Best known for its top-grade marbled beef, Kobe is a scenic port city and the humble capital of Hyogo Prefecture. Sandwiched between the sea and Mt. Rokko, Kobe shares Osaka Bay and sits off to the west side of Osaka. Especially since Japan opened up to foreign trade in the 19th century, Kobe has long served as a key port alongside Yokohama, Nagasaki, Niigata, and Hakodate.
Today, it's a small city with history and heart that's easy to navigate, with plenty of access to nature, culture and delicious dining opportunities, including (but not limited to) Kobe beef.
How many days do you need to visit Kobe?
Give yourself two to three days to give yourself enough time to cover the basics, plus a few extras. Connected by cable cars, Mt. Rokko and the waterfront are just a stone's throw away from each other, with plenty of things to do in between.
The Best 17 Things To Do in Kobe
So, is Kobe worth visiting? For all the best things to do in Kobe, check out our list of sights and activities around the city.
- Eat Kobe Beef (Duh!)
- Hike Up Mt. Rokko
- Sample Some Sake in Kobe's Nada District
- See the 19th-Century Mansions of Kitano
- Eat Your Way Through Kobe's Chinatown (Nankinmachi)
- Ride the Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway
- Visit the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum
- Explore Kobe's Culinary World Through a Food Tour
- Check Out Some Local Art at the Hyogo Prefectural Art Museum
- Cross the World's Second Longest Suspension Bridge
- Pop by the Kobe City Museum
- Breathe In a Moment of Peace at Ikuta Shrine
- Stroll Through Meriken Park
- Spot the Animals at Oji Zoo
- Walk Around Sorakuen Garden
- Spend an Afternoon at Kobe Fruit & Flower Park
1. Eat Kobe Beef (Duh!)
Your first port of call is to try the ever-famous, spectacularly marbled and incredibly juicy Kobe beef. Kobe beef is a locally produced type of wagyu from the Tajima breed of native Japanese Black cattle raised only in Hyogo. The prefecture's beautiful capital city is where the signature beef gets its name. Kobe beef is considered one of Japan's top three wagyu brands and is highly regarded by connoisseurs and meat enthusiasts for its mouthwatering taste and texture.
Flavorful, fatty and tender, Kobe beef lends itself well to many Japanese dishes. Eat it grilled or simmered in a sukiyaki hot pot. You'll even find it Kobe beef sashimi.
For anyone who wants to go all-in, make the most of your Kobe beef eating experience and book a luxurious Kobe beef dining experience to try three different cuts in an elaborate, high-end teppanyaki show. If you don't eat meat, see our guide to vegan food in Kobe; we've got plenty of alternatives!
2. Hike Up Mt. Rokko
Hiking up Mt. Rokko makes for a great walk if you want to fit some exercise into your Kobe trip. Standing at 931 meters above sea level, those who reach the summit are rewarded with a view of Kobe City and, if weather permits, Osaka Bay. We recommend seeing the spectacular views at sunset when the city twinkles below.
You can ride the bus to a few attractions around the mountain, such as the Rokko Garden Terrace and a botanical garden. You can also reach the top of Mt. Rokko via cable car from central Kobe or the Rokko Arima Ropeway from Arima Onsen.
3. Sample Some Sake in Kobe's Nada District
Kobe's Nada district is one of the largest sake-producing areas in Japan, thanks to easy access to quality rice and water sources and favorable weather conditions. In fact, it's hailed as one of the best quality three sake-producing districts in the country. With many producers open to the public, learn about making sake at one of the many museums along this extensive stretch, take a tour inside some of the breweries, and sample a range of locally-made sake made in Kobe. If you're of drinking age, sake tasting is one of the best activities you can include in your itinerary.
4. See the 19th-Century Mansions of Kitano
Kitano is a neighboring city off of Kobe whose famous district Kitano was home to many ijinkan. These European-style mansions were formerly owned by foreign merchants and diplomats who settled in the area during the latter half of the 19th century after Kobe's port was opened to foreign trade. Many are open to the public as museums, making it a quaint area to wander about. Travelers can also shop at local boutiques and grab a bite at one of the cozy restaurants or cafes.
5. Eat Your Way Through Kobe's Chinatown (Nankinmachi)
Named after the former Chinese capital of Nanjing, Kobe's Chinatown, or Nankinmachi, is a bustling main attraction and one of the key centers of the Kansai region Chinese community. Since opening to foreign trade in 1868, Nankinmachi became a hub for Chinese merchants who wanted to settle near Kobe Port. It continued to grow and is now a top tourist spot.
Foodies who are looking for delicious Chinese and Chinese-influenced cuisines must include a stop at Kobe's Chinatown. Its street food, especially, is worth the trip.
6. Ride Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway
Departing from Shin-Kobe Station, Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway is another way to see Kobe and its port from a birds-eye view and the Rokko Mountains. You'll pass above the Nunobiki Falls and Nunobiki Waterfall, two famous scenic spots. The ropeway ends at Nunobiki Herb Garden, one of Japan's most extensive herbs gardens.
The ropeway ride is about 10 minutes one way. If you want to hike up, you can. That's about one hour if you start at Shin-Kobe Station.
7. Visit the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum
Part of the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution, the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum opened in 2002 to commemorate the lives lost in the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake and to educate visitors about disaster prevention.
The Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake hit the city of Kobe on January 17, 1995, at 5:46am, destroying tens of thousands of homes and causing the death of over 5,000 people. The museum offers the opportunity for a solemn moment and to learn about the city's recovery process through interactive exhibitions and a documentary film.
