Three days is the perfect amount of time to see all the big sights in Osaka – plus a few surprises I’ve found on my three trips there. Our three-day Osaka itinerary shows you how to get it all done.
Osaka is great for short trips, as the main sights are clustered around three distinct areas. So, if you spend three days in Osaka, I suggest breaking them up like this.
Day One – Central Osaka, including Namba Yasaka Shrine, Kuromon Market, Hozenji Shrine, Amerika-mura, and Dotonbori. Evening: Try karaoke in my favorite karaoke bar in the world.
Day Two – Lower Osaka and Shinsekai, including Osaka’s tallest building, the Bone Buddhas, Tsutenkaku, and, the kitsch area of Shinsekai. Evening: Take a tour around the backstreets and a side of Osaka you don’t normally see – this was one of the highlights of my last trip.
Day Three – Umeda and Around, including Osaka Castle, a fun museum, a love shrine, a tooth shrine, and the Umeda Sky Building. Evening: Hang out in the Umeda nightlife area or head to a great standing bar.
That’s the outline of our three-day Osaka itinerary, but if you want more detail, including how to get from A-B, and a few other spots you might want to see on the way, keep reading.
Day One – Central Osaka
Unlike our Kyoto itinerary, which starts before 8am some days, Osaka isn’t an early-rising town, so there’s no need to get up at the crack of dawn to start this plan, but so we do get things moving by 10am, let’s start the plan at a shrine. Specifically, the Namba Yasaka Shrine with its 12-metre-high giant lion head. You don’t appreciate the scale of this until you’re standing in front of it.
It’s said that the lion eats evil spirits, and people come here to bless their businesses.
It’s also a place to see cherry blossoms in spring.
From the shrine, wander through the streets of Namba toward Kuromon Market. It takes about 20 minutes if you go straight there – and you should aim to get here from about 11 am so you can pick up an early lunch… although, if you’ve got any lovers of gadgets, anime, or manga – or any chefs – in your party, you’re going to want to take a detour.
Optional Stop: Den Den Town
This is Osaka’s answer to Akihabara – albeit on a much smaller scale. There’s not much here for those not interested in all things manga, anime, or electronic, but if you are a fan, you’ll want to spend an hour or two here checking out the shops and cafes.
Some must-sees include Animate, Super Potato, Super Kids Osaka, Jungle, and Gee Store, but wander and see what you find. Most of the shops in Den Den town open at 11am, so don’t plan to get here too early.
Optional Stop: Kitchenware Street
If manga and anime aren’t your thing, but foodie things are, Osaka’s Kitchenware Street is close to Den Den Town. This covered walkway is full of shops selling chef’s knives, chopsticks, bowls, and more Japanese kitchen gadgets you can shake a stick at. It’s marked as Kitchenware Street on Google Maps.
Top Sight: Kuromon Market
The four roads of stalls at this market allow you to nibble on fresh seafood, Kobe beef, and some of Osaka’s must-eat foods.
Make sure you stop at Takoyaki Wanaka. As we mention in our guide to the things you must eat in Osaka, this is one of the best places in Osaka to try Takoyaki – delicious batter balls full of pieces of octopus.
According to the team at Japan food gurus ByFood, other must-stops are Kurogin Tuna Store for their fresh tuna sashimi and Chicken Shop Maruchiku for their fried chicken.
Remember, when you eat at a market in Japan, you don’t walk with the food – each stall will likely have a small seating or standing area nearby where you consume the goodies.
If you feel like a sit-down lunch, restaurants are on the side streets around the market.
From Kuromon Market, you’re going to walk west again. I know it looks like you’re doubling back on yourself, but there is a method to my madness. You’re heading to Amerika-mura, Osaka’s teen town. And it’s a good place if you want to try vintage shopping.
Add Triangle Park as your map reference point. Walking the quickest route will take about 20 minutes… however, don’t take the direct route.
As you’ll see from the walking times, the distances between attractions in this plan aren’t huge, so don’t just rush from one destination to another the quick way – one of the things I love about Osaka is that you never know what you’re going to find in the backstreets, so wander around each area for a little while checking out the backstreets, shops and small shrines.
Some of the gems I’ve found when wandering around Osaka include tiny repair shops with old Japanese men peering into the inside of vintage record players, shrines with fire rituals, doughnuts shaped like tiny bears, a giant metal wasp, and random street murals from a Taiwanese street artist I like!
