Nestled in the heart of Japan, Osaka stands as a testament to the nation’s rich heritage and dynamic modernity. From its historic temples to bustling neon-lit streets, Osaka promises an unforgettable journey through time and culture.

Follow our travel guide to Osaka to uncover this Japanese city like no other.


Osaka, Japan’s third-largest city, is a bustling metropolis that seamlessly blends tradition with modernity. It is located in the Kansai region of Japan, on Honshu, the largest of the Japanese islands.

It’s a city where ancient temples sit alongside towering skyscrapers, and historic districts buzz with energy from lively entertainment and vibrant street culture.

From the famous Dotonbori with its neon lights and bustling nightlife, to the tranquil grounds of Osaka Castle, the city has a magnetic pull that captivates visitors from all walks of life.

As you explore Osaka, you’ll discover a city that doesn’t just embrace its heritage—it celebrates it. Temples like Shitennoji, one of Japan’s oldest, offer a glimpse into the past, while innovative architectural wonders like the Umeda Sky Building showcase the city’s forward-thinking spirit.

The food scene is equally diverse, with everything from traditional Japanese cuisine to fusion dishes that push the culinary envelope.

Osaka is also a city of friendly locals, known for their warmth and humour. The Kansai dialect, spoken by many Osakans, adds a distinctive charm to the city’s personality.

This warmth extends to the hospitality you’ll experience in hotels, restaurants, and even on the streets, where it’s not uncommon to find yourself engaged in friendly banter with locals.

We found Osaka and particularly the Dotonbori area to be a very different Japan to what we have experienced in Tokyo or other cities in the country.

Most people seem to use Osaka as a travel base to other destinations in the area such as Hiroshima or Himeji, however, it would be wrong not to consider Osaka as a destination in it’s own right.

Travel to and Around Osaka

We travelled to Osaka from Kyoto as part of our trip around Japan (check out our Japan Travel Itinerary here).

We used the bullet train as it was included in the JR Pass.

Arriving in Osaka: Getting Here Is a Breeze

Osaka is incredibly accessible, thanks to its robust transportation infrastructure. Most international travellers arrive at Kansai International Airport (KIX), a modern marvel situated on an artificial island in Osaka Bay.

The airport is well-equipped with facilities, services, and transportation links that make arriving in Osaka hassle-free.

From the airport, you have a range of options to reach the city. The fastest is the Kansai Airport Rapid Service, which takes you to Osaka Station in less than 70 minutes. If you’re heading to Namba, the Nankai Airport Express offers a direct route.

Taxis and airport limousine buses are also available, providing flexibility and comfort for those who prefer door-to-door service.

Getting Around Osaka: Navigating the City’s Efficient Transport System

Once you’re in Osaka, getting around is simple and convenient. The city’s public transportation system is extensive and reliable, with subways, trains, and buses covering every corner of the city.

The Osaka Metro is the most popular way to travel, with multiple lines connecting major districts and attractions. It’s fast, clean, and relatively affordable, with English-language signage and announcements to help non-Japanese speakers navigate the system.

For a more scenic journey, the JR Osaka Loop Line encircles the city, offering a leisurely way to reach key spots like Osaka Castle and Universal Studios Japan.

If you’re planning to explore beyond Osaka, the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Shin-Osaka Station can whisk you to Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Tokyo in record time.

This is exactly what we did and even got a hotel nearby the Shinkansen line station so that we can make the most of our stay in Osaka but also quick and efficient way to make use of the bullet trains for our day trips.

Alternative Transportation Options: Exploring Osaka at Your Own Pace

While public transport is excellent, there are other ways to explore Osaka. Taxis are abundant and can be hailed on the street or booked through apps. They’re pricier than public transport but can be useful for late-night travel or when you’re in a hurry.

If you’re feeling adventurous, renting a bicycle is a fantastic way to see the city. Osaka is relatively flat, making it bike-friendly, and there are dedicated bike lanes in many areas. Bike rental shops are common near major stations, and some hotels offer complimentary bicycles for guests.

Where to Stay in Osaka?

Choosing the right accommodation in Osaka can greatly enhance your experience in the city. With a wide range of neighborhoods and districts to choose from, each offering its own unique atmosphere and attractions, finding the perfect place to stay depends on your preferences and interests.

