Kanazawa is a sprawling city with two almost parallel rivers traversing its core. Most areas of interest are located a good distance from the impressive JR Kanazawa Station area, where most visitors arrive. Since the arrival of the Hokuriku shinkansen (bullet train), this area has been abuzz with activity. The terminus of the substantial regional bus network, which can at first seem a little confusing, is also here. Have patience: you'll orient yourself soon enough.

Heading south of the station along Hyakumangoku-dōri, you'll reach Kōrinbō (the shopping and business district) before arriving in Katamachi, by the banks of the Sai-gawa; this is the place to eat, drink and be merry. If you're staying near the station, note that buses stop early in the evening and taxis back from the action cost at least ¥1300. Tucked between Kōrinbō and the Sai-gawa is the stately former samurai district of Nagamachi.

Teramachi and Nishi-chaya-gai are just over the bridge from Katamachi, but the mainstay of sights, including Kanazawa Castle Park and Kenroku-en, are to the east. To their north, on opposite sides of the Asano-gawa, lie the pretty Kazuemachi-chaya-gai and Higashi-chaya-gai teahouse districts, in the shadow of hilly Utatsuyama and its many temples. Heading west will loop you back to the station, passing Ōmi-chō Market, a must-see.