Historically, Gifu has a strong association with Oda Nobunaga, daimyō (domain lord) of the castle and bestower of the city's name in 1567. It was later visited by famed haiku poet Matsuō Bashō, who witnessed ukai here in 1688; Charlie Chaplin did the same in his day.
Although contemporary Gifu shows little evidence of those historic times (due to a colossal earthquake in 1891 and the decimation of WWII), recent redevelopment has created a vibrant and accessible downtown core. Noteworthy attractions include the lovely Gifu Park and one of the three Great Buddhas of Japan. Add some pretty mountains, a wide river and excellent transport links, and a stopover here becomes a viable alternative to big city Nagoya.