Osaka will always hold a special place in my heart. It wasn’t just the allure of visiting the ‘Kitchen of Japan‘, there was something that went beyond the appeal of gourmet food. It was a connection to a city that sounded inviting, fun and the perfect balance of pop culture and history.
Planning your first trip to Japan can be daunting and overwhelming. When I thought about visiting Tokyo the subway system and large crowds filled me up with social anxiety. I really didn’t want to get confused and struggle on the first part of my journey to Japan. The more I read about Osaka, the more I felt like this is where I needed to start my journey.
Too many times I’ve read online that Osaka is only worth a visit for one day, that it’s just a pit stop on your journey. This will be your biggest mistake and regret if you only spend one day. Osaka made me feel a part of the city, not just a foreigner lost in a crowd.
I loved the beautiful days at Osaka Castle Park, the kids playing baseball outside in the local park, the tantalising scents of fresh food being cooked in Dotonbori and the children enthralled by beautiful gentle giants gliding through their tanks in Kaiyu Aquarium.
Need more convincing of how great this city is? Read my 10 Reasons Why I Love Osaka: My Favourite City.
This guide (below) will inspire you to fall in love with all the city has to offer, including the delicious food, the vibrant people, the mystical nature and the electric lights of Den Den Town.
The Budget Traveller’s Guide to One Week in Osaka will cover the following:
- 7-day flexible itinerary
- Restaurant recommendations near to where you will be visiting
- Money saving tips
- Free things or cheap things to do in Kyoto
- Recommended budget accommodation
Day 1 – Arrive in Osaka
Welcome to Osaka! This beautiful big city filled with tall buildings invites you in without swallowing you up. If you’re coming from Kansai International Airport, the cheapest and easiest option is to take the Airport Bus to Osaka Station. I’ve got some great alternatives to activating your JR Pass on the first day, check out my Discounts and Passes Guide for Japan.
Not travelling by plane? Osaka is easy to get to from other major cities in Japan, only 30 minutes away by train from Kyoto and 3 hours by bullet train from Tokyo. Once you’ve arrived head to the closest train station near your accommodation. Accommodation recommendations will be listed below.
Depending on what time you arrive and you’ve relaxed into your accommodation I would suggest heading over to Dotonbori for some food! One of my biggest regrets was that I only went once to Dotonbori, and you really can’t sample everything there just once. Try gyoza, okonomiyaki or Kushi katsu. If you need guidance my 50 Best Places to Eat in Osaka is sure to help. End your night nearby at Hozenji Yokocho Alley, a cobble-lined street that fills the night sky with lanterns. You will have your pick of the bunch with over 60 bars!
Day 2 – Osaka Castle & Kita Area
With your first full day of sightseeing, you need to start it off right by exploring Osaka Castle. The castle started being built in 1583 and was intended to be the largest castle in Japan. What makes this place even more special is the spectacular park that it’s situated in. I encourage you to spend some time walking through the park, enjoying the blossoms, the tranquil moat and if you’re lucky some festival food.
Next head on into the Castle grounds where you can skip the queue if you have an Osaka Amazing Pass. Inside the castle is museum outlining the history of the castle along with artefacts from the time period. I enjoy learning about history and it was great to get context for the castle I was visiting. At the top of the castle, you can get a spectacular 360-degree view of Osaka!
It’s time to continue your history lesson of Osaka at the Museum of Living and Housing. Yes, you might be thinking what the hell kind of museum is that? It’s the best kind of museum. This place reminds of somewhere you would have gone on a school excursion where the museum lets you touch and play with stuff. I honestly love places that get you involved with learning! Inside the museum has replica town of Edo Period Osaka, along with displays of Osaka city throughout the ages that you can interact with. Did I mention you can get in for free with your Osaka Amazing Pass?
Hop back on the train and make your way over to Umeda Sky Building, the spectacular architectural monument that will blow you away. When you first get here you might think why did they decide to make a big hole in the middle and omg those escalators look terrifying! The escalators are one of the best parts of visiting this place, the ascent makes you feel like you’re in some kind of science fiction movie.
My biggest tip for visiting is come about half hour before sunset to beat the rush for night time! The views at sunset and nighttime are absolutely breathtaking, make sure you stake out a good spot because the crowds will be fighting it out for their tripods. You can also skip the queue at this place with the pass, which was honestly the best feeling when strolling past the huge line.