Here are two specific things you’ll want to add while you are wandering…
Optional Stop: Hozenji
Hidden away in a backstreet behind Dotonbori is an interesting temple.
To pray for their wishes here, people throw water over the figure contained within it, and over time, this has caused it to grow a layer of moss.
While you’ll return to Dotonbori later, I suggest visiting Hozenji during the day because it’s quite a dark shrine, so it is tricky to see the figure properly at night. Although, the lanterns they light here at night are very pretty.
Keep an eye out around here for places you might like the look of for dinner as it’s full of bars and restaurants.
Japlanese Pick: Issunboshidai Moyjin
Japlanese Picks are some of the small fun things I’ve found after many trips to Osaka. And this one is fabulous.
Another world is tucked away in a tiny alley leading from Hozenji to Dotobori.
The alley’s walls are decorated with artworks and old posters, and about halfway up is a tiny shrine dedicated to a tiny human.
The (quick version of the) story goes that a couple desperate for a child went and prayed at a shrine and were delivered a boy – Issun bochi – just an inch tall.
Despite his small size, the boy was brave, and he left home and became a warrior armed with a needle. He ended up saving the daughter of the house he was living in from a kidnapper by stabbing him in the stomach with his needle after the kidnapper swallowed him.
This caused the man to spit him out and run away, leaving behind a magic hammer that turned Issun boshi into a 6-foot hunk after he swung it – and, yep, he and the girl lived happily ever after.
There are a few other versions of the Issun-boshi story, but I’m going with that one asit’s the happiest!
The shrine is marked on Google Maps and is about a minute away from Hozenji.
Once you’ve seen the alley, follow it north into the daylight, and you’ll be right in the middle of the Dotonbori mayhem.
You’ll come back here later as seeing this area at night is a must-do, but during the day, you can see more detail of all the fun decorations of the shops and restaurants – they go to town with the signs. So, if you have time to spare, I’d suggest wandering up and down for a while – and if you didn’t snack yourself stupid at Kuromon Market, you can pick up some food here.
The store with the Angry Chef head sells Kushi Katsu skewers, while the one with the hand holding the sushi is a branch of the company that invented the sushi train.
A little further left down the road, underneath the giant waving crab, is the home of the viral crab ice cream you might have seen on TikTok.
Who’s The Clown?
But before you explore further – check out the clown fella with the glasses in the shop to your left. This is Kuidaore Taro, one of the unofficial mascots of Osaka.
He used to be the mascot of a popular restaurant on this site – that closed down, but he stayed – and now he has his own shop where you can buy socks with his face on and other ‘useful’ merchandise.
Must Stop: Amerika Mura
Osaka’s second-hand center, if you’re into vintage fashion, you’ll want to spend a few hours here wandering in and out of stores – as the name suggests, most of the clothing has a US influence. If you’re looking for newer items, try OPA and Big Step, which mix vintage and new stores.
If you’re not a shopper, Amerika Mura is worth a wander for the atmosphere, the interesting arty street lamps, and a few murals dotted around the area.
Must See: The Osaka Lights
As darkness falls, it’s time to see one of the most famous sights in Osaka: its lights. Well, technically, it’s bright neon billboards and lit-up giant signs, rather than lights, but it’s still fantastic.
The most famous lights in Osaka are those between the Dotonbori and Ebisubashi Bridges, including the famous Glico Man sign. To get a different view, take an evening cruise that sails you past the lights – this can be one of the included attractions in the Osaka Amazing Pass if you buy one.
If you need a rest, head to the Dotonbori Riverside Grill, which has seats by the canal, or spend the rest of your evening wandering Dotonbori, checking out the thousands of tiny bars and restaurants in the backstreets.
Optional Stop: Kama Sutra Karaoke Bar
Doing karaoke in Japan is a must-do for many people, but usually, it’s done in a private room, which might not work if there are just two of you. You can find local bars with karaoke, but they tend to be for local people and might be a bit intimidating, particularly for first-time travelers. Kama Sutra, though, is a small bar where you get to sing with other people.
It’s super friendly, the song list is great, the beer is cheap, and the only downside is you might be having so much fun it’s hard to leave; you then get home at 4 am and have to do tomorrow’s itinerary after four hours of sleep with a thumping hangover. I have done this twice now – but it’s just too much fun in there to worry about it.
If there is a chance that you might get carried away with your singing, you might want to move this to a day when you have time for a lie-in.
