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1 Day Osaka Itinerary: Exploring Traditional Osaka

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Osaka is the capital of Osaka Prefecture. Besides being one of Japan's biggest cities, Osaka is also one of the oldest cities in Japan, with a rich history and culture.

This 1 day Osaka itinerary will help you explore traditional Osaka. Read about Buddhist and Shinto temples, the famous Osaka Castle, the world-renowned theme park, the unique outdoor museum/garden, and more beautiful places to visit in Osaka.

1 day Osaka itinerary

Osaka castle with cherry blossoms

Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). We're very grateful when you use our links to make a purchase:-).

This is a post by Cristina, who calls herself the one-woman show behind Honest Travel Stories.

She is a Romanian IT geek that moved to Switzerland two years ago and started writing because buying a domain name was cheaper than going to therapy.

Update-2023: We recently re-visited this chaotic (in a good way) city during our September/October trip to Japan and we couldn’t help but add a little (or a lottle, in this case) more detail to the itinerary.

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Is Osaka worth visiting?

osaka dotonbori street
An eye-catching Dotonbori street

Yes, 100%! When we think about Osaka, most of us automatically see a vivid and bustling city. I mean, don't get me wrong, it IS a vivid and bustling city!

But let's not forget that Osaka is one of the oldest cities in Japan that has a long history and rich culture. Our time in Osaka was so wonderful that we stayed out late almost every night and tried to explore every nook and cranny of this enchanting oxymoron of a place. Osaka is a destination where tradition meets bustling nightlife scene, quaint gardens neighbor videogame-inspired neon-light clad main streets, and where street-food vendors will go out of their way to make you full and happy.

In this 1 day itinerary to Osaka, I will help you both explore traditional Osaka and find your way around its modern side.

You can use this Osaka travel guide if you plan to stay here for a few days but also if you're planning a day trip to Osaka from Kyoto. After all, getting to ride in a bullet train from the Eternal City all the way to Japan’s food capital (Kyoto to Osaka, for those not yet familiar with the cities’ nicknames) is a pinch-me travel moment for every tourist: The journey might last 15 minutes tops, but the memories will last a lifetime!

You could even try to cover this traditional-leaning (but fully encompassing) Osaka one day itinerary on the day of your arrival if you land early in the morning and still have energy after your flight.

Shitenno Ji Temple Osaka

And I know that when you think of traditional Japan, you're probably thinking of Kyoto and Nara, not Osaka.

But believe me, this article will prove that Osaka can also show you the traditional face of Japan.

Whether it's experiencing the geisha culture or visiting a Buddhist temple, you'll have plenty to see in your Osaka 1 day trip.

Insider advice: a great way to save money on your Osaka trip is by purchasing a 1 or 2 day Osaka Amazing Pass.

This pass gives you unlimited trips on the Osaka subway, tramway, and bus as well as free access to almost 40 iconic Osaka tourist sites (including Osaka Castle).

Click here to buy the Osaka Amazing Pass online.

Planning a trip to Osaka, Japan? This one day Osaka itinerary will help you discover the highlights of traditional Osaka, such as Osaka Castle, Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine and Shitenno-Ji Temple. Click to read more! Osaka Japan Itinerary | #osaka #japan #osakatravel #japantravel
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Important things to know when planning your Osaka trip

When is the best time to visit Osaka?

Well, it depends. Japan has four defined seasons, the most well-known and most popular one for tourists is the springtime when the cherry trees are in full bloom.

The second best (the best in my opinion) is early November when the fall foliage views are spectacular, the weather is nice and there are (slightly) fewer crowds.

We think that the wonderful weather we encountered during our Japan pilgrimage helped with the exploration of Osaka quite a lot! Late September – early October meant 30°C days and nights when we could go to 7/11 in a t-shirt and shorts, no layers needed. Definitely keep this fact in mind when planning your trip to Japan!

One can also visit Osaka in winter, as it doesn't get too bad from the weather's point of view. If you avoid the holiday season, you might score lower prices.

The least targeted season is the summer, which is hot, humid, and carries a risk of typhoons.

What currency is used in Japan?

The simple answer would be the Japanese Yen (¥). Plan on having enough cash with you during your trip around Japan.

Japan is very much a cash-based society and you will need to pay cash for plenty of things (especially entry fees and transportation).

The exchange rate is about 165¥ to 1EUR, but be sure to check the current exchange rates when you start planning your Osaka travel itinerary.currency is used in Japan

How can you get around Osaka?

Mainly by using public transportation, I would say. You can, of course, walk, but the city is quite big and you'll waste precious time if you choose to do it this way.

If you're in Japan for longer, you'll probably have (or want to buy) an IC card of some sort. For Osaka, I would recommend using the ICoca card, as you can buy and cancel it from this area.

icoca Card used on public transport Japan

The payment system is very simple to use. You charge your card with some money, using cash as I mentioned before.

