Coastal City Escape: 3-Day Fukuoka Itinerary for First-Time Visitors

By Annika Hotta
Updated: April 18, 2024

Compared to more northern cities on Honshu, Fukuoka doesn’t get nearly as much hype as it should. The capital city of Fukuoka prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu is an untapped paradise for food lovers, shoppers, and people traveling alone or with family. 

Find out why you should come to Fukuoka and what you can do here in this 3-day itinerary for people visiting for the first time!

Why you should visit Fukuoka 

A boat traveling down the Fukuoka Naka river at sunset.

Did you know that Fukuoka has the highest number of restaurants per capita in Japan, even compared to the capital, Tokyo? No matter what brings you to the southern city of Fukuoka, the food is what makes you wish you could stay forever. 

From the vibrant yatai stands in Hakata to the sizzling bowls of motsunabe, you’ll want to arrive with an empty stomach! 

Additionally, Fukuoka is a great city for avid shoppers. The downtown area of Tenjin can’t be beat with its blend of high-end designer stores and local boutiques. 

Canal City, the biggest mall in Fukuoka, is a must-visit for shoppers of all ages, boasting a Gundam store, a Muji store, an ABC Mart shoe store, and an extensive food court for breaks in between. 

Getting to Fukuoka 

A plane flying through a cloudy sky.

As mentioned, Fukuoka is located on the southern island of Kyushu, home to Fukuoka Airport, where you’ll likely be flying in. 

From Tokyo to Fukuoka: If you’re in Tokyo, you can take a domestic flight from Haneda or Narita Airport, taking about 2 hours and setting you back around ¥15,000 for a return flight.

Alternatively, you can take the bullet train from Shinagawa Station to Hakata Station, taking roughly 5 hours and costing around ¥36,000 each way. This takes longer and costs much more than the domestic flight option, but if you dislike flying, this might be preferable for you!

From Kyoto or Osaka to Fukuoka: If you’re in the Kansai region, you can fly from Kansai International Airport or Osaka International Airport — taking just over an hour and costing around ¥17,000 for a return flight.

Alternatively, you can take the bullet train from all major cities in the Kansai region to get to Hakata, taking 2.5-3 hours and costing about ¥16,000-¥17,000 each way. 

Taking the ferry from Honshu to Kyushu: Finally, you can take a ferry, either with a car or without. Overnight ferries connect Honshu to Kyushu, making it a unique way of hopping from one island to the next, but it’s worth noting that it still takes another 3-4 hours from the nearest port of Shin Moji to get to Fukuoka itself.

Getting around Fukuoka 

A train crossing a bridge in Fukuoka, with blooming cherry blossom alongside a river.

Since Fukuoka is a much smaller city than Tokyo or Osaka, you can easily walk around on foot. However, if you want to save your legs, you can take a taxi, train, or bus. If you plan to take the train often, the JR Kyushu Rail Pass might be a worthwhile investment. 

While the prepaid travel cards, Sugoca, Nimoca, and Hayakaken are local to Fukuoka, Suica and Pasmo cards are accepted on most public transportation in the city — except for the shinkansen, for which you’ll need to buy a specific ticket.

What to eat in Fukuoka 

A chef working hard in a kitchen in Fukuoka.

Being a city so renowned for its food, it’s only fair that we include a list of the specialties so you can get a real taste of Fukuoka! Here are the foods you must eat while in the city: 

Goma Saba: blue mackerel fish that’s served sashimi-style with a sesame soy sauce.  

Mentaiko: cod roe eggs mashed into a tangy paste that’s used in onigiri, omelets, and more. If you’re not so sure about the flavor, try something with “mentai mayo” instead. 

Motsunabe: a sumptuous stew made from beef, tripe, or other kinds of offal. The cabbage and the meat soak up the hearty broth, which is topped with chives and spices. Once you’ve eaten the contents, you can eat the broth with noodles or mochi, making it a multi-course dining experience that is so much fun to share with others! 

Tonkotsu Ramen: not to be confused with tonkatsu, or pork cutlets. This thick, aromatic soup is what ramen dreams are made of. 

Umegai Mochi: a specialty of Dazaifu, a nearby city. The rice cake is crispy on the outside with smooth bean paste which makes for a delicious sweet treat. 

Unagi: Japanese freshwater eel. Look for lunch specials to score this Japanese delicacy at an affordable price! Discover the delicacies of unagi eel at Unazen.

Yakitori: a Japanese classic of grilled meat on a skewer. You can find these at the yatai stands in downtown Hakata at night, or upgrade your experience with multi-set course menus at Fujiyoshi.

Now that you know what to eat, let’s take a look at what to do in Fukuoka! 

Day 1 in Fukuoka

Have a Fukuoka specialty for lunch: goma saba (sesame mackerel)! 

Head into central Hakata for a decadent seafood lunch at Uoki. Their goma saba is slathered in a creamy sesame soy sauce and topped with a raw egg, making for a light, satisfying lunch that will set your trip off in the right mood. 

Chill out at Ohori Park 

A bright red pagoda in a lake at Ohori Park,

Located right next to the restaurant is Ohori Park, a beautiful location for a slow afternoon (or a morning jog). Depending on the season, you can rent swan boats and peddle out into the lake. Be sure to pick up a drink and some donuts at the nearby Mister Donut for an afternoon treat on your stroll.

Throw yourself in Fukuoka’s nightlife in Nakasu

If you’re raring for a night out, Nakasu’s yatai stands are the right place to go. Snack on Hakata’s legendary street food with your group in this guided yatai tour

Alternative evening plans: Michelin star sushi dinner at Sushi Sakai

Michelin star sushi at Fukuoka's three Michelin star restaurant, Sushi Sakai.

If you’d rather swap street food for the elegance of a Michelin star meal in Fukuoka, allow us to point you in the direction of Sushi Sakai, awarded three Michelin stars for their world-class Edomae sushi — one of very few sushi restaurants in all of Japan to hold such a claim to fame. So, going for sushi in Fukuoka tonight?

Day 2 in Fukuoka

Spend the day at Momochi Seaside Park (and Fukuoka Tower!)

Looking up at Fukuoka Tower from the sands of Momochi Seaside Park.

Momochi Seaside Park is an artificial beach at the foot of Fukuoka Tower, popular for swimming and beach sports on days when the sun is shining. There’s also the artificial island of Marizon at its center, with restaurants, shops, and even a wedding hall if you feel like tying the knot while traveling.

While you’re here, definitely save some time to enjoy the views from Fukuoka Tower, the city’s highest building and Japan's tallest seaside tower, reaching 234 meters at its peak. You’ll need a ticket to access the observation deck, costing ¥800 for an adult, ¥500 for elementary and junior high school students, and ¥200 for children over 4 years old.

Share a pot of motsunabe with friends (or eat it all yourself)

Motsunabe, with a ladle picking up seafood, cabbage, and broth.

This steaming pot of delicious, meaty broth is perfect for a cold night in the city. We recommend the restaurant Oyama for the best motsunabe in Fukuoka.

Rainy day alternative: Take in the scenery at Dazaifu Tenmangu

An outside shot at Dazaifu Tenmangu, with the tree above turning red for fall.

Just 45 minutes away from Hakata by train is Dazaifu Tenmangu, a shrine surrounded by a gorgeous town with plenty of little souvenir shops to explore. Make sure to bring your cameras as this place is photogenic both in the rain and the sunshine! 

Enjoy a Dazaifu delicacy: umegai mochi 

Four freshly grilled umegai mochi.

There are a few bakeries and local restaurants where you can eat lunch in Dazaifu, but it’s simply necessary to top the meal off with the local specialty: umegai mochi. With an outer shell that tastes like roasted Rice Krispies cereal, this treat is sure to be a hit with diners of all ages.

Day 3 in Fukuoka

Slurp on ramen and sample sake in Itoshima 

Three people walking into the Ichiran Ramen Factory in Itoshima.

Head to the coastal town of Itoshima for a fun day trip away from the city. Our tour guide will pick you up in Fukuoka and drive you to Itoshima, where you’ll have ramen at the world-famous Ichiran ramen factory, explore the local sights, and taste sake at a brewery! 

Have one last bowl of tonkotsu ramen

A top-down shot of tonkotsu ramen, showing a spoon resting in a thick broth,

If you have an earlier flight or don’t feel like going on a tour, Hacchan Ramen is the best place to get your fix before leaving the city. Because of the restaurant’s popularity, you will have to wait in line, so get there early because that unbelievably thick broth is entirely worth the wait! 

We recommend ordering the “noko tsukemen,” which are noodles you dip in the broth so they remain perfectly bouncy. 

Rainy day alternative: Canal City shopping spree

The fountains at Canal City, a vibrant, red shopping mall in Fukuoka.

For days when you don’t feel going too far or it's pouring with rain, Canal City Mall is the perfect place to spend the day shopping till you drop. There are shops for all tastes and budgets, and if you can find strawberry taiyaki on sale, it’s beloved by kids and adults alike! 

We hope this itinerary helped you better prepare for your trip to Fukuoka. Whether you come for the food, the sights, or the laid-back culture, Fukuoka is the ultimate destination for those looking for something a little different from Japan’s more popular cities. Enjoy the trip! 

Looking for more things to do on your trip to Japan? Check out these other ideas for what to do while traveling in Fukuoka, Kanazawa, Osaka, and Kyoto!

Fukuoka FAQs

The beach of Momochi Seaside Park at sunset.

Where is Fukuoka?

Fukuoka is located on the southern island of Kyushu, separate from the island of Honshu where Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are based. It is the sixth largest city in Japan.

What to do in Fukuoka?

There’s so much to do in Fukuoka! There are the famous Hakata yatai stalls for street food and Hakata-only ramen, countless malls and shopping streets for those who love to shop, and relaxed beach days, perfect for solo travelers and families alike.

What is Fukuoka famous for?

Fukuoka is known as a relaxed, coastal city on the island of Kyushu, famous for its unique dishes — like Hakata ramen, goma saba, and umegai mochi — and its diverse sights, from the scenic views of Ohori Park and Fukuoka Tower to the shopping paradise that is Canal City.

Browse more food experiences in Japan and check out our YouTube channel for unlimited travel inspiration!

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Annika Hotta
After studying abroad in Shiga prefecture in 2019, Annika moved to Japan in 2021. In her writing, she highlights the best dishes and places to eat in Japan for both the picky and the adventurous.
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