“Don’t listen to what they say; Go see.” ~ Chinese Proverb.

So, is Nagoya worth visiting? If you’re here, I’m guessing you’re after an honest response to this question. As the capital of Aichi Prefecture and as Japan’s fourth largest city, Nagoya is often overlooked as a tourist destination in favour of Tokyo, Yokohama, Kyoto and Osaka. But why is that?

You may or may not be aware but Nagoya gets a bit of a bad rap from locals both in and outside of Japan. I met a Japanese lady hailing from Nagoya at a party in Sydney, and when I expressed my desire to visit she laughed and asked me genuinely, “But why? There is nothing there.”

During WWII, Nagoya was Japan’s largest aircraft manufacturing hub and therefore found itself the target of a slew of air raids by the United States. From 1942–1945, only Tokyo received more firebombing than Nagoya and much of the city was destroyed. As a result, the Nagoya of today can resemble any generic city in Japan – on the surface, that is.

Is Nagoya Worth Visiting? 7 Lesser-Known Reasons to Go | The Invisible Tourist

Having only visited Nagoya on my sixth trip to Japan, even I am guilty of overlooking it all those other times (which I’ve shared over on my extensive travel blog for Japan). But I will say, during my visit I believe Nagoya is worth visiting if you’re a particular type of tourist. Read on to learn why!

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Nagoya Castle, Japan

How many days in Nagoya is enough?

While some sights in the city can be covered in one day, if you have 2-3 days to spare you can get so much out of your visit. Okay, so what is Nagoya famous for anyway?

Its lengthy history prior to WWII, iconic castle, preserved Edo-era enclave, foodie scene, lack of overcrowding and gateway to fantastic day trips make Nagoya the ideal base to spend a few days.

In a nutshell, these are some of the things Nagoya is known for and 7 points why I’m convinced it’s worth visiting:

  1. As the capital of Aichi Prefecture, Nagoya has a lengthy history prior to its destruction during WWII. Dating back to the 13th century, Osu Kannon Shrine was an important stop for travellers along the old Tokaido route between Kyoto and Edo (now Tokyo). There are still a number of old shrines dotted throughout the city, too. 
  2. Most notably during the Edo Period (1603-1868), the three great unifiers of Japan were based in Nagoya. Building Nagoya Castle for the ruling Tokugawa clan, its adjoining Hommaru Palace is an exquisite reconstruction of how it appeared in 1615, more on this down the page.
  3. There is still a small pocket of the city that managed to escape the firebombing and has been preserved since the Edo Period, making for a lovely historic stroll. More on Shikemichi down the page.
  4. You may also be surprised to learn Nagoya has one of the biggest foodie scenes in Japan. So much so, it has its own term, Nagoya Meshi, to describe its range of regional dishes. More on the types of dishes below.
  5. And as we know due to it being often overlooked, Nagoya is perfect to visit if you love to avoid crowds, as I do! Even during peak hour, the trains and transport are not overcrowded. It’s a welcome change from being squeezed like a sardine onto Tokyo’s metro system.
  6. Home to LEGOLAND Japan (read my full Legoland Nagoya review) Nagoya is great for those wishing to experience a theme park without insane crowds that frequent Tokyo Disney and Universal Studios in Osaka. The city also features impressive attractions including the SCMaglev Museum, Nagoya City Science Museum, several museums on art and a Toyota museum amongst others.  
  7. Nagoya is also known as the gateway to the Japanese Alps, which makes it the ideal base for exploring nearby areas. Jump on a train or hire a car to easily reach gorgeous alpine scenery surrounding preserved cities. 

Allow me to elaborate on each of the above points in more detail.

Memorable things to do in Nagoya

Is Nagoya Castle worth visiting?

In my opinion, yes, Nagoya Castle is worth visiting. While you can’t venture inside Nagoya Castle towers at this time, the adjoining reconstruction of Hommaru Palace caught me by complete surprise. It’s very similar to Nijo Castle in Kyoto, which I loved.

