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Why Osaka Is A Better City To Stay Than Kyoto

If you’re wondering whether to stay in Osaka or Kyoto then this should help in your decision, depending on your perspective, and what you are looking for.

I should say straight away that I loved exploring Kyoto and seeing all the old temples, shrines, and gardens. It’s one of the most culturally rich cities in all of Japan and a must-see place. But I’m writing this from a traveller’s perspective and this is what the difference between Osaka and Kyoto is.

Both Osaka and Kyoto are beautiful cities in Japan, each with its unique charm and attractions.

Osaka or Kyoto

Firstly, if you do end up staying in Osaka you can book a hotel in Osaka here through Agoda which is my favourite site for booking hotels in Japan.

I’ve visited Kyoto three times now spending roughly 10 days there and I have visited Osaka three times for around a month in total. I can easily say that if you’re looking for a cheaper city to stay in and meet loads of cool locals Osaka is the place you want to be.

Meeting many travellers while in Kyoto it was surprising how many of them were overlooking Osaka as a place to visit, and those that did only planned a day trip to see the castle and a quick walk around.

But they are missing one of the most vibrant and fun cities in Japan.

Osaka vs kyoto

Kyoto is often seen as the cultural heart of Japan, renowned for its stunning temples, traditional tea houses, and serene gardens. It offers a glimpse into Japan’s rich history and heritage, with UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion), Fushimi Inari Shrine with its thousands of torii gates, and the historic Gion district known for its geisha culture.

If you’re interested in traditional Japanese culture, art, and history, Kyoto is an excellent choice.

On the other hand, Osaka is known for its vibrant nightlife, bustling street food scene, and modern architecture. It’s often referred to as the “Kitchen of Japan” due to its culinary delights, including Takoyaki (octopus balls), Okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes), and Kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers).

Additionally, Osaka is home to attractions like Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan, and the lively Dotonbori district, famous for its neon lights and entertainment options.

Osaka is the second biggest city in Japan and has a reputation for very friendly people who know how to eat well and party. It has a certain rough edge about it and very importantly a good vibe and there are plenty of things to do in Osaka as well.

It’s that vibe that makes it perfect, but it’s something you probably won’t pick up on when just visiting for a few hours.

You need to hang out for a few days, especially at night when the bars and food joints explode into life. Yes, every city in Japan has good bars and eating options, but we’re comparing Osaka to Kyoto, and I’m sorry Kyoto but Osaka just has a much better scene.

Osaka is well known throughout Japan for its food, it is known as the “nation’s kitchen” for a reason.

Its fast food takoyaki which is a wheat flour ball with a small piece of octopus inside is one of the most famous snacks in Japan and is a speciality of Osaka, for example. You can find these places everywhere, often easily spotted by the bright red octopus head.

osaka or kyoto

I love Osaka just as much as Tokyo. Certain neighbourhoods are so much fun and you can even find some graffiti along with cosplay and punks. Where Kyoto has a reputation for its culture it’s also more conservative.

Step in Osaka to take up the mantle as the truly down-to-earth city of Japan.

osaka or kyoto

I understand that you might not care about the whole nighttime stuff but you don’t need to party, just enjoy the ambience and excellent food options.

Why stay in Osaka? Especially when Kyoto has so much more history and culture to see. Cultural things are definitely all good and all, and certainly some of the main things to see in Japan, but staying in Osaka you will get the feeling of what it’s like more as a local.

Yes, Osaka gets tourists visiting but nowhere near the level of Kyoto. If you get away from the main tourist drag of Dotonbori you can find yourself almost away from tourists altogether.

fun Osaka
Funky Osaka

Osaka is also perfectly located to make some excellent day trips from Osaka to get your culture fix in the region surrounding it.

One and a half hours by train and you are in beautiful Koyasan in the mountains with its old temples and massive Buddhist cemetery. Thirty minutes by train and you are in historic Nara, again, with loads of temples. Then there’s Kyoto itself only 20 minutes by train from Osaka.

Why not do day trips to Kyoto instead of staying there? It only costs around $10 for a return train ticket.

While we’re on the subject of costs, Osaka can be better value for money, being a working city, especially when it comes to places to stay.

Did you know you can get a private room in a budget hotel for $15 a night? And that’s relatively in the centre so you can walk to the main party/food zone.

