Osaka Itinerary – Osaka is always considered one of the top highlights of anyone’s trip to Japan. It’s an amazing sprawling city of just under 20 million people, condensed into 39 lively cities that each offer their own distinct contribution to Osaka’s vibrant reputation.
Many seasoned travellers will consider Osaka to be somewhat of a gateway to the wider country of Japan. It’s almost as if it’s a level in a game that you need to conquer before you can go onto the next, (but just not as tedious!). For most foreigners, Osaka will almost always be part of the itinerary, whether it be for a few days or weeks, and thus with its immense popularity comes the influx of information.
We know that often time is the devil when it comes to planning what to do, and so we’ve condensed the best of the best of Osaka into an epic three-day adventure, taking into account the best foods, attractions, nightlife hotspots, and shopping experiences for anyone and everyone.
How To Get Around
Osaka (like the rest of Japan) is serviced by a great network of subways and train lines. For those of you who want to visit the top attractions and believe they will be utilising the municipal subway a lot (which is most travellers), we highly recommend purchasing the Osaka Amazing Pass.
This one- or two-day pass provides you unlimited access to any Osaka subway, tram, and bus. It also allows you access to a host of iconic Osaka sites, such as the Osaka Castle, Osaka Zoo, Umeda Sky Building, and more! To find out the complete list of included free entry sites, check this link out.
Pro Tip: If you’re considering purchasing the Osaka Amazing Pass and following our itinerary below, we recommend that you purchase the 2-day pass for the first two days, and then paying for each transport use on the third day, as there won’t be as much traveling.
If you book the pass online, you will receive a confirmation email, which you can just show the ticket counter or station attendant. You can also print it out and show that as a ticket as well. For information on all the inclusions you get with the pass, you can download the Osaka Amazing Pass app on the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.
Osaka Itinerary – Day #1
We recommend that you start off your Osaka discovery at Kuromon Market, which is Osaka’s answer to the famous Tsukiji Fish Markets without so much the glitz and glamour. It’s a humble, no frills seafood-lovers paradise, with an assortment of seafood that you probably would not have access to or be game enough to try at home – fresh sea urchin, anyone?
Whilst there, we reckon you should pretty much eat whatever you can lay your hands on, as the seafood here is seriously fresh and you’ll need the energy to explore Osaka later on. Some standouts would include chirashi zushi (fresh seafood rice bowl), uni (straight from the ocean, what!), gigantic grilled crab legs, gigantic oysters, and grilled or fresh eel.
The small alleys of Kuromon also line souvenir stores alongside the seafood stores so you wouldn’t pop in just for the food; there are some unique trinkets you can pick up along the way too!
If you want to visit this market with a guide, you can book this cool walking tour >>
After you’ve had your fill at Kuromon Ichiba Market, head on to explore one of the most beautiful Japanese castles in the country. Osaka castle is one of the most important historical structures in all of the city. It’s got a history that’s more than 100 years old, and you can catch a glimpse of its past simply by laying your eyes on the gorgeous grand exterior of the castle.
There’re actually a whopping eight levels to explore within the castle, from ancient relics to gorgeous views, and you’ve also the outside castle grounds and park to stroll around in too. Its peak visiting period would be during spring, when the grounds are littered with gorgeous sakura flowers and locals and tourists alike lay out their picnic mats for a leisurely picnic under the trees. One of the best Sakura spots in Osaka!
If you’re planning to visit Osaka Castle, you can purchase a ticket onlineto skip the queues by easily presenting your mobile voucher.
- Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002, Japan
- Access: From Kuromon Market, walk to Nippombashi Station and take the Sakaisuji line towards Sakaisuji Hommachi station. Alight there and change lines to the Chuo line for Tanimachiyonchome station. From there, it is a 16-minute walk.
- Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Umeda Sky Building Observation Deck
By this time, it should be the afternoon, so we urge you to head on over to the famous Umeda Sky Building. This building plays host to a famous observation deck that commands the most sought-after sweeping views of Osaka CBD. Standing at 173-metres high, with 40 floors above ground and two below ground, it actually comprises two buildings which are connected via a ‘floating garden’.
Umeda Sky Building is a great attraction for all types of travellers as it not only includes showrooms and displays, but also restaurants, cinemas, fashion stores, and of course, the famous observation deck. As a testament to its incredible views, just take a look at Instagram – thousands upon thousands of creative individuals have visited this deck and have taken all angles of photos possible, and they all turn out just stunning. Not only does the structure of the building create an epic background, but the views are just A-grade, especially during golden hour.
