I know that many visitors who come to Japan skip Osaka to go directly to Kyoto, but that’s a shame since this city is so cool and alive! The people are friendly and more open than in Tokyo, there are fewer tourists and it’s quite easy to explore the city by bike.
In addition, it’s a perfect base to visit the Kansai area as it is close to Kyoto and Nara and you can get there by train in less than an hour.
I have not included all things to do that are ‘punctual’, like festivals, and that are more relevant to those who think they will stay there for a long time rather than the tourists who come for a short stay (unless of course you are there at the right time). I’m thinking about of Halloween, which is AWESOME, and the Tenjin Matsuri. However I included some hidden places I stumbled upon when I was living in Osaka for one year.
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Here are the top 30 best things to do and see in Osaka:
1 – Dotombori by night
Certainly the most touristy place in Osaka: Dotombori is located along a canal cut by several bridges including Ebisu (pictured) where you can see the hosts in action. The character on the right panel (Glico) is certainly the most photographed thing in Osaka. I never understood why but it makes a good point of reference if you make an appointment with friends.
2 – Shinsaibashi
A big shopping street located right in front of the Ebisu bridge and armored shops. Very nice to do when there are ‘few’ world, if attention is shielded on any occasion. Very funny to ride by bike around 6-7 am, when everyone is drunk on the way back from the evening. For the anecdote I almost got hit by a car in this street.
3 – Osaka aquarium (Kaiyukan)
The Osaka Aquarium (called ‘Kaiyukan’) is home to a whale shark, turtles … The creature that you can see in the photo is a moon fish. You can also touch rays (nothing dirty, gang of perverts). To do if you like fish other than sushi. Entrance costs 2300 yen.
4 – Denden Town
A neighborhood that I know well because I lived next door: it is the equivalent of Akihabara in Tokyo, with lots of video game stores, manga, playing cards, figurines and retro gaming. There are also maid cafes and sex shops (to visit … in the name of culture, of course!).
5 – Shinsekai and the Tsutenkaku Tower
A neighborhood that is supposed to represent Japan in the 60-70s and very typical, with the Tsutenkaku tower located right in the heart. I think you can skip the climb to the top of the tower (there are free points of view and better elsewhere). There is the Osaka Zoo not far away and Osaka’s backpacker district, where you can find the cheapest hotels in the city (Japan?).
6 – Spa World
Located right next to Shinsekai and right in front of Tsutenkaku Tower, it is a multistory spa / sento (public bath), and certainly the must-see thing in Osaka.
7 – Enjoy the view from the Sky Building
Very nice to do especially at sunset. It’s also a good place to go for a romantic date.
8 – Osaka castle and its park
This castle is really mouth, and moats around are gigantic. The park around is very nice to do and it is the place to meet during the cherry tree festival. If you continue north of the park you will come across Sakuranomiya, which runs along the river and is also a very pretty place to see when cherry trees bloom.
9 – Watch Sumo wrestling
If you are in Osaka during the Sumo Fighting Season do not miss it! It’s really fun to watch. On the other hand think to take a good objective for your camera because the places least expensive are located far enough from the arena.
10 – Osaka Tenmangu Shrine
A Shinto shrine founded in the Xth century, very pretty to see. Do not miss the pond that is not far away, we often see a heron watching for fish.
11 – Sumiyoshi taisha shrine
Very nice to do (the most beautiful shrine in Osaka I think). There is a very photogenic red bridge. This sanctuary is located south of Dobutsuen-Mae, for those who will stay in the Osaka backpacker district.
12 – Abeno tower
Recently opened, it is the tallest building in Japan. The access to the summit is quite expensive if I remember correctly, but it is possible to access for free half of its height and the view remains spectacular.
13 – Shitennoji temple
A very nice Buddhist temple to visit, built in 593. There is a smart market on the last Saturday of every month. It is not far from Tenoji Station.
14 – Osaka museum of history
Located next to the Osaka Castle Park (can be seen in the distance elsewhere) it is a nice museum to do but it lacks explanations in English. Not to see absolutely in Osaka but nice to do if you have a free aprem.
15 – Hozenji Yokocho
A small paved street with a temple in the heart of Dotombori. Browse a little and you will fall on it (or so help you the photo).
16 – The great wheel at Hep 5
One of the last things I did during my year in Osaka and yet I loved it, but do not be dizzy. Trouble guaranteed. This is the place to go in love. If you do not want to do it, go at least inside the Hep 5 building, there is a life-size whale.
17 – Namba Yasaka Shrine
A fun sanctuary to see and impressive by its size. Not inevitable but if you have the time it’s worth a look.
18 – Taste local specialties
I’m not a fan of Osaka specialties but since everyone says it’s to taste … just try it! There are three that come to mind: takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (a kind of pancake with cabbage) and koshikatsu (anything rolled in breadcrumbs and cooked in oil) .
19 – Grand Front Osaka
A building located in Umeda right in front of Osaka Station), with the Panasonic showroom at your feet where you can see their latest novelties and a beautiful view from the garden on the terrace of the upper floors. Yet another plane dredge (to do the evening of course).
20 – Osaka City Central Hall
I like the architecture of this building, it changes buildings that are all alike in Osaka. Central Hall is located along the river on Nakanoshima Island, a very pleasant place to walk or cycle.
21 – Isshinji Temple
A Buddhist temple near Tenoji where I stumbled by one night. The two statues at the entrance are impressive and creepy, especially at night.
22 – Osaka Station
Osaka Station (Osaka Station). Take the escalators to go to the top, there is always animations (flower show or other). You can also go on the outdoor terraces and enjoy the view. Opposite is the Osaka Grand Front.
23 – Yodobashi Camera
A huge shopping center located in Umeda where you can find the latest electronic gadgets, video games, mangas, latest cameras … and accessories a little weird. Remember to take your passport with you if you want to make purchases, you will not pay VAT.
24 – Namba Parks
A big mall, nice to do if you have the time. Do not miss the Hawaiian restaurant ‘Kuwa Aina’ located on the sixth floor: their hamburgers are delicious!
25 – Doguyasuji
Not far from Denden town, this is where the restaurants of Osaka come to provide equipment. You will find many shops selling Japanese knives and other kitchen accessories. Ideal if you want to buy souvenirs.
26 – Flower expo memorial park Tsurumi Riokuchi
This park is a bit far (east of Osaka) but is very nice to do in summer when it’s too hot. There is a fountain where you can dip and cool down. There is even a windmill as in the Netherlands.
27 – Tenjinmashisuji
A huge shopping street located not far from the Tenmangu Shrine, 2.6 kilometers long.
28 – America Mura
In the picture, it’s ‘triangle park’. Very nice to go for a beer at night (there is a family mart next door). You can see skaters and weird people. It is also the gathering place for Halloween where everyone comes disguised. Otherwise, the district of Amemura (that means America-Mura) is nice to visit, there are many stores of OCCAZ clothes and music.
29 – Kuromon market
A covered market interesting to see in Osaka, with a lot of curiosity, but very touristy I find. A lot of photo opportunity if it’s your passion.
30 – That street
Unfortunately I could not find the name of this street… It is located along the Matsuya Machi suji, near the Kuromon market. I put you the link Google Map (click here). It’s very curious to see with her cobblestones, and there is a temple upstairs with a graveyard, and right behind a huge love hotel.