Your Ultimate Takayama Itinerary & Takayama japan Travel Guide
by Coco Tran On September 28, 2023
Are you visiting the charming town of Takayama, tucked away in the Japanese Alps, and want to make the most of your time here? After doing thorough research, I’ve created the perfect curated Takayama itinerary to explore this unique destination that feels like stepping back in time to old Japan.
In this complete travel guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know to plan your own adventure in Takayama, from the best things to do, where to stay, what to eat, and how to get around. I’ll provide tips to help you immerse yourself in the culture and history of this special town, as well as info on day trips from Takayama.
Let’s dive in to exploring the magic of Takayama!
Why Visit Takayama? is takayama worth visiting?
Here are the top reasons I’m so excited to visit Takayama:
- Preserved old town with traditional wooden architecture, merchant houses, sake breweries, and craft shops that transports you back to the Edo period of Japan.
- Two beautiful morning markets along the Miyagawa River bursting with tasty local treats and crafts.
- Takayama Festival with intricate, ornate floats that are paraded through town twice per year.
- Delicious regional cuisine like Hida beef, soba noodles, sake, and specialty mushrooms.
- Tranquil temples and shrines nestled amongst lush nature on the peaceful Higashiyama Walking Course.
- Fascinating history and culture to discover at museums, heritage homes, festivals, and more.
- Stunning surrounding nature with options like mountain hikes, hot springs, and villages like UNESCO World Heritage Site Shirakawa-go.
- Far fewer tourists than destinations like Kyoto, making for a more relaxed experience.
How Long to Spend in Takayama Japan
With its compact size yet abundance of attractions, I recommend spending 2 full days in Takayama. This allows enough time to see the highlights at a comfortable pace without feeling rushed.
Summary of ideal Takayama 2 day itinerary
Day 1 in Takayama:
- Walking tour of Old Town
- Takayama Jinya
- Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall
- Hida Folk Village
Day 2 Takayama:
- Miyagawa Morning Market
- Heritage homes
- Higashiyama Temple Walk
- Hida Beef dinner
Of course, you can adapt this itinerary to fit your own interests. And with extra time, Takayama also makes a great base to explore the surrounding mountains and villages of Gifu.
how many days in Takayama?
While it’s possible to see the main sights in 1 day, staying overnight lets you enjoy Takayama’s charming morning and night scenes. I’d recommend at least 2 days to fully experience all that Takayama has to offer.
Getting to Takayama & How to get to takayama
Takayama is located in the Gifu Prefecture of the Chūbu region in central Japan. Here are the best transportation options for getting to Takayama:
Train from Tokyo to Takayama
- From Tokyo: Hikari shinkansen bullet train to Nagoya, transfer to Takayama limited express train (about 5 hours total)
- From Nagoya: Takayama limited express train (about 2.5 hours)
- The Japan Rail Pass covers trips to Takayama and can save you money
Bus from Tokyo, Kyoto or Kanazawa to Takayama
- Night buses available from major cities, saving on lodging if you sleep on the bus
- Reservation required, takes about 5-6 hours from Tokyo and Kyoto
- Costs around ¥5,000-¥6,500 one-way
- Websites to check bus schedules and buy tickets: Willer Express, Nohi Bus
Once you arrive, Takayama’s main attractions are easily walkable, or you can rent a bike. Read on for more details on getting around town.
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how to get Around in Takayama
One of the best parts of Takayama is how walkable the town is. Here are some options for getting around:
- On Foot – The Old Town and main sights are within walking distance. Give yourself about 30 minutes to cross from one end of town to the other. Bring comfortable walking shoes!
- Bicycle Rental – Rent a bike near the train station for ¥500-1,000/day. This gives you more flexibility to visit sights outside the town center.
- Bus – Use buses to reach farther sights like Hida Folk Village and the morning markets. ¥210 one-way, pay cash on board.
- Taxi – Taxis are available to call, though walking or buses are cheaper for short distances.
Since Takayama is small, you likely won’t need transportation aside from your two feet. But bikes or buses help for visiting outer attractions.
Best Time to Visit Takayama
One of Takayama’s charms is that each season offers something special:
- Spring (March – May): Comfortable weather and beautiful cherry blossoms. See the floats at the Takayama Spring Festival.
