Discover the top 10 attractions in Osaka, from historic Osaka Castle to vibrant Dōtonbori. Join us on a journey through this dynamic city's must-visit spots!
The 10 best things to do in Osaka
Nestled in the Kansai region of Japan, Osaka is a bustling metropolis renowned for its modern architecture, vibrant nightlife, and hearty street food. As Japan's third-largest city, it's a hub of cultural and historical significance, blending the old with the new in a dynamic way.
If you’re starting off your trip in the capital, the Tokyo-Osaka train pass offers an easy and efficient way to explore both of these equally exciting major cities in Japan.
Overview of Osaka
Osaka has a rich and fascinating history. Originating as a pivotal port city, it has played a significant role in Japan's political and economic scenes for centuries. It was even once briefly the imperial capital before Tokyo took the mantle.
The city's past is marked by powerful warlords and significant battles, shaping the vibrant, energetic metropolis we see today. Modern Osaka is a testament to its resilient spirit, boasting a skyline that merges futuristic skyscrapers with historical landmarks, a testament to its enduring legacy.
Top attractions in Osaka
Osaka offers a treasure trove of attractions to rival those of Tokyo or Kyoto. From historical sites to modern marvels, here's a list of the top must-visit spots in Osaka.
1. Osaka Castle
This iconic landmark is a symbol of Osaka's historical significance. The castle, surrounded by moats and lush gardens, offers a glimpse into Japan's feudal past. Its museum provides insights into the life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the castle's original builder.
2. Sumiyoshi Taisha
Established in the 3rd century, Sumiyoshi Taisha is one of Japan's oldest Shinto shrines. It’s a prime example of ancient Japanese religious architecture, distinct from the Chinese-influenced Buddhist styles that emerged later.
The shrine is dedicated to the Sumiyoshi Sanjin, three Shinto deities associated with sea travel and maritime safety, making it an important pilgrimage site for sailors and fishermen. The tranquil grounds house the iconic Sorihashi Bridge, which has featured in many famous Japanese photographs and paintings.
3. Umeda Sky Building
For breathtaking city views, head to the Umeda Sky Building. Its floating garden observatory offers a 360-degree panorama of Osaka, making it a favorite among photographers and romantics alike.
4. Osaka Expo '70 Park
Built on the site of the 1970 World Expo, Osaka Expo '70 Park is a sprawling green oasis in the middle of the city. The park's most iconic feature is the Tower of the Sun, a unique artwork by Taro Okamoto.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of attractions, including the Japanese Garden, with its seasonal beauty, and the Natural and Cultural Gardens, which offer a serene escape from the urban hustle. The park also hosts various events and exhibitions throughout the year.
5. Osaka Aquarium
Osaka Aquarium, also known as Kaiyukan, is one of the largest and most impressive aquariums in the world. The mainattraction is the massive Pacific Ocean tank, home to a majestic whale shark. The interactive exhibits also allow you to get up close with a diverse range of marine life, including smaller sharks and manta rays.
6. Dōtonbori District
The heart of Osaka's entertainment and nightlife, Dōtonbori is famous for its neon lights, extravagant signage, and an array of street food stalls offering Osaka’s local delicacies like takoyaki and okonomiyaki.
7. Abeno Harukas
Standing at 300 meters, Abeno Harukas is Japan's tallest skyscraper. The building's top three floors are dedicated to the Harukas 300 Observatory, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the city.
Apart from the observatory, Abeno Harukas houses Kintetsu Department Store, one of the largest in Japan, offering a wide range of shopping and dining options. The building also includes an art museum and a luxury hotel.
8. Universal Studios Japan
A must-visit for families and movie buffs, Universal Studios Japan in Osaka brings the magic of movies and popular culture to life.
This expansive theme park features a range of attractions based on famous franchises, including Super Mario, Minions, and Jurassic Park. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a standout, offering an immersive experience with its detailed recreation of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade.
9. Minoo Park
A short train ride from central Osaka, Minoo Park is a nature reserve known for its picturesque waterfall, Minoo Falls.
The park offers plenty of opportunities for hiking and bird watching, making it a perfect day trip for nature lovers. It’s a particularly popular destination in autumn, when the maple leaves turn vibrant shades of red and gold.
10. Tenjin Matsuri
If you’re visiting Osaka in July, you simply must experience the Tenjin Matsuri, one of Japan's most spectacular festivals. Celebrated for over 1,000 years, this vibrant celebration honors Sugawara no Michizane, a deity of learning and art.
The festival's highlights include a land procession featuring thousands of participants in traditional costumes and a river procession with lavishly decorated boats. The festivities culminate in a dazzling fireworks display that illuminates the Osaka skies.
In conclusion, Osaka is a city that never fails to enchant. Whether you're a history buff, a foodie, or an adventure seeker, Osaka has something special for everyone.
Save for later!
Cathy Slater is an experienced content writer. She is associated with many renowned travel blogs as a guest author where she shares her valuable travel tips with the audience.