Osaka Itinerary: Days Needed To Explore

how many days to travel in osaka

Osaka is Japan's third-largest city and is known for its food and shopping. It is also a popular tourist destination due to its strategic location, which makes it a great base for day trips to interesting cities like Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe.

Most people find that 3-5 days in Osaka is enough to see the main attractions, but if you're not on a tight schedule, you can easily spend a week here without getting bored. If you're short on time, a day trip from Kyoto or a quick whistle-stop tour will give you a taste of Osaka's unique charm.

With two days in Osaka, you can explore the city's ancient and modern attractions, including Osaka Castle, Shitenno-ji Temple, and the vibrant Dotonbori and Shinsekai districts. On the third day, you can visit Universal Studios Japan or take a day trip to nearby cities like Nara, Himeji, or Kobe.

If you have more time, Osaka is an ideal base for exploring the Kansai region. You can take advantage of the city's superb transport links and convenient location to visit Kyoto, Nara, and other destinations in less than an hour.

So, whether you're a foodie, a history buff, or just looking for a vibrant city to explore, Osaka has something for everyone. Now, let's dive into the details and help you plan the perfect Osaka itinerary!

Characteristics Values
Minimum number of days to spend in Osaka 1
Maximum number of days to spend in Osaka 8
Number of days to spend in Osaka for a "rock-solid" trip 3
Number of days to spend in Osaka for a "perfect" trip 2
Number of days to spend in Osaka for a "comfortable" trip 5

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Osaka Castle and the Kuromon Market

Osaka is Japan's third-largest city and is a great place to experience modern Japanese culture. It is recommended that you spend at least 5 days in Osaka to see the must-sees of the Kansai region, including Osaka and Kyoto. However, 8 days would be better as it will allow you to visit other highlights of Kansai, such as Nara, Kobe, Himeji, and Hiroshima.

The Kuromon Market, also known as Kuromon Ichiba, is a covered public market located in the Minami area of Osaka. Stretching about 600 meters parallel to Sakaisujidori Street, the market dates back to the Edo Period. It is known for its atmospheric setting and street food. The market has approximately 150 shops selling a variety of items, including fresh seafood, meat, produce, traditional sweets, clothing, and homeware. It is easily accessible, just a short walk from Nipponbashi Station or a 10-minute walk from Namba Station.

When planning your trip to Osaka, consider the best time of year to visit. Spring and fall are considered the best seasons, with warm to cool temperatures and generally sunny skies. The cherry blossom season, usually in late March or early April, is a popular time for tourism, but it can be hard to find accommodation. Avoid the hurricane and typhoon seasons from August to September, as well as Golden Week in early May, which is Japan's biggest holiday.

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Dotonbori and Shinsekai

Dotonbori

Dotonbori is a bustling, canal-side district in Osaka, famous for its food and shopping. It is known for its vibrant atmosphere, with colourful lights and the iconic Glico Running Man sign. The area is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, with a variety of restaurants, bars, and shops lining the streets. Dotonbori is also home to the National Bunraku Theatre, where you can watch traditional Japanese puppet shows, and the Dotonbori Konamon Museum, which showcases the history and culture of Osaka's food.

Shinsekai

Shinsekai, on the other hand, has a more old-school feel to it. The area was developed before World War II and then neglected for decades. It is centred around the Tsutenkaku Tower, a symbol of the district. Shinsekai is known for its kushikatsu, a dish of various skewered, battered, and deep-fried foods. The neighbourhood also has a variety of other restaurants, bars, and shops, including Spa World, a huge bath complex with European and Asian-themed floors. Shinsekai is easily accessible by train, with multiple stations located within walking distance.

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Namba, Osaka Castle and the Osaka Museum of History

Namba

Namba is one of Osaka's two major city centres, the other being Kita, and is the city's most famous entertainment district. It is easily accessible, served by three train companies and three subway lines, and is a great place to go shopping and dining. The district is centred around Namba Station and the Osaka City Air Terminal (OCAT).

