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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 that decision, depending on your perspective, and what you are looking for.

I better say this straight away that I loved exploring around Kyoto and seeing all the old temples, shrines, and gardens.

It’s one of the most culturally rich cities in all of Japan and definitely a must-see place.

But I’m writing this from a travellers perspective and this is what the difference between Osaka and Kyoto is.

Osaka or Kyoto

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I’ve visited Kyoto two times now spending roughly a week there and Osaka three times for almost a month in total.

I can easily say that for the budget traveller looking to have fun 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
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osaka or kyoto
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Osaka at night
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Osaka is the second biggest city in Japan and has a reputation for very friendly people who know how to eat good and party.

It has a certain rough edge about it and very importantly a good vibe and also there are plenty of things to do in Osaka as well.

It’s that vibe that makes it perfect for travellers, 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 drinking and food scene.

Osaka is well known throughout Japan for its food, most notably it’s fast food takoyaki which is a wheat flour ball with a small piece of octopus inside.

You can find these places everywhere, often easily spotted by the bright red octopus head.

osaka or kyoto
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In fact, 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 the culture it’s also more conservative.

Step in Osaka to take up the mantle as the party city of Japan.

osaka or kyoto
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I totally understand that people might not care about the whole “youth vibe/party thing” but then this is about most travellers, especially young ones, who for sure enjoy that.

But let’s look at those other tourists.

Why stay in Osaka? Especially when Kyoto has so much more history and culture to see.

That’s all good and all, 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
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Funky Osaka

Osaka is also perfectly located to do 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 20-30 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 (this is very important for the budget traveller) Osaka can be better value for money, being a working city.

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 the hidden temples here and there are great to seek out as well.

Osaka Castle
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Osaka Castle
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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.

Totally 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 and wished 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 really is one of those cities you stay for the vibe.

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.

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.

Patrick a regular visitor to Osaka sums it up Osaka or Kyoto

osaka vs kyoto
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“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 it’s raw, down to earth atmosphere.

It’s not a pretty city, it’s an industrial city and it shows.

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 it’s 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”.

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

Go And Stay In Osaka

Again this post is not about knocking Kyoto. I would say everyone should definitely 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!




Useful links for Osaka

You can find and book a place to stay in Osaka (or Kyoto) with Agoda (my favourite hotel/hostel booking site for Asia):

Find places to stay in Osaka here:


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.

These are some day trips from Osaka or Kyoto (my in-depth guide to the best day trips from Osaka) to other places around using the Shinkansen trains, the Japan Rail Pass will help a lot.

Definitely take travel insurance before going to Japan as it’s an expensive country for medical treatment if you get sick on your trip.I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.

Osaka/Kyoto travel tip: get a Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass (1 day/2 day)

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 (get one with that link) to use to save money and make your travel easier when there.

Kyoto Tours From Osaka

So if you end up staying in Osaka and day-tripping to Kyoto here are some of the best things you can do in Kyoto when there.
Note: This post contains affiliate links to help you plan your trip with site seeing tickets etc and are covered in my disclaimer.
If you liked this article about Osaka or Kyoto a share would be cool 🙂

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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