Some of the screen paintings from the original Hommaru Palace survived the WWII air raids, which was really cool. As much as I absolutely adored Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage counterpart, I was a little sad that all forms of photography and videography are prohibited there.

While this is absolutely understandable for the sake of preservation and I abided by their rules, I was delighted to learn that no flash photography is fine at Nagoya Castle so I can show you!

The intricate wooden carvings, ornate paintwork, tatami rooms and decorated ceilings are a must if you love admiring attention to detail, and there is even a room featuring Nightingale Floors.

TIP: Shoes need to be removed before entering as some of the floors are tatami. Free lockers are provided at the entrance to store your bags and shoes whilst exploring the palace.

Stunning details of Hommaru Palace, Nagoya Castle

Nagoya is worth visiting just for the stunning Hommaru Palace

Admire the incredible craftsmanship at Honmaru Palace, Nagoya Castle

One of the unexpected places to visit in Nagoya: Shikemichi

By some kind of miracle, the Shikemichi neighbourhood managed to remain untouched by the wrath of firebombs that flattened Nagoya during WWII.

Encircled by the Hori River, major streets and a train line, the quiet old Shikemichi area is crammed with narrow residential laneways of dark wooden buildings you’d come to expect in Kyoto. It’s certainly one of the unexpected places to visit in Nagoya.

Shikemichi in Nagoya, Japan

Enjoy refreshments along Endoji Shotengai Shopping Street

Nearby Nagoya Castle, Endoji Shopping Street is a shotengai (undercover outdoor high street) with roots dating back to 1612. 

Lined with small businesses selling clothing and handicrafts to restaurants and cafés, the lengthy roof’s metalwork seems to be a nod to Nagoya’s industrial past.

TIP: I noticed there are a few Western-themed cafés here dotted amongst the Japanese ones, including Spanish and Italian eateries.

Endoji Shotengai Shopping Street, Nagoya

Make a wish at Nagoya’s temples and shrines

It was so nice to stumble across many small temples and shrines, they are lovely little Nagoya attractions. Here are a few ideas for you:

  • Osu Kannon, moved to Nagoya from Gifu by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1612
  • Konpira Shrine, dedicated to the god of fire
  • Sengen Shrine, featuring seven 300-year old camphor trees
  • Togan-ji Temple, featuring a seated green Buddha 
  • Banshoji Temple, with a modern LED display above its entrance
  • Click here for more shrines and temples in Nagoya. 

The little shrines such as Konpira Shrine make Nagoya worth visiitng

Tuck into Nagoya Meshi

One of the top things to do in Nagoya is eat, of course! One of the best places to try street food is Kinshachi Yokocho, a pedestrian street of traditional shops beside Nagoya Castle’s main gate. 

Why not be a little adventurous and try some of these local specialties? 

  • Hitsumabashi – Grilled eel with rice eaten four ways in one
  • Miso nikomi udon – Thick noodles in a miso broth with egg
  • Miso katsu – Fried pork cutlet dripping in red miso sauce served with cabbage and rice
  • Kishimen – Broad, flat noodles in broth a dashi-based broth
  • This guide to Nagoya Meshi has more ideas. 


TIP: Prefer wagyu whenever you get the chance, as I do? The best Japanese BBQ of my life is no longer in Tokyo, but Nagoya at Yakiniku Tokugawaen Restaurant. My group arrived early at around 5pm and didn’t need a reservation. Exceptional service, English speaking staff and unbelievably delicious beef and sides. I highly, highly recommend this restaurant (it even caters to children). I loved the little packs of mouthwash and toothpicks in the bathroom, a nice touch!

Harami and Karibi Beef Wagyu at Tokugawaen Restaurant, Nagoya

Strike a pose in front of Mirai Tower

Taking on the appearance of a silver version of Tokyo Tower, the impressive Mirai Tower is located in the city’s east. It also goes by the names Chubu Electric Tower and Nagoya TV Tower. 

