I’m a big fan of Osaka, and in some ways, I love it even more than Tokyo. Today it’s a lively and busy modern city, with many attractions and touristic landmarks.
However, Osaka it has a very long history, and it’s one of the old capitals of Japan that was known under the name of Naniwa!
1. Explore Osaka castle
Osaka is a vibrant modern megalopolis, and this landmark is a piece of tranquillity! The castle was built in 1583 for Hideyoshi Toyotomi. It was destroyed a few times afterward: during the Summer Siege of Osaka by Tokugawa troops in 1615 and by lightning in 1665.
Now, it’s represented by the main tower (it was restored in concrete only in 1931 after citizens of Osaka donated money for it) standing on the ruins of the original castle: it’s an all-modernized building with an elevator inside!
You can visit an exposition in the museum inside the main keep to learn about its history and Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s deeds – and the views from the top are definitely worth seeing! Osaka Park around the castle is simply breathtaking, especially in a hanami season.
2. Visit Dotonbori Honten
Dotonbori district is the most iconic site of Osaka: I bet you’ve seen the images of giant crabs, dragons, and other monumental installations attracting visitors to the local restaurants!
In the middle of the district, there’s the Dotonbori River, reflecting all the lights from neon billboards and the historical Ebisubashi bridge over it (consider walking along the Tombori River Walk or taking a river cruise!).
Come here hungry: the street food here is too appealing not to try it. Go for takoyaki, different sorts of pancakes, and skewered seafood! It’s the best place to practice so-called kuidaore: ruin yourself with food!
3. Shop at Ebisu Bashi Suji
You can find with ease different covered shopping streets throughout Osaka, and I’d suggest you visit at least a few of them. First one you’ll find in Namba, an epicentre of Osaka life. That’s Ebisu Bashi Suji Shopping Street, founded in 1913.
Facing the Kani Doraku crab figure, it goes all the way to the Takashimaya department store, which is full of different nice shopping spots and cafes!
4….and have a look at Shinsaibashi
Shinsaibashi is another famous area of Osaka; explore it together with Amerikamura. It’s usually crowded and busy; however, I’d suggest you visit it anyway.
Shinsaibashi Shopping Street, a long arcade with numerous shops, is a must for your trip: there’s a mix of food stalls, beauty and fashion shops, and cute souvenirs on sale – and there are duty-free shops, too!
5. Go up to the Umeda Sky building
Umeda Sky building is one of the main attractions of Osaka: two towers of Umeda, connected by a bridge, are crowned with an observatory.
Umeda Sky Building is famous not only for its panoramic views from the observational desk but also for its unusual architecture: you’ll definitely love to take pictures of it, too!
They have a nice cafe with aesthetic snacks and drinks as well: think of a special ‘sky’ latte and waffle shaped like Umeda.
6. Eat Snow Crab
Snow crab experience was high on my list of priorities in Osaka, and it didn’t let me down. We booked Crab kaiseki dinner at the iconic Kani Doraku restaurant – the one with a mechanical crab on their facade – in advance.
It was definitely a meal to remember: different types of snow crab were served in a series of dishes highlighting the unique taste and texture of this type of meat: raw meat, grilled meat, tempura, soup and so on!
7. Spend a day at the Universal studio
Do you like theme parks? Universal Studio Osaka is exactly what you’re expecting it to be: it’s lively, it’s fun, it’s colourful, and I’ll definitely be returning there with my kid.
I’m not a big fan of crazy rides, but even so, there were plenty of activities to participate in: visit Hogwarts Castle, eat minion burgers, and take cool photos!
Which part of Universal Studios Osaka would you pick up to explore first: Minion Park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, or maybe New York/Hollywood?
8. Learn about marine life at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan…
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is a friendly spot where you can learn plenty of information about fish and other marine animals.
When it was opened in 1990, it was the largest public in the world! Of course, it looks less impressive than, for instance, Dubai Aquarium or Atlantis the Palm pool; however, we still enjoyed your visit.
9. …and don’t miss Tempozan Ferris Wheel
Wile you’re visiting the Osaka Aquarium, don’t miss the Tempozan Ferris Wheel nearby! It opened in 1997 and was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world!
You can also pop into the Tempozan market for nice eating options.
10. Explore Amerikamura
American Village, or Amerikamura, is another famous area of Osaka located not far from Dotonbori. Go there for a unique American-ish vibe in a Japanese manner where young people have gathered since the late 1960s.
The name originates from the shops that sold products from the West American coast back in time. Explore the cafes, shops, and Triangle Park, spot a tiny Statue of Liberty, and go to the 7-floor-high Big Step shopping mall, one of the central features of the district.
11. Make furry friends in a cafe
I love visiting animal cafes (disclaimer: of course, first I check whether they make animals’ well-being a priority!), and in Osaka, we made it to Shiba Inu cafe!
I absolutely loved being surrounded by a dozen of those cuties; however, I must admit that they were much less interested in me than in the food brought to them by a cafe manager.
12. Stay at a luxury hotel
Osaka is a perfect place to stay in a luxury hotel instead of a ryokan. Sadly, during our first visit, we didn’t stay in Osaka, which was a mistake we had to rectify on our next trip. And we made the best choice!
So, we went for Conrad Osaka, a modern and lush hotel on top of a skyscraper overlooking busy Osaka streets!
The building itself felt very modern, and our room had one of the best views I’ve ever had in a hotel – and yes, our bathroom had a panoramic window, too!
What else to see?
If you have more time in Osaka, add Namaba Yasaka Shinto Shrine (also known as Lion Shrine), Kuromon Ichiba Market, and Cup Noodles Museum to your list!
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Hope you liked my blog!