On top of that Osaka isn’t without its historical things to see. Osaka Castle is a must-see in the city, and there are hidden temples here and there which are great to seek out.

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle

So what I’m trying to say with this whole post is that many travellers are overlooking this fun city and just concentrating on Kyoto. Understandable. But also totally unfortunate.

Not everyone will love Osaka, but some travellers come for 1-2 nights and are so surprised at how cool the city is that they wish they had planned to stay longer or used it as a base to explore the surrounding area/cities instead of Kyoto.

I even met people who thought Osaka was better than Tokyo, even though Tokyo has a lot more to do. Osaka is one of those cities you stay for the vibe. Osaka or Kyoto, I would always go with Osaka.

And with travellers, the vibe is so important. Well at least for the ones that appreciate feeling something different that doesn’t just involve visiting tourist sites and cultural places.

To experience a country properly delve into what the locals do. In Kyoto with so many tourists around people often miss out on that aspect.

Ultimately, your choice between Osaka or Kyoto depends on your interests and preferences. If you’re drawn to history, tradition, and a quieter atmosphere, Kyoto may be more suitable.

However, if you’re looking for a dynamic urban experience with excellent food and entertainment, Osaka could be the better option. Many visitors to the region choose to visit both cities due to their close proximity and distinct atmospheres.

Patrick, a regular visitor to Osaka, sums up Osaka vs Kyoto

osaka vs kyoto

“Yes, I know Kyoto has more and better temples. Yes, I know it has a bigger and more spectacular history. But once you have visited all the tourist attractions it’s time to compare city to city, people to people.

What makes Osaka stand out for me over Kyoto or even Tokyo is its raw, down-to-earth atmosphere. So when you say Osaka or Kyoto, or Tokyo, then Osaka is not a pretty city, it’s an industrial city and it shows, and that’s part of the charm.

But with that also comes that down-to-earth feel that sets Osaka apart from the other big cities in Japan.

I love the feel of the Amerikamura and Shinbashi district with all its great (rock) bars filled with locals and tourists alike, tattoo parlours and underground shops.

I know that’s only just a small part of this big city but in my opinion, it’s there that you get the best feel for the city and its people”.

I did not get that feeling as much anywhere else in Japan.

Go And Stay In Osaka

Again this post is not about knocking Kyoto at all. I would say everyone should go to Kyoto on a trip to Japan. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time there and miss Osaka like many people do.

And I’m not talking about just a day trip to Osaka. Go for a few days and delve into this fun and vibrant city.

So if you were wondering whether to stay in Osaka or Kyoto, then this should help answer your question. Either way, you can’t go wrong as they are both awesome cities!

If you are on a short trip to Japan, say for a week or so, then I would actually say to stay in Kyoto and just do a day trip to Osaka. But if you have more time think about using Osaka as your base for the region.

Useful links for Osaka or Kyoto

Firstly, if you do end up staying in Osaka you can book a hotel in Osaka here through Agoda which is my favourite site for booking hotels in Japan.

These are some of the best day trips from Osaka to other places around. The Japan Rail Pass will help a lot with these trips.

It’s a good idea to get a Japan Rail Pass (get one with that link) to save you money on train travel in Japan.

Take travel insurance before going to Japan. I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip.

Some cool tours to do in Osaka when there:

Share the Osaka or Kyoto advice:

29 thoughts on “Why Osaka Is A Better City To Stay Than Kyoto”

  1. Pierre-Luc - Explorer la planète

    I agree with you that Osaka is better than Kyoto. In Kyoto, every attractions seems so far away from each other and it take ages to visit “everything”! Osaka as a great young and energic vibe, especially at night! However, I have to confess that my favorite city in Japan is Tokyo (I know that it is cliché)! Great article!

  2. Loved your article. and very helpful for someone who is planning her first trip. i am planning to stay 3 nights in osaka and 3 nights in tokyo. how does that sound?

  3. Hi sorry for late reply. I would recommend 4 nights in Tokyo and 2 in Osaka. As much as I love Osaka there is a more to do in Tokyo for someone with a shorter time to spend.

  4. Hi there,

    I will be in Japan for 21-22 days. Would it be stupid to split it between Osaka and Tokyo instead of Kyoto Tokyo?