TIP: It’s one of the interesting things to see in Nagoya at night when it is colourfully illuminated!

Mirai Tower (Chubu Electric Tower, Nagoya TV Tower)

Visit one of the many museums

If you have some extra time in Nagoya, why not visit one of the many fascinating museums? I had planned to visit the SCMaglev Museum but actually ran out of time as there were so many other things to do!

  • Nagoya City Museum
  • Furukawa Art Museum
  • Tokugawa Art Museum
  • Nagoya City Art Museum
  • Showa Museum of Art Nagoya
  • Furukawa Art Museum
  • Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry & Technology
  • Nagoya City Science Museum
  • SCMaglev & Railway Museum
  • Aichi Prefectural Museum
  • Find more museums in Nagoya here.

Admire the beauty of Nayabashi Bridge at night 

This stunning riverside landscape at night is perfect to end your Nagoya itinerary. The original bridge was built in 1610, which changed over the centuries to arrive at its current look in 1913.

During WWII Nayabashi Bridge was destroyed but as it was considered one of the finest in the city, it was later rebuilt.

It was decided that Nagoya’s local heroes be incorporated by including crests of Totoyomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobungaga – the three great unifiers of Japan I mentioned earlier.

Nayabashi Bridge, Nagoya

Spend a full day at LEGOLAND Japan

This is one of the most fun activities in Nagoya! Located just 30mins south of Nagoya Station, LEGOLAND Japan is one of the Nagoya top attractions for adults and kids alike.

Comprised of eight main areas with different Lego themes, I’d say most of the rides and attractions are suitable for primary school-aged children. However, there are some rides more suited to adults such as the Knight’s Kingdom Dragon rollercoaster and the Flying Ninjago. There’s even a submarine ride in the Adventure area.

As a lover of attention to detail, my expectations were actually exceeded here, especially in the Miniland section with miniature Japanese cityscapes all made from Lego. It reminded me a lot of Tobu World Square, Nikko!

And because the park was not crowded during my weekday visit, waits for rides throughout the park were as little as 5 minutes. 

The longest my group had to wait for a ride the entire day was 15 minutes! Such a stark contrast to the stories I hear from other theme parks in Japan where people queue up to 2 hours for rides.

TIP: I genuinely had a blast here, and have gone into more details in my full Legoland Nagoya review!

Legoland Nagoya

Pirate Shores at Legoland Nagoya

Miniland, Legoland Nagoya

Adventure World, Legoland Nagoya, Japan

Take a day trip from Nagoya into the Japanese Alps

As mentioned earlier, Nagoya’s location in central Japan makes it the gateway to the Japanese Alps.

Many organised day tours into the Alps leave from Nagoya, but I honestly recommend doing it yourself so you can explore at your own pace and not feel rushed.

Hire a car or take a train to places most foreign tourists overlook such as Gujo Hachiman, Takayama, Hida Furukawa, Gero Onsen and more.

TIP: Want to visit Shirakawa-go from Nagoya? Shirakawa-go has been suffering from Japan overtourism issues, so I’d recommend avoiding a day trip or organised tour during the winter months. Either visit during the summer when crowds are fewer, or plan on spending a night or two during winter to better enjoy your time after day trippers have left.

Take a day trip from Nagoya to Gujo Hachiman

Where to stay in Nagoya

Just 5 minutes’ walk to Sakuradori Station on the red metro line, I enjoyed my stay at Grand Base Hotel Chiyokura Nagoya. It’s in a good location for those staying as a small group and prefer to be in the one room (which can be difficult to find in Japan!)

Concluding why Nagoya is worth visiting

For too long, I somewhat believed the stereotype that there wasn’t much to see in Nagoya. However now I’ve visited, it has left me wanting to go back for more! 

Hommaru Palace was the absolute highlight for me, followed by the scrumptious wagyu dinner. The preserved areas and shrines were a delight to discover. And of course LEGOLAND pleasantly surprised me as well, especially how it seems no where near as busy as other theme parks in Japan.

