Osaka is a great metropolis home to 2.7 million people and rivaled only by the Tokyo-Yokohama area in Japan. Known for its food and nightlife, but offering just about every activity and commodity under the sun, there’s no doubt that it’d take a lifetime to discover everything the urban jungle has to offer.
Yet, it’s easy to get the most out of Japan’s second city if you know where to look. Brooke Larsen is an Osaka expert and long-term resident, who shares her insights into the 50 best things to do in Osaka, from major attractions to must-visit hidden gems!
Where to Go in Osaka?
Osaka’s top tourist attraction is easily the city’s centuries-old entertainment district, Dotonbori. Located on a scenic man-made canal of the same name, this historic trading district is overflowing with shops, food stalls, and restaurants, not to mention people. The brightly illuminated advertisements that tower over the river at night make for a grand spectacle.
Address: 1-9 Dotonbori, Chuo, Osaka
Just off the Dotonbori canal is shopping mecca Shinsaibashi. Stroll down the multi-mile Shinsaibashi Shopping Street for the best deals in town. Then meander along the streets that branch off the shopping arcade for a taste of the city’s best nightlife after dark. Shinsaibashi is also home to high-end shopping malls like Daimaru.
Address: Shinsaibashi, Chuo, Osaka
3. Ura Namba
The backstreets of busy downtown hub Namba are the highlight of this quirky and exciting district. Ura Namba is home to tiny but friendly dive bars, retro izakaya, and haunts like pachinko parlors and arcades. Visit the Misono Building, a former luxury hotel converted into scores of tiny themed bars; you can’t miss the waterfall and spiral staircase decorating the facade. By day, take a stroll down shopping street Doguya-Suji.
Short for Amerika-mura, aka American Village, Amemura is the Harajuku of Osaka, albeit a rougher version. Anyone looking for things to do in Osaka should visit this hip neighborhood is where young people gather to eat, drink, and shop. Check out Big Step shopping center for deals (don’t miss sandwich shop Basement at the bottom of the main staircase) and Triangle Park for the best people-watching in town.
Address: Higashishinsaibashi 1, Chuo, Osaka
This riverside, former furniture district has found its calling as a trendy shopping and dining area with a focus on foreign cuisine. From fine-dining sushi at Kaiba to gourmet chicken wings at Sauce Boss, you can’t go wrong eating here. There’s even an authentic New Orleans restaurant! Don’t miss unique hybrid cafes and shops like Biotop.
Address: Minamihorie 3-10, Nishi, Osaka
Meaning New World, Shinsekai’s heyday was back in the early 1900s, but this amusement area continues to thrive in the modern day. Bright lights and gaudy displays in front of the shops create an intense sensory overload. Try kushikatsu, one of Osaka’s most famous local dishes, at one of the many restaurants in the area.
Address: Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa, Osaka
7. Nipponbashi (Den Den Town)
If you’re looking for where to go shopping in Osaka, you should know that Den Den Town is famous for two things: cheap electronics and all things anime. Specialty shops ranging in everything from retro video games, to adult DVDs, to manga dominate the Nipponbashi district. Don’t miss the annual Den Den cosplay festival in March.
Address: Nipponbashi, Naniwa, Osaka
Osaka’s second downtown hub is known for having too many shopping centers and train stations to count. It’s here that most of the city’s train lines converge, and each station is surrounded by a shopping mall bigger than the last. Convenient and crowded, Umeda is one of Osaka’s must-see destinations if you want to experience commercial Japan at its height.
Address: Umeda, Kita Ward, Osaka
Nakazakicho is the heart of Osaka’s art scene. Quiet and historic, this residential area has experienced massive growth in the past decade or so. Most of the businesses are local art galleries and thrift shops, not to mention some of the cutest and hippest cafes imaginable. With a focus on small business and sustainability, the area conveys an authentic and friendly feel.
Address: Nakazaki, Kita, Osaka
By day Tenma is a bustling shopping district filled with historic temples and decades-old shops. By night its small but plentiful bars and restaurants are filled with talk and laughter. Wander the winding alleyways near JR Tenma Station by day to stumble upon one-of-a-kind souvenirs and by night to bask in the glow of the lantern-lit pubs.
