Visiting Osaka – A City Guide
Osaka is a booming Japanese port city famous for its shops, street food and neon-lit entertainment districts. Ultra-modern skyscrapers tower above historic alleyways and waterways, while feudal-era gardens and temples stand amidst 21st-century malls and theme parks. A rich cultural scene ranges from raucous live rock to traditional kabuki theatre.
Osaka: city layout and top attractions
The port of Osaka lies in a deep bay where the Yodo River opens into the Pacific Ocean. Attractions such as Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and Universal Studios Japan line the waterfront. The city’s two central districts, Kita and Minami, are crisscrossed by old canals and connected by the main thoroughfare of Midōsuji Boulevard.
Many Osaka hotels are clustered in Kita, also known as Umeda. It’s home to skyscrapers like the Umeda Sky Building, with a view of the city from its Floating Garden Observatory. Minami, also known as Namba, has bars and restaurants lining the canalside along Dotonbori.
Nearby Shinsaibashi is packed with retail arcades and department stores. Neighbouring Americamura mixes western-style vintage clothing stores with Japanese fashion. To the south and east you’ll find the city’s past preserved at Shitennō-ji temple and iconic Osaka Castle.
The concierge recommends…
Eating Out in Osaka
Osaka is known as Japan’s kitchen, and its citizens have a reputation for loving to eat. Familiar Japanese dishes like sushi and tempura are easy to find, but local favourites tend to be batter-based street food items. Okonomiyaki is a kind of savoury pancake, and takoyaki are balled octopus dumplings. These make popular lunches and late-night snacks, served by lively grill restaurants and street vendors around Dotonbori.
The surrounding Namba district has lots of izakayas – Japanese pubs with extensive menus of small, tapas-like dishes.
To the north in Kita, there are dining streets and underground food courts lined with sushi and noodle specialists. At restaurants on the upper floors of skyscrapers and high-rise Umeda hotels, master chefs prepare formal, multi-course kaiseki meals while you enjoy the view.
The chef recommends...
Shopping in Osaka
Osaka rivals Tokyo for its variety of shopping streets and districts. Umeda is known for its department stores and underground malls. Many of these are close to Osaka business hotels and connected to major transit hubs, like Osaka Station City and Whity Umeda. Namba is home to Americamura, a vibrant urban village of vintage clothes shops catering to local youth culture trends.
Shinsaibashisuji is the city’s main commercial thoroughfare, a covered arcade lined with international brand stores and local independent boutiques. Denden Town, in the Nipponbashi shopping district, is a bustling cluster of electronics and video game stores. Chefs browse along Doguyasuji for knives, sushi utensils and other kitchen supplies. You can find bargain gifts and souvenirs in discount stores along Tenjin-bashi-suji.
Things to buy in Osaka
Culture & Nightlife in Osaka
Osaka’s cultural scene includes historic landmarks and museum collections. But the city’s present is buzzing with energy, especially at night in the entertainment districts of Umeda and Namba.
Osaka is the birthplace of bunraku puppetry, an art form still practiced by masters at the National Bunraku Theatre. In Chūō ward, you can learn about feudal Japan at Osaka Castle and nearby Osaka Museum of History. Neighbouring Tennoji ward is home to Osaka Municipal Museum of Fine Art, with its atmospheric galleries of scrolls and woodblock prints.
After dark, make your way along the canal at Dotonbori and into Shinsaibashi, stopping at lively izakayas and fancier martini bars. On the Kita side of the city, Umeda has stylish rooftop terraces staffed by expert cocktail makers.
Live music venues in Osaka
Leisure in Osaka
Osaka’s waterfront is known for its family-friendly attractions. This is where you’ll find Universal Studios Japan, with rides based on Hollywood movies. Nearby Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan has a vast array of marine life.
On the south side of Osaka, Tennōji Zoo has an impressive collection of animals. It’s inside Tennōji Park, which is also home to lush botanic gardens. In Kita, Kema Sakuranomiya Park is famous for cherry blossoms.
Days out in Osaka