Home to the great man who played a huge role in unifying Japan, Osaka is a city filled with rich history and culture. During my long Japanese adventure in Osaka, I never ran out of places to visit and things to eat. That’s why I’ve compiled this list to share with you my top 10 picks for the best Osaka experience ever! Happy reading!
1. Osaka Castle
How can I start a list on things to do in Osaka without putting Osaka Castle at the very top? Dubbed as ‘The White Heron’ of Japan, this magnificent 16th-century castle was built by one of the greatest man in Japanese history, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
You can buy your tickets at the castle grounds and this gives you access to the castle and the museums and exhibitions within. There is an observation deck at the very top of the castle where you can have a 360˚ view of Osaka.
Price: ¥600 per person
Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002
Mimi’s tips: Explore the beautiful castle park early in the morning when there are less crowds (it’s free of charge!). Later on, head into the castle when it opens.
Locals call it “The Bright Heart of Osaka” and boy, is it bright. My first thought upon seeing this entertainment area was how it reminded me of New York. Flashing neon lights, the horde of people, and extravagant signs that are so brightly-lit, you can’t stare directly into them.
There’s so much to do at the entertainment hub of Osaka. Personally, I come here to eat. Food lovers will love the street food choices that Dōtonbori provides. From refillable ramens to watching an okonomiyaki (Japanese omelette) cooked right in front of you whilst you dine, Dōtonbori is a shinning neon beacon of gastronomic delights for foodies out there.
Price: Free although you will need money for the delicious food!
Address: 10 Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0071
Mimi’s tips: Try some takoyaki (yummy octopus balls!) many, many food stalls in the area and venture a little away from the crowds to find cheaper eats.
3. Kuromon Ichiba Market
I came by this market by accident but as it turns out, it was a welcomed accident.
Known as “Osaka’s Kitchen”, one can see why. Aside from the abundance of local eateries, there are many shops that sell fresh produce at this market. You will not only see a lot of locals shopping for their groceries here, you will also spot professional chefs searching for quality ingredients here as well. In fact, when I walked into the first knife shop I saw at Kuromon Market, I was greeted by the sight of two French chefs debating over which of the knife they were each holding was better.
Definitely pay a visit if you want to explore authentic local food, or if you’re planning to cook at your accommodation and you want fresh ingredients sourced directly from farmers. Or, if you’re a professional chef.
Price: Free to explore!
Address: 2 Chome-4-1 Nipponbashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0073
Mimi’s tips: There are a lot of fresh shellfish restaurants here so do drop in and have lunch at an oyster bar!
Amerikamura, or Amemura, means ‘”American Village.” However, there is nothing American about this eccentric district in the centre of Osaka. At least that’s what I thought when I first visited it.
A replica of The Statue of Liberty, colourful graffitis and a huge clown face decked out in the star spangled banner, Amerikamura is definitely loud and funky to say the least. After doing some research, I found out that Amerikamura is actually named “American Village” because there is a concentration of importing American goods to this area. Aside from that, I wouldn’t say that it looks anything like anywhere in the U.S.
Die-hard cold brew fan? Have a cuppa at one of the many cafés in Amerikamura. Craving for an ice-cream that is 15 inches long? Satisfy your sweet tooth at Pop Sweet in Amemura. Looking for an outfit to suit your ‘lolita-by-day-steampunk-by-night’ lifestlye? Look no further. There are many vintage and retro clothing shops to choose from.
Take a dive into this American wonderland (they really have an Alice in Wonderland themed store!) and spend an afternoon here.
Price: Free to explore!
Address: 1 Chome-2-4 Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0086
Mimi’s tips: Angelic Pretty is very well-known for their lolita-style clothing and definitely visit Alice on Wednesday if you’re a huge Alice in Wonderland fan like me.
5. Namba Walk
If you’re tired of the crowds on the surface, descend and go underground. Literally.
Underneath the Midosuji Line Namba Subway Station, a huge underground shopping avenue stretches across 715 meters, connecting Nippombashi Station on the east to the JR Namba Station on the west.
With 270 shops selling clothing, daily goods, and food, three major sections, art parks and symbolic monuments, this gigantic underground shopping avenue is surely worth going into the ground for.
Price: Free to wander!
