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Osaka: 15 Must-See Spots, Both Famous and Little Known

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Osaka is a popular destination that rivals Tokyo and Kyoto. We introduce 15 iconic places to visit in Osaka, including well-known spots and hidden areas, from shopping malls to observation decks, an aquarium, and more!

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Osaka: The Exciting Metropolis of Western Japan

Osaka rivals the popularity of Tokyo and Kyoto. The second largest city in Japan, this Kansai metropolis offers everything from delicious food to shopping over a theme park to places of historical importance.

In this article, we introduce fifteen places that shouldn't be missed out on a trip to Osaka. Remember to use the one-day or two-day Osaka Amazing Pass, for unlimited subway rides while exploring the city and admission to some of the attractions featured below.

Top 15 Things to Do in Osaka

1. Dotonbori: Everyone's Favorite Spot in Osaka
2. Universal Studios Japan (USJ): Have Fun All Day Long!
3. Osaka Castle: A Towering Icon of the City
4. Umeda Sky Building's Observatory: A Great View of Osaka
5. Tsutenkaku and Shinsekai: Where Osaka’s Past and Present Coexist
6. Abeno Harukas: Japan’s Tallest Building
7. Amerikamura: Shop Vintage Clothes and Eat Takoyaki
8. Kuromon Market: Delicious Foods
9. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan: Japan’s Largest Aquarium
10. Tempozan Ferris Wheel: Recommended for Couples
11. National Bunraku Theatre: Witness the Traditional Performing Arts
12. Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine: A Spiritual Spot in Osaka
13. Minoo Falls: Stunning Scenery
14. Expo ’70 Commemorative Park and Tower of the Sun: Fun for the whole Family
15. CUPNOODLES Museum Osaka Ikeda: Create Your Own Cup Noodles
Other Tips: Osaka One-Day Passes, Car Rentals, Hotels

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1. Dotonbori: Everyone's Favorite Spot in Osaka

Dotonbori

© Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

Dotonbori is one of the most famous places to visit in Osaka. It is best known for the large billboards that are on display in rows.

Photogenic billboards are located everywhere throughout the shopping district. From the signboard of the confectionery maker Glico, featuring a runner with both arms raised, to a large moving crab, the design of these signs is really unique. The district looks even more impressive when it is illuminated in the night.

The approximately 580 meter long shopping street connecting Shinsaibashi to Dotonbori is lined with restaurants and apparel stores. This street is crowded with people every day and contains all of Osaka’s charms in one place. There are many restaurants offering the local foods of Osaka on this street.

Pub crawls and guided tours are another option for those looking to experience nightlife in Osaka. Osaka: Not your average night out is one of the available guided tours that allow you to explore Dotonbori at night and feast on tasty local street food.



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2. Universal Studios Japan (USJ): Have Fun All Day Long!

USJ

Picture courtesy of Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios Japan is a theme park with a collection of facilities and rides based on famous Hollywood movies. In recent years, it has expanded to include some of the most popular Japanese entertainment as well. Sailor Moon, Attack on Titan, Neon Genesis Evangelion and even Godzilla have been part of their special line up so far.

Popular permanent attractions include Jaws, Jurassic Park: The Ride, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Minion Park. Universal Studios Japan also holds seasonal events such as the Universal Surprise Halloween.

Book your Universal Studios Japan Pass online


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3. Osaka Castle: A Towering Icon of the City

Osaka: 15 Must-See Spots, Both Famous and Little Known

Photo by Pixta
Osaka Castle towers over the city of Osaka. It is one of Japan’s Three Most Famous Castles.

Erected in 1583 by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the ruler who unified Japan, it was then destroyed by a fire and was repeatedly repaired. Its current shape dates back to 1931 when it was reconstructed. It is illuminated at night, exuding a magical atmosphere. A park is located in the area around the castle and is where approximately 3,000 cherry blossom trees go in bloom in the spring.

Book your Osaka Castle Ticket online


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4. Umeda Sky Building's Observatory: A Complete View of Osaka

Osaka: 15 Must-See Spots, Both Famous and Little Known

Photo by Pixta
The Umeda Sky Building was mentioned as one of the Top 20 Buildings Around the World by THE TIMES magazine. What will catch your eye is its unique triumphal arch-like shape.

