Last Updated on August 26, 2020 by queenie mak
Osaka is the second largest metropolitan city in Japan, after Tokyo. Located in the Kansai Region, Osaka was once the ancient capital city before the Nara Period. But today, Osaka is a modern city with an abundance of history, vibrant nightlife and undeniable good food.
I love Osaka! I fell in love with the city the minute I arrived. Perhaps it is the beauty of the city or the ease of getting around. I have to say, though, that Osakan people are the friendliest people I’ve met in Japan. And most of all, I love the big city feel and small-town charm.
If you are travelling solo to Japan, make sure to include at least 2 days in Osaka. I put together a comprehensive 2 day Osaka itinerary for anyone travelling to the city for the first time and want to see the old and new parts of the city in just two days.
Related Post – How to spend one month in Japan: from Tokyo to Hiroshima
What you need to know before visiting Osaka
Before you start your Osaka itinerary, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of information including how to get around Japan and other travel tips.
Here are additional travel tips that you may find useful for your Osaka 2 days trip:
- ICOCA is the prepaid IC card for Kansai Region. It is a rechargeable smartcard where you can take public transportation including bus, train and etc. It is useful in Osaka as some sights are far from and would be best to travel by subway.
- If you already have a Pasmo or Suica card or other IC cards from different regions in Japan, top up your card and use it in Osaka.
- You can see all the attractions in Osaka in 2 days
- Osaka is a safe city for solo female travellers
- The city has many English signs. From the subway to the restaurant menus, you won’t have any language barrier in Osaka.
- Osaka has many budget-friendly accommodations which make the city a good base for doing day trips to other cities like Kyoto, Nara, Uji and Kobe.
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How to get to Osaka
If you are flying to Osaka, you will be arriving at Kansai International Airport which is just about 50km south of Osaka.
From Kansai International Airport to Osaka
It depends where you want to go to in Osaka (i.e. depends on where your accommodation is), you may want to select a specific train to get into the city. All the train options will take you to either Tennoji Station or Namba Station. And at that point, you can transfer to other JR lines or subway lines to arrive at your destination. Check Hyperdia for the exact schedule and cost.
Train from Kansai Airport to Osaka
- Haruka Airport Limited Express Train: from Kansai Airport to Tennoji Station
- Time: 34 minutes
- Cost: ¥1,740
- JR Kansai Airport Rapid Service Train: from Kansai Airport to Tennoji Station
- Time: 53 minutes
- Cost: ¥1,080 (covered by JR Pass)
- Nankai Airport Limited Express Train: from Kansai Airport to Namba Station
- Time: 45 minutes
- Cost: ¥930
Airport Limousine Bus from Kansai Airport to Osaka
- Airport Limousine Bus: from Kansai Airport o Osaka Station or Shinsaibashi
- Time: 70+ minutes
- Cost: ¥1,600
- Check website for schedule and cost
Taking a train to Osaka
Train from Hiroshima to Osaka
- JR Shinkansen: from Hiroshima Station to Shin-Osaka Station
- Time: 98 minutes
- Cost: ¥10,620 (covered by JR Pass except for Nozomi and Mizuho trains)
Train from Tokyo to Osaka
- JR Shinkansen: from Tokyo Station to Shin-Osaka Station
- Time: 150 minutes
- Cost: ¥14,920 (covered by JR Pass except for Nozomi and Mizuho trains)
Taking a long-distance bus to Osaka
Another excellent option to travelling to Osaka is with long-distance bus. Generally, they are cheaper than taking the train but it could take a bit of time (depends on where you are coming from).
- JR Express Bus: arrive at Bus Terminal at Osaka Station
- Willer Express: arrive at various stations in Osaka
Where to stay in Osaka
The best place to stay in Osaka is either in Namba or Shinsaibashi area because they are both central to most attractions and is well connected by subway and trains. But as long as you are staying near a station, moving around Osaka is quite easy. Check out some of these accommodations that are great for solo travellers:
- Bon Hostel ($) – A minimalistic design hostel with modern dorm beds. They have small rooms (i.e. six bed per room) options for an all-female or mixed dorm. Located in Namba
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Superhotel Lohas Honmachi Subway Yotsubashi Line ($) – You can get everything in a compact single room including a desk and private bathroom. Near Honmachi Station
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Hotel WBF Art Stay Namba ($$) -A popular chain hotel in Japan with modern rooms and clean bathrooms. Near Namba
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- hotel and rooms Osaka Hommachi ($$) – A clean and simple boutique hotel with small modern rooms. Near Hommachi Station.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Cost: up to ¥4,000 per day
- If you are slow travelling through Japan, Osaka is a wonderful option as the city has many attractions and also a great jump-off point for many day trips.
