This list of the best places to visit in Hiroshima will help you prepare an itinerary so you won’t miss anything interesting in a city that we’re sure will leave a lasting impression, especially about history.
Despite all that Hiroshima (広島市 in Japanese) has suffered, it has literally risen like a phoenix from the ashes and rubble after the atomic bombing to become one of Japan’s most visited and touristy cities.
Hiroshima is located in the Chugoku region of western Japan, on the Ota River delta, very close to the island of Miyahima, 324 kilometres from Kyoto and 291 kilometres from Osaka. Let’s get started!
A little bit of history…
Hiroshima is one of the most important places in the world in terms of historical events, so let’s start with a little bit of past.
On 6 August 1945, an event took place that forever marked the history of the city of Hiroshima and the whole world. At 8.15 a.m. the “Little Boy”, the world’s first nuclear bomb, exploded 590 metres above the centre of Hiroshima.
US President Truman wanted to put an end to a Second World War that was nearing its end with the surrender of Nazi Germany, and he also wanted to avenge the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. So he ordered the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a city of great military importance.
The city was reduced to ashes. Some 70,000 people died on the spot and another 70,000 died in the days that followed. In addition, countless other deaths were caused by nuclear radiation in the years that followed. Undoubtedly one of the worst massacres in history.
Japan did not surrender and three days later the Americans dropped the second atomic bomb on the city of Nagasaki. This led to Japan’s immediate surrender in World War II.
Sadly, Hiroshima will always be known as the city of the atomic bomb. For this reason, several memorials have been built to commemorate the victims of this terrible catastrophe.
Best places to visit in Hiroshima
Hiroshima is usually a stopover point for most tourists travelling in Japan. In fact, most of them use it as a base to visit the famous island of Miyajima.
1. Atomic Bomb Dome
The Atomic Bomb Dome or Genbaku Dōmu is a building that has been preserved in the same state as it was after the bombing and is one of the most moving places to see in Hiroshima.
Although the atomic bomb exploded at a distance of 150 metres horizontally and 600 metres vertically, this building was the closest construction to the impact that was not reduced to ashes, thanks to its concrete construction and steel-reinforced dome.
After the Second World War, the Genbaku Dōmu, declared a World Heritage Site in 1996, became a symbol of hope for world peace and for the complete destruction of all nuclear weapons on the planet.
2. Victims Memorial Cenotaph
The Cenotaph is a memorial to the victims of the first atomic bombing in history and another place to visit in Hiroshima.
Designed by the prestigious architect Tange Kenzo, this monument consists of a stone arch that protects a large urn containing a list of all the names of the victims of the world’s atomic bombs and a small epitaph that reads “Rest in peace, the mistake will never be repeated”.
It is worth standing in front of the cenotaph, where flowers are left in memory of the dead, to see the Flame of Peace and the Atomic Bomb Dome, perfectly aligned.
3. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
- Location: 1-2 Nakajimacho, Naka Ward, Hiroshima
- Hours: 8:30 am to 6 pm from March to November, the rest of the months it closes 1 hour earlier.
At the end of the Peace Park is the Peace Museum, maybe the hardest visits you have ever made, along with the Auschwitz concentration camp. Remember one of the saddest and most infamous days in human history.
Through objects, photographs and audiovisual material you will be transported back to that fateful August 6th when 80,000 people were instantly killed and which resulted in the surrender of the Japanese Empire in World War II.
Also on display are many personal items such as the clothes of some of the victims, a watch that stopped just at the time the bomb exploded, and even deformed fingernails of people who were exposed to nuclear radiation.
Although there are scenes of photographs that are difficult to assimilate and emotional objects such as a stopped clock at 8:15, the time of the explosion, we believe that it is an essential visit to learn about what really happened there and that it should never happen again.
4. Children’s Peace Monument
- Location: 1 Nakajimacho, Naka Ward, Hiroshima
Another of the most moving monuments to see in Hiroshima is the one dedicated to all the children who perished in the tragedy, known as the Children’s Peace Memorial.
One of these children was Sadako Sasaki, who at the age of two was exposed to the atomic bombing and subsequent radiation, which caused her to develop leukaemia. When she learned of her serious illness, she began to make paper cranes in order to reach 1,000 pieces, since according to Japanese tradition, when you reach this number, the gods will grant you a wish, which in her case was to be cured.
Despite making up to 1,400 cranes, Sadako died at the age of 12, a fact that moved her schoolmates and the whole city so much that sufficient funds were raised to build this monument as a tribute.
At the top of the structure is a bronze sculpture of Sadako raising a crane and below it a bell from which hangs a bronze crane. It is customary for children and adults alike to leave their own origami crane and ring the bell in remembrance of Sadako.
5. Peace Memorial Park
Although the four most important ones have already been mentioned, there are others just as moving, such as the Peace Flame, which has been lit since 1964 and will not be extinguished until there are no nuclear weapons left on the planet or the Peace Clock, which rings every day at 8:15am in honour of the victims, and the Peace Bell, which visitors can ring to wish for world peace.
The visit to the Peace Memorial Park is truly shocking and you will leave with a deep sadness. But, as you know, history must be remembered so that it does not repeat itself.
