Japan is filled with stunning destinations, from the bustling streets of Tokyo to the soaring peak of Mount Fuji. However, if you’re planning the ultimate travel itinerary of Japan, you can’t overlook Osaka. From its mouthwatering street food to its lively nightlife and world-class attractions, there are an endless amount of incredible things to do in Osaka.
Osaka is one of my favorite cities in Japan (although I may be slightly biased since my mom is a proud Osakan). Not only have I visited this vibrant city countless times as a child, but it was my home base when I spent a year living in Japan. And yet, every time I visit Osaka, I discover something new, funky, and exciting to do.
So, whether you’re looking for a fun day out or you’re planning to spend an entire week in the Kansai region of Japan, there are plenty of amazing places to visit in Osaka. Within this post, I will outline the best Osaka attractions to add to your itinerary; from the thrilling Universal Studios Japan to the picturesque hikes of Minoh Park and the ancient temple of Shitenno-ji.
Without further ado, these are the 15 best things to do in Osaka.
Best Things To Do in Osaka
With so many incredible things to do in Osaka, it can be hard to limit the choices to just 15. However, I have hand-chosen some of the best tours and attractions Osaka has to offer. From the top historical sites to the best street food, hikes, and day trips from Osaka, you’ll find a wide array of things to do around Osaka.
So, if you’re ready to find out more, let’s dive right in.
1. Go Shopping Down the Dotonbori Canal
First things first, I can’t talk about the best things to do in Osaka without including the Dotonbori neighborhood. Located in the Minami (Namba) area, Dotonbori is Osaka’s entertainment center and an essential spot to experience Osaka’s nightlife.
While I’m not into the bar scene myself, I love visiting Dotonbori for its amazing food and shopping spots. And I love its upbeat and exciting atmosphere. It’s filled with bright, neon signs and dynamic billboards, and you absolutely have to take a photo copying the iconic Glico Running Man pose – it’s a must!
Overall, Dotonbori is one of the most vibrant and lively neighborhoods in Osaka, and it has some of the best things to do in Osaka at night. Needless to say, you absolutely have to add it to your Osaka itinerary.
Address: 1 Chome Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0071, Japan. Click here for directions.
2. Visit the Majestic Osaka Castle (One of the Best Places to Visit in Osaka!)
Next up, one of my absolute favorite things to see in Osaka is the imposing Osaka Castle. A stunning piece of architecture rising from a garden of cherry blossoms and plum blossoms (you totally have to visit in February and March if possible), Osaka Castle was built under Hideyoshi Toyotomi in 1583 but has been destroyed and reconstructed many times.
Housing a history museum and a scenic lookout point, Osaka Castle is the perfect place to visit for history and architecture enthusiasts. However, it offers something for nature lovers as well; my favorite thing to do is to wander around its vast park. Surrounded by enchanting gardens and a dense moat, it’s easy to spend half a day peacefully wandering around the grounds.
It costs 600 JPY to enter the castle (around $4.25 USD) and it’s easy to book in person. Click here to learn more about visiting Osaka Castle.
Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002, Japan. Click here for directions.
3. Sample the Local Cuisine at the Kuromon Ichiba Market
Within Japan, Osaka is famous for its energetic nightlife and incredible street food. If you want to experience the latter, I recommend you visit “Osaka’s Kitchen” – the bustling Kuromon Ichiba Market.
Perfect for all the adventurous foodies out there, the Kuromon Ichiba Market is a public market located in the Minami (Namba) area of Osaka. It houses over 150 shops primarily focused on selling seafood, and many of the stalls also sell smaller food items that you can enjoy right then and there.
Some of my favorite things to eat include takoyaki and yakitori. However, it can get quite crowded during its peak hours, so I recommend going early in the morning. Click here to learn more about visiting the Kuromon Ichiba Market.
Address: 2 Chome Nipponbashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0073, Japan. Click here for directions.
4. Spend a Thrilling Day at Universal Studios Japan
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Osaka for families, then you must visit Universal Studios Japan (USJ for short).
As a child, spending an exhilarating day at USJ was always the highlight of my trip. Some of my favorite rides include the Jurassic Park ride, the Jaws ride, and the Space Fantasy ride. I’ve also heard amazing things about the newer rides such as Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge and the Flying Dinosaur.
