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Otaru (小樽) was the financial center of Hokkaidō – a bustling center of trade with Russia and China – in the early 20th century. The city's elite invested some of those riches in the construction of grand, Western-style buildings of stone and brick – the style of the time – many of which line the town's central canal. This atmosphere makes Otaru very popular with domestic visitors.

While the town is definitely touristy, with spots for selfie-taking and bus tours, its rich history, many preserved buildings, and overall uniqueness evoke a Hokkaidō of yesteryear that's well worth seeing, if only as a day trip out of Sapporo. Weekenders will find there's plenty to do, from museums to souvenir stores to restaurants and bars.

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Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Otaru.


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