Then, upon entering a bus, you just have to either tap your card when entering and exiting (variable cost lines) or tap it only at the end (fixed cost lines).

The same goes for the metro or train, you won't be able to enter the platform area without tapping your card, which makes it pretty easy to be sure you've got it right.

How to get from Osaka airport (KIX) to Osaka city center?

The easiest way is with the Nankai Line Airport Express. Trains depart every 30 minutes and the journey takes 34 minutes.

You can buy a ticket at the airport or order a Nankai Line Airport Express online.

The Nankai Line Airport Express is a privately operated line and unfortunately, the JR Rail pass doesn't cover this train.

You can also take a local train from Kansai airport to the Osaka center, however, this will take considerably longer as these train stop at all stations.

From our personal experience, it’s super easy to get overwhelmed upon landing at the Osaka airport, especially if it’s your first time in Japan. However, the airport’s ground staff is more than happy to assist you with finding your way: Just head on over to the nearest ticket booth and show the person working the desk where you need to go in the city. Work smart, not hard!

One day in Osaka: map

Osaka itinerary map

Click here for the interactive map

Osaka 1 day itinerary: the best places to visit

  • Tsutenkaku Tower
  • Osaka Castle
  • Shitenno-Ji Temple
  • Geisha tea ceremony
  • Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine
  • teamLab Botanical Garden Osaka
  • Abeno Harukas
  • Kumoron Ichiba market
  • Dotonbori
  • America-mura
  • Umeda Sky Building
  • Universal Studios

Don’t let the number of places scare you away, thinking that you won’t have a single second for rest during your day in Osaka. On the contrary, you can set the pace that you’re comfortable with when following our guide!

It helps to know that Osaka is a pretty compact city, at least attraction-wise: The majority of places on our list are located within or super close to the city center. Compared to Tokyo (one of our favorite Japan destinations) that has districts so vast it takes an entire day to explore just one of them, Osaka is perfect for a simple day-trip.

Where to stay in Osaka

Bande Hotel Osaka
This time, we stayed at 4* Bande Hotel Osaka — just 10 minutes from Namba station (Osaka's center) by metro

If you plan to spend more time in Osaka or plan to make a couple of day trips from Osaka (Kobe, Nara and Koyasan are great Osaka day trips) you're probably looking for a nice place to stay.

There is an abundant amount of accommodation to choose from in Osaka, suitable for any budget. Read more information about these hotels further down in the post.

BudgetNest Hotel Osaka Umeda☆☆☆8.0US$60Click here
Medium BudgetHotel Monterey Le Frere Osaka☆☆☆☆8.4US$130Click here
Luxury hotelHotel Hankyu RESPIRE OSAKA☆☆☆☆☆8.6US$145Click here

Note: Prices for these hotels depend on the time of year and how far in advance you book. Therefore, the prices mentioned above are a rough indication of the price per night to help you compare the different options. Use ‘click here' to see the latest prices on Agoda and Booking and book ahead to get the best deal.

One day Osaka itinerary: the ultimate guide to traditional and modern Osaka

Shitenno-Ji Temple

While the Osaka itinerary that we originally set out to write mostly focused on the traditional side of Osaka (think Buddhist and Shinto temples, a Japanese castle, and historical districts), we decided to expand the attractions listed to keep up with the times. In Japan, your every visit will be heralded by a ton of new spots and updated landmarks.

When push comes to shove, it’s not all about history here: Osaka is a modern buzzing city as well, with many museums and other interesting things to see and do here. Strap in, because you’re in for a wild ride!

Ascend to the top of Tsutenkaku Tower

Tsutenkaku Tower ShinSekai
I DO recommend you visiting Tsutenkaku neighborhood in the evening, it's sooo glitzy!

Each and every Osaka itinerary should start with the most symbolic feature of the city — Tsutenkaku Tower. Originally built in 1912 (after the world-renowned Eiffel Tower), Tsutenkaku used to be the highest tower in Asia (people of the early 1900s went nuts for the construction that was mere 64 meters in height).

Now standing at more than 100 meters in height (it was almost demolished during World War II, but then built up again), the Tower is more deserving of its name: Tsutenkaku literally translates to “the building that reaches the sky”.

At night, Tsutenkaku Tower is beautifully illuminated in neon lights: As the Empire State Building in New York, Osaka’s very own landmark is usually connected in some way to current world events and different seasons (i.e. it will light up blue to celebrate the medics, pink for cherry blossom season, etc.). The sphere at the top of the tower is used to broadcast the weather forecast for the following day: We’re not exactly sure on the logistics, but we believe that white means the day will be sunny and blue means bring your umbrella because it’s going to rain.There are a few observation decks in the Tower, both the basic and the golden one (the latter being home to a Billiken — a curious-looking statue that brings good luck to those who rub its feet) require you pay a general admission fee: Adult ticket costs 900¥, children — 400¥.

