Looking for the best things to do in Osaka? Then you’re in the right place.

Affectionately known as “Japan’s kitchen” and home to dozens of weird and wonderful sights, Osaka is the third largest city in Japan. Long a trade hub, Osaka has gained a reputation as a top-tier tourist destination. From foodie delights to historic castles, here are some of the best things to do in Osaka.

Pro tip: If you’re interested in Japanese knives, Sakai in south Osaka is the place to go. You can make your own at the famous Wada Shouten.

Suggested Activity
Highly Recommended Osaka Food Tour
Book this best-selling tour and see why Osaka is known as Japan's kitchen. Taste famous dishes like okonomiyaki, kushikatsu and more, with a friendly local guide.

Things to do in Osaka: Discount passes for Osaka attractions

Before we get into the details, let’s talk discounts. While some of the best things to do in Osaka are free, others require entry fees. Luckily, lots of Osaka’s most popular attractions (including many featured in this list) are covered by various discount passes. Here’s the lowdown on some of the best-value discount passes available.

PassCostValidityCoveragePurchase link
Osaka e-Pass¥2,000¥3,2001- and 2-day passes availableFree entry to over 20 attractions, metro ticket add-on availableBuy on Headout
Osaka Amazing Pass¥3,3001 dayFree entry to over 40 attractions, plus unlimited transport on certain train, subway, and bus servicesBuy on Klook
Klook Pass Osaka¥5,257¥16,85430 daysFree entry to up to six attractions, JR West Kansai Area Pass add-on availableBuy on Klook

Pro tip: Don’t just limit yourself to Osaka, there’s lots of things to do in nearby Kobe as well.

1. Feast the senses at Dōtonbori

Foodies shouldn’t miss the opportunity to join a Dōtonbori food tour.

Dotonbori, Osaka
Osaka’s Dōtonbori district at night. | Photo by iStock.com/Nikada

One of the most iconic streets in Japan, Dōtonbori is the heart of Osaka, pumping with its own eccentric neon energy. The street runs alongside the Dōtonbori canal and offers restaurants, bars, and clubs — making it easily Osaka’s most popular entertainment district.

Dōtonbori is best experienced in the evening, when you can feast your eyes on the giant illuminated billboards and massive shop figures. Then you can feast quite literally, at as many of the restaurants and food stands as you can manage.

Recreate the Glico Marathon Man pose (you won’t miss this huge billboard), drink Asahi beer bathed in the light of its glowing counterpart, and stare into the soulless eyes of the terrifying Kuidaore Clown (if you can bring yourself to). Just don’t fall into the canal!

2. Get the best night views at Umeda Sky Building

Buy tickets online
Covered by the Osaka e-Pass, the Osaka Amazing Pass, and the Klook Osaka Pass

Suggested Activity
Lose Yourself at teamlab Botanical Garden Osaka
Pre-book your tickets to teamLab's latest creation and glide on in to explore their interactive illuminations, all inspired by nature.
For the best night views. | Photo by Getty Images

Probably Osaka’s most popular spot for city views, Umeda Sky Building’s Kūchū Teien rooftop observatory can’t be missed. At 170m tall, it offers panoramic views of Osaka. The observatory is open from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., so you can visit both during the day and night. Daytime is the best if you want to try and spot landmarks; meanwhile, the night view is all about twinkling lights.

Oh, and thanks to its unobstructed views to the west, it’s a very popular spot to watch the sunset in Osaka. Of course, that’s also the most popular time to visit, so we recommend buying your tickets ahead of time.

3. Make your own cup ramen

Entry is free, some activities have extra charges

Cup Noodle Factory - things to do in osaka
Your dream ramen awaits you. | Photo by Lily Crossley-Baxter

Arguably Japan’s most famous export and a staple of students and strugglers alike, instant noodles can be traced back to one bankrupted and inventive man in Osaka: Momofuku Ando. Here at the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, his brilliant invention is celebrated via bizarre videos, extensive displays, and even a reconstructed wooden house. Oh, and did we mention you can even create your own personalized Cup Ramen too? For ¥500 you can choose everything — from the soup base to the toppings, and even the cup design. Your options are, if not limitless, certainly plentiful.

