Osaka Itinerary Tips: How to Spend a Day or Two in Osaka

Osaka Itinerary
Osaka Itinerary

Exploring the vibrant city of Osaka was a delight. I loved Osaka. It was kind of like Tokyo’s sassy punky little sister—where Tokyo can be glamorous and reserved, Osaka is brash and loud—it has character. Unlike the Italian South and its Northern counterparts, Osaka is also a foodies’ paradise, offering a delightful array of options for what to eat in Japan. Dubbed “the nation’s kitchen,”  there are a number of dishes unique to the area. You don’t need to spend a huge amount of time in Osaka; just 2 or 3 days will allow you ample time to see the sights. This Osaka itinerary highlights the city’s best attractions and places cherished by the locals.

The Best Time to Visit Osaka

Osaka sightseeing can be enjoyed year-round. The best time to go to Japan will depend largely on your personal preferences when it comes to climate and weather.

In the summer, southern Japan, including Osaka, can become exceptionally hot and humid. Therefore, the optimal periods for enjoying your Osaka itinerary are either in the refreshing fall or the pleasant spring. The foliage is beautiful between September and November, and the temperatures are not too hot. Alternatively, traveling during the spring enables you to experience the cherry blossoms in all of their glory. 

Getting to Osaka From Kansai International

You may be traveling to Osaka as part of a broader Japan itinerary or to explore the city specifically. If you’re coming from Tokyo, you can, of course, take the Shinkansen from Tokyo station, following this solo travel guide in Japan.

If you are flying into Kansai International, you have a couple of options for getting into Osaka.

By Train

Arguably, the most convenient method for your Osaka itinerary is to take a train from Kansai directly to Osaka (Umeda station). If, for whatever reason, you cannot take this train (you just missed it, there’s a long wait, etc.), then you can also take the train from the airport to Shin Osaka and then transfer.

By Bus/Cab

There is also a KIX bus that services Osaka and departs Kansai at regular intervals. If you choose to take a cab, the journey to Osaka city center will cost between 18,000 and 22,000 yen, depending on the specific point you are traveling to. This is circa $15–$18 and, while pricey, isn’t horrifyingly extortionate considering the distance.

Where to Stay in Osaka

When crafting the perfect itinerary for first-timers in Osaka and contemplating a central location with convenient subway access for easy exploration of the city’s main attractions, consider staying in the neighborhoods of Kita, Central Osaka, or Minami.

Osaka Itinerary

Visit Osaka Castle

Osaka Itinerary
Osaka Itinerary: Visit Osaka Castle

Arrive at Osaka Castle early in the morning to bypass the tourist hordes before they arrive in their masses. Though the castle was originally built in the 1950s, it has been rebuilt several times, with the latest reconstruction being in 1931. The highlights of Osaka Castle are no doubt the beautiful floral gardens that encompass it, and the views from Osaka from the top floor.

Exploring the Osaka History Museum, situated near Osaka Castle, adds an intriguing dimension to your Osaka itinerary.

Pay Your Respects at Shitteno-Ji

Built in 593 AD, Shitenno-Ji was the first Buddhist temple to be built in Japan. Like Osaka Castle, Shitteno-Ji has been rebuilt several times, however, it remains an incredibly important site for Buddhists in Japan. During my visit, a flea market was taking place on the grounds.

Head Over to Shinsekai

Shinsekai is a lot of fun—home to Tsutenkaku Tower, it’s an entertainment district that was built pre-World War II and remains largely unchanged. It’s a popular area for eating and drinking amongst locals, and the streets are lined with arcades and local bars. This is a great place to explore around lunchtime, as Japanese businessmen crowd the streets and narrow passageways. If you are the adventurous type, you can try fugu here—Japanese blowfish.  

Sip Asahi at the Asahi Suita Brewery

Asahi Dry quickly became my favorite beer while traveling in Japan, and if you’re a fellow alcoholic beer aficionado, then you will surely enjoy a visit to the Asahi Suita Brewery. The brewery offers free tours, which include trying out a few free tipples at the end.

Hang Out in Dotonburi

Dotonburi is a perfect place to spend an evening. In a buzz of neon, it feels like Osaka’s answer to Times Square. Dotonburi is also a foodie’s paradise and is the perfect place to dabble with local cuisine and street food like Okonmiyaki and Takoyaki.

