This post may contain affiliate links to tours and hotels. These help us earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.
Osaka is Japan’s second largest city with loads of fun things to do. Osaka is known as the culinary centre of Japan, so if you are a foodie like myself you won’t want to miss out sampling the wonderful local delicacies here.
The city is generally overlooked by tourists in favour of visiting nearby Kyoto, but we would totally recommend planning an Osaka and Kyoto itinerary when booking your Japan trip. The city has a large international airport which means you can easily add it to the start or end of your Japan trip itinerary.
Here is my Osaka travel guide with 7 awesome things to do when visiting Osaka:
1. Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle was originally built in 1597, but was severely damaged by numerous battles over the years, and rebuilt in 1931 (where it still stands today). Set amongst beautiful gardens, moats and castle walls, this calm oasis in the middle of a sprawling concrete jungle is definitely worth checking out. The park has around 1200 plum trees and 600 cherry trees, so if you happen to visit during the spring months, the gardens will be an array of beautiful pink blossom.
Opening hours: Everyday 9-5pm. Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 540-0002. Exit at Osakajo-koen Station on the JR Osaka Loop Line
Entrance fee: Adult Entry to Museum in Castle: 600 yen. Park entry: free
Dotonburi is a long and iconic street located in Osaka’s hectic entertainment district that runs parallel to the canal. It is here you will find crazy visual delights such as giant animatronic crabs, huge plastic puffer fish and the famous Glico “running man” illuminated sign (it is essential that you have your photo taken here whilst recreating the running pose – fact!). Dotonburi is best visited at night time when all the creative billboards are lit up.
Check out the popular restaurant Kani Doraku for some very yummy BBQ crab (Anthony Bourdain visited here on an episode of No Reservations and raved about it). Seek out the terrifying Kuidaore Clown – a mechanical drum-beating statue that has been a famous landmark in Dotonbori since the 1950s.
Then most importantly, be sure to eat renowned Osaka street foods such as Takoyaki (octopus balls) and Okonomiyaki (pan-fried batter cake). These dishes are explained in detail at the end of this blog. If you are feeling brave, try eating the puffer fish (filled with deadly poison – I wouldn’t dare!).
Shinsaibashi is a shopping and restaurant area just over the main bridge north of Dotonburi. This arcade street is approx 600m long and filled with designer boutiques and departments stores. It also has Shakeys – an all you can eat pizza and pasta restaurant that I enjoyed eating at whilst staying here!
Address: 1 Chome Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0071. 5 min walk from Namba Station (Subway Midosuji Line)
3. Umeda Sky Building
For amazing 360 degree panoramic views of Osaka, head up to the top of this 173 metre tall architectural delight. Take a ride up glass enclosed elevators to the ‘floating garden observatory’ – a large platform that links two towers (don’t be fooled – there is no grass).
Make sure you also check out the awesome underground food market which recreates early 20th century Osaka, located underneath the Sky building.
Opening hours: Everyday 10am-10.30pm.
Address: 1 Chome-1-88 Oyodonaka, Kita Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 531-0076. 15 minutes walk from Osaka or Umeda Station via an underground passage.
Admission fee: 700 yen
Book a YOKOSO! Osaka Ticket to gain entry/discounts to 30 iconic Osaka tourist sites including the Umeda Sky Buiding.
Shinsekai (meaning New World) is one of downtown Osaka’s more seedier, dangerous and poorer districts. However it is a fun and colourful retro spot, which makes it a great place to visit and photograph. This area was developed in 1903 and flourished as a futuristic entertainment district modelled after New York and Paris, with Tsutenkaku Tower (a 64m high steel structure resembling the Eiffel Tower) being it’s centrepiece.
Sadly the town was then neglected for many years and visiting here today feels like entering a time capsule. Many of the old eating and drinking establishments still remain, as well as an abundance of cheap souvenir shops and pachinko parlours.
Whilst you are here, be sure to sample the Osaka speciality Kushikatsu – meat, vegetables and dessert items that are battered and deep fried on skewers. Restaurants that serve this type of food are common in Shinsekai with the rules being very strict – no double dipping in the communal sauce!
Seek out the Billiken statue, apparently rubbing the soles of this god’s feet is believed to bring you good luck. Visit Spa world, a gender separated onsen complex with 8 different themed floors.
Address: 1 Chome Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 556-0002. A short walk from Shin-Imamiya Station on the JR Loop Line, Dobutsuen-mae Station on the Midosuji and Sakaisuji Subway Lines, and Ebisucho Station on the Sakaisuji Subway Line.
