Osaka is the second largest city in Japan and well known for its nightlife, business districts and incredible street food. Our 4 day Osaka itinerary will help you see the best sights of the city, photograph its coolest corners and eat some of the best Japanese food. Let’s get started!
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Getting to Osaka
Getting to Osaka by air is super easy. You have two airports: Osaka International Airport (aka Itami, mostly used for flights within Japan) and Kansai International Airport. Kansai International is on an artificial island in Osaka Bay, about 1 hour from Osaka.
Use the Haruka Express to make your way to Downtown Osaka. The Haruka Express departs from Kansai Airport every 30 minutes and stops at Tennoji and Shin-Osaka stations. Get your tickets in advance to avoid queuing.
Osaka is well-connected to other cities, like Tokyo, by Shinkansen. It takes only 2.5 hours on the Tokaido Shinkansen line to travel from Tokyo to Osaka. If you are visiting from Kyoto, take the Limited Express trains (Haruka or the Thunderbird) which takes about 35 mins.
Getting around Osaka
The transportation system is great in Osaka, and it's easy to get around.
- Subway: The subway system in Osaka is fast, clean, and efficient. You can use prepaid cards (Icoca, Suica and Pasmo), or mobile apps to buy tickets. A ride costs between $1.30 and $2.80.
- Bus: Buses are really affordable (about $1.60 per ride) and a great way to see the city. Expect crowds during rush hours.
- Bicycle: Renting a bicycle is a fun and eco-friendly way to get around the city. Find bike rental shops near popular tourist areas.
- Taxi: Taxis can be a bit expensive. If you need to use one, have the address ready, written in Japanese, to show the driver. The drivers are usually nice and helpful, but many of them don't speak English well.
Where to stay in Osaka
I always recommend first time visitors to stay in Kita or Minami. When you pick your hotel, make sure to stay close to any of these stations for easy access to attractions: Umeda, Namba, Tennoji, Osaka station, Shin-Osaka.
Our top hotel picks for Osaka:
Expect to pay $50-$100/night for budget accommodation. Mid-range hotel rooms will cost between $190 to $300 for a night, and high-end luxury hotels will charge from $400 upwards.
Hotel rooms in Osaka are somewhat larger than in Tokyo or Kyoto. The modern, recently built business hotels offer good value for money.
Tip: Always book your hotel a maximum 20-25min subway ride away from Downtown Osaka. Any further, and it will be a pain to travel in and out of the city.
The best times to visit Japan and Osaka is in the spring and autumn. The weather is a little unpredictable, but it's usually mild. Check our what to pack for Japan guide for inspiration.
If you are travelling from Tokyo to Osaka using the Shinkansen, or planning on taking day trips, I recommend you to purchase the JR pass. Here is a detailed guide on what the JR pass is and how to buy it.
Lastly, it's a good idea to rent a Wi-Fi device or a SIM card, so you have internet access wherever you go. These are inexpensive, and can be delivered to your hotel or picked up at the airport.
When we visited Osaka, we have purchased the Osaka Amazing Pass. The pass gives you access to 40+ sights and free travel on trains and buses. The 2 days pass is only $27.
What to eat in Osaka
Takoyaki originated in Osaka, and has become popular street food in many places in Japan and abroad. It's a snack made from a batter that contains diced octopus, green onion, and tempura bits, and is cooked in a special takoyaki pan. The octopus balls are topped with dried bonito flakes and mayonnaise.
You can find takoyaki at every street market. It's an inexpensive, delicious snack, our absolute favourite.
A savoury pancake, Okonomiyaki, is a delicious meal you have to try in Osaka. The name "okonomiyaki" means "grilled as you like it," as the ingredients and toppings can be customized to your liking. Typically cooked on a hot griddle made from a batter of flour, eggs, and shredded cabbage, mixed with meats, seafood, or vegetables.
It's easy to find a restaurant or street food vendor who sells this. Our favourite was the Okonomiyaki Sakaba O restaurant, next to Namba.
Premium Japanese Beef
Only 30 km from Kobe, Osaka is the second-best place to find Kobe beef (should you not wish to also take a day trip to Kobe). Kobe beef is the finest and most expensive types of beef in the world, prized for its intense marbling and rich, buttery flavour.
