24 Hours in Osaka: Complete 1-Day Travel Itinerary for Osaka Beginners
As Japan's third largest city, there's so much to see in Osaka and its surroundings. Even if you only have one day in Osaka, you won't want to miss Osaka Castle, the lively Dotonbori and Namba areas, and, of course, all the amazing food! But, if you only have a day, you can't waste time crisscrossing the city. Read on for a route to see all of Osaka's highlights with minimal travel time using only short trips on public transport!
Jul 23 2019 (Sep 09 2020)
8:30 AM | Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is one of the symbols of Osaka, and a walk through Osaka Castle Park is a great way to start your day of sightseeing. The castle museum itself opens at 9:00 am, but you'll want to take your time to stroll the gardens as you make your way up to main castle. If you're a morning person, get there a little early and enjoy a coffee in the park before the fleets of tour buses arrive.
Osaka Castle itself is located on a hill surrounded by a wide moat and impressive sloped stone walls. The approach to the castle is an experience itself as you take in the castle's complex architecture and the view of the city as you climb.
Osaka Castle Park is also known for its seasonal flower gardens. From January to March, the flowers in the Plum Garden are in season, and peach blossoms also bloom in March. In April, the park's 300 cherry trees blooming around the castle make Osaka Castle Park one of Osaka's most popular hanami (flower viewing) destinations.
The walk uphill to the castle isn't too challenging, but if you're traveling with kids or someone with mobility issues, there is also a road train available from 9:30 am that gives you a tour of the park through the gardens and up to the castle. One-way tickets are 300 yen for adults, 200 yen for children from 4 to elementary school age, and 100 yen for seniors or those with disabilities (plus one carer).
Rebuilt in 1997 after being destroyed in World War II, today the main castle itself serves as a museum rather than a reproduction of the interior as it once was. Inside the museum you will find historical information, artifacts, and an observation deck that offers a panoramic view of the city.
You can get a good view of the city just from the plaza surrounding the castle, and if you follow this guide, you'll be making a stop next at an even more impressive observation area. So, unless you're very interested in the history of the castle, our suggestion is to skip going inside the museum itself and just enjoy the impressive castle grounds and gardens. At around 15 acres, there's plenty to see.
After spending some time in the park, head to Osakajokoen Station on the north-east edge of the castle park grounds and catch the Osaka Loop Line train to Tennoji Station. The trip should take around 15 minutes.
Because the park is so vast, if you can, we highly recommend first coming via Tanimachi Yonchome Station or Morinomiya Station. Doing this means you can make your way through the park without needing to retrace your steps to Osakajokoen Station when you leave, so you can see more in less time.
10:30 AM | HARUKAS 300 (Abeno Harukas)
Once you reach Tennoji Station, head to the nearby Abeno Harukas. You'll find it hard to miss: it's the tallest skyscraper in Japan!
The HARUKAS 300 observatory is located at the very top of this building. With observatories on the 58th, 59th, and 60th floors, you'll find yourself looking out at a stunning view of Osaka and beyond.
There are also department stores and other things to see in the Abeno Harukas building, but this guide includes some time in even better shopping areas later in the day, so we recommend visiting for the observatory itself during your time here.
There's plenty to do at this expansive observatory, including some souvenir shops and an open-air terrace area on the 58th floor where you can stop for a snack or a drink.
The wall to floor windows offer an unobstructed view, and if you're not scared of heights, there are glass-floored areas where you can get a sense of just how high up you are.
For real thrill-seekers, a new attraction called EDGE THE HARUKAS allows you to take in the 300 meter high view while walking on a narrow, glass-fenced external walkway. You'll need to suit up in some safety equipment to do this, so plan a little extra time for this.
11:30 AM | Tennoji Park
With your feet back on solid ground, head into the nearby Tennoji Park. You'll be cutting through this park to make your way to the Shinsekai area, but there are also some attractions to see in the park itself! Here are a few different options for what to do here.
Art lovers should stop at the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts. Housed in a historical building, and with a collection of around 8,000 works, this is a great opportunity to see a high quality collection of artworks from Japan and beyond.
Beside the museum is the Keitakuen Garden, a gorgeous Japanese promenade garden designed by Jihei Ogawa, who also designed Kyoto's famous Murin-an and Heian Shrine gardens.
