Osaka Travel Guide

Osaka should be on the list of every traveler’s to Japan and here is our guide to help you kick-start on it. Situated in the middle of all the top travel places in Japan, it serves as a strategic springboard to exploring Japan. Osaka is the second biggest city after Tokyo in Japan. On one hand, it is rich in history and culture, with its castle, shrines and gardens, while on the other, it is dotted with Japan’s trend of shopping, nightlife and good street food. One will never be bored when visiting Osaka.

Where is it

Osaka lies in the center of Honshu Island of Japan, which is the main island. It lays in between few popular tourist places in Japan; around 1 hour train ride will take you to Himeji, Nara and Kyoto while Kobe is only 30 minutes away and Wakayama 1.5 hours away.

Osaka's location in Japan

Osaka’s location in Japan

Why go

Mention Osaka to someone who have visited there, everything possible would come to mind – there are the usual tourist attractions of Japan like the Osaka Castle, Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine and a few Japanese gardens. Then there is also the usual fun things that come with big cities like huge shopping options, city wonder and buzzing nightlife. Not to forget as well, all the amazing Japanese food you can try here. To sum it up, visit Osaka for the cultural attractions, city and nightlife, shopping and food!

When is the best time to go

As usual for anywhere in Japan, most travelers will recommend visiting Japan in either Spring or Autumn. For Spring, there is, of course, the famous Sakura or Cherry Blossoms sighting opportunities, but that would also mean it’s the peak season with way more tourist crowds. I personally prefer Autumn for the thousand shades of red, but if you ask me, anytime is a good time to visit Osaka. In a city, you can enjoy it just as much with some different flowers and trees no less, but still beautiful with all the city lights and evergreen gardens and parks.

Osaka Castle, Osaka, Japan

Osaka Castle, Osaka. Photo by Esmond Goh

What to see

Osaka Castle Park – The Osaka Castle Park is the highest in the list of must see in Osaka, as it is one of the most important castles in Japan and boast a majestic architecture. The park is concealed with walls and water moat around it, definitely worth a visit even if you are not going in.

Sumiyoshi Taisha – This shrine one of the oldest in Osaka with original Japanese architecture styles of Shinto. Entrance is free and do take your time to wander around the temple grounds.

Umeda Sky building – As many major cities in the world, a tall building or tower that offers a bird eye’s view of the city is always people’s favourite. The Umeda sky building is one that must be visited to catch a glimpse of glittering Osaka.

Umeda Sky Building Night View, Osaka, Japan

Umeda Sky Building Night View, Osaka. Photo by Casey Yee

What to do

Shopping at Shinsekai – If you plan to shop in Osaka, then Shinesekai is the place to go. Feel yourself being transported into the bygone era but still have all the choices of the trendy things to buy.

Open Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses
– this unique museum features a collection of traditional Japanese country houses. One can rent a Kimono and dress up here and then walk around in Japan’s “old village” in style.

Check out our Top 10 Things to do in Osaka for more ideas.

What and where to eat

Our hitchhiking host told us what we must eat in Osaka are Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki. Besides these two super delicious street food, there are also many others to try here in Osaka. It is well known as the street food city of Japan.

Osaka Street food - Takoyaki, Japan

Osaka Street food – Takoyaki, Japan. Photo by Naoki Nakashima

Where to stay

I stayed in Airbnb in Osaka, and it was a really good way to be able to experience the way of living in Japan. But there are also the options of staying in Japan’s many Business Hotel *, which I find one of the best deals around in terms of a place to stay. These hotels are affordable and cater for mostly business travelers that stays only a night or two. If you are traveling solo, a hostel * would be the better option where it is cheap to rent a bed and you can meet other travelers here too.

How to get there

By Air
Osaka has its own international airport, so you may fly in here directly.
By Train
If you are in anywhere else in Japan, and most likely Tokyo or Nara, you can access Osaka easily and quickly with Japan’s Shinkansen and train network.
By Bus
If you are on a budget, you can also look out for the many buses that serve from various destinations to Osaka.

View of the park and city in autumn, Osaka, Japan

View of the park and city in autumn, Osaka. Photo by Esmond Goh

How to get around

Like the other cities of Japan, you can rely on its extensive train and subway network. Plan your trip here by areas, and once you arrive at each area, walking around by foot is the best way to explore and enjoy Osaka, in my opinion.

Where to go nearby

Himeji – definitely one of best one day trip from Osaka, one comes here to see the famous white egret castle – Himeji Castle. This UNESCO World Heritage site is definitely worth a visit.

Kyoto – also only an hour away, Kyoto, a dreamy yet modern city, is definitely a place worth to visit. But you should plan your visit for a few days at least though as you will find that it has so much to offer.

Nara – only an hour train ride away, this beautiful and quaint town houses the largest Buddha statue and many deer that wander freely.

Travel Tips

Osaka may seem overwhelming at first, with its sheer size and spread out places to visit. Plan your trips by areas and visit them one at a time.

-> Find the best hotel deals in Osaka at Booking.com *

Related articles:
Top 10 Things to Do in Osaka
Kyoto Travel Guide