ShinSekai osaka

Another observation deck at the very top — Tembo Paradise — requires an additional fee of 300¥ for adults and 200¥ for kids. The uninterrupted views of the area are worth the extra costs, in our opinion!

The latest addition of a Tower Slider made the tower even a more popular tourist destination than it ever was before: A 60-meter long tube that goes outside of the building (with a see-through top and head-spinning views to boot) is just scary enough to entice people for an adrenaline-filled experience. Even though the ride is over in just a few seconds (leaving you want to go again and again), the prices bite a little (at least compared to the general entry fees): An adult ticket costs 1000¥, and a kid’s ticket will set you back 500¥.

Our advice: Come here as early as you can (the Tower opens at 10 a.m. every morning), because the lines for the observation decks will have you wait for half an hour at the very least, while you’re guaranteed to spend a whole hour or more queuing up for the tube slide.

Tsutenkaku Tower is a crown jewel of the the Shinsekai district it’s located in. The neighborhood is just the right amount of gritty, rough at the edges, authentic to its core, but at the same time perfectly safe. With the uninhibited retro vibes, the streets of Shinsekai are as exciting as the Tower that resides over them: Here, you will find exuberant and in-your-face neon signs, hidden original (at times grotesque) graffiti art, street food vendors and little hole-in-the-wall establishments that serve all the great local delicacies (Takoyaki — burn-your-mouth-delicious octopus balls and Okonomiyaki — Japanese savory pancakes), bustling markets, arcades, and other fun attractions.

Visit Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle
What would I do differently visiting Osaka the next time?.. Book my tickets online because the lines on the spot are unbearable!

One of the most iconic Japanese castles in the country, Osaka Castle is a must-see in Osaka.

Defense walls surround the fortified structure and the five-story central castle building (eight stories on the inside) is built on a tall stone foundation.

Both the castle as well as the castle grounds are bound to impress you and you'll feel as if you've been transported to a different era.

The construction of this castle began in 1583 but is today, like most other old buildings in Japan, just a reconstruction of the original.

Don't be sad about this though! This is often the case in Japan, you'll rarely see the original buildings as they were destroyed by either natural disasters (remember that typhoon season I was telling you about? That's the mildest thing nature is throwing at them) or during WWII.

This doesn't mean that Osaka Castle isn't a part of traditional Japan. The castle works now as a museum (you can learn a lot about its history!) and as an observation deck (600¥ per person). If you don't feel like exploring the museum, you can just stroll around the grounds and get a feeling of old Japan.

For the unbeatable views of the Osaka Castle, consider going up to the Blue Birds Rooftop Terrace — a Japanese BBQ restaurant that sits on the roof of the nearby building. The whole experience is well worth the slightly overpriced atmosphere: You get to stretch your feet and marvel at the garden panoramas with a refreshing drink in your hand, all the while anticipating some of the best BBQ in Osaka!

Osaka Castle observation deck

If you're planning to visit Osaka Castle, consider buying the Osaka Amazing Pass to save (a lot of) money.

Also bring lots of snacks if you plan on visiting the Castle, as you’re bound to be queuing up for hours at the entrance (especially during peak tourist season) and you might get famished. To avoid that, purchase the tickets to the observation deck in advance.

If possible, try and plan your visit to the Osaka Castle so that it coincides with the Great Santa Run. Yes, you’ve read that right — each year, at the end of November, people put on Santa Claus costumes on and run (or walk) 5 km in the park near the castle. They’re not crazy, on the contrary: This is a charity event! Admission fee is 3,300¥ and all the proceeds go towards buying presents for kids with life-threatening illnesses who have to spend their Christmas in the hospital. The sight of hundreds of Santas running in full costume is a fun one, and knowing that the whole thing is created for a good cause can melt the heart even of the most cold-blooded Grinch!

Visit the Shitenno-Ji Temple

Shitenno-Ji Temple Osaka

The Shitenno-Ji Temple was among the first to be built in Japan and was commissioned by the Shotoku prince in 593.

While construction wasn't actually finished until 1963(!), it's still considered the first Buddhist Temple that was opened to the public.

A few helpful tips when you plan to visit the Shitenno-Ji Temple:

  • If you visit on the 21st of the month, the entry is free of charge as that's the day when the monthly festival takes place.
  • While you may be tempted to enter the five-story pagoda, keep in mind that the inside is pretty narrow (which may be an issue if you're tall) and the top is not as interesting as you would think.
  • The real treasure you'll want to see is in the building on the other side of the shrine's grounds. I won't spoil this for you, but be sure to check it out!