- Summer (June – August): Warmer weather and summer festivals. Go hiking in the mountains.
- Fall (September – November): Crisp weather and fall foliage. Enjoy harvest foods like Hida beef and onsen soaks.
- Winter (December – February): Chilly weather and snow. Takayama’s charming old town looks like a winter wonderland!
I’m visiting in November to experience the onsen and staying in a Ryokan in Takayama. but there’s never a bad time to go. Just be prepared with the right clothes for the season and you’re sure to have an amazing trip!
Where to Stay in Takayama
Takayama offers a great mix of accommodation types to suit any budget and style:
Tip: Stay close by to the train station so it’s easier to navigate. check if the ryokan or hotel offers shuttles! Ours did since the Ryokan was 30 min bus ride from the main town.
- Takayama Ouan Hotel – Historic ryokan with hot spring baths and gorgeous courtyard garden
- Best Western Hotel Takayama – Modern hotel conveniently located near JR Takayama Station
- Hotel Associa Takayama Resort – Large resort hotel with natural hot springs, 10 minute taxi from city center
Ryokans in Takayama (Traditional Inns)
See my recommended list of Takayama Ryokans with private onsens here
TIP: Make sure to book early, especially for popular places like ryokans with hot spring baths.
Top Things to Do in Takayama
Takayama packs a lot of charm and culture into its small size. Here are the top attractions and activities you won’t want to miss:
Old Town in Takayama
The beautifully-preserved historic districts of Takayama Old Town are like stepping into a time capsule of medieval Japan. The three main areas to explore are:
- Sanmachi Suji – Historic 17th century merchant street lined with sake breweries, cafes, shops and traditional wooden buildings.
- Kami-sannomachi – “Lower Old Town” with more sake breweries and workshops for traditional crafts like woodcarving and weaving.
- Kamiichinomachi – Picturesque canal district with waterways, bridges and charming old houses.
Wandering these streets really feels like traveling back to the Edo period. Around every corner is another photographic scene or interesting shop to pop into.
Morning Markets in Takayama
One of the top things to do in Takayama is browsing the bustling morning markets that take place along the Miyagawa River.
Tip: Find my recommended list of best places to eat in Takayama here
The Jinya-mae Market has vendors selling veggies, sweets, and souvenirs while the larger Miyagawa Market has craft stands selling pottery, fabrics and more. You can easily spend an hour or two exploring these markets and sampling the tasty regional treats.
Takayama Jinya in Takayama
Step back to the Edo period at the well-preserved Takayama Jinya government building. See the rooms where officials conducted political administration for the region and get insight into Japan’s feudal past.
Takayama Festival Floats
The highlight of Takayama’s festivals in spring and fall is the impressive decorated floats called “yatai” that are paraded through the streets. At the Takayama Yatai Kaikan you can see a rotating exhibit of four of the majestic floats up close when they’re not in use.
Temples & Shrines in Takayama
Over a dozen temples and shrines dating back centuries dot Takayama and make for scenic, peaceful spots to visit. Top picks are Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine, Daiou-ji Temple, and the atmospheric temples along the Higashiyama Walking Course through the hillside forest.
Hida Folk Village by Takayama
At this outdoor museum, you can explore over 30 traditional houses and structures relocated here from the surrounding Hida region. It’s a perfect glimpse into rural architecture and artifacts of Japan centuries ago.
Best Things to Eat in Takayama
Takayama has delicious regional specialties and traditional cuisine to sample.
Tip: Find my recommended list of best places to eat in Takayama here
Foodie highlights include:
- Hida beef – Famous marbled wagyu beef raised locally, enjoyed as steak, sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, yakiniku and more
- Soba noodles – Thick buckwheat noodles, served hot or cold with various toppings
- Sansai ryori – Seasonal mountain vegetables like foraged mushrooms, beans, wild greens
- Hoba Miso – Miso paste grilled at your table on a magnolia leaf
- Sake – Local sake like the Hida Takayama brand using pure snowmelt water
- Morning market treats – Grab some warm mochi donuts, taiyaki cakes, or fish-shaped sushi to go
From casual street food to high-end Hida Beef, Takayama delivers some of Japan’s best regional specialties and is a paradise for foodies.
