20 of the Best Things to Do in Osaka, Japan

Osaka is a vibrant city that seamlessly blends traditional and modern elements.

Located on the Island of Honshu, it is a big port city and centre of commerce that is often referred to as ‘Japan’s Kitchen’, thanks to the incredible gastronomic scene it boasts.

But there is more to the city than its culinary prowess. From the bustling streets of Dotonbori to the serene beauty of Osaka Castle, tourists are exposed to a range of sights and attractions that will captivate all of their senses.

If you plan on visiting the area, this guide will highlight 20 must-do activities that will help you make the most of your time in this fantastic city.

Do any or all of them, and you are sure to make memories that will stay with you for the rest of your days.

Where is Osaka?

Where is Osaka

Osaka is a culturally rich and dynamic city that resides in the Kansai region of Japan. It is situated on Honshu Island – at the mouth of the Yodo River, overlooking Osaka Bay.

As the capital of the Osaka Prefecture, it is a crucial economic and cultural hub for the country. Its central location provides easy access to other major Japanese cities, including Tokyo (397 km away), Kyoto (55km), Nara (32km) and Kobe (33km).

Getting There

Getting to Osaka is easy, thanks to the city’s excellent transportation infrastructure. If you are arriving by air, Kansai International Airport (KIX) is a major gateway and is located on an artificial island in Osaka Bay. From the airport, you can reach Osaka city centre easily from KIX by taking the efficient Kansai Airport Express train or the Nankai Airport Line.

Alternatively, if you are already in Japan, you can use Itami Airport (ITM), which is closer to the city centre and primarily handles domestic flights.

For those travelling by bullet train, Shin-Osaka Station is a key transportation hub, offering high-speed rail connections to major cities such as Tokyo and Hiroshima. Other options you can opt for include local trains or buses – which provide convenient access to Osaka from neighbouring cities.

Best Time To Visit Osaka

Best Time To Visit Osaka

While Osaka is a destination you can visit all year round, the best times to go there are during the spring months of March to May and the autumn months of September to November.

In spring, the weather is mild, and cherry blossoms adorn the city’s parks, creating a picturesque atmosphere. This is an ideal time for outdoor activities and cultural experiences. At the same time, autumn brings crisp air and vibrant foliage, providing a stunning backdrop for exploring Osaka’s

attractions. During these seasons, temperatures are comfortable and the city is less crowded compared to the summer months.

Talking of summer, while this part of the year is a good time to go to Osaka for its festivals, it can be stifling hot and humid – so you’ll want to spend plenty of time at indoor attractions with air conditioning.

Generally speaking, winter has fewer tourists, but it is colder than other times of the year, so you will need to layer up for cooler temperatures.

Consider avoiding Golden Week in early May as the city does get very busy. Also, be mindful of typhoon season from June to October, when the weather can curtail your plans.

20 Things To Do in Osaka

So, now you know where Osaka is, how to get there and when to visit, here are 20 excellent things to in the city.

1. Dive into the Culinary Wonderland of Dotonbori

1. Dive into the Culinary Wonderland of Dotonbori

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No visit to Osaka is complete without a gastronomic adventure in Dotonbori. This district, renowned for its neon lights and bustling atmosphere, is a haven for food enthusiasts.

Street food stalls, known as ‘yatai’ line the streets, offering mouthwatering treats like takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), and yakitori (grilled skewers). Allow the aromas and flavours to guide you through this culinary maze, and don’t miss the iconic Glico Running Man sign.

2. Explore the Historical Splendor of Osaka Castle

2. Explore the Historical Splendor of Osaka Castle

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Transport yourself back in time as you wander through the majestic Osaka Castle – an iconic symbol of the city boasts a rich history dating back to the 16th century. Once there, the stunning architecture will captivate you. The castle covers two square kilometres and features a stunning multi-story tower that soars above the complex, showcasing tremendous views.

Inside, you’ll see a range of exhibits and displays in its museum and spectacular gold-leaf detailing.

3. Stroll Through the Tranquil Beauty of Katsuo-ji Temple

3. Stroll Through the Tranquil Beauty of Katsuo-ji Temple

Nestled in the hills of Minoh, the Katsuo-ji Temple is renowned for its stunning red pagoda and the myriad of Daruma dolls that surround the temple grounds. Whilst there, you can participate in the unique tradition of buying a Daruma doll, making a wish and returning it to the temple when your wish comes true.

Overall, the peaceful ambience and natural beauty of the temple make it a perfect place for introspection.

4. Indulge Your Sweet Tooth in Kuromon Ichiba Market

4. Indulge Your Sweet Tooth in Kuromon Ichiba Market

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If you have a sweet tooth, Kuromon Ichiba Market will be your paradise. Known as ‘Osaka’s Kitchen’, this bustling market is a haven for foodies.

There is plenty of delectable savoury street food you can sample, but this place is all about mouthwatering desserts. From fluffy Japanese cheesecake to delicate mochi, Kuromon Ichiba Market will leave your tastebuds dancing with delight.

5. Immerse Yourself in Osaka’s Gaming Culture in Nipponbashi

5. Immerse Yourself in Osaka’s Gaming Culture in Nipponbashi

For gamers and anime enthusiasts, Nipponbashi (also known as Den Den Town) is a haven of electronic wonders. This district is Osaka’s answer to Tokyo’s Akihabara, featuring countless shops dedicated to manga, anime and electronic gadgets.

Take the opportunity to dive into the otaku culture, explore themed cafes and hunt for unique collectibles.

6. Cruise the Waterways with the Tombori River Cruise

6. Cruise the Waterways with the Tombori River Cruise

Witness Osaka from a different perspective by embarking on a Tombori River Cruise. Glide along the scenic waterways of the Dotonbori and Namba districts while taking in the dazzling city lights.