The entry fee for the central temple area is 300¥, and you can pay for different other areas, including a garden and a treasure hall museum.

Here you can find more information about the opening hours and entry fees.

Shitenno-Ji Temple 2

Before you leave the complex, head to the prayer building right next to the main temple area. The Rokujireisando will feel very calm and quiet, and you will probably love it if you just got away from the crowds at the main temple.

We didn't encounter any especially gnarly crowds while we were there, but the place can get busy during the holidays.

There's another shrine that I would love for you to visit called the Shitennoji Koshindo Temple. We found it by mistake, and while it's part of the whole Shitenno-Ji area, not many people know about it!

The address is 2-15 Horikoshicho, Tennoji Ward, Osaka, 543-0056, Japan. Just write it like that on Google maps (or use the map above) and go check it out!

The last shrine is so peaceful, you won't want to leave its premises… It's hard to believe you're still in bustling Osaka and this place might even end up being the highlight of your Osaka trip itinerary!

Enjoy a geisha tea ceremony in Osaka

geisha tea ceremony

To take a break from all this temple and shrine seeing, why don't you join a traditional tea ceremony performed by a geisha?

While most people do this in Kyoto, there's no reason not to enjoy not one, but three, traditional Japanese arts in Osaka as well.

Which three, you may wonder? Well, this ceremony can show you the following:

  • Kimono wearing
  • Tea ceremony
  • Geisha or maiko performance

That's right, you have a three for one sale right here! You will learn how to wear a kimono, how to prepare for the tea ceremony, and to enjoy it properly, and you'll see a geisha show.

Depending on the location you choose, you can enjoy this in a traditional Japanese tea house, or maybe even in a tea house located in a Japanese garden.

Please be aware that you have to make a reservation for this activity in advance. On this website, you can find more information about the price and make an online reservation.

Visit the Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine

Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine
Be sure to visit this shrine and find the temple dedicated to… cats!

This is the main Shinto shrine of all the Sumyioshi Shrines in Japan.

Its construction dates as far back as the 3rd century and the architecture is considered to be typical Japanese, without being influenced by other Asian countries.

Each Shinto Shrine is, in fact, a collection of shrines for various gods (Shintoism being a polytheist religion), and this shrine is mostly addressed to the gods that protect fishermen, sailors and… travelers!

Sumiyoshi shrine is free of charge, though you may want to make a small donation (the suggested amount is usually 50-100¥). You can read more information here.

Lose yourself at teamLab Botanical Garden Osaka

teamLab Botanical Garden Osaka

Nagai Botanical Garden is a wonderful place by day: Sprawling grounds, serene and calming environment. Trees, birds, fresh air, — does it get any better than that?

Turns out, it does: Come nightfall, the garden is completely transformed into a spectacular outdoor exhibition, courtesy of teamLab. Their art project called Digitized Nature is set to highlight the connection between art, nature, and humans, without actually interfering with the set environment of the space.

The different installations work in unison with the setting they’re in: Some of the objects change based on the wind patterns, some require a person to stand still, some follow the habits of the garden’s wild inhabitants.

It’s hard to describe the exhibit: The photos should do all the heavy lifting. What we can say is that the experience is like nothing we’ve ever seen: Permanent and seasonal exhibits mix and match, evolving into each other. You’re walking through a dimly lit field, then under the canopy of brightly lit cypress trees, only to find yourself in front of either large illuminated cubes or tiny spheres that come alive when you touch them.

Entry fee to the teamLab Botanical Garden is 1,800¥ for adults and 500¥ for kids.

Book your tickets in advance on Klook >>

Botanical Garden Osaka

Depending on the time of year, the exhibition opens some time between 6 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. (largely due to different hours of the sunset). No matter the season, the garden closes its doors at 9:30 p.m. on the dot (still, it’s more than enough time to take it all in and get months’ worth of cooky content for your socials).

Wear comfortable shoes, as you will be doing plenty of walking through a somewhat rough terrain, with most areas being poorly lit (for dramatic effect). Also, make sure you have enough phone storage, as you’re bound to take at least a zillion pics of the experience.

Enjoy the views from Abeno Harukas observation deck

Abeno Harukas observation deck
You can opt for the 60th floor views, however the 16th and 17th floors are offering some pretty good panoramas, too (and for free)

The tallest building in Osaka (it stands at 300 meters tall) should definitely be on your list of places to visit when exploring the city. Not only is it one of the best places to shop and eat (since the skyscraper is as multi-purpose as they come), but it’s also home to the most exciting viewing decks in Osaka that open up on the sprawling city panoramas.

For the humble price of 1,800¥, you will get to go up to the three top floors of the skyscraper: You can either shoot right to the very top — the 60th floor — and take in the stunning bird’s-eye-view vistas from the observation deck with awe-striking floor-to-ceiling glass panels, or take a detour to the 58th floor and relax at the lounge or grab a bite at the on-site restaurant. Either way, you’re in for an ear-popping and mind-boggling adventure!

