Hiroshima is a historically important area of Japan that deserves a spot on any first-time visitor’s itinerary. Today, this city is extremely modern, having been rebuilt following World War II when it was hit by an atomic bomb and destroyed. While monument’s commemorating the city’s past tragedy are worth visiting while in Hiroshima, there is much more to this city than its history. Hiroshima has enough entertainment and history to rival Osaka and Nagano. It’s got beaches, gardens, castles, and more. Here’s what travelers should do when visiting for the first time.

10 Visit Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima Castle is unique in Japan because it's built on a plain in the city instead of on a hilltop. The castle, sometimes called Carp Castle, has a main keep that is five stories tall, and the structure was built in 1589. Unfortunately, the original castle was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945, but it was rebuilt just thirteen years later. Today, travelers can tour the castle and explore exhibits that provide information about the reconstruction project.

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9 See The Itsukushima Shrine

This Shinto shrine in Hiroshima Prefecture is well known for its iconic Torii gate, which rises out of the water. Travelers can visit the beautiful shrine by catching a ferry from Miyajimaguchi Station on the mainland to the island of Miyajima. The island itself is known for being a religious Shinto destination. The Torii gate is built up over the water, and at low tide, travelers may be able to walk to the base of it, but at high tide, it appears to be floating in the water.

8 Stroll Through Sankei-en Gardens

Sankei-en Garden is located near the Hiroshima Airport, so for travelers flying in or out of the city, it’s the perfect relaxing stop en route to the city center. The garden first opened in 1993 and covered a whopping 60,000 square meters. It’s a gorgeous place to take a stroll among nature, admire the carp in the ponds and take photographs. In autumn, the leaves on the trees surrounding the gardens are vibrant shades of yellow, red, and orange. The garden is named Sankei for the three sections or three views it’s divided into.

7 Visit Rabbit Island

Ōkunoshima is a small island that is part of Takehara city, in Japan’s Hiroshima Prefecture. The island, also called Rabbit Island, is a beautiful destination for wildlife enthusiasts. There are plenty of campsites and hiking trails to explore, and, per the name, there is a large population of wild rabbits living on the island as well. The rabbit population is in the hundreds, and while these creatures look cute and cuddly, years of human interaction have taught them to chase tourists for food.

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6 See The Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome (Genbaku Dome) is part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Genbaku Dome was the only structure to remain standing following the explosion of the first atomic bomb on August 6, 1945. This structure is unique to Hiroshima because it’s the only building that survived the bombing and was preserved in that exact condition. The dome serves as a reminder today of the destruction humans are capable of but it also represents hope for a peaceful future without nuclear weapons.

5 Step Back In Time On Miyajima Machiya Street

Machiya Street on the island of Miyajima is a must-visit spot for travelers who find themselves in Hiroshima for the first time. The street is one of the routes travelers can take from the pier to visit the Itsukushima shrine, and it is a historic area that feels like stepping back in time to a classic version of Miyajima. The old traditional townhouses (the Machiya) line the roadway, and travelers are likely to see a rickshaw passing through as they stroll among the houses, tea houses, and retro cafés.

4 Go Shopping On Omotesando

While on Miyajima, travelers should also visit Omotesando Shotengai, another street that is best known for its shopping, souvenir stores, and gourmet snack stalls. Don’t confuse Omotesando Shotengai with Tokyo’s Omotesando shopping district. This Omotesando is much smaller and more quaint but it still offers almost 70 different stores and restaurants to explore. This is the busiest area of Miyajima and is frequented by tourists. The street is open 24 hours a day, but store hours vary by business.

3 Relax At Kenmin-no-Hama Beach

Kenmin-no-Hama is a civilian beach near Hiroshima that is 400 meters long. It’s one of the top 100 beaches in Japan and boasts beautiful soft sands, clear blue waters, lush greenery, and restaurants along the beach. By car, it takes approximately 80 minutes to drive there from Hiroshima city, but it’s also easy to take the bus bound for Okitomo Tenmangu Shrine from Hiroshima Bus Center to reach this beach. This is a great destination for couples, families, and solo travelers.

2 Visit The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

No trip to Hiroshima is complete without fully understanding the damage that was done to this city in 1945 when the atomic bomb was dropped. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum was established in 1955 and is a popular stop for international travelers and local students on field trips. Kenzō Tange is the architect responsible for designing the main museum building. Exhibits within the museum are committed to documenting and sharing the message of destruction done to the city and the hope that stems from its rebuilding.

1 Immerse Yourself In Nature At Taishaku-Kyo Gorge

After enjoying the quaint streets of Miyajima and learning about Hiroshima’s history at its many monuments, first-time visitors should escape the natural wonders of Taishaku Gorge. This stunning waterway is bordered by limestone cliffs and stretches on for 18 kilometers. The best time to visit is in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom or in the fall when the colorful foliage transforms the gorge. There are plenty of footpaths and bridges for hikers to traverse.