Are you planning a trip to Japan? Then let’s talk about things to do in Osaka, because while most trips begin in Tokyo, no itinerary would be complete without a visit to “Japan’s Kitchen”. Osaka is a city filled with street markets, food experiences and restaurants galore, all of which make it a great destination for a first-time visitor – especially if you happen to be a foodie!
Located in the Kansai region, Osaka is Japan’s third-largest city but its size doesn’t detract from its friendliness. In comparison to Tokyo or Kyoto, Osaka has a very laidback vibe and it’s the kind of place where it’s easy to linger while feasting on delicious Japanese food.
In this article, we’re going to share some of the best things to do in Osaka, combining a mix of food adventures, popular attractions, and one of a kind experiences you’ll only get in Japan. This isn’t so much an Osaka travel itinerary, as much as a list meant to offer some travel inspiration, so feel free to pick and choose to create your perfect trip to Osaka!
50 things to do in Osaka
1) Visit Osaka Castle. This is the city’s main tourist attraction and it is a beautiful sight! The castle sits right in the middle of Osaka Castle Park, surrounded by imposing stone walls and a wide moat. You can even climb the steps up to the 8th floor of the castle for 360-degree views of the area.
2) Ride a boat around the moat. One of the many things to do in Osaka Castle Park is to ride the Golden Wasen. This is a covered boat that takes you on a leisurely ride along the castle moat and allows you to experience the park from a different perspective. You can catch the boat just off of the Gokuraku Bridge.
3) Attend a sumo tournament. If you want to see sumo in Japan, you will have to time your visit accordingly because it only happens during a short window and tickets sell out fast! There’s a guide on how to watch sumo in Japan here and you can check out tournament dates here.
4) Visit Shitennoji Temple. Founded in the year 593, this is the oldest officially administered temple in Japan, although the buildings you see today have been rebuilt over the course of the centuries. The temple is named after the shitenno: the four heavenly kings of the Buddhist tradition said to guard the world against evil.
5) Tour de Gokuraku-jodo Garden. Within the Shitennoji Temple complex, you can also visit a Japanese-style garden complete with ponds, bridges, and walking paths. It feels like a secret oasis.
6) Go on a walk through Tennoji Park. This urban park has a lot to offer; it is home to botanical gardens, a zoo, an ancient burial mound, and an art museum. There are also some restaurants, cafes and ice cream stands on the southeast end of the park if you get hungry along the way.
7) Make your dreams come true at the Horikoshi Shrine. This shrine is a place of pilgrimage for people who have a wish that they want to come true. The place is also home to trees that are over 550 years old. There are a series of torii gates next to the shrine which makes it feel like a miniature version of the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.
8) Browse the shops in Den Den Town. Often compared to Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics district, Osaka’s Den Den Town is the place to shop for cheap electronics, manga comics, cosplay costumes, and anime related collectables.
9) Play arcade games at Taito Station. This is the leading name when it comes to arcade gaming in Japan. The Den Den Town location offers 5 floors of entertainment – you could easily spend a few hours gaming here.
10) Ride the wheel at HEP FIVE. Osaka has quite a few Ferris wheels to choose from. This one located on the roof of the HEP FIVE shopping mall and it’s painted bright red. It reaches a maximum height of 106 metres and you can enjoy views of Osaka as far as the harbour.
11) Visit the lion shrine. Namba Yasaka is one of the most unusual shrines you will encounter in Japan. Within the complex, there’s a stage built to resemble a roaring lion. It’s believed that the lion’s mouth can swallow evil spirits and bring people good luck both in school and business. That means it sees a lot of visitors during exam times and at the start and end of the financial year.
12) Strike a pose inside a purikura. These Japanese photobooths are a lot of fun. They will give you the widest eyes and the clearest skin you’ve ever had in your life, in fact, you’ll hardly look like yourself! Grab a couple of friends and snap a few souvenir photos, and then get carried away decorating them with stickers.
13) Try not to go deaf inside a Pachinko. Pachinko is an arcade game somewhere between a pinball machine and a slot machine. One thing is for sure, Pachinko parlours are deafeningly loud and you can often hear them before you even see them! It’s one of those things you should experience at least once in Japan, even if you just walk through one briefly.
