One Day in Osaka, Japan: A Complete Itinerary

With the cultural treasures of Kyoto next door and Tokyo a few bays over, Osaka takes the back seat on many-a Japan itinerary. Not a good idea. Not good at all.

Despite what you might hear elsewhere, there are plenty of reasons to visit Osaka. You can delight in cherry blossoms at Osaka Castle. You can chow down on Japan’s best okonomiyaki in Dotonbori. Or explore the nostalgic insanity of Shinsekai. Even if you can only fit in one day in Osaka, you’ll leave Japan’s second biggest city with every sense satisfied.

Ready to tackle the second-biggest metro area in Japan? Here’s a complete itinerary for what to do in Osaka in one day.

What to do in Osaka in 24 hours: A complete 1-day itinerary

As much as I’d love to say that 24 hours in Osaka is enough to come to grips with the city, it’s not. (Truthfully, it’s not enough for any city, but we gotta work with the hands we’re dealt, right?)

Like most of the one-day itineraries here, I’ve tried to minimize backtracking as much as possible. Much of it is modelled upon the best walking tours in Osaka. It sweeps through some of the top Osaka attractions in the city centre rather than zipping around on public transportation.

Dotonbori in Osaka, Japan by Day

I’ll admit: This Osaka itinerary might rush a tad for some travellers. You’ll thank me later though. It paints as well-rounded view of the city in just one day that’ll keep you interested throughout.

Lace up your walking shoes; you’ve got a busy day ahead in Osaka!

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Beat your early morning blues at Osaka Castle

Managed to drag your jet-lagged body out of bed? There’s no better place to start exploring Osaka than at its most famous attraction: Osaka Castle.

Fortunately, you won’t need to battle your morning blues too early.

Osaka Castle doesn’t open until 9am. I’d suggest heading over a little earlier though. Start with a quick wander around Osaka Castle Park before checking out the castle itself. The park stretches over two square kilometres. It’s criss-crossed by walking paths that shuttle you between gardens & all the facilities of the castle.

Osaka Castle Park in Osaka, Japan

If you’re lucky enough to plan your visit in spring, perhaps the best time to visit Osaka, the true stars of Osaka Castle Park come to shine. This is undoubtedly one of best places to see cherry blossoms in Osaka. (Don’t be surprised when what seems like the entire city of Osaka has the same idea!) The park also hosts a plum orchard with over 1,200 trees and a peach grove.

While you’re there, be sure to check out the park’s Nishinomaru Garden (opens at 9am, closed Mondays; ¥200). Of all the cherry blossom viewing spots in Osaka, this garden is among the finest. It’s decked out with about 600 cherry trees. During sakura, you may even want to return here in the evening for a festive cherry blossom viewing party with some new Osakan friends!

Oh, yes: Let’s not forget about the actual castle.

Osaka Castle in Osaka, Japan

Osaka Castle is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Japan. The castle started its history in 1583 under legendary warrior Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The original castle is, of course, long gone. What you’ll see today hails from intra-war period.

A renovation in 1997 spruced up Osaka Castle into the fine specimen you see today. Inside the distinctive feudal castle tower is an eight-floor museum. The museum depicts the castle’s storied history.

Even if the museum’s artefacts and models don’t interest you, scale up to the top floor of Osaka Castle. On the observation deck, you’ll enjoy stunning views over the city’s modern core.

Want to get the most out of Osaka’s top tourist hotspots? Here are a couple hand-picked tours including a visit to Osaka Castle:

  • Osaka Walking Tour is a fantastic full-day tour of Osaka. It includes a visit to top sites like the Umeda Sky Building & Osaka Castle followed by a relaxing one-hour river cruise.
  • Osaka Book a Local Friend is a unique concept. On the tour, you’re paired with a local who’ll take you around to tourist sites of your choosing, including Osaka Castle. It’s an superb way to get to know Osaka’s most popular sites and lesser-known ones.
  • Ninja Walking Plan Near Osaka Castle is an oddball choice if you’re looking to get some seriously weird photo ops around Osaka Castle. (This is Japan after all.) On the walking tour, you’ll rent a ninja costume to slink around the grounds. Osaka Castle kimono rentals are also available here.
  • Osaka Afternoon Walking Tour is a half-day walking tour. It focuses on sites in Umeda and along the river including Osaka Castle. It also includes a 1-hour Aqua Liner boat cruise around Nakanoshima.