Osaka: 15 Must-See Spots, Both Famous and Little Known

Photo by Pixta

The Kuchu-Teien Observatory is located on the 40th floor, the very top floor of the building. From here you can view the city from the rooftop while enjoying a 173 meter above ground 360-degree panorama. A beautiful night view chosen as one of the Top 100 Night Views of Japan will spread out before your eyes if you visit in the evening.

Book your Umeda Sky Building & Kuchu Teien Observatory Ticket

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5. Tsutenkaku and Shinsekai: Where Osaka’s Past and Present Coexist

Osaka

Photo by Pixta

Tsutenkaku, also considered the symbol of Osaka, is a 103-meter tall observation tower that offers a complete view of Osaka's cityscape. The Billiken statue, located on the fifth-floor observation deck, is said to bring happiness if you rub the soles of his feet, resulting in constant lines of people who want to do this.

The area around Tsutenkaku is called Shinsekai and it is lined with souvenir shops and restaurants. Here, you can enjoy shopping and food among flashy signboards and a lively atmosphere. This is a popular spot that boasts a retro landscape and the best of Osaka food.

6. Abeno Harukas: Japan’s Tallest Building

Osaka: 15 Must-See Spots, Both Famous and Little Known

Photo by Pixta

Abeno Harukas is Japan’s tallest structure that is not a tower. Its height is an amazing 300 meters!

The shopping floors reach up to the eleventh floor and consist of clothing shops, general goods, and more, while the twelfth to fourteenth floors are restaurant floors. These floors are made up of restaurants offering dishes from Japanese cuisine like sushi, tempura (fried foods), and unagi (eel) to Italian and French cuisines.

Osaka: 15 Must-See Spots, Both Famous and Little Known

Photo by Pixta

After tasting Osaka specialties here, head further up the building. The sixteenth floor hosts the Abeno Harukas Art Museum where artworks from around the world are exhibited. The 58th to 60th floors are the HARUKAS 300 Observatory. You can enjoy yourself in various ways in just this one building!

Book your HARUKAS 300 Observatory Ticket


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7. Amerikamura: Vintage Clothes and Takoyaki Heaven

Osaka: 15 Must-See Spots, Both Famous and Little Known

Amerikamura, also known as the American Village or Amemura, is a popular subculture place in Osaka. It is also known for its second-hand stores and delicious takoyaki. Its name stems from the many import shops in the area which are selling goods from America.

The second-hand stores in the area range all the way from extremely affordable to brand name vintage stores. Although their popularity is slowly growing, second-hand stores are still rather rare in Japan so to find so many of them in the same place makes Amerikamura a treasure trove.

Amerikamura
Address: Osaka, Chuo, Higashishinsaibashi Google Map
Access: 3-minute walk from Shinsaibashi Station

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8. Kuromon Market: Delicious Local Foods

Kuromon Market

The market is where you can experience the energy that's unique to the city. Kuromon Market is the most famous marketplace in Osaka.

The foods that stand out are the raw oysters, sea urchins, seafood bowls, wagyu beef, and luxurious fruit. There are approximately 180 shops with fresh fish, quality meat, and fruit, as well as restaurants side by side in this marketplace.

The staff at the information center in the marketplace offers support in various languages. There are free Wi-Fi, currency exchange machines, and baggage rooms (with a fee) available so that you can shop hassle-free.


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9. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan: Japan’s Largest Aquarium

Kaiyukan

One of the main characteristics of Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is that it is the world’s largest aquarium boasting a 5,400 ton capacity. The sight of large whale sharks leisurely swimming in between sharks and rays is simply incredible. Aquarium tickets are available online via Klook for those who want a convenient, easy way to secure their admission.

The aquarium, as well as the Tempozan Ferris Wheel located next door, is a typical date spot for the locals.