Beef is already fairly expensive in Japan, like a normal stake will cost around $40. A Kobe beef stake will usually start around $60, but the highest quality meat will set you back $200 or more.
Japanese BBQ & Seafood
Osaka is really big on BBQ. In these restaurants, you cook your own food over a charcoal fire or special gas burner. Many places offer an all-you-can-eat option. Check before you order.
You can pick what you want to eat at the seafood restaurants with similar theme. The waiter will bring you the raw food and set up the cooking equipment. Don't be shy to ask for help if it's your first time.
Dotonbori is packed with BBQ restaurant, but there are good options at the Osaka Station too.
Also known as conveyor belt sushi, it is a type of sushi restaurant where the dishes are placed on a rotating conveyor belt, and you can pick the plates you want to eat. The restaurant is designed to be fast, efficient, and affordable. A plate costs as low as $1. Look out for regional and seasonal specialities for a quick treat.
Find Kaiten Sushi restaurants around Osaka and Namba Stations. Our favourite was Hakodate Gourmet Kantaro (just outside of Osaka Station). Although we had to wait for 45 mins to be seated, it was worth the wait. The sushi was fresh and delicious.
You have to try this popular street food in Osaka, called "Kushikatsu". It is skewered and deep-fried meat or seafood (veggie options are also available). Coated in batter and then deep-fried until crispy and golden brown, served with a sauce made of tonkatsu and Worcestershire sauce.
You will find Kushikatsu at most street food places and at small, casual eateries.
Things to do in Osaka - Perfect 4 Days in Osaka Itinerary
* Osaka Itinerary for first-timers
Osaka Itinerary - Day 1
The first day of your Osaka itinerary will be spent in Kita, which means “north” in Japanese. Kita is also known as Umeda, which is the name of one of the main train stations here.
Kita is the daytime heart of the city because it is considered the transport and business hub of Osaka. You will find plenty of restaurants and shopping options. It's an exciting district and a great ease into your trip around Osaka.
Umeda Sky Building
After breakfast, head to Umeda Sky. This is a tall building where you can enjoy remarkable views over Osaka. It is 173 meters tall, and its two towers are connected by the Floating Garden Observatory on the 38th floor.
If you like photographing cities at night, you can visit just before 10 PM to admire the beautiful city flooded by colours and lights.
Opening times: 10 AM-10:30 PM
Osaka Castle dates back to 1583 and covers an area of about 15 acres. Don't miss the museum like interior with various exhibitions.
The incredible castle grounds and Japanese style gardens make the Osaka Castle unforgettable. Entry is free. In the spring, admire the myriad of cherry blossom trees and try popular Japanese food from the street vendors.
Opening times: 9 AM-5 PM
Tenjimbashi-suji Shopping Street
Tenjimbashi-suji Shopping Street is a covered, 2.6 km network of streets dotted with various shops, restaurants, and cafés.
Spend hours just marvelling at the merchandise and try the many delicious street food you will find in the area. Don't be shy to ask if you don't understand something. Most vendors will be happy to chat with you about their food. Tenjimbashi-suji is also the perfect place to have a quick lunch or a snack.
This is the first public park opened in Osaka in 1981. It's great for visits during the rose bloom season (May-June and October) as the park features beautiful rose gardens.
The park is on an island, and it's surrounded by restaurants and cafés, making this place great for sitting down after the long walk for a drink and some food. Check out the "&Island" café right off Sendannokibashi Bridge.
National Museum of Art
Located underground, the National Museum of Art features exhibitions focusing on modern Japanese and foreign contemporary art. Ticket information and opening times can be found on their official website.
Note, the museum is closed on Mondays.
Osaka Science Museum
Next door to the National Museum of Art, the Osaka Science Museum is a great place to visit for families with kids. These is a planetarium, four floors full of interactive exhibits and a shop selling quirky items and souvenirs.
Note, the museum is closed on Mondays.
Where to eat
- Kiji - Okonomiyaki restaurant in Kita, budget friendly and tasty food.
- Takuya - Pork cutlet (tonkatsu) restaurant in Kita. Reservations are required.
- Gunjo - Small vending machine ramen restaurant in Kita.
Osaka Itinerary - Day 2
The second day of your Osaka itinerary will be spent in Minami, which is the most vibrant district of Osaka. Here, you will explore Osaka's creative nightlife, delicious restaurants and endless shopping opportunities. Welcome to Osaka's world of jumbo ads and crazy neon streets.
Start the day fresh and go on a shopping spree. Midosuji is Osaka's main street and the place where you will find the most well-known brands and boutiques.
In a way, this is the equivalent of shopping in Tokyo's Ginza, so expect luxury brands and outlets. Even if shopping is not your favourite sport, this is a great place to sit down for a morning cup of coffee and grab a bite for breakfast.
How would you like to explore one of those incredible, atmospheric Japanese alleyways? Hozenji Yokocho is a narrow street, 80 m long, 2.7 m wide.
This stone-paved alley will take you on a journey back in time. It can easily be mistaken for Kyoto's old quarters, it is one of the most beautiful streets in Osaka and an absolute must-see during any Osaka itinerary.
Similar to the arcades in Asakusa in Tokyo, Doguyasuji has a wealth of shops that specialize in kitchen and cooking supplies. This is a great place to purchase useful Japanese souvenirs.
During our 2 weeks in Japan, we bought a variety of ramen bowls, chopsticks and beautiful norens. If you have limited suitcase space, I recommend the sake set to take home.
Amerika Mura is essentially the equivalent to Tokyo's Harajuku neighbourhood. It's a fun shopping district with teenage fashion and a lively atmosphere. The merchandise is aimed at teens and shoppers in their early 20s.
Is it time for a snack? There are many budget eateries and inviting cafés in the area.
This is Osaka's equivalent of the Akihabara electric town in Tokyo. Best place for electronics and cosplay cafés. It's actually here that I started looking for Fujifilm lenses. You can find things ranging from computers, electronics and cameras, to pop culture shopping and manga characters.
Alas, Dotonbori at night, one of the coolest light and neon spectacles in the whole of Osaka. It will be crowded with locals and tourists, so prepare to queue for delicious street food and the best restaurants.
There is an arcade called the Dotonbori Arcade with many budget shops selling sweets and cosmetics. This is the best place to sample street food, enjoy a fun and loud atmosphere and admire the craziest restaurants facades with giants faces and sea creatures. No better place to have dinner and enjoy a beer or sake.
Tip: You can photograph the street from the Ebisu-bashi Bridge.
Where to eat
- Tsuki no Odori - Gastropub selling yakitori and tempura chicken, close to Kujō Station.
- Ichiran Dotonbori - Famous vending machine ramen restaurant next to the Namba Station.
Osaka Itinerary - Day 3
The Osaka Bay Area is one of my favourite places in the city. It is unusually quiet for a Japanese district, especially in a large city such as Osaka. I very much loved the eerie feeling of the Bay at night.
We stayed in the 4-star Quintessa Hotel in the Osaka Bay during our last trip. It was a lovely hotel with huge rooms and costed half the price. The only issue was that it took a bit longer to get to Downtown Osaka - but if you have PASMO card, that's not really a problem. Included in the price, you will get a welcome drink and daily generous breakfast.
After breakfast, make your way to the Osaka Aquarium (Osakako Station) is one of the world's largest aquariums and offers the chance to see whale sharks. We were surprised by how large the aquarium was and what a variety of marine life we could see.
Towards the end of the tour, there is a "petting aquarium" where you can see stingrays up close and allowed to gently touch them. Kids love this but to be honest, as adults we were also super excited.
Opening hours: 10AM–8PM, weekdays and 9.30AM-8PM weekends.
Tempozan Ferris Wheel
No Osaka itinerary is complete without a visit to the Ferris Wheel. For less than 1000 yen you can admire Osaka Bay from above. It's really tall, so it's not ideal for those suffering from vertigo.
You can pick a carriage which has a transparent floor, but the queues for those are usually long. The Ferris Wheel opens at the same time as the Aquarium, so depending on the weather, it's a good idea to visit that first, before the crowds arrive.