If you’re wanting to break up your journey and want to enjoy some spots that are lesser-known amongst fellow tourists, definitely consider visiting Nagoya.

What are your thoughts on this Nagoya travel guide? I hope, like me, you will be charmed by what Nagoya has to offer when you scratch beneath the surface! Let me know if you plan to visit in the comments below.

While you’re here, why not take a look at my 10 days in Japan itinerary (even if it’s not for your honeymoon), do’s and don’ts of Japanese etiquette, learn some basic Japanese phrases for tourists with my free cheat sheet, find out what to pack for Japan, and even the best Japanese souvenirs to bring home – I have every step of your Japan planning journey covered from my multiple visits!

Feeling social? Come and join me on Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok and Instagram for more Japan travel inspiration!

Until next time,

The Invisible Tourist

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  1. Hi Alyse, I love your pictures, tips and blog posts on Japan especially on Nagoya. I have booked a 12+ days trip to Nagoya where for the first few days, we will focus on Nagoya and then to Legoland, Ghilbi Park, Takayama and Gifu area for ski. As you are a travel guru on Japan, I would like to seek your kind advice on transport options for my trip below as I am unsure.

    So I am making Nagoya my base, we arrive and depart from Nagoya. I have 2 kids with me, a 15 yr old teen son and a 9 yr old girl. Then I wanted to take a side trip to Nara and stay there for 3D 2N before returning to Nagoya for 2D and flying home to SG. I researched and it seems like either I take a Kintetsu Rail 5 days pass or I take a Highway bus Meitetsu and book it on Willer travel which for 1 way takes 2.5h. But the price difference between the pass and 2 ways highway bus seems like $60 difference. Also, we are doing a day trip to Shirakawago from Nagoya via Takayama and going Ghilbi park.
    But I think if I take train I have to always go to Kyoto/Osaka and then transfer to get to Nara? And not taking Shinkasen as not buying JR pass. We have been to Osaka and Kyoto twice so not keen to do so.
    Or do u think I should skip Nara and just proceed to Mie for the 3D 2N side trip? My kids saw the deer park and are keen on that, that’s why I thought Nara was a good option. And we have been to Kyoto and Osaka twice already so not keen to go this time.

    I only have 3 days to spare. Because if I take 3 days I arrive back in Nagoya on 30 Dec. If I take side trip 4 days I return on 31 Dec so I am worried about delays im transport or crowds. My return flight home is 1 Jan morning.

    Hope u can advise me which option is better? To go to Nara or Mie? Or perhaps is there another place I can go nearby by normal train or bus that I have missed out? And to go by highway bus or Kintetsu Rail when we only have 1 location to go to? I have booked the hotel in Nagoya for first 5 days but now left the side trip out and the last leg back in Nagoya.

    Thank you for your time and advice in advance, much appreciated.

    1. Hi Marilyn,
      Thanks so much for reading! Sounds like you have a fun trip planned 😊
      The way to get from Nagoya to Nara can be simplified. You can actually reach Nara in around 70mins total by rail from Nagoya.
      You don’t need a rail pass to ride the shinkansen, you can just buy individual tickets as you go. Buy them at the JR station ticket machines in person.
      It will be faster to take the shinkansen from Nagoya Station to Kyoto Station (about 40mins), then get to Nara in about 30 mins on the Kintestu Limited express line.
      In saying that, I think Mie is a bit far out of the way for this trip given the time that you have at 4+ hours one way), so personally would stick to areas around the Nagoya/Nara areas for those last few days.
      You could try the towns around Lake Biwa (I’ve heard great things about Hikone and Ome Hachiman!)
      I hope that helps and you have a fantastic trip!

    1. No worries, Nagaoya is so often overlooked that I’d love for more people to try and visit. Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great time exploring Nagoya!

        1. That’s wonderful news, Miffy! I hope you have a fantastic time in Nagoya and thanks for reading 😃

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