Japan, the birthplace of sushi and a country synonymous with both technology, postcard perfect UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and dotted seasonally with blankets of beautiful cherry blossoms. If it’s your first trip to this captivating country, then this 3 day Osaka itinerary should help with the planning process.
Nicknamed ‘Tenka no Daidokoro’ or ‘the nation’s kitchen’, thanks to its historical status as the rice-hub of Japan, Osaka is considered a top foodie destination and there are o course endless fun things to do here.
The third most populated city in Japan, it is also a great city from which to travel to other cities and attractions. But there is an array of things to do in Osaka, apart from eating, drinking and traveling on the bullet train (the Shinkansen).
Fun 3 Day Osaka Itinerary
A city often overlooked by tourists in favor of the infamous Tokyo, or beautiful Kyoto, Osaka offers a more relaxed, rustic atmosphere than its ultra-polished neighbors.
From Japan’s tallest skyscraper, to shopping complexes, nearby UNESCO World Heritage Sites and synonymic as the capital of bunraku (traditional Japanese puppetry) Osaka really has it going on! Here’s how to spend 3 days in Osaka – and come home weighing a bout 5 pounds heavier thanks to all the delicious food!
Day 1 of Osaka Itinerary
Check into your accommodation
On arrival in Osaka you’ll need to check into your accommodation first and get your bearings. I highly recommend two things when it comes to picking a place ton stay: that it’s in or near the Dontonbori District (and thus walking distance from Osaka Namba train station) and secondly that you try out staying in a Capsule Hotel at least for 1 of your nights!
I booked into Y’s Cabin for 2 nights in Osaka and really loved the experience. Perfect location for exploring the local nightlife district and close to all the best restaurants street food and shopping areas. I even made a video about my experience below. The one downside is that check in for most hotels / hostels isn’t until after 3pm so try to arrive in the afternoon if you can.
Looking for more unique accommodation options in Japan? Read about my experience staying in a snowy onsen in Hokkaido.
How to get here: Walking distance from Osaka Namba subway station
Explore Dontonbori and do a food tour
Explore the area on foot
Dotonbori is deserving of its own mention as one of the most unique things to do in Osaka, and you will most likely be acquainted with the vibrant area from a shopping excursion in the Minami Area.
Be sure to make this a stop on your way through the Kansai region, as there is much more to Dotonbori than just great shopping. When referring to the area, it is generally to both Dotonbori Street and to the Dotonbori Canal.
Reaching back to the Edo Period, a time marked by economic growth and a renewed interest in art and culture, Dotonbori nods to the past. The theatre district once stood to the South of the river and to the North was the domain of the geishas.
It is now a bustling plethora of bars, restaurants and playhouses with no shortage of places to eat, drink and to be entertained until late. There’s an array of musicals, plays and comedy shows to be enjoyed, after which you can soak up the neon glow of this commercial street and savour the plentiful food on offer.
Head to the Ebisubashi Bridge and snap a photo beneath the famous Glico running man, one of Osaka’s famous landmarks of sporting triumph and advertisement for Ezaki Glico, the snack company behind the LED ad.
On our food tour we got to explore the lively Dotonbori nightlife district and tasted Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki and some mouth-watering pork dishes – as well as lots of beer! you can watch my video of the tour below.
How to get here: Meeting point in Osaka Namba station
Day 2 of Osaka Itinerary
Full day of sightseeing
Start your day early, and head to Abeno Harukas – the tallest skyscraper in Japan for panoramic 360 degree views of the city. Abeno Harukas towers 300 meters above Osaka on top of Kintetsu Osaka Abenobashi Station. Within it is a hotel, department store and an art museum.
Harukas 300, the observation deck, is situated within the top three floors of the building and offers a 360 degree viewing platform, via floor to ceiling glass panels.
The Abeno Harukas Art Museum stages regularly changing exhibitions and boasts a garden terrace, an escape of green with lovely views in keeping with ‘Harukas’ (A Japanese expression “to brighten, to clear up.”) After an hour or two of taking in the view and checking out some of the nearby shops, it’s time to heads to Osaka’s most famous attraction; Osaka Castle!
How to get here: Take subway to Kintetsu Osaka Abenobashi Station
Beautiful in every season, but absolutely breathtaking in Spring and Autumn, this is obviously a must on any Osaka itinerary. Said to be one of the greatest castles in Japan, this historic building dates back to 1583, and is located within there grounds of the beautiful Osaka Castle park – a feast for the eyes in cherry blossom season!
You can easily walk around the ground before visiting the castle, or if you’re feeling adventurous you can sign up for a fun cycling tour of the district. There’s a museum inside the castle itself, which cost 600 yen to enter. If you just want to take photos of the castle from the outside, there’s no charge. Give yourself at least 2 hours to see around the castle and grounds, and longer if you’re visiting during peak season.
For lunch treat yourself to some delicious street food on the go – they sell yummy Takoyaki from stalls near the castle! I found this article useful to guide me to the best Takoyaki spots in the city. YUM!
How to get here: Either Tanimachi 4-chrome Station or Osakajokoen Station
After a quick lunch, you can easily walk from Osaka Castle Park to the Osaka Museum of History. This can be a quick stop, but is nice place to visit if you want to learn more about the history of Osaka – and the building it’s housed in is also quite unique.
In the afternoon, why not buy tickets to see a traditional Japanese puppet show? Known locally as Ningyō jōruri, Bunraku is a traditional Japanese puppet theatre where small dolls are used to recite chanted narratives called Jōruri, along to the tone of a Japanese lute.