They open around 9pm and close when they’ve had enough! Find them at Osaka-ya Jumbo Bldg 5F, Osaka, Japan, see more on their Facebook page.
Day Two: Shinsekai
Today, we’re off to my favorite area of Osaka – Shinsekai, but before you get there, you can do a few cool things to start your day.
Top Sight: Abeno Harakus
Let’s start with going to Osaka’s tallest building – this used to be Japan’s tallest building, but a new tower in Tokyo has taken that crown, but at 300m high, the views from Abeno Harukus are still pretty good.
It opens at 9am, making it a good place to start your day – or, if our evening ideas don’t sound like your thing, you can come back here for sunset.
See more, or book tickets in advance at the Abeno Harakus website.
You can also buy skip-the-line tickets at Klook
Optional Stop: Isshin-Ji
From here, walk 14 minutes to Isshin-Ji – Osaka’s most unusual temple.
Why is it unusual? Erm, well, this is the entrance, for starters – it does not look like your normal Japanese shrine or temple.
The reason for the interesting entrance is that the Head Priest is an architect, and he’s made his mark on the place. However, while the gate is interesting, it’s what’s inside the gate that draws local worshippers here.
The Buddha statues at the back of the shrine are made of the bones of past Osaka residents. This happened because the temple ran out of room to keep the urns containing people’s ashes, so they combined them with resin to make the Buddha statues.
Each statue contains the remains of around 150,000 people, so it’s estimated that over a million people are enshrined in the temple.
Japlanease Pick: Meet the Railway Cats
Tetsudoukan Cafe and Rest Bar is a must for Osaka-visiting cat lovers.
The restaurant used to be a ramen restaurant famous for its model train set – but it was struggling. Then, the pandemic came along, and the owners really didn’t know how the restaurant would survive. While it was closed, though, they took in some stray cats who did what cats do when faced with moving objects and knocked all the trains trundling past them sideways – the owners videoed this and put it on Instagram, and a viral sensation was born.
You now have to book a visit to Tetsudoukan. And it’s as adorable as it sounds!
You can book three seatings: lunch from 12-2, cake from 3-5, and dinner from 6-8. You spend the first hour downstairs with the cats and trains and the second upstairs with the other cats that need homes – we disappeared after about half an hour up here as we were not in the market for adopting.
The restaurant is about a 20-minute walk away from Issin-ji, or jump on the JR Loop line at Tennoji to Teradacho Station, and the cafe is a short walk away.
You can find full details of the cafe here. It also explains how to make a booking. They say to do it by phone, but there is also an inquiry form on the website that you can use to contact them.
Once you’ve played with the cats, head back on the Loop Line and disembark at Shin-Imamiya – it’s time to visit my favorite part of Osaka.
Top Sight: Shinsekai
I love Shinksekai. I love its mix of kitsch statues and old alleyways, and you should spend at least an hour wandering around here.
Some of the highlights not to miss include the Shinsekai Market area, where shops and restaurants mix with games parlors where the locals sit and play a game called Go, said to be one of the world’s oldest board games.
The Eiffel-esque Tsutenkaku Tower was built in 1956 and is just over 100 meters tall. It has an observation tower at the top and a slide to come down it!
If you see it lit up in the evening, note that it tells you the weather – the color on the top shows the weather for the next day. If it’s white, it’s going to be sunny; if it’s blue, get an umbrella; red means cloudy. If you see two colors, the top relates to the morning, and the bottom to the afternoon.
And don’t miss all the biliken statues around the place. These tubby tummied fellas are a symbol of Shinsekai and even have their own mini shrine in Shinsekai.
If you take our suggested evening tour, you’ll spend some time in Shinsekai, but I still think a walk around during the day is a good plan.
Optional Stop: Spa World
I was broken when I got to Osaka on my last trip. Every single part of my body hurt from all the walking – and that karaoke hangover did not help. Two hours of soaking in the hot and cold pools of Spa World saw me fight on for another day!
It’s not an official onsen; it’s more like a hot pool theme park. Divided into two areas, Asia and Europe, the pools are themed around different countries, and it’s all a bit kitsch, but I loved it, and if you need reviving, you will, too. See our guide to the important etiquette you need to know before you go in our Spa World guide.
By now, you should be well into the afternoon. I’d suggest either finishing your evening in one of the many bars and restaurants of Shinsekai, at a fun garden exhibit by teamLab – or, if you have any love of the slightly seedy or gritty side of life, you have to book on the Backstreets Osaka Tour.
