Incredible Things To Do in Osaka Plus Where to Stay & What to Eat!

Osaka might sound like it plays second fiddle to Tokyo when you’re considering where to visit in Japan but dig a little bit and you’ll know how amazing it is. Not only does Osaka have endless tourist attractions of its own, but the cities of Nara, Kyoto and Kobe are all within an hour or less. If you’ve been wondering what to do in Osaka, this is the post for you. We’ve put together this Osaka travel guide to help you plan the perfect visit. With recommendations for where to stay, what to eat and the top things to do in Osaka – plus awesome day trip suggestions – we’ll help you get the most from your visit to Japan’s incredible ‘Second City’.

Places to Visit in Osaka

Incredible Things To Do in Osaka Plus Where to Stay & What to Eat!

A Guest Post by Amanda Kendle from Not A Ballerina

Things To Do in Osaka

Dotonbori and the Glico Man

Things to do in Osaka - Dotonbori neons

The Dotonbori Bridge in the center of Osaka is a sight you’ll often see on photos of the city, especially at night when the famous neon advertising really sets things off. The famous Glico Man ad has been there since 1935, though he’s had a few updates, most notably that he’s modernised to be made from LEDs instead of neon these days. The atmosphere around Dotonbori is always good and the area is close to many tasty restaurants.

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Osaka Castle

What to do in Osaka - Osaka Castle

Another super-famous site of Japan’s second largest city is Osaka Castle. The current incarnation is a rebuilt version and houses a historical museum and access to viewing platforms at the top; it’s surrounded by Osaka Castle Park, a large green area with lots of activity happening throughout the year. The view from the top is one of the 5 Things I Love About Osaka.

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Umeda Sky Building

Points of Interest in Osaka - Umeda Sky building

With nearly nine million people living in Osaka prefecture, you need to get up really high to understand just how big it is. The Umeda Sky Building was completed in 1993 and includes two towers which connect at the top with elevators and then a garden. The elevators are a little creepy if you’re not good with heights but the views are worth it!

RELATED: Ready to explore more of Asia? Make Seoul, South Korea your next stop!

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Aqualiner

Places to visit in Osaka - View from Aqualiner

I found it really interesting to see Osaka from a different view: from a boat meandering along the river next to Osaka Castle Park and towards the city center. The Aqualiner cruises for about an hour and the views are especially good during cherry blossom season or autumn when the leaves are changing.

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Universal Studios Japan

Osaka Tourist Attractions - Universal Studios

Universal Studios opened in Osaka over fifteen years ago and is a wonderful place to experience the magic of movies. Their Harry Potter section is unique amongst other venues with an extra-long and rather magical forest entry. 

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Kaiyukan

Osaka Japan Points of Interest - Jellyfish at Kaiyukan

On the harbor at Tempozan, the Kaiyukan Aquarium is a really well-designed aquarium – after several escalator rides, you start in an above-water habitat at the top (hello sea otters!) and then spiral down through the building seeing all kinds of sea creatures along the way.

You can combine a trip to the aquarium with a harbor cruise and see Osaka from above and below the water.

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Tsutenkaku

Osaka Japan Guide - Tsutenkaku

The tower at Tsutenkaku is over a hundred years old now, and is Osaka’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. It’s also found in a fabulously colourful part of Osaka and even if you don’t go up the tower it’s a great place to wander around and to eat, too. Taking a Walking Tour is a really great way to get to the heart of this part of the city.

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Abeno Harukas

What to see in osaka - View from Abeno Harukas

Speaking of views, the newest tower around is the Abeno Harukas 300 building, which reaches 300m in height. The top includes several levels of viewing and a restaurant and like all good Japanese sights it has its own mascot, the Abeno bear, who is a blue bear decorated with white clouds!

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Shopping in Shinsaibashi

Osaka Things To Do - Shops in Shinsaibashi

Make no mistake, shopping at all levels from luxury to bargain is a whole lot of fun in Japan. Even the 100-yen shops carry a huge range of goods and the cheap price doesn’t always mean the quality is terrible. The Shinsaibashi area has covered pedestrian malls stretching in several directions and some aimless wandering through here will be time well spent (and maybe some yen well spent too!)

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Sakuya Konohana Kan

Osaka Attrcations - Water lily like in Sakuya Konohana Kan

Japanese gardens are all fantastic but Sakuya Konohana Kan is a little special – it’s a botanical garden with over 2,500 plant species, including some particularly rare ones, housed inside an enormous greenhouse, originally built for the Expo held in Osaka in 1990.

