In another life, Fukuoka could have been our town. A couple of years ago I had a series of interviews for a job here, and although it didn't come to pass, it left us with a curiosity about Fukuoka. After getting recommendations from friends who had been and loved it, we decided to stay for 3 weeks.
It's smaller and more laid back than other Japanese cities, much easier to get to grips with than Osaka or Tokyo. But we found plenty to do – these are our highlights:
The Daimyo area is the Hackney or Brooklyn of Fukuoka. Full of vintage shops, boutiques, cool coffee shops and tiny restaurants, Daimyo is also right in the centre of the city so it's the best area to stay. It's busiest in the evenings and on weekends.
ACROS rooftop garden
The ACROS building is a cultural information centre with a staircase-shaped rooftop garden that opens at the weekend (10am to 4pm). There are a lot of steps, but the city views at the top are worth it.
Most importantly, D&Department is a great restaurant (I'll be writing more about that in my post on where to eat in Fukuoka), but it's also a shop with lots of local products (great for souvenirs) and their guidebooks are full of local spots around the city.
Yanagibashi Rengo Market
Every Japanese city has a market and this is Fukuoka's. Predominantly fish (including the highly controversial whale meat), you can also get local specialities and traditional foods here.
Ohori Park is right in the middle of the city and always full of people walking, running and playing baseball. There are running and cycling tracks, castle ruins with great views of the city and a big lake.
Fukuoka has a couple of great little galleries. The Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (¥200) has work from all over Asia and the Fukuoka Art Museum (also ¥200) is small but has some big names, like Warholl, Basquit and Rothko. Both are worth visiting.
There are shrines dotted all around the city, and they're just as lovely as elsewhere in Japan. You can find a full list here.
The yatai stalls are an institution in Fukuoka, there are about 150 scattered around the city and they serve up a variety of traditional dishes, from yakitori and gyoza to ramen. We had a great night in Mami Chan's chatting with locals and stuffing ourselves with local delicacies.
Fukuoka is surrounded by mountains, and there are a lot of hiking trails easily accessible from the city. Fukuoka Now's hiking guide is a really detailed resource for exploring the countryside.
There are also plenty of beaches nearby (see the Fukuoka Beach Guide for details). The best one we visited was Keya Beach. To get there, take the JR line to Chikuzen Maebaru station and then ask the tourist information to help you figure out the bus timetable. There aren't many shops nearby, so bring your picnic with you.
Lots more Fukuoka tips coming up – including where to eat and a fun day trip to Nokonoshima island.