The 20-minute cruise provides a tranquil escape amidst the urban chaos and offers a unique vantage point for capturing the beauty of Osaka’s iconic landmarks.

7. Step Back in Time at Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine

7. Step Back in Time at Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine

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Transport yourself to ancient Japan at Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine – one of the country’s oldest Shinto shrines.

Known for its distinctive arched bridges, Sumiyoshi Taisha offers a serene escape from the modern bustle. Wander through the picturesque garden, admire the architectural beauty of the main hall and partake in the tradition of purifying yourself at the shrine’s unique purification fountain.

8. Experience the Thrills of Universal Studios Japan

8. Experience the Thrills of Universal Studios Japan

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For a dose of adrenaline and family-friendly fun, head to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. This world-renowned theme park features attractions based on blockbuster movies, beloved characters and thrilling rides.

It doesn’t matter if you are a Harry Potter fan exploring The Wizarding World or someone seeking the exhilaration of Hollywood Dream – The Ride, Universal Studios Japan promises an unforgettable day of high-octane entertainment.

9. Relax in the Osaka Mint Bureau’s Cherry Blossom Garden

During cherry blossom season, the Osaka Mint Bureau’s Cherry Blossom Garden transforms into a breathtaking spectacle of pink hues. Take a leisurely stroll beneath the blooming sakura trees and

enjoy the ephemeral beauty of this natural wonder.

The garden is open to the public for a short period only during spring, making it a must-visit destination to experience the magic of cherry blossoms in Osaka.

10. Unwind at Spa World: Osaka’s Hot Spring Theme Park

Indulge in the ultimate relaxation at Spa World, a unique hot spring theme park that takes you on a global bathing tour.

Each floor of this colossal complex represents a different country, featuring themed baths, saunas and relaxation areas. Whether you prefer the soothing waters of an ancient Roman bath or the traditional ambience of a Japanese onsen, Spa World offers a rejuvenating escape from the frenzy of sightseeing in the main touristy parts of Osaka.

11. Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden Observatory

11. Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden Observatory

For panoramic views of Osaka, head to the Umeda Sky Building’s Floating Garden Observatory. This architectural marvel consists of two towers connected by the ‘Floating Garden’, an observation deck that provides a stunning 360-degree view of the city.

While you can visit it throughout the day, sunset is the best time as you will enjoy a magical experience as the city lights begin to twinkle.

12. Osaka Museum of History

Those wanting to find out more about Osaka’s fascinating past should visit the Osaka Museum of History.

Located near Osaka Castle, the museum offers exhibits detailing the city’s evolution from ancient times to the present day. The highlight is the panoramic view from the top floor – where you can see the magnificent Osaka Castle and the surrounding landscape in all its glory.

13. Hozenji Yokocho Alley

Nestled in the heart of Namba, Hozenji Yokocho Alley is a charming cobblestone street lined with traditional Japanese restaurants and izakayas.

The narrow alley exudes a nostalgic ambience – making it an ideal spot for a leisurely stroll and to taste local flavours in one of the area’s many intimate eateries.

14. Shin-Osaka Ramen Kizuki

Osaka is renowned for its delicious ramen and Shin-Osaka Ramen Kizuki offers a unique ramen experience. This restaurant allows you to customise your ramen by choosing the broth, noodles and toppings.

Overall, it’s a haven for noodle enthusiasts seeking a personalised and flavorful bowl of this iconic

Japanese dish.

15. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

If you are fascinated by the the wonders of the ocean, you can find out all about it at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.

Located in the Tempozan Harbour Village, this impressive facility is one of the largest public aquariums in the world. It features a massive central tank that allows visitors to observe a variety of marine life, including sharks, rays, and colourful fish.

The aquarium’s layout mimics the Pacific Ocean’s ring of fire – providing a unique and educational experience for all who visit it.

Try to visit the aquarium early in the morning to avoid the crowds that inevitably build up.

16. Osaka Bay Area

Enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of Osaka’s Bay Area – home to the iconic Tempozan Ferris Wheel. Once there, if you have a head for heights, be sure to take a ride on it for breathtaking views of Osaka Bay and the surrounding cityscape.

Afterwards, explore the nearby shopping complex – Tempozan Marketplace – to buy unique souvenirs, sample gourmet delights and partake in various entertainment options.

17. Nakanoshima Park and Osaka City Central Public Hall

If you are feeling in need of some rest and relaxation, head to Nakanoshima Park – an oasis of greenery situated between the Dojima and Tosabori rivers.

You’ll be able to stroll through lush gardens, view seasonal flowers and relax by the fountain. A visit here is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

18. Kaiyukan’s Aqua Gate

For a unique underwater experience, visit Kaiyukan’s Aqua Gate. This interactive exhibit allows visitors to walk through a tunnel surrounded by water, providing a mesmerising view of marine life from all angles.

What is so appealing about a visit here is that it takes you on an immersive and educational journey into the depths of the ocean without getting wet.

19. Osaka Tenmangu Shrine and Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street

Explore the vibrant atmosphere around Osaka Tenmangu Shrine, which is dedicated to the deity of scholarship – Sugawara Michizane.

The shrine is not only a cultural gem but is also surrounded by the bustling Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping

Street. This historic shopping district is one of Japan’s longest covered shopping streets, offering a mix of traditional shops and modern boutiques.

20. Osaka Ramen Street at Hankyu Umeda

Embark on a culinary adventure at Osaka Ramen Street, located within the Hankyu Umeda department store.

This foodie haven features a collection of renowned ramen shops, each offering a distinct style of this beloved Japanese dish.

It’s the perfect place to sample various regional ramen varieties in one convenient location.