Experience Hiroshima in a Day: A Travel Guide to Japan’s Historical City

Hiroshima, a city known for its tragic past, has transformed into a vibrant and beautiful place. We decided to spend a day exploring Hiroshima to discover its rich history, peaceful gardens, and impressive landmarks.

Here’s what we did during our day trip to Hiroshima.


Hiroshima, a vibrant city in southwestern part of Japan’s main island of Honshu, holds a poignant place in history. Known worldwide for the tragic events of August 6, 1945, when it became the first city to experience the devastation of an atomic bomb, Hiroshima has since transformed into a symbol of peace and resilience.

If you are thinking What does Hiroshima look like today? we can say that its modern, bustling atmosphere is balanced with serene parks and historical landmarks that honour the past while looking toward a brighter future.

Visitors can explore beautifully reconstructed sites like Hiroshima Castle, wander through tranquil gardens such as Shukkeien, and reflect on the significance of the Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Park.

The city’s commitment to peace and remembrance is palpable, making it a profound yet uplifting destination.

Despite its somber past, Hiroshima today is a lively city with a thriving food scene, vibrant shopping districts, and warm, welcoming locals. It’s a place worth visiting, where you can experience traditional Japanese culture alongside modern urban life, making it an ideal destination for a day trip.

Travel to and Around Hiroshima

Getting to Hiroshima

Getting to Hiroshima is a breeze, thanks to its well-connected transportation network. Whether you’re coming from within Japan or abroad, there are multiple convenient options available.

We travelled to Hiroshima as part of our 2 week Japan itinerary in November 2023. We found that Osaka is a good travel base for some of these destinations and on this occasion we travelled from there only for the day.

  • By Train – one of the most popular ways to reach Hiroshima is by train. The city is served by the renowned Shinkansen (bullet train), which offers high-speed connections from major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. The journey on the Shinkansen is not only efficient but also scenic, offering breathtaking views of Japan’s countryside as you zip across the country. Included in the JR Pass.
  • By Air – for those flying into Japan, Hiroshima has its own airport, Hiroshima Airport (HIJ), located about 50 minutes outside of the city center. Domestic flights from major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Sapporo operate regularly, making it convenient for both domestic and international travellers to access Hiroshima.
  • By Bus – travelling by bus is another option, especially for those looking for a more budget-friendly mode of transportation. Hiroshima is well-connected to other cities in Japan by long-distance buses, offering comfortable and affordable travel options.

Getting Around Hiroshima

Once you’ve arrived in Hiroshima, getting around the city is a breeze, thanks to its efficient public transportation system. The city boasts an extensive network of trams, buses, and trains, making it easy to explore its various attractions.

Sightseeing Tour Bus

  • Sightseeing Tour Bus – There is a special set of buses which operate for tourists called the Maple Leaf Route. The route covers all major touristic points of interest and starts right from the JR train station. The best thing about this? It’s included in the JR Pass. You can get off and hop on as many times as you like on that day. The buses under this route operate under 3 colours (directions). They mostly depend on what you want to see and the direction you want to take. You can read more about this here.
  • Trams – Hiroshima’s tram system is a convenient way to navigate the city, with multiple routes covering key areas of interest. The trams are easy to use and offer a nostalgic charm as you glide through the streets of Hiroshima.
  • Bicycles – For those who prefer a more leisurely pace, renting a bicycle is a fantastic way to explore Hiroshima. The city is relatively flat and bike-friendly, with dedicated cycling paths and rental shops scattered throughout the area.
  • Walking – Don’t underestimate the pleasure of exploring Hiroshima on foot. Many of the city’s top attractions, including Peace Memorial Park and Hiroshima Castle, are within walking distance of each other, allowing you to soak in the sights and sounds of this vibrant city at your own pace.

With its accessible transportation options and pedestrian-friendly layout, getting to and around Hiroshima is simple and stress-free, allowing you to make the most of your day trip to this captivating city.

You can also get the Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass to take unlimited rides on streetcars, buses, and the Miyajima Ferry. Available in four types: one-day, two-day, three-day passes and Middle Area three-day pass, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your travel schedule.

Best Time to Visit Hiroshima

The best time to visit Hiroshima depends on your preferences. If you love cherry blossoms and mild weather, spring is ideal. For vibrant festivals and a lively atmosphere, summer is your season.

Autumn offers beautiful foliage and comfortable temperatures, while winter provides a quieter and more intimate setting. We chose to go in November and found that the temperature was in the mid-twenties.

Overall, that and the wonderful tree colours simply made our time in Hiroshima amazing.

Things to do in Hiroshima

In this guide, we’ll share our itinerary for a day trip to Hiroshima, highlighting the key attractions that made our visit unforgettable. We’ll start with a peaceful morning in a traditional garden, move on to exploring a reconstructed castle, and then dive into the heart of Hiroshima’s history at the Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Park.

We’ll end our day with a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which provided a poignant reminder of the importance of peace.

Our goal is to help you make the most of your time in Hiroshima, providing tips and insights from our own experience. Whether you’re travelling solo, with family, or in a group, we hope our guide inspires you to explore this remarkable city and appreciate its journey from devastation to renewal.

One thing to note is that none of the attractions below accept bank card payments so make sure you have plenty of cash available. If you don’t, there are a few convenience stores such as 7-Eleven that offer ATMs.

We preferred 7-Eleven as there are no fees on the ATM side during day time operating hours. We used our 0% fee cards throughout this trip to make sure we always got the better rates and don’t get charged when withdrawing cash. Read more here about managing your finances when travelling.