Indulge in Osaka’s spiritual side at Shitennō-ji

From Osaka Castle is about a 20-minute walk to Temmabashi or Tanimachiyonchome Station. Save yourself 45+ minutes of walking by hopping on a subway due south to Shitennōji-mae Yūhigaoka Station. From here, it’s a short 10-minute walk to the next stop on your Osaka itinerary, Shitennō-ji. The temple is the most important Buddhist site in the city.

With renovations finished in 2018, there’s hardly a better time to slip into Shitenno-ji than now. It’s one of Japan’s oldest temples. Several fires have gutted the temple’s main buildings since their original 593 founding. Each repair, however, left Shitennō-ji still looking much like its dapper ol’ self. Not bad for a 1400-year-old!

Shitennoji Temple

Wandering around the grounds of Shitenno-ji is free. The real stunner lies in the Gokuraku-jodo Garden (¥300) though. Here you’ll get to scope out Japanese landscaping at its best. Winding paths pass by ponds flanked by wispy cherry trees. They help dull the chaos of city lurking beyond. The garden is a near perfect escape from the city. (Even if you just started your day!)

Besides the garden, history and culture buffs will want to carve out time for Shitenno-ji’s Treasure House (¥500). The museum houses several ancient Buddhist artifacts. The collection includes many officially listed Japanese National Treasures.

Want to dig into Osaka’s spiritual side? Check out these recommended Osaka tours including Shitenno-ji:

  • Osaka Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Bus & Boat Ticket will help you make your way around Osaka like a champ. This convenient hop-on hop-off bus tour stops at 14 different locations around the city including Shitenno-ji. It also includes a metro pass & sightseeing boat cruise ticket.
  • Osaka Shrine & Temple Tour explores Osaka’s best shrines & temples. This relaxing 5-hour tour ends with a visit to Tsutenkaku Tower in Shinsekai to check out Osaka from above.
  • Osaka Temples, Gardens and Kofun Tombs Tour hops aboard a luxury vehicle for a private 7-hour tour. It whisks past Osaka’s most famous shrines, temples & gardens. Stops include Shitenno-ji, Sumiyoshi Taisha, and Daisen Park.

Explore the “New World” at Shinsekai

Saunter on west of Shitenno-ji where the wacky world of Shinsekai awaits just 15 minutes away by foot. Osaka’s “New World” is a early-20th century concoction. It was built to celebrate an optimistic vision of the future.

In the years surrounding World War I, Shinsekai soared. Crowds from all over Japan swung by to see the area’s futurism in action. It wasn’t long though before the act grew old and the area languished. The destruction of its centrepiece, Tsutenkaku Tower, during World War II in 1943 seemed to all but seal Shinsekai’s fate.

Shinsekai

Fortunately, that too was short lived.

Seeing an opportunity to lift Osakans’ spirits from their postwar blues, the city decided to rebuild Tsutenkaku Tower, surging new life into Shinsekai as restaurants, bars, and cinemas sprouted up around it.

The post-WWII reconstruction lacks the original’s grandiose ambitions. Still, Shinsekai remains one of Osaka’s weirdest places to wander around. The colourful over-the-top signage, caught in a bygone era, is overwhelming even by Japanese standards. Sure, it’s kitschy. It feels more like an over-caffeinated amusement park than a real city district. But it’s not something you’ll want to miss while visiting Osaka.

Tsutenkaku Tower

Love heights? One of the top things to do in Shinsekai is scaling up to the 91-metre-high open-air observatory at Tsutenkaku Tower. To be sure, there are bigger views elsewhere in the city. (Umeda Sky Building and Abeno Harukas come to mind). The view from the tower, however, throws down a unique perspective on the city.

Besides overloading your senses, Shinsekai is also a popular place to grab a bite to eat. Most of the restaurants in Shinsekai deal in traditional Kansai favourites. Try takoyaki (fried octopus balls), kushi-katsu (deep-fried skewers), and okonomiyaki (Japanese savoury pancakes).