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What to Eat in Osaka

Food is practically a religion in Osaka (much like the rest of Japan!) From Sushi and Sashimi to Yakiniku & Horumon (Japanese BBQ) and Ramen & Udon – you can find just about any Japanese dish that you have ever heard of!
Small cafe’s and street vendors offer the most authentic experience, and here’s a guide to (just a few) local dishes to help you know what you are looking at!

  • Miso Soup – a staple in Japan and often served with vegetables, tofu, seafood or meat
  • Yakitori – literally translated as ‘grilled chicken’, Yakatori often refers to all items (vegatable/tofu/meat/seafood) grilled on a stick.
  • Tempuradeep fried fish and vegetables in a light batter
  • Edamame – young soy beans cooked in salty water (and best when smothered in wasabi!)
  • Noodles – Udon, Soba, Ramen – whatever your noodle preference, Osaka has you covered
  • Mochi – a sticky rice pounded into a paste
  • Okonomiyaki – a savory pancake often utilized to use up left-overs (Takoyaki are ball shaped versions with octopus in the middle)
  • Sashimi – raw, sliced fish
  • Oden – a hot pot that is ordered by item and is a street food favorite.
  • Natto – fermented soy bean
  • Onigiri – rice designed to be eaten by hand (like a sandwich!)
  • Yakiniku – Japanese BBQ
  • Sukiyakia Japanese stew that’s typically cooked in a hotpot on your table as you dine. It consists of thin-sliced beef, vegetables and tofu in a fairly thick broth of soy sauce, sugar and mirin. Sukiyaki is often served with raw eggs as a dipping sauce.

If you like to really get to the heart of a city through its food, book yourself onto an evening food tour and eat and drink at some of the best spots in town. Or you could try your hand at creating some local delicacies yourself at traditional Japanese Cooking Class or Specialist Sushi Cooking Class.

RELATED: If you’re a Food lover (like me!), Vietnam has some awesome cuisine. Why not visit the UNESCO heritage city of Hoi An and continue you’re foodie journey!

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Where To Stay in Osaka

Imperial Hotel Osaka (5*) - Luxury Stay ($200+ per night)

Just a short drive from Shinsaibashi, the hotel showcases exclusive views of Osaka. Some of the popular facilities at this sophisticated 5-star hotel include outdoor tennis courts, a free shuttle service, free Wi-Fi and has a gym with a swimming pool. The on-site spa provides a variety of treatments and a chance to relax.
Book Now | Compare Prices for Later | Read Trip Advisor Reviews
Mitsui Garden Osaka (4*) - Mid-Range Stay ($150-$200 per night)

This comfortable hotel in Osaka provides free Wi-Fi, as well as a 24-hour reception and a free shuttle service. It is close to the National Museum of Art Osaka, restaurants and shops.
Book Now | Compare Prices for Later | Read Trip Advisor Reviews
Arietta Hotel (3*) - Budget Stay ($100-$150 per night)

The modern rooms at Arietta Hotel & Osteria Osaka include a refrigerator, tea and coffee making facilities and wireless internet access. A shower, cable/satellite channels, a hair dryer and free wifi are also provided.
Book Now | Compare Prices for Later | Read Trip Advisor Reviews
Drop Inn Hostel - Backpacker Option (<$80 per night)

There are a variety of facilities on offer to those staying at the hostel, such as a 24-hour reception, a coffee bar and a vending machine. In addition, the multilingual staff can offer tips and local knowledge.
Drop Inn Osaka has 69 traditional rooms that are filled with a range of essential amenities to ensure guests have an enjoyable stay.
Book Now | Compare Prices for Later | Read Trip Advisor Reviews

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Extra Osaka Adventures

IF YOU HAVE THE LUXURY OF TIME AND CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF OSAKA, TAKE A LOOK AT THESE GREAT TOURS TO EXPLORE THE SURROUNDING AREA:

  • Kyoto and Nara Day Tour inc Golden Temple & Todai-ji Temple – Begin your cultural excursion with a guided tour of the ancient Nijo Castle, and then absorb the aesthetic majesty of both Kyoto Imperial Palace and Kinkaku-ji Temple. Revitalize with a traditional Japanese lunch then explore nearby Nara, home to majestic monuments like the Great Buddha of Tadoi-ji Temple and Kasuga Shrine
  • Hiroshima & Miyajima Day Tour – See the historical highlights of Hiroshima on a comprehensive full-day tour from Osaka, led by a knowledgeable guide. Ride on the super-speed bullet train to Hiroshima then board a boat to the idyllic Miyajima Island, home to the splendid Itsukishima Shrine before returning  to Hiroshima to visit the magnificent Hirsohima Peace Memorial Park and Museum.
  • Day trip to Kyoto, Nara & Kobe – Spend a day exploring historic neighborhoods, visiting temples, and shopping on a full-day tour from Osaka to Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe.

