There are a million reasons to love Osaka. It might not be as famous as Tokyo or as beautiful as Kyoto, but it’s a laidback, friendly and vibrant city with a wealth of attractions and activities to enjoy. To help you plan your trip, we’ve put together a list of the 20 best things to do in Osaka. From trendy shops and neon-lit nightlife to retro bar alleys, historic temples, museums and a picturesque castle, there’s plenty here to keep you entertained. You’ll even find lots of pleasant green spaces where you can escape the hustle and bustle for a while.
Best of all, Osaka is a fantastic destination for foodies thanks to its truly epic culinary scene. In fact, the food is so good that the city is nicknamed Tenka no Daidokoro, meaning ‘the nation’s kitchen’. Osaka is also the proud home of the concept of kuidaore – which roughly translates as ‘bringing ruin upon yourself through extravagance in food’ – so make sure you come hungry!
20 Best Things to Do in Osaka
- Step back in time at Osaka Castle
- Indulge in local delicacies
- Join a food tour
- Visit a food market
- Unleash your inner child at Universal Studios Japan
- Check out the nightlife in Dotonbori
- Admire the fall foliage at Hoshida Park
- Take a stroll to Minoh Falls
- Cheer on the Hanshin Tigers at a baseball game
- Get spiritual at Shitennoji Temple
- Shop ’til you drop in Shinsaibashi
- Admire the view from Abeno Harukas
- Ride the Tempozan Ferris Wheel
- Explore the art of puppetry at the National Bunraku Theater
- Escape evil spirits at Namba Yasaka Shrine
- Hit up the museums
- Discover the latest fashions in Amemura
- Make a wish at Hozenji Temple
- Hike up Mount Kongo
- Attend a festival
Bonus: Take an Osaka cooking class!
1. Step back in time at Osaka Castle
One of the city’s most striking sights, Osaka Castle is a gorgeous building that rises majestically above the skyline. Since its original construction in 1583, the castle has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. It now houses an interesting museum about the building's history within its keep. The surrounding park grounds are also lovely to wander around, especially in the spring cherry blossom season. All of this makes the castle a must-visit on an Osaka day trip.
2. Indulge in local delicacies
Osaka is well-known for its mouth-watering food scene, and in particular its cheap and cheerful street food. Some of the dishes you absolutely have to eat in Osaka include piping hot battered takoyaki (octopus balls) and kitsune udon noodles topped with deep-fried tofu. The city is also the birthplace of okonomiyaki. Translated as ‘grilled as you like it’, this is a kind of savory pancake made with flour, egg and shredded cabbage, plus a wide range of delicious toppings.
3. Join a food tour
If you really want to make the most of the city’s culinary delights during your trip, an Osaka food tour is a fantastic choice. Experienced and knowledgeable guides will take you to the very best authentic eateries, where you can sample a selection of appetizing local dishes and drinks. At the same time, you’ll learn more about Osaka’s fascinating food culture, history and nightlife.
4. Visit a food market
Whether you explore them on your own or as part of a tour, Osaka’s food markets are an unmissable attraction for foodie travelers. Bustling Kuromon Market is packed with stalls selling all kinds of fresh produce and delectable street food. Meanwhile, Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shotengai is well worth a look if you want to pick up some professional quality kitchen utensils to use back home.
Explore Kuromon Market and Kitchen Town during your trip, and sample some of Osaka's most beloved street foods.
5. Unleash your inner child at Universal Studios Japan
A trip to Universal Studios Japan is a must for the young and young at heart. The theme park is home to 10 separate areas, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and the world’s first Super Nintendo World. There are also special attractions that open for a limited time, such as anime tie-ins and hair-raising Halloween horror nights. Enter if you dare!
6. Check out the nightlife in Dotonbori
A vibrant hub of bars, restaurants and street food stalls, Dotonbori is one of Osaka’s premier entertainment districts. Huge animatronic signs and giant models of food line the main street, competing for the attention of passers-by. The neighborhood is best visited at night when all the neon lights are aglow and reflected in the river – just be prepared for crowds!
To get the full experience, join the Backstreets of Osaka Food Tour at Night. Explore hidden spots with a local guide for the full Osaka nighttime experience.
7. Admire the fall foliage at Hoshida Park
Osaka may be a bustling metropolis, but you can still get out in nature during your stay. Hoshida Park is located just an hour from the city center, and offers miles of forested hiking routes to explore. The highlight is the Hoshi-no-Buranko suspension bridge that takes you high above the treetops for panoramic views. The area is at its most beautiful in autumn, when the leaves change to stunning shades of red and orange.
8. Take a stroll to Minoh Falls
Another gorgeous spot for kōyō (viewing fall leaves) is Minoh Park. Easily accessible from the city, it has a three-kilometer walking trail leading to the spectacular 33-meter-high Minoh Waterfall. If you do go in the autumn, be sure to try some momiji tempura – deep-fried maple leaves – from one of the stalls along the route. These unique snacks are the perfect crisp and sugary pick-me-up for your hike!
9. Cheer on the Hanshin Tigers at a baseball game
If your Osaka trip is during baseball season, you should consider catching a Hanshin Tigers game at Koshien Stadium. Tigers supporters are especially passionate, and even casual sports fans will find their energy infectious. Pick up a pack of balloons in the shop on your way in – during the 7th inning everyone releases them at once in a dramatic display after singing the team’s rousing fight song ‘Rokko Oroshi’!