    My idea was not to move around all the time- because I am going on a RTW trip- so I wanted to make Osaka my base , rent an apartment there for half of the time (10 days or so) and do day trips around such as in Kyoto, Nagasaki,
    Hiroshima (in case I need to stay in any of these cities more days I can always get a cheaper hostel room). Or it is better to constantly switch accommodation? It may be tiring for me 🙂

    What do you think ?:)

  5. Hey! Sorry for late reply. If you don’t want to get tired then for sure stay in Osaka for the 10 nights but bear in mind places like Nagasaki are far away and you would need to spend at least 1 night there. Kyoto and surroundings are perfect for day trips. Hiroshima you could squeeze in as a long day trip but you would be rushed.

  6. I’m inclined to disagree with you but I know where you’re coming from.

    I would’ve enjoyed Osaka more if I were traveling solo or with friends but now that I have a family, Kyoto seems the better fit for our kid.

    Both cities give totally different vibes and we enjoyed both of them throughout our week-long stay in Kansai.

  7. I totally understand you Daniel. If I had a family I may be more inclined to Kyoto as well, but again I’m trying to inspire those backpackers in Kyoto to stay a few nights in Osaka. It’s surprising how many didn’t even think about going to Osaka. For me every city in Japan has it’s own charm. I just love everything in that country. Looking forward to going back again soon 🙂

  8. Japan is the most beautiful place in the world, Every year a lots traveler comes here for adventure. There have a lot of place for a visit, Osaka and Kyoto both are a beautiful city, but yes, the Osaka is better then Kyoto, The nature and the environment of Osaka is pretty much loved by travelers.But everyone does not know about this matter. this is a helpful post for all the travel lovers. Thanks for sharing this.

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  10. we are travelling in tokyo on March 30 to april 10, what is the best itinerary you advise with the budget, we want to go to kyoto,osaka,hakone,do we need to get hotel for each city? pls advise.

  11. Yes you will need to get a hotel for each city if you want to stay in them, but like mentioned in this article you can stay in Osaka and day trip to Kyoto (or vice-versa).

  12. Thank you very much for useful information. I had a concern about this with it’s solved with your suggestion. Hotel is also booked. 4 days in Osaka and Kyoto and 3 1/2 days in Tokyo. Any suggestions for the stays in Tokyo?

  13. I’ve stayed in a bunch of different places in Tokyo on a lot of different visits. I like staying in Asakusa area and if you’re on a budget this capsule hostel Nine Hours Asakusa (capsule accommodation must try when in Japan!)is a really good deal there and gets good reviews. This is where I would try staying if visiting again and not staying with friends there. Here’s the link where you can see the property to see if you like it and book if you want. Again if you book through the link I get a small commission at no extra cost to you:

  14. Hi, how much time should I allot between Kyoto/Osaka/Nara/Kobe if I’m traveling for a month? Thanks.

  15. Hi Ann, it really depends how fast you like to travel, nut around a week you will be able to see what they all mainly have to offer. If you want to delve into the cities more then add a few days on that. For example a day trip to Nara from Osaka or Kyoto will be fine to see the main things there. Maybe say 2 nights in Kyoto and 3 nights in Osaka mixed. Plus 1-2 nights in Kobe, although Kobe can easily be.a day trip as well. Just depends if you want to rush more or not.

  16. 100% agree with everything you mentioned. Osaka was my favourite city in the whole of Japan within one day of visiting.

  17. Pingback: What To Do In Osaka Japan (The Best Things For 2019)

  18. EXCELLENT BLOG..!!! So very helpful.. Planning a trip to Japan in 1st week of February 2020 with my hubby.we start our trip from fukuoka. any tips?
    We are planning 1night in Hiroshima 2nights in osaka 3 nights tokyo.

  19. Great Post!!! Before visiting any place, it’s an obvious thing that we search for new places and collect complete knowledge of all the places. Thanks to such posts to explain things briefly.

  20. Hi! It’s a great read. I just came back from Tokyo and aiming to go solo in April again. I’m just thinking about Kyoto vs Osaka. What if I’m not someone who enjoys night life? Will Osaka be too bored for me? Thanks for any suggestions. Cheers!

  21. Pingback: Tokyo vs Osaka (For Travel or Living In 2021)

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