Address: Tenma, Kita, Osaka
What to Do in Osaka?
11. Osaka Castle
Surrounded by a lush park, which is a top Osaka attraction all on its own, is historic Osaka Castle. Originally constructed in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598), the most powerful man in Japan at the time, it was rebuilt in the 1930s in the style of the original and now serves as a museum. Food stalls, shops, restaurants, and even a time capsule are on the castle grounds. If you’re a fan of castle, you can also check out our Guide to Himeji Castle, an hour or so south of Osaka.
Address: Osakajo 1-1, Chuo, Osaka
12. Osaka Museum of History
The Osaka Museum of History features permanent exhibits detailing the city’s history from ancient times to the present day. The visually stunning exhibits are large and detailed, depicting Osaka from the distant past to the Showa era (1926-1989). The museum is just across from Osaka Castle and features a stunning view of it from the top.
Address: Otemae 4-1-32, Chuo, Osaka
This quiet temple is located a short walk from busy Dotonbori and is surrounded by restaurants and bars. Yet, Hozenji, which was erected in 1637, manages to remain a relaxing refuge among the chaos. Pray to the moss-covered statue of Fudo-myo for good luck before a night of boozing!
Address: Nanba 1-2-16, Chuo, Osaka
14. Hozenji Yokocho
Next to the temple of the same name is a cobbled street called Hozenji Yokocho. This alley was formerly the path to the temple; now it’s known for the bars and restaurants that line the stoney street. You can try many Osaka delicacies at the shops here, while also experiencing a taste of how the city felt in decades past.
Address: Sennichimae 1-8-16, Chuo, Osaka
15. Glico Man
Any trip to Dotonbori, nay Osaka, would not be complete without posing for a picture with the area’s mascot, the towering Glico Man. Representing the Glico sweets company (heard of Pocky?), the advertisement depicting a running man has loomed over the Dotonbori Canal since 1935. Make sure to copy the man’s pose in your pictures!
Address: Dotonbori 1-10-2, Chuo, Osaka
16. Don Quijote Ferris Wheel (Ebisu Tower)
The newly reopened Ferris wheel that decorates one of Japan’s largest Don Quijote retail stores is the world’s only ovular ride of its kind. The full rotation takes about 15 minutes and allows you to view Dotonbori from above, as well as other famous sights like lofty Abeno Harukas. The Ferris wheel costs ¥500 to ride.
Address: Souemoncho 7, Chuo, Osaka
17. Osaka Shochikuza Theatre
For theater lovers, one think you must do in Osaka is visit the Shochikuza Theatre. Not only is this historic theater housed in a gorgeous historic building, it’s also the perfect place to check out classic kabuki and bunraku. If the culinary arts are more your thing, head downstairs to check out the food court and craft beer brewery.
Address: Dotonbori 1-9-19, Chuo, Osaka
18. Namba HIPS
Namba HIPS is an indoor amusement park located right in the heart of downtown Namba. This 12-floor leisure center truly has everything: karaoke, pachinko, climbing, golfing, fitness centers, restaurants, a sports bar, and more. You might never leave.
Address: Nanba 1-8-16, Chuo, Osaka
19. Kuromon Ichiba
The hustle and bustle of the daily Kuromon Ichiba market is an Osaka must-see. Fish sales start at the crack of dawn, and the 580 meter long (1903 ft) market stays busy throughout the day. Nicknamed Osaka’s Kitchen, the market sells more than restaurant supplies: there are over 100 shops and restaurants for visitors to enjoy.
Address: Nipponbashi 2-4-1, Chuo, Osaka
20. Imamiya Ebisu Shrine
In a city that loves festivals one of the best things to do in Osaka is visit the yearly Toka Ebisu. Taking place around January 10, festival-goers pray to Ebisu, god of prosperity in wealth and business, where he lives enshrined at Imamiya Ebisu. The festival also features crowds enjoying food stalls and buying charms from fuku-musume, young women dressed in stunning kimono.