The BackStreets Osaka Tour
Japan is often thought of as an idyllic country where nothing bad happens. That’s not quite true; the dangerous and dodgy stuff just tends to happen away from the eyes of tourists – but on this tour, you get an insight into the side of Osaka and Japan that most tourists don’t hear about and definitely don’t see… until now.
From stories of the Yakuza to understanding Osaka’s homeless population – and a walk through a very interesting red light district that’s more like Amsterdam than Japan, it was a fascinating way to spend an evening.
You do walk through some parts of Shinsekai on this tour, so you might double up a bit with what you’ve done already, but you’ll see it with new eyes. I’d never noticed the door to the, erm, smaller cinema next door to the main one before and I’d walked down this road at least three times on this trip alone!
The tour meets at Daikukocho Station at around 5.15pm and takes around three hours. You finish close to Shinsekai, so you can return for dinner afterward.
It was one of the highlights of our last trip, and I saw a side of Osaka I would probably not have found – and definitely not understood, on my own.
teamLab Botanic Gardens
If you’re not a fan of the gritty or seedy or are traveling with kids (especially teens), you might want to check out the teamLab Borderless exhibit at the Osaka Botanical Gardens this evening instead.
This uses projections to highlight the nature of the garden and is a fun way to spend an hour. It’s not as mindblowing as the Tokyo teamLab exhibits, but it is pretty.
The gardens are a little way out of town, but they are an easy train ride from Shinsekai, which is why today is the perfect evening to add them to your plans.
Day Three: Umeda
Until my last trip, Umeda was an area I passed through, getting from the bullet train to the fun bits of Osaka; only on this last trip did I realize it’s full of fun little touches of its own. But, before we get to those, it’s time to visit the castle.
Top Sight: Osaka Castle
It’s one of the iconic images of Osaka, but Osaka Castle is not an original keep – the original was destroyed by war and struck by lightning! This one was built in the 1930s, but if you don’t have time to visit Himeji, the nearest original castle, exploring this one should be on your Osaka itinerary.
Its modernity also has a bonus, as, unlike most Japanese castles whose steps were built to slow down invaders and give even the strongest thigh muscles a workout, this one has a lift, making it more accessible to those who might not be able to visit the older castles.
The grounds are large, and a couple of different stations serve the castle, but one of the closest to the main gate is Tanimachi Yonchome, so head here.
The castle opens at 9 am, which is why we’re starting our day here. You can also wander around the grounds outside if time allows.
Top Sight: The Osaka Museum of Housing and Living
If you head back to Tanimachi Yonchome, and travel 14 minutes north on the Tanimachi Line you will come to the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living. This might not sound like somewhere you want to spend your holiday, but it’s very cute and way more fun than that name suggests.
Inside the museum, you’ll find small model exhibits showing how people used to live in Osaka and an entire recreated street scene that you can walk around. And you can even do it in a kimono if you so desire.
The Museum is open 9-5 every day except Tuesday and costs 600 yen to enter. See the museum details here.
Japlanease Pick: Ohatsu Tenjin
Once you’ve had your fill of replicas of old Japan, jump back on the Tanimachi Line to Higashi Umeda and head through the shopping streets to Ohatsu Tenjin. This love shrine has a tragic story behind it, but it doesn’t stop people from coming here to pray for their romances.
The star-crossed lovers in this shrine are Ohatsu, a courtesan, and Tokubei, the nephew of a rich shopkeeper. They fall in love, which doesn’t go down too well with his family, who has arranged for him to marry another shopkeeper’s daughter. A few other bits of bad luck and betrayal occur that see Tokubei deciding the only way out of the mess he is in is to take his own life – and Ohatsu joins him.
The story is not true but based on a Japanese play inspired by a similar tale of lovers who did end their lives at the shrine – but it cemented Ohatsu Tenjin’s position as a love shrine.
Another fun thing to try at the shrine is this ‘magic bowl.’
Wet your hands in the water, then rub the brass handles on the side of the bowl back and forth with your palms for a minute or two – and see what happens to the water in the bowl.
Ohatsu Tenjin is also where I picked up one of the prettiest goshuin I collected on my last trip. If you have no idea what a goshuin is, these are stamps from shrines you can collect in a special book called a goshuin-cho. See more about collecting Japanese temple stamps.