If you prefer to stay in a hotel, we would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as or Agoda to get the best rates. Use the widget below to find the best accommodation in Osaka for your specific dates.

For this trip, we used our points from and booked karaksa hotel grande Shin-Osaka Tower with accumulated points, meaning we got the hotel for free.

We chose to stay near Shin-Osaka as it had direct links to central Osaka and worked very well for the times we wanted to do our day trips to other destinations. The hotel has an excellent location and international cuisine breakfast with great thermal baths facilities – perfect for an end of day relax time.

Osaka features plenty of hotels but 4 star hotels tend to be fairly well prices unlike in Kyoto or Tokyo. We did find that bigger rooms can come at a premium so it’s important to understand what you are getting to avoid any disappointment.

Best Time to Visit Osaka

Osaka, with its vibrant streets, historic landmarks, and delightful cuisine, is a city that can be enjoyed in any season. However, depending on your preferences and what you hope to experience, some times of the year may suit you better than others.

Here’s an overview of what to expect throughout the year in Osaka:

  • Spring: Cherry Blossoms and Pleasant Weather: Spring is one of the most popular times to visit Osaka, thanks to the arrival of the cherry blossoms (sakura). The weather is mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 degrees Celsius, making it ideal for exploring the city’s outdoor attractions.
  • Summer: Festivals and Lively Atmosphere: The city comes alive with festivals, including the famous Tenjin Matsuri, one of Japan’s largest and most spectacular festivals. While temperatures can climb to the high 20s or low 30s, the festive atmosphere more than compensates for the heat.
  • Autumn: Colourful Foliage and Comfortable Temperatures: We went during November time and we can attest to the amazing colours displayed by the surrounding nature. We believe that the mild temperatures combined with the picture perfect scenes make this time an excellent season to visit Osaka.
  • Winter: Illuminations and Festive Cheer: The temperatures drop, sometimes dipping below 10 degrees Celsius, but the city compensates with festive illuminations and holiday decorations. It’s also a great time to enjoy Osaka’s hearty winter cuisine, like hot pot and takoyaki, which are perfect for warming up on a chilly day.

No matter the season, Osaka offers something unique and exciting for every traveler to enjoy!

Things to do in Osaka

Osaka is a dynamic city with a wide array of attractions that cater to diverse interests. Whether you’re fascinated by history, modern architecture, street culture, or culinary adventures, this vibrant Japanese city has something for everyone.

Shitennoji Temple, one of Japan’s oldest temples, offers a glimpse into the region’s spiritual past. For a comprehensive view of Osaka’s history, the Osaka Museum of History showcases the city’s evolution through engaging exhibits and artifacts.

Dotonbori, known for its iconic Glico sign and neon-lit streets, is a hub for entertainment, with shops, restaurants, and street performers. Take a river cruise along the Dotonbori River for a unique perspective on the city. Shinsekai, or “New World,” is a retro district that combines traditional izakayas with quirky arcades and the famous Tsūtenkaku Tower.

Card payments are widely accepted, but not at museums or temples. We used our 0% fee cards throughout this trip to make sure we always got the better rates. Read more here about managing your finances when travelling.

Try local street food like takoyaki and okonomiyaki in Dotonbori, or enjoy a fine dining experience at one of Osaka’s many Michelin-starred restaurants.

While it is hard to plan just a 1 day itinerary in the city as there is so much to see; Osaka’s unique blend of history, culture, and modern attractions makes it a captivating destination for travellers of all kinds.

To make the most out of your visit in Osaka we suggest you also consider Osaka’s city pass called Osaka Amazing Pass. It provides free entry and various freebies for most notable attractions as well as inclusive public transport.

Alternatively, you can get the Osaka Metro Pass for your public transport needs.

We suggest for Osaka you spend at least 3 days visiting the city and getting to know its people and explore its top sites.

Whether you’re exploring ancient temples, enjoying the nightlife, or indulging in culinary delights, Osaka offers a memorable experience at every turn.