Whether you’re traveling with kids, a significant other, or with your friends, I really recommend visiting USJ; it’s without a doubt my favorite theme park in the world. If you’re interested in buying a pre-booked entry pass, click here.
Address: 2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, 554-0031, Japan. Click here for directions.
5. Admire the Local Sights on an Osaka Walking Tour
If you’re wondering what sights to see in Osaka, then you have to join one of the top guided Osaka walking tours. Not only will this tour take you to the most popular attractions in Osaka, but you’ll also be introduced to some unique hidden gems.
With stops at some of the top sights in Osaka, including a few that I’ve already mentioned, (like Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, and the Kuromon Ichiba Market), your local guide with share some tidbits about the vast history and culture of this fascinating city.
While I’ve never taken this tour myself, my favorite way to experience a new city is to wander around on foot. And I’ve spent many days walking around Osaka Castle Park, Namba, Dotonbori, and Tennoji. With this tour, you can condense this wandering down to half a day. If you’re interested in booking the walking tour, click here.
Address: The tour meets at 3-chōme-2 Tanimachi, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0012, Japan. Click here for directions.
6. Tour the Ancient Shitenno-ji Temple
Although Shitenno-ji Temple isn’t one of the most popular tourist attractions in Osaka, it’s undoubtedly one of my favorite places to visit in Osaka.
One of the oldest Buddhist temples in all of Japan, (and the first to be built by the government), Shitenno-ji Temple was constructed in 593 under Prince Shotoku. With a serene pond and a location near the lovely Gokuraku-jodo Garden, Shitenno-ji is the best place to escape Osaka’s crowded streets. So, if you’re an introvert like me, you absolutely have to visit.
If you’re in Osaka on the 21st of the month, I recommend checking out Shitennoji’s Flea Market. Filled with a wide variety of fascinating merchandise, it’s one of the coolest places to buy souvenirs.
Address: 1 Chome-11-18 Shitennoji, Tennoji Ward, Osaka, 543-0051, Japan. Click here for directions.
7. Get a Taste of Osaka’s Cuisine on a Food Tour
If you’re a foodie looking for one of the best things to do in Osaka, then joining a food tour is the way to go. Guiding you to the best local restaurants for some delicious and mouthwatering authentic Japanese cuisine, you’re sure to get a true taste of Osaka.
On this food tour, you’ll try some of the best dishes Japan has to offer, including edamame, karaage, tonpeiyaki, yakitori, gyoza, and kushikatsu. And don’t forget about one of my favorite Osakan dishes, takoyaki (a ball-shaped snack typically filled with diced octopus).
Click here to book the Shinsekai Food Tour; you definitely won’t regret it.
Address: The tour meets at 1-chōme-17 Sannō, Nishinari Ward, Osaka, 557-0001, Japan. Click here for directions.
8. Sign-Up for a Ramen and Gyoza Cooking Class
If you love to cook (and eat) and you’re seeking an interactive experience in Osaka, then I recommend signing up for this amazing ramen and gyoza cooking class.
Led by incredible, English-speaking instructors, you’ll learn the ins and outs of how to make these two classic Japanese dishes from scratch. What’s more, after your class is finished, you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
While I’ve never booked a cooking class before, I’ve always enjoyed making my own gyoza; I’m sure you will too. So, if knocking up your own dish is something that interests you, this class will definitely be a highlight of your trip. For more details on how to book the cooking class, click here.
Another fun cooking class in Osaka for couples, groups, families, or solo travelers is this Osaka Cooking Class which teaches you how to make takoyaki (fried balls of wheat flour and octopus), okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes), and miso soup. Learn more about this highly rated activity in Osaka, here.
Address: The class takes place at Japan, 〒542-0082 Osaka, Chuo Ward, Shimanouchi, 2-chōme−9−14 マスターズ・レジデンス道頓堀1. Click here for directions.
9. Embark on a Waterfall Hike in Minoh Park
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Osaka, I recommend visiting the local-favorite escape on the outskirts of Osaka: Minoh Park.
With an easy, three-kilometer hiking trail that leads to a 33-meter-high waterfall, Minoh Park is perfect for those with small children. It’s one of my favorite free things to do in Osaka – I love visiting Minoh Park for its enchanting forests and serene river. Thanks to the hike not being particularly strenuous, it can get crowded on weekends, so try and visit in the week if possible.