Did we tickle your tastebuds? Then check out our full guide to the cup ramen museum.

4. See a whale shark at the Kaiyukan Aquarium

¥2,700 for adults
Buy tickets online
Covered by the Klook Pass Osaka

Kaiyukan Whale Shark - things to do in osaka
Here sharky, sharky. | Photo by Miki Tillett

If it’s cold, raining, or you just really love aquariums, the Osaka Kaiyukan is a great way to spend a long afternoon. Famed for its whale shark, this is one of the largest public aquariums in the world and has a vast array of creatures great and small. (As well as some that don’t belong in an aquarium really, but you know, who doesn’t want to see a sloth eat oranges?)

With giant spider crabs haunting the “Japan Deep” section and a giant salamander slinking around the “Japan Forest”, there is a good dose of Japanese sealife in the mix, as well as the worldwide exhibits.

The aquarium hand-stamp re-entry policy also means you can pop out for a cheap lunch at Tempozan Harbor Village, which has over 100 shops and restaurants (and even a Ferris Wheel, if you’re feeling nostalgic).

5. Try the local specialities: Takoyaki and okonomiyaki

Takoyaki Okonomiyaki - things to do in osaka
Yummy food for our tummies. | Photo by Lily Crossley-Baxter

These are some tongue-twister dishes that are worth getting your tongue wrapped around. Originating from Osaka, takoyaki are small balls of batter stuffed with octopus and served with a special sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and aonori (powdered seaweed). Although they are now popular all over Japan, the ones in Osaka are considered the best. They are served slightly under-cooked compared to elsewhere, meaning you’ll be trying them in their most authentic form.

Takoyaki are the easiest to spot of the Japanese street foods: bandana-clad chefs deftly flick dozens of half-cooked batter balls on specially made griddles in the street. Dōtonbori has a vast amount of takoyaki stands, so there’s plenty of choice.

Meanwhile, okonomiyaki translates to “what you like” and “grilled” — and that’s exactly what you’ll get. It is known as Japan’s pizza, due to its flexibility when it comes to ingredients — and is very popular with families.

It consists of a batter mixed with chopped cabbage and pretty much anything you want in the way of meat, fish, cheese, and vegetables. Then, you cook it all on a griddle and serve it with the same sauce and mayo toppings as takoyaki.

The best way to enjoy it is to find a place with griddles built into your table so you can give it a go yourself. (Basically, mix it all up in the bowl and tip it onto the griddle!) Again, Dōtonbori is the best place to try it. If you’re heading down to Hiroshima, be sure to try their take on okonomiyaki too.

Pro tip: Allow a foodie guide to show you the tastiest dishes (and drinks) in Osaka.

6. Ride the Hep Five Ferris Wheel

Buy tickets online
Covered by the Osaka e-Pass, the Osaka Amazing Pass, and the Klook Osaka Pass

Bright red Hep Five Osaka Ferris wheel on a sunny day
Round and round it goes. | Photo by Getty Images

If you’re in the area, you’ll definitely notice this bright red Ferris Wheel sitting on top of the Hep Department Store. Head on up and take a ride to see views over Osaka. And no need to worry about the weather — all the cabins are air-conditioned, so even in the summer heat you’ll have an enjoyable 15-minute ride.

As a bonus, your ticket can also get you discounts inside the department store.

7. Cross that bridge when you come to it — at Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine

Entry is free

The famous bridge. | Photo by Maria Danuco

A remarkable shrine, Sumiyoshi Taisha was founded in the third century, before the introduction of Buddhism to Japan. It is the most famous example of Sumiyoshi-zukuri design, one of three styles considered entirely free from Asian-mainland influence and therefore “purely Japanese”. Enshrining the Shintō gods who protect travelers and fishermen at sea, Sumiyoshi shrines are often found in ports and might be a good place to get a good-luck charm for your next journey.

