memorial Park is by far the most important sight in Hiroshima and the main reason people choose to visit the city.
The Peace Memorial Park was established after World War II, at the exact spot where the atom bomb detonated on August 6, 1945. There are several points of interest that are worth visiting in the park complex, which is located on an island in the middle of the city.
The A-Bomb Dome immediately catches your eye. The former Industrial Promotion Hall was one of the few buildings that wasn’t completely obliterated by the atomic bomb because it was almost exactly beneath the center of the bomb’s blast zone.
The building has been preserved in its heavily damaged condition as a memorial to the devastation wrought on Hiroshima.
Children’s Peace Monument
The Children’s Peace Monument commemorates the suffering of the children in Hiroshima, depicting a girl holding up an origami crane. The monument was built after the death of Sadako Sasaki.
Sadako was only two years old when the atomic bomb hit. She survived the initial blast unscathed, but was later diagnosed with leukemia as a result of radiation poisoning at the age of 12.
According to an old tradition, if you fold 1,000 paper cranes, you are granted a wish. And so Sadako folded countless cranes. Sadly, her wish to survive the insidious disease went unheeded. Nevertheless, the cranes have become a symbol of peace and hope thanks to Sadako.
Peace Memorial Museum & Flame of Peace
Opposite the Children’s Peace Monument is the Flame of Peace. The flame has been burning since 1964, and will not be extinguished until the last nuclear weapons on earth have been destroyed.
The Peace Memorial Museum is located at far end the Peace Park. It illustrates the horrors of the atomic bomb and how it impacted the lives of the people in Hiroshima. Exhibits such as the warped tricycle of three-year-old Shinichi Tetsutani, who was killed in the atomic blast, sent a chill through our spines. Nevertheless, or precisely for this reason, the museum is definitely worth visiting.
8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
200 yen | €1.50
Hiroshima Castle was originally built in the late 16th century and was faithfully reconstructed in 1958 after being destroyed by the atomic bomb.
The castle is surrounded by a large park and features exhibits on the history of Hiroshima. To be honest, the exhibition itself isn’t all that great, but at least the top floor offers a beautiful view of the park.
9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
370 yen | €2.75
Shukkei-en Garden is one of the most beautiful gardens we came across on our trip to Japan. Shukkei roughly translates to ‘compressed landscape’, and so this garden is themed to represent a miniature version of the entire country of Japan with its wide variety of landscapes and vegetation.
You can stroll over bridges, admire the different plants, or just watch the turtles swimming in the lake.
9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
260 yen | €1.90
Okonomiyaki is a typical Japanese dish that is almost entirely unknown in Europe. Okonomiyaki is fried on a hot plate: First, dough is prepared on the plate, similar to a crepe. Then it’s layered with cabbage and thinly sliced deli meat. Depending on your order, seafood or spring onions are added, and finally a fried egg is placed on top.
The end result looks pretty heavy on the stomach, and, in fact, okonomiyaki can be really filling. Hiroshima is pretty much the capital of okonomiyaki. Apparently there are more than 2.000 okonomiyaki restaurants here.
Okonomiyaki restaurants generally have a bar for patrons to sit while their meal is being prepared. Then they take a spatula to put their portions on their plates.
A good place for visitors to try okonomiyaki is Okonomi-mura. It’s located right in the city center (address: 5-13 Shintenchi) and features 24 different okonomiyaki restaurants on 6 floors.
Day trip from Hiroshima to Miyajima
A trip to Miyajima Island, about 20 kilometers south of Hiroshima, is an absolute must. It’s the site of the iconic Itsukushima Shrine, famous for its large torii gate that appears to be floating in the water.
There are also several other temples to admire on the idyllic island. The Daisho-In Temple, located on a small hill, is definitely worth a visit. It’s much more peaceful here because most tourists in Miyajima flock to the famous floating shrine and ignore this amazing temple.
It takes about an hour to get to Miyajima from Hiroshima. First, take the JR train from Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi (takes about 25 minutes). The JR ferry departs from there, taking you to Miyajima in about 15 minutes. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, the entire journey, including the ferry ride, is free of charge.
Day trip from Hiroshima to Himeji
Another worthwhile day trip is the village of Himeji, west of Hiroshima. Himeji Castle, considered the most beautiful of its kind in Japan, is located here.
The Shikansen takes one hour to get to Himeji. If you’re traveling to Hiroshima from Kyoto or Osaka, it makes sense to stop off in Himeji on the way. 3-4 hours should be plenty of time to explore the area. We just locked our bags up at the station (700 yen for a large locker) and went on a quick tour of the castle and the adjacent Koko-en Garden.
Getting around in Hiroshima: Buses and trams
Hiroshima doesn’t have a subway system, but there’s a dense network of buses and trams. The sights in Hiroshima are all clustered pretty close together, so we managed to see everything on foot in one day.
If you want to take a bus or tram, just get on at the back and pay at the front, the same as everywhere else in Japan. IC passes from other cities, such as the Suica card from Tokyo, also work in Hiroshima.
The Hiroshima Sightseeing Loop Bus is also popular with tourists. The red buses stop at all the major sights, pretty much like the hop-on/hop-off sightseeing buses common in other cities, just that they’re much cheaper here.
A day pass costs 400 yen, and the buses are even free if you have a Japan Rail Pass.
Where to stay in Hiroshima: Our hotel tips
If you want to stay in Hiroshima for longer than a day, it’s a good idea to book a hotel in the city center. That way, you can get to all the sights on foot and you’ll have a very good selection of local restaurants nearby.
Luckily enough, room rates in Hiroshima are much lower than in Tokyo or Kyoto.
We spent two nights at the Hiroshima Washington Hotel and would recommend it for your stay. It’s in the perfect location in Hiroshima Downtown. Okonomi-Mura is right outside, so you can feast on delicious okonomiyaki every evening.
The rooms were huge by Japanese standards and offer great value for money.
Check out our accommodation guide for Japan for information about all the hotels we stayed at during our trip to Japan.
More good places to stay in Hiroshima:
Explore Hiroshima with an insider
If you don’t want to explore Hiroshima on your own, but would rather have a real insider by your side, we’d recommend booking a guided tour. An English-speaking guide will be on site to show you the most beautiful places in Hiroshima and the surrounding area for one day.
Even more Hiroshima travel tips and information on Japan
Have you ever been to Hiroshima? Then we’d love to hear about your experiences in the comment section!