The streets, brimming with restaurant after restaurant, eccentric arcades, Bunraku puppet theaters, and quirky 3D signs (such as the moving crab or the running Glico man), create a vibrant atmosphere ideal for your Osaka itinerary. At night, you can see Osaka’s wild side unleashed as Osakites fill the streets and head to the bars and karaoke places. As the sun goes down, Dotonburi gets pretty crowded since this is a popular nightlife spot.

I rented an Airbnb apartment from a really lovely Japanese couple who took me for Okonomiyaki, an Osaka delicacy and Japan’s answer to pizza. The name is derived from the Japanese “Okonomi,” meaning “what you want,” and this is definitely what you want—to be shoveling into your mouth, that is.

Osaka Itinerary
Osaka Itinerary: Don’t miss trying out okonomiyaki!
Osaka Itinerary
Osaka Itinerary

Budget-Friendly Tips for Your Osaka Itinerary

Navigating the vibrant streets of Osaka without letting your budget balloon can seem like a task for a seasoned traveler. Yet, with a sprinkle of savvy planning and a dash of insider knowledge, the culinary capital of Japan opens up its wonders, proving that enriching travel experiences don’t always come with a hefty price tag. Here’s how you can savor the essence of Osaka, ensuring your wallet remains as full as your heart, by meticulously integrating these strategies into your Osaka itinerary.

Embrace the Osaka Amazing Pass

The Osaka Amazing Pass is the golden key to the city, unlocking an array of attractions without costing a fortune. For a flat fee, this pass offers unlimited use of public transportation and complimentary access to over 30 iconic sights. Whether it’s the panoramic vistas from the Umeda Sky Building or the historical journey through Osaka Castle, the pass ensures your Osaka itinerary is as packed as it is cost-effective, making it an essential addition to any budget-conscious Osaka itinerary.

Dine Like a Local

  • Conveyor Belt Sushi: Dive into the world of sushi without diving deep into your pockets. Conveyor belt sushi restaurants offer the joy of fresh sushi at a fraction of the cost. It’s not just about the food; it’s about the experience.
  • Street Food Stalls: Takoyaki (octopus balls), Okonomiyaki (savory pancakes), and Kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers) are just a teaser of what awaits in Dotonbori. These bustling stalls are where flavor meets affordability.
  • Supermarket Meals: Supermarkets in Osaka are treasure troves of ready-to-eat meals. From sushi packs to bento boxes, the quality and variety are astonishing, with pleasantly surprising prices.

Free Attractions Galore

Osaka’s generosity shines through its array of free attractions, an essential aspect for anyone crafting an Osaka itinerary. The Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine offers a peaceful retreat amidst the city’s hustle, while the Nakanoshima Park is a verdant escape by the riverside, perfect for a stroll within your Osaka itinerary. Art enthusiasts incorporating the National Museum of Art, Osaka, into their Osaka itinerary will find solace, where admission is free for its permanent collection. This blend of serene, green spaces and cultural havens is a testament to Osaka’s multifaceted allure, making it a must-visit destination on any budget-conscious traveler’s Osaka itinerary.

Budget Accommodation

The city caters to budget travelers with a variety of accommodations. Capsule hotels offer a unique, cost-effective lodging experience, while guesthouses and hostels provide comfortable stays with communal vibes. Booking in advance and opting for accommodations a bit removed from the city center can further reduce costs.

Smart Travel Tips

  • Walk and Cycle: Osaka’s flat terrain and scenic paths make it ideal for walking or cycling. Many attractions are within walking distance of each other, offering a closer look at the city’s charm.
  • Use Public Transport Wisely: While the Osaka Amazing Pass is perfect for packed days, for lighter days, consider purchasing an ICOCA card. This rechargeable card makes navigating public transport smoother and slightly cheaper than single tickets.
  • Seasonal Sales and Tax-Free Shopping: For shopaholics, timing your visit with seasonal sales can lead to significant savings. Additionally, tourists can take advantage of tax-free shopping at numerous stores, provided they show their passports.

Parting Words of Wisdom

Osaka’s allure lies not in extravagant splurges but in its ability to offer a full-hearted experience to every traveler, regardless of budget. It’s a city where the thrifty can thrive, finding joy in the simple pleasures of a Takoyaki snack by the river or the serene beauty of a temple visit. With these tips, you’re not just saving money; you’re unlocking the true essence of travel, where experiences hold more value than expenses, and the richness of a journey is measured in memories, not yen.

Discovering Osaka’s charm is an adventure worth sharing! Have you visited any of the highlighted spots in our Osaka Itinerary Tips? Share your favorite experiences or hidden gems in the comments below.

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Alice Cooper is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.


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