Most people who visit Japan go to Tokyo, Kyoto, maybe Hiroshima, and then head home, thinking they’ve seen everything they need to see in this country. But following this itinerary means that you’ll miss out on the unique flavor and charm of cities that are a little off the beaten path like Osaka. Osaka has amazing and unique food, a great nightlife, and some of the best castles in the country, all ready and waiting for you to explore. So, when you’re looking for places to visit in Osaka, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Information on Osaka’s charms can be a little harder to find then it is for the larger cities, which is why some travelers don’t make it part of their trip to Japan. But that’s why we created this ultimate guide to everything you’ll want to see and do on your Osaka itinerary.
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The Best Places to Stay in Osaka
One of the most important parts of your holiday is choosing the right place to stay. It can ruin your whole trip to find yourself in a bad hotel or one where you struggle to find convenient transport options to all the landmarks you want to see. So, if you want to make the right decision, here are some great options to start with.
Best Hostel in Osaka: Ark Hostel
If you’re trying to decide where to stay in Osaka that won’t cost the earth, then the Ark Hostel is a great choice. It’s located only a short distance from the city center and within walking distance of the Higobashi subway station. The area around the hostel is one of the best neighborhoods in Osaka for tourists because it’s only 10 minutes away from landmarks like the Universal Studio Japan and Osaka Castle. And the hostel itself is clean, comfortable, and includes all the amenities you’d need for a short or long stay.View on HostelWorld
Best Budget Hotel in Osaka: Hotel Cargo Shinsaibashi
When it’s time to decide where to stay in Osaka, you want a hotel that suits your budget but is still comfortable and welcoming. And when you’re making this choice, the Hotel Cargo Shinsaibashi will suit your needs. It’s close to a train station, so you can easily get around the city, and it’s also within a short distance of some of Osaka’s most important landmarks. The hotel offers capsule rooms that are larger than the norm in Japan and accepts both male and female guests. Some other features that make this one of the best places to stay in Osaka on a budget are the 24-hour front desk and open-air bath.View on Booking.com View on HotelsCombined View on Agoda
Best Luxury Hotel in Osaka: Imperial Hotel Osaka
This luxury hotel is one of the best places to stay in Osaka if you’re looking for flawless service and surroundings. It’s located on the Osaka River, where you can see cherry blossoms in the right season. The rooms are spacious and elegant with lots of fine touches like LCD TVs, wall safes, and minibar. The hotel has a hair salon, restaurant, pool, and fitness center on site and it’s within walking distance or a short drive of all the most popular tourist neighborhoods in Osaka.View on Booking.com View on HotelsCombined View on Agoda
Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighbourhood in Osaka:
- Soak up the glorious sights and fragrances of the colourful flower-filled Umekita Garden.
- Pore over the collections at the small but interesting National Museum of Art, Osaka.
- Marvel at the soaring Umeda Sky Building and then head to the observatory for sweeping city views.
These are the BEST Places to Visit in Osaka!
#1 – Shinsekai
• This is the downtown district of Osaka and has a strongly nostalgic vibe.
• Make sure you take your camera with you when you visit this area as it looks great in photos.
Why it’s so awesome: This neighborhood is the best place to feel the real heart and vibe of the city. Shinsekai has a strong attachment to the past and the shops and streets seem to overflow with these feelings of nostalgia. You’ll see countless retro shop displays as you wander through the streets and probably pick up some really unusual souvenirs.
What to do there: This is a great place to wander and just see what you find. Make sure you always have your camera with you during your travels, because some of the retro shop displays look amazing in selfies. And if you want a high up view of the neighborhood, head down to Tsutenkaku Tower where you can overlook the streets. You can’t miss this building; it looks like the Eiffel Tower and is one of the most visited hotspots in Osaka.
#2 – Universal Studios Japan
Awesome place to visit in Osaka with kids!
• One of the most popular landmarks in Osaka for tourists and locals.
• There are nine different zones in this park, so there’s no shortage of things to see and do.
• Make sure you check out the merchandise before you leave, as you’ll find some adorable options you couldn’t get anywhere else.
Why it’s so awesome: This is one of the most popular amusement parks in Japan and offers 9 zones of fun including Jurassic Park, Waterworld, Amity Village, Minion Park, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s the perfect place to take the kids or to go with a group of friends for a day of childlike fun.
What to do there: While you’re in the park, make sure you check out the different zones. This will probably take you all day (at least), so don’t book anything else for that day except maybe a rest at the end of it. The merchandise at this park is also extremely popular, so keep an eye out for your favorite characters like Hello Kitty or Minions!
#3 – The Umeda Sky Building
A great place to see in Osaka if you love architecture
• This award-winning building is a spectacular place to overlook the city.
