Osaka travel guide: 17 x best things to do + tips

by suitcasestoriesbe
Osaka Travel Guide - things to do

When we first planned our trip to Japan we never expect to love Osaka as much as we do now. Osaka is known as the food capital of Japan and it quickly became clear why. Plenty of good restaurants, delicious street food, and different kind of specialties where people especially come to Osaka for. But besides the whole food scene and different vibrant neighborhoods, there are so many more amazing things to do in Osaka. In this complete guide, we collected everything you need to know to plan your own trip to Osaka including 17 x best things to do, our favorite places to stay and tips to get around. 

Read also: Japan in 3 weeks: travel route, guide + tips

How to get to Osaka?

By plane: If you’re starting your travel route in Osaka instead of Tokyo, you can travel by plane. There are several flights a day from all over the world arriving at Osaka International Airport, which makes it the fastest way to get in the city.

Book your flights to Osaka here

By train: If you’re coming from Kyoto, Nara, or Tokyo you can go by train to Osaka, which is the most popular way of getting around. Taking a train in Japan is super easy, comfortable, and incredibly fast. The JR Pass covers all Japan Rail trains and certain Shinkansen (bullet train). We took the train from Nara to Osaka, Express Kintetsu Line, and paid JPY 570 per person ($5,3).

Book your JR Pass here

By bus: What many people don’t know is that you can easily travel by bus through Japan. Taking the bus is a less expensive alternative than taking the train but it takes more time. For example, the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka is only 2 hours and by bus, it’s around 8-9 hours. So it’s up to you to decide what’s most comfortable. We did almost everything by bus and can only recommend this. Check prices and options for buses below.

Visa requirements for Japan

As Belgian citizens, we didn’t need to apply for a visa to enter Japan and could stay for a maximum of 90 days. Please note: visa requirements keep changing for every country. Please make sure you check all visa and passport requirements in your own country before booking your tickets or via the search box below.

Where to stay in Osaka

Osaka has a lot of different accommodation options from affordable hostels to luxury and trendy hotels. We stayed in The White Hostel Osaka which is located in Shinsaibashi, Osaka’s most famous shopping area. Our hostel was a lovely place, affordable, clean and super trendy. If it’s your first time going to Osaka, we would highly recommend looking for places to stay in the Namba area. Namba is the heart of Osaka which includes Shinsaibashi (where we’ve stayed), Dotonbori, and Nipponbashi. From here, you can easily explore almost all highlights on foot, without using public transport too much. Another good area in Osaka is Umeda. Like Namba, it has a very good connection with public transport and you’ll find lots of shops and restaurants in the area.

Read also: Best hotels & hostels in Japan

Best time to visit Osaka

Winter: December – February
During these months you can expect dry and sunny weather in Japan,  but cold temperatures. January is the coolest month with an average temperature of 10°C. (2°C at night) Spending winter in Osaka is a wonderful time to soak in a hot spring, spot Mt Fuji, celebrate New Year, or even go skiing in the Japanese Alps.

Cherry Blossoms (Sakura): March – April
Cherry blossoms in Osaka are starting end of March, with a full bloom in early April. During these months it’s also spring, where you can expect dry and sunny weather with an average temperature between 13-18°C. Experiencing the cherry blossoms or sakura is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Check the actual cherry blossom forecast for Japan here

Typhoon season: June – September
Starting from June, the raining season starts in Japan with the most chance on typhoons in August and September. This is a period we don’t recommend you to go to Osaka as you’ll experience a lot of rainfall and super humid weather with average temperatures between 27-31°C.

Autumn: October – November
October and November are both lovely months to visit Osaka. The weather is pleasant, open skies and not too hot anymore with average temperatures between 17-22°C. We went to Japan during these months (to be exact: October 30 – November 18) and had a wonderful time. From late October, you’ll also see the beautiful autumn colors popping up on the trees. Lovely!

Check the actual forecast for the autumn colors in Osaka here

Electricity in Japan

The power plugs and sockets in Japan are of type A and B with a standard voltage of 100 V and a frequency of 50/60 Hz. During our stay in Japan, we used the Skross Pro World Adaptor which was perfect to charge all our gear but keep in mind it takes a lot longer to charge your gear.power & electricity in Japan

Best things to do in Osaka

There are so many amazing things to do in Osaka, from relaxing on one of the stunning beaches to ziplining and joining one of the different island-hopping tours. Below we have listed all the best things to do in Osaka we personally like the most.