Below we listed our top recommendations of what to see when you are in Osaka:

1. Explore Shinsekai “New World”

Transport yourself back in time as you wander through the eclectic streets of Shinsekai. From traditional izakayas serving up mouth-watering local delicacies to vibrant arcades buzzing with nostalgic charm, Shinsekai offers a glimpse into Osaka’s storied past.

Funny enough, when they built this new neighbourhood, this was done with Western architecture in mind, it may be hard to believe today but for then, it was an intriguing new district celebrating Japan’s greatness in the 20th century.

Here you will also find plenty of eateries and a typical thing to eat is kushikatsu, which are deep fat fried skewers. We went to one of the original Kushikatsu Daruma – Shinsaibashi shop in the area and indulged ourselves. We detail more about our experience in the Where to eat? section.

As a word of warning, not all vendors accept credit cards and we found ourselves counting our last Yen as we had to be careful since there were no ATMs in the area either.

2. Go Up the Tsūtenkaku Tower

Ascend to new heights atop Tsūtenkaku Tower and marvel at panoramic views of Osaka’s sprawling landscape. Whether by day or night, the vistas from this iconic landmark never fail to captivate and inspire.

Inside the tower you will also find a selection of pop-cultural references to Japan’s 20th century. Entrance in included as part of the Osaka Amazing Pass.

Additionally, we found that there is a slide from one of the lower floors to slide down. Hristina decided to try it out, overall, not a bad experience.

3. Explore Dotonbori Area

Known as one of Osaka’s principal tourist and nightlife areas, the area runs along the Dōtonbori canal from Dōtonboribashi Bridge to Nipponbashi Bridge in the Namba district of the city’s Chūō ward.

This area itself is a must do when visiting Osaka. Its bright lights and captivating stores and restaurants make it look like the Times Square of Japan. When you are here, below are some of the things to consider:

3.1. Drift Along the Dotonbori River – Osaka Wonder Cruise

Embark on a leisurely cruise along the bustling Dotonbori River and soak in the sights and sounds of Osaka’s vibrant waterfront. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, this scenic journey offers a unique perspective of the city.

We took this cruise and found it to be a bit cheesy at first but overall fun. None of the tour guides spoke much English but in all fairness there wasn’t much need either. Don’t expect a tour guided experience, as this is not what you will get.

The boat ride is simply to have some fun and dance to the rhythm of the hostess whilst you sail through the Dotonbori river along the central part of the district.

3.2. Iconic Landmark: Capturing the Spirit of Osaka at the Dotonbori Glico Sign

Snap a selfie against the backdrop of the iconic Dotonbori Glico Sign and immortalize your Osaka adventure. Illuminated against the night sky, this dazzling spectacle serves as a symbol of the city’s energy and vitality.

3.3. Retail Therapy, Don Quijote Hoenzaka Shop

Indulge in a shopping spree at the eclectic Don Quijote Hoenzaka Shop and discover a treasure trove of quirky souvenirs and irresistible bargains. From quirky gadgets to traditional trinkets, this bustling emporium has something for everyone.

We found that if you register at the time you make your visa for Japan that you may be interested in duty free shopping, the authorities will issue you a special code which you can show at the till for duty free shopping across Japan. Alternatively, showing your passport with the visa stamp will also work.

This is good to know as Don Quijote shop, like many tourist shops offer duty free shopping. At checkout, they will simply seal all the items in duty free sealed bags to be opened only outside Japan. Needless to say we got plenty of macha Kit Kats and loads of souvenirs for our folks home.

4. Discovering Osaka’s Spiritual Heart: Shitennoji Temple Middle Gate (Niomon)

Immerse yourself in the serenity of Shitennoji Temple’s Middle Gate (Niomon) and pay homage to Osaka’s rich spiritual heritage. With its towering pagoda and tranquil gardens, this sacred sanctuary offers a moment of respite amidst the city’s hustle and bustle.

5. Soaring Above Osaka’s Skyline – Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel

Soar to new heights aboard the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel and marvel at Osaka’s sprawling skyline from above.

Overall, the experience was ok, not great, as the Wheel is near the airport in a much more tourist-dry area. We believe the wheel and the free entry via the Osaka Amazing Pass are more to entice people to come to that area of Osaka.