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Essential Visitor Info

How To Get to Osaka

  • Japan has great transport links and Osaka can be reached by planes, bullet trains, express trains, buses, cars, ferries.
  • A private taxi will cost around $28USD; There are 4 train line options available from the airport to the train station and range between $10-25USD.
  • The bullet train station is at the entrance to Osaka and from here it is possible to transfer to the subway lines to reach central parts of the city.
  • If arriving by domestic flight, the airport bus is the most practical method of transport to take to the city. Buses are comparable in cost to the trains but go direct to some city center hotels, which can save time.
    More information can be found here.

How to Get Around Osaka

  • Osaka City is largely divided into two areas: the Umeda area, called “Kita,” and the Namba/Tennoji area, known as “Minami.” Depending upon your destination, you can travel through the city using the subway, which goes all throughout the city, the JR Osaka Loop Line, which circles the central districts, and other private railways that connect in various parts of the city.
  • As Osaka is located on the water and you can enjoy a truly ‘Osakan’ experience by cruising the waterways on the waterbus or a cruise.

WiFi in Japan

  • Whilst wifi is available in almost every hotel in Osaka, there are not as many hot spots available whilst you’re out exploring. If you absolutely need to have access to the internet whilst traveling around, you can rent a Mobile WiFi Hot Spot which can be picked up and returned to the International Airport.

When to Visit (Climate + High/Low Seasons)

  • You can visit Osaka at any time of year because the weather is temperate. The best times to visit Osaka are the fall (October/November) and spring (March/April/May). Summer (June/July/August) in Osaka is hot and humid.
  • In spring (late March to mid April), you have the blossoming of the various flowers, notably Japanese apricot (ume) and cherry (sakura). The weather is usually temperate at this time and the humidity is relatively low.
  • One time to avoid in spring would be Golden Week (usually around the first week of May although it moves slightly from year to year). Huge numbers of Japanese travel domestically at this time and you can expect large crowds and high prices for accommodation and transport.
  • Summer and winter are less attractive with muggy, humid weather dominating the summer months, and cold temperatures combined with snow in the winter.

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So there you have it – hopefully we’ve given you enough information to plan the perfect trip – and given you a great list of Things To Do in Osaka to make sure you get the most from your visit. Don’t forget to let me know you’re own highlights once you’re back!

Oh, and if you liked this post please tweet, pin and share – I’d really appreciate it! Click the P in the share bar for full size images!

Things to do in Osaka  What to do in Osaka Japan

Things to do in Osaka
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Amanda Kendle has been blogging about why everyone should travel and what we can learn from traveling at NotABallerina.com since 2005, and is also the host of The Thoughtful Travel Podcast. Now based back home in Perth, Western Australia, she has lived in Japan, Slovakia and Germany and counts riding the Trans-Siberian across Russia, spending Christmas with Santa in Finland and backpacking around Tunisia amongst her favourite trips.

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34 thoughts on “Incredible Things To Do in Osaka Plus Where to Stay & What to Eat!

  1. Wendy says:

    What a nice and informative post! I dream of a trip to Japan!! this country seems so amazing! Hope to plan a trip there in 2018. Will keep your post and recommendations on file!

  2. Danik says:

    I so want to go to Osaka. I really need to go to Japan to get my Japan fix. I fell in love with this country when I was a child when I studied it and still havent been. Cant wait to go out there and Osaka is on the plans. Reading this post has given me a lot of ideas to consider…thanks Vicki

    • Vicki says:

      I need to get my Japan fix too – living vicariously through collaborating on guest posts and the research that goes into them just isn’t doing it for me anymore!

  3. Megan Indoe says:

    We loved Osaka, and what’s even better is that you don’t need alot of time to see the best of the city. I loved Dotonbori and eating my way through it! I wish we would have went to Universal while we were there, but I kept telling myself we would go to Universal when we came back to LA and still haven’t gone yet!

  4. Nicole Anderson says:

    Thank-you for writing such a wonderful article.
    I went to High School in Higashi (East) Osaka) many years ago,
    before Osaka, and Japan for that matter, was a place on the travelers wish list.’
    I remember the Dotonbori Bridge as a meeting place where I would meet other “Gaijin”
    for a “catch-up”. Shinsaibashi is still the same, such a wonderful place to shop no matter your budget.
    You have inspired me to contact old friends and arrange a visit!

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Nicole – and I’m so glad you liked our presentation of Osaka and that we inspired you to re-connect with old friends – your comment really put a smile on my face!