Let’s end the night exploring Hankyu Higashi Dori Shopping Street in Umeda. One thing I love about Osaka is that once night falls it truly comes alive. The shopping street is full of character and zest (compared to the shining perfection of the department store nearby), making it a great place to get a bite to eat. You will find some awesome restaurants like Christon Bar and Meigetsukan.
Day 3 – Shinsaibashi/Minami area
I’m not going to lie but today is a day of eating; eating as much as you possibly can in the space of 24 hours! Catch a train to Shinsaibashi Station and head out to explore the longest shopping street in Osaka. The Shinsaibashi Shopping Street has been around for 380 years but don’t worry it’s been modernised a bit with the latest fashion and stores. Check out places like:
- Sanrio Gallery if you love all things Hello Kitty and Pompurin
- Alice on Wednesday for quirky Alice in Wonderland themed gifts
- Wego for trendy thrift shop clothes
When we walked through Shinsaibashi I saw a lot of cheap shoes and clothing stores, and I found a cute boutique I liked where I bought my Rabbit Sushi top. Shinsaibashi is tourist friendly and easy to navigate, most stores offer tax-free for foreigners and you can get free wifi.
Alongside Shinsaibashi is America Mura, a shopping area that is like the Brooklyn of Osaka. Here you will find so many thrift shops and quirky coffee shops. America Mura prides itself on being the birthplace of street culture in Japan and you will definitely see some very trendy people out here.
Back to Dotonbori to satisfy every craving of gyoza, ramen, yakitori, and okonomiyaki you have. Some places in Japan are strict about you eating outside as it’s seen as disrespectful. Not here in Osaka where you can have a skewer in one hand and a melon pan in the other. I found that food is the best way to dive into a culture and the relaxed atmosphere in Dotonbori helps to let go and feel like an Osakian. For specific restaurants suggestions, I’ve created a whole list here.
We aren’t done eating yet! Head over to Kuromon Ichiba Market to try some real local and authentic food. This is definitely a place where you can feel what it’s like to live in Osaka, with many locals coming to get their groceries.
There is fresh seafood galore and you can try things like sea urchin and crab legs. Pick up some traditional sweets and rice cakes to take back home.
Day 4 – Universal Studios or Day Trip to the Mountains
You have two choices to pick from today! You can either have a super fun, whacky day at Universal Studios Japan or explore the mountain area of Takatsuki just out of the city.
When we visited we went to Universal Studios Japan because I have a thing for theme parks. I love the rides, I love the souvenirs and I love the crazy themed food. Universal Studios Japan is unique because every year they have a new section of the park called ‘Cool Japan’.
This section has rides and experiences that feature popular anime and Japanese TV shows. I recently did a post about my 10 Tips to Maximise Your Day At Universal Studios Japan if you want to make it the best day possible.
For the nature lovers out there then you should head out of the city to the town of Takatsuki. Your first stop will be Settsukyo Park where you can take part in a Japanese practise called ‘Forest Bathing’. Enjoy hiking through the park and relaxing by the Akutagawa River. This destination is definitely off the beaten path for tourists and gives you a chance to relax on your trip.
Next take a bus from the station up the mountain to the Kashida Onsen, famous for its open-air bath in the forest and a mountain slide. You’re probably thinking why the hell is she recommending visiting this place in the middle of nowhere and it’s because of this:
If I had known that something like this in existed in Osaka I would have visited without a doubt! Imagine the cool forest breeze as you slowly slide down this mountain slide? Best of all you can hop into the hot spring straight after!
I hope the day has left you feeling refreshed and in the mood for some cocktails on a rooftop bar. The Terrace has a DJ set every night and on Thursdays they have hula dancing!
Not a bad way to the end day if I say so myself.
Day 5 – Osaka Bay Area
Start the morning right by heading down towards the ocean to the Osaka Bay Area. This is where you will find Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, home to one of the largest tanks in the world (over three stories high!). Snag yourself the Osaka Kaiyu Ticket which will get you a discounted price entry and unlimited travel on Osaka public transport.
I really enjoyed visiting the aquarium for two reasons; I love anything with animals and it gave us an opportunity to have a relaxed morning.
The aquarium is designed around immersing yourself in sea life and making you feel like you’re under the sea (says in Sebastian‘s crab voice). Upon entering you have to go through a narrow tunnel filled with really cute gummy sharks which then opens up to ‘Japanese forest’ with otters and wall climbing crabs.
