10 Things to Do in Osaka
As one of the largest cities in Japan, Osaka promises a wide variety of adventures and attractions. Along with Tokyo and Kyoto, Osaka is a key part of the Golden Triangle, the central area of Japan famous for tourism. The city offers cultural wonders, vibrant city life, and tons of delicious foods. Once you see all the amazing things to do in Osaka, I’m sure you will want to plan a trip.
To make life easier for you, I put together a list of all the best things to do in Osaka. Of course, big cities like Osaka always have hidden gems waiting to be discovered. So feel free to explore, and then share your favorite places in the comments.
1. Osaka Castle
Not only is Osaka Castle one of the most iconic buildings in the city, it is also one of the most iconic buildings in all of Japan. The castle was created in 1583 by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who is famous for unifying Japan. Of course, like many historical buildings in Japan, Osaka Castle was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The current structure was made in 1931.
In any case, the castle is stunningly beautiful, and springtime is especially magical. The area surrounding Osaka Castle is full of cherry trees. During cherry blossom season, the whole area is alight with pink flowers. So if you’re in the neighborhood during spring, Osaka Castle is a must-see.
Thanks to its stunning lights and billboards, Dotonbori may be the most photogenic location in Osaka. At night, the whole area comes alive. Hundreds of people come to take photos with the runner on Glico’s billboard or to eat and drink at the numerous bars and restaurants. The lively vibe reminds me of Shinjuku and Shibuya, which happen to be my favorite photography locations in Tokyo.
Aside from the cool lights and bustling atmosphere, Dotonbori also has access to Shinsaibashi Shotengai. The 580 meter long shopping street is full of stores and restaurants. It’s easy to get lost in the street’s charms or to fill your stomach with the local cuisine. If you’re looking to spend some cash, this is one awesome thing to do in Osaka.
3. Universal Studios Japan
If you like theme parks, then you should definitely head to Universal Studios Japan. Here you’ll find attractions and entertainment featuring many popular movies from Universal Studios. To name a few, there is Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and Jaws. But recently, the roster has expanded to include Japanese media, such as Attack on Titan and Godzilla.
While the theme park is great all year round, they also put on special events depending on the season. For example, you can experience Universal Surprise Halloween in October.
4. Umeda Sky Building
Umeda Sky Building is one of the most unique and striking buildings in Osaka. With its stunning arch shape and crisscrossing beams, it’s an amazing building to look at from below.
However, the Umeda Sky Building also has an observatory on the 40th floor called the Kuchu Teien Observatory. Even the escalator to the observatory is incredibly beautiful and futuristic. But you will have to book tickets if you want to check out the observatory’s unbeatable views.
5. Abeno Harukas
If you want another great view of the Osaka skyline, head to Abeno Harukas. Excluding Tokyo Skytree, Abeno Harukas is the largest building in the entire country. It stands at an impressive 300 meters tall! You can enjoy the views at the HARUKAS 300 Observatory from floors 58 to 60. Of course, you will need tickets if you want to visit.
As for the rest of the building, Abeno Harukas has a large variety of shops and restaurants offering everything from Japanese to Italian cuisine. There is even an art museum on the 16th floor, where you can view works from around the world. If you truly want, you can spend the entire day at Abeno Harukas and not run out of things to do.
If you’re still looking for things to do in Osaka, head to Shinsenkai. The area has a more retro atmosphere. However, it’s full of flashy signs and crowded streets, so you will still enjoy the exciting, city vibe.
Aside from the numerous restaurants and shops, you can also find Tsutenkaku in Shinsekai. The 103 meter tall observation tower is the symbol of Osaka. Thanks to the tower’s central location, you can get a phenomenal view of the city from the top.
7. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Everyone has been to an aquarium, but Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is the world’s largest! So I guarantee you that you’ve never had an aquarium experience like this. From jellyfish to otters, there are animals of all kinds. There are even whale sharks in a massive tank that mimics the Pacific Ocean.
8. Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
For a more cultural experience, check out Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine. This Shinto shrine is the main Sumiyoshi shrine in all of Japan. It enshrines the Sumiyoshi sanjin (gods of sea and sailing) and Empress Jingū.
While the spiritual significance is an attraction in itself, you can also visit to enjoy one of the oldest styles of shrine architecture. At Sumiyoshi Taisha, there are stone torii gates, traditional wooden buildings, and a charming, arched bridge.
9. Kuromon Market
One of the essential things to do in Osaka is eat. While you can find wonderful eateries throughout the city, I always recommend heading to the local market to find what’s popular with locals.
Kuromon Market is the largest and most famous market in Osaka. There are over 180 shops with everything from fresh fish to exotic fruit. So take a break from the takoyaki and okonomiyaki and get something fresh.
10. Minoo Waterfall
After a short 30-minute train ride from Osaka, you’ll reach Minoo Park. The park has breathtaking, natural scenery that may be refreshing after a long stay in the city’s lively downtown areas. The crowned jewel of the park is the Minoo Waterfall. Although Japan has many waterfalls, Minoo is one of the most beautiful. It looks especially charming in autumn when the leaves change colors.
The waterfall is at the end of a short mountain trail, but at the beginning is another point of interest: the Minoo Onsen Spa Garden. Onsens are an integral part of Japanese culture. So treat yourself to a relaxing stay in the hot springs.
While You’re in the Area
Although there are so many cool things to do in Osaka, the city is so close to some other great locations. So while you’re in the area, consider a day trip to Nara, a historical center with plenty of shrines and adorable deer. You also must visit Kyoto, whose cultural wonders are second to none.