Osaka is home to a delightful maze of waterways and canals dotted with picturesque bridges. It’s Japan’s second-biggest city and offers a delightful collection of attractions to explore, from tranquil temples and bustling markets to an imposing castle and family-friendly theme park. In a city where you can get lost in the beauty of its futuristic skyline, here are the best things to do in Osaka, Japan.
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Take a step back in time at Osaka Castle
Dating back to 1586, the Osaka Castle is one of the city’s most beloved attractions. One of the most historically significant landmarks in Osaka, you can step inside its interior to discover a museum dedicated to the history of the area and its 16th and 17th-century timeline with an observatory on its eighth-floor. It is a beautiful place for an afternoon stroll throughout the year, while spring its plum tree orchard shows off its blooming flowers in a colorful display of pinks and whites.
See Japan’s first Buddhist temple at Shitenno-ji
The Shitenno-ji Temple is said to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan, with the original temple being constructed in 593 AD. Imagine what life was like 1,400 hundred years ago as you explore the temple’s grounds, where you’ll find a five-story pagoda along with a number of beautifully decorated buildings, including the Golden Pavilion, offering a backdrop of gleaming skyscrapers. The area is still a tranquil place to explore, where its serene Japanese landscaped gardens offer a landscape of manicured shrubbery, streams and waterfalls.
Snap a selfie on Dotonbori Bridge
A great place to get acquainted with the city, take a stroll along the Dotonbori Bridge to admire the immense colors of Osaka, particularly at night. It serves as the city’s main artery and offers a landscape of the city’s culture, where at every turn you’ll discover a new place to eat and tightly packed bars luring you in with their neon-lit signs. Watch the LED billboards flight in the evening and look out to on the water and watch as boats float by with travelers soaking up the lively ambiance.
Take a break in Minoo National Park
The perfect respite from the city’s constant bustle, take a short train ride to reach the natural landscapes of Minoo National Park. Meander through the park’s main pathway to reach the cascading waterfall that is surrounded by an array of colorful foliage depending on the time of year, then admire the beautiful temples and scenic river. In fall don’t pass up a chance to sample the park’s most unique treat, a fried maple leaf sold by vendors on the side of the road.
Meet underwater creatures at Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium
A perfect activity if you’re traveling with the kids, a visit to the Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium means you’ll be able to explore 15 different habitats found on the Pacific Rim with over 30,000 creatures encompassing 620 species. You can meet otters, sea lions, penguins and dolphins, while the walk-through aquarium is the highlight attraction with its diverse marine habitats such as Aqua Gate and Antarctica, along with Great Barrier Reef and Monterey Bay. Make sure to stop by the Pacific Ocean exhibit to meet the massive whale shark.
Soak in the scenery at Tennoji Park and Zoo
Tennoji Park and Zoo is Osaka’s largest green space, serving as a respite from the buzzing city center. You’ll find lush foliage that includes fragrant flower displays, while springtime brings the much-loved cherry blossom displays. Walk along the park to admire its beautiful sculptures, ponds and bridges, then take the entire family to the Tennoji Zoo to see a variety of animals roaming through the African savannah-like habitats where you can get up close with lions, giraffes and elephants.
Indulge in fresh seafood at Kuromon Ichiba Market
A great place to get a dose of local culture, mingle with the locals at the Kuromon Ichiba Market. It’s one of Japan’s best wet markets, where you can stroll through its tightly packed maze of stalls to discover an array of local delicacies. It is known for having some of the freshest ingredients in town, where chefs often shop for their restaurants and locals do their weekly shopping. Indulge in fresh-from-the-ocean seafood that is grilled right in front of you.
Enjoy thrilling rides at Universal Studios Japan
One of Osaka’s newest attractions, Universal Studios Japan is a great family-friendly attraction and a hotspot for theme park enthusiasts. Nestled in the Osaka Bay area, you’ll find movie-themed thrill rides, live entertainment and a variety of restaurants and shops. Take a ride on Jurassic Park, Spider-Man and Shrek’s 4-D adventure, then explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that are based on the popular rides in Universal’s Island of Adventure in Orlando, Florida.
Enjoy panoramic views at Umeda Sky Building
If you’re looking for a stunning, bird’s-eye view of Osaka, head to Umeda Sky Building. You can climb to the 39th floor of this modern building in a fast moving glass elevator, and when you reach the top floor you’ll discover a glass-enclosed escalator that takes you to a floating observatory nestled between two towers. A great place to visit both at day and night, its rooftop structure offers stunning views of Osaka and an urban garden with paths, fountains and ponds.
See Japanese artwork in The National Museum of Art
The National Museum of Art in Osaka is a unique underground art museum that is located just minutes from the city center. You’ll find Japanese and international contemporary art, with exhibitions that display artwork from the post-war period. Artists like Picasso and Cezanne and showcased in addition to Japanese artists Kuniyoshi and Foujita. Make sure to admire the spectacular steel structure that sits outside the museum, which is designed to look like reeds bending under a breeze.
Take a spin on the Tempozan Ferris Wheel
Offering outstanding views of Osaka, you can ride the large Tempozan Ferris Wheel for a delightful 17-minute ride where you’ll soar about the city’s buildings. The wheel lights up in an array of colors at night that will delight the kids, while the surrounding area is also a family-friendly with its large shopping mall that houses both Western and Japanese shops in addition to an entertainment arcade.