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6. Check-out Americana at America-mura District

Immerse yourself in the vibrant street culture of America-mura and discover why this eclectic neighborhood is a magnet for the city’s youth. From trendy boutiques to cutting-edge galleries, America-mura pulsates with an energy that is uniquely Osaka.

Like we said earlier, Osaka is much louder, dirtier and brighter than any of its Japanese counterparts. A city in Japan like no other. The America-mura district is no different.

Whilst it may look similar to many European or American neighborhoods, what makes this district stand out is how not-Japanese it is. Whilst in Japan, smoking, drinking and eating in public are not allowed, here is perfectly fine.

We went during the evening, as there isn’t something specific to visit, however, most shops were closed so unless you are looking to buy something a simple stroll should suffice.

7. Admire Osaka’s Cityscape at the Hep Five Ferris Wheel

Hop aboard the Hep Five Ferris wheel and savour sweeping views of Osaka’s twinkling skyline.

We found that in the cabin itself you can pair your phone to the provided Bluetooth speakers and put some music as you admire the scenery from above. This experience is included in the Amazing Osaka Pass.

The Wheel itself is situated in a Mall, so it can fit perfectly if your plans are to spend some time shopping there as well.

8. Touch the Sky on top of Umeda Sky Building

Ascend to the rooftop observatory of the Umeda Sky Building and witness Osaka’s skyline in all its glory. With its futuristic design and breathtaking views, this architectural masterpiece offers a perspective of the city like no other.

The experience is included in the Amazing Osaka Pass and offers excellent views of Osaka. For best viewing results we suggest you go in the morning or at dusk.

On the viewing deck above there is also a cute lock panel similar to how you would find in Paris’ idyllic Mont Montmartre. Definitely makes for an Instagram-able shot.

9. Journey Through the Ages at Osaka Museum of History

From ancient artifacts to interactive exhibits, this immersive experience offers a glimpse into the city’s rich cultural tapestry. The museum offers almost a reconstruction of many Japanese traditions but also provides an insight into the city’s past. This is also included in the Osaka Amazing Pass.

The museum is housed in a modern high-rise and as you progress through each floor you are rewarded with an excellent view of the Osaka Castle. Even if history might not be your passion, the views alone make it worth while.

10. Icon of Strength – Osaka Castle

With its imposing fortress walls and elegant gardens, this iconic landmark stands as a testament to Osaka’s resilience and strength. Osaka Castle, or Osaka-jō, is one of Japan’s most famous landmarks, steeped in history and surrounded by stunning grounds.

Built by the legendary warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the late 16th century, the castle has witnessed the rise and fall of dynasties, devastating conflicts, and significant restorations.

Today, it stands as a proud testament to Osaka’s rich past and is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the city.

The museum features interactive exhibits, historical artifacts, and detailed models that bring the castle’s past to life. The climb to the top of the castle is a journey through time, with each floor dedicated to a different aspect of Osaka’s history.

At the top, you’ll find an observation deck offering panoramic views of the city. It’s a popular spot for photography, providing a stunning backdrop for memorable snapshots.

Whilst the castle is in many respects a modern museum on the inside the amazing architecture on the outside combined with the spectacular views at the top make it one of the best Osaka tourist attractions.

As part of the Osaka Amazing Pass we also found that you get included a boat trip around the castle moat.

Whilst we couldn’t go on the day as places did fill up quickly and there were no more slots for the rest of the day, we do encourage to actually start your visit at the castle grounds with the boat trip to avoid disappointment as tickets are limited.

11. Rediscovering Osaka’s Past at The Osaka Museum of Housing and Living

Step back in time at The Osaka Museum of Housing and Living and experience life in Osaka through the ages. From meticulously recreated streetscapes to immersive exhibits, this living museum offers a glimpse into the everyday lives of Osaka’s residents.

Although we initially were fairly skeptical about going here, we then later found that the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living is actually one of the most underrated top sites in Osaka.

Here we learned a lot about Japanese every day life and how people lived. Here you will see the different houses and life styles people had according to their rank and wealth. Entrance in included as part of the Osaka Amazing Pass.

Initially you should start with the video presentation in the Bath House. The video is narrated by a famous local Rakugo comedian. Rakugo is a form of Japanese verbal entertainment, traditionally performed in yose theatres.

