Kanazawa’s compact city center makes for the perfect leisurely cycle around the sights. Taking you on a tour of some of the city’s most culture-rich areas, this itinerary will introduce you to geisha districts, temples, and 500-year-old kimono designs, with an optional uphill crawl for those up for a challenge.
Before setting off cycling, start your morning at the famous Higashi Chaya tea house district. Best visited by foot, there’s an extra benefit to arriving early as you’ll miss the afternoon crowds. After wandering around the main street dipping in and out of the preserved tea houses and various shops, slip down the back alley behind the famous gold ice cream shop and Jiyuken restaurant to an aptly named pancake cafe, Fluffy, housed in its own traditional tea house. Get your energy up for a day of cycling with a pile of fluffy pancakes. Opt for their specialty hojicha tea pancakes if you’re feeling experimental.
Exploring Kanazawa on two wheels is easily done thanks to the easy-hire Machinori city bikes. Get signed up at the number 18 cycle port next to the Higashi Chaya District to give yourself to access to bikes from any of the 21 cycle ports around the city. An 800 yen deposit is required on sign up but the usage fees are low with a full day costing just 200 yen if each bike journey is within 30 minutes. Extra charges are added when you go over the 30 minutes but you can hire for a full day for 900 yen or 1,400 yen for an electric-assisted bike. Signing up at a cycle port requires a credit card but you can pay by cash at the Machinori Head Office or at the hotel front desk if you’re staying at a Machinori alliance hotel.
In less than 10 minutes of pedaling you’ll find yourself approaching the Kenrokuen Garden. Park up at cycle port number 15 and head back away from the gardens to the Kaga Yuzen Kimono Center. For a small fee you can enter the center to uncover the story behind Kaga Yuzen, a colorful, highly distinguished design that has been used on kimonos in the Kaga area for over 500 years. If you feel time is on your side, hang around a bit longer to try out a Kaga Yuzen dyeing experience or try on a kimono yourself for an extra fee and some priceless photos.
As bicycles aren’t allowed in the Kenrokuen Garden or Kanazawa Castle grounds, save your visit for another day and get back on a bike at cycle port number 15 to take the road through the middle of the gardens. Make a beeline for the temple district in the west of the city which will take another 10 to 15 minutes to cycle to. After crossing over the Sai River, park up at cycle port number 22 which will find you at the winding streets of Tera-machi temple district with its cluster of over 20 temples. Wandering this area by foot will give you the freedom to take a visit to any of the temples, whether it be the famous Ninja Temple or a smaller, lesser-known temple.
Walk back east over the bridge into Katamachi for lunch where there are a number of restaurants and cafes along the main street and tucked away. If you’ve still got the energy after lunch, make your way up to Mt. Utatsu for a more challenging uphill cycle all made worthwhile by the views over the city from above.