Along with Tokyo, Osaka is one of the most urbanized cities in Japan. This harbor city is widely known for its’ unique atmosphere and lively and welcoming people living there. The entire city is (quite literally) full of energy, and offers a totally different experience to visitors from what you can experience in Tokyo. The tasty local dishes, entertaining theme parks, and historical spots co-exist within the small, but also rapidly developing city. Let us help you understand the different areas of Osaka and their respective highlights!
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Osaka (大阪, Ōsaka) is a large metropolitan port city, located in the Kansai region on the south side of the main island of Honshu. It is the nation’s third largest city by populationwith over 2.6 million inhabitants. Osaka has played an important role in the economic development of Japan and because of its’ location with direct access to the sea, it has been serving as a main gateway for foreign companies to enter the country and the distribution of the goods throughout the country. Because many food were distributed from from port city, there has always been a rich variety of food available. This abundance of food led to the city its’ nickname: the kitchen of Japan. Osaka is also the birthplace of some delicious Japanese dishes such as okonomiyaki and Takoyaki.
Osaka can be divided into two major urban city centre’s: the Dotonbori and Namba area which is called minami (south in Japanese) and kita (north in Japanese) referring to the Umeda area. Minami is the most famous and popular tourist destination in Osaka filled with numerous bright neon lights and an enormous variety of restaurants and bars. Kita, or Umeda, is the city’s transportation and business hub. The area has undergone a major facelift over the last years and has become the political, economic and cultural center of Osaka and Kansai district.
Besides the tasty street food, Osaka also has a rich culture. Despite being a more modern city, the city also has a lot of historical highlights, like the oldest shinto shrine, and traditions to offer. The main historical landmark is the beautiful Osaka Castle which is surrounded by the Osaka Castle Park, where in spring hundreds of cherry blossom trees show their beautiful colours.
Best places to visit in Central Osaka (大阪中央エリア)
Central Osaka covers the famous district known as Dotonbori and Namba area. Dotonbori refers to a specific area where you can find a large variety of stores and restaurants offering tasty local foods and experiences. The iconic Dotonbori Street is home to some of the most popular tourist attractions. Also, here you can find the famous billboards and signboards which play a key role to make a unique landscape full of neon lights at night. Dotonbori is also the perfect place to try Japanese izakaya.
If you are interested in Osaka’s local food, trying Takoyaki should definitely be on your list. This delicious snack is a must try that you can enjoy while exploring the area. There is an informative museum called Konamon Museum, where you can learn about the history of Dotonbori district and Takoyaki. They also offer an exciting experience to make your own Takoyaki with your favourite ingredients.
Kuromon Market is another must-visit place full of lively small shops selling a large selection of products including fresh seafood, fruit, vegetables, and more! The main street is about 600 meters long and packed with over 180 shops handling Osaka’s best specialties. Walking around the area is a fun experience for you to enjoy the local food and feel the vibrant atmosphere at the same time!
Best places to visit in North Osaka (北大阪エリア)
North Osaka is widely known under another name: Umeda. Umeda is often referred to as a business hub with the urbanised skyscrapers. It also serves as the very heart of commercial and entertainment attractions. The area is always packed with people because of the accessible location from the main railway stations. Huge shopping complexes such as Hep5 are close to the stations, and you can easily check the latest trends of Japanese fashion and culture there!
Grand Front Osaka, and Osaka Station City are representative buildings which are both directly connected to the JR Osaka station. They offer a wide variety of shops and services including restaurants, trendy shops, showrooms, and even movie theaters. Another similar complex called Umeda Sky Building is the perfect place for tourists to enjoy the stunning view of the Osaka’s urban area from the observation deck on the 39th floor!
Best places to visit in South Osaka (南大阪エリア)
If you want to experience the real Osaka from a different perspective, South Osaka might be just what you are looking for! It has a famous district called Shinsekai, which literally translates as new world. Shinsekai has been attracting many tourists for the past decades. The landscape reminds you of the old days back in the Showa era in Japan, whereas newly opened tourist spots such as Abeno Harukas, the tallest building in Japan, brings you a brand-new experience!