Optional Stop: Hep Five Ferris Wheel
On the way to your next stop, you’ll pass the Hep Five shopping mall, upon the roof of which sits the Hep Five Ferris Wheel, which you might want to check out if you’re not scared of heights (I am not one of these people).
It costs 600 yen to ride the wheel, and it’s open from 11am to 11pm – it does sometimes close for safety checks, so just check the Hep Five Ferris Wheel page before you decide to go.
Japlanease Pick: Ha Shrine
Do I have any dentists in the house? Or, anyone with toothache? Just around the corner from Hep Five is the Ha Shrine, a shrine dedicated to teeth. If you have dental issues or make your living from extracting molars, you might want to pop past and ask for some help from the tooth gods.
Top Sight: Umeda Sky Building
Your last official stop on this part of the plan is the Umeda Sky Building for another view over Osaka. Depending on how much wandering you’ve done and what time of year it is, you might be lucky enough to get here for sunset.
It costs 1500 yen to reach the viewing areas on the 39th, 40th, and rooftop floors. The rooftop is open-air.
This is about a 16-minute walk from the Ha Shrine. The last entry to Umeda Sky is at 10pm.
The night is still young, and we’ll give a final suggestion for this evening in a second, but first…
Consider the Osaka Amazing Pass
If this itinerary sounds fun, you might want to consider buying a 2-Day Osaka Amazing Pass as part of it to save a little money.
The pass costs 3600 yen for two days, but it gives you free transport on the Osaka Metro – plus, free entry and discounts to many of the sights on this plan.
If you go up Abena Harukas and the Tsutenkaku Tower, and visit Spa World on Day Two you’ll save 1280 yen on entry fees (that goes up by another 1000 yen if you ride the slide at Tsutenkaku). On Day Three, you could save 600 yen on the castle, 600 yen on the Museum, and 500 yen on Umeda Sky (or the whole 1500 if you visit before 4pm). Hep Five Ferris Wheel is also included, saving another 600 yen.
You’d then only need to spend 100 yen on transport over two days to break even. There are also other attractions on the pass, like evening cruises and discounts at shops and restaurants, that you could adapt the itinerary to include and save even more money.
Note that some offers are only on weekdays, so double-check the allowed times for free entry before buying the pass if you’re visiting on weekends.
As you’ll notice, wandering this area, Umeda is full of bars and restaurants, so you’re certainly not going to have to wander far to find somewhere to spend your evening.
Or, head back toward Namba to finish your trip as I did on my last night in Osaka and spend the evening in Superjap – a really fun stand-up bar.
As the name might suggest, stand-up bars are bars with no seats. This makes them a cheap place to drink (as many bars in Japan add a fee if you sit down). However, we also realized that standing bars are the best place to meet Japanese people as you’re all standing near each other, and there’s beer, so at some point, no one is that worried about trying out their English (or, in my case, Japanese)!
SuperJap is run by two super-friendly internet stars, and their customers are just as nice. We ended up discussing punk and new wave with our neighbour – he was playing us Japanese punk bands of the 1980s, we introduced him to Adam and the Ants and the phrase ‘it’s my round’ which he was looking forward to trying out on his English teacher.
You’ll find Superjap at 2 Chome-8-24 Nipponbashi, which is back towards Kuromon Market. They make a good lemon sour. Check out our guide to standing bar etiquette in Japan if you’re a bit nervous about trying one.
So, there you have it, our guide on how to spend three days in Osaka. As we said in our piece on ‘how long to spend in Osaka,’ this just covers the basics; if you want to spend time at Universal Studios Japan or take some of the many easy day trips from Osaka like Nara, Himeji, Kyoto or Hiroshima, then you’re going to need to spend a little bit more time here. If you have more questions, then check out our Facebook Group.
What to Read Next
If you are considering visiting Kyoto from Osaka, look at our guide to the different train options that can get you there – picking the right one can save you time and money.
If you are going to Universal Studios Japan on your trip, start with our guide explaining the different Universal Studios tickets as they can confuse many people.
Or, if Super Nintendo World is your main aim, then go straight to our shorter ‘how to get into Super Nintendo World Guide’
Who Writes This Blog?
My name is Helen Foster, and I’m a journalist and author. My travel articles have appeared in publications including The Australian, RAC Horizons, Jetstar Magazine, Sainsbury’s Magazine, and more.
I’ve traveled to Japan five times before- solo and with my partner – and I’ve just returned from trip six in June 2023. So, everything here is pretty up to date.