Address: Ebisunishi 1-6-10, Naniwa, Osaka
21. Umeda Sky Building
Towering Umeda Sky Building is both an architectural marvel and breathtaking viewpoint. At 173 meters tall (568ft), the building is actually made up of two interconnected towers bridged by a Floating Garden Observatory on the 39th floor. Before you head up, wander the lush gardens at the ground level for a relaxing escape.
Address: Oyodonaka 1-1-87, Kita, Osaka
22. Osaka Museum of Housing and Living
Step into an interactive recreation of Edo era (1603-1868) Osaka at this museum which features a life-sized replica of a 19th century neighborhood. Rent a kimono and stroll around in the style of the day! Of course, you can always buy your own kimono at Japan Objects Store. There are a host of other amazing exhibits depicting bygone Osaka, including a light-up miniature version of Shinsekai in its glory days.
Address: Tenjinbashi 6−4−20, Kita, Osaka
Claiming to be the longest covered shotengai (shopping arcade) in Japan, Tenjinbashi-suji is arguably a more exciting place to shop than high-end Shinsaibashi or eclectic Nipponbashi. At 2.6 km (1.6 miles), the over 600 shops are diverse, quirky, and ridiculously cheap. You can even get a certificate if you walk the entire length!
Address: Tenjinbashi 6-4, Kita, Osaka
24. Osaka Tenmangu
One of the top Osaka attractions, and the city’s oldest and most famous shrine, is dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), aka Tenjin, the deity of scholarly pursuits. Students come here in droves to pay for good grades during exam season. Yet, the shrine’s claim to fame is the annual Tenjin Matsuri, one of the top three festivals in all of Japan.
Address: Tenjinbashi 2-1-8, Kita, Osaka
25. Sumiyoshi Taisha
Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Taisha is one of Japan’s oldest shrines and the seat of the nation’s Sumiyoshi tradition. These shrines protect people at sea; though the area is now landlocked, Sumiyoshi Taisha once sat near the water. This shrine is one of only three in Japan featuring a unique architectural style called Sumiyoshi-zukuri and is a popular pilgrimage site annually on New Year’s Day.
Address: Sumiyoshi 2-9-89, Sumiyoshi, Osaka
This green island located right smack in the city center is truly an urban oasis. Flanked on both sides by two converging rivers, the park is home to a rose garden, green space perfect for picnics and other gatherings (people doing yoga or practising dance routines is a regular sight), a beer garden, and boat tours.
Address: Nakanoshima 1-1, Kita, Osaka
27. Osaka National Museum of Art
This subterranean Japanese art museum is located on the island of Nakanoshima. The facade is perched on a scenic waterfront and decorated with an impressive metal sculpture designed by César Pelli, decided to resemble reeds blowing in the wind. The exhibitions feature all kinds of art from Japan and abroad.
Address: Nakanoshima 4-2-55, Kita, Osaka
28. Spa World
Spa World takes bathing to a new level. The facilities are divided into two sections, one for men and one for women (which alternate each month). One features Western baths and the other Eastern, so you can soak in opulent Roman, Greek, and Spanish (or Japanese, Thai, and Indonesian) spas all in one night. In case the mini world tour isn’t enough, there’s also a hotel, arcade, food court, and water park.
Address: Ebisuhigashi 3-4-24, Naniwa, Osaka
Once “the tallest structure in the Orient,” Tsutenkaku Tower may now be dwarfed by Osaka’s modern skyscrapers, yet it still makes for a wonderful viewpoint; you can see all of Shinsekai from the top. Originally constructed in 1912 and rebuilt after World War II, the tower features colored LED displays that convey the weather forecast (and look really cool at night).
Address: Ebisuhigashi 1-18-6, Naniwa, Osaka
30. Abeno Harukas
Abeno Harukas is the tallest building in Japan, standing at an impressive 300 meters tall (984 ft). There’s more to do than just gawk from the bottom: head inside for Abeno Harukas Art Museum, a panoramic observation deck called Harukas 300, and a department store. Daredevils can try Edge the Harukas, an experience involving walking along the roof’s edge (while wearing a harness, of course).