Tennoji Zoo is also located within the park. While this zoo is fairly small, and the enclosures are not up to international standards, the zoo is making efforts to upgrade its facilities. Its inexpensive entry price makes this worth a stop if you're with animal-loving kids.
If you're running behind schedule or are just ready for lunch, we recommend just stopping by the Keitakuen Garden and the Chausuyama ko-fun (burial mound) as you make your way through the park to the Shinsekai Gate.
1:00 PM | Shinsekai and Tsutenkaku Tower
Originally built as an amusement area, Shinsekai, which means "New World" in Japanese, is one of Osaka's most iconic sights. Built in 1912 to evoke the streetscapes of Paris and New York, the area fell into neglect after World War II, and for a long time had a reputation as being one of Osaka's seedier areas.
While not as polished as other areas of Osaka, today the eccentric vibe and Tsutenkaku Tower draw plenty of visitors.
Tsutenkaku Tower was originally built in 1912, but after being damaged in a fire in 1943 it was rebuilt after the war in 1956. Originally the tower was designed to evoke the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, but its current design has a retro-futuristic design all of its own. Today, the tower's lower floors are full of fun candy and souvenir stores, and even some spots for good luck like a statue of the local icon Billiken, the "deity of things as they are".
Tsutenkaku Tower also has multiple observation decks, but it may not live up to the view you've just seen at HARUKA 300, so it can be safely skipped. That said, if you'd like to go to the top, tickets cost 800 yen for adults.
This area is a perfect blend of two of Osaka's biggest charms: its distinctive streetscapes and its amazing "B-grade gourmet" food.
B-grade doesn't refer to the quality, by the way! Rather, this is simple and unpretentious comfort food that focuses more on taste than elegant presentation, and Shinsekai is a great place to experience it.
When you're in Shinsekai, our recommendation for lunch is the area's famous kushi-katsu, or bite-size skewers of deep-fried meat, seafood, or vegetable cutlets. Designed originally as a quick, filling food for workers in the area, today locals and visitors alike visit the Shinsekai area for this Japanese fast food. Some restaurants here even let you deep fry your own skewers using a cooker at your table.
There are a couple of unique kushi-katsu manners to keep in mind. Since the dipping sauce you'll find on your table is shared, double-dipping is very strongly prohibited. If you need some extra sauce, use the cabbage leaves provided as a scoop.
Take a walk through the area and then head into a restaurant here for lunch. After, head to Ebisucho Station past the Tsutenkaku Tower to the north of the Shinsekai area. This walk should take you around five minutes. Then, take the Osaka Metro Sakaisuji Line for one stop and get off at Nippombashi Station.
Tip: If you love street food but are new to Osaka, a local can show you exactly where to go! The Osaka Local Foodie Tour in Dotonbori and Shinsekai via Magical Trip starts with kushi-katsu in Shinsekai and takes you to the next stop in our guide, the Dotonbori area, sampling all of Osaka's best street food along the way.
3:00 PM | Exploring the Minami Area
Osaka's Minami area is one of the busiest in Osaka, and is a hub for shopping, entertainment, and dining. You could easily spend a whole day just wandering the streets here, but if you've got limited time, it's best to be more strategic.
Here are a selection of the Minami shopping areas and markets that are sightseeing destinations in and of themselves. All of these areas are within walking distance of Nippombashi Station, so once you arrive in the area you can pick and choose which ones you're most interested in.
This is one of Osaka's best shopping areas, but it can be chaotic. No matter what you're after, if you're looking to really take advantage of all Japan has to offer shopping-wise, consider hiring a personal shopping guide who can show you exactly where to go and help you with recommendations and translations. Check out Voyagin for more information!
Kuromon Ichiba Market
Take Exit 10 at Nippombashi Station and you'll find yourself in Osaka's kitchen, Kuromon Ichiba Market. This is a vast, 580-meter-long shopping street selling food and groceries of all kinds. Established around 190 years ago, this market gives a fascinating look at the heart of Osaka's vibrant food culture.
Doguyasuji Shotengai (Kitchenware Street)
Head about 7 minutes west from Nippombashi Station towards Namba Station to find this 150-meter-long shopping street that specializes in cookware like Japanese knives and crockery, and even restaurant decorations like lanterns, noren (shop curtains), and Japan's famous plastic replica foods.