14) Watch a Japanese baseball game. Baseball in Japan is a one-of-a-kind experience. We went to see the Hanshin Tigers and were not disappointed by all the cheering, chanting, dancing, and unique songs the fans had for each player. It’s worth adding to your list of things to do in Osaka even if you’re not the biggest sports fan.
15) Explore Shinsekai at night. Shinsekai experienced a few decades of neglect which only helped to fuel its seedy reputation, however, this neighbourhood has a cool old-school feel. When you walk down the main strip towards Tsutenkaku Tower with all the bright neon lights, it almost feels a bit like time travel – like you’re seeing what people in the past thought the Osaka of the future should look like.
16) Eat sumo-sized meals in Shinsekai. Sumo wrestlers need to adhere to a pretty strict diet to keep up their weight, and there are restaurants out there that specialize in sumo meals. Chankonabe is the stew consumed by wrestlers, but in Shinsekai you can also find restaurants serving up all sorts of sumo-sized dishes. Just maybe bring some friends to help you out!
17) Play retro arcade games from the 80s and 90s. There are plenty of arcades in Osaka, but retro arcades are a rare gem. There’s one on the left diagonal lane moving away from Tsutenkaku Tower. Games include blasts from the past like Pac-Man, Street Fighter, Mario-Kart and more!
18) Go up Tsutenkaku Tower. Literally meaning “Tower Reaching Heaven”, at the time of its construction in 1912, this was the tallest tower in Asia. Today it has a height of 103 metres, with the main observation deck sitting at 91 metres. It’s open to the public and offers a bird’s eye view of Shinsekai.
19) Ride the Dotonbori Ferris Wheel. After an almost decade-long hiatus, the famous Dotonbori Ferris Wheel recently reopened to the public. It’s built onto the facade of the Don Quixote store (a discount store that can be found all over Japan) and also features Ebisu (the god of business prosperity) on its facade. It takes 15 minutes to do the full loop! Keep in mind it’s free to ride if you buy an item inside the Don Quixote store!
20) Cruise down the Dotonbori Canal. Another fun thing to do in Osaka is to take a river cruise on the Dotonbori Canal, especially if you can do so at night once the lights come on. The boat departs from the Tazaemonbashi Bridge Boat Dock.
21) Pose with the Glico Man. This is a very popular photo stop in Dotonbori. The Glico Man sign first went up in 1935 and it features an athlete in a victory pose. It’s actually an advert for the Ezaki Glico brand which manufactures confectionery products, but it’s proven to be very popular with locals – especially if there’s a sports-related victory.
22) Sample Osaka street food. Osaka isn’t called “Japan’s Kitchen” for nothing! This city is renowned for its cuisine and street food is a good place to start. One snack that you can’t miss is takoyaki, which are ball-shaped pancakes filled with octopus, pickled ginger, tempura and green onion. You can watch them be cooked right in front of you in moulded pans.
23) Check out the giant food signs in Dotonbori. Even if you don’t know Japanese, in Dotonbori you can easily figure out what each shop specializes in based on the massive food signs on their storefronts. Picture a giant crab with moving legs, a massive octopus glaring down, and a pufferfish daring you to walk through its doors. It’s advertising at its finest!
24) Learn about takoyaki at the Konamon Museum. This museum is dedicated to Osaka’s most popular dish: takoyaki! Here you can learn about the famous octopus-filled pancake, and even make wax samples of takoyaki which you can then take back home as souvenirs. Just look for the giant red octopus along the main drag and you’ll know you’ve found the place.
25) Make your own okonomiyaki. Some call it a Japanese pancake, others call it a Japanese pizza. This dish consists of a flour-based batter, shredded cabbage, green onions, vegetables and meat (usually a mix of pork belly, octopus, squid and shrimp). In some restaurants, it’s cooked in front of you, and in others, you can play chef at your own table. Either way, it’s a dish you should not miss in Osaka!
26) Order a bowl of ramen from a vending machine. Japan is all about convenience, and this includes pre-ordering your ramen before you enter the shop – a picture-menu makes it relatively straightforward. Once you’re inside, hand in your ticket, grab a seat at the bar, and slurps up!