The most famous element of this shrine is the beautiful Sorihashi Bridge, which arches over the pond in the gardens. As one of the most visited shrines in the country, Sumiyoshi Taisha is definitely worth a trip, and is entirely free.

8. Enjoy the view from Osaka Castle

¥600 (entry to the museum)
Buy tickets online
Covered by the Osaka Amazing Pass and the Klook Pass Osaka

osaka castle autumn leaves
Perfect in all seasons. | Photo by iStock.com/amnachphoto

Originally completed in 1597, but repeatedly damaged by numerous battles, lighting strikes, bombs, and even Godzilla himself, Osaka Castle is a stunning reproduction of its former self, with some original features remaining. Five floors tall on the outside and eight floors tall within, the TARDIS-like central castle is located on 15 acres of grounds, with 13 surrounding structures and all the usual castle-associated things like walls and moats.

Osaka Castle is particularly beautiful during the spring cherry blossom season, as it is filled with taiko drummers, food vendors, and lots of picnicking locals.

The park is free to enter and you can wander to your heart’s content. There is a museum within the castle (¥600 entry), which offers great views of Osaka and a very detailed account of the history. Although not everything is in English, there is a free audio guide.

9. Explore Tennōji: Towers and temples

Tennoji Park
Tennōji Park. | Photo by Gregory Lane

A fantastic example of Japan’s contrasting combination of old and new, Tennōji is home to one of Japan’s oldest temples as well as one of its tallest skyscrapers, not to mention a lovely park. Here are some of the best things to do in Tennōji.

Shitennōji Temple

Covered by the Osaka e-Pass and the Osaka Amazing Pass

Shitennōji Temple was founded in 593 and although it has been re-built many times, it has always kept to its original design. The outer temple grounds are free to enter, but small fees are required to enter the inner precinct, treasure house, and gardens. With food stalls in the summer and sunbathing terrapins, this is a brilliant place to get back to traditional Japan.

Inner Precinct: ¥300
Gokuraku-Jodo Garden: ¥300
Treasure House: ¥500

Abeno Harukas 300

Covered by the Klook Pass Osaka

At 300 meters tall, the Abeno Harukas skyscraper offers an art gallery and relaxation garden, as well as an amazing 360-degree view of Osaka from the 60th-floor observatory. Directly across from Tennoji Station, it’s impossible to miss, and is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Observation deck ticket: Adults ¥1,500 | School students ¥1,500 | Children ¥700
Abeno Harukas Art Museum: Ticket price dependent on exhibition

10. Admire Hogwarts from Amity Village at Universal Studios Japan

From ¥8,600
Buy tickets online

hogwarts castle at universal studios japan
Still waiting for your letter? | Photo by Felix Wilson

Whether you’re into spells, Spiderman, or Mario, USJ has something for pretty much everyone. With approximately 12 million visitors a year, the theme park has classic attractions including Jurassic Park, and a terrifying Jaws boat ride, as well as more modern counterparts like Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, and Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge. However, one of the greatest attractions is Harry Potter World, complete with Diagon Alley, the Hogwarts Express, and a full Hogwarts castle (note there is a related Harry Potter attraction in Tokyo, too).

You can buy chocolate frogs from Honeydukes and wash them down with butterbeer before trying out a wand at Ollivanders, and basically make all your wizarding dreams come true. Lines can be ridiculous though, so it’s best to avoid weekends and holidays if possible.

Pro tip: If the entrance fee is a worry, check out our saving money at USJ tips on how to get the most out of your ticket.

11. Step back in time at the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living

Buy tickets online
Covered by the Osaka e-Pass and the Osaka Amazing Pass

The Osaka Museum of Housing and Living is a great option for history buffs and rainy days. This local history museum houses life-size replica buildings showing what Osaka was like at various points in the past. There’s plenty to see and do at the museum, including two short films (with English subtitles), kimono rental, and some interesting special exhibitions.

Because of the immersive element, this place is a good option for families. Plus, it’s a lot less crowded than some of Osaka’s other attractions.

