Here is our highly subjective list of the very best things to do in Osaka. First, the top attractions and activities, then the top activities by category, all personally inspected and experienced.
To help you plan your time in Osaka, we’ll give you our own Osaka Top 10 List, and then break everything down by categories.
Top 10 Things To See and Do in Osaka
This is highly subjective list of the very best things to see and do in Osaka. It’s based on hundreds of trips to Osaka over the years and lots of time talking to Osaka locals about their city. It includes both specific places and general activities.
1) Experience Dotombori in the Evening
If you want to see the heart of Osaka, take a stroll along the Dotombori Arcade in the evening and be sure to spend some time standing on Ebisu-bashi Bridge just taking it all in. Visit our Minami District page for more details.
(Minami District, Kita District, Northern Osaka)
Osaka is all about shopping and the entire city is like one giant bustling market. From tiny underground shops around train stations to the finest department stores and boutiques, Osaka is a shopping paradise. Click the above district links for some suggested shopping locations. See also our Osaka Shopping page.
(Minami District, Kita District, Tennoji Area, Central Osaka)
The motto in Osaka is “kuidaore,” which means “eat yourself into bankruptcy.” Any city where the people are willing to eat themselves into poverty is a place where food is taken seriously. Osaka is crammed with great restaurants, many of them surprisingly cheap and most of them very welcoming to foreign guests. Click the above district links for some suggested eating locations. See also our Osaka Restaurants page.
4) Osaka Aquarium
(Osaka Bay Area)
Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan in Japanese) is arguably the best aquarium in the world. It’s one of the few aquariums on earth where you can see whale sharks (not to mention tiger sharks). You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy this place. Visit our Osaka Bay Area page for more details.
5) Shotengai (Shopping Arcades)
(Minami District, Kita District)
Osaka is famous for its seemingly endless shotengai, which are covered shopping arcades. Strolling through a shotengai is the quintessential Osaka experience. While you’ll find shotengai in most Osaka neighborhoods, our two favorite shotengai in the city are Shinsaibashi-suji in Minami and Tenjimbashi-suji in Kita. Click the above district links for details on each.
6) Kids Plaza Osaka
This fantastic learning and play zone (complete with a three-storey kids castle) is one of the greatest children’s attractions we’ve seen anywhere. Your kids will love it! Click the Kita District page for more details.
7) Abeno Harukas in the Evening
Abeno Harukas is the tallest building in Osaka and the views from the top include not just Osaka, but also Kobe, the Inland Sea and parts of Nara and Wakayama prefectures. The view is particularly spectacular after dark. Visit our Tennoji page for details.
8) Expo City and Banpaku Memorial Park
About 30 minutes from central Osaka by trains, the attractions clustered in Expo City and Banpaku Memorial Park are some of the best in the city. There’s great stuff for both adults and children here, including a brilliant ethnological museum, a hands-on aquarium, a sprawling shopping center and some excellent restaurants. There’s enough here to keep a family occupied for a full day. Visit our Northern Osaka page for details.
9) Osaka Castle
(Osaka Castle Area)
The symbol of Osaka and a memory of Japan’s samurai past, this photogenic castle and its surrounding park make a great half-day activity. Visit our Osaka Castle Area page for details.
For something completely different, head down to the Tennoji Area to check out Shin-Sekai. The name means “New World” but Shin-Sekai is a funky retro entertainment district where you can get a glimpse into what Japan was like before it got rich. Visit our Tennoji Area page for details.
Best Things To See and Do in Osaka by Category
Eating is serious business in Osaka and the city is crammed with brilliant, approachable and reasonably-priced restaurants. First, visit our What to Eat in Osaka page for some ideas on some of Osaka’s specialties. Then, visit our Osaka Restaurants page for lists of the best approachable restaurants in the city.
After eating, shopping is the main activity in Osaka. First, check out our Best Osaka Souvenirs page for some ideas about things to buy in Osaka. Then, check out our Osaka Shopping Page for advice about where to shop in Osaka. Finally, our 1-Day Osaka Shopping Itinerary is great if you want to hit the best stores in one day.
Osaka has some great museums, including the Osaka Museum of History (Osaka Castle Area), the National Museum of Ethnology (Northern Osaka) and the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living (Kita District). Click on the district pages for more details.
Osaka can seem like an endless sea of concrete and neon but there are some great parks and nature spots scattered around. Visit our Osaka with Children page to learn more.
Viewpoints Over the City
To really appreciate Osaka, it helps to get up high and get a view of the whole place. Some great spots to check out the city from high up include Abeno Harukas (Tennoji Area), the Umeda Sky Building (Kita District), Tempozan Ferris Wheel (Osaka Bay Area) and Mt Ikoma (Eastern Osaka). Click the relevant district pages for details.
I’ve got two kids, so I know how challenging it is to keep kids entertained while traveling. So, I’ve put together a whole page on Osaka with Children. I’ve also created two special itineraries for travelers with children:
Osaka 1-Day Itinerary with Children
Osaka 2-Day Itinerary with Children
Best Day Trips Out of Osaka
If you’ve got more than three days in Osaka, you might want to take a day trip out of the city. Our Best Day Trips Out of the City page gives the rundown on where to go and how to get there.
Finally, check out our Osaka Itineraries page for a full list of time-based and activity-based itineraries to help you make the most of your time in Osaka.
Where Are These Places Located?See these places on the Inside Osaka Google map:
- Open the Osaka map
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side. (Click the 3-line icon in the top left corner if not). Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want.
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Map pins are color coded - BLUE: Hotels / Ryokan / Guesthouses | VIOLET: Ryokan | PINK: Places to Eat | GREEN: Shops | YELLOW: Things to See and Do
- If you're using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location.
Osaka Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Osaka guide
- Check Osaka accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com - usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too.
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Osaka
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online from Klook for collection on arrival at Osaka's Kansai International Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router.
- View my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare flight prices and timings to find the best Japan flight deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with the Japan Rail Pass - here's why it's worth it
- Find out why it's essential you have travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads.