If you’re in Osaka (or going there) and want to know the best things to do in Osaka then I can help you. I spent 1-month living thereand these are my recommendations for what to see and do.
I’ll disclaim it straight away. I love Osaka and it’s my favourite city in Japan and I’ve spent several months exploring all over the country.
Osakaphile you say? Yeah, they have a phrase for someone who loves all things Japan and that is a Japanophile, so as I love all things in Osaka it’s a play on that word.
Although Tokyo takes the prize for the most vibrant city, and Kyoto for the most historical, Osaka holds its own as the down to earth city of Japan and you will find activities in the city and nearby that you will enjoy.
The average tourist seems to spend around 2 days there from what I have found when speaking with other travellers. That’s enough time to see the basics but if you spend more time there it’s worth it.
1. Osaka Castle (Osaka-jo)
Yes there are a lot of castles to see in Japan and I have found more impressive ones than Osaka Castle, but it’s worth the visit and is one of the main attractions in Osaka, especially in regards to history.
The original castle dates back to 1583 but everything you see nowadays is from 1931 onwards.
It sits right in the middle of the city and is a big part of the Osaka skyline.
One of the great things about the castle area is the park that surrounds it and the moats around the castle. It’s very peaceful to relax in and get away from the bustle of the city for a while.
2. Osaka Expo Park
The Osaka Expo Park (Expo 70 Commemorative Park) is not in central Osaka as it’s between 30-50 minutes north of the city (depending on which route you take), but if cherry blossom trees (early April for the blossoming season) and nature are your things then you should go there for a few hours.
It also has some museums such as the National Museum of Ethnology and a landscaped Japanese garden.
A really cool 70 metre tall Tower of the Sun statue greets you at the entrance.
Bampakukinenkoen Station along the Osaka monorail is the closest station to the entrance.
If you want one of the best places to visit in Osaka for a nature atmosphere then this is it!
3. Explore Shinsaibash and Dotonbori at Night
Shopping time! Eating time! Nighttime fun!
Whatever you may be looking for at night in Osaka the Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori areas, along with America mura (see below) are the places to go as far as things to do in Osaka at night are concerned.
It’s the central area of the city for all things fun.
If you are at Osaka Castle in the afternoon you can head over to this area for the evening and nighttime, they are not that far apart (as far as big cities go).
You will find so many food choices for dinner, excellent shopping options if you want to shop, and plenty of bars and nightlife in Osaka for later on if that’s your kind of thing.
You can go on an organised pub crawl if you want to be guided through some of the best bars in Osaka.
If Dotonbori gets (is) to hectic for you with so many people then head over to nearby America-mura which has a more laid back vibe.
The nearby Namba area of Osaka is also busy but not as good as Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi.
One thing you could try is to go on a street food tour in Osaka with a local foodie to get a more personalised experience of the food and learn about the food culture in the ‘nations kitchen’ of Japan.
4. Wander Around America Muri (America Village)
America Mura is a very hip neighbourhood in Osaka and not far from Dotonbori so you can combine the two together (as mentioned before).
This area is way more relaxed than Dotonbori and has more of a boutique shopping vibe and an alternative atmosphere.
It’s here you will find street art, cosplay, punks, and a bunch of other things you see little of elsewhere in the city. In fact little elsewhere in a lot of Japan.
This is one of my favourite areas in the city and just wandering around there as far as I’m concerned was one of the best things to do in Osaka.
5. Food in Osaka!
The food in Osaka is in my opinion the best in Japan. Osaka is known as the ‘nations kitchen’ and for a reason: the food is awesome!
To be honest just jumping from food place to food place, especially in the evening, and trying lots of different dishes is one of the best things to do in Osaka.
One of the main things you will find everywhere is the takoyaki food places.
This is definitely one of the foods Osaka is famous for and it is deep fried squid in batter that’s made into balls and is so good, especially with an accompanying beer.
Osaka is also known for its excellent Okonomiyaki and along with Hiroshima is the best in Japan.
As mentioned before you will find lots of great food options in the Dotonbori area.
6. Catch a Game of Baseball at Kyocera Dome
Ok, ok, what is a baseball game doing here?
It’s simple: Japan loves baseball!
If you want to have some fun with locals from Osaka and join in then a baseball game at the Kyocera Dome is for just that.
Hell, even I don’t like baseball and I had a blast there drinking a few beers and cheering on the team the locals in my section were supporting.
The Hanshin Tigers are the local team and the ones you will want to support if they are playing.
If there is a game of baseball at the Kyocera Dome then definitely try to watch a game as it’s one of the best things to do in Osaka to get out where the locals go for some sport.
7. Visit Japans Tallest Building – Abeno Harukas
Although the Umeda sky building is the big draw as far as views across Osaka is concerned it is the paid option, whereas at the Abeno Harukas you can go a reasonable way up for decent enough views for free.
Sit in one of the cafes several floors up and enjoy a drink or meal and take in the views.
As I work online this was a frequent haunt for me to go and work on my laptop. In general the overall vibe there is very relaxed.
A good place for a break for an hour or so.
8. Stay in a Capsule Hotel in Osaka
Yes you can stay in a capsule hotel in almost any Japanese city but as you’re in Osaka why not try the experience there?
Osaka is a modern city and the sci-fi vibe of staying in a capsule hotel in Osaka adds to that atmosphere.
For example places like Kyoto and more traditional areas I would not recommend this option as there are nicer more traditional places to stay at such as the ryokan inns.
A capsule hotel won’t appeal to many though, the men and women sections are normally separated so if you’re a couple you may not like that (obviously).
It can be noisy as well. Even though you get your own enclosed capsule there are many in the same room.
But hey, stay for a night and see what it’s like for yourself. If only once.
9. Universal Studios
I’ll admit I didn’t go to Universal Studios Osaka simply because I never got around to it.
However I heard from others that it they are good to see.
Even though I didn’t go I’m recommending it here because if you’re travelling with children then it could make an excellent day out.
You can get a ticket for Universal Studios here:
10. Go-Karting in Osaka!
I’m seriously annoyed that in 1 month of living in the city I missed out on one of the best things to do in Osaka. I didn’t hear about it until I had left and friends who visited mentioned it.
It looks so much fun and a great way to see some of the city so I have to mention it here so you don’t miss out.
It’s not just riding around a go-kart track, they will take you out on a guided tour of some of Osaka in a go-kart. What a way to see the city!
That will give you plenty of things to do in Osaka for your time there, especially if you only have one day in Osaka.
Naturally, there are plenty more options but these are the ones I recommend from my own personal experience.
If you have only one long day then visit the castle, maybe head to the Expo Park, and then Dotonbori, America-mura at night.
With 2 days you can add in more things.
If you plan to be doing lots of day trips around Osaka and Kyoto then take a Japan Rail Pass before going (get one with that link) to save money on the fast Shinkansen trains.
Coming into Osaka from Kansai airport? Book a van transfer from Kansai airport to Osaka.
If you’ve been unsure about whether to base yourself in Osaka or Kyoto have a read of my post where I explain why I think Osaka is better than Kyoto as a base for the Kansai region.
Be sure to take travel insurance for Japan (get with that link) just to be safe as it is an expensive country for medical treatment.
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