If you purchased the Osaka Amazing Pass mentioned above, you will get free access after 6:00pm into the Umeda Sky Building Observation Deck – simply show your pass. Note that before 6:00pm, admission is free.
- Address: 1 Chome-1-88 Oyodonaka, Kita Ward, Osaka, 531-6023, Japan
- Access: Walk to Osakajokoen station (20-minutes) and take the Osaka Loop line to Osaka station. It is a 10-minute walk from there.
- Hours: 11:00am – 10:30pm
Explore Umeda Area
Once you’re done admiring the beautiful sunset, head on down to the Umeda city centre for some epic shopping! The northern downtown of Osaka (aka Umeda) is home to a plethora of entertainment, restaurants, shopping, and overall Japanese hype that will have you wanting to explore all corners of this funky city.
After a full day of exploring, you’ll probably want to grab a bite first. Umeda is full of thousands of restaurants that offer everything from yakiniku to sushi to ramen to takoyaki – you will be spoilt for choice. One of our standout favourites is Honimiyake Steak Bowl, located within Hankyu Sanbagai. It tastes 5-star but only costs as much as a 1-star meal, and the daily massive lines are testament to just how great this simple beef don is.
Honmiyake Steak Bowl
- Address: 1 Chome-1-3 Shibata, Kita Ward, Osaka, 530-0012, Japan
- Access: Head down to the B2 level of Hankyu Sangabai and look for the restaurant with the long line!
- Hours: 11:00am – 10:00pm
After dinner, grab yourself a crepe and be on your way to do some epic shopping! There are so many shopping centres, all of which host local and international brands, meaning you could literally spend hours perusing this area. A standout would be HEP FIVE, one of the most visited centres, and Herbis Ent, which serves up luxury brands such as Gucci, Tiffany, Hugo Boss, and Omega.
Osaka Itinerary – Day #2
Street Go Kart or Legoland
If you are traveling alone or with some friends, we highly recommend you to book this tour and drive a kart like Mario in Osaka streets! This is really a unique experience and it will actually help you to see a lot of sights in the city from your kart. You will need an International Driving license for this tour so make sure you prepare it before you come to Japan.
If you are looking for something more quiet, head to Legoland instead!
Start your day off right at Legoland, a surprisingly fun and well-rounded activity for almost all ages – and its exciting activities are not restricted to only those who are interested in Lego!
The theme park is located right by the bay, so kill two birds with one stone and set apart some time before or after to take photos by the water. Inside the theme park, there are plenty of things to engage in, including playing with world-class Lego blocks (of course), touring the brick factory, watching a 4-D movie (always fun!), and even a hands-on experience in creating the bricks!
There are rides and playgrounds for the young and young at heart, a shop to purchase souvenirs, and a cafe to sit down at and relax after a few hours of exploration.
You can pre-purchase tickets and receive confirmation almost instantly to skip the queues. At Legoland, they even have a separate line for Klook customers so you will feel that extra bit of VIP-ness!
To book tickets, click on the link here >>
- Address: Japan, 〒552-0022 Osaka, Minato Ward, Kaigandori, 1 Chome−1−10
- Access: Legoland is a 5-minute walk from Osakako Station, which sits on the green Chuo line. It is roughly 15-20 minutes from the city centre.
- Hours: 10:00am – 4:00pm
Tempozan Harbor Village and Giant Ferris Wheel
If you’re feeling a bit peckish, why not head over to explore the nearby Tempozan Harbor Village for a bit of harborside shopping and discovery and grab a bite to eat as well? The village comprises a variety of entertainment and eating options, however, a popular choice would be the Tempozan Marketplace, which is the shopping component where you can enjoy a massive variety of leisure shops and entertainment for the entire family.
There is also a dedicated food court there as well, however for a different dining experience, head to the Naniwa Gourmet Ishinbo Yokocho, an indoor ancient-themed food court that offers you a variety of distinct Osaka foods within a rather nostalgic atmosphere – think ambient red lanterns!
The highlight of this area would be the enormous Tempozan Ferris Wheel which stands at a whopping 112.5m high! It offers stunning views across the harbour and is a great way to finish your adventure here. Best thing is that, if you’ve purchased the Amazing Osaka Pass, admission to this ferris-wheel ride is free!
If you think exploring Osaka city would not include any historical or cultural elements you would be wrong! Shi-Tennoji Temple, considered to be one of the oldest temples across Japan, sits right in the middle of the city, however the atmosphere is calm and serene – not what you would expect of a site that’s minutes away from busy roads and traffic.
It was founded in 593, and comprises the outer temple grounds, the inner grounds, the Gokuraku-jodo Garden, and the treasure house. Note that all but the outer temple grounds require an entrance fee.
The ambient atmosphere here alone is worth the trek to visit it. Not only that, but its beauty is one that is distinctly Japanese, and throughout the year presents beautiful imagery for photographs, especially during the cherry blossom season and autumn koyo season. There is also a five-story pagoda onsite that visitors may respectfully enter and explore.
- Address: 1-11-18 Shitennoji, Tennoji Ward, Osaka, 543-0051, Japan
- Access: From Osakako Station, take the Chuo line to Tanimachiyonchome Station and alight. Switch to the Tanimachi line and head to Shitennoji-mae Yuhigaoka Station. It is a 4-minute walk from there.
- Hours: 8:00am – 4:00pm
Once you’re done taking in all the pretty, serene sights, go for a brisk 15-minute walk to Shinsekai, where you will spend the rest of the day taking fun and exciting pics at one of the most instagrammable places in Osaka! No hesitation, this street has to be in your Osaka itinerary!
Shinsekai is considered to be Osaka’s “old downtown district”, and whilst there is a distinct nostalgic flair evident in the excessive use of Japanese lanterns and wooden signages along the main strip, it still offers a visually stunning landscape for portrait and street photography – you’ll be snapping your camera all the way to dinner.
There are limitless options here to choose from; you’ll be able to find pretty much every Japanese dish you may be craving. However, if we were to suggest one, it would be to try the kushukatsu (deep-fried skewers) as it is considered to be one of Shinsekai’s most famous dishes.
Osaka Itinerary – Day #3
Osaka Universal Studios
A visit to Osaka wouldn’t be complete without a Universal Studios visit, and USJ might just be one of the best experiences you’ll have! Let your inner child be free and hop on as many rides as you can fit in, gorge on popcorn and steam buns (only in Japan!) and hot dogs and soft drinks, and finally try to win a Minion toy as a memento – because nothing screens “I WENT TO UNIVERSAL STUDIOS!” like an adorable gigantic Minion plush toy that rides home on the train with you.
If you’re not sure if this activity is for you because of your age, we think you should throw that thought outside the window and book your ticket, because Universal Studios is quite literally for people of all ages. From fast-moving 4-D Harry Potter rides to an entire park dedicated to the Minions, you’ll find that there may not even be enough time to do all the things you want. From the moment you step into the gates of the theme park, you’ll literally feel the magic in the air.
For those who are full steam ahead, we recommend booking the entrance ticket, as it means you skip the long (long!) queue at the beginning of the day. All you need to do is show them your confirmation ticket on your phone and you’re in!
To book the ticket, check out the link here.
- Address: 2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, 554-0031, Japan
- Access: It is a 5-minute walk from Universal City Station, which sits on the JR Sakurajima line.
- Hours: 10:00am – 7:00pm
We saved the best of your Osaka itinerary for last, and the best is Dotonbori. This thriving, crazy loud strip of street food vendors, boutique fashion stores, random souvenir stores, big crowds and bigger entertainment is what Osaka is all about. You’ll want to spend forever in the frisson of excitement that permeates through the air every time you hear someone cheer over beer inside a restaurant, but alas, lack of time means that you’ll probably be able to fit in only a few hours of exploring – but that should be enough.
If you’ve been doing a bit of foodie research, you’ll know that the top foods to try in Osaka include the likes of okonomiyaki, takoyaki, kushikatsu, and yakiniku, and you’ll be able to sample all of this along Dontonbori; just look for the lines and follow your nose’s instinct.
Don’t forget to head to the bridge to take a photo with the famous Glico running man and also take some romantic photos at the Dontonburi bridge! If you’re in need of some last-minute souvenirs (or gifts or even snacks), head to the massive Don Quijote nearby for an epic 6-floor, 24-hour discount store shopping frenzy.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, some items that you simply can’t go wrong with include funky and cute socks, Pocky snacks, bags of unique flavoured kit-kat, and all the face masks you’ll ever need.
Access: From Universal City station, take the JR Yumesaki line to Nishikujo Station and alight there to change to the Hanshin Namba line to Osaka-Namba Station. It is a 5-minute walk from there.
We believe we haven’t left any stones unturned with this epic Osaka itinerary, so we hope you managed to get some (if not all!) your information required for a full-on 3-day itinerary exploring some of the best sights, foods and attractions that Osaka has to offer. We guarantee you that no matter how you choose to explore, though, you’ll leave wanting more and more until you finally cave in and book that next trip back to this crazy beautiful city. Happy planning!
PS: If you have more time to spend in Osaka, here are 10 lovely places that you can visit around the city: 10 Day Trips From Osaka.