Often overlooked as a tourist destination, Osaka is Japan's third-largest city and is right next to the popular attraction Kyoto. Nevertheless, Osaka is one of the best places to visit in Japan. It's perfect for anyone who wants to discover Japanese street food and authentic Japanese nightlife.
It's also an excellent opportunity to experience modern Japanese life at a slightly slower pace than bustling Tokyo.
You'll likely only spend a few days in Osaka when planning a trip to Japan, so below are 10 of the best things to do while in Osaka. Expect to eat, drink, see quirky things, and learn about the brave history of pot noodles.
10 Best Things to Do in Osaka
Osaka is a sprawling city of almost 9 million people, so subways and trains are your best options. You can use them all day with an Icoca card. Taxis are also available but are best saved for late-night trips since they are expensive.
10. Get Views From Above
When you first arrive in Osaka, get a bird's eye view of the city to see what to expect. There are many sky-high viewing points in the city skyline and Osaka Bay.
One of the most popular is the Umeda Sky Building, which stands at 173 meters and has an iconic bridge that extends between the two towers. You'll find a floating garden observatory on the top floor with stunning views.
If you love the bay, head for the Tempozan Ferris Wheel that makes its 134-meter high rotation every 17 minutes. To mix views with cocktails, the Conrad Bar is on the 40th floor of the hotel and offers Japanese-themed cocktails.
Thrill seekers will want to head to Abeno Harukas, with its 360-degree observation deck 300 meters up. Are you feeling brave? Enter the Edge for a vertigo-inducing experience.
9. Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is one of the country's newest. Used as early as World War II and the Boshin War as an arsenal, it's also one of the most fascinating.
Reconstructed in the 1990s, explore the grounds and battlements and visit the museum about Japanese conflicts. The sprawling gardens surrounding the castle are also among the best places to see the cherry blossoms in the spring.
While Japan is famous for its conservative culture, it's also renowned for its trendy, hipster culture that involves, among other things, dramatic cosplay. Head to Amerika-Mura to experience a different side of Japan.
Here you'll find colorful shopping streets full of colorfully dressed young people. Independent coffee shops, obscure fashion boutiques, and tattoo parlors can all be found in this area.
7. Eat Osaka Street Food Delicacies
One of the most unique things to do in Osaka is taste the incredible street food. Osaka prides itself on being home to some of Japan's best street food. You don't have to work hard to find it, just walk the streets and be willing to experiment.
One of the most popular local dishes is Okonomiyaki, meaning "whatever you like cooked." It's like an eggy, noodly pancake that you can top with whatever you want. One of the best places to get yours is Chibo in Dotonbori. Takoyaki is another very popular local dish. These small dough balls filled with chunks of octopus are surprisingly delicious.
If you love Japanese food, you'll also want to visit a quick food market, where you'll be astounded by the delicious ready-made foods available. You can also learn about one of Japan's most important foods at the Instant Ramen Museum.
6. Museum Hopping
There are many excellent museums in Osaka, well beyond cup noodles. Check out the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living to learn how fashion and home life have changed in Japan over the centuries.
The Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts is home to more than 8,000 works of Japanese and Chinese art, and it's all kept in an amazing house donated by the local Sumitomo family.
The Osaka Science Museum is an enormous space-age-looking building dedicated to the themes of space and energy. It's full of interactive exhibitions, primarily aimed at younger audiences, but also an excellent planetarium.
The Mint Museum takes up the three floors of a building that used to be the Japanese Mint and has thousands of Japanese and Chinese coins. It includes rare editions, such as commemorative Star Wars coins.
5. Suntory Distillery
Located in Yamazaki on the border between Osaka and Kyoto, the Suntory Distillery is the oldest in Japan and has been in action for more than 100 years. Involved in quite a few "whiskey wars," you can learn its story and sample some of Japan's best whiskey at the distillery.
Alcohol enthusiasts may also want to take the Asahi Beer Tour, a free 90-minute tour offered by the Suita Brewery. Book an English-speaking guide in advance. See important sites and taste several varieties of Asahi, which matches Osaka's salty, fried street food.
4. Go Out to Town
Osaka is known to have the best nightlife in all of Japan, and it's something that you must experience while in the city. Head to Dotonbori for the very best that the city has to offer. Crammed with street food vendors and quirky bars, computer game-themed and maid-themed bars, this street will not disappoint. Garish neon signs illuminate the entire street all night.
To bless yourself before heading to town, pass by the Fudo Myo-o shrine dedicated to a Buddhist spiritualist known for discipline and firm moral character. So many revelers pass by his statue to throw water on it.
Shitenno-Ji, completed in the 6th century, is considered the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan and the head of Wa Sect Buddhism. Built to honor the 4 heavenly kings and help Japan reach a higher level of civilization.
The context's outer buildings are free to the public, but you'll have to pay a small fee to see the Cuchun Garan, Treasure House, and Gokuraku Jodo Garden.
A lively flea market is held on the temple grounds on the 21st and 22nd of every month. It's a great place to find Japanese antiques, ceramics, and clothing.
2. Day Trip to Hiroshima
Osaka is only a 2-hour trip from Hiroshima, the city hit by the 1945 atomic bomb and a symbol of international importance. You can tour sites around the city related to the events and visit the memorial for the many people who lost their lives.
The eerie Genbaku Dome stands almost exactly as it did in the aftermath of the destruction, and the local museum holds many important artifacts and testimonies.
1. Visit a Theme Park
Osaka is home to some of Japan's best theme parks, and visiting them is one of the most fun things to do in Osaka. Top among them is Universal Studios Japan, which opened in the 1990s and is now the world's fifth-most-visited theme park. Expect Harry Potter and Jurassic Park-themed rides and shows.
Super Nintendo World also opened in Osaka in 2021 and is something special. Expect Yoshi, Bowser, and Mario-themed rides. There are also hidden video games for serious players and action games where you and your friends can take on your rivals and defeat the big boss.
Add Osaka To Your Bucket List With Pilot!
If you plan to visit Japan, Osaka should be on your bucket list! It's a fascinating city that you can explore within a few days, and it's just a bullet train ride away from Tokyo or Kyoto.
Now that you know the best things to do in Osaka, you can start to craft your ideal travel experience for you, your family, and your friends.