In this article, I am sharing the best things to do in Osaka on your first visit! I’ve put together this travel guide to help you plan the perfect itinerary from finger licking foods, famous landmarks to bustling skyscrapers! Let’s begin!
1. See an aerial view of Osaka from a Floating Garden Observatory
You have to see the coolest tower in town: The UMEDA SKY BUILDING! Like the name suggested, it is located in Umeda, one of the biggest transport hubs and shopping area in Osaka. What to expect on your visit? You will have to walk through a pedestrian tunnel before you could see the striking structure! When you first hear about the place, you’ll expect green lawns, flowers and trees… NOPE! It’s actually a very impressive viewing deck where you could admire the city from all directions! My favourite part was when I had to take a long glass tube-like mid-air escalator to reach the top! There was even a ring-like observation deck where you could see 360-degree panorama views! And if you’re here with a date, you can purchase love locks, get your names engraved on them and clip them on a fence!
2. Food Binge in Dotonburi, Osaka’s Famous Foodie Strip
Grilled crab legs, takoyaki, yakitori, sushi, sashimi, name it and you’ll get it! Eat until you drop in this gourmet paradise! You knew you’ve arrived at the right place when you see the famous Glico running man! Be dazzled by neon billboards, digital screens and eye-catching giant displays! There are loads of irresistible signature dishes to choose from so make sure to go on an empty stomach! Don’t know where to eat first? Massive lines form at the most popular food stalls so get in the queue! Calling all the foodies out there, come and eat your heart away in Dotonburi, Osaka’s culinary capital!
3. Watch Osaka sparkle at night from a Ferris Wheel
At first, I was very hesitant to ride the Tempozan ferris wheel… not because I am afraid of heights, but because I thought it was “too touristy”! But I’m so glad that I did it, the experience turned out to be super fantastic! The sky-high view from my see-through glass cabin was amazing! I went around 7pm and there were no queues at all! The ride lasted for less than 20 minutes, and the higher you go, the more landmarks you could spot! Before you leave, don’t forget to watch the wheel as it changes colours and appearance! Also a fun trivia is that the locals look at the wheel for the weather forecast. When the wheel is orange, they can expect a sunny day, and when it is blue, rain is on the way! Interesting, right?
4. Be amazed by Shinkansens
My first stop during my holiday in Japan was in Osaka! And guess what I wanted to see first? The SHINKANSENS! Believe it or not I, I wanted to see one straight away when my plane landed. I made sure to buy a JR pass before my trip so I can ride these bullet trains anytime I want! Riding the shinkansen isn’t cheap but is one of the quickest, easiest ways of traveling between major cities in the country! It is also more comfortable than taking a bus or flying economy class! Plus with with zero fatalities due to derailment or collision, you’re in safe hands!
5. Climb up the Osaka castle and ride in a traditional Gozabune
If you only have time to visit one castle in Osaka, then it should be the magnificent Osaka Castle! It’s in the centre of Osaka making it very accessible and exploring its beautiful surrounding is free! Climb up to the top floor and see a nice panoramic view of the city and check out the museum to understand it’s interesting history! It was so cool to see the armours worn by Japan’s top samurai warriors and you could even wear one if you feel like it! Do you want to make your visit even more special? Ride a Gozabune! You can catch the boat just off the bridge, no need to book in advance! The boat will take you on a ride around the castle grounds making you appreciate the park from a different perspective!
6. Be a part of Tenjin Matsuri: The Festival of the Gods
I was so lucky to be in Osaka during the Tenjin Matsuri festival. It is ranked as one of Japan’s top three festivals, along with the Gion Matsuri of Kyoto and the Kanda Matsuri of Tokyo. Watching the parade of traditional costumes, spectacular processions, the illuminated boats and the fireworks was something I never expected to witness during the trip! I really felt privileged to be with the citizens of Osaka as they celebrate with a bang! I didn’t mind the heat and the crowds just so I could take part of this annual summer event! Certainly a memory of a lifetime!
7. 7/11 , Lawson’s, Family Mart, izakayas, standing bars or Soba shops?
All of the above mate! All of the above! I went to Osaka and fell in love with all their convenience stores and all the type of restaurants and food stalls therein! For the budget traveller, convenience stores in Japan serve not only affordable, but also delicious, mouth-watering food! I kinda miss ordering my ramen from vending machines and eating cheesecakes all day right now! I am hungry just writing this blog post and already currently planning my next trip to the country!
8. You can’t leave Universal Studios without having a butter beer!
Being Universal Studio Japan’s biggest attraction, you won’t need a map to find The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Just follow wherever the big crowd is going, and you’ll be there in no time! I am not a big Potter-head but I am happy to report that I was so entertained and amazed by the attraction! Well of course I ended my day with a butterbeer! Hot or cold? I wish I could say both but with the summer heat, a cold one was definitely what I needed! What does it taste like? It’s simply a frozen soda with a butterscotch-like foam on top! It has Zero alcohol content so don’t you worry you won’t get tipsy at all!
Anytime is the perfect time to visit Osaka! It is certainly filled with so much exciting things to do! And I forgot to mention, I met the kindest, warmest and happiest locals during my stay! I discovered the underrated merchants and best shopping destinations all from them! I really do hope that I have helped you curate your Osaka sightseeing and gallivanting through this guide! Let me know in the comments, okay?
Heading to Tokyo and Kyoto? You might want to check these articles too!
JAPAN Travel Guide: 15 Top Things to do in TOKYO on your first visit!
JAPAN Travel Guide: Top 8 Things to Do in KYOTO
Thanks for being here!
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The Travel Belle