Whilst the jokes we found them to be a bit less to our liking, the overall presentation was insightful and full of useful information. You will also find that the museum itself is actually enclosed in a building with direct access to the metro station, which made it extremely convenient.

Where to eat in Osaka?

Osaka, known as the “Kitchen of Japan,” is a culinary heaven where food isn’t just sustenance—it’s an art form, a social event, and an expression of local culture.

From bustling street markets to upscale dining, Osaka offers a diverse range of dining experiences that cater to every palate. Here’s a guide to some of the best places to eat in Osaka, whether you’re looking for traditional Japanese cuisine or something a bit more adventurous.

Dotonbori is a prime spot to indulge in street food, where you can find vendors selling takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), and kushikatsu (skewered and fried meats and vegetables).

These dishes are often enjoyed on the go, allowing you to sample a range of flavours as you explore the vibrant streets.

For a more relaxed street food experience, visit Shinsekai, a retro district with a mix of izakayas (Japanese pubs) and casual eateries. Here, you can enjoy classic Osaka dishes in a lively atmosphere, with the iconic Tsūtenkaku Tower as your backdrop.

Osaka is home to several Michelin-starred restaurants, offering a more refined dining experience. These establishments focus on high-quality ingredients, exquisite presentation, and impeccable service.

If you’re interested in kaiseki (traditional multi-course meals), you can find restaurants that specialize in this elegant form of dining, often set in beautiful, tranquil surroundings.

Below we list some of our top places following our trip:

1. Try Okonomiyaki at Okonomiyaki Mizuno

Whilst many establishments offer Okonomiyaki (or in English it literally translates to How you like it) none of them even come close to Okonomiyaki Mizuno. This family, Michelin Guide published restaurant offers some of the best pancakes in town.

Whilst many other places offer their Okonomiyaki with a lot of pancake batter, here they load it up with all your favorite toppings. We found that the queue is at 30 minutes worth of wait as there is limited seating in the restaurant but overall we suggest you try Osaka’s favorite hangover meal.

As the name implies, when cooking your Okonomiyaki make sure you tell the cook how you want yours done as they are meant to be custom even if they are listed on a menu.

2. Eat Kushikatsu at Kushikatsu Daruma – Shinsaibashi

Kushikatsu Daruma is one of the better Kushikatsu restaurants in Shinsekai. Whilst the wait time wasn’t long we do advise that you are prepared for a wait as with most of the Japanese smaller restaurants, spaces can be scarce.

We tried their 15 piece Kushikatsus where they offer you 15 skewers of various fried things. These ranged from camembert cheese to chicken and other such meats.

They will also serve you at the beginning (part of the menu) a beef stew made of innards which will somewhat keep you full. This is in essence the main part of the meal that will satiate you.

As they serve you the skewers they will explain which skewer is what as they all seem to look-alike. Not to be forgotten, a cold beer is a must when visiting this place.

3. Try the Famous Jiggly (Cheese) Cake at Rikuro’s (Shin Osaka Station)

We’ve all seen the famous jiggly cake reels. If you venture to Japan, no trip can ever be complete without trying one.

One place where to try the jiggly cake is at Rikuro’s bakery. There are plenty of stores but the one we went to was nearest to our hotel within the Shin Osaka Shinkansen station.

The cake is actually a combination between a cheesecake and a soft creamy mouse which jiggles like a panna cotta. The taste is what you would expect which is a slightly sweet cheesecake with a very refined texture and a few raisins for extra sweetness.

Final Thoughts

As we bid farewell to the vibrant streets of Osaka, we carry with us memories that will last a lifetime. From its historic landmarks to its bustling markets, Osaka has left an indelible mark on our hearts.

This amazing city, although often overlooked by travellers and used as a travel base, is really a jewel in it’s own right. We truly recommend that in your Japan itinerary you allocate a few days to explore this truly unique city.

Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:

  • Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.

  • Transport – consider for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.

  • Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide, Klook or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.

  • Travel money – we have Starling Bank accounts (UK residents only) with 0% fees on FX and a good Mastercard exchange rate. Revolut is another good option.

  • Internet abroad – with Airalo or Nomad you can access a wide range of eSIMs (digital SIM cards) available for different countries and regions.

  • Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.

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