Address: Abenosuji 1-1-43, Abeno, Osaka
The “oldest temple in Japan” can’t exactly prove that lofty claim, but there’s no doubt Shitennoji is the oldest state-sanctioned temple in the nation. Built by the devout priest-prince Shotoku in 593 AD, Shitennoji was part of an effort to spread the new Buddhist religion across Japan. Today it remains as it did over 1000 years ago, featuring a garden, graveyard, and impressive five-story pagoda.
Address: Shitennoji 1-1-11-18, Tennoji, Osaka
32. Universal Studios Japan
The famed theme park’s Japan location is the only place around where you can hang out with dinosaurs, sharks, and wizards all in one day. In addition to classics like JAWS and Jurassic Park, there are rotating Japan-themed rides and attractions. Don’t miss Hollywood Dream the rollercoaster and the daily mascot parade.
Address: Sakurajima 2-1-33, Konohana, Osaka
33. Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel
Osaka has no shortage of Ferris wheels, and soaring Tempozan used to be the world’s largest. It still ranks pretty high up there, towering 112.5 meters (369 ft) tall. The Ferris wheel is ironically named after Tempozan, aka Mount Tempo, a mountain located just across the street that has the distinction of being Japan’s smallest!
Address: Kaigandori 1-1-10, Minato, Osaka
34. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
On the other side of the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel is one of Japan’s largest aquariums, Kaiyukan. The immense structure houses marine wildlife from many parts of the world, mainly the Pacific Ocean and Ring of Fire. You can view giant whale sharks in towering tanks and pet friendly otters all under one roof!
Address: Kaigandori 1-1-10, Minato, Osaka
35. Expo ’70 Commemorative Park
Once the site of the 1970 World Expo, the space has been repurposed into a giant park featuring a plethora of attractions. A ferris wheel, shopping center, aquarium and zoo occupy the area near the entrance; head into the park to enjoy swan shaped paddle boats on the lake, a giant statue dating from the Expo known as the Tower of the Sun, and an ethnology museum.
Address: Senribanpakukoen 1-1, Suita, Osaka
36. Cup Noodles Museum
Make your own cup noodles at Osaka’s ramen museum, located about 20 minutes by train from Umeda. You can pick the flavors and decorate the styrofoam cup yourself. Exhibits explain the history of the now ubiquitous instant ramen in a cup, which was invented right here in Osaka! This fascinating location is one place that we featured in our 9 Best Weird Museums in Japan.
Address: Masumicho 8-25, Ikeda, Osaka
37. Kema Sakuranomiya Park
This gorgeous riverside park is, unsurprisingly, known for its cherry (aka sakura) trees: 4,500 of them to be exact. Every spring the blossoms color the landscape a psychedelic pink. Yet, this park is lovely in every season, and even features a man made beach perfect for urban sunbathing in the summer.
Address: Nakanocho 1-10, Miyakojima, Osaka
What to See in Osaka for Art Lovers?
38. ARTCOURT Gallery
ARTCOURT is a renowned contemporary art space with a stylish, minimalist interior. Showcasing emerging artists from across Japan, the spacious gallery aims to introduce the works of local creators to the world. ARTCOURT also supplies commissioned works for architectural or public spaces to other nations.
Address: Tenmabashi 1−8−5, Kita, Osaka
39. YOD Gallery
Though compact, YOD Gallery is at the forefront of the contemporary art scene in Osaka. Dedicated to showcasing works by local artists who dabble in groundbreaking mediums and styles, YOD is a great space to discover unique emerging artists and genres with a focus on Osaka itself.
Address: Nishitenma 4−9−15, Kita, Osaka
40. Salon de Amanto
The space credited with bringing the art scene to Nakazakicho is friendly Salon de Amanto, a cafe which opened in 2001 as a gathering space for artists. Now Amanto is the life blood of the district, hosting film screenings, workshops, and other events for local creatives. It’s also a nice spot to relax with a coffee or tasty sweets.
