31 Things to Do in Osaka: A Travel Guide
This Osaka Travel Guide is undoubtedly the most requested as I still continue to receive requests on this place ever since I started this VLOG.
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you know how Japan is my most frequented country: #BiancaVTravelsJAPAN
Relatedly, my Sapporo Food Guide is surprisingly my post popular post! Surprise because from an artistic perspective, it isn’t exactly what I consider the most creative amongst all the videos on the VLOG.
If you watch the episode, it’s got a more straightforward & informative feel.
I guess it really does boil down to knowing the what, where, why in all things Japan.
So by now it only makes sense that Osaka is something I have gotten to share at the very least, right?
Well, if you also follow me on IG, you’ll observe that the places I feature in Japan are not exactly the most popular (yet). They’re usually far off rural places or low-key cities that have yet to be discovered by many.
As a website that focuses on VIDEO content, notice how there isn’t a video on the top of the screen, which I usually have for all my VLOG posts?
Truth is, the last time I got to visit Osaka was in 2014 & 2015. A time when the VLOG was still non-existent so I don’t really have much or any videos to compile. Not to mention my mobile photography skills were obviously suspect.
Can you tell by this photo from IG? Haha!
That’s not to say I don’t have anything to share! I made sure this list is still up to date and ideal for both Osaka first-timers or those who wish to explore Osaka even more.
IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER.. here we go…
To give you a background, Osaka is the 2nd largest metropolitan city in Japan after Tokyo. Osaka is also port city & referred to as the Gateway to Japan.
It has slowly taken over Tokyo’s popularity as a tourist destination.
Also known as the “Japan’s Kitchen,” Osaka is perfect for food enthusiasts. Foreign food authors & critics consider Osaka as the food capital of the world.
In fact, when I think of fashion, Tokyo comes to mind. When I think of culture, Kyoto is king and then when I think of food – Osaka hits the spot.
Given there’s so much to see, do & eat in this thriving city, here is my own…
OSAKA TRAVEL GUIDE:
Dōtonbori is Osaka’s famous street mostly because of food. It’s one of the most popular hot spots in the city largely due to its infectious, festive vibe.
My first pic above is right from the entrance of Dōtonbori.
The lights in Dōtonbori are so strong and bright, it’s quite tricky getting a decent shot without looking darkened out.
So this is what it really looked like:
Flash on or off, Dōtonbori is best captured with an empty stomach and an appetite for adventure from day to night.
This leads me to your first course…
The most popular street food is Osaka’s own local snack, Takoyaki.
The doughy, pancake-y-like balls are so popular that it’s made its way to the Philippines from years back as an afternoon snack, on-to-go meal or even an actual meal in itself.
Then there’s Okonomiyaki, a savory noodle (yakisoba) pancake with a variety of ingredients.
Also located in Dōtonbori, Mizuno is undeniably the most highly rated restaurant whose specialty is Okonomiyaki.
The restaurant is currently part of the Michelin Osaka Kyoto Guide 2018.
The hefty pancake is assembled in front of you on the grill then the chef cooks and charrs it to perfection.
4. Kuromon Ichiba
If Tokyo has Tsukiji (seafood market), Osaka has Kuromon Ichiba. It’s one of Osaka’s main food markets.
Here you can get to sample the freshest Japanese seafood from the many fish vendors and restos.
Just like everyone else, I headed straight for the #1 resto in the market, Kuromon Sanpei as seen on IG.
During my first visit, I couldn’t resist trying the succulent giant scallops and octopus BBQ! Legit.
Then again, you can also stock up on the freshest fruits like cherries, strawberries and other local produce.
5. ZAUO Fishing Restaurant
If you prefer to catch your own dinner, a must-try in Osaka (near Dōtonbori) is ZAUO!
Creating a fun dining experience, you get to fish for your own seafood. I guess it’s like a fancier version of our own, dampa.
From the fish you caught – presuming you did, lol, you then get to choose how you want it/them prepared or cooked.
However if that fails, don’t worry, there’s a menu to choose from as well.
When you catch a fish, you can’t toss it back as it’s considered sold.
When this happens, the staff hits the big tribal, bongo drums chanting your name as other guests cheer you on for your successful catch!
I’ve been twice and the first time, I didn’t catch a thing while my sister caught 4 because it was just that addictively fun – for her, haha!
My mom was like, “how do you intend to eat all that fish?!” Hahaha!
We ended up with so many dishes that we chose to share our food with nearby tables – free meal for them, yey!
It’s great for wholesome family fun or even friends having one too many drinks!
6. Naniwa Kappo Kigawa
From fishing to something fancier, Japanese food is not all about sushi. You don’t say….
Naniwa Kappo Kigawa (restaurant) specializes in Kappo cuisine. Kappo is a Japanese traditional cooking method where a Kappo chef is trained to master numerous ways of cooking and understand the seasonality of food.
With the seasonal menu, there’s always something new to expect.
A lovely dining experience, Kappo cuisine is the art of dining in Osaka as every dish is presented in a delicate, intricate manner.
7. Bvlgari IL Cafe
Come to think of it, Kappo style of presentation is quite evident in Bvlgari IL Cafe‘s dessert du jour.
The luxury cafe is at the upscale Umeda Hankyu department store in Osaka.
Whether shopping for diamonds or sipping some champagne, the Bvlgari IL Cafe is a perfect way to cap off an afternoon with the girls.
8. Umeda Sky Building
Speaking of Umeda, another not to be missed is Umeda Sky Building.
From below it looks like a giant space ship held together by two towers.
That’s because the twin tower complex is located in Umeda: a prime business, shopping & entertainment center in Osaka. The underground shopping complex is so massive, you could seriously get lost!
My personal recommendation?
The outdoor observation deck at night is a trippy showstopper as it’s lit up like you’re inside a cosmic night club – especially the floor! It’s like you’re walking on Mars in neon lights!
Perhaps daunting if you fear heights but makes for an exciting Osaka nighttime experience!
9. The Westin Osaka
To see Umeda Sky Building without any fear of looking straight down, the Westin Osaka has the perfect views.
I forgot to take photos of my room but it’s similar to this:
Though the hotel is relatively old, the rooms are spacious with a perfect view of Umeda Sky Building in all its architectural glory.
This is the view from my room.
10. 551 Horai
Moving onto something just as glorious… I may not eat meat but I certainly have seen the bun-demonium at every 551 Horai in Osaka.
It’s one of the most popular BBQ pork buns in Osaka: selling more than 140,000 baos daily & still growing by the day!
Originating from Osaka, it’s considered the Best Bao in Japan and I assure you makes every Osaka Travel Guide.
11. Pablo Cheesecake
One of the most popular exports of Osaka is cheesecake: specifically, Pablo Cheesecake.
Personally, when I think of Osaka food, I think of Pablo’s. I could go on & on about this cheesecake: the richness, decadence & just like steak, it’s baked the way you prefer. Plus the Creme brûlée finish on the top with blow torched sugar is life!
I also love how Pablo does seasonal and/or special flavors like strawberry, sweet potato, marshmallow, red bean toast, lemon and more.
Admittedly, I’ve tried the one in Manila but the consistency is just not the same.
Though this doesn’t apply to all imports brought to the Philippines, there really is nothing like getting it straight from the source. So when in Osaka, Pablo’s is truly a must!
12. Uncle Tetsu
Then there’s the traditional Japanese cheesecake of the light, fluffier kind from Uncle Tetsu.
Just as popular as Pablo in Osaka, sadly, it just didn’t make it big here in the Philippines. I believe it had a brief stint in the Manila market then eventually closed.
Although I actually got to try Uncle Tetsu for the first time in Taiwan, not Japan! It’s quite similar to the one of Bread Talk: airy and more like a mousse-type of consistency.
As you can tell I have but one photo as I prefer Pablo’s, haha! But I did find this cool vid on IG:
13. Osaka Castle Park
Can you see her through the reflection?
Every Japanese city, from the tiniest and rural to the most metropolitan, you will always find a castle. The Osaka Castle Park is the symbol of the city.
Once the city’s most famous landmark (now second after Universal Studios) opened to the public in 1931.
It’s located right in the center of the modern metropolis.
Osaka Castle does have a museum as you make your way up to the top floor. Here you can enjoy the beautiful 360degree aerial view of the city.
14. Universal Studios Osaka
Taking pole position in top things to do in Osaka is Universal Studios!
This is 1 of the 4 Universal Studios in the world. Staying true to form, it’s modeled after the ones in Hollywood & Florida but of course with a more Japanese, local vibe.
And here come the cheesy poses!!!
Open since 2001, it’s the 2nd largest amusement park after Tokyo Disneyland.
In terms of attractions, of course there’s much to be impressed by. However in terms of food, no matter how Instagram-worthy the meals are from the 21 restaurants, it’s just too pricey.
As you would expect for amusement park menus, the selection is not exactly gastronomically fulfilling.
I suggest grabbing a meal beforehand to have all the energy to go around the 18 TV & film-inspired attractions and 24 stores.
15. Osaka Aquarium
One of the largest aquariums in the world is the Osaka Aquarium.
The modern facility boasts of an impressive collection of aquatic animals like whale sharks, snow crabs, penguins, otters, seals & so much more.
I suggest wearing a jacket because most of the facilities, especially the penguin area is freezing (understandably)!!
Other than aquatic activities and sights, you also get to wander inside the beautiful indoor tropical rainforest.
Surely a great family attraction, the interactive aquarium is both fun & educational.
16. Owl Cafe
For a more intimate animal experience, Japan is famous for animal cafes. Since Japanese homes are mostly small or many locals live alone, it’s difficult to have your own pet.
In pet cafes, guests can play & interact with animals like cats, dogs & owls. It’s been a proven stress-reliever for the fast-paced, intense, career-centric life in Japan.
In Osaka’s Dōtonbori, you can visit an owl cafe. Appreciate different elusive owl species while sipping matcha tea.
Speaking of Dōtonbori, it’s located in Namba district. Some of Osaka’s most iconic landmarks are seen here:
There’s the huge, moving mechanized crab atop a seafood resto..my first pic above.
Then there’s the Glico Man runner billboard…
You’ll also find the red-light district so the energy is just beaming with vibrance and excitement!
The area is best viewed at night when the signs are lit up…
Right across the Dōtonbori river is Shinsaibashi Shopping Street. It’s the busiest shopping district in Osaka with a vast selection of stores, restaurants & more.
Considered Osaka’s shopping Mecca, you can find an eclectic mix of bargains & pricier items. Expect tourist prices as well given the popularity of this place.
19. Don Quijote
It’s also here you’ll find Don Quijote: Japan’s famous 24-hour, tax-free store. It’s quite hard to describe what kind of store this is because you can literally find everything in Donki.
Before Green Tea Kit Kat became readily available in Manila, many Instagram sellers get their goodies from here.
Here’s my loot from that trip as seen on IG:
Like a labyrinth of anything & everything from tech toys to sex toys to home supplies, anime costumes and anything you think of; Don Quijote is such an iconic Japanese shopping adventure in itself.
If you love Harajuku in Tokyo, then you’ll enjoy Osaka’s Amerikamura.
This area is the prime hub for the youth culture of Osaka. The cool, quirky shopping & entertainment area is where the art, fashion & music scene come together.
This is also where I got to see Burger King’s Kuro Pearl or Charcoal Bun Burger, lol. My sister said it was just alright as it tasted just like a regular burger.
21. Osaka Museum Of History
A close walk from Osaka Castle is the Osaka Museum Of History. It showcases the history of the city dating from ancient times.
The large-scale representations all over the museum allow you to feel like you’re actually part of the exhibit. They have all these Instagrammable corners long before IG even existed.
There’s even an area for kids – yes, I’m referring to myself – where you get to learn about excavating, fossils and info collecting.
22. Sumiyoshi Taisha
It wouldn’t be a visit to Japan or complete Osaka Travel Guide without visiting one of its many temples & shrines.
Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Taisha or Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine is one of Japan’s oldest shrines.
Among the 2000+ Shinto shrines in Japan, Sumiyoshi Taisha is the main and most famous one.
23. Namba Parks
If you’re in Osaka in the winter months, Namba Hikari-tabi is a magical winter evenings illumination.
Sharing both my own amateur mobile pics and ones from Google for better reference.
Also called Namba Parks Winter Illumination, it’s part of Osaka’s Festival of Lights.
Located in the Namba shopping area & railway station, it gets bigger every year.
From November to February, tourists can celebrate Christmas, New Year & Valentine’s here.
While you’re at it…
24. Osaka Night Illumination
The Festival of Lights in Osaka is also another night illumination must-see that happens from November to end of December.
Streets all lined up with lights that lead up to the main structure as seen below for the light show.
Pardon the photo quality as these are from 2015 from camera phone.
This is from the official website:
25. Jet Ramen
What kind of a person would I be offering a so-called Osaka Travel Guide without featuring ramen??
Consecutively included in Osaka’s best ramen lists, hit up, Jet Ramen.
For a hefty bowl of my favorite Japanese dish, tsukemen or dipping noodles, it was so worth standing in line for an hour in the cold at 1am!
It’s just a few blocks from Westin Osaka so it’s a good way to walk off the calories.
26. Kushikatsu Daruma
Another popular Osaka-style street food is kushikatsu: deep fried skewers from meat to veggies and seafood.
In Osaka, Kushikatsu Daruma is the most popular joint.
You initially dip your skewer in your preferred sauce. Then to maintain proper hygiene for communal sauces, you either have a sauce brush or a piece of sturdy veggie like cabbage to apply sauce to your succeeding bites.
I hear Kushikatsu Daruma now has a Philippine branch at Uptown Mall, Fort Bonifacio BGC.
27. Gram Cafe
Like most girls, I am admittedly one of those who enjoy quaint dessert cafes and Shinsaibashi has a couple of good ones.
I love me a strong cuppa joe paired with comforting treats like Gram Cafe‘s fluffy pancakes!
28. Rinku Premium Outlet
Japan, like the US, is home to loads of outlet shopping locations.
Having been so several of them around the country, I find that the Premium Outlet company has the best selection and prices.
The closest one to Osaka is Rinku Premium Outlet.
For all you Athleisure fanatics, the Nike store is massive. Stuff are still relatively expensive if you’re expecting down low outlet prices but selection is pretty good.
Your usual Gucci, Kate Spade, Prada, Michael Kors are all here while I got myself some killer pumps at ETRO at 80% off!
Took a photo of my “Puff The Magic Dragon” socks for posterity’s sake!
29. Orange Street
You’re gonna have to take my word on this one as my phone died while I was here, lol.
Hipster and eclectic, Orange Street in Osaka is the epitome of cool. Think Hypebeast in the flesh!
A hub for local designers, artisans and creatives, this is where to shop if you wanna avoid the touristy vibe.
Apart from the covetable one-of boutiques, every concept cafe is an interior design dream!
30. Swissotel Osaka
I don’t know about you but I am all about convenience when it comes to traveling.
Just because something is fancy and full luxury; if it involves more walking, lugging and earlier mornings because it’s far from everything else, I’ll pass.
Osaka’s Swissotel is such a great choice as it’s connected to Osaka Station: super central and literally an elevator away from all the trains.
31. Gateway To Japan
This Osaka Travel Guide is not limited to Osaka when it truly is a gateway to other Japanese destinations. You can visit other relatively nearby cities like Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, and Himeji, to name a few.
For Kyoto and Nara, might I suggest joining a half-day or whole day tour to really get to see as much as you can especially if you have limited time.
Truly worth the time and money, as seen here from my SUPER FUN time feeding LOADS of DEERS on Instagram while in Nara:
My navigator extraordinaire sister arranged these tours from Manila via Attic Tours
, the official affiliate agency of the Japanese Embassy.
Then again if you’re coming from Tokyo, you can easily do a day trip to Osaka as it’s only 2.5hrs away via Shinkansen or bullet train.
But with so much to see, do & eat, a day is never enough!
Hope you take something from my own Osaka Travel Guide! I emphasize on saying my own as it’s merely from my own experience and insights.
You can check out my other Japan posts here.
Enjoy your Osaka adventure!
Love & light,
Location: Osaka, Japan
***Some photos via OsakaStation.com