Below are our top 5 things to do in Hiroshima:

1. Take a Stroll at Shukkeien Garden

Shukkeien Garden is a tranquil oasis in the heart of Hiroshima, offering visitors a peaceful escape from the bustle of the city.

Dating back to the 17th century, this traditional Japanese garden is a masterpiece of landscape design, featuring miniature mountains, serene ponds, winding streams, and meticulously manicured plants and trees.

This garden also hosts a genko tree which is named The Tree of Life since this was one of the only trees still left standing after the atomic bomb blast. Since then it has become symbol of life and world piece. Something to think about as you stroll through the rest of the garden.

2. Go up Hiroshima Castle

Hiroshima Castle, also known as Carp Castle, is a significant historical site that reflects Hiroshima’s rich samurai heritage. Originally constructed in the late 16th century, the castle was destroyed during World War II and later reconstructed in the 1950s, preserving its original architectural style.

Similar to the Osaka Castle, the inside is a museum however, as you climb up you will be rewarded with an amazing view of Hiroshima itself. We really enjoyed staying there for about an hour as you can really get lost in the views.

3. Take a Moment at the Atomic Bomb Dome

The Atomic Bomb Dome, also known as the Genbaku Dome, is a haunting yet powerful symbol of Hiroshima’s resilience and commitment to peace.

This iconic structure is the remains of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, one of the few buildings to withstand the atomic bomb blast on August 6, 1945.

The bomb actually explored a few hundred meters above this building with the epicenter being 150 metres away. Over there you will also find a statue marking the exact point of the epicenter of the explosion.

4. Pay Your Respects at the Peace Memorial Park

Peace Memorial Park is a large, beautifully landscaped area that serves as the epicenter of Hiroshima’s commitment to peace and reconciliation.

Located at the heart of the city, the park encompasses several important memorials and monuments dedicated to the victims of the atomic bomb and the broader goal of promoting global peace.

Walking through Peace Memorial Park, we encounter various sites that commemorate the events of 1945 and the people who suffered. The park is designed to be a space of reflection and healing, with wide-open lawns, tree-lined paths, and serene ponds.

Key points of interest within the park include the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, an arched structure that holds a registry of all known victims, and the Flame of Peace, which will remain lit until all nuclear weapons are abolished.

The park also features numerous sculptures and artworks that convey messages of hope and reconciliation.

4.1. Children’s Peace Monument

Located in Peace Memorial Park, this monument is dedicated to the memory of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died from radiation-induced leukemia ten years after the bombing, and to all the children who suffered due to the atomic bomb.

The monument’s design is centred around a tall, graceful figure of a child holding a golden crane. This crane represents the story of Sadako, who, inspired by a Japanese legend, attempted to fold a thousand origami cranes in hopes of recovering from her illness. Although she did not survive, her story became a symbol of resilience and the desire for peace.

Surrounding the monument are cases filled with thousands of origami cranes sent from around the world, demonstrating global solidarity in the quest for peace.

Here you will see many school field trips, all trying to honour the past and offer their respects through statements of peace and poems.

Peace Memorial Park is a deeply moving place to visit, inviting us to reflect on the past and consider the importance of peace in our world today.

5. Learn about the Horrors of War at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is a powerful and emotional journey into the events of August 6, 1945, and their aftermath. This museum is a central component of Peace Memorial Park and plays a crucial role in educating visitors about the horrors of nuclear warfare and the need for peace.

As we enter the museum, we’re immersed in a comprehensive and detailed exhibit that takes us through the events leading up to the atomic bomb, the day of the blast, and the long-term effects on Hiroshima and its people.

The museum features photographs, artifacts, personal stories, and interactive displays that offer a poignant and sometimes heart-wrenching perspective on the impact of the atomic bomb.

The exhibits are thoughtfully designed to evoke empathy and understanding, reminding us of the human cost of war. The museum also emphasises the resilience and strength of the survivors, or Hibakusha, and their enduring message of peace.

Visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is an emotional experience, but it’s a necessary one to grasp the gravity of Hiroshima’s history and the importance of working toward a world without nuclear weapons.

The museum leaves us with a deeper appreciation for peace and a commitment to ensuring that such tragedies never happen again.

6. Take a Trip to Miyajima

If you find yourself with time to spare, taking an afternoon trip to Miyajima from Hiroshima is a fantastic idea. We took the ferry to Miyajima Island which is included in the JR Pass.

Miyajima, also known as Itsukushima, is a small island located in Hiroshima Bay, known for its iconic floating torii gate, stunning natural beauty, and rich cultural heritage.

You can marvel at the iconic Itsukushima Shrine and its floating torii gate, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, set against the backdrop of the Seto Inland Sea. We didn’t expect to encounter friendly deer roaming freely across the island which was a nice surprise, as we thought the deer are only in Nara.

With its blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and culinary delights, Miyajima promises an unforgettable excursion from Hiroshima.

If you are not comfortable doing this on your own, you can consider this 1-Day Hiroshima & Miyajima Tour or this Miyajima Half-day Tour or any of the activities below.

Final Thoughts

In closing, our day trip to Hiroshima has left an indelible mark on our hearts. We leave with a renewed sense of purpose, inspired by the city’s resilience and its unwavering commitment to peace.

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, a visit to Hiroshima is an absolute must. It’s a place that will not only enrich your understanding of history but also deepen your appreciation for the power of human resilience and the enduring pursuit of peace.

Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:

  • Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.

  • Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.

  • Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide, Klook or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.

  • Travel money – we have Starling Bank accounts (UK residents only) with 0% fees on FX and a good Mastercard exchange rate. Revolut is another good option.

  • Internet abroad – with Airalo or Nomad you can access a wide range of eSIMs (digital SIM cards) available for different countries and regions.

  • Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.

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