Osaka is one of the busiest cities in Japan and is perhaps most well known for its metropolitan landscape, towering Osaka Castle and street food. Unlike neighboring Kyoto that is chock full of heritage sites and temples, Osaka is much more similar to Tokyo in appearance, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have it’s own face of Japanese culture to present to visitors.
Many people either start or end their 2 week Japan trip in Osaka because it has a major international airport; after our time in Tokyo, Hakuba and Kyoto, Osaka was our final stop at the end of 2 weeks in Japan. If you only have one day in Osaka, read on for some of the best places to visit in the city!
How to get to Osaka
Osaka International Airport (KIX): The closest airport to Osaka is Kansai International Airport. From the airport you have the option to either take a bus or train into the city. Click here for more information on how to get to and from Kansai International Airport, there are also many service counters where you can ask for directions.
Tokyo to Osaka: If you’re flying into Tokyo’s Narita or Haneda International Airport, take the express train into Tokyo Station, and from there switch to a Shinkansen bullet train that will take you to Osaka’s Shin-Osaka Station in just over 2 hours. You can check the bullet train timetable here. From Shin-Osaka, transfer onto another line to head towards Osaka Station (3-5 minutes away), where you’ll find the majority of the lines that operate through the city.
Kyoto to Osaka: If you are visiting Kyoto before Osaka (like we did), there are various options to get to Osaka by train, depending on your budget. It will take you anywhere from 15 minutes to under an hour. Check the train timetable here.
How to get around Osaka
The best way to get around Osaka is by train and on foot. The city is extremely well-connected by subway and the train system is easy to navigate if you have Google Maps. Click here for the Japan Rail route map. Much like in Tokyo, the trains are clean, efficient and budget-friendly.
Where to stay in Osaka
Your best bet for places to stay in Osaka is along the JR Osaka Loop line that services central Osaka. From here, there are easy connections to Kansai International Airport, Kyoto, or Nara. We stayed at a small Airbnb apartment just minutes away from Tsuruhashi JR station along the Osaka Loop line. However, Japan has since cracked down on Airbnb, so your best bet is to check Booking.com for highly rated hotels in Osaka. click here to check current rates at highly rated hotels in Osaka!
What to see in Osaka in 1 day
Can you really see much of Osaka in a day? Personally, I found that a day or so in Osaka was more than enough time in the city and wouldn’t recommend staying more than two to three nights unless you have plans to visit Universal Studios. The Harry Potter geek in me died a little when my boyfriend said that he had no interest in checking out The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. How dare he. Swiftly moving along, it is easy to cover a lot of ground in Osaka via the city’s efficient public transportation system, so you can see (and eat) a lot in just 24 hours. Here are some of the best places to visit in Osaka if you’re on a tight schedule!
1. Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle is perhaps the most famous landmark in Osaka and is a true sight to behold. Make sure you read up on how the fortifications were built and giant slabs of rock were transported to the site. You can climb to the top of the castle (by stairs or elevator) for panoramic views across the city.
It is a popular cherry blossom-viewing spot during spring, and tickets cost 600 Yen for entry. You can also skip the line if you purchase the Osaka Amazing Pass. Pick up your pass from Kansai International Airport Terminal 1 or Osaka City Air Terminal (JR Namba Station).
Osaka Castle gets extremely crowded and it can be difficult to get a good photo – head to the small garden and pond on the left as you walk into the compound for an unobstructed view of the castle!
Related article: Also heading to Kyoto? Click here to read my 3 day guide to Kyoto and its world heritage treasures.
Dotonbori is quite possibly the most hectic and busiest area in Osaka, with plenty of shops, restaurants and stalls to keep you entertained. Don’t miss out on all of the street food in Dotonbori! The best time to visit is at night when the canal comes alive with neon lights (check out the beloved Glico running man sign that has been there for more than 80 years) – you can also opt to go on a tourist boat down the canal for a different perspective of the neighborhood.
3. Kuromon Market
Much like Kyoto’s Nishiki Market, Kuromon Market is chock full of fresh street food. There’s even stores that sell the biggest oysters you’ve ever laid your eyes on! If you are a budding photographer than make sure that you check out the market to snap some beautiful street and culture shots. You won’t regret adding Kuromon to your Osaka 1 day itinerary!
4. Osaka Mint
The Osaka Mint is one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots in the city with more than 300 trees. However, it isn’t open for viewing throughout the year! It is only open for 1 week a year for sakura viewing, and unfortunately winter ran longer than expected when we were there so it wasn’t open for the season yet. Check their website for updates on opening dates and times.
Hoping to time your visit to Osaka for cherry blossom season in 2019? The Japan Meteorological Corporation has released its 2019 cherry blossom forecast – the first cherry blossom flowering date in Osaka is expected to be around March 27th 2019, with full bloom taking place on or around April 3rd 2019.
Photo credit: lingling7788 / Shutterstock
Shitenno-ji is a beautiful Buddhist temple and pagoda structure in the city. It is sometimes referred to as the oldest temple in Japan, founded by a prince in the late 6th century. Most of the buildings are free to view, but there are sections where you will need to pay to enter – admission costs 300 Yen for adults.
Hotel recommendation: Choose a hotel close to one of the JR Osaka Loop line stations for maximum convenience. Click here to see current rates at highly rated hotels in Osaka!
Osaka to Nara Day Trip
Have a few more days to spare in Osaka? A Nara day trip is a must-do in my books!
How to get to Nara from Osaka: It takes just 30-40 minutes to travel from Osaka to Nara park by train, and there are multiple trains to choose from every day. The best way to get there is via the Kintetsu Railway (not covered by your JR Pass) – depending on which station you hop on from in Osaka, you can choose from the limited express, rapid express, express, semi-express, suburban semi-express or local. Click here for the Kintetsu network map.
There are hundreds of deer roaming free and you can spend a day visiting temples and wandering around the park. Vendors sell “deer crackers” which you can feed to the deer, which are thought to be messengers of the gods.
When you feed the deer, make sure you do not tease them with food, and that when you reach your hand out with a cracker that you don’t withdraw it from them.
Where to eat in Osaka
Apart from eating your way through Kuromon Market and Dotonbori, you can also check out Daiki Suisan Kaiten Sushi, a no-fuss conveyor belt sushi restaurant just steps away from the Glico running man. We also found ourselves hungry and cold near our Airbnb apartment and wandered into a casual ramen joint where you order your food from a machine – have you even really traveled to Japan if you don’t order your food from a robot?
If you’re looking for a delicious bowl of ramen near Dotonbori, Ippudo is a well-known restaurant chain serving up delicious (and rich) noodles. I hope this article gives you a good idea of what to add to your 1 day Osaka itinerary! Have you visited Osaka before? What did you think?
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