Tickets to the observation deck >>

Traveling on a strict budget? No problem, since Abeno Harukas has a free viewing deck located on the 18th floor (a saving grace for the people who can’t imagine going up to the 60th floor, even for free) and a terrace with a garden on the 16th floor. Both spaces are equally mesmerizing, and although you’re not at the very top, you’re high enough to admire the city views.

Eat your weight in street food at Kuromon Ichiba Market

street food at Osaka market
You can't go wrong with takoyaki in Osaka!

While we are planning on giving you our tried-and-tested list of Osaka eateries we personally recommend for your sustenance needs further down in the article, we cannot possibly bypass mentioning the iconic Kuromon Ichiba Fish Market — location that can only be compared to Tokyo’s legendary Tsukiji Market.

Kuromon Ichiba Market is a covered stretch of the street that is almost 600 meters long, with more than 150 stores that sell the freshest food items possible: Seafood, meat, produce, etc. There are some clothes shops, but they’re few and far between. The main attraction that brings tons of tourists to the market is, by far, freshly caught fish and other seafood.

A lot of local food establishments get their produce at the market, the fact that puts a lot of people at ease: Osaka is known for its high standards when it comes to preparing food, so you know you can trust the local vendors!

But let’s face it — no tourist will come here to buy fish to cook later: Where are they going to cook it? Their pod hotel? I don’t think so! Because of that, we encourage you to try the local street food right then and there: Get those octopus balls while they’re hot!

Some seafood highlights for us definitely were tuna sashimi, unagi sushi (Friends fans will understand the excitement that comes with the name), and grilled mussels. To top it all off, we encourage you to go for something sweet: Either freshly cut pieces of fruit or a few mochi pieces will suffice!

Hit the lights at Dotonbori

Dotonbori osaka

If you paid close attention to your viewing of John Wick: Chapter 4, you might have witnessed a stunning sequence showing the brightly illuminated views of Dotonbori — a district with rich history and amusement park vibes. The neon-style of the aforementioned franchise is actually a perfect pairing with Dotonbori: The buildings lining the Dotonbori Canal are all clad with eye-catching and head-throbbing neon signage.

What used to be a theater street (only one withstanding the test of time — Shochikuza theater), is now a bustling shopping and eating destination among both locals and tourists.

The main activity that you are bound to participate in while in the area, however, is standing wide-eyed, mouth-open and gazing at the giant and unique signage.

  • A life-like monstrous octopus is neighboring a funny floating puffer fish, a mammoth crab is fighting for your attention with the most notable billboard of the area — Glico running man.

The sporty-looking guy that looks like he’s just finished running a marathon is actually an ad for Glico — a company that produces some of the best Japanese snacks: Pocky and Pretz. Shining proudly right above another main attraction of the neighborhood — Ebisubashi Bridge, the Glico man is signifying the main meeting point in Dotonbori. It’s here where you’ll see crowds of tourists lining up to take the picture with the candy guy in a tracksuit.

While Dotonbori truly comes alive at night, daytime is also a great opportunity to explore the area if you’re not a fan of hordes of tourists. The neighborhood is every foodie’s dream: Street vendors with yummy Japanese snack foods and more established restaurants both vie for the space in your stomach (it’s a good idea to come here hungry and try as many local foods as possible).

Get a feel for the West at America-mura


While we’re on the topic of neighborhoods, Osaka carries another hidden gem close to heart — America-mura. Literally meaning American Village, the area is located right next door to Dotonbori, making it a no-brainer next step on your Osaka itinerary.

America-mura is the mecca for young creatives of Osaka: It’s here where you’ll find the most stylish people and the most artistic crowd. As the name suggests, America-mura has a long history of being connected to the West, at least product-wise: It’s the first area in Osaka that started selling original American clothing in Japan (think Levi’s and military jackets galore).

While other neighborhoods of Osaka has managed to tug away the ultimate shopping destination title, America-mura is still the place to go for the best vintage clothes. We popped into Kinji store while in the area, and let us tell you: If it weren’t for the lack of room in our suitcases, we would’ve done some actual damage to our travel budget. We’re equal parts disappointed and relieved!

If you’re not sure where to start your America-mura exploration, try these attractions:

  • Big Step mall — a large space with tons of shops and restaurants to get lost in for hours on end;
  • Lady Liberty — standing tall atop the building, the statue is no less exciting then New York’s very own: Look up so as not to miss it;
  • “Peace on Earth” mural — a visually stimulating pièce de résistance of street art in Osaka with colossal meaning and importance;
  • Triangle Park — the beating heart of America-mura; grab a coffee and come to the courtyard to people-watch. Trust us, there’s no better way to decipher the underlying joie de vivre of the local youth. The park is also one of the places where an occasional flea market sets up shop, so set your compass to Triangle Park in search of trinkets to bring home from Osaka.

