It’s not always Tokyo on tourists’ Japan maps. As the second-largest city in the Land of the Rising Sun, Osaka (situated in the Kansai region) is one of the top tourist destinations in Japan and offers visitors just as much recreation, excitement, history, and culture as the capital. While most people spend much of their time in Tokyo, some commit a few days to other parts of the country, such as Kyoto and Osaka, both of which are worthy of attention.
Of course, as a colossal city, there are tons of things to do in Osaka, with myriads of attractions and activities ranging from wining and dining and retail therapy to cultural experiences and historical landmarks. There are many reasons to visit the Kansai region over Tokyo, but that doesn’t stop many travelers to Japan from devoting more days to the capital, instead leaving them with only a few to spend in Osaka. Still, that’s not a huge issue; tourists can do so much in just three days in Osaka!
Visitors can indeed explore the city and sample the best attractions in Osaka if all they have is 72 hours. To prove that notion, here’s the ultimate guide to Osaka, entailing the city’s highlights in a logical order that travelers will have no problem following over three days, given how easy the place is to navigate – especially if tourists have learned some of the basics of the Japanese language before their adventure.
Day 1 In Osaka: Explore Osaka Aquarium, Eat One’s Heart Out At Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho, & Go Wild In Dotonbori
Visit Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan & Discover The Entire Pacific Ocean Under One Roof
- Osaka Aquarium Admission Price: ¥2,800 (about $16) for adults and ¥1,400 (around $9.50) for children
- Time: 3 hours
Fifteen tanks, eight floors, and a ton of aquatic exploration of the continents set off this ultimate Osaka itinerary. At Kaiyukan Aquarium in Osaka – one of the largest aquariums in the world – each of its gigantic tanks represents a specific region of the Pacific Rim, entailing an immersive journey taking people on a virtual tour of the Pacific Ocean, with some tanks even stretching across multiple floors. When descending into the aquarium, visitors circle around the enormous central tank, where an adult, fully grown whale shark resides – indeed, the biggest fish in the sea.
Travelers who struggle to get up early in the morning may find this Osaka attraction an easy feat; it opens at 10 am, making it ideal for folks who need a sleep-in. After all that walking around within the sub-sea establishment, numerous restaurants await outside its premises. Of course, there are seafood eateries – but those feeling less hungry for the creatures they’ve just spent a few hours with might feel better dining at other food joints instead. If fish are friends, not food, the nearby Starbucks, Baskin Robins, Kuma Cafe, and ramen restaurant are ideal.
How To Get To Osaka Aquarium
Starting from Osaka Station, visitors can take the Osaka Loop Line to Bentencho Station, followed by taking the Chuo line to Osaka Station. From there, the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is roughly a short 10-minute walk.
Check Out Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho For The Best Food In Osaka!
For those not having filled their bellies at the restaurants or cafés right by the aquarium, another epic foodie adventure awaits – perhaps better to save one’s tummy for this one; it’s a whole experience in itself. Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho is a bustling food theme park in the Tempozan Shopping Gallery, chock-full of food stalls in a nostalgic atmosphere reminiscent of Osaka’s streets way back in the 1960s.
Those with growling stomachs can savor the flavor of waves of authentic Osaka cuisine, with delicious delights including okonomiyaki, kushikatsu, takoyaki, and other local favorites in this foodies’ paradise. With over 20 eateries serving up delicious yet super affordable delights (in true Osaka food marketplace tradition), Kuishinbo Yokocho is one of the best places to eat in Osaka and visitors’ one-stop destination for grub served up by long-established purveyors.
Head To Dotonbori For Epic Osaka Nightlife, Incredible Shopping, & Dining At The City’s Iconic Restaurants
Before hitting the hey and putting head to pillow, no first day in Osaka is complete without checking out the energy of the city’s iconic entertainment district. A vibrant epicenter of fun, culture, and food, the Dotonbori is the place for experiencing the best nightlife in Osaka and is lined with incredible restaurants, shopping malls, and tons of amusement facilities – all open 24 hours a day.
This energetic hive of metropolis madness also boasts the Dotonbori-gawa canal, where both sides of the promenade entice visitors for a stroll – one that’s as mesmerizing to the eyes with its flamboyant neon signs, colorful advertisements, and the legendary Glico Man.
How could visiting one of the best places in Osaka get even better? Visiting the Hozen-Ji Temple, of course, where travelers can leave modern Japan behind and experience a blast from Osaka’s fascinating past.
How To Get To Dotonbori Osaka
Travelers can take the Chuo Line from Osakako Station to Kujo Station. At Kujo Station, they can then take the Hanshin-Namba Line to Namba Station. From Namba Station, Dotonbori is around a five-minute stroll.
Day 2 In Osaka: Marvel At The Famous Osaka Castle & The Beauty Of Osaka’s Temples
Discover Osaka Castle For Breathtaking Architecture & Fascinating Osaka History
- Osaka Castle Entry Price: ¥600 for adults (about $4) (free for children aged 15 and under)
- Osaka Castle Garden Admission: ¥200 (around $1.50). Note that entry costs up to ¥500 (about $3.5) during cherry blossom season.
