Top 17 Things to Do in Osaka
Osaka, Japan's third city is a treasure trove of things to do. Unfortunately, there's no time for them all. To help you out, we've compiled a list of the top 17 things to do in Osaka. Deciding things to do in Osaka has never been so easy.
Top 17 Things to Do in Osaka:
We’ve already told you where to stay in Osaka, now you need to know what to do whilst you’re there. Osaka is Japan’s third city, its bronze medal status perhaps slightly betraying the quality of what it has to offer, not to the mention its distinctiveness when set against Tokyo and Kyoto. We’ve got a run-down of the top 12 things to do in Osaka, for your convenience and pleasure.
We’ve got things to do at night, things to do during the day, things to do at Christmas, things to for New Years, things to do during summer, things to do during winter, things to do alone, things to do on a budget, things to do for families and so much more, in short, the best things to do in Osaka, all right here:
1) Things to Do in Osaka – Spring
From late March to the beginning of April, Osaka’s sakura (cherry blossoms) trees bloom into life, coloring the city in fantastic pink and white. Japanese people cherish this short period by having picnics with friends, family and lovers in their shade. In Osaka, you can find some of the most beautiful hanami (flower viewing) spots in Japan.
Away from the cherry blossoms, there’s plenty more going on in Osaka in spring. It is a season packed to the rafters with special events and festivals, all waiting to be checked out.
Full Guide: Osaka Sping – Things to Do in Osaka in Spring
2) Things to Do in Osaka – Summer
If you’re looking for things do in Osaka in summer, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got a full guide to what you should be doing under the summer sun, from festivals and gardens to water parks and beer gardens.
Full Guide: Osaka Summer – Things to Do in Osaka in Summer
3) Things to Do in Osaka – Autumn
Osaka is known throughout Japan for being the second largest city in the country after Tokyo, but having a completely different vibe. People in Osaka are more relaxed, less hurried and seem altogether warmer in character than the Tokyoites. Their “southern” nature makes them very popular among Japanese and foreigners alike and as a tourist you’re sure to find plenty of talkative locals to point you to some awesome hidden gems around the city. So don’t be shy in Osaka or you might miss an amazing adventure.
If you’re visiting Osaka in autumn, you’ve picked a perfect time to enjoy nature, seasonal foods and some great events around this pulsating Japanese city. Don’t worry if you’re not too sure about where to start – we’ve got some great options for you to try:
Full Guide: Osaka Autumn – Things to Do in Osaka in Autumn
4) Things to Do in Osaka – Winter
Not as bitingly cold during the winter months as other Japanese cities, Osaka is a good choice for a winter getaway. And, with so much going on, it’d be a shame to miss out.
Find below a full guide to Osaka in winter, with all the information you’re going to need to make the most of the season in the city. Festivals and illuminations, Christmas markets and ice-skating, Osaka has it all.
Full Guide: Osaka Winter – Things to Do in Osaka in Winter
5) Things to Do in Osaka – Budget
Osaka is a national treasure, proudly flaunting its name as the nation’s kitchen, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and the city of cool. The charm of this urban delight even left Chris Martin dreaming of the Osaka sun.
One thing that sets Osaka apart from the rest of Japan is the uniqueness of its people. Referred to as their own Japanese subset, Osaka-jin aren’t afraid to say what they think. Unlike their rivals back in Tokyo, Osakans will stop and talk to you on the train or openly tell you that your shoes are ugly. This refreshing openness ensures there’s never a dull moment in this vibrant city where excitement can be found on every corner without the need to splash the cash. So, get on your best dancing shoes and prepare to skip your way through our guide to Osaka on a shoestring.
6) Things to Do in Osaka – Namba and Dotonbori
Namba is Osaka’s downtown hub, a throng of lights, people and food and the city’s premier entertainment and dining area. Exit from Namba Station and you’re in the heart of it; wander around, soak up the atmosphere and take it all in. If you’re after free things to do or things to do on a budget in Osaka, you can’t go far wrong here – there are no charges attached to strolling the streets.
Dotonbori is the epicentre of it all, a street that runs adjacent to the Dotonbori canal and one of the most prestigious postcodes in town. Find here all manner of shops and entertainment, as well as some of the best restaurants in town, serving up Japanese delicacies such as takoyaki (octopus dumplings) and okonomiyaki (Japanese-style pancakes), all illuminated by the glow of the giant advertisement billboards that make this street so iconic.