Experiencing Takayama’s Culture
An essential part of any trip to Takayama is engaging with the local culture and traditions that give the town its character. Here are some ways to immerse yourself:
Visit a sake brewery in Takayama Japan
Takayama has been renowned for its sake breweries for over 300 years. Take a tour of historic breweries like Harada Sake Brewery or Suzuya Sake Brewery to learn about the sake-making process and sample different types like the famous miyamizu. book this takayama sake tour
See a traditional puppet show
The marionette puppet shows at Takayama Ningyo Joruri Theatre showcase a local art form dating back centuries. This all-wooden puppetry originated with the festival floats.
Try traditional arts & crafts
From woodcarving to sarubobo doll-making, take a workshop to try your hand at Takayama’s expertly crafted folk arts. The Hida Kokubunji Temple and Hida Folk Village offer great hands-on experiences.
Visit morning & night markets
Wandering through Takayama’s bustling morning markets along the Miyagawa River is an essential local experience. The jinya-mae market has tasty snacks while the miyagawa market has arts & crafts. You can also browse the small night markets.
Relax at an onsen
Takayama has some lovely hot spring baths where you can soak and relax like the Mozumo Ry0kan with private onsens and beautiful peaceful scenery.
Try local cuisine
Indulge in Hida Beef, slurp some soba noodles, or sample village tofu – Takayama offers tastebud tempting local specialties. Be sure to try the seasonal sansai mountain vegetables too.
Attend a festival
If visiting during a festival like the Spring or Autumn Takayama Matsuri, be sure to see the majestic festival floats paraded through the streets. These vibrant celebrations give insight into local culture.
By taking part in these hands-on cultural experiences, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what makes Takayama so special. The friendly locals are eager to share their traditions and expertise with visitors.
More Top Attractions in Takayama
Aside from the main highlights, here are more of the top things to do in Takayama:
- Higashiyama Walking Course – Scenic trail through mossy forests to secluded mountain shrines and temples
- Shiroyama Park – Pleasant park on site of former castle with views, cherry blossoms, and fall colors
- Sakurayama Nikkoukan – Showcase of intricate 1/10 scale models of Nikko’s lavish Toshogu Shrine
- Takayama Showa-kan – Museum displaying relics and scenes of everyday life in Japan from the 1950s-80s
- Teddy Bear Eco Village – Whimsical museum displaying 1000+ teddy bears in different settings like a castle
- Morning Market Street Food – Warm mochi or taiyaki cakes straight from streetside vendors
- Takayama Ramen Alley – Nibble on a bowl of Hida beef ramen in this cozy alley packed with ramen shops
- Takayama Tanada Terraces – Photograph the scenic rice terraces on the hillsides surrounding Takayama
- Local crafts – Browse shops selling famous Takayama arts like sarubobo dolls, woodcarvings, lacquerware
- Matsuri no Mori – Outdoor museum displaying festival floats and artifacts year-round
- Sumiyoshi Shrine – Historic Shinto shrine with a bright red gate situated near the train station
With its rich culture, storied past, gorgeous nature, and charming attractions, Takayama offers endless adventures for travelers. Taking the time to wander off-the-beaten-path leads to magical discoveries and memorable experiences.
2 Days in Takayama Itinerary summary
To help you make the most of your time exploring Takayama’s top sights, here is a recommended 2 day itinerary:
Start by strolling through Takayama Old Town districts like Kami-sannomachi, Sanmachi Suji and Kamiichinomachi. Pop into charming shops, craft workshops and cafes as you explore the historic streets.
Later, visit the Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall to admire the intricate floats. Then explore the grounds of nearby Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine.
In the afternoon, take the scenic Higashiyama Temple Walk through the forested hillside to see ancient shrines and temples. Afterwards, relax at the beautiful gardens of Hida Kokubunji Temple.
For dinner, indulge in Hida beef at a local BBQ restaurant like Wabisuke or eat at a robatayaki restaurant to sample regional specialties.
Get an early start at the lively ** Miyagawa Morning Market**. Browse the food and craft stalls while snacking on local treats.
Next, tour the Takayama Jinya and step back in time to the Edo period buildings. Then visit the Hida Folk Village open air museum to see historic houses and artifacts from the region.