12. Zip through the streets in a go-kart

From ¥14,000
Book Osaka go-kart tickets online

Mario Kart riders in Tokyo
Photo by Victor Gonzalez

Wildly popular in Tokyo, you can also tour Osaka in a go-kart. Surrounded by the neon lights of the city, you can ride for an hour and visit famous spots like Namba, Dōtonbori, and Tsutenkaku Tower.

The price includes your go-kart, costume, guide, and petrol, so you only need to bring yourself — and your valid driving license. You’ll need one of the following: a full Japanese driving license, an International Driving License held with your passport, a SOFA driving license for military personnel, or a valid driving license (and official translation) from countries with permission to drive in Japan.

As long as you remember you’re on the real roads and not a racetrack, you can have a memorable day seeing the city from a new perspective.

13. Visit Yasaka Namba Shrine

Hello, new friend. | Photo by Maria Danuco

If you’ve seen the Instagram posts, you’ll know how popular this spot has become. The shrine grounds themselves are quite small, but the star attraction is the giant lion-headed building. This unique piece of architecture really draws in the crowds, so we recommend arriving early.

14. Try to avoid cabin fever in a capsule hotel

Staff pick: Hotel Cargo Shinsaibashi

Check out Hotel Cargo for a slightly more spacious capsule hotel experience. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Ever wanted to experience the true salaryman lifestyle? Are you a fan of small places and feeling like you could be at sea? Then the capsule hotel is for you! Designed to provide budget short-term accommodation to the masses, these hotels offer a very small space (definitely nothing like a futuristic coffin, don’t start thinking about that at 2 a.m.) for you to sleep overnight and are often bookable for a few hours at a time.

Pro tip: Don’t miss our full-sized article on the best capsule hotels in Osaka.

15. Fill your belly at Kuromon Ichiba Market

Make the most of Kuromon Ichiba Market and join this food tour. 10 to 13 dishes are included in the price, and you also get a pair of souvenir chopsticks.

One of everything, please. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Yes, yes, by now you know that Osaka is a food destination. But Kuroman Ichiba Market deserves its own mention. This place was originally a fish market, but these days there are restaurants and food stalls selling all kinds of delicious things to eat. It spreads out over a few streets, so take your time and explore. Keep your eye out for places that selling freshly grilled seafood, sushi, and takoyaki — all specialities of the area.

Frequently asked questions

Is Osaka worth visiting?

Yes, Osaka is definitely worth visiting. Not only is it a great food destination, but it also has a great mix of modern and historic attractions. Plus, it has good transport connections thanks to Kansai International Airport and Shin-Osaka Station, which is a stop on both the Tōkaidō Shinkansen (connecting Osaka and Tokyo) and the Sanyō Shinkansen (connecting Osaka and Fukuoka).

How many days do you need for Osaka?

We recommend giving yourself at least a two or three days in Osaka, depending on your interests and the overall length of your Japan trip. Keep in mind that some popular Osaka attractions like Universal Studios will take up an entire day. Alternatively, Osaka can make a great base for a longer trip if you combine it with day trips to places like Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima.

Which is better — Osaka or Kyoto?

Osaka and Kyoto are two very different cities, so which is better depends on your personal preferences. Osaka is a much more metropolitan city with lots of great food options and a lively nightlife scene. Meanwhile, Kyoto is quieter — if you look past the overcrowding at its most popular attractions anyway — and offers lots of historic sites and traditional charm.

Which is better — Osaka or Tokyo?

Ah, now this is the real question. Both of these cities are big, bustling, and crowded. They both have amazing food scenes, nightlife and entertainment options, and plenty of shopping opportunities. If you have to choose just one to visit, have a think about the things that are exclusive to each city. Osaka has Universal Studios Japan, Dōtonbori, and Osaka Castle, while Tokyo is home to Tokyo Disneyland, the Ghibli Museum, and Shibuya Crossing.

Another thing to consider is day-trip opportunities — Osaka is closer to Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima, while Tokyo is closer to Yokohama, Hakone, and Nikkō.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in March 2016. Last updated in May 2024, by Maria Danuco.

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