5. Universal Studios
Located in the Osaka Bay area, Universal Studios is one of only four Universal theme parks in the world. It is a great Osaka attraction for kids and for adults too! Classic rides made popular in the American parks are found here including Jaws, Terminator and Jurassic Park – even Backdraft (its pretty bad but the queues are usually low for this one).
Its main attraction however, is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a very impressive and expensive recreation of Hogwarts. To enter this part of the park, you’ll need to reserve separate tickets for a timed entry slot. I’d recommend getting them as soon as you are through the main gate, the ticket machines are located about 5 minutes away from the Harry Potter entrance (ask for directions or it should be on the map). You can only enter once so make the most of it when you are in there, and make sure you get yourself a butter beer!
Note: all of the attractions are in Japanese with no English dubbing or subtitles at all.
Universal Studios is great for people watching as the Japanese love to dress up! You should arrive early to avoid long queues (maybe even arrive before the park opens) and totally avoid weekends and public holidays as this park is VERY popular. If you are super keen on going on as many rides as possible – purchase an express pass (these sell out quickly so you need to book in advance).
Book a Universal Studios Japan Express™ online with Klook and skip the queues!
Opening hours: Everyday 8.30am – 9pm
Address: 2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 554-0031, Universal City station (12 minutes from Osaka Station)
Entrance fee: Adult ticket: 7,400 yen
6. Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
This is one attraction I didn’t visit as I ran out of time, but I REALLY wanted to go (I’ll make sure I visit next time i’m in Osaka). The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum is a museum dedicated to instant noodles, as well as its creator and founder Momofuku Ando. The highlights of the museum include an instant noodle “tunnel”, and a chance to create your own personalised cup ramen for 300 yen (amazing!!!).
Opening hours: Everyday except Tuesday, 9.30am – 4pm (Last admission is at 3:30 p.m.). Address: 8-25 Masumi-cho, Ikeda-shi, Osaka 563-0041, Japan. 5 minutes walk from Hankyu Ikeda Station (south exit)
Entrance fee: Free of charge
7. Eat Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki
Eating and drinking are very important to the people of Osaka, they even coined the term Kuidaore which means “Eat until you drop” – now thats my kind of people! Here are two of the best Japanese foods famous in Osaka:
Takoyaki are small balls of batter stuffed with octopus and served with mayonnaise, bonito flakes and aonori (powdered seaweed). They are crispy, gooey and ever so delicious! Takoyaki are a popular snack food with the locals, who usually don’t think twice about queueing for ages at popular street food vendors.
Watching the balls of batter being cooked is great fun in itself. I love watching the chef flick dozens of the balls with such expertise on specially made griddles – you could stand and watch them for ages!
Okonomiyaki (known as Japanese pizza) consists of shredded cabbage, batter mix, okonomiyaki sauce, mayonaise, dried bonito and any toppings such as cheese, seafood or pork. A fun way to eat this dish in restaurants is by cooking it on a flat griddle (teppan) built into your table in front of you.
If you are a foodie then a fun way to spend a few hours in Osaka is to join a food and walking tour. Check out this Downtown Osaka and Local Food Walk tour on Klook.
Sim cards and pocket WIFI
Having data on your phone whilst travelling is almost essential these days – from planning your route around the city or for staying connected with friends and family back home. You can also prepay online and collect a SIM from Osaka Kansai Airport. Just remember to make sure your phone is not locked to your local network provider before purchasing one.
Alternatively if you do not want to change your sim card then renting a pocket WIFI device might be for you. We’ve used them multiple times and love that we can both connect our devices to it. Pre-order one online with Klook for collection when you arrive at either Osaka Kansai Airport or in Tokyo.
Here are some highly rated accommodation suggestions for all types of budget in Osaka!
Some other hostel accommodations that come highly rated include:
If you are looking for something mid range then these hotels are in excellent locations with great reviews:
Alternatively if you are looking for something more special then treat yourself to a stay at one of these beautiful hotels in Osaka:
Other Japan blog posts
- A night at the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo
- What to eat in Japan – Best Japanese foods and desserts
- How to visit the Japanese Snow Monkeys in Nagano
- Anata No Warehouse – Kowloon’s walled city rebuilt in Tokyo
- Searching for the coolest Kit Kat flavours in Japan
Did you enjoy our Things to do in Osaka blog post? Let us know in the comments or by sharing it on social media.