• The real draw of this building is the Floating Garden, which offers panoramic views of the city.
• Go at night for the best views of the city lights.
Why it’s so awesome: This building is renowned throughout the world for its design, shape, and structure. The most stunning feature is the observatory on the observation deck, often known as the Floating Garden. This garden offers 360 views of the city, which are especially amazing at night.
What to do there: Take your camera and visit the tower in the afternoon or at night. The city looks amazing during the day of course, but there’s nothing that can beat the sight of the sun setting over it, or the night sky blanketing all those lights. Take the time to check out the design of the Floating Garden and the building too, because it’s amazing and incredibly unique too.
#4 – Dotonbori
• A visit to this neighbourhood is an Osaka must do!
• This is one of the most popular areas for tourists, and you’ll see why once you get there.
• If you’re ever looking to fill a couple of hours, there is usually something entertaining going on in this area.
Why it’s so awesome: Dotonbori is in the Minami area and is extremely popular amongst tourists. This neighborhood pulls out all the stops for tourists, which means that you’ll see some famous shop displays, flashing neon lights, and a plethora of restaurants and cafes to tempt your tastebuds.
What to do there: This area is a great place to shop, so make sure you put on comfortable shoes and take your cards with you. And when you get bored with that, the food is absolutely amazing, so take a food tour or just explore on your own if you’re feeling adventurous. There’s always something going on this area, so if you need to fill a few hours then just show up and see what’s on!
#5 – Osaka Castle
Possibly one of the most important places to visit in Osaka
• One of the most important and recognizable landmarks in Osaka.
• This is a beautiful castle with a long and sometimes violent history behind it.
• If you’re in Osaka in cherry blossom season, this is a popular spot for viewing.
Why it’s so awesome: Osaka Castle is one of the most important and beautiful in all of Japan. It’s also historically important as it represents the Azuchi-Momoyama period during the 16th century. It was built in 1583 by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a Japanese warlord who worked to unify the country and is a legend in Japanese history.
What to do there: Osaka Castle is open to the public, so make sure you take the tour or show up and explore on your own. The area is surrounded by a vibrant neighborhood and some amazing street food, so make sure you take your time in this area when you’re exploring Osaka. And if you’re in the city during cherry blossom season, you absolutely must not miss seeing this iconic sight from the lush, beautiful grounds of Osaka Castle.
#6 – Hozenji
One of the most religious places to see in Osaka
• A beautiful temple in the busy Dotonbori district.
• If you need a break from the busy streets, then you can pray to the god of protection for safety at this temple.
Why it’s so awesome: When you travel in Osaka, you’ll probably need a break every now and then, particularly while you’re in the busy Dotonbori district. And this temple is the perfect chance for you to take that break. It’s a quiet, contemplative escape from the streets with lanterns and moss-covered statues. In fact, walking into this temple is a lot like stepping back to a simpler time.
What to do there: While you’re in Dotonbori, make sure you stop by the temple. You can enjoy the quiet space and pray to the god of protection Fudomyoo to ensure that you’re safe during your trip. And once you’re done, head to Hozenji Yokocho, a connecting cobbled street filled with bars and places to eat.
#7 – Amemura
• A lively area that’s taken its cue from American culture in a uniquely Japanese way.
• If you’re looking for the latest fashions, you’ll find them in this area.
• This area is an Osaka must see while you’re visiting the city.
Why it’s so awesome: Amemura is a lot like the Harajuku district in Japan, which is why it’s one of the most popular places to visit in Osaka. It’s filled with young people who wear the latest fashions and sometimes even completely rebel against fashion completely. To support that quirky lifestyle, this area is filled with fashion boutiques and thrift stores as well as the best bars and restaurants in the city.
What to do there: This is a great place to grab a bench or seat and people watch. You’ll see a full spectrum of people in this area, from businesspeople in suits to young people in full costumes. But don’t stop there. Wander through the shops and look for something unique to take home with you and then have a meal in one of the many great restaurants. And after, you can hit a bar and see where the night takes you.
Quick Note – Staying Safe in Osaka
Like most cities in Japan, Osaka is an extremely safe place to visit, especially for tourists. Violent crime is almost unheard of and both men and women can feel safe exploring Osaka and taking public transport.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore your own common sense. There are always exceptions to every rule, and you definitely don’t want to be the bad kind of exception. So, exercise caution when you’re about at night and stay out of badly lit areas or areas that seem deserted. Stay alert during the day as well and keep your belongings close to you at all time. Public transport is a danger spot for pickpockets because it’s difficult to keep hold of your belongings when it’s crowded, so be aware of that and keep your valuables close to you.
Read our safety guide for Japan and make sure that you know all of the hazards of traveling beforehand.