If you’re visiting Osaka in the fall, Minoh Park is one of the best places to admire Osaka’s foliage.
Address: 1-18 Minookoen, Minoh, Osaka 562-0002, Japan. Click here for directions.
10. Check Out Osaka’s Hidden Gems on a Backstreets Tour
If you’re keen to explore the more hidden, unique, and unknown places to visit in Osaka, then I recommend booking this Osaka: Deep Backstreets Exploration tour.
Guiding you through gritty areas with abandoned buildings, gambling spots, alleyways, and red-light districts, this tour is ideal for those who want to learn both sides of the city. It’s not recommended for children under the age of 16, those with mobility impairments, or those who are pregnant.
Although I’ve visited Osaka countless times, I’m yet to join this tour. It’s on my list of things to do, however, as it explores districts and areas that I have little experience with. So, if you want to get a deeper insight into the history of Osaka and its not-so-pretty sides, then I recommend this tour. Click here to learn more.
Address: The meeting spot varies; book the tour to learn more.
11. Experience Osaka’s Nightlife on a Bar Hopping Tour
If you’re keen on getting a local’s inside knowledge of the best bars and izakayas in Namba, you must check out this bar hopping and food tour. From sampling incredible dishes to trying high-quality drinks, this tour will give you the ultimate introduction to Osaka’s nightlife.
I’m not really a drinker myself but I can certainly appreciate why Osaka is considered one of the best party cities in Japan – it’s so colorful and vibrant, anyone can enjoy the atmosphere. If you want to check out some of the local-favorite bars, then this is definitely one of the top things to do in Osaka. Click here to learn more and book the tour.
Address: The tour meets at 1-chōme-8-16 Nanba, Chūō-ku, Osaka, 542-0076, Japan. Click here for directions.
12. Visit the teamLab Botanical Garden
Whether you’re looking for one of the best things to do in Osaka for couples or you’re looking for a spot that will provide some incredible photo opportunities, I recommend checking out Osaka’s teamLab Botanical Garden.
Located in Nagai Park, this outdoor botanical garden features digitized interactive art that incorporates itself into the surrounding scenery. With enchanting and bewitching displays that make you feel like you’re in a fantasy world, it’s the perfect way to spend a relaxing evening in Osaka. Click here to pre-book your ticket.
Address: 1-23 Nagaikoen, Higashisumiyoshi Ward, Osaka, 546-0034, Japan. Click here for directions.
13. Travel Osaka by Go-Kart
Want to explore Osaka in style? If so, then I highly recommend booking a go-karting tour; one of the most fun things to do in Osaka.
Offering costumes and go-kart rental, you’ll follow your guide to some of the best attractions in Osaka, including Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, and Shinsekai. Click here to learn more and book, and note that you’ll need a valid international driver’s license.
Address: Japan, 〒556-0005 Osaka, Naniwa Ward, Nipponbashi, 5-chōme−5−２ 森本ビルII. Click here for directions.
14. Take a Day Trip to Kyoto and Nara
As you can see by now, there are many awesome places to visit in Osaka. However, one of my favorite parts of living in Osaka was being close to two historic and fantastic cities: Kyoto and Nara. And luckily, you can visit them both in one day by taking this bus tour to Kyoto and Nara.
With stops in Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion), Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Fushimi Inari Taisha, and Nara Park, you’ll get to experience some of the most stunning sights Kyoto and Nara have to offer. Experience two UNESCO world heritage sites and marvel at the natural beauty of these former capital cities.
Address: The meeting and pick-up spots vary. Book the tour to learn more.
15. Take a Big Day Trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima
Last but not least, if you’re hoping to explore more of Japan during your trip to Osaka, then I highly recommend taking this incredible day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima. Located less than three hours from Osaka by Shinkansen (the bullet train), you’ll get to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum to learn about the atomic bomb that dropped in 1945.
With so much history and culture, along with stunning natural sites, Hiroshima is home to some of the best things to do near Osaka. I always love visiting this city, along with Miyajima, its neighboring island, and this tour is sure to make you fall in love with the city too. To learn more and book the tour, click here.
Address: The tour meets at 3-chōme-1-1 Umeda, Kita Ward, Osaka, 530-0001, Japan. Click here for directions.
