Best Places to Visit in Osaka
Osaka is one of the largest cities in Japan, located on the south coast of western Honshu, where the Yodo River empties into the vast Osaka Bay and empties into the Pacific Ocean. Located in the Yodo delta, it has a network of waterways and canals spanning over a thousand bridges, earning Osaka the nickname “Venice of the East”.
While Osaka’s origins can be traced back to the early days of the Japanese Empire, today it is undoubtedly one of the most modern cities in Japan, with a futuristic skyline and numerous examples of impressive modern architecture. Its numerous cultural institutions consolidate its status worldwide. These include ultra-modern entertainment, theater and music venues, as well as a multitude of magnificent museums and art galleries that together make up an endless list of unique events.
When planning your Osaka itinerary (and considering where to stay), keep in mind that the city is actually two major urban centers. If proximity to top dining, shopping and entertainment is a key factor, you’ll want to spend your time in the Southside or “Southern” area. The “North” district of Kita is Osaka’s traditional business hub and is definitely worth considering. Here you will find shopping, dining, entertainment and accommodation.
No matter what season you visit, plan your visit with our list of the Best Places to Visit in Osaka and make your trip enjoyable.
10 Best Places to Visit in Osaka
Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Osaka:
1. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Osaka Kaiyukan looks like it’s made from giant Lego bricks and is well worth a visit. One of the largest of its kind in the world, this walking aquarium takes guests on a fascinating tour of the marine habitat. These include the Pacific Ocean and Antarctica, and the Great Barrier Reef and Monterey Bay.
A variety of Japanese marine life is also on display, including native reptiles and mammals, as well as freshwater species. In total, the site has 27 tanks, the largest of which is 9 meters deep and can easily house large marine life, including manta rays and sharks.
For a truly memorable experience, consider visiting at night when the tanks are lit for a dazzling effect. Be sure to check feeding times before your visit (these are listed on the official aquarium website below).
Address: 552-0022 1-1-10-chome, Minato-ku Street, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture, 552-0022
Official website: www.kaiyukan.com/language/eng/index.htm
2. Tempozan Ferris Wheel and Harbor Village
The Tempozan Ferris Wheel offers some of the best views in Osaka, especially the port area and the Tempozan Harbor Village where it is located. This giant Ferris wheel is one of the largest of its kind in Asia, measuring 112 meters high and 100 meters in diameter.
This popular attraction has been operating since 1997 and offers an exhilarating 17-minute ride, especially at night when the wheels light up in a variety of colors depending on the weather (orange for sunny weather, green for cloudy, and blue for rain). ). Thrill-seekers can choose one of the special “transparent-bottom” buggies for incredible panoramic views of Osaka Bay.
Afterward, be sure to visit other Harbor Village attractions. Among the best are the Cruise Ship Santa Maria, the Legoland Discovery Center, and the Osaka Kaiyukan.
Address: 1-1-10 Kaigan-dori, Minato-ku, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture, 552-0022
3. The Kobe Port Tower
Osaka has not just one, but two towers that have become synonymous with the city. The last of these, the Kobe Harbor Tower, is located near the main port on the outskirts of the city. Although a bit far from the city center, it is undoubtedly a must-see attraction for many tourists.
Opened in 1963, the earthquake-resistant structure is made of red steel, 108 meters high and maintains its modern appearance. The highlight of a visit is to spend time on the observation deck with great views of the city and the Kobe Harbor area.
Better still, if you’re feeling hungry, consider making a reservation at the revolving restaurant, which offers equally spectacular views (especially fun at night).
Address: 5-5 Kuba-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Province 650-0042
Official website: www.kobe-port-tower.com/language/english.html
4. Osaka Castle
Completed in 1586, Osaka Castle (Ōsaka-jō) was completed in just three years. Built by the famous Japanese samurai and statesman Toyotomi Hideyoshi, this castle was the largest castle in Japan at that time. Almost all of Hideyoshi’s generals were asked to contribute stones to its construction, the largest of which was the Higo stone near the south entrance. About 6 meters high and 14.5 meters long, it was made by the famous general of Shodoshima, Kiyomasa Kato.
After Hideyoshi’s defeat in 1615, the castle was destroyed and the Tokugawa shogunate was rebuilt on grounds of prestige. Destroyed again after the fall of the shogunate, the castle was rebuilt in its present form in 1931.
Highlights include the 5-story, 42-metre-tall main tower that houses a wonderful museum with exhibits on the history of the castle and the city (it also offers stunning views of Osaka from the upper floors). Also worth mentioning in Osaka Castle Park is the Hokoku Shrine dedicated to Hideyoshi and his family.
This popular site can get busy, especially during the summer months, so be sure to take advantage of the “e-ticket” option available on its official site (see below).