Address: 2 Chome-1- 1 5 Sennichimae, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0074
Mimi’s tips: Take a look at the “Art Park” at the 1st Avenue where they host replicas of the art works from the Art Institute of Chicago. Also, take a look at the holiday times on their website to make sure that they’re open that day.
6. Spa World
Yes, it’s exactly as the name suggests. Spa World is a huge establishment that comprises of a hotel, swimming pool, restaurants, gym, spa, and multiple floors of themed public baths and onsens. The female-only floor has a European-themed onsen whilst the men-only floor has an Asian-themed onsen.
For those of you traveling with small children, Spa World has play areas for children too! I spent an entire day here at Spa World and if you’re interested, check out my extensive post here.
Price: Adult (¥1200), Children under 12 years old (¥1000). There are only 1-Day passes available.
Address: 3 Chome-4- 2 4 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, 556-0002
Mimi’s tips: If you want to pay Spa World a visit, but you do not want to be in your birthday suit in front of strangers, bring a swimsuit and take a dive at the swimming pool!
Want to visit an area that has a gigantic brightly-lit blowfish and a skyscraper that looks strangely like the Eiffel Tower? Look no further. Right next to south Osaka’s downtown Minami area, lies Shinsekai, the older and more subdued (kinda) cousin of Dōtonbori.
Constructed in 1912, this old neighbourhood was modeled after New York for its southern half and Paris for its northern half. In fact, ‘Shinsekai’ (新世界), means ‘the new world’ in Japanese. During World War II, this vibrant hub was pulsing with energy and laborers who were in charge of rebuilding Osaka after World War II. Many of the Japanese pubs and cheap cafeteria-like restaurants still remain today.
Price: Free to explore!
Address: 1 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, 556-0002
Mimi’s tips: Try kushikatsu (battered fried skewers of meat or vegetables) one of Osaka’s culinary specialty.
Remember when I said that there’s a tower that looks a lot like the Eiffel Tower in Shinsekai? That’s the Tsūtenkaku.
When the original Tsūtenkaku was first built in 1912, it caused a huge buzz amongst the people of that time. The towering height of 64 meters made it the tallest building in the East.
Visitors can go all the way up to the observatory on the 5th floor for a great view of Osaka. This floor also houses the statue of the God Biriken, said to bring good luck for those who rub the bottom of its feet.
Price: Adults ¥700, university students ¥500, middle and high school students ¥400, children ¥300
Address: 1 Chome-18-6 Ebisuhigashi, Naniwa Ward, Osaka, 556-0002
Mimi’s tips: Go at night for an incredible night view of Osaka!
9. Universal Studios Japan
USJ opened its magical doors in March 2001 and it was the very first Universal Studios theme park in Asia. All 39 hectares of land are divided into eight theme parks, including my favourite: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Adults and older children can go on the many rides and enjoy the fun simulators based on popular movies such as Jurassic Park. Younger children will love taking pictures with the cute mascots such as Hello Kitty and Snoopy.
There are many ways you can reach USJ. For a more complete guide on the transportation to USJ, you can take a look here. My favourite is definitely taking the ferry from the Osaka Aquarium to USJ! The entire ride takes up to 10 minutes and you can purchase the ferry option when you buy tickets for the Osaka Aquarium as well.
Price: Updated price list here.
Address: 2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, 554-0031
Mimi’s tips: If you’re planning to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (and I think you should!) grab a timed ticket first. Basically, it gives you a designated time slot to enter the theme park.
10. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
I love aquariums and all things related to the sea! That’s why I was thrilled to visit the Osaka Aquarium, right at the Tempozan Harbor Village. It was hands-down one of the best and most organised aquariums I have ever been to.
The Osaka Aquarium houses an impressive variety of marine life found in all areas of the Pacific Rim. As you go along different climactic zones, you will see and learn about the different species found in these specific climates.
In the centre of the aquarium, visitors can say hello to the main star of the park, the whale shark. This big guy lives in a tank that is 9 meters deep and represents the Pacific Ocean.
Price: Updated price list here.
Address: 1 Chome-1-10 Kaigandori, Minato Ward, Osaka, 552-0022
Mimi’s tips: There are feeding times so make sure to check the website out and also, you can pet a stingray!
For those of you planning to visit all ten places, I would advise you to spread it out into 3-4 days at least. If you’re in Osaka for a limited amount of time, do check out my entire post on how to spend one full day in Osaka, where I take you through breakfast till right before bed time.