27) Eat conveyer belt sushi and win some prizes. Conveyer-belt sushi, or kaiten sushi, is another one of those things that you need to experience in Japan. We went to Kura Sushi Namba Motomachi, where you pay 100¥ per plate. The fun thing about this restaurant is that you can also win prizes as you eat sushi. For every 5 plates you slide into the machine, you can win a capsule toy. We tried 5 times without success, but it sure is an incentive to keep eating!
28) Eat the fluffiest pancakes. There’s a food trend in Japan at the moment, and that’s fluffy souffle pancakes. Gram, Brothers Cafe, and A Happy Pancake are some of the names that continually top the list for the best fluffy pancakes, so why not sample a few?
29) Go up to the garden in the Abeno Harukas Building. This is currently the tallest building in Japan and it was one of my favourite attractions in Osaka. Abeno Harukas offers some incredible views over the city. You have the rooftop garden on the 16th floor, which offers free admission, or alternatively, you can pay to ride up to Harukas 300 on the 60th floor
30) Drive around Osaka dressed up as a Mario character. This is a real-life superhero go-karting experience complete with outrageous costumes that are sure to turn heads. You can book this via MariCAR, just remember it’s important that you get an international driving permit in your home country before arriving in Japan because they will not accept your driver’s license.
31) Visit the Pokemon Center. If you’re a Pokemon fan, then you’ll want to swing by Pokemon Center Osaka, which is located on the 13th floor of the Daimaru Umeda Department Store, right next to Osaka Station. Here you can shop for all sorts of original Pokemon products.
32) Explore Koreatown. Osaka is home to the largest Koreatown in all of Japan and you can find plenty of Korean restaurants to satiate your kimchi cravings. The area around Tsuruhashi Station is especially popular for cook-it-yourself Korean barbecue. There’s also a covered market where you can shop for cute K-POP socks and hanbok (traditional Korean dresses)!
33) Sample all the matcha desserts. Japan loves all things matcha-flavoured, and what better place to try these than in the foodie capital. Matcha ice cream, matcha lattes, matcha cheesecake, matcha milk, matcha cookies, matcha chocolate – you can really try it all!
34) Get a taste of the US of A in America-mura. Also known as Ame-mura and American Village, this area has been regarded as the centre of youth culture, fashion and entertainment for at least 40 years now. The area is packed with cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs, and of course, a varied mix of fashion. Whether you’re into the lolita, punk or hipster style, chances are you kind find it here.
35) Go on an art walk in Nakanoshima. Nakanoshima is a 3-kilometre long sandbar that sits between the Dojimagawa and Tosaborigawa rivers. It’s home to several art galleries, museums and exhibition spaces including the Osaka Science Museum, the National Museum of Art Osaka, GRAF, and the Museum of Oriental Ceramics Osaka.
36) Feel like a kid at Universal Studios. Yes, there rides and roller coasters, but the main draw at Universal Studios in Osaka is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. With the use of your magical wand, you can walk through Hogsmeade casting spells.
37) Dress up at the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living. This museum recreates buildings and streets that show what Osaka would have been like in the late Edo Period. Setting foot in this museum is like stepping back in time. They also allow guests to dress up in kimonos, just keep in mind that there can be long wait times if you visit on a weekend.
38) Learn about the art of bunraku. Bunraku is a type of traditional Japanese puppet theatre that become a popular form of entertainment for ‘commoners’ during the Edo Period. Today it is recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage and the National Bunraku Theatre is one of the few places where you can still see the artform. You can check their schedule for upcoming performances.
39) Watch a kabuki performance. Kabuki is a classical Japanese dance-drama featuring elaborate costumes, bold make-up, and exaggerated movements. It’s an art form that dates back to the Edo period, and in Osaka, you can catch a performance at the Shochikuza Theater.
40) Ride the Tempozan Ferris Wheel. We’ve already mentioned a few Ferris wheels, but if you’re looking to get some real height, then you need to visit the Tempozan Ferris Wheel! This wheel has a 110-metre diameter and reaches a height of 112.5 metres. It takes 15 minutes to complete a full revolution.
41) Go up the Umeda Sky Building. This is one of the most futuristic constructions in Osaka. Since we had already checked out the city views during the daytime, we decided to go up the Umeda Sky Building at night and this place did not disappoint.