Address: 1-1, Osaka Castle, Chuo-ku, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture, 540-0002
Official website: www.osakacastle.net/english/
5. Shitennō-ji Temple
Shitennoji is the most famous temple in Osaka, dating back to 59 AD. It is also the first Buddhist temple in Japan. Despite being rebuilt several times over the centuries (the most recent reconstruction took place in the 1960s), this beautiful temple remains the oldest officially administered religious site of its kind.
Highlights of the tour include the site’s five-story pagoda and other beautifully decorated buildings. The best of these is the Golden Pavilion (Kondō), with its exquisite sculptures and paintings, and the Conference Hall (Kōdō) and the beautiful enclosed corridor connecting the three site gates.
Other important buildings in the complex include education areas, a pharmacy and a hospital. Be sure to take time to explore the site’s delightful gardens.
Address: 543-0051 1-11-18 Shitennoji Temple, in Tennoji Ward, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture
6. National Museum of Art
The National Art Museum Osaka (NMAO) is a unique underground art museum located on Nakanoshima, a small island between the Tosabori and Dojima rivers, just minutes from the city centre. Opened in 1977, this prominent gallery houses a large collection of works by Japanese artists Kunayoshi and Fujita, as well as some of the major international artists of the post-war era, including Picasso and Cezanne.
It is also home to many important works and sculptures. Even if art isn’t your thing, the magnificent steel structure outside the museum, a massive installation that looks like a reed bending in the breeze, is worth seeing.
The Osaka Municipal Art Museum is also worth a visit. This exquisite gallery houses ancient Chinese calligraphy and artworks by Japan’s most respected artists.
Address: 4 Chome-2-55, Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, Osaka, 530-0005
Official website: www.nmao.go.jp/en/index.html
7. Osaka Tennōji Zoo & Park
Tennoji Park (Tennōji Kōen), Osaka’s largest green space, is a respite from the busy city. Famous for its fragrant flower beds and cherry blossoms in the spring, the park also has interesting sculptures, ponds and bridges that are fun to explore.
It’s also home to some of the city’s top tourist attractions, including Osaka’s Tennoji Zoo. Opened in 1915, the zoo is home to a variety of species, including lions, giraffes and elephants, all bred to roam the African savanna.
Also worth seeing are the Hippo Pond and the Reptile House. Warm Tips: Try to make time for free tours of the park’s conservatories and other areas that are not normally open to the public.
Address: 1-108 Chausyama-cho, Tennoji-ku, Osaka City
Official website: www.city.osaka.lg.jp/contents/wdu170/tennojizoo/en/
8. Osaka Science Museum
Osaka Science Museum (Ōsaka Shiritsu Kagakukan) resembles a large ship’s bridge thanks to its seaside location – a delightful excursion for those traveling with children. Opened above the National Museum of Art in 1989, the museum contains many hands-on and interactive exhibits based on science-related topics, covering everything from astronomy to energy. It also has the country’s first planetarium.
Also worth a visit, as the name suggests, is the Osaka International Center for Peace, a museum dedicated to peace affairs. Highlights include thought-provoking images of the devastation of war and a replica of the famous Doomsday Clock.
Address: 4 Chome-2-1, Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, Osaka, 530-0005
9. Umeda Sky Building
Alongside the stunning architectural designs associated with museums and art galleries, Osaka is home to many other fine examples of modern architecture. Perhaps most famously, the aptly named Umeda Sukai Biru is a striking landmark consisting of two office towers connected by a large platform-like structure at the top.
It is this roof structure that attracts visitors due to the network of bridges and escalators connecting the two towers. The views from the rooftop observation deck and garden – aptly named Floating Garden Observation Deck – are simply breathtaking.
Afterward, don’t forget to wander around the bottom of the city garden with its pleasant paths, fountains and ponds. There is also an interesting underground market with a similar design to Osaka of the early 20th century.
Address: 531-6023 1 Chome-1-88, Oyodo Orta, Kita-ku, Osaka City
Official website: www.skybldg.co.jp/en/
10. Universal Studios Japan
One of the city’s newest attractions and fast becoming one of Osaka’s top attractions, Universal Studios Japan is also one of the city’s busiest, attracting nearly 10 million visitors a year. One of five Universal theme parks worldwide, the Osaka location offers some unique attractions alongside many notable pop culture franchises.
Recent additions include Hollywood Dream: Ride, which is actually a fun roller coaster that sometimes goes backward; rides based on the Spider-Man movie; and Universal Wonderland, a family-friendly area for traveling with kids. Unique Japanese-themed entertainment and characters are found in Universal Cool Japan regional game and TV show-based rides, including Monster Hunter and One Piece Premier Show.
Also of interest to fans of the books and movies is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, based on the popular rides at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida. Be sure to check out the handy Universal Express Pass to avoid queues.
Address: 554-0031 1-33 Sakurajima, Osaka Prefecture
Official website: www.usj.co.jp/e/
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Osaka. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in Osaka, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.