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
#8 – Nambayasaka Shrine
An unknown (but awesome!) place to see in Osaka!
• One of the most unusual things to do in Osaka because of the very strangeness of this shrine.
• Make sure you take your camera to this shrine, or you’ll miss out on the best part of the experience.
Why it’s so awesome: If you’re tired of the usual stately, quiet shrines in Japan, then this one will give you a shock. The Nambayasaka shrine is visually striking, with a stage that’s shaped like a lion’s head complete with bared teeth. In fact, it looks more like the entrance to an amusement park ride than to a shrine! This shrine is also a little off the beaten path, so you shouldn’t have to compete with the crowds to get a great picture.
What to do there: This shrine is the perfect place for an unusual and amusing picture of your trip to Osaka. So, make sure that your camera is charged and go nuts standing in the growling mouth of the lion.
#9 – The National Bunraku Theater
• Bunraku is a type of puppetry where puppets are used to tell elaborate and often historical stories and legends.
• If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about traditional Japanese myths, this is a fun way to do it.
• The shows are in Japanese, but there’s an English translation for tourists so you can understand what’s going on.
Why it’s so awesome: Osaka is incredibly modern, but it’s still managed to hold onto some traditions and this puppet show is a great example of that. Puppet shows started out in the Edo Period and today they’re a popular draw amongst tourists. The puppets are huge, usually controlled by up to three people, and tell myths and legends from the 17th and 18th centuries.
What to do there: Before you arrive in Osaka, find out what shows are on and book your ticket. It makes for a great night out and an intense insight to the culture and history of the city and the country you’re traveling in. And make sure you get the English translation if you don’t speak enough Japanese to follow the show.
#10 – Den Den Town
A great place in Osaka if you love to shop!
• One of the most eclectic and electric parts of town.
• Some parts of this neighborhood and shops aren’t for children, so be careful where you go when you’re with your family.
Why it’s so awesome: This neighborhood is actually called Nipponbashi, but most of the time it’s known as Den Den town, which literally means electric town. This is the technology center of Osaka and you’ll be able to pick up every kind of device and electronic good you can imagine in this area. It also specializes in anime, manga, and cosplay, so if you love this side of Japanese culture, you’ll find plenty to do in Den Den Town.
What to do there: If you need anything electronic then the prices in this area are affordable and the range is truly staggering. But you’ll want to visit this area for more than just the computers. Make sure you check out the arcades, maid cafes and other entertainment options. Just be careful because some of them can be a bit risqué!
#11 – The Tower of the Sun
• One of the quirkiest art displays you’ll ever see.
• Designed by Okamoto Taro, a famous Japanese artist.
• You’ll get some amazing pictures of your trip with this piece of art.
Why it’s so awesome: This quirky art display was created in the 1970s in honor of the World Expo, which was held in Osaka. It’s a creature with three faces, all pointing in different directions, and makes for fun and quirky photos.
What to do there: Take your camera along with you and get some great selfies next to this Osaka must see. The statue is 70 meters high and is one of the more unusual attractions in Osaka.
#12 – The National Museum of Ethnology
• A great place to learn about Japanese history as well as other world cultures.
• The aim of this museum is to show the interconnectedness of the world and its peoples.
Why it’s so awesome: You can’t truly understand a place if you don’t understand its history and this museum seeks to encourage a better understanding of the entire world. Through costumes, masks, ceramics, and vehicles it shows how the world’s cultures influence each other in integral and sometimes very obvious ways.
What to do there: This is a fascinating education on the history of Japan and the world as a whole, so put aside a couple of hours to explore it. There are several interactive exhibits, so make sure you check them out as well. The music room is especially popular, as you can play a range of world music and see how the different styles are the same and how they’re different.
#13 – Spa World
• This is one of the best points of interest in Osaka on hot and steamy days.
• A fun, imaginative and unique park that’s popular with locals and tourists alike.
Why it’s so awesome: Osaka is one of the largest cities in the world which means that it contains a lot of people crammed into a relatively small area. Because of this, it gets swelteringly hot and stressful. That’s why this park should be on your Osaka itinerary. It’s the perfect place to relax, cool down, and enjoy something that’s just plain fun.
What to do there: Spa World is a water park that includes steamy baths with an around the world theme. There’s an Asian and European side and they alternate between admitting men or women by month so you won’t know what to expect until you get there. There are 7 baths in these sections, so make sure you try them all. And if you’re a little shy about the idea of bathing in public, get used to it because it’s a big part of Japanese culture and something you’ll probably need to do throughout your trip.
#14 – Shinsaibashi
Cool place to see in Osaka with friends!
• The best place to visit in Osaka if you want to do some serious shopping.