Within the Shinsekai area, there is a covered shopping alley called Janjan Yokocho packed with small stalls, restaurants, and cozy standing bars where you can enjoy drinks while spending time with the welcoming locals.
The symbolic structure called Tsutenkaku Tower has been loved by locals as an important landmark in Osaka. It has an observation deck where you can enjoy the entire view of the Shinsekai area. When you pay another ¥500 you can enter the open-air observatory on the 5th floor, but the view from there is even better and worth paying the few extra yen!
Best places to visit in East Osaka (東大阪エリア)
East Osaka is home to one of the most iconic, famous and important landmarks of the city: Osaka Castle. This huge castle was originally built in 1583 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who lived during the Sengoku era and is seen responsible for the unification of Japan later in the 16th century. Although the original castle was unfortunately demolished over the centuries, the current one is perfectly restored and equipped with convenient facilities such as an elevator taking the visitors upstairs within seconds. From the observation deck on the 8th floor, you can have another amazing view of Osaka!
Besides the castle, there are several places strongly related to the history of the city. Hokoku Shrine is also situated in the Osaka Castle Park, enshrining the Toyotomi family. The beautiful Osaka Castle Park is also great for a relaxing stroll while surrounded by plenty of nature. Osaka Tenmangu Shrine and Taiko-en Garden are also famous spots, and each of them maintains the sacred atmosphere.
Best places to visit in the Osaka Bay Area (大阪湾エリア)
Osaka Bay Area is full of modern, exciting entertainment spots situated on a number of artificial islands. The most famous place is Universal Studio Japan, the huge theme park that opened in 2001. Outside the park, there is a shopping complex area called Universal City Walk a shopping and dining complex where you can also buy your USJ merchandise, and stay overnight.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is among the largest public aquariums in the world. The several tanks display a wide range of marine creatures that live in the Pacific Rim. The entire building is designed to enable visitors to watch the creatures from up-close and from different perspectives. They also hold interesting events and organize exciting guide tours to offer an opportunity to learn about the sea life!
Best Tours in Osaka
If you need some help to organize your trip to Osaka, you should definitely check out our private tour including English guide. We can help you plan your trip and ensure you make most out of your time of the culinary capital city of Japan!
▶Osaka Food and Drink Tour @ Kuromon Market and Dotonbori Area
This tour is one of our most popular tours. A local guide will show you around the lively local market and Dotonbori area and will have you try some amazing typical Osaka food!
▶Osaka Highlights Private Walking Tour
This 8-hour tour enables you to explore the must-visit highlights in Osaka to understand the entire city more deeply with different perspectives. The tour can be customised according to your wishes (places of interests and duration).
▶Osaka Kuromon Market and Namba Area Exploration + Sushi Making Experience Tour
This tour is similar to the first one mentioned above, but here you will have a deeper experience with an exciting sushi making workshop!
Where to stay in Osaka
Hopefully you now have an idea of what activities you can do in Osaka. We recommend you to stay in either the Namba or Umeda areas. Both central areas are well connected to all sorts of transportation and offer lots of shops, restaurants and hotspots. If you are looking for the best place to enjoy Osaka’s nightlife, you should consider staying in the Namba area. Other good places to stay in Osaka are hotels near the Midosuji subway line (the most important transport route in Osaka that gets you almost everywhere), Osaka Castle or Universal Studios.
Our recommendations in Namba:
Our recommendations in Umeda:
By now you must be very eager to add Osaka to your to go list. It is a 100% guaranteed fun experience. the city offers a great mix of culture, history and delicious cuisine. In addition, Osaka is also a great starting point for trips to other tourist destinations such as Hiroshima, Nara, Kyoto and Kobe. These places are 1-2 hrs. by public transportation from Osaka and offer different, and memorable experiences for you to make your trip even better! Please check our other blogs to find out more about them.
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