In the afternoon, rent a bicycle and cycle through Shiroyama Park and across the scenic Sakurabashi Bridge. Pedal out to Hida Shurakuen Healing Garden to stroll through their zen garden.
For your final dinner, splurge on a kaiseki multi-course meal showcasing the best of Hida’s fresh seasonal ingredients.
Here is a detailed 1 day and 2 day Takayama itinerary:
1 Day Takayama Itinerary // one day in takayama
8:00 am – Have breakfast at your hotel/ryokan in Takayama
9:00 am – Walk from your hotel to Takayama Jinya. This well-preserved government office building from the Edo period opens at 8:45 am. Address: 137 Kenkamachi, Takayama, Gifu Prefecture
10:00 am – Stroll through the streets of the Old Town like Sanmachi Suji, Kami Sannomachi, and Kamiichinomachi. Pop into the local shops, cafes, and sake breweries.
12:00 pm – Have a soba noodle lunch at one of the many restaurants in Old Town like Suzuya or Kusuri no Sato Takumi
1:30 pm – Visit the Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall (Takayama Matsuri Yatai Kaikan) to see the floats used in the famous Takayama Festival. Opens at 9 am. Address: 178 Sakura-machi, Takayama, Gifu Prefecture
3:00 pm – Explore the traditional crafts shops and breweries along Kamiichinomachi Street in Old Town
5:00 pm – Walk through the peaceful grounds of Shiroyama Park and see the site of Takayama Castle
6:30 pm – Enjoy Hida Beef for dinner at a yakiniku BBQ restaurant like Maruaki
Takayama Itinerary 2 Days
- Takayama Jinya
- Old Town districts
- Heritage houses like Yoshijima House
- Takayama Festival Floats Museum
- Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine
- Higashiyama Temple Walk
Dinner: Hida Beef
- Miyagawa Morning Market
- Kusakabe Folk Craft Museum
- Bicycle through Shiroyama Park
- Hida Folk Village
- Hida Shurakuen Gardens
Dinner: Traditional ryokan kaiseki meal
Day Trips from Takayama
Thanks to Takayama’s central location, there are abundant fascinating side trips just a bus ride away. Top day trips I’m considering are:
Shirakawa-go day trip from takayama
This UNESCO World Heritage village is famous for farmhouses with thatched gassho-zukuri roofs in a picturesque valley setting. It’s a 50 minute bus ride away and gives you a taste of rural Japan from centuries past.
Walk across the Doburoku Bridge and visit sites like Wada House to see the towering thatched roofs up close. The scenic open-air bus ride there and back is half the fun!
Kamikochi day trip from takayama
Known as “The Alps of Japan”, Kamikochi is a hiker’s paradise set amidst spectacular mountain vistas. You can take a bus from Takayama directly to Kamikochi in around 90 minutes.
Some of the stunning hiking trails and nature walks you can do here are:
- Taisho Pond – Crystal clear waters reflecting Mt. Yake
- Myojin-ike Pond – Turquoise waters surrounded by flowers
- Kappa Bridge – Iconic red bridge with river views
Hirayu Onsen day trip from takayama
This peaceful onsen village in the Okuhida Valley has several public bathhouses to soak in the restorative mineral waters. Buses from Takayama take about 90 minutes.
Top baths include Fukuji Onsen with views of the Hotaka Mountains and the massive wooden bathhouse of Hirayu no Mori.
Essential Information for Visiting Takayama
Here are some key details to know when planning your trip to Takayama:
- The climate is very cold in winter with regular snowfall. Summer is mild and humid. Pack appropriate clothes.
- Visit the Takayama Tourist Information Center by the train station for maps, brochures and sightseeing advice.
- Most shops, restaurants and attractions take cash only. Some accept credit cards or e-payments. Hit the ATM at the 7-11 by the station.
- Takayama is very walkable but has hilly streets. Comfortable shoes are recommended.
- Major sights like Takayama Jinya and the morning markets are open year-round, but some close various days of the week or winter season.
- Accommodations from hostels to luxury ryokans are available. Book well in advance for festival dates.
- The main train station is Takayama Station. You can store luggage here if needed after checkout before an onward journey.
- Useful apps include Maps.Me for offline maps, Google Translate, Hyperdia for train schedules, Japan Travel for transportation.
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