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10. Tempozan Ferris Wheel: Recommended for Couples

Tempozan

The Tempozan Ferris Wheel is located inside the Tempozan Harbor Village, a prominent and general Osaka leisure spot, right next to Kaiyukan. It is Japan’s largest Ferris wheel at 112.5 meters in height and 100 meters in diameter. It takes fifteen minutes for it to do one complete revolution, so you’ll be able to leisurely enjoy a journey up into the sky.

The fact that you can not only see a complete view of Osaka but also gaze down at the ocean spread out before you is another charm of the Ferris wheel. The scenery at night is also known to be romantic.

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11. National Bunraku Theatre: Watch Traditional Performing Arts

Osaka: 15 Must-See Spots, Both Famous and Little Known

Photo by Pixta

For those interested in the traditional Japanese performing arts, we recommend the Bunraku Theatre. Bunraku is a traditional performing art representative of Japan that rivals that of Kabuki (classical drama) and Noh (musical) theatre. It was designated a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008.

Bunraku is a type of puppet theater. A single puppet is controlled by three people, thus making its movements beautiful and delicate while expressing various emotions.

The tayu or narrator performs the narration and dialogue of the characters while a shamisen (three-stringed Japanese instrument) plays the background music of the story.

Bunraku performances will offer English audio guidance (for a fee) as well as free leaflets (English, Chinese, Korean) printed with a summary of the story. Reservations can be made through the official website.

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12. Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine: A Spiritual Spot in Osaka

Osaka: 15 Must-See Spots, Both Famous and Little Known

Photo by Pixta

Sumiyoshi Taisha, located near Osaka Bay, is the head Sumiyoshi shrine of 2300 shrines located across the country. It is a shrine that is representative of Japan and has a history that goes back more than 1800 years ago. The main shrine hall is considered one of the oldest of this style of Shinto shrine architecture and has been designated as a National Treasure.

Osaka: 15 Must-See Spots, Both Famous and Little Known

Photo by Pixta

The shrine grounds are overflowing with spiritual energy. The history of the shrine can be felt in the symbolic Sorihashi Bridge, in the numerous treasures and cultural assets found here, and in the camphor trees that are over one thousand years old.

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13. Minoo Falls: Stunning Scenery

Minoh Falls

If you wish to experience nature in Osaka, travel to Minoo Park, which is situated about 30 minutes by train from the city.

You will find a magnificent waterfall when you hike up a mountain trail with a clear stream flowing nearby for about 40 minutes. This is the Minoo Falls, a waterfall that was also chosen as one of the Top 100 Waterfalls in Japan. In the season of the fall foliage, the maple trees begin to change color, making the surrounding scenery look incredibly beautiful.

A famous local food is maple leaf tempura. You might hesitate at first, thinking “They eat leaves?”, but you’ll become addicted to its rich sweetness once you’ve tried it.

Minoo Onsen Spa Garden is located near the entrance to the mountain trail, so we also recommend relaxing at the hot springs before returning home.

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14. Expo ’70 Commemorative Park and Tower of the Sun: Fun for the Whole Family

Expo

Photo courtesy of Osaka Japan Expo Commemorative Park Office

The Expo Commemorative Park is the former site of the World Exposition held in 1970. The site is now a park.

Its symbol is the Tower of the Sun. Designed by artist Taro Okamoto, it is a tower of approximately 70 meters in height.

It would be great to refresh yourself at the green-filled Natural and Cultural Gardens, or take a walk through the Japanese gardens, or even enjoy documents on ethnic groups from around the world at the National Museum of Ethnology. Additionally, the shopping center Expocity was opened in 2015 right next to the park. Here, you can enjoy yourself all day long with your family.

For details on a map of Expo ’70 Commemorative Park and how to access the park, please check the official website.

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15. CUPNOODLES Museum Osaka Ikeda: Create Your Own Cup Noodles!

CUPNOODLES

Photo courtesy of NISSIN FOODS HOLDINGS CO., LTD.

Did you know that instant ramen, prepared by just pouring hot water, was actually created in Osaka?

Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin Foods, invented chicken ramen in Osaka, then created the cup noodles that we all know. At the CUPNOODLES Museum Osaka Ikeda, you can create your own original cup noodles (no need for a reservation).