Address: Nakazakinishi 1-7-26, Kita, Osaka
41. Gallery Yolcha
Quirky Gallery Yolcha is a welcoming gallery space literally located just off the beaten path on a dirt road in residential Nakazakicho. The old wooden building has been repurposed as a friendly and eclectic gallery with rotating exhibitions and a shop. Relax in comfy chairs or squeeze into the compact upstairs loft; you never know what you’ll find!
Address: Toyosaki 1-1-14, Kita, Osaka
42. Retro Insatsu JAM
Homey JAM is a print shop where local artists converge to work on screen printing projects, hand make zines, and sell their creative wares. The shop specializes in Risography, a retro printing process developed in Japan during the 1950s and making a comeback today. Rent workspace or merely browse the handmade zines and accessories in the shop.
Address: Toyosaki 6-6-23, Kita, Osaka
Off the Beaten Path
43. Namba Yasaka Shrine
Osaka’s most visually striking shrine is starting to garner popularity, but is just out of the way enough to remain a quiet refuge (at least for now). Featuring a stage shaped like a gigantic, gaping lion’s head, the shrine is a great pitstop for both a photoshoot and peaceful contemplation. It’s a great choice for visitors wondering what to see in Osaka that won’t cost a penny.
Address: Motomachi 2-9-19, Naniwa, Osaka
44. Ohatsu Tenjin
Though this shrine is off the radar for most tourists, the story that surrounds it is quite famous nationwide — it’s even immortalized in a kabuki play. You can find out more about kabuki in our Essential Guide to Japanese Kabuki Theater. This tiny Shinto shrine was the site of a tragic romantic legend where two star-crossed lovers comitted suicide because society wouldn’t let them be together. Today, couples can visit to wish for eternal love.
Address: Sonezaki 2-5-4, Kita, Osaka
45. Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park
Look at any Osaka map and you’ll see Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park takes up a large portion, yet people don’t visit this outdoor oasis with the same enthusiasm as the city’s other sites. Featuring a campsite equipped with barbeque pits, a scenic lake home to many species, and a sprawling botanical garden representing flora from around the world, it’s hard to understand why folks don’t make the trip more often.
Address: Ryokuchikoen 2-163, Tsurumi, Osaka
46. Ashiharabashi Up Market
The monthly Up Market in residential Ashiharabashi is one of the friendliest events in town. The lively event features live music, handmade arts and crafts, and local organic food and booze stalls spread across three locations: the plaza outside JR Ashiharabashi Station, the adjacent parking lot, and artsy event space and hostel Salt Valley.
Address: Naniwahigashi 1-7, Naniwa, Osaka
47. Osaka Human Rights Museum (Liberty Osaka)
Also hidden in Ashiharabashi is an often overlooked but important venue, the Osaka Human Rights Museum. Also known as Liberty Osaka, the museum’s focus is on groups and topics which are often suppressed by the ruling political administration of Japan. Exhibits on discrimination against women, native ethnic groups, disabled people, and LGBT people, are presented, among others.
Address: Naniwanishi 3-6-36, Naniwa, Osaka
48. Gate Tower Building
If you’ve ever wondered what a highway passing directly through a skyscraper would look like, leave it to Osaka to provide the answer. Near Umeda is the Gate Tower Building, a 16-floor structure with an off-ramp running straight through it. This oddity is the result of a land dispute which resulted in an unusual, but surprisingly effective, compromise.
Address: Fukushima 5-4-21, Fukushima, Osaka
49. Itohen Books Gallery Coffee
Why settle for less than a local cafe and bookstore in one? At Itohen, you never have to worry about not having enough reading material, or a delicious cup of coffee. The bright and airy space, artsy tomes, and welcoming staff will make you feel at home. Don’t leave without trying the fluffy French toast or you’ll regret it.
Address: Honjonishi 2−14−18, Kita, Osaka
50. Maishima Incineration Plant
Yep, you read that right: one of Osaka’s most unique attractions involves trash. The Maishima Incineration plant was designed by world famous architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000). The whimsical facility was created to entice visitors for the 2008 Osaka Olympics, which ultimately never took place, as well as raise environmental awareness.