Right in the heart of the city, Matsuyama Castle crowns the top of a 131m (435-ft.) hill, commanding an impressive view. It was built by feudal lord Kato Yoshiakira more than 400 years ago, later falling into the hands of the powerful Matsudaira family that ruled the surrounding region from here during the Edo Period. Like most structures in Japan, Matsuyama Castle has suffered fire and destruction through the ages, but unlike many other castles (such as those in Osaka and Nagoya), this one was renovated with original materials in the 1850s. There's only one entrance, a pathway leading through a series of gates that could be swung shut to trap attacking enemies. A secret gate allowed a surprise rear attack, while drop chutes could be used to rain stones onto the enemy. Drums were used to communicate, whether it was to warn of invaders or simply give the time. The granary could store enough rice to feed 2,000 people for a year. The three-story donjon houses some samurai gear, swords, screens, and scrolls from the Matsudaira family, as well as photographs of Japan's other castles. Allow yourself 30 minutes to tour the inside.

Surrounding the castle is a park; if you're feeling energetic, you can walk uphill through the park to the castle in about 15 minutes. Otherwise, the easiest way to reach the castle is to take the streetcar to the Okaido stop, walk 5 minutes north on the street next to Starbucks, and then, from the east side of Katsuyama Hill, take a cable car or chairlift (more fun) from the modern cable station on the left side of the street (there's also a walking path to the castle from here). A round-trip ticket for either the cable car or the chairlift, and including admission to the castle, costs ¥1,000 for adults and ¥400 for children.