- Osaka Castle Opening Hours: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm
Osaka Castle is one of the most recognizable monuments in all of Japan, consisting of a complex network of walls, turrets, and moats encompassing an imposing central tower. Stunningly beautiful right down to the minor details, the enormous, five-story white fortress is a 1930s reconstruction of a historic Japanese castle from 1583. Here, guests can discover the nation’s rich history and soak up the scenic grounds and surrounding parks.
The edifice also houses a museum with eight floors full of exhibits connected to the castle’s long history. There are artifacts, screen paintings, a scale model of the original sixteenth-century castle town, and even samurai costumes that visitors can try on for a fee. There’s also an elevator to make access easier, as well as a gorgeous Nishinomaru Garden, which also commands a fee to enter.
Given this entire landmark’s striking appearance and historical significance, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots in Osaka.
Don’t forget to enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of Osaka from the museum’s spectacular viewing platform!
How To Get To Osaka Castle
The easiest way to get to Osaka Castle is by hopping on the JR Loop Line at Osaka Station and heading to Osakajokoen Station on the park’s northeast side, which only takes around 10 minutes. From the station, it’s about a 15 to 20-minute walk through the park to the castle.
The tower at Osaka Castle is closed between December 28 and January 1 each year.
Visit Osaka Temples To Learn About Buddhism In Japan
Once visitors have enjoyed Osaka Castle, the city’s many shrines and temples house even more beauty, history, and cultural significance to learn about. The Osaka temples nearest the train station include the Isshin-ji – a twelfth-century Buddhist temple, along with Shitennoji temple, an enchanting Buddhist temple that dates all the way back to ancient times – 593 A.D to be precise.
Walking a little further from these two temples reveals the Sumiyoshi Taisha Grand Shrine – one of the oldest shrines in Japan that was originally constructed in the third century. The temple has four main halls to view, as well as a gorgeous bridge to complete the postcard picture – the beautiful Sorihashi Bridge.
How To Get To Osaka Temples
These temples are all within easy walking distance from one another, making them great to visit on the same day. From Osakajokoen Station, visitors can take the Osaka Loop Line to Tennoji Station. Each temple is then a short jaunt from the station.
Day 3 In Osaka: Fun At Universal Studios Japan & Ride The Sky-High HEP Five Ferris Wheel
Relive Childhood At Universal Studios Japan For The Ultimate Family Day Out In Osaka
- Universal Studios Japan Tickets Price: Adult Day Pass: ¥8,900 – ¥9,800 ($60 – $66.50) (age 12+)
- Child Day Pass: ¥5,400~¥6,300 ($66 – $43) (ages 4-11)
- Senior Day Pass: ¥7,600~¥8,500 ($52 -$58) (age 65+)
By day three, visitors will have had their gamut of stunning Japanese temples, interesting museums, historic castles, and vibrant shopping and nightlife. Next, it’s all about letting one’s hair down and becoming a kid again; it’s time to let one’s inner child go wild at Universal Studios Japan!
This is one of the best amusement parks in Japan – and is, in fact, the second largest – with its eight cinematically themed sections, including Universal Wonderland, Jurassic Park, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Waterworld, Amity Village, New York, San Francisco, and Hollywood.
The Universal Citywalk Osaka is a movie-themed shopping mall situated just outside Universal Studios Japan, offering retail therapy and a break from all those rollercoasters!
How To Get To Universal Studios Japan In Osaka
At Osaka Station, take JR Sakurajima Line (also known as the JR Yumesaki Line) to Universal City Station. From there, visitors can walk to the park in just a few minutes.
Ride The HEP Five Ferris Wheel For The Best Views In Osaka!
- HEP Five Ferris Wheel Ticket Price: ¥500 (about $4)
Last but not least, the HEP Five Ferris Wheel is by no means for the faint of heart – but it is worth the ride up to 106 meters high for those brave enough. Located at the HEP Five shopping mall just five minutes on foot from Osaka’s Umeda area, this gargantuan red wheel is the ultimate adrenaline pumper: it’s atop a skyscraper.
Of course, if the fear of heights is no problem, the experience can be romantic, given it offers some of the best views in Osaka from an angle pedestrians will never get to see unless they’re up for the ride.
For the most breathtaking vistas, ride the Ferris wheel as the sun goes down. The views are said to be paralyzing!
Furthermore, the Hep Five mall is a heap of fun on its own, even without a ride on the Ferris wheel. This building is an impressive 10-story-high mall and entertainment hub overflowing with diverse Japanese and European fashion outlets, gaming centers, and an array of restaurants.
Nearby, there’s also the amazing Umeda Sky Building with its modern architecture that’s a treat to the eyes and camera lens. In the building, visitors can take the glass elevator to discover its Floating Garden Observatory, found on the 39th floor – from where even more panoramas of Osaka’s expansive city skyline can be enjoyed in all its urban glory.
Which Osaka Train Station Is Best?
Most travelers will arrive at Osaka Station City (Osaka’s main train station) or Shin-Osaka station, particularly if the highly recommended Japan Rail Pass is in hand.
Where To Stay In Osaka
Additionally, for ease of access and exploration of the top Osaka attractions, visitors are advised to pick a hotel in the city’s central area that’s within proximity of any one of the train stations. In that sense, any accommodation in Osaka near Osaka Station City is a convenient choice.