Relish in the views from Umeda Sky Building observation deck

Observation Deck

Set in the bustling Kita district of Osaka, Umeda Sky Building is often referred to as the futuristic Arc de Triomphe. While we’re not particularly sold on the comparison (Umeda Sky Building is a skyscraper that is in the whole another realm and cannot be compared against one of the most legendary monuments in the world), we can appreciate a stunning piece of architecture — and the building is just that!

Standing in front of Umeda Sky Building, you can reallymarvel at its design: The two tall towers (both more than 170 meters in height) are connected at the top with a wide bridge that has a hole in the middle. Two escalators (highest escalators in the world, might I add) resemble two chopsticks that stick out from the side of one tower, bringing you further up to the observation deck. The escalators are set inside glass tubes, so the ride comes with spectacular views of the area!

  • The escalator ride is free, so if you don’t want to pay for the viewing deck, you can make do with just this experience!

Kuchu Teien Observatory Deck set atop the bridge connecting the two towers has the ultimate views of Osaka cityscape: Both indoor and outdoor areas provide ample opportunities to take in the views.

The deck has something that no other Osaka viewpoint has: An opportunity to gaze right down below, into the circular “hole” created in the middle of the structure. You don’t see this feature everywhere, which brings a certain je ne sais quoi to the whole experience.

The price for going up to the Kuchu Teien Observatory Deck is 1500¥. Keep in mind that weather conditions are a huge part of the experience — overcast and foggy days mean limited viewing possibilities.

Tickets to Umeda Sky Building >>

Alternative 1 Day Osaka Itinerary: Spend the day at Universal Studios

Universal Studios Osaka

Universal Studios Japan (USJ for short) can be a deciding factor for a lot of travelers teetering on the edge of whether or not to come to Osaka. Visiting this world-renowned theme park is a full-day affair, so we decided to list it as an alternative itinerary if you have more than one day in Osaka (or if you feel like sacrificing exploring the city itself in lieu of adrenaline-rushing and thrill-inducing world of Universal Studios).

The park covers a ton of ground: It’s divided into ten separate areas, each unique and worthy of your time. The areas (in order of our personal preference) are: Jurassic Park (The Flying Dinosaur being the most sought-after ride), Super Nintendo World (Mario Kart ride), The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Flight of the Hippogriff), Minion Park (Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem), Amity Village (JAWS ride), WaterWorld, Universal Wonderland (where you can meet Snoopy, Hello Kitty, and Elmo from Sesame Street), Hollywood (Hollywood Dream ride), New York (The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride), and San Francisco.

Universal Studios is the perfect place for you if:

  • You’ve dreamed of meeting a dinosaur roaming in a tropical jungle;
  • You want to cosplay as evil Waluigi and try and save Princess Peach;
  • You feel like running around Hogsmeade with a bottle of butterbeer;
  • You desperately want to hug as many minions as you possibly can;
  • You want to challenge your fear levels and have the best time in the process!

Pass prices for Universal Studios vary a lot: You can get a simple 1-Day Studio Pass or an Express Pass that lets you cut the line on either 4 or 7 rides, depending on what package you get.

Nintendo World Osaka

Nintendo World has a daily visitor limit and you have to book a separate ticket in the USJ app upon entering the park. It’s an additional hassle, yes, but a true Mario fan will jump through more complicated hoops than this, trust us. Let's-a go!

Not to dampen the mood too much too fast, but we feel like we need to point out that USJ is not all fun and games as the reviews make it out to be. Sure, the themed areas are very cool and memorable, but the venue isn’t functioning properly with the number of the daily visitors it sees (even despite some areas, like Nintendo World, having limited access to a certain number of people per day).

Let us elaborate: During our last visit, we arrived at the park bright and early at 7:30 a.m. (the park opens either at 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m.) and already stumbled upon a 15-minute wait for the park entry. Between our arrival and 11 a.m. (when it started getting super hot as the sun was nearing its apex) the only activities we managed to take part in were one Flying Dinosaur ride, a visit to the Nintendo area, and a butterbeer break at the Harry Potter World. After that, each ride had an hour/an hour and a half wait time, which was simply too much for a pretty subpar experience.

What we learned from our time at USJ: You should either come here in the winter (less people and not that hot), or spend an absurd amount of money to fast track everything.

If long lines don’t really bother you (if so, you’re definitely a witch), then you’ll have the greatest time at Universal Studios Japan either way!