  5. Jenn and Ed Coleman says:

    What a beautiful and well constructed article. It is a very useful guide to an extraordinary area. I particularly liked the gem about avoiding Golden Week. I haven’t heard this piece of wisdom before, but, my dream trip to Japan would be during Sakura. Actually, following the bloom up the coast but knowing that Golden Week is a thing, I’ll have to put that into the plans.

  6. Jenna says:

    I would love to visit Osaka next time we are in Japan! Wish we could have made it there the first time around. We love Japanese gardens so Sakuya Konohana Kan would be so much fun to see and I’d love to see Osaka Castle too!

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Sherianne – I always enjoy researching the food sections of these guides because they benefit myself as much as my readers! Food is such an important part of a trip for me!

  7. Anete says:

    What a great post! My Japan trip is coming up soon, so this was a very interesting read. I can’t wait to visit all the beautiful buildings..I see that shopping is great! Shinsaibashi will definately be a place I visit!

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Anete – I hope you have a great time on your trip! Let me know if you find anything that should be included in this guide when you get back!

  8. Kevan says:

    I’ve always enjoyed traveling to the overshadowed towns like Osaka. I’ll let the majority of tourists visit the crowded traps and take an opportunity to see the real thing elsewhere. I love the juxtaposed architecture of the ultra-modern beside the historic (and apparently even medieval with Harry Potter.) The menu shows that the traveler to Osaka is not missing anything either by venturing outside of Tokyo.

  9. Dorene says:

    Thanks for the super informative post, jam-packed with useful information. I definitely have alot here to prepare me for my first trip to Osaka. thank you!

  10. James says:

    I’ve been to Tokyo in Japan but never the second city of Osaka so it’s good to read about the points of interest here. The Osaka Castle is a stunning building, I’d love to photograph it, it looks so Instagrammable. I would definitely ascend either the Abeno Harukas building or the Osaka Eiffel Tower for a city photo. I never knew there was a Universal Studios in Japan, if I was traveling with my daughter I’d take her there.

  11. divsi says:

    That’s a wonderful and informative guide to Osaka. I am particularly fascinated with SAKUYA KONOHANA KAN being a flower lover and having read about the botanical gardens in Japan and of course the Osaka castle. How is it from inside? Ornate? Thanks for the tip on avoiding the golden week 🙂

  12. Jean says:

    Love this list! Japan has so much more to offer past Tokyo and the ski fields. It’s great to see a more i depth guide to an amazing city. I love the idea of going back in time and seeing Osaka castle.

  13. Archana Singh says:

    Very good compilation. It’s like a ready recknor for anyone going to Osaka. Japan is my favourite country and can’t get bored by going again and again. Totally love the place. I really liked he Kaiyukan Aquarium.

  14. Brianna says:

    I’ve heard that Osaka is one of the top places in Japan to visit, aside from Tokyo. But I’ve never really known why. It looks like there is a decent about to do there! Thanks for the food guide too, as I don’t know much about Japanese food.

  15. Elisa says:

    I have never been to Japan but Osaka looks like a good base for exploring the surroundings. With all those interesting cities available on day trips I think Osaka would keep me happy for a while

  16. melody pittman says:

    Wow! I could plan my entire trip from your post. Well done! I cannot believe they have their own Universal Studios. I had no idea. I would like to see all the neon and pretty flowers. 😉

  17. Iza Abao says:

    I like all the places that you have featured here especially the Universal Studios Japan. It has the Hogwarts castle and Hogsmeade. The details are excellent. I would also like to visit the Shinsaibashi area. There are a lot of Japanese merchandises that are good and cheap.

  18. Edith & Juan says:

    Osaka is one of the places we definitely want to see this coming year! Perhaps we’ll catch the cherry blossoms if we plan out travels right. The Osaka Castle has beautiful architecture and Universal would also be a fun stop! Hopefully less crowded than the California one??

  19. Christopher says:

    Tokyo has been on my to go to list fivever (it’s more that forever) lol Osaka looks cool. I love that it is an hour or less Nara, Kyoto, and Kobe. My favorite is Osaka Castle (love the architecture) and since I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN Yeah!! Japanese gardens are awesome so I’d have to throw in Sakuya Konohana Kan

  20. Abhinav Singh says:

    The first time I had heard about Osaka was in a Bollywood song a decade ago. Since then the name has stuck with me. I will definitely visit this when I am in Japan. Osaka castle looks attractive.

  21. Carmen Edelson says:

    This is such a fabulous guide, I’m definitely bookmarking it for the future. I think my kids and I would love to do almost everything on this list! Thanks for all of the hotel suggestions too 🙂 Osaka looks awesome.

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