The self-proclaimed "Heart of Japan", the prefecture's defining feature is the northern stretch of the Japan Alps, making it a prime destination for three popular Japanese pastimes: hiking, skiing and hot springs. The southern expanse of the prefecture, which houses the bulk of the population and the capital Gifu, is largely rural.
- Gifu — the eponymous capital of the prefecture
- Hida — Famous for its festivals and the historical district around the Seto River
- Mino — Hosts an annual Japanese paper lantern festival and contest in early October
- Seki — Known for its traditional iron smithery, including an annual sword-making demonstration and sales of high-quality domestic-use knives
- Takayama — the castle town of the beautiful northern Hida (飛騨) region, with an excellent museum and some well-preserved houses
- Yoro — small town with a park which houses Site of Reversible Destiny with its sloped surfaces and utterly bizarre design intended to disorient visitors
- Gero Onsen — one of the most famous hot spring towns in Japan
- Hakusan National Park
- Oku-Hida Onsen Villages — a string of tiny hot spring villages nestled deep in the mountains
- Sekigahara — site of an epic battle that ushered in the Tokugawa Shogunate
- Shirakawa-go — famed for its traditional gasshō-zukuri houses
The Meitetsu Line connects Gifu to Chubu Centrair International Airport up to 2 times per hour. The one-hour ride costs ¥1310.
From Tokyo Station, the best way to reach central Gifu is to take a Tokaido Shinkansen train (Nozomi or Hikari) to Nagoya, then change to a Tokaido Line local train for the run to Gifu. (2 1/4 hours total; ¥11190 via Nozomi, ¥10990 via Hikari).
Four shinkansen trains generally stop every hour, two in each direction, at the Gifu-Hashima station: the slow Kodama train which makes all stops on the shinkansen route between Osaka and Tokyo, and a Hikari which makes all stops between Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya, then runs directly to Tokyo.
There is no charge to use the Hikari or Kodama trains with the Japan Rail Pass.
The central Chūō Expressway, which largely follows the alignment of the Tokaido Line, also passes through southern Gifu.
The JR Takayama Main Line (高山本線 Takayama-honsen) runs from Gifu across the length of the province, meandering through the scenic Hida Valley through Gero Onsen to Takayama, and beyond to Inotani in neighboring Toyama prefecture.
Gifu's best-known speciality is hōba miso (ほうば味噌), a version of the ubiquitous Japanese bean paste grilled on a hōba leaf and served as a dip or for eating with rice as is. Sounds pretty simple, but the taste is exquisite.
Gifu is located about as far from the sea as physically possible in Japan, so this is one place where seafood is not prized. Instead, Gifu is known for Hida beef, thickly marbled with fat and very expensive. Products grown in the surrounding mountains are also famous, particularly persimmons, chestnuts and mushrooms. A popular souvenir is kurikinton (栗きんとん), a candy made by steaming and mashing chestnuts with sugar and reconstituting the mass into a chestnut shape.
There are a number of excellent small sake breweries in Gifu. Look out for the tiny Niki Shuzō (二木酒造; ) brewery's brands, including Tamanoi (玉の井) and Himuro (氷室).