Read also: Tokyo in 5 days: the ultimate travel guide + tips

Visit Osaka Castle and walk around the surrounding park

Osaka Castle is one of our most favorite things to do in Osaka. We went here in the late afternoon and spent 2 hours walking around the surrounding park. So beautiful! From the park, you have the best views over Osaka Castle to take stunning pictures. We actually didn’t go inside Osaka Castle as we arrived quite late and we still wanted to take some nice pictures before it got dark. So if you go, you better go a bit earlier so that you can still visit Osaka Castle itself as it has a very fascinating history.

COST
JPY 600 per person entrance fee to visit and enter Osaka Castle, the surrounding park is free

TIP
Flying out your drone near the castle and inside the park is prohibited. We had seen a photo that was taken from the air but everywhere in the park you can find warning signs and also online we found information that it’s not allowed to drone.

BOOK
and explore the Osaka Castle with this local guided tour

Osaka Castle
Japan - Osaka Castle

Go shopping in Shinsaibashi

If you like shopping or love to hunt for some souvenirs, go to the Shinsaibashi district. It’s Osaka’s most famous shopping area where you find all the famous brands like Apple, H&M, Zara but also lots of smaller boutique shops. Start at Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street, which is a covered shopping street and walk from there to all side streets in the area.

LOCATION

Check out Nipponbashi

A 20-minute walk from Shinsaibashi, you’ll find the area of Nipponbashi. Nipponbashi is Osaka’s electric town which can be compared with Akihabara in Tokyo but smaller. Lots of anime, manga, neon lights, and electronic stores. Super fun to walk around!

LOCATION
Nipponbashi

nipponbashi district
Nipponbashi game stores

Stroll through Hozenji Yokocho Alley

We loved to stroll through the Hozenji Yokocho Alley, which is located in Dotombori, right behind the Hozenji temple. The Hozenji Yokocho Alley is a super cute small street where you find a cute little temple and lots of local restaurants.

LOCATION

Enjoy a unique maid cafe experience

Maid cafes are unique for Japan and something which is super fun to experience once in your life. To make one thing already clear: people that visit a maid cafe are not coming for anything sexual. Basically, maid cafes are themed cafes/restaurants where the most friendly staff dress up as different anime or video game characters. The moment you walk into a maid cafe you step in a kind of fantasyland. The maids are here to entertain you and keep you busy while your food is being prepared. You’re not going to a maid cafe for the food, but for the unique experience.

COST
Depending on which maid cafe you enter, you’ll need to choose between one of their “package deals”. The ones we saw were around JPY 2000 or $18,5 which includes 1 meal, a drink, and a picture souvenir with the maids.

TIP
Just have fun! The more you participate, the more you’ll enjoy your time with the maids.

BOOK
This Maid Cafe Experience at Maidreamin Osaka which is highly recommended

Maid cafe osaka

Become a ninja for a day

Become a ninja for a day and test out your samurai skills. How crazy it may sound, it’s possible in Osaka! A recommended activity for everyone who likes to know more about these Japanese warriors from fighting skills to the history behind it. If you’re traveling with children, this definitely would be a fun thing to do in Osaka.

BOOK
A 1-hour Ninja Workshop here 

Visit the Shittenoji Temple

Shittenoji Temple is a stunning Buddhist temple you need to visit when you’re in Osaka. We were here just before sunset and where almost alone on the site. It’s worth to enter the temple and walk around as it’s such a peaceful place in the middle of a busy city.

COSTS
JPY 300 per person entrance fee

BOOK
this full-day guided tour which includes the Shittenoji Temple

Shittenoji Temple - Osaka things to do

Spend the afternoon strolling around Tennoji Park

A stroll around Tennoji Park is perfect to fill up your afternoon. Nice views of the surrounding skyscrapers, a large pond with a photogenic bridge, lots of playgrounds and a very good supermarket where we bought the cheapest vegetables.