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Other Tips: Osaka One-Day Passes, Car Rentals, Hotels

Osaka is a city full of unique places so we hope this article helps you decide what to visit. Take your time to explore the city and make sure to have a chat with the locals if you can. The friendly people of Osaka are an important reason why the city is so special.

Remember to use the convenient Osaka Amazing Pass when exploring Osaka. Available in one-day and two-day variants, it covers unlimited subway rides and the admission to some of the attractions featured in this article.

If you're on a tourist visa and want to travel from Tokyo To Osaka cost-efficiently, book the JR Pass for Whole Japan (7, 14, or 21 Days).

If you plan to explore Osaka and its surroundings by car, use the coupon below to get a 10% discount on Nippon Rent-A-Car services!

Get 10% Off Nippon Rent-A-Car!

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If you're looking for accommodation in Osaka, please refer to our Osaka hotel feature linked below:

Book a Hotel in Osaka on Booking.com

FAQ

What Osaka is famous for?

Osaka, one of Japan's major cities, is renowned for its culinary delights such as takoyaki and okonomiyaki, earning it the title "Kitchen of Japan." The city blends historical charm with modern attractions, featuring landmarks like Osaka Castle and the Umeda Sky Building, as well as entertainment districts like Dotonbori. As an economic and cultural hub, Osaka offers a lively atmosphere, friendly locals, and a dynamic shopping scene in areas like Shinsaibashi and Namba. Notably, Universal Studios Japan is a major draw, making Osaka a compelling destination for travelers seeking a mix of traditional Japanese culture and contemporary entertainment.

How many days in Osaka is enough?

For a comprehensive experience, most visitors find that spending two to four days in Osaka allows for exploration of its key attractions such as Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, the Umeda Sky Building, Universal Studios Japan, and the Kaiyukan Aquarium. This duration also provides ample time to enjoy the city's renowned food scene and lively nightlife. If considering day trips to nearby destinations like Kyoto, Nara, or Kobe, extending your stay would be beneficial. However, the ideal duration ultimately depends on individual preferences and planned activities.

What makes Osaka so special?

Osaka is special for its vibrant culture, friendliness, and humor of its inhabitants, as well as its exceptional culinary scene. The city seamlessly combines historical landmarks like Osaka Castle and Shitennoji Temple with modern attractions such as the Umeda Sky Building and bustling entertainment districts. Its strategic location in the Kansai region makes it an ideal base for exploring nearby cities like Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe. With a rich tapestry of festivals, events, and a well-connected public transportation system, Osaka offers a captivating blend of history, modernity, and diverse experiences for visitors.
 
In 2025, Osaka will be hosting Expo 2025 for six months from April 13 to October 13. Due to this World Expo event, Osaka is now gathering even more attention than usual.

What are 3 interesting facts about Osaka?

1. Osaka is often recognized as the "Kitchen of Japan," celebrated for its diverse, delicious street food and iconic dishes like takoyaki and okonomiyaki, making it a paradise for food lovers.

2. As a historical epicenter for trade and commerce, Osaka boasts a rich heritage showcased by landmarks like Osaka Castle and the vibrant entertainment districts, blending its past and present seamlessly.

3. Situated in the Kansai region, Osaka serves as a gateway to nearby cities like Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe, offering easy access to explore the cultural and historical wonders of the region.

How much is an average meal in Osaka?

The cost of an average meal in Osaka can vary depending on the type of dining establishment. Inexpensive meals such as a bowl of ramen or a meal at a fast-food restaurant might cost around 600 to 1,000 yen. A mid-range meal at a casual restaurant could range from 1,000 to 3,000 yen per person. Meanwhile, a high-end dining experience at a fancy restaurant could cost 5,000 yen or more per person.

It's important to note that these prices are approximate and can fluctuate based on the restaurant, location within Osaka, and prevailing economic conditions. For the most accurate and current information, we recommend checking the official websites of dining facilities and recent local reviews.

Main image by Pixta

 

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The MATCHA editorial department. Our articles feature useful travel information for visitors to Japan, from how-to guides to recommended places to visit.

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