Dotonbori, a street running parallel to the Dotonbori canal, is one of Osaka's most popular tourist destinations. It is a popular shopping and entertainment district, as well as a food destination. At night, it is lit up by hundreds of neon lights and mechanised signs, including the famous Glico Running Man and Kani Doraku crab.

Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade is Osaka's premiere shopping centre, with a unique combination of chain retail stores, trendy boutiques, expensive department stores, and top designer fashion labels.

Amerikamura, or "Amemura", is Osaka's counterpart to Harajuku and is a good place to see the cutting edge of teenage fashion and culture in Japan.

Den Den Town is an electronics district comparable to Tokyo's Akihabara, and is also known as an otaku paradise with numerous manga and anime retailers, as well as maid and cosplay cafes.

Kuromon Market is a several-hundred-metre-long, covered shopping arcade filled with shops and restaurants selling fresh seafood, meat, vegetables, and fruits. It is known as "Osaka's Kitchen".

Namba Parks is designed to be a break of nature in the sprawling urban landscape, featuring a 120-tenant shopping mall including a cinema, amphitheatre, and a rooftop garden. The 6th floor features restaurants serving Korean, Italian, and Vietnamese cuisine.

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle is one of Japan's most famous landmarks and played a major role in the unification of Japan during the sixteenth century of the Azuchi-Momoyama period. The castle and its fortress are built on two raised platforms of landfill, supported by sheer walls of cut rock using a technique called burdock piling, and are surrounded by a series of moats and defensive fortifications. The castle grounds cover approximately 61,000 square metres (15 acres) and contain thirteen structures that have been denoted as "important cultural assets" by the Japanese government.

Osaka Museum of History

The Osaka Museum of History is located in Chūō-ku, Osaka, and is open from 9:30 to 17:00. It is easily accessible by train, with the Osaka Metro Tanimachi Line and Chuo Line, "Tanimachi 4-Chome" Station being the closest station.

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Universal Studios Japan

Planning Your Visit

Before heading to Universal Studios Japan, it is essential to purchase your tickets in advance to avoid long queues at the front counter. You can buy tickets through the official Universal Studios Japan website or authorized partners like Klook, ensuring you get the best price. Additionally, consider whether you need the USJ Express Pass, which allows you to skip the queues for select attractions. The pass includes timed entry to Super Nintendo World and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, saving you valuable time.

To make the most of your day, arrive at the park at least an hour before the gates open. This will give you a head start, especially if you plan to visit popular attractions like Super Nintendo World. The park has been known to open quietly before the published time to reduce congestion, so take advantage of this unadvertised early entry if possible.

Navigating the Park

  • Super Nintendo World: This highly anticipated area brings the world of Mario to life. You can experience the blockbuster Super Nintendo World, which includes the Mario Kart: Koopa's Challenge ride and Yoshi's Adventure. The upcoming Donkey Kong Country expansion will add even more excitement with a roller coaster and interactive experiences.
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Immerse yourself in the magic of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, enjoy a glass of Butterbeer, and don't miss the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.
  • Minion Park: If you love the Minions, this area is for you! Enjoy shows, Minion-themed food and merchandise, and don't miss the "Despicable Me Minion Mayhem" ride.
  • Hollywood Zone: Experience the glamour of Hollywood with attractions like the Hollywood Dream: The Ride and the Space Fantasy ride.
  • Universal Wonderland: Perfect for families with younger children, this area features three sections: Snoopy Studios, Hello Kitty Fashion Avenue, and Sesame Street Fun World, offering dozens of rides and interactive experiences.

Dining Options

Food and beverages inside Universal Studios Japan can be expensive, so consider having a hearty meal before entering the park. If you do choose to dine inside, there are options for all budgets. You can find everything from specialty items like Butterbeer to affordable options like udon at Universal City Walk, just outside the park.