Address: 1 Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka
Access: Namba Station
7) Things to Do in Osaka – Umeda Sky Building
Osaka has its fair share of tall buildings, including the highest tower in Japan, but the Umeda Sky Building stands out as the best to journey up. A short walk from Osaka central station, the monolith sparkles in the sun and intrigues from every angle, but its best features are all inside, specifically, the views it offers. Take the elevator up and gaze out over the whole of Osaka whilst learning a little of the buildings history and that of the city more generally. A great cafe/bar, with a good selection of craft beers, is also on hand to quench your thirst.
Address: 1-1-88 Oyodonaka, Kita Ward, Osaka
Access: Osaka Station
8) Things to Do in Osaka – Shinsekai
Shinsekai is a district built in the wake of the 1903 National Industrial Exposition, an event that brought 5 million people to the city for what was seen as the marker of a new dawn in urban life. In the spirit of the convention, the district’s architecture was modelled half on Paris and half on New York: two cities perceived as the height of modernity. The area’s unusual beginnings mean that it is unlike anywhere else in Osaka, or indeed, anywhere else in Japan.
Today, the area is overrun with reasonably priced restaurants, street food vendors and shops that contrast nicely against the quirky architecture and street plans. Head here for a walk around and perhaps try out some kushikatsu, an Osakan delicacy particularly prominent in this district. Kushikatsu consists of skewered and battered foods (savoury and sweet) dipped in a variety sauces. Perfect fuel for your explorations.
Address: 1 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka
Access: Shin-Imamiya Station
9) Things to Do in Osaka – Osaka Castle
Looming but beautiful, historic yet modern, Osaka Castle is full of contradictions, but part of the fun is attempting to unpick them for yourself. Originally built in 1583, the structure has been through its fair share of ups and downs, built and rebuilt numerous times up until its final remodelling in 1931, which, miraculously, survived the carpet bombing of World War II. Some visitors are perturbed by the surprising modern interior of the main tower, replete with an elevator and mood lighting, but try not to be, the museum you’ll find here is highly informative and almost all translated into English.
Surrounding the castle is the Nishinomaru Garden, a large, open green space that comes alive during sakura season. This may be its prime-time but it’s perfect for a lazy break from sightseeing all year round.
Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka
Access: Tanimachi 4-chrome Station
10) Things to Do in Osaka – Universal Studios Japan
Opened in 2001 as the only one of its kind in Asia, Universal Studios Japan in Osaka’s bay area may not be top of every tourist’s must-see list but that’s not to say it shouldn’t be top of yours. What it lacks in insights into Japanese culture and society, it more than makes up for in thrills and fun. If you’re looking for things to do in Osaka as a family, or indeed, with friends, this could be for you.
With 8 distinct sections: Hollywood, New York, San Francisco, Waterworld, Amity Village, Jurassic Park, Universal Wonderland and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, you’re not going to run out of things to see. Each section has its own rides and amusements suitable to all ages, shows and parades, characters to meet (Snoopy and Hello Kitty to name just two) and shopping and dining to enjoy. Whilst not particularly cheap (over 12s tickets costing 7,400 yen ) it’s definitely a day out you won’t forget. And because you’re in Japan, rest assured that the whole park is clean as a whistle and the staff friendly as can be.
Access: Universal City Station
11) Things to Do in Osaka – Tenjin Matsuri (Festival of the Gods)
Osakans are known in Japan for their vivaciousness, a quality that becomes quickly apparent at the Tenjin Matsuri. It is a festival of lights, fireworks, bonfires and processions; an orgy of fun; a celebration of tradition, city spirit and, ultimately, a whole lot of fun to be a part of. If you’re after things to do in Osaka in July, this has to be an automatic contender.
The festival takes place at the end of sweltering July (24th, 25th and 26th regardless of day of the week), with an official purpose of celebrating the God of scholarship and learning, Sugawara Michizane. Though steeped in tradition, the enthusiasm, effort and sheer joy on display is what the festival is sustained on, and part of what makes it so great. The celebrations take place all over downtown Osaka throughout the 3-days, though head for the riverside in the evenings for the impressive hanabi (fireworks) and boat parades.
12) Things to Do in Osaka – Amerikamura (American Village)
Back in the ’70s, this area was the go-to spot for anyone wanting to pick up records, clothes or books imported from the USA. Its name eventually caught up with its use and Amerikamura was born. Today, though American imports are no longer such a novelty (nor are American tourists), the area retains an unconventional, bohemian atmosphere which young people and tourists seem to appreciate in equal measure.
