If you’re in Osaka (or going there) and want to know what to do in Osaka then I can help you.
I’ve spent 1 month living in Osaka and these are my recommendations for things to do in the city.
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 has plenty of things to do in itself.
The average tourist seems to spend around 2 days there from what I have observed so you should be able to find something that appeals to you.
What To Do In Osaka
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 to see, especially in regards to history.
The original castle dates back to 1583 but everything you will 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.
The moat and relaxed park by the castle.
Side note as far as Osaka parks go.
The Osaka Expo Park (Expo 70 Commemorative Park) is not central in Osaka as it’s between 30-50 minutes north of the city (depending which route you take), but if cherry blossom trees (early April for the blossoming season) and nature are your thing 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!
2. Explore Shinsaibash and Dotonbori at Night
Busy covered shopping street in Shinsaibashi.
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.
Food street in Dotonbori area.
Short cut between the busy areas using more quiet side streets if you get tired of too many people.
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.
3. Wander Around America muri (America Village)
Street art in America-mura.
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.
Boutique shopping street.
Some streets you can escape the busy modern city.
4. 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!
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.
Takoyaki restaurant in Osaka. You can easily find them by looking for the orange/red octopus on display!
Street food takoyaki.
It goes perfectly with a beer! (Yes that’s me).
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.
5. 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.
Watching a baseball game in Osaka.
Half time cheerleader display.
Women with ‘beer backpacks’ will come around to quench your thirst with a good beer.
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.
6. 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.
Part of a view from a cafe area in the building.
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.
7. Stay in a Capsule Hotel
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.
The futuristic capsule ‘pods’.
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.
Taking it easy in the capsule.
But hey, stay for a night and see what it’s like for yourself. If only once.
8. Universal Studios
Hogwarts Express train at Universal Studios Osaka.
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.
However if you’re short on time then personally I wouldn’t go and would spend my time seeing more traditional Japanese culture either in Osaka or the nearby places on a day trip.
That will give you plenty of things to do in Osaka for your time there.
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 that 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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