The Best Tourist Attractions in Osaka, Japan

Osaka's skyline merges the old world of Osaka Castle with modern skyscrapers
Osaka's skyline merges the old world of Osaka Castle with modern skyscrapers | © Sean Pavone / Alamy
Photo of Brooke Larsen
Osaka Hub Writer7 May 2021

The Japanese port city of Osaka, on the island of Honshu, is often compared to its big brother, Tokyo – but it is a thriving metropolis in its own right. Where to start? We curate the must-visit tourist attractions to add to your itinerary.

Osaka is well-known for its food – the Japanese call it “the nation’s kitchen”, neon-lit nighttime entertainment district, Nipponbashi, and traditional temples, along with the tallest building in the country, Abeno Harukas. There’s even a castle. Here’s our guide.

Tennoji Park

Park
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2APFC6D OSAKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 16, 2019: The view of Kawazokoike Pond with fountains and the red bridge in Tennoji Park of Osaka. Japan
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This green park is situated beneath Abeno Harukas, a soaring 300m (984ft) skyscraper above Osaka Abenobashi Station, the highest in Japan. Inside, there’s a host of family-friendly attractions, including Tennoji Zoo, which houses 1,000 animals of 200 different species, such as lions, chimpanzee and koalas, along with the traditional Keitakuen Garden,and the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts. In the surrounding Tenshiba area, you’ll find restaurants, a market, futsal courts, and the Kintetsu Friendly Hostel, which offers affordable accommodation for families and groups of up to eight people.

Shinsekai

Architectural Landmark
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WB02K3 Osaka, Japan - November 21, 2018: street view of Shinsekai and Tsutenkaku tower in osaka. shinsekai is a retro downtown area of southern Osaka
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The Shinsekai neighbourhood, next to the downtown Minami district, was created in 1912 to showcase Osaka’s modern identity and was modelled on Coney Island and Paris. While it has a reputation for being a bit seedy, it’s also one of the city’s most colourful areas and has a distinctive culinary identity. If you’re feeling daring, dine at one of the fugu (blowfish) restaurants, or grab a casual bite at one of the kushi-katsu outlets, which sell deep-fried, breaded meat, fish and vegetables on skewers.

Shitennō-ji

Buddhist Temple
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Shitennoji Temple
Courtesy of Steve Vidler / Alamy Stock Photo

Immerse yourself in an essential part of Japan’s history at the Shitennō-ji temple, which is regarded as the first Buddhist and oldest officially administered temple in the country. It dates back to the sixth century CE and, although the buildings have burnt down several times over the centuries, they have been rebuilt in the same style. It’s free to enter the outer temple grounds but you’ll need to pay admission to visit the inner precinct, which features a five-storey pagoda, the Gokuraku-jodo Garden and exhibitions of valuable artworks in the treasure house.

Kuromon Market

Market
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Kuromon Market of Osaka_RTD0HW
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Want to experience some of Osaka’s local delicacies? Head to Kuromon Ichiba Market, in the Minami district, that boasts the nickname “Osaka’s Kitchen”. There are around 150 vendors selling everything from seafood, meat and other produce to traditional sweets and homewares. Street food on offer include grilled crab, yakitori (chicken skewers), sushi, sea urchin, and the city’s famous takoyaki (balls of batter filled with diced octopus).

Osaka Castle Park

Museum, Park
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Looking for somewhere to take part in the Japanese tradition of hanami (flower viewing)? This large green space in the centre of Osaka is popular for viewing cherry blossom (sakura) in the spring. Built on a historic site, the park is also home to the Osaka Castle Keep Tower, an enormous 16th-century castle and one of the most famous landmarks in the country. From the top of the tower, you get an expansive view over Osaka Bay to Mount Ikoma. There’s also a variety of sports fields and an open-air concert hall.

Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park

Park
Map View
2B0B5GR Osaka, Japan - December 12, 2019: Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park Windmill, Medium Shot, Eye Level View
Courtesy of Pixel Professional / Alamy

Think Japan and you probably don’t envisage a quaint windmill in a tulip garden. However, this is exactly what you’ll find at Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park. This 300-acre (120ha) park, on the outskirts of the city on the site of the 1990 International Garden and Greenery Exposition, also features one of the world’s largest greenhouses, a traditional Japanese teahouse, a large pond, swimming pool, fitness centre, tennis courts, a dog park and many other amenities. The windmill is found in the Mountain Area, alongside the International Garden, which is made up of micro-gardens inspired by different countries around the world.

Dotonbori

Bridge
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2CCFFYX Osaka, Japan - Dotonbori in Osaka, Japan. Dotonbori is one of the principal tourist destinations in Osaka, Japan.
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The bustling walkways and bridges near the Dotonbori canal have been the site of Osaka’s entertainment district since the 1600s. After firebombing during World War II destroyed much of the area, which was originally the location of many theatres, this area was reborn as a popular dining and nightlife location and is characterised by massive neon signs – most notably the “Glico man” that reflects brightly in the water come nightfall.

Hozenji

Buddhist Temple
Map View
P1AERY The Main Building of the Hozenji Shinto Shire in the Centre of Osaka, Japan.
Courtesy of GLC Pix / Alamy

Hozenji is a quiet temple, tucked away among the alleyways that branch off from the noisy Dotonbori district. Lantern-lit and featuring a stone deity covered in moss, it’s an intimate escape from the nearby commotion and commercialism. Pray to the presiding god of protection, Fudomyoo, for safety on your travels before heading to the izakaya (a Japanese bar that serves drinks and small dishes) on Hozenji Yokocho, a cobbled street straight from a history book.

Amemura

Park, Shopping Mall
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W0G3AR Amerika-mura (American Village), Shinsaibashi, Osaka
Courtesy of Dan Joseph / Alamy
Amemura, which is short for “Amerikamura” or “American Village” is a hub for young hipsters looking to shop, drink or just hang out. Amemura is home to trendy and unusual fashion boutiques and thrift stores, some of the best bars and restaurants in the city, a replica of the Statue of Liberty, and the infamous Triangle Park, which is a favourite destination for skateboarders. This quirky, lively neighbourhood is a perfect example of the East-meets-West aesthetic.

Nambayasaka Shrine

Shinto Shrine
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Nambayasaka-Shrine_2A0JJYD Ema-Den Lion shaped hall of Namba yasaka Jinja. Shinto shrine dedicated to Susanoo no Mikoto deity
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Osaka’s most visually striking shrine, Nambayasaka, features a stage shaped like a massive lion’s head baring its teeth. It is quite possibly the closest most will, or even want to, get to being consumed by a large animal. This shrine is not only a great place for a photo-op but it’s also a chance to experience local culture at a site that isn’t crowded as it’s off the beaten path.

Den Den Town

Bookstore, Shop
Map View
Osaka, Japan. 24th March, 2013. Thousands gather in the centre of Osaka on Sunday for the annual Nipponbashi Street FestD542HG Osaka, Japan. 24th March, 2013. Thousands gather in the centre of Osaka on Sunday for the annual Nipponbashi Street Festa.The festa took place in Nipponbashi, Osaka's electronics district, more commonly known as Den-Den Town. Many streets were closed off to cater for the hordes of cosplay, manga and anime fans.Credit image: Trevor Mogg / Alamy Live Newsa.The festa took place in Nipponbashi, Osaka's electronics district, more commonly known as Den-Den Town. Many streets were closed off
Courtesy of Trevor Mogg / Alamy
Another name for Osaka’s Nipponbashi neighbourhood is Den Den Town, which comes from Denki no machi, literally meaning Electric Town. This is a favourite local spot to shop for the best and most affordable electronic goods, while it also specialises in selling otaku (basically “nerdy”) paraphernalia such as anime, manga, costumes and more. Den Den Town is home to many arcades, maid cafes and adult-entertainment stores, living up to its name as one of the most eclectic districts around.

Spa World

Amusement Park, Health Spa
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Spa World, Osaka HHCX1T travel in Japan
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After spending time in any large city, it is often good to unwind. One great way to let off steam is by enjoying a soak at Spa World, a gigantic spa and water park. Spa World’s main attraction is the around-the-world-themed bathing experience, which features European and Asian influences. The spa, which features numerous opulent baths, alternates between admitting either men or women, depending on the month.

Tsutenkaku

Building
Map View
Osaka, JAPAN - CIRCA April, 2019: Tsutenkaku Tower is a tower and well-known landmark of Osaka, Japan and advertises H2C8MR2T Osaka, JAPAN - CIRCA April, 2019: Tsutenkaku Tower is a tower and well-known landmark of Osaka, Japan and advertises Hitachi, located in the Shinseka
Courtesy of Robbin Lee / Alamy

At 103m (338ft), Tsutenkaku Tower was once dubbed the tallest structure in the Orient – obviously some time ago. This tower, surrounded by an amusement park, is today overshadowed by the surrounding skyscrapers, though it still manages to stand out thanks to its gaudy lights, which feature public-service announcements and advertisements, as well as weather forecasts.

Abeno Harukas

Building
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View of the Osaka skyline at the top of the Abeno Harukas Building.
Courtesy of Roland Nagy / Alamy Stock Photo

One of the skyscrapers that overshadows Tsutenkaku Tower is Abeno Harukas, the tallest building in Japan. Abeno Harukas was given its title in 2014 and contains a train station, shopping centre, art museum, hotel, offices and more. Its most exciting feature is arguably the Harukas 300, a three-floor observation deck and open-air atrium, from which you’ll enjoy fantastic views of the city.

Osaka Castle

Building
Map View
28 March 2019: Osaka, Japan - The main keep of Osaka Castle, Osaka, Japan T9D7W1 28 March 2019: Osaka, Japan - The main keep of Osaka Castle, Osaka, Japan
Courtesy of travellinglight / Alamy
Originally built in the 16th century by famous warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi who unified Japan, modern-day Osaka Castle is an exact replica of the original – except the inside now houses a museum. The castle was destroyed multiple times before finally being reconstructed in 1931, thanks to donations from locals, and fully restored in 1995. Surrounding the castle is a massive moat, and some of the original walls and turrets.

Universal Studios Japan

Amusement Park
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2F3RAJD General view shows Yoshi's Adventure attraction inside Super Nintendo World, a new attraction area featuring the popular video game character Mario which is set to open to public on March 18, during a press preview at the Universal Studios Japan theme park in Osaka, western Japan, March 17, 2021. Picture taken March 17, 2021. REUTERS/Irene Wang
Courtesy of Reuters / Alamy

This beloved theme park, known locally as USJ, is conveniently located just outside the city on a man-made island. It features much-loved attractions, including Jaws and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as well as exclusive ones such as Cool Japan. At USJ, visitors can pose for pictures with Hello Kitty, become a Monster Hunter or a Sailor Scout in one of the 4D experiences, and run away from zombies during Halloween.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Aquarium
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2F3RAJD The exterior of the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan in Osaka, Japan.
Courtesy of Felix Choo / Alamy
Kaiyukan, on the shores of Osaka Bay, is one of the largest aquariums in the world. Many Pacific Ocean creatures are on display, including an enormous whale shark. There is an interactive exhibit where visitors can get up close to penguins, seals and rays in specific rooms designed to recreate these animals’ original environments.

Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel

Amusement Park
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JMWE8F OSAKA, JAPAN - JULY 18, 2017: Close up frame trust of Tempozan Ferris Wheel in Osaka, Japan. It is located in Tempozan Harbor Village, next to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Courtesy of Sunshine Pics / Alamy

Just outside of the aquarium is the world’s former tallest Ferris wheel, named, ironically, after Japan’s smallest mountain across the street. The Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel stands 112.5m (369ft) and offers stunning views of many of the city’s famous landmarks – that is, if you’re willing to brave the 17-minute ride.

Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street

Market
Map View
H8RXFX Osaka, APR 29: The famous shopping and food street - Tenjinbashisuji on APR 29, 2011 at Osaka, Japan
Courtesy of Chon Kit Leong / Alamy / Expedia

This is longest shotengai (covered shopping arcade) in Japan, offering insight into the daily hustle and bustle of Japanese business. Spanning multiple kilometres and neighbourhoods, Tenjinbashisuji features a wealth of shops, restaurants, cafes and bookstores. Stroll along, no matter what the weather, and enjoy all the delicious food, souvenirs and other goods Osaka has to offer.

Osaka Museum of Housing and Living

Museum
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Honshu island, Kansai, Museum of Housing and Living_M3RATE
Courtesy of Hemis / Alamy

This charming museum, located near one end of Tenjinbashisuji, is one of Osaka’s best museums thanks to its interactive exhibits. You can walk through a life-sized replica of Edo-period Japan, dressed in a kimono, and explore traditional homes, buildings and streets. Daytime and nighttime are both simulated in the village as you stroll.

Osaka Tenmangu

Shinto Shrine
Map View
GN6YCY Tenmangu Shrine, Osaka, Japan. Image shot 02/2014. Exact date unknown.
Courtesy of Horizon Images/ Motion / Alamy

On the other end of Tenjinbashisuji is one of Osaka’s most famous shrines, Osaka Tenmangu. This shrine is more than 1,000 years old, and the site of Osaka’s biggest and most famous annual festival, the Tenjin Matsuri. It’s never too crowded or noisy, despite its location in a business district, and this makes the beautiful grounds feel all the more sacred.

Expo '70 Commemorative Park

Park
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2AKH8E6 Osaka, Japan - April 3, 2019 : Expo '70 Commemorative Park at spring
Courtesy of Sanga Park / Alamy

In 1970, Osaka hosted the World Expo and this park lives on as a commemoration of the event. Banpakku Kinen Koen (Expo ’70 Commemorative Park in English) is a huge space with facilities ranging from a Japanese garden to the Tower of the Sun, a bird-like structure that was symbolic of the expo. There is also a folk-craft museum, and the National Museum of Ethnology, which showcases world cultures.

Sumiyoshi Taisha

Shinto Shrine
Map View
JWRHTK Osaka, Japan at the Taiko Drum Bridge of Sumiyoshi Taisha Grand Shrine.
Courtesy of Sean Pavone / Alamy

Head to Sumiyoshi Taisha for a more spiritual experience. Visit the rare Shintō shrine and the picturesque Taiko Drum bridge leading up to the main entrance. Ringing in the new year in Osaka? Watch crowds of thousands gather here to pray on New Year’s Day.

Nakanoshima Park

Park
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2BP0W06 Osaka, Japan. 17th May, 2020. Many people visit Nakanoshima Park in Osaka on May 17, 2020, the first Sunday after Osaka Prefecture partially lifted its business suspension request over the coronavirus pandemic. (Kyodo)==Kyodo Photo via Credit: Newscom/Ala
Courtesy of Newscom / Alamy

This stretch of green, near Umeda in Osaka’s busy business district, divides two rivers and is home to the city’s first public park. Established in 1891, Nakanoshima Park has long been an escape for residents of the city, who find zen in its rose garden, with more than 300 varieties of the flower, and enjoy great views of the adjacent rivers. Time it right and get stuck into group yoga and dance practice – or, failing that, pack a picnic.

Umeda Sky Building

Building
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EJ0EG1 City, Japan, Asia, Kansai, Osaka, City, Sky Building, Umeda, escalators moving stairs, architecture, colourful, glass, high, no p
Courtesy of Prisma by Dukas Presseagentur GmbH / Alamy

Want the best views of downtown? The Umeda Sky Building is a must-visit in Osaka. Climb to the top (or jump in the lift) to scale one of the 40-storey towers, which are connected by a “floating observatory”. Here, you can enter via a tunnel-like escalator surrounded by glass. Afraid of heights? There is also an underground market in the basement that recreates the atmosphere of early 20th-century Osaka.

Mino Park

Forest, Park
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DTR7CE Minoh Falls in Minoh Park near Osaka in Japan.
Courtesy of Trevor Mogg / Alamy
Just outside Osaka City is a quasi-national park complete with hiking trails, a waterfall, monkeys, temples and more. When you tire of the concrete and neon signage in the city, there are few places that offer a more scenic escape than Mino Park (also spelt Minoo or Minoh). The park is especially beautiful in autumn, when the maple leaves change colour. Planning on hanging out in the park for some time? Grab a pint from the nearby Minoh Brewery.

Mandi Keighran contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on May 7, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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