Quick Travel Itineraries For Osaka
Now that we’ve gone over the 15 most incredible things to do in Osaka, let’s go over some sample travel itineraries. Here are a few ways that you can incorporate these top things to see in Osaka into 1-day, 2-to-3-day, and 1-week itineraries:
1 Day in Osaka Itinerary
Here’s how I would plan your ultimate 1-day Osaka itinerary:
Admire the neon signs and visit a few stores, (like the Mega-Don Quijote, a massive discount store), before taking a train over to Osaka Castle. Tour the museum and wander around the peaceful grounds at your leisure.
2-3 Days in Osaka Itinerary
Here’s how I would plan your ultimate 3-day Osaka itinerary:
On day one, I would book a guided Osaka walking tour to Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, Abeno Harukas 300, and the Kuromon Ichiba Market. Once again, I would end the day by booking one of the following amazing night tours: the Shinsekai Food Tour, the Bar Hopping and Food Tour, or the Deep Backstreets Exploration Tour.
On day two, I would either spend the whole day at Universal Studios Japan, or I would take one of the day trips listed above – you can either book a day trip to Kyoto and Nara, or book one for Hiroshima and Miyajima.
On day three, I would start my day with a waterfall hike in Minoh Park. Upon returning to central Osaka, I would visit Shitenno-ji Temple before attending a Cooking Class in Dotonbori. Either choose to end the night with another night tour or wander around Dotonbori.
1 Week in Osaka Itinerary
If possible, I absolutely recommend spending a whole week in Osaka. Not only will it provide you with a better picture of the city and its nooks and crannies, but you’ll also get the time to check out some of the incredible day trips from Osaka.
Here’s how I would plan the ultimate 1-week Osaka itinerary:
Where to Stay in Osaka
These are a few of the best neighborhoods in Osaka for tourists:
Kita (Umeda) – Best for First-Time Visitors
One of the best neighborhoods in Osaka for first-time visitors is undoubtedly Kita (Umeda). Conveniently centered around the huge and bustling Umeda Station, Kita (Umeda) has everything a traveler looks for – incredible shopping and dining options, lovely shrines, serene parks, spacious streets, and educational museums. Even though it’s centered around so many things to see in Osaka, it still has a calm vibe.
If you’re thinking of staying in Kita (Umeda), I recommend staying at the Aloft Osaka Dojima.
Minami (Namba) – Best for Nightlife
Anyone who loves excitement and movement has to stay in Osaka’s entertainment district, Minami (Namba). While my introverted self quickly was a little overwhelmed by the constant crowds, Minami (Namba) is perfect for those who love nightlife and meeting new people. With tons of bars, clubs, izakayas, and shops, staying in Minami (Namba) means that there are endless places to see in Osaka.
If you’re thinking of staying in Minami (Namba), I recommend staying at the Hiyori Hotel Osaka Namba Station.
Tennoji – Best for Those on a Budget
Last but not least, if you’re a backpacker on a budget or you’re just looking to choose a more affordable accommodation option, I recommend staying in Tennoji. One of my favorite places to stay, Tennoji is a bustling area filled with incredible shops and restaurants with some contrasting quieter spots in Tennoji Park and Shitenno-ji Temple.
If you’re planning to stay in Tennoji, a great hotel to check out is the Backpackers Hotel Toyo.
Best Restaurants in Osaka
Let’s talk some more about Osaka’s delicious food; these are a few of the best restaurants that you can find in Osaka:
Takoyaki Wanaka Dotonbori
Osaka is famous for two amazing dishes: okonomiyaki and takoyaki. If you’re interested in sampling the latter, then you have to add Takoyaki Wanaka Dotonbori to your list. The perfect snack to grab while exploring the streets of Dotonbori, the takoyaki (pieces of octopus in grilled balls covered in savory toppings) at Takoyaki Wanaka is cheap but delicious.
A trip to Japan is incomplete without gorging on sushi. Luckily, you can find some incredible and affordable sushi at Sushi Hayata. With a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, Sushi Hayata is one of the best places in Osaka to rewind for dinner.
If you’re interested in trying another one of Osaka’s iconic dishes, then you simply have to visit Houzenji Sanpei. Serving mouthwatering okonomiyaki (a savory pancake made with cabbage, meat, seafood, okonomiyaki sauce, and Japanese mayonnaise), Houzenji Sanpei is an affordable restaurant that’s definitely worth a visit. And trust me, okonomiyaki is so much more delicious than it sounds.