If you like to cook, are interested in Japan's food culture, or want some functional, high-quality souvenirs, this is a great place to explore.
Nippombashi DenDen Town
Osaka's answer to Akihabara, DenDen Town is a mecca for electronics and otaku (geek) culture. Located between Ebisucho Station and Nippombashi Station, if you're looking for anime, manga, or video game merchandise, or want to try visiting a maid cafe, this is the area for you!
If you're not that interested in Japanese pop culture but want to shop for electronics while in Osaka, heading to the Bic Camera department store in Namba will probably be a more efficient use of your time.
Shinsaibashi-suji and Ebisubashi-suji Shopping Streets
These two shopping streets are located on either side of the Dotonbori Canal and are linked by the Ebisu-bashi Bridge. If you're coming from Nippombashi Station, you can follow the underground Namba Walk west until you reach Ebisubashi-suji, and then follow the shopping street straight up north and across the canal to Shinsaibashi-suji to get a taste of both arcades.
Both of these shopping streets are incredibly lively and crowded, and you definitely won't regret visiting both! Besides a wealth of shopping, you'll also find game arcades, karaoke, and of course, places to eat. Stores in this area see a lot of tourists, so most are set up for easy tax-free shopping. If you simply want to walk and browse, these shopping streets will give you a sense of Osaka's bustling street culture.
America Mura (Amemura)
America Mura, also known as Amemura, translates to "America Village". This area is located just to the west of the Shinsaibashi shopping street.
Formerly an industrial area, Amemura became a hub for Osaka's youth culture in the 70s. Its name was derived from the imported American fashion sold here. Today, this concentrated cluster of fashion stores, bars, and clubs makes this one of the best spots in Osaka to explore Japan's alternative fashion and street wear scene.
While getting a taste of the hustle and bustle of the Minami area is definitely a must while you're in Osaka, if you'd prefer something little more high-end and relaxed, head to Midosuji Avenue that runs north from Namba Station all the way to Umeda Station. Walking around the wide, ginko tree-lined boulevard in the Shinsaibashi area, you'll find a range of international luxury boutiques, the Apple flagship store, and the Daimaru department store.
7:00 PM | Hozenji Temple and Hozenji Yokocho
Hozenji Temple is located to the south of Dotonbori Canal. This tiny temple was once part of a much larger temple complex built in 1637. After World War II, only a small part of the complex remained, making it a special spot for local residents. The remaining building houses a moss-covered statue called the Mizukake-Fudo. It's said that splashing water on this statue will bring you good luck, so be sure to stop here and make a wish.
North of Hozenji Temple is Hozenji Yokocho, a tiny but charming stone-paved laneway lined with restaurants and shops. This area is particularly atmospheric at night, and you can't go wrong picking one of the many restaurants here for dinner.
If nothing catches your eye at Hozenji Yokocho, you'll have no trouble at all finding somewhere to eat in the Minami area! After having kushi-katsu for lunch, some other Osaka staples you should make a point of trying are takoyaki (octopus dumplings), okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), or fugu (puffer fish).
Many restaurants in the Minami area are open 24 hours, and most are very used to serving foreign guests. Larger restaurants will either have signs or plastic sample foods outside so you know exactly what to expect. Fugu restaurants in Osaka will often have tanks with live fish at their entrance, so they're easy to spot.
8:00 PM | Dotonbori Canal and Cruise
Now that you've explored the Minami area, head towards Dotonbori Canal. The area surrounding the canal around Ebisu-bashi Bridge, with its brightly lit-up restaurant signage and neon billboards really comes to life as the sun sets. The lights of the iconic Glico running man sign and quirky yellow Don Quijote Ferris wheel look even more spectacular reflected on the water.
Head towards that bright yellow Ferris wheel attached to the Dotonbori Don Quijote building to find the landing for the Tombori River Cruise. This 20 minute cruise costs 900 yen for adults, and 400 yen for children, and boats depart every 30 minutes. This is a great chance to get away from the crowds on the streets and take in the sights from the water instead.
9:00 PM | Nightlife in Namba
If you're not ready to head back to the hotel just yet, the Namba and Dotonbori areas stay busy well into the night. Whether you want to bar hop, try Japanese style karaoke, or hit the clubs, this is the best area in Osaka for nightlife.