Ready to squeeze the most out of your visit to Shinsekai? Hop onto one of these fantastic hand-picked tours including Shinsekai:

  • Osaka Soul of Kansai Tour explores Osaka as its meant to be—through the tastebuds. On this awesome 3.5-hour food tour, you’ll sample Osakan favourites like takoyaki and kushikatsu. It visits places like Dotonbori, Kuromon Market, and, of course, Shinsekai.
  • Retro Osaka Street Food Tour in Shinsekai brings your tastebuds through time as you eat your way through the nostalgia of Shinsekai. Taste 6 different retro foods as your tour guide enlightens the evening. They’ll entertain with lesser-known stories about the area’s unique culinary & cultural history.
  • Osaka Go-Kart Rental is an interesting way to enhance the weirdness of Shinsekai. Fly through the streets of Osaka as one of your favourite Nintendo characters in a go-kart. This is one of the quirkiest and most exhilarating ways to check out the city!

Dispense with your yen in Shinsaibashi

From Shinsekai, it’s a 30-minute walk through the heart of Namba to Shinsaibashi. The area is Osaka’s top shopping destination. Even if you don’t get jazzed about fashion boutiques, there’s plenty to keep you busy in this bustling neighbourhood.

Much of the buzz centres around Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street. This covered shopping arcade stretches almost 600 metres north-south between Dotonbori and Nagahori-dori. It’s located one block east of the main drag of Mido-suji.

About 180 stores dwell within the arcade and its offspring alleyways alone. They span everything from high-end fashion brands to small independent restaurants & teashops. If you forgot anything on your Japan packing list, Shinsaibashi is where you’ll find it.

Shinsaibashi

Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street sees an average of 60,000 visitors per weekday and double on weekends. Once you’ve battled the crowds, head west and cross over Mido-suji to America-mura (American Village).

Spinning around Sankaku Koen Park, America-mura is one of Osaka’s most vibrant areas. It’s famous for its forward-facing youth culture. The neighbourhood’s history dig backs to the 1970s. Savvy young entrepreneurs swooped in to swap out the district’s warehouses & lumber yards for retail shops. The stores brought all the snazziest Western fashion & cultural trends of the times to the streets of Osaka.

America-mura

Although it’s fallen out of style with the upscale fashion-forward crowd, America-mura is still a cool place to hang out in and explore. It’s especially colourful on weekends. The area’s avenues fill with street performances, fashion shows, and flea markets.

Want to dig deeper into Namba & Shinsaibashi? Check out one of these recommended tours:

  • Osaka Backstreet Night Tour heads into the backstreets of Namba, Shinsaibashi and America-mura. On this delightful 3-hour tour, you’ll cozy up in traditional Japanese izakaya. You’ll eat specialities like yakitori and takoyaki, and drink alongside locals. End off the night with a fun-filled visit to a karaoke bar.
  • Shinsaibashi Local Foodie Adventure is a small-group 3-hour eating & drinking tour. It explores the backstreets of Namba & Shinsaibashi, visiting lesser-known tachinomi (standing bars). On the tour, you’ll learn more about the Osakan drinking culture as you brush up with locals.
  • Osaka Book a Friend Tour is unique flexible & fully-customizable tour. Get paired with a bonafide Osaka local with similar tastes & interests to find a shopping pal for the boutiques of Shinsaibashi.

Eat under the neon lights of Dotonbori

All that shopping and exploring is bound to strike up an appetite, no? Tackle it full force by heading south to Dotonbori. Lining the Dotonbori-gawa Canal, the area is Osaka’s most famous entertainment district.

Dotonbori was once famed for hosting the city’s most popular theatrical venues and geisha. Today, Dotonbori has reinvented itself as the city’s top gastronomical destination. It might even be one of the best in Japan!