Where to eat in Osaka

Ichiran Osaka
Ichiran is an introvert's dream (you can make an order and indulge in your food without saying a word)

Osaka food scene is incomparable to the rest of Japan, and I will die on this hill if need be! Cafes and restaurants in Osaka seem to be their own different world: Such attention to detail and quality that the local food craftsmen (or simply chefs) put into their dishes is nothing like I’ve ever seen before.

Curiously enough, the prices for food here are much easier on your wallet than in Kyoto or Tokyo: They say that the locals are very particular with the way they spend their funds and low-quality high-priced food establishments do not last very long here.

So, our last trip to Osaka came with a revelation: Every food place in the city is worth trying out, and we’ve set out on a journey to visit as many spots as we could and give you the rapport. So, here it is!

Brooklyn Roasting Company

But first, coffee:

  • Brooklyn Roasting Company — a super cool coffee shop chain with our favorite location in Namba. Industrial-looking design meshes well with the unofficially proclaimed co-working space, and outlandishly great coffee will power you through any project you need to finish on that particular day. Their Red Eye drink (638¥) can make you start and finish your PhD in one sitting!
  • Lilo Coffee Kissa — cute little specialty coffee shop with great atmosphere and even better coffee (specialty brews range somewhere in the 900¥-1000¥ realm). If you’re a coffee snob, this place is for you: All of your out-there questions will be answered and your caffeine levels are guaranteed to go through the roof.

Now that you’re ready and caffeinated, it’s time to think about food:

Uncle Rikuro’s Cheesecake — a very popular fluffy cheesecake shop chain in Osaka. You’ve probably seen the videos of this cheesecake on TikTok: They wobble so much it looks like they’re alive! Uncle Rikuro’s Cheesecake is a household name — they make the lightest, the airiest, the fluffiest cakes (they look like little pillows) in all of Osaka. A single cake costs 965¥ (unfortunately, you can't buy a slice). We bought into the hype and got one (come to the store early to avoid outrageous lines), and while we loved the texture, the flavor reminded us of a sweet omelet. What we’re trying to say is: Eat at your own will, but this fluffy cheesecake is a bucket list item when in Osaka, that’s for sure!

Happy Pancakes

A Happy Pancake — one of these things is just like the other! If you’re terrified of the hordes of people lining up to buy fluffy cheesecake, then fluffy pancakes are a way to go. Trust us, while their shape is different, both of these food items taste quite the same. Classic fluffy pancakes at A Happy Pancake are 1,380¥, while other variations cost more: We encourage you to try their Happy cherry blossom pancakes (1,560¥) or Japanese chestnut caramel macchiato pancakes (1,680¥). They’re so good you’re bound to experience the Osakan expression kuidaore that literally translates to “eat oneself to ruin”. Gluttony is a sin, but not in Osaka!

Okonomiyaki Chitose — a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant that serves the best Okonomiyaki in Osaka. What is Okonomiyaki, you might wonder? It’s a savory pancake-shaped treat served “just how you like it” (they say it’s in the name). A simple pork Okonomiyaki will set you back 850¥, while a more fancy and complicated version, like Seafood Okonomiyaki (made with shrimp, squid, oyster, and scallop) will cost you an impressive 1,600¥. It’s good to know that they will take your order as you’re queuing up, so you get your hot and tasty dish right as you pay for it.

Naruto Taiyaki Hompo — without a doubt, the best Taiyaki in Osaka. You’ve probably seen the little fish treats that look like tiny cakes with filling inside of them on Instagram. Turns out, they’re pretty spectacular, taste-wise: The Taiyaki with red bean paste costs 280¥, but the one with premium custard is slightly more expensive — it will cost you 300¥. As with other Osaka food spots, get here early for a chance to buy your own fish-shaped treat without waiting in line for hours on end!

Ichiran Osaka 2

Ichiran — if you plan on eating ramen in Osaka, let it be Ichiran! This chain of ramen shops is iconic in Japan, with stores peppered all around the country (Sapporo and Hiroshima are great places to go to Ichiran, since its Tokyo locations have the longest lines possible all of the time: Even though the ramen is spectacular, waiting for hours on end isn’t a wise way to use time when in Tokyo). Ichiran is set on perfecting a certain kind of ramen — tonkotsu ramen. As you place your order here, you’re given a piece of paper where you pick out your preferences (richness of the broth, noodle texture, etc.). Then, after a small wait, you’re seated at a table perfect for introverts: It has walls on either side, so that you can concentrate on your perfect bowl of ramen (dig in right away, as the established 15-second rule makes sure that you get your ramen at its best taste and feel). The classic bowl of ramen costs 980¥, with the additions costing extra.

Kushikatsu Daruma — you know how Texas is a deep frying capital of the world? Well, it’s about to be dethroned by a small food establishment located not too far from the Tsutenkaku Tower in Osaka. They deep fry everything here: Greasy meat, different kinds of veggies, even cheese and an occasional fruit! Skewered and deep-fried (classic Kushikatsu-style), every food item becomes an exciting (and very bad for you) treat! The prices range quite a bit, but one thing you have to know by heart: No double-dipping! The sauce that is drippled over the fried things is rich enough on its own, consider it to be a company policy!