Ramen Zundo-Ya Shinsaibashi
One of my favorite ways to relax after a long (and occasionally cold) day of sightseeing in Osaka is to indulge in a steaming bowl of ramen. If you’re interested in doing the same, then check out Ramen Zundo-Ya Shinsaibashi. With a wide range of affordable bowls of ramen to choose from, it’s a great choice for lunch or dinner.
Every time I visit Japan, the one thing that I absolutely have to get is the fluffy Japanese souffle pancakes. If you’re interested in trying some of your own, I recommend visiting Sunshine. A cozy and popular coffee shop offering breakfast food, omurice, and pasta, Sunshine is a mid-range restaurant that’s perfect for a mid-day break.
Getting to Osaka
Now that we’ve discussed what to do in Osaka, the best Osaka travel itineraries, where to stay in Osaka, and the top restaurants to try, let’s discuss how to get to Osaka.
There are two airports in Osaka that you can arrive at and depart from: the Kansai International Airport (KIX) and the Itami Airport (ITM). Currently, international flights are served by KIX and domestic flights are served by ITM. Both airports offer trains and airport buses to get into and out of central Osaka.
You can also get to Osaka by train, shinkansen (the bullet-train), or bus. If you’re more budget-minded like me, there are many overnight buses from Tokyo to Osaka that you can take. But, the easiest ways to get to Osaka are by bullet-train or flight.
Once you’re in Osaka, it’s super easy to get around. With an extensive, frequent, and convenient train system that takes you all over the city, public transport is the way to go. You can also get around by taxi, uber, bike, foot, or bus.
Things To Do in Osaka: FAQs
Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about visiting Osaka:
Within Japan and internationally, Osaka is known as a large and bustling city with mouthwatering street food, lively nightlife, vast entertainment options, and outgoing and somewhat boisterous locals.
In my opinion, the best time to visit Osaka is in the spring (late March-early April) and fall (late October-early November). If at all possible, you should visit Osaka (and Japan) in the spring for the cherry blossoms; there’s nothing more magical than seeing the incredible, historic Japanese sites surrounded by pink cherry blossoms.
The attractions can get quite crowded in the spring, so another great time to visit Osaka (and Japan) is in the fall for its vibrant, colorful foliage.
Osaka is definitely worth visiting. From the majestic Osaka Castle to the historic Shitenno-ji Temple, the energetic Dotonbori to the thrilling Universal Studios, there’s a plethora of amazing places to visit in Osaka. Furthermore, Osaka has a unique and upbeat vibe that’s unlike any other destination in Japan.
While you can admire and explore most of Osaka’s sights in 3 days, that is the bare minimum (in my opinion). As someone who lived in Osaka and is a child of a proud Osakan, I recommend staying longer if possible, especially since there are many incredible day trips that you can take from Osaka (such as Kyoto, Nara, Mount Koya, Kobe, and Himeji).
Yes, Osaka is totally safe; according to World Population Review, it’s the third safest city in the world. While there are some sketchy areas (like most cities in the world), Osaka is very safe if you take normal precautions and follow your instincts.
The most popular thing to do in Osaka is to visit the thriving streets of Dotonbori and Namba. Filled with neon signs and teeming with shops and restaurants, there are tons of things to do in Namba. Another popular and amazing sight is Osaka Castle.
While Japan typically isn’t viewed as a cheap destination, I consider it to be very affordable. And Osaka itself is one of the cheaper destinations in Japan; with tons of budget hostels in the Tennoji area and affordable street food available all over the city, Osaka is fairly inexpensive.
The two local dishes that you absolutely have to try in Osaka are takoyaki (grilled octopus in savory balls) and okonomiyaki (savory pancakes made from cabbage, meat, and seafood). If they don’t sound too appetizing, I beg you to reconsider; served with some of the most mouthwatering seasonings and sauces, these dishes are my comfort food.
I hope this article on the 15 best things to do in Osaka has provided you with some ideas and inspiration for your Osaka itinerary. Regardless of how long you’re visiting Osaka, I’m sure you’ll end up loving it as much as I do.
So, pack up your bags and grab your passport. I hope you have an incredible trip.