42) Belt some tunes at karaoke. Another quintessential experience in Japan is to sing karaoke. Since Dotonbori is known as the nightlife district of Osaka, you have a lot of variety when it comes to karaoke – budget karaoke vs. VIP karaoke, small singing rooms vs. party-sized room, with drinks or without drinks. It’s best to browse around and check prices before you settle on a place.
43) Relax at Spa World. This place takes the onsen experience to the next level. Spa World Osaka is an onsen theme park where you can enjoy hot springs, saunas, swimming pools, massages and even restaurants. Their onsen is divided into a European Zone and an Asian Zone with numerous pools that transport you to different parts of the world.
44) Take a stroll through Kuromon Market. When it comes to street food in Osaka, most people flock to Dotonbori, but the Kuromon Market is a good alternative. Come hungry because there’s a lot to eat here.
45) Shop for your kitchen. The Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping Arcade is the place to transform your kitchen into a place worthy of a chef. The arcade is lined with stores selling cookware, accessories and utensils, which is why this place is nicknamed “the kitchen of the world”.
46) Have a convenience store meal. Lawson, 7Eleven, Family Mart – all of these are great options for a quick, cheap and easy do-it-yourself convenience store meal. Keep an eye out for things like onigiri, oden, and instant ramen.
47) Walk the longest shopping street in Japan. Stretching 2.6 kilometres in length, Tenjinbashi-suji is the longest shopping street in Japan. It’s a bit like a covered arcade, so perfect for a rainy day activity.
48) Try a traditional Japanese breakfast. There’s nothing like a bowl of miso, grilled fish and white rice to start off a busy day of sightseeing in Osaka!
49) Visit a museum dedicated to ramen. The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum is located a little ways outside downtown Osaka, but if you’re a ramen enthusiast, it’s worth the trip! They have workshops where you can learn to make ramen by hand, create your own noodle cup flavours, and tour the various exhibits.
50) Go on a day trip! There are lots of easy day trips you can take from Osaka, the most popular being Kyoto for a city steeped in history, Kobe for a taste of their famed beef, and Nara in search of deer.
Where to stay in Osaka
Travel tips for visiting Osaka
- Fly into Osaka. If you’re visiting a few different destinations in Japan, consider flying into Osaka as opposed to Tokyo as international flights tend to be cheaper. You can use Skyscanner to compare airfare here.
- Get an Icoca Card. If you’re going to spend a few days in Osaka and you’re planning to make use of public transport (and you should because the metro is the easiest way to explore Osaka!), it’s worth getting an Icoca Card as opposed to paying for single-ride tickets. You can then load money on to your card as needed, plus you can also use this card to pay at certain stores and vending machines.
- Use free WiFi at konbinis. If you’re travelling without a data plan and you ever get lost and need to access GoogleMaps for directions, you can do so at convenience stores because there’s almost always free WiFi. Keep an eye out for konbinis like 7Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson.
- Download GoogleTranslate on your phone. The app has a function where you can use the camera to translate text. This comes in handy with restaurant menus and mystery food items in grocery stores.
- Pick up a guidebook. I always like having a guidebook to better acquaint myself with the destination. I used the Rough Guide to Japan to help plan my trip to Osaka.
- Carry cash on you. While Japan is a very modern society and you can use credit cards at most stores, there are instances where cash is king, especially if you’re having street food or dining at small restaurants.
- Think about getting the JR Pass. Depending on the pace of your trip, it might be a good idea to get a Japan Rail Pass to get around the country. The pass must be purchased in your home country, and it’s good value if you’re planning to do a lot of train travel in a short period of time.
- Consider taking a guided tour of Osaka. Explore the most entertaining spots in the most efficient way, accompanied by a local guide. You can visit spots recommended by locals without getting lost in translation, and you won’t be confused about where to go and what to try. Best of all, you can experience Osaka’s traditional and stunning culture! Find Magical Trip’s Osaka Tour here.
- Don’t forget to get travel insurance. It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re travelling, you should never head out on a trip without travel insurance because accidents can happen and you don’t want to end up with a surprise medical bill.
- Go at it with a group. If group travel is more your style, you may want to consider a Japan group tour that includes Osaka as one of the stops, like Japan Express or Epic Japan.
Did I miss any other fun things to do in Osaka?
If so, share your ideas in the comments below!