COSTS
Free entrance

BOOK
this full-day guided tour which includes Tennoji Park

Walk around Dotonbori district at night

Dotonbori is Osaka’s most famous district and is amazing to walk through especially at night. Everywhere colorful neon signs, lots of entertainment, lively bars and plenty of restaurants. We visited Dotonbori several times during our stay in Osaka and have to admit that sunset is also an amazing moment to be here.

BOOK
Hop on one of the Dotonbori River Cruises with the sunset for a truly magical experience

Dotonbori Osaka with sunset

Create your own cup of noodles at Cupnoodles Museum

During our last day in Osaka, we met an Indonesian guy in our hostel who told us about Cupnoodles Museum. It’s a place where you can create your own cup of noodles (ramen) and learn more about the history behind Japan’s famous instant noodles. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time anymore to visit the museum but next time we would definitely check it out.

COST
JPY 500 per person entrance fee + JPY 300 per cup of noodles

MORE INFORMATION
Cupnoodles Museum

LOCATION

Wander the streets of America-Mura (American Village)

America-Mura or also known as American Village was only a 7-minute walk from our hostel in Shinsaibashi. We loved wandering the streets of this lovely district filled with beautiful vintage shops, graffiti art, lots of galleries and trendy eateries. Must visit!

Osaka America Mura
Osaka America Mura

Explore the streets of Shinsekai district

Another amazing district to explore is the super vibrant Shinsekai, where you can climb the Tsutenkaku Tower (symbol of Osaka) and find lots of restaurants with the weirdest exterior decorations.

COST
JPY 500 per person to go to the top of the Tsutenkaku Tower

BOOK
An amazing Shinsekai Food Tour or this guided walking tour which includes the Shinsekai district

Shinsekai Osaka Streets
Osaka Shinsekai Tower
Osaka Streets

Take the escalator to the top of the Umeda Sky Building

The Umeda Sky Building is the best place in Osaka to enjoy breathtaking views over the city. Take the world’s highest escalator to the top where you find an observation platform also known as Kuchu Teien Observatory. From here you have 360-degree views over Osaka and there are also floating gardens where you can walk around.

COST
JPY 1500 per person entrance fee

BOOK
Your admission tickets for the Umeda Sky Building Observatory in advance so you don’t need to wait in the lines

Umeda Sky Building - Osaka
Umeda Sky Building - Osaka

Visit the German Christmas Market

We went to Osaka mid-November and the moment we arrived at Umeda Sky Building we found out there was a lovely German Christmas Market going on. It’s right underneath the building and super fun to visit. The market takes place every year from mid-November until Christmas Day. Lovely decorated food and drink stalls, real German specialities like glühwein and bratwurst and a giant Christmas tree.

COST
Free entrance

German Christmas Market Osaka
German Christmas Market Osaka

Try out local snacks at the Kuromon Ichiba Market

The Kuromon Ichiba Market is a covered public market where you can find lots of fresh seafood and try out different kinds of local snacks. The market opens at 9 am and closes at 6 pm every day and besides the market stalls, you’ll also find a different kind of souvenir shops.

COST
Free entrance

BOOK
A food walking tour with a guide through the Kuromon Ichiba market

Osaka Fish Market

 Take the train to visit the Minoo Waterfalls

The Minoo Waterfalls are located just outside Osaka, a 40-minute ride by train. We took the train in the morning to visit the Minoo Waterfalls as early as possible but as it was a Sunday we were not the only ones with the same idea. To reach the waterfalls, we needed to follow a 2,8-kilometer path through the beautiful Minoo Park which is on itself worth a visit too. Especially during autumn, this place is incredibly magical.

COST
Free entrance to the park and waterfalls, the only thing you’ll need to pay is the train which was JPY 500 per person/one-way

TIP
Count at least a half-day to visit Minoo Park and the waterfalls. For solo travelers, we recommend joining a local guided walk.

Osaka Minoo Waterfalls
Minoo Waterfalls

If you have more time in Osaka, go to Universal Studios

If you have more time in Osaka or you love to spend a day in rollercoasters, go to Universal Studios which is the second-largest theme park in Japan.

BOOK
Your admission tickets to Universal Studios here in advance to avoid long waiting lines.

Resources we’ve used to find out the best things to do in Osaka

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Osaka travel guide 17 things to do + tips
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