Tips for a Great Experience

  • Stick to the Center: When watching Theatre Shows, try to position yourself in the center of the waiting room to get the best seats in the house.
  • Arrive Early for Street Shows: If you want a good view of the parades and street shows, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early to secure your spot.
  • Explore Your Surroundings: Don't forget to wander and explore the park's incredible decor. Pay attention to the small details, like the "Bank of Evil" in Minion Park and Moaning Myrtle in the ladies' toilet in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • Single Rider Lanes: If you're willing to ride alone, take advantage of the Single Rider Lanes, which often have shorter wait times than the regular queues.
  • Timed Entry Tickets: For popular attractions like Super Nintendo World and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, consider obtaining timed entry tickets, especially if you're visiting during peak times. You can get these tickets for free through the official website or app.
  • Plan Your Route: To maximize your time, plan your route in advance. There are suggested itineraries based on your interests, such as the Gaming Route, Adventure Route, Harry Potter Fan Route, and Cute Stuff Route.
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Osaka Bay Area

The Osaka Bay Area is a collection of new districts built on man-made islands and peninsulas to accommodate the city's growth. It is easily accessible from Osaka/Umeda Station via the JR Loop Line and the Chuo Subway Line. The area is known for its entertainment complexes, Universal Studios Japan and Tempozan, which includes the Osaka Aquarium, a giant Ferris wheel, and shopping and dining complexes.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

The Osaka Aquarium is one of the best aquariums in the world, with a massive tank that holds 5,400 tons of water and a variety of marine life, including a whale shark. The aquarium is located in Tempozan, which can be reached from central Osaka in under 20 minutes via the Chuo Subway Line. The aquarium is pretty expensive (2,300 yen for adults and 1,200 yen for children over four), but it is well worth the cost.

Tempozan Ferris Wheel

As you walk from Osakako subway station to the Osaka Aquarium, you will pass by the Tempozan Ferris Wheel. At a height of 112 meters, the Ferris wheel offers incredible views of the Bay Area, Osaka, and Kobe. The cost is 800 yen per person.

Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan is an American-style theme park similar to others around the world. It is quite expensive (over 7,000 yen per adult and almost 5,000 yen per child), and you may want to buy an express pass to avoid long lines. The park has dedicated hotels and its own shopping and dining areas, including American chain restaurants and some local options.

Naniwa Food Theme Park

Located inside the Tempozan Marketplace, the Naniwa Food Theme Park is a faux Edo-era shopping street with small restaurants serving Osaka specialties like okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and kushikatsu. This is a great place to sample traditional Japanese food in a fun, old-style atmosphere.

Where to Stay

There are several hotels in the Osaka Bay Area, ranging from luxury to mid-range and family-friendly options. The Hyatt Regency Osaka is a luxury hotel located near Universal Studios Japan and Osaka Bay attractions. The Quintessa Hotel is a clean and comfortable mid-range option with convenient access to attractions like the Osaka Aquarium. The Park Front Hotel at Universal Studios Japan is a stylish and comfortable family-friendly hotel located less than a minute's walk from the park's main entrance.

Frequently asked questions

Osaka is a large city with a lot to offer, so the number of days you spend there depends on your interests and travel style. Most people find that 2-3 days is enough to see the main attractions, but if you want to explore secondary neighbourhoods or take day trips to nearby cities, you may want to spend 4-5 days or more.

Some popular attractions in Osaka include Osaka Castle, Shitennoji Temple, Dotonbori, Kuromon Market, Shinsekai, Umeda Sky Building, Kaiyukan Aquarium, and Universal Studios Japan.

There are several places you can visit on day trips from Osaka, including Nara, Himeji, Kobe, Kyoto, and Hiroshima.

Some recommended areas to stay in Osaka include Kita, Minami, Central Osaka (Honmachi), Osaka Castle Area, and Umeda.

Osaka can be visited year-round, but spring and fall are considered the best seasons due to warm to cool temperatures and sunny skies. The cherry blossom season in late March/early April is also a popular time, but hotel rooms can be hard to come by.

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