After completing all these points of interest, you can cross the Aioi Bridge for a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Motoyasugawa River overlooking the park and the A-bomb Dome.
6. Hiroshima Castle
- Map: 21-1 Motomachi, Naka Ward, Hiroshima
- Visiting hours: every day from 9 am to 6 pm.
Located about 15 minutes walk from the Memorial Park, this castle known as “The Tent” was originally built in 1590 in wood and declared a National Treasure of Japan in 1931 but was completely destroyed by the atomic bomb. It was rebuilt as faithfully as possible, with a spectacular five-storey wooden façade. Inside is a museum of samurai culture and, in general, of the city of Hiroshima before the bomb hit. As a curiosity, it is one of the few castles in Japan that was built in the centre of the city and not on a hill on the outskirts.
After descending from the castle and before leaving the walled enclosure, we recommend you look for the three trees that survived the atomic explosion and that represent the great strength of the city to overcome all adversities.
Very close to the castle, you will find a torii gate that leads to the Hiroshima-gokuku shrine. It is a very large enclosure where you are likely to find some kind of Shinto ritual or celebration. For example, many families celebrate their children’s 3rd, 5th and 7th birthdays there.
The children are dressed in beautiful kimonos. But it’s not necessarily all about celebrations, as many worshippers visit the shrine to pray for good luck. Admission is free.
7. Shukkeien Gardens
- Map: 2-11 Kaminoboricho, Naka Ward, Hiroshima
- Hours: 9am – 6pm from April to September, the rest of the months it closes at 5pm.
The Shukkeien Gardens, located 10 minutes walk from the castle, is one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan and another of the must-see places in Hiroshima.
In these 400-year-old gardens, you can relax and unwind from the hustle and bustle of the city by strolling along the paths past ponds, bridges, stone lamps and teahouses.
In the centre is the Takuei Pond, which has more than 10 rock islands of different sizes, which, if you look at them, will take you to a state of tranquillity and peace.
8. Hondori Street
Hondori Street located a 10-minute walk from the Memorial Park, is the most commercial street to see in Hiroshima.
Over 500 metres long, this pedestrianised, covered street has numerous restaurants to sample local food, electronics and manga shops, and is home to much of the city’s nightlife scene.
9. Mitaki Temple (Mitaki-dera)
- Map: 411 Mitakiyama, Nishi Ward, Hiroshima
- Hours: 8am – 5.30 pm
Mitaki Temple is on the outskirts of Hiroshima, about half an hour from Hiroshima Central Station. But it’s definitely worth a visit if you have enough time. It is known for its two-storey pagoda and good views of the city. On clear days you can even see the sea and the island of Miyajima in the background. It’s a fairly quiet place, off the main tourist route, with several waterfalls and ponds around it.
10. Miyajima Island
Our last recommendation for places to see in Hiroshima, and one of the most beautiful places to see in Japan, is a visit to Miyajima Island.
This magical island, declared a World Heritage Site, enchants visitors with places like the Ootorii Gate, a wooden torii built in the sea, or the Itsukushima Shrine.
Although many people come to Miyajima on a day trip, we recommend spending one night to enjoy its streets with few tourists and sleep in a ryokan like the Ryoso Kawaguchi, where we stayed and which we loved.
To get to Miyajima island you have to get on the Sanyo Line train, which takes half an hour to get to Miyajima-guchi, and from there board a ferry that will take you to the island in about 10 minutes.
How to get to Hiroshima?
To get to Hiroshima from Kyoto you can take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen line to Shin-Osaka Station and then transfer to the JR Sanyo Shinkansen line to the city. The total journey time is less than two hours from Kyoto and 80 minutes from Osaka.
To get there from Tokyo in about 5 hours, you can take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen line to Osaka and change there to the JR Sanyo Shinkansen line to Hiroshima.
Once at the station, take tram number 6 or 2, which will take you to the Atomic Bomb Dome area in a few minutes.
To save a lot of money, it is very important to check, depending on the number of train journeys you make in the country, whether it is cost-effective to book the Japan Rail Pass in advance.
Getting around Hiroshima
The best way to get around Hiroshima is by tourist bus, which is free if you have the JR Pass.
This bus departs from the train station and stops at the main tourist attractions in Hiroshima. There are several lines departing from the station, but any of them will stop at La Paz Park. Buses run every half hour and the full bus journey takes about 45 minutes.
If you don’t have a JR Pass, a single ticket costs 200 yen (1.50 euros). There is also a day pass for 400 yen (3 euros).
Where to stay in Hiroshima?
Many tourists use Hiroshima as a base to visit Miyajima and decide to spend a night in the city because it is much cheaper than Miyajima. If you are on a tight budget, this may be a good option, but if you can afford it, don’t hesitate for a second to spend a night in Miyajima.
The best area to stay is in the centre, around the Peace Park. Here you can find hotels for around 60 euros a night and hostels for 20 euros. You will also be close to most of the Hiroshima attractions.
There are surely more spectacular destinations in Japan, but the sight of Hiroshima will serve to situate and understand the atomic bombing of the city on 6 August 1945, which marked the end of World War II. We hope list of best places to visit in Hiroshima will help you to organise your visit to this city. If you have any questions or suggestions you can write to us in the comments.