Dotonbori at Night

The focus is, of course, on regional Kansai cuisine. You shouldn’t be surprised to find a taste of a little of everything from around Japan. Try out some of these best restaurants in Dotonbori:

  • Kushikatsu Daruma (1-6-4 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka). A popular restaurant serving up delicious kushi-katsu (deep-fried meat & vegetable skewers) since 1929.
  • Mizuno (1-4-15 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka). A famous family-owned okonomiyaki joint in the heart of Dotonbori.
  • Kani Douraku (1-1-3 Dotombori, Chuo-ku, Osaka). The most popular crab restaurant in Osaka whose giant moving crab sign is almost as famous as their food.
  • Kukuru (1-10-5 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka). The original stall of what’s often hailed as the best takoyaki (fried octopus balls) in Osaka.

Jazzed up about getting know Dotonbori? Dig deeper with one of these recommend Namba tours:

  • Osaka Bar Hopping Food Tour: is the ultimate 3-hour Namba eating & drinking tour. Wash down Osaka street food delicacies like kushikatsu, takoyaki, and okonomiyaki with beer, sake or shochu. It includes stops at three lesser-known izakaya.
  • Namba Food and Walking Tour shows what the Osakan concept of kuidaore (eat ’til you drop) is all about. On this complete 3-hour Namba walking food tour you’ll try a stunning variety of Kansai specialities. Dishes include wagyu beef, takoyaki, sashimi & yakitori. The walk whisks you between Kuromon Market and Dotonbori.
  • Osaka Off-The-Beaten Track Walking Tour gets under Osaka’s skin. This 4-hour tour combines both top tourist attractions and more off-beat destinations. It includes stops at Osaka Castle, Tennoji, Shinsekai, and Dotonbori.

Get a taste of old Osaka at Hozen-ji Yokocho

Two blocks south of Dotonbori, transport yourself to the Japan of yesteryear at the atmospheric Hozen-ji Yokocho. This narrow alleyway stretches about 80 metres. It hides dozens of small bars & restaurants. Inside them, you’ll get to sample some of the best food in Osaka from okonomiyaki to katsudon. (If you’ve still got room!)

While you’re there, be sure to stop in at the laneway’s namesake, Hozen-ji Temple. After World War II, nothing remained of this 17th-century temple aside from a single statue that miraculously survived. The now moss-covered statue depicts the Buddhist spirit Fudo Myo-o. It’s become an important symbol for Osaka’s rebirth following its near total destruction during WWII.

Looking to experience Hozen-ji Yokocho with a little help? Check out one of these recommended tours:

  • Osaka Bar Hopping Food Tour explores Namba including the age-old graces of Hozen-ji Yokocho. On this mouth-watering 3-hour eating & drinking tour you’ll indulge in Japanese izakaya favourites. Drinks & dishes include sake, yakitori & takoyaki.
  • Osaka Walking Tour is a complete 3-hour walking tour giving you the low-down on the top sites of Osaka. Highlights include Shinsekai, Dotonbori, and Hozen-ji Temple.

Best hotels for 24 hours in Osaka

Nailing down where to stay in Osaka isn’t always a cinch. Like in other massive East Asian megalopolises, options in Osaka are plentiful. Perhaps too much so at times!

As a tourist with one day in Osaka, you should narrow your Osaka accommodations search to one of the main districts in Chuo Ward. The top choice areas include Namba, Dotonbori or Shinsaibashi.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few recommended hotels in Osaka:

  • Red Roof Inn & Suites Osaka Namba Nipponbashi is a brand-new modern hotel minutes away from Namba and Dotonbori. Rooms are clean & pristine with a ton of style.
  • Cross Hotel Osaka is a hip 4-star hotel located a block from Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street. Rooms are bright and offer extras like deep soaker tubs and washlet toilets to up the value.
  • Swissôtel Nankai Osaka is the best luxury hotel around Namba. Connected to Namba Station, this 5-star hotel is less than 10 minutes to Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi-suji by foot. Rooms are spacious, colourful & modern. They feature incredible city views through large picture windows. Luxurious amenities like an indoor pool and spa further add to the appeal of this world-class hotel.