10. Get spiritual at Shitennoji Temple
It may be known for its hedonistic attitude toward life, however Osaka has a spiritual side to explore too. Shitennoji is one of the oldest temples in Japan, founded by Prince Shotoku in 593. Although the current buildings are reconstructions, they’ve been carefully restored to match the original designs. The highlights of the grounds include a five-storied pagoda, treasure house, and beautiful garden. There’s also a flea market here on the 21st and 22nd of every month.
11. Shop ’til you drop in Shinsaibashi
Historically a merchant city, shopping is still one of the main things to do in Osaka. The 600-meter-long Shinsaibashi-suji shotengai (covered shopping arcade) is an excellent choice for a spot of retail therapy. Here you’ll find a mix of traditional retailers, trendy boutiques, restaurants, department stores, and high-end fashion outlets to satisfy all of your shopaholic needs.
It's also a great location for enjoying nightlife; get the local experience on the Ultimate Osaka Night Tour.
12. Admire the view from Abeno Harukas
Soaring 300 meters above the ground, Abeno Harukas is the tallest skyscraper in the whole of Japan. Marveling at the breathtaking 360-degree views of the city and surrounding mountains from the observation deck should be at the top of your list of what to do in Osaka. The building also contains an art museum and the largest department store in the country, so there’s plenty to keep you occupied.
13. Ride the Tempozan Ferris Wheel
Another fun way to get amazing views of Osaka is by taking a spin on the Tempozan Ferris Wheel. With a height of 112 meters, it’s one of the largest in Japan and looks stunning when lit up at night in multicolored LEDs. During the 15-minute ride you can gaze out over Osaka Bay and all the way to the Rokko Mountains in Kobe. Combine it with a trip to Universal Studios or the Osaka Aquarium, both of which are nearby.
14. Explore the art of puppetry at the National Bunraku Theater
Osaka is the birthplace of bunraku, a sophisticated and elegant form of puppetry that dates back to the 17th century. The National Bunraku Theater is dedicated to the art, with productions running throughout the year. Each puppet features intricate costumes and multiple moving parts, and they’re so large that they require multiple puppeteers to operate them. Catching a show is a must if you’re interested in traditional Japanese performing arts.
15. Escape evil spirits at Namba Yasaka Shrine
If you only visit one shrine in Osaka, make it Namba Yasaka. A quick walk from the Namba Parks shopping mall, it’s famous for the huge lion-head-shaped building that dominates the complex. Twelve meters tall and 11 meters wide, it gazes down at visitors with its mouth open wide to reveal rows of curved teeth. It might look intimidating, but the lion is believed to swallow evil spirits and leave you with good luck!
16. Hit up the museums
Museums are a great idea if you’re wondering what to do in Osaka when it rains. The city has plenty to choose from, including the Cup Noodles Museum, Osaka Museum of History, National Museum of Art and Osaka Science Museum. So you’re sure to find at least one that appeals to you!
17. Discover the latest fashions in Amemura
Amemura, or Amerika-mura, is the beating heart of youth culture in Osaka. The name translates to ‘America Village’, and it’s a maze of narrow streets lined with clothing stores aimed at teenagers and people in their early 20s. In the center you’ll find a triangular-shaped concrete park known as Sankaku Kōen, where skaters and hip-hop dancers congregate and showcase their skills and the latest fashion trends.
18. Make a wish at Hozenji Temple
Tiny Hozenji Temple is a peaceful haven tucked away just a short walk from the neon-lit chaos of Dotonbori. It’s best known for its statue of the fierce-looking Buddhist deity Fudo Myo-o, which is completely covered from head to toe in lush green moss. According to legend, a woman’s wish was granted after she splashed water on the statue – so now everyone does it in the hope that their wishes will come true too!
19. Hike up Mount Kongo
If you really want to stretch your legs on your Osaka trip, head for Mount Kongo. At 1,125 meters tall it’s the highest mountain in the prefecture, and has several different hiking trails (plus a cable car) that will take you up to the summit. Once you get there, you’ll find a cafe and a few interesting temples and shrines to explore. If you make the hike in winter, you can also enjoy the ethereal sight of ice-glazed trees known as juhyo.
20. Attend a festival
Osaka has its fair share of festivals, and if the timing of your trip permits it, you should definitely try to attend one. The biggest event on the calendar is the Tenjin Matsuri in July. This features energetic processions with traditional costumes and live music, as well as street food stalls and a spectacular fireworks display along the river.
Bonus activity: Takedao train track hike
If you enjoy hiking but want a more unusual route, check out the walk from Namaze Station to Takedao Station in neighboring Hyogo prefecture. The trail follows an abandoned riverside railway line through pitch-black tunnels and across faded red suspension bridges that nature has reclaimed. You'll also be treated to picturesque views of ravines and babbling waterfalls.
Hopefully, this list has given you a better idea of the best things to do in Osaka Japan. It really only scratches the surface of what this lively and down-to-earth city has to offer, so don’t be afraid to get off the beaten track during your stay. Just be sure to visit with an empty stomach and a full sense of adventure!