The best bit is when you make your descent past areas like Amazon Jungle and Great Barrier Reef to the grand tank. The sheer size of this tank is overwhelming, yet serene. It was so relaxing watching gentle giants glide by in the tank.
Coming to the aquarium you need roughly 2 hours but we ended up spending longer because my boyfriend decided to take about 5000 photos of fish. Did I mention at the end there is an interactive tank where you can touch stingrays and gummy sharks? They were slimy but fun.
I was pretty proud of the Japanese kids at the interactive tank, all of them were so gentle and kind with the fish. Please remember to wash your hands before touching them!
You’re probably feeling peckish so I think it’s time to get some food in your belly at Naniwa Kuishinbo Yokocho. I’m deeply upset that I didn’t find out about this place until researching for this post, it looks so cool! This food theme park lets you try all the best Osaka has to offer in awesome retro 1960’s setting. Best of all admission is free!
After your belly is full I’d suggest participating in Japan’s favourite national past time; Baseball. Yes, the Japanese bloody love their baseball which seems like a really random sport for them to be into. But nevertheless, they are really into it, with everyone having umbrellas with their teams’ colours on them and each player having a special chant. Kyocera Dome is right near Kaiyu Aquarium and you can grab yourself a ticket to an ORIX Buffaloes game between March to October.
Day 6 – Seasonal Activity and Anime Shopping
You’ve done some sightseeing, but how about going out and trying something new? Osaka has so many never-ending activities that you can participate and changes with each season. These are my top suggestions for you to try:
- Shellfish gathering on Tokimeki Beach (April to June)
- Grape picking in Habikino (June to August)
- Autumn leaves at Mino Waterfall (September to November)
- Make your own cup noodles at CupNoodles Museum (anytime)
- Make your own plastic food display at Osaka WakuWaku Academy (anytime)
- Strawberry Picking at Agricultural Garden Tawawa (January to May)
- Orange picking at Nanrakuen (March to June)
This one is my favourite! Firefly viewing in the Summer 🙂
Note: I wanted to say how much I deeply appreciate Osaka Tourism for making a great website. They have so many more experiences if you want to check them out! (Not sponsored, I just love Osaka)
For those huge anime nerdy fans out there, you can’t miss out on exploring Den Den Town in Osaka! The tech hub of Osaka, you will be able to find endless shops selling anime and manga goods. I actually prefer Den Den Town over Akihabara in Tokyo as it’s easier to navigate and fewer crowds. For my recommendations and tips check out my Ultimate Guide to Anime Shopping in Den Den Town, Osaka.
For the final night in Osaka let’s finish it off with a bang! Osaka Night Out is your pass to cheap entry to bars, clubs and game arcades in Osaka from 9 pm to Midnight.
I love that Osaka wants tourists to come out and try different bars and clubs, to be a part of the nightlife. Just remember to bring your passport and have your phone handy to show the coupon.
Day 7 – Last Day
I hope you’ve had a blast in Osaka and have fallen in love with the city like I have. With your last day in Osaka, you can go back and try more food in Dotonbori or visit Tsuyu-no-Tenjinja Shrine near the Osaka Station. Osaka is the gateway to the Kansai region and you can continue your journey to Kyoto, Hiroshima or Tokyo. For a fun day trip from Osaka, I did a post on How to Have the Perfect Date in Kobe for all you couples out there.
Budget Accommodation in Osaka
Always try to stay in hostels over hotels when travelling to save the ultimate dollar! You spend such little time in your room so there’s no reason to splurge. Always consider cleanliness, amenities, and free breakfast! Double check reviews and see how close the location is. The following are places I recommend you to stay at:
- Osaka Hana Hostel in Shinsaibashi
- Tani 9 Backpackers in Tanimachi
- J-Hoppers Osaka Guesthouse near Osaka Station
How much does one week in Osaka cost?
For a full breakdown budget for one week in Osaka check out my guide here.
Planning a trip to Osaka?
Check out more about Osaka:
- 10 Reasons Why I Love Osaka: My favourite city
- 10 Tips to Maximise Your Day at Universal Studios Japan
- The Ultimate Guide to Anime Shopping in Den Den Town, Osaka
- 50 Best Places to Eat in Osaka
- What is the best accommodation in Japan?