Tip: If you're traveling solo or just want some local insight on where to go, check out the Osaka Bar Hopping Night Tour in Namba. This small-group tour takes you to some hidden gems in the area, and it's a great way to get to know some locals and other travelers, too! Read more about the tour and book at Magical Trip.
Where to Stay in Osaka?
If you're following this guide and plan on staying the night in Osaka, we recommend staying in the Kita area around the Umeda and Osaka Stations. This area has great access to all of Osaka, and regardless of whether you're traveling by plane or train, you'll likely arrive and depart from these stations. If you only have a day, staying here also gives you a chance to get a taste of this major shopping and entertainment area, even if just for breakfast before you head on to your next destination.
There are great restaurants and shopping spots here, which is great for picking up some last-minute souvenirs, and the huge train stations full of shops and department stores are a sight to see in and of themselves. Since the coin lockers in the stations can fill up quickly, an added bonus to staying near this transport hub is that it's also very convenient to be able to leave your luggage at the hotels without having to make an extra trip to collect it later.
Here are our three picks for different budgets in the area!
Luxury Pick: The Ritz-Carlton Osaka
Known worldwide as a synonym for luxury, The Ritz-Carlton Osaka offers gorgeous views and classic European style furnishings. Situated right in the heart of the Umeda area, this is the perfect place to retreat to after a day of exploring the busy streets of Osaka.
Of course, this hotel has world-class amenities, including a wealth of dining options, a vast indoor pool, marble bathrooms, and the impeccable guest services you'd expect from a high-end Japanese hotel. Japanese-styled suites are also available if you want an experience of luxury done the local way.HotelAffiliate
Mid-Range Pick: Hotel New Hankyu Osaka
Located in the Umeda Station complex, the Hotel New Hankyu is actually owned by the Hankyu Railway that services Umeda Station. If you're short on time, staying here means you can get a taste of this area with all the convenience you'd expect by staying in a major transportation hub. This hotel is especially convenient if you're heading onward to Kyoto, as the Hankyu Kyoto Line that departs from Umeda Station will take you directly to the center of Kyoto for around 400 yen in around 30 minutes - much cheaper than a bullet train! It's also located right by the coach terminal where the buses that take you to the airport or onwards throughout Japan depart. This hotel is also very close to the Hankyu Department store, a glamorous, classically styled department store that's one of the biggest in Japan.
The rooms here are clean and comfortable with quality furniture and plenty of dining options. Our recommendation is to pick the Japanese style rooms with tatami mats and a choice between futons (mattresses) or Western-style beds.HotelAffiliate
Budget Pick: Hotel Wing International Select Osaka Umeda
Hotel Wing International Select Osaka Umeda is one of the best-rated budget hotels in the area, and is a great deal! Umeda is not the cheapest area in Osaka to stay, which makes this one a real find. In fact, this newly-opened hotel is less expensive than even some nearby capsule hotels!
While not quite as central as our other picks, it's still an easy 5-minute walk from the major stations. Hotel Wing International is a chain of what are called business hotels in Japan. Business hotels are typically fairly basic in terms of extra guest services, and instead focus on providing clean, comfortable places to stay close to major stations with useful features like washing machines and free Wi-Fi. Since this hotel opened in mid-2018, it still feels very new, and has a stylish, art-deco styled interior design that has a little more personality than some other chains.
Useful Resources for Your Trip to Osaka
- If you have some more time to spend, check out our comprehensive guide to things to see and do in Osaka: [2019 Edition] 50 Recommended Things To Do in Osaka
- Osaka Station is enormous! If you're traveling through Osaka or Umeda Stations, read our complete guide to these stations and get around like a local.
- Want to treat yourself while staying in Osaka? Read our guide to Osaka's best luxury hotels!
- Following this guide will be a lot easier if you have access to maps and maybe a translation app. Use our ultimate guide to connecting to the Internet in Japan to stay connected!
It's not too hard to see many of Osaka's best sights in one day, but if you have a little time, there's a lot more to explore! The shopping and dining around the Osaka Station and Umeda Station areas are excellent, and Osaka is also home to some other world-class attractions like Universal Studios Japan.
Still, if you use this itinerary as a guide, you're sure to leave Osaka knowing you've got a real sense of the city! Make sure you don't miss the neighboring cities of Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara while you're in the area, too.
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Header Image: gowithstock / Shutterstock
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.