Recommended Osaka day tours

Want to squeeze a little more out of your 1-day Osaka itinerary? Here are a few of the best day tours in Osaka:

  • Osaka Full-Day Walking Tour gets up-close-and-personal with some of Osaka’s top attractions. On this full-day walking tour. you’ll check out the city from above at the Umeda Sky Building. It continues, via Osaka Castle, on a 1-hour river cruise around Nakanoshima Island.
  • Osaka Walking Tour is a 3-hour walking tour that help your discover the best of Osaka by foot. Highlights include strolling along the lively Dotonbori Canal. You’ll also love eating kushikatsu in the nostalgic neighbourhood of Shinsekai.
  • Evening Food & Drink Tour in Osaka will excite your tastebuds with the flavours of Osaka. On this evening tour, you’ll wander about two lesser-known areas, Tenma and Kyobashi, in search of food. Sample dishes include kushikatsu (deep-fried skewered meat & veggies), dotenikomi (slow-cooked beef & miso stew), and tonpeiyaki (grilled pork & cabbage omelette).

Getting to Osaka

By air

Osaka is served by Kansai International Airport (KIX). Several international airlines fly into KIX including:

  • All Nippon Airways (ANA)
  • Japan Airlines
  • Jetstar Japan

By train

Getting to Osaka from other major Japanese cities is a cinch with Japan Rail. If you’re planning on travelling from Tokyo or beyond, consider picking up a Japan Rail Pass. (Check out our Japan Rail pass guide to see if it’s worth it). With little more than two shinkansen (bullet train) rides, you’ll cover the cost of the pass!

Bullet Train @ Tokyo Station

For sticking around Kansai, the budget-friendly 4-Day JR-West Kansai Rail Pass is an even better option. It includes travel between Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, and Himeji.

Here are some sample train journey times and fares to Osaka:

  • Tokyo: Hikari (3 hours; ¥13,620), Kodama (4 hours; ¥13,620), Nozomi* (2 hours 35 minutes; ¥14,500)
  • Kyoto: Shin-Osaka Shinkansen (12 minutes; ¥1,420), JR Kyoto Line Special Rapid Service (23 minutes; ¥560)

* not covered by the Japan Rail Pass

How to maximize your 1-day Osaka itinerary: Tips, tweaks & more places to visit

Got a little more time or want to swap out a few of these suggestions? Here are some other recommendations to cram into your 1-day Osaka itinerary:

  • Love seeing Osaka from above? Grab a quick metro ride from Shinsaibashi Station to Umeda Station to check out the Umeda Sky Building. Located just 10 minutes from the station by fot, it’s home to one of the best panoramas of Osaka. Abenos Harukas, the tallest skyscraper in Japan, is another good choice. It’s connected to Tennoji Station in the south of Namba.

Umeda Sky Building in Osaka, Japan

  • Looking to delve deeper into Osaka’s spiritual side? Before jumping into Shinsekai, check out Sumiyoshi Taisha. To get to Sumiyoshi Taisha, take a 15-minute ride along Hankai Tramway from Tennoji Station. The shrine is Osaka’s most important shrines and one of the oldest in Japan.
  • Got a soft spot for the performing arts? Witness a unique Japanese puppet theatre performance at National Bunraku Theatre. The theatre is near Dotonbori and is a must-see for all culture lovers.

Beyond Osaka in one day: Where to go next

  • Kyoto: The cultural treasures of the formal imperial capital of Japan are less than 30 minutes from central Osaka. Get started planning your trip in with this complete itinerary for one day in Kyoto.
  • Tokyo: Few cities in the world will grab your attention and grip onto it like Japan’s mega-capital. Squeeze the most of your visit by starting with these suggestions for how to spend one day in Tokyo.
  • Nara: Become enchanted by the cultural treasures and free-roaming deer (yes, deer!) on the streets of Japan’s first capital city. Nara is one of the best day trips from Osaka. Best of all, it’s a short 45-minute train ride from the city. Plan your day with this guide for 24 hours in Nara.

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Only got one day in Osaka? Kick-start your trip with this complete 1-day itinerary for 24 hours in Osaka! Includes suggestions for what to do, what to eat and where to stay. #osaka #japan #travel #itinerary

Ryan O'Rourke

Ryan O'Rourke is a Canadian traveller, food & drink aficionado, and the founder & editor of Treksplorer. Join Ryan as he explores the world two to three weeks at a time from his home base of Canada with Treksplorer's independent and unsponsored mid-range luxury travel guides including itineraries, things to do, where to stay, when to visit, and hiking & walking trails.

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