The architecture of the National Bunraku Theater is both modern and with elements of tradition from its roots in the Edo Era, and activities at the theatre seek to preserve and promote the traditional arts from the Osaka-Kyoto area. A fun way to spend an hour in the afternoon and perhaps rest the legs for a while.
Nearest train / subway station: 5 minutes walk from Nippombashi Subway Station
Head back to your hotel or hostel in the evening to chill for a while before heading back out into the madness of Dontonbori for food, fun and maybe a couple of beers.
As the food writer M.F.K Fisher quipped, “First we eat, then we do everything else”. Osaka brims with a delightful assortment of cuisine and one of the best things to do in Osaka is to eat, eat eat!
If it’s a unique edible experience you are after, why not rustle up the courage and indulge in a bit of fugu, or blowfish. A Japanese delicacy that could prove fatal if prepared in the wrong hands!
Also, did you know its okay to drink on the streets in Japan? So many people sit around outside convenience stores enjoying some cheap beers. That’s what I did anyway! 😉
Osaka Itinerary Day 3
Irasshaimase! Come on in! If shopping is your forte, and let’s be honest, there are very few women in the world for which it is not a special skill, and a perfectly suitable pastime, then take a weight off your wallet and splurge in Osaka’s shopping districts, malls and markets. You’ll need to dedicate a whole morning to this, for real.
From upscale branded merchandise to souvenirs from a bustling marketplace, you are bound to find something special. The largest shopping districts in the city are namely Umeda (Northern Osaka) and Namba (Southern Osaka).
Shopping in Umeda
The Kita district (or North district) known as Umeda, is one of the city’s downtown hubs and is populated with restaurants, shopping and attractions. The JR Osaka Station forms the heart of the district and is filled with places to eat, drink, and to shop. It is also home to the Hankyu Entertainment Park (HEP Five).
The HEP Five is a hefty shopping mall and entertainment centre, upon which a rather large red ferris wheel resides. You will be hard pressed to leave empty handed from HEP Five! But be warned, you may leave with empty pockets as you make your way up from the two basements, to the top of nine floors.
Take a stroll down Osaka’s longest ‘shotengai’, or shopping arcade, Tenjimbashi-suji Shopping Street. The covered shopping arcade stretches over 2.6 kilometres and is filled with shops and restaurants. End just a short distance from the children’s museum, Kids Plaza Osaka, for those looking for fun, playful activities for little ones.
Shopping in Namba
Namba (or the South district) known as Minami, is Osaka’s most well known entertainment district. Bustling with places to dine and to shop, it is easily accessed by way of bus or train.
Dotonbori is one of the most famous shopping and entertainment spots for tourists and locals alike, illuminated nightly by a sea of endless neon lights and a popular destination for some retail therapy or delicious food.
The premier shopping destination, Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade and its surrounds, provides a juxtaposition of chain stores with upmarket boutiques and luxury department stores. A visit to Amerikamura (or Amemura) is Osaka’s answer to Harajuku, and also a must for youthful, fun fashion.
Other fun things to do in Osaka
Okay so your final afternoon / evening and any extra time you might have on your weekend Osaka itinerary, here’s my top suggestions on places to visit or things to do. I also highly recommend signing up to a bar tour to get a better feel for Osaka nightlife, or even considering going to see live music or a comedy show.
If you are looking for family friendly things to do, Osaka‘s Kaiyukan Aquarium is world renowned and located near Osaka Bay, in the Minato Ward. The aquarium boasts a permanent, an interactive and a night exhibit.
Find yourself under the sea as you pass through the Aqua Gate, meander through a Japanese forest, or meet Tufted Puffins at the Aleutian Islands. These are just a handful of the awe-inspiring exhibits you will discover at the Kaiyukan Aquarium.
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As the SpaWorld slogan goes, “find the best kind of happiness at SpaWorld, a complete facility for aquatic enjoyment”. Complete with a variety of Onsen (or Japanese hot springs) from the European to Asian zone and with a sprinkling of Japanese outdoor baths.
You can also enjoy a selection of Dr. SPA baths, including an oxygen bath, hydrogen bath, or a carbonated bath. Indulge in a Bakuhanseki healing sauna, steam sauna or a salt sauna, or perhaps take a dip into the Japanese Hinoki Bath.
There is also a swimming area equipped with a child-friendly kids pool called ‘Spapoo’ and an ‘Amusement Pool’ kitted out with waterslides. Aptly named the ‘Panic Tornado’ and zoku-zokuzoku’ these slides are full of twists, turns and LED’s.
Hattori Ryokuchi Park
A sprawling park in Northern Osaka, Hattori Ryokuchi Park is most renowned for its open-air museum of old Japanese farmhouses. The remains of the rural architecture have been brought in from other parts of the country and reassembled meticulously for display at the park.
The park also boasts beautifully curated flowerbeds, fountains, swimming pools, a herb garden, ‘Children’s paradise’ playground and much, much more in outdoor fun.
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The Umeda Sky Building
Housing the Floating Garden Observatory 170 meters above the ground, the Umeda Sky Building with its doughnut shaped roof, provides an unparalleled 360 degree view of surrounding Osaka from the observation platform.
Something delightful hides in the basement of this impressive structure. The Takimi-Koji gourmet street. It is here that you will eat until you drop, or ‘Kuidaore’ a phrase coined by the Japanese.
The intent of Takimi-Koji is to authentically recreate a village in Osaka from the Taisho period during 1920’s Japan. It is here that you will find an opportunity to taste the Okonomiyaki, or savory pancakes that Japan is known for.
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I hope this Osaka Itinerary for 3 days was useful for you – and if you have any suggestions on others things to or places to eat, be sure to leave a comment below or send me an email. Happy travels and don’t forget to check out my Nara Travel guide if you plan to go there after Osaka!