If you’re after things to do in Osaka during the day, shop around Amerikamura, have a coffee at one of the many hip cafes and hang out. If you’re still around after nightfall, swap a coffee for a beer or cocktail at a bar or catch a band at one of the areas numerous live houses (look for signs, as they’re usually hidden below or above ground). Amerikamura probably won’t rouse a spontaneous rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner from you, but its certainly the closest thing you’ll get to the states in Osaka.
Address: Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka
Access: Shinsaibashi Station
13) Things to Do in Osaka – Osaka Nightlife
As mentioned earlier, Osakans, in contrast to reserved Tokyoites, are a vivacious bunch. As such, the nightlife in Osaka is some of the best in the country, with a range of options to suit all.
Classically, the Kita district surrounding Umeda Station in the north of the city draws an adult crowd, whilst Minami in the south is more youth-centric, though there are no real strict divisions between areas. Bars and clubs proliferate, with budget and ostentatious, traditional and modern, up and down market choices everywhere. Attempting to list the endless options would be a never ending task, but find a list of some good options here.
Full Guide: Things to Do in Osaka at Night
14) Things to Do in Osaka – Nakanoshima Park
An island park sitting between the Dojimagawa and Tosaborigawa rivers, Nakanoshima was Osaka’s first public park when it was first opened in 1891. Now, as then, it provides a verdant rest space for Osakans and travelers alike. Just 20-minutes from Osaka Station, the park’s central location gives it an edge on many of the city’s green spaces. What’s more, its extensive flower gardens, replete with azaleas, roses and hydrangeas, can’t be beaten for beauty. The flowers are in full bloom in May, though the garden as a whole is wonderful all year round. The romantically inclined especially should head here in the evening, when the subtle lighting washes the park with an undeniably amorous hue.
Address: 1 Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, Osaka
Access: Naniwabashi Station
15) Things to Do in Osaka – Sumo Spring Basho
6 sumo tournaments take place each year across Japan: 3 in Tokyo, 1 in Nagoya, 1 in Fukuoka and 1 in Osaka. Osaka’s tournament is usually held in March, and is thus known as the Sumo Spring Basho. Pundits have long hailed the death of sumo as a competitive sport and, indeed, not without cause. Popularity dwindles year on year and the numerous scandals that have enveloped the modern incarnation of the sport haven’t done much to help either. Nonetheless, those who’ve witnessed a tournament for themselves ache to sing its praises. It is a fantastic spectacle of tradition, ceremony and brute force, which you’re not going to see anywhere else in the world. If you have the chance to check out some sumo whilst in the country – don’t pass it up.
Address: 3-4-36 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka (EDION Arena Osaka)
Access: Nankai-Namba Station
16) Things to Do in Osaka – Den Den Town
Similar to Tokyo’s Akihabara, Den Den Town in Osaka is a hub of electronics and otaku culture. What makes these two seemingly unrelated things mesh so easily is anyone’s guess, but mesh they do. Accordingly, find here a ground-shaking speaker system, endlessly useful plug adaptors or a brand new computer then head next door to browse the shelves for X-rated manga or cosplay gear – whatever takes your fancy. The vibe around this area could be described as seedy but the crowds that flock to it don’t seem to mind. In March, the streets are jammed with cosplaying enthusiasts of all kinds taking part in the Nipponbashi Street Festa, a grand bizarre of subcultural theatrics. Head to/avoid Den Den Town at this time of year depending on your tastes.
Address: Nipponbashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka
Access: Ebisucho Station
17) Things to Do in Osaka – Tennoji Zoo
Going to the zoo may seem like the easy way out when coming up with a sightseeing agenda, but Osaka’s Tennoji Zoo, within the large Tennoji Park, really is a great experience. As one of Japan’s oldest zoos (opened 1915), Tennoji is an Osaka staple, its cheap admission price (500 yen) and beautiful landscaping making it feel like just an extension of the wider park – but with animals. Lots of animals. Find here over 1000 animals of 250 species, all living in enclosures lovingly designed to be as true to their natural habitats as possible. The reptile house, African savannah zone and Asian tropical rainforest zone transport zone being just three of the best examples. Visit all year round, except Mondays, when the park is closed.
Access: Dobutsuen-mae Station