Melbourne Coffee — pop in here for an all-day breakfast when you get tired of all of the rice dishes so prevalent in Japanese establishments. Aussie-made muesli, gourmet toasties, avocado toast, and the full rugby breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, the whole nine yards) will scratch that itch no other coffee shop in Osaka can accomplish. Their coffee’s great too!

Pokémon Cafe — first-ever official Pokémon cafe for all of the Pokémon lovers out there. Expect your food to look cute, but taste acceptable at best. The presentation makes up for the bland taste though: Pikachu Souffle Pancake (1,848¥) is the most charming pancake we’ve ever seen and it matches perfectly with a Choose Your Pokémon Latte (770¥). Gotta Eat 'em All!

Melon de Melon — a small bakery that serves the yummiest melon bread in all of Japan. The bread isn’t actually made out of melons (although they sometimes lean into the fruit flavor profile) — it’s more of a brioche-family pastry that has the softest and fluffiest interior, while keeping the outside crisp, almost cookie-like. Whether you choose matcha or Belgian chocolate flavor of your sweet treat, one will never be enough, so keep that in mind!

Kura Sushi Osaka

Kura Sushi — a chain of conveyor belt sushi restaurants with a huge flagship store in Osaka’s Dotonbori. The whole eating out process is fully automated in Kura Sushi: You use an app to make your reservations, then self check-in. At the table, you already have everything you need: Chopsticks, soy sauce, all the works. Then, you order through your smartphone again: Sushi plates come to you on the conveyor belt. At the end of your meal, the smart equipment at the table calculates your total, which you can then pay without ever meeting a single restaurant staff member. Apart from the state-of-the-art automation, it’s important to note that food here is amazing: Seafood is fresh and tasty, and every dish is made to perfection. The prices are also quite pleasing: A couple pieces of basic nigiri (salmon, aged tuna, — the price is the same) cost 132¥, with more extravagant options (like seared salmon belly) reaching the price tag of 260¥. All in all, we felt like lunch at Kura Sushi was a good deal for its money!

While the quality of food in Osaka is quite a unique feat, we feel you shouldn’t listen to experts who claim that street food in Osaka is as special as it gets. Trust us, you can get your Okonomiyaki, Taiyaki, and Takoyaki in every other major Japanese city (with Tokyo being no exception). So if you feel like you’ve missed your opportunity to try these dishes, think again: Your further Japan pilgrimage will give you plenty more opportunities to taste these “local” specialties again.

Where to stay in Osaka

Nest Hotel Osaka Umeda

Nest Hotel Osaka Umeda is a clean and modern budget hotel which offers excellent value for money. Room rates start at just €50 a night for an economy double room with a private bathroom, a really good deal for Japan.

Rooms are relatively small but that's the standard in Japan unless you pay (a lot) more money.

Located within easy walking distance of both Osaka station and Osaka-Umeda station, the Nest Hotel is a great place to base yourself if you plan to spend more days in Osaka.

Check prices on Booking

Hotel Monterey Le Frere Osaka

Hotel Monterey Le Frere Osaka is a very affordable 4-star hotel in the city center of Osaka. Rooms are spacious for Japanese standards with comfortable beds and modern design.

There is an onsite restaurant, but also many good places to eat around the hotel. Soaking in the public bath on the third floor is the perfect way to relax your tired muscles after your Osaka one day trip.

This is one of the most popular hotels in Osaka, so be sure to book on time!

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This four-star hotel in the city center of Osaka offers easy access to Umeda station (metro and JR lines) as well as the airport shuttle bus station.

Its super central location makes Hotel Hankyu RESPIRE an excellent place to base yourself when you are planning to explore the area around Osaka.

Rooms are small but comfortable with amenities like a Smart TV, coffee and tea making facilities and a small fridge. Other hotel facilities are an onsite restaurant and bar, gym, garden and even a sun terrace.

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Osaka itinerary 1 day: in conclusion

That's it, your one-day itinerary to both traditional and modern Osaka has reached its end, I hope you'll enjoy your time there.

Let me know in the comments if the itinerary helped you plan your trip and if you enjoyed Osaka as much as I did.

Do you want to read more about Japan? Also check out these posts about:

This post was updated in November 2023.

Planning a trip to Osaka, Japan? This one day Osaka itinerary will help you discover the highlights of traditional Osaka, such as Osaka Castle, Sumiyoshi Taisha shrine and Shitenno-Ji Temple. Click to read more! Osaka Japan Itinerary | #osaka #japan #osakatravel #japantravel
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