8. Explore Kobe's Culinary World Through a Food Tour
If you're looking for what to do in Kobe that's unique and informative, why not discover the local culture and sites with the help of an English-speaking guide? With different stops included, join a food tour in Kobe to explore one of the city's local shrines and learn about the history of the aforementioned Kitano district, visiting different mansions and museums. Naturally, the tour includes a meal featuring the delicious Kobe beef. But the benefit of a tour is that a knowledgeable guide can provide information, tips, and tricks about Kobe as you explore the city.
9. Check Out Some Local Art at the Hyogo Prefectural Art Museum
The Hyogo Prefectural Art Museum showcases exhibitions featuring contemporary artists from Japan and abroad. Designed by one of Japan's most famous architects, Ando Tadao, the museum itself is a work of art. After wandering the galleries, be sure to visit the gift shop and cafe.
The Hyogo Prefectural Art Museum is located in the newly developed city district, HAT Kobe, on the east side of the city center by the water.
10. Cross the World's Second Longest Suspension Bridge
Stretching over an impressive 4 kilometers, Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is the second longest suspension bridge in the world and connects Kobe and Awaji Island. It opened in 1998 and continues to be part of the Kobe-Awaji-Naruto Expressway, which connects mainland Japan (Honshu) and the island of Shikoku. You can drive across this beast of a bridge, learn about its construction at the Bridge Exhibition Center (exhibits in Japanese only), or walk the Maiko Marine Promenade on foot. With observatory walkways 50 meters above the water, you can see Osaka Bay and Akashi Strait from a vantage point under the bridge's platform.
11. Pop by the Kobe City Museum
Opened in 1982, the Kobe City Museum is perfect for history buffs who want to learn more about the changes that came to the region from the 19th century onward. Its permanent exhibition showcases artifacts from exchanges with different international countries and interesting cultural imports from the era. It also has one of the world's largest collections of Namba-style artworks, which depict early scenes of Japanese society coming into contact with foreign missionaries and traders in the 1500s.
12. Breathe In a Moment of Peace at Ikuta Shrine
Ikuta Shrine is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Kobe and possibly one of the oldest shrines in Japan. A visit to this 1,800-year-old shrine is to find peace in the otherwise busy downtown district. Ikuta Shrine is famous because it worships Wakahirume, Amaterasu's daughter or younger sister (tellings vary). Wakahirume is known as the goddess of fabric, as it's said that she would make sew garments for the gods.
Ikuta Shrine is also believed to have been the site of a few historical battles, including during the Genpei War in the 12th century.
You can see this beautiful shrine and other Kobe landmarks on the Kobe Beef and Cultural City Experience.
13. Stroll Through Meriken Park
Located on the waterfront by Kobe's port area, Meriken Park encompasses a large greenspace built on reclaimed land. Home to Kobe Port Tower, painted in unmissable red, and the Kobe Maritime Museum, the area has plenty of grassy lawns and courtyards with few fountains and art installations, perfect for a walk by the bay.
14. Spot the Animals at Oji Zoo
If traveling with children, consider spending a few hours or the day at Oji Zoo. It's one of the largest zoos in the Kansai region, with over 850 animals from over 150 species, including snow leopards, giant pandas, snub-nosed monkeys, and the oldest living elephant in Japan. Oji Zoo is also an excellent spot for cherry blossom viewing in spring.
In addition to the animal attractions, there is a recreational play area with a few rides, including a rollercoaster, Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and a train that goes around the zoo.
15. Walk Around Sorakuen Garden
A traditional Japanese landscape garden, Sorakuen lays in the heart of Kobe in the early 20th century. Previously the residence of one of Kobe's former mayors, Kodera Kenichi, this beautiful garden opened to the public in the early 1940s. Most of Sorakuen's buildings were destroyed during World War II, except one that still stands today. Evident in its European style, it showcases the West's influence on Japanese architecture during Japan's Meiji era (1868–1912).
16. Spend an Afternoon at Kobe Fruit & Flower Park
An open area in the north of the city, the Kobe Fruit & Flower Park is a multi-purpose facility perfect for families and couples. You can harvest produce throughout the year or check out the market for seasonal items. There are dedicated areas for barbecuing and picnics, cafes, small eateries and shops.
The Kobe Fruit & Flower Park is best known for its 10,000 colorful tulips that bloom every year. You'll also find some beautiful cherry trees here, making it a must-visit spot if you visit Kobe in the spring. Other activities at Kobe Fruit & Flower Park include a Ferris wheel, mini golf and go-karts.
Bonus: Enjoy a Spa Day at Arima Onsen
Over on the opposite side of Mt. Rokko, Arima Onsen is a famous hot spring destination accessible from Kobe by cable car. With plenty of bath experiences available at different hot spring venues, you can explore the Arima Onsen area as a lovely Kobe day trip. There are plenty of cute cafes and restaurants in the area. Consider staying overnight in a ryokan for a proper getaway.
Despite being in Japan's top 14 biggest cities, Kobe is on the smaller side. It's definitely a city, but not a big metropolis like Tokyo or Osaka. It's ideal for slow travel or if you're trying to squeeze an extra destination in Kansai. From delicious Kobe beef to local art, Kobe will charm any visiting traveler.
Check out our foodie's guide to Kobe for more inspiration.
The best way to visit Kobe is on foot. Check off sightseeing, Kobe beef and sake in one fell swoop by signing up for a Kobe walking tour.