• This area has everything from designer shops to boutiques and restaurants.
Why it’s so awesome: No matter what you need while you’re in Osaka, you’ll be able to find it in this area. Shinsaibashi has numerous shopping malls and boutiques. This includes the famous Shinsaibashi-suji, which is a 600m long shopping arcade that contains hundreds of shops and boutiques.
What to do there: You can’t travel to Osaka without doing some serious shopping and there are so many options for that in this area that you’ll be spoiled for choice. Check out the boutiques and designer labels in this area but also spend some time exploring the sheer variety of shops. You’ll see drug stores and various shops as well as some great restaurants and cafes where you can relax and enjoy your spoils!
#15 – Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum
A great place to visit in Osaka if you are alone/traveling solo
• A chance for you to explore Osaka’s traditional art form.
• If you enjoy artwork, then this must be part of your Osaka itinerary.
Why it’s so awesome: you might be forgiven for thinking that Osaka is all high rises and shopping, but it also has a long history and intricate art scene. This museum is one of the best places to visit in Osaka if you’re interested in learning about the art of ukiyoe, a type of traditional Japanese printing.
What to do there: Traditional Japanese artwork is painstaking and austerely beautiful and ukiyoe is no exception. It’s a form of printing the uses blocks of wood and the museum itself is located in a lovely and traditional Japanese house that’s worth checking out on its own.
#16 – The Osaka Museum of Housing and Living
One of the most underrated places to see in Osaka
• This is an open-air museum that contains models of traditional houses and buildings.
• A fascinating look into Japan’s past and its present as well!
Why it’s so awesome: This museum is one of the most popular in the city and you could spend hours exploring the displays and dreaming about the past. It contains replicas of structures from the Edo Period, which spanned the 17th to the 19th centuries. Most of these buildings didn’t survive to the present day of course but learning about what the city used to look like it an eye-opening experience.
Why it’s so awesome: If you’re interested in history, then this is a great place to start your education in Japanese history. It will give you a detailed idea of what life used to be like for people in Osaka. And if you really want to get into the spirit of the museum, you can dress up in a Japanese kimono and really be part of the experience!
#17 – Abeno Harukas
• The tallest building in Osaka and in Japan as well!
• The observation deck at the top of the building gives panoramic views of the city.
• There are also a range of other entertainment options in the building including a museum, department store, and cafes.
Why it’s so awesome: If you want to take pictures of the city from on high then this is the best location to do this. This building is one of the most recognizable and popular landmarks in Osaka and is the tallest building in all of Japan at the same time. The views from the observation deck are simply spectacular and worth the trip.
What to do there: Go to the observation deck first. If you can, visit at night or at sunset for the most amazing views of the city. Afterwards, you can explore the building. There’s a charming café on the fifth floor if you want a snack or a coffee, and you can also explore the shops, restaurants, and museum contained in the rest of the building.
#18 – The Tempozan Ferris Wheel
• One of the most iconic sights in Osaka.
• Located on the edge of Osaka Bay, which makes for some amazing views.
Why it’s so awesome: This Ferris wheel is the perfect place to take in all of Osaka as well as the view over the water. It was once the tallest in the world but has since been overtaken by other wheels. That doesn’t take anything away from the amazing views and experience of seeing Osaka from this vantage point though.
What to do there: The best time to take a ride on this Ferris wheel is at night. The views during the day, particularly on clear days, are spectacular, but at night the wheel is lit up and the sight of the city’s lights are something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
#19 – Peace Osaka
A fascinating educational place to visit in Osaka
• The galleries here were built to educate the public on the importance of peace and to remember those who lost their lives because of war.
• Some of the displays are quite graphic, so be wary of taking kids to see them.
Why it’s so awesome: Walking around Osaka, you could forget that it was almost razed to the ground during the Second World War. That war had a heavy toll on every country involved and this memorial remembers that and acts as a warning against the same behavior in the future as well. Some of the galleries are quite dark and dedicated to the bombings during the Second World War, so prepare yourself before you go exploring.
What to do there: One of the most important things about traveling is the fact that it encourages you to see things through other perspectives. These galleries are a chance for you to see the Second World War through this unique perspective and to more fully understand the toll it took on the entire world.
Get insured for your trip to Osaka!
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Final Thoughts on the Coolest Places to Visit in Osaka
When you travel to Osaka, you’ll find yourself immersed in a whole different side of Japan. Osaka locals famously talk differently to other parts of the country and eat a whole range of different dishes as well. And there are a wide range of historic, beautiful, architectural, or just plain fun places to visit in Osaka as well. So, the next time you’re heading to Japan, considering adding this city to your itinerary, and the best way to do that is with our guide to all the best things to see and do!
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