- Since June 2018, The Japan Housing Law requires Airbnb to have a registered license. There are fewer options than before, but the options that are available are still really great. Check the Airbnb website for up-to-date listings.
- And if you are not part of Airbnb yet, please use this code to claim your $35 Airbnb discount.
Related Post – Everything you need to know before booking Airbnb
What to eat in Osaka
Osaka is a food lover’s paradise! Many cafes and restaurants are in Dōtonbori, Namba, Umeda, Shinsekai areas but you can almost find good food anywhere in the city.
Aside from the usual sushi, ramen and soba noodles, there are a few specific foods you must try during your 2 days in Osaka:
- Takoyaki – made with flour, eggs, octopus and topped with takoyaki sauce and dried bonito flakes. It is formed in a metal ball-shaped pan where each takoyaki is made into a perfect sphere. Takoyaki is the quintessential snack in Osaka!
- Okonomiyaki – Japanese savoury pancake made with noodles, shredded cabbage, flour batter and various toppings including seafood and meat. Then a copious amount of sauce is drizzled directly on top of the pancake. Okonomiyaki is made on a hot plate right in front of you at your table. So you get to eat a delicious meal and watch a show at the same time!
- Kushikatsu – skewered and deep-fried meat, seafood and vegetables on a stick. Eaten with cabbage and a ponzu-type sauce where you can only dip once (no double-dipping!) Kushikatsu is originated in Shinsekai, but you can find a kushikatsu restaurant almost anywhere in Osaka.
- Kitsune Udon – a bowl of delicious udon noodles with soup topped with a big piece of fried tofu. This dish is originated in Osaka.
- Yakiniku – Japanese barbeque where you grill meat over a charcoal grill at your table. Osaka has a great selection of beef including Kobe wagyu beef and Matsusaka beef.
What to see in Osaka in 2 days
I put together an easy to follow Osaka 2 day itinerary with my favourite tourist attractions. Everyone has different sets of criteria when it comes to sightseeing. Mine mainly focuses on cultural and historical sights and anything that has to do with art and design, and completely food-oriented. Ha!
All the top things to do in Osaka are pinned in the interactive map. You can find more information about each attraction by clicking on the individual pin.
You can see all the attractions on your own or join one of the free walking tours in Osaka.
Day 1 in Osaka (orange pins)
1. Osaka Castle
Your two days in Osaka tour starts with a visit to the most iconic landmark in Osaka, the Osaka Castle.
Since the 16th century, the castle has been destroyed many times throughout history. Through reconstruction and restoration, the castle has modern interior facilities for accessibility.
For a small entrance fee of ¥600, you can see the museum displays of the castle’s history and climb to the top floor where you can see the city from above.
On the outside, the castle is surrounding by a moat, tall, gorgeous stone walls and nestled within the beautiful Nishinomaru Garden. The garden is a favourite spot for visitors especially during the sakura season (late March to early April) when all of the 600 cherry trees are in full bloom. Many locals and tourists come here for hanami (flower viewing) where they set up space in the park with blankets, food and drinks. Spending an afternoon in a park filled with beautiful cherry blossom trees is one of the highlights during spring in Japan.
Osaka Castle opens at 9:00 am so go first thing in the morning to avoid the crowd.
2 & 3. Osaka Tenmangū Shrine & Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street
As Osaka’s most famous shrine, Osaka Tenmangū Shrine is one of many shrines dedicated to the deity of scholarship, Sugawara Michizane. Many students visit the shrine and pray for luck for passing their studies and exams.
If you are in Osaka on July 24 and 25th, see Tenjin Matsui, one of the biggest annual festivals in Japan. The celebration honours the god of scholarship, and turn the quiet shrine to a fun-filled parade with big crowds and fireworks.
