Culture Trip’s Feel-Good Places to Visit in 2021 – Osaka

Osaka, Japan, is a multifaceted city with a booming culinary scene
Osaka, Japan, is a multifaceted city with a booming culinary scene | © Emil Karlsson / Unsplash

Editorial Manager

All eyes will be on Japan in the summer of 2021 as Tokyo hosts the delayed Olympic Games, but we’re focusing on another impressive city as our main pick of feel-good Japanese destinations. Osaka has a lively shopping district, a thriving entertainment scene and a superb mix of historic buildings and modern architecture.

You can fly direct from Tokyo to Osaka if you want to get there with minimal fuss, but if you do have more time and want to take in some of the country on the way, a trip on the famous shinkansen, or bullet train, is a must. This rapid transport system is known around the world as one of the best ways to see Japan, and with a little planning, you can reach most places around the country if you’re keen on doing a tour. Even the destinations that don’t have shinkansen networks still boast a public transport system that is the envy of other countries.

Osaka, Japan, is a vibrant city with a mix of old and new architecture

The ultimate benefit of rail travel in Japan, especially for doubters, is that it’s often as quick as a direct internal flight if you factor in check-in times and other unavoidable airline time constraints. If Osaka is the only place on your itinerary next year, then you can, of course, opt to fly straight to the city from most major destinations around the world.

So, why visit Osaka? There’s the Universal Studios Japan theme park for starters, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2021. It’s great fun for the entire family, and it’s always interesting to see how each country adapts the basic premise to fit local tastes. And to mark the anniversary, Super Nintendo World opens in the spring. Fans are already excited about being able to play some of their favourite video games in real life while interacting with some larger-than-life characters.

Osaka is often cited as the best foodie destination in Japan, and that makes it one of the best in the world. You’ll even hear the word kuidaore, which roughly translates as “Eat until you drop,” uttered, which tells you how much locals love dining out.

There’s no better place in Japan to discover its foodie scene than Osaka

For a modern take on old classics, visit the Minami district, also known as Japan’s Kitchen, where high-end restaurants jostle for your attention alongside street-food vendors; wherever you choose, standards are high. Make sure you try a teppanyaki meal at least once in Osaka – there’s no better way to excite your taste buds than by seeing your dishes grilled before your very eyes.

Finally, no visit to the city would be complete without a trip to the five-storey Osaka Castle, which encapsulates everything you might imagine from ancient Japanese architecture. If you time your visit right (think early spring), you can also enjoy views of the city as it glows from the collective warmth of the cherryblossom.

Feel-good places to stay in Osaka

Osaka has many hotel options for the savvy traveller. We’ve picked out four of our favourites, which will serve you well if you’re visiting in 2021.

1. Home Hostel Osaka

Hostel, Hotel

Home Hostel Osaka
Courtesy of Home Hostel Osaka / Expedia

This trendy hotel-hostel hybrid, in Shinsaibashi, is ideal for those looking for a convenient no-frills experience. If you’re travelling as part of a large group, you won’t find many better places to stay than Home Hostel Osaka, and if you’re a solo traveller on a budget, it’s a lifesaver.

2. Conrad Osaka

Boutique Hotel, Luxury

Conrad Osaka
Courtesy of Conrad Osaka / Expedia

At the other end of the spectrum, the imposing monolithic façade of the Conrad hides a warm and cosy retreat away from the busy streets below. It has a cool rooftop bar that showcases the more luxurious side of the city, and an elegant indoor pool. Plus they serve some of the best food in town here, and with four on-site restaurants and lounges, it means you can dine well without even having to leave the hotel.

3. Cross Hotel Osaka

Boutique Hotel

Cross Hotel
Courtesy of Cross Hotel Osaka / Expedia

All the rooms in this hotel are stylish, but if you want that extra flourish, make sure you pick one of the suites on the Cross Floor. Additional care and attention have been paid to the design features in these rooms, although the standard options aren’t bad either. Overall, the biggest selling points here are the great pricing and excellent location.

4. Kaneyoshi Ryokan


A light-filled tatami room with floor seating and a table topped with a tea serving tray at Kaneyoshi Ryokan
Courtesy of Kaneyoshi Ryokan / Expedia

In any other country, the more “basic” traditional lodging options would be the cheapest to stay in, but this is Japan, where the traditional tends to be the ultimate in luxury. A compromise – of sorts – is this ryokan (inn) in the heart of Osaka. You’ll find more authentic places outside the city, but in the centre of a busy metropolitan area with a population of about 20 million, this one is hard to beat.


The Culture Trip list features places with a feel-good factor that we can’t wait to visit in 2021 and beyond (once we can travel again). It celebrates travel that’s good and makes you feel good. The destinations are dedicated to sustainability; they offer something new and exciting, or an unforgettable moment that will make us fall in love all over again with the world we’ve missed in 2020.

Culture Trip compiled the list based on insights and recommendations from its global community of travel experts and local insiders, combined with search data from millions of users from around the world to understand interest in those destinations.

Read more about our 2021 list of places to go and where to stay here.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

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All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

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