An unusual little attraction, Mount Tenpō is the lowest mountain in Japan. Its elevation reaches only 4.53 metres (yes, you are reading this correctly). Mount Tenpō was formed in 1831 as the earth was dug up during the dredging of the Ajigawa river. People started planting cherry blossoms and pine trees in the area and began to set up new shops.
There aren't many "good" restaurants in this area. Most places are selling western style food or overly touristy. I recommend to head back to Downtown Osaka for food.
Where to eat
- Tempozan Marketplace - Various shops and restaurants selling Japanese dishes
- Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho - 60s - 70s style food court offering street food and snacks.
Osaka Itinerary - Day 4
The fourth day of the Osaka itinerary is all about the Universal Studios. So many people come to Osaka specifically to enjoy the epic rides. So, what can you actually do for a full day exploring the theme park?
For Jurassic Park or Harry Potter fans, you must absolutely spend one day exploring the Universal Studios Japan. Make sure to book your tickets in advance and arrive as early as possible.
I strongly recommend that as soon as you arrive, book an entry for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, as this is the most popular ride.
With so many rides and attractions, you can easily spend a full day here. Enjoy a headlong drop on a boat to escape a dinosaur, a speedy ride through beautiful stars or the thrill of a backward rollercoaster. Of course, most people visit for the Harry Potter attractions, shops, street entertainment and Potter-themed restaurants.
Where to eat
- Hog's Head - Harry Potter style pub with a broad selection of drinks & classic butter beer.
- Three Broomsticks - Traditional British fish and chips, pumpkin juice & butter beer.
Did you enjoy our Osaka itinerary? Please let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many days should I spend in Osaka?
I recommend spending a total of 4 days if you want to visit the highlights of Osaka and spend a day at the Universal Studios. This length of time allows you to discover Osaka Castle, Shinsekai, Dotonbori and Namba, Umeda Area and visit Universal Studios Japan.
When is the best time to visit Osaka?
Considering the weather, cherry blossom season (late March to early April) and autumn (late October to early December) are often considered the best times to visit Osaka due to pleasant temperatures and beautiful natural scenery.
- Spring (March to May): Spring is a popular time to visit Osaka, especially during late March and early April. Parks and gardens, such as Osaka Castle Park and Expo '70 Commemorative Park, offer stunning displays of cherry blossoms, creating a picturesque atmosphere. However, this is also a busy tourist season, so expect larger crowds.
- Summer (June to August): Summers in Osaka are hot and humid, with temperatures often exceeding 30°C (86°F). While the weather can be challenging, there are lively summer festivals and events like Tenjin Matsuri, one of Japan's largest boat festivals, held in July.
- Autumn (September to November): Autumn in Osaka brings milder temperatures and beautiful foliage. The city is generally less crowded during this season compared to spring.
- Winter (December to February): Winters in Osaka are relatively mild, with temperatures averaging around 5-10°C (41-50°F). While it rarely snows in Osaka, you may encounter occasional chilly days. Winter illuminations, especially in places like Osaka Castle Park and Universal Studios Japan, add a festive ambiance during the holiday season.
Is Osaka or Kyoto best?
If you enjoy more of an urban environment, want food scene, and a more fast-paced atmosphere, Osaka is a better choice. If you are interested in traditional culture, temples, zen gardens and traditional Japanese, Kyoto is the preferred option.
Osaka has a lively atmosphere and a renowned food culture. Expect a more energetic nightlife with lots of shopping and plenty of street food. Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan, and the vibrant Dotonbori district are popular attractions in the city
Kyoto is the cultural heart of Japan, with temples and serene gardens. The city is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Fushimi Inari Taisha. Kyoto offers a more traditional atmosphere with ancient Japanese architecture, tea ceremonies, and traditional arts.
It's worth noting that Osaka and Kyoto are located near each other (about 30 minutes apart by train), making it convenient to visit both cities during your trip. For accommodation purposes, Osaka is much cheaper compared to Kyoto, so if you're travelling on a budget, staying in Osaka and taking day trips to Kyoto makes more sense.