Right next to the shrine is Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street, Japan’s longest shōtengai (traditional Japanese covered shopping street). The shopping street is more than 2km long and has many local shops where you can buy clothes, books, and groceries. Walk part of the shopping street and it will bring you closer to your next destination, Nakazakicho.
Consider as Osaka’s young hipster area, Nakazakicho has many boutique stores and modern coffee shops hidden in small alleys. Wander around the quiet residential/commercial neighbourhood and find vintage stores, homemade goods and art galleries.
Nakazakicho is not a mainstream attraction and typically not in any Osaka itinerary. But if you like the off-the-beaten-path type of places, this area is worth checking out. Nakazakicho is similar to Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa and Koenji neighbourhoods.
5. Umeda Sky Building
Located in the busy Umeda area, the Umeda Sky Building is a one-of-a-kind building. From far away, you can see two tall buildings connected by a donut roof structure.
While there are shops, cinemas and museums in Umeda Sky Building, the highlight of the building is Kuchu Teien Observatory, where you can see a 360-degree view of Osaka from the 40th floor. For ¥1500, you can enter the observatory space that is connected by a tunnelled escalator and walk the Sky Walk on the roof.
Before you leave Umeda Sky Building, have lunch at one of the nostalgic restaurants in Takimi Koji, a retro restaurant alley located in the first basement level of the Umeda Sky Building.
6. National Museum of Art, Osaka (NMOA)
Situated on Nakanoshima Island, the National Museum of Art, Osaka (NMOA) is an underground museum (literally below the ground) showcases artwork by Japanese artists and other contemporary artists like Cezanne, Ernst and Picasso. Check NMOA’s website for their upcoming monthly exhibits. Admission is ¥430.
But if you are looking for a free activity, you can still wander the first level in the underground museum. And you can admire the sculpture entrance of NMOA. The exterior is supposed to represent a bamboo plant and how it grows while the space of the museum is submerged into the ground.
Want a coffee or wine break? Walk over to Takamura Wine and Coffee Roasters. They serve wine and coffee in a cozy two-level warehouse space. You may want to rest here at one of the comfortable lounge chairs. The question is: is it going to be coffee or wine?
7. Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum
Kamigata Ukiyoe Museums is the only museum in the world that houses a collection of ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints). Woodblock printing is a popular technique for printing texts, patterns and images in East Asia. Putting together a colour woodblock print requires quite a bit of skill.
For an admission fee of ¥500, tour the small private museum and admire the prints inspired by Kabuki actors during the Edo Period. And if you want a chance to make your own woodblock print, there are several courses that you can attend. The beginners’ course starts at ¥500.
8. Hozenji Temple
In 1637, Hozenji Temple was built in the Namba area and it attracted many visitors. Soon after, many food stalls and teahouses were set up in the area to welcome visitors.
During WWII, this part of Osaka didn’t survive at all except for one temple statue, Fudo Myo-o. The Buddha statue became the symbol of the area as it represents good morals and discipline.
But what is unusual about this Fudo Myo-o statue is that it is covered entirely in green moss. Legend has it that a lady made a wish to the Buddhist statue by pouring water over the statue. And her wish came true. So everyone visits Hozenji Temple and pour water over the statue and eventually, lush green moss covers the entire statue.
Hozenji Temple is exceptionally beautiful and peaceful at night as the lanterns subtly light up the temple. It is the best time to visit the temple.
9 & 10. Namba and Dōtonbori
As Osaka’s most famous city centre, Namba is full of bright lights and excitement. You will find Dōtonbori in Namba, Osaka’s most popular street full of neon lights, animated signages, and delicious street food. Don’t forget to take a photo with the Glico Running Man sign!
Try some Dōtonbori street food or okonomiyaki and kushikatsu restaurants in a narrow street called Hozenji Yokocho Alley (north of Hozenji Temple).
Here are some more suggestions:
- Dōtonbori Konamon Museum ($) – one of the best places to get takoyaki. You know its good base on the long queue. Just look for the giant octopus above the storefront.
- Osaka Ohsho ($) – come here for delicious gyoza and cheap beer. There are many locations, but the main location is on Dōtonbori, right underneath the giant gyozas at the storefront
- Kushikatsu Janjan Dōtonbori ($$) – you can order one skewer at a time or a set of five or ten mixed skewers. Remember to dip your skewer in the sauce only once!
- Botejyu ($$) – they serve okonomiyaki in traditional ingredients and fusion ingredients. And they also serve “modern-yaki,” a specialty of Osaka that combines okonomiyaki and yakisoba
Day 2 in Osaka (purple pins)
1. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Start day 2 in Osaka by hopping on the subway and head to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan near Osaka Bay.
The giant aquarium has 15 tanks where each tank has aquatic animals from different regions along the Pacific Rim. See over 600 species of marine animals including the giant fishes in the main fish tank like whale sharks, tiger sharks and manta rays.
There are also interactive exhibits where you can get up-close and personal with some of the cutest sea habitats like penguins and stingrays.
Admission is ¥2,400. It is not cheap but you can see the largest aquarium in the world! Plus, you should go first thing in the morning to avoid the crowd.
2. Kuromon Ichiba Market (Black Gate Market)
Similar to the Tenjinbashisuji Shopping Street you visited on day 1, Kuromon Ichiba Market is also a covered shopping street, but it is shorter and full of vendors selling all kinds of fresh produce and seafood. The food market has grown to over 150 stores and it’s been around for more than 170 years.
For locals, this is a market where they can buy home goods and groceries. And for visitors, it is an excellent place to try different types of fresh seafood. From fresh sashimi right from the sea to grilled scallops, fried shrimp tempura, and everything type of seafood you can imagine, you will find it here. There are other Japanese food if seafood isn’t your game.
Have a early lunch at Kuromon Ichiba Market before seeing more sights on your 2 day tour of Osaka.
3. Namba Yasaka Shrine
One of the more interesting temples you will find in Osaka is the Namba Yasaka Shrine. The unique part about the shrine is a ginormous 12-meter tall lion head surrounding the shrine itself where the lion’s mouth is part of the shrine. It is said that the lion’s mouth swallows evil spirits and leave you with good luck. The post-war constructed shrine is surely an Instagram-worthy photo!
If you are in Osaka during spring, visit Namba Yasaka Shrine as it is an excellent place to see cherry blossoms in full bloom. And visit the shrine the third Sunday in January to witness the Tug-of-War Ritual.
4. Abeno Harukas
The Abeno Harukas is the tallest skyscraper in Japan and the modern building has, an art museum, a train station and the largest department store in Japan.
But visitors are more interested in seeing the 360-degree view of the city at the Harukas 300. For ¥1500, you can visit all three levels of the observation deck and see panoramic views of Osaka from floors 58 to 60.
If you don’t want to go all the way up the observation deck, you can still see the city from the garden terrace on the 16th floor for free.
Shitenno-ji is a Buddhist temple named after the four heavenly kings and is the oldest temple in Japan. Founded in 593, the temple was destroyed many times by fire. There have been many reconstructions in the past to restore the temple to its current state. The last major reconstruction completed in 1963.
You can visit most of the temples at Shitenno-ji for free. Only the inner temple complex, the Treasure House and Gokuraku-jodo Garden require a fee.
The inner temple complex is quite interesting and you can climb up the five-tiered pagoda. And the garden is especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season.
And if you are in Osaka around the 21st and 22nd, there is a Shitenno-ji Flea Market where you will find hundreds of stalls selling food, handicrafts, antiques, etc. It is a good place to find secondhand items and bargains.
Shinsekai is Osaka is an old district that was built before WWII and has redeveloped after the 1903 National Industrial Exposition. The Tsutenkaku Tower has been around since the beginning and is considered to be the symbol of Shinsekai. The tall tower was modelled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Today, Shinsekai is the entertainment district for locals and the area is popular with tourists as well. The area has many retro Japanese-style restaurants and pubs and is the birthplace of kushikatsu, one of Osaka’s food specialty where skewers of food are battered and deep-fried.
Shinsekai is the perfect place to have dinner on your second day in Osaka. Find one that you want to try along JanJan Yokocho, a covered shopping arcade with many cheap eateries.
The best time to visit Shinsekai is when the sun goes down. All the lights and signs shine bright on the narrow streets. Definitely walk around Shinsekai after dinner and enjoy the night time scenery.
7. Orange Street (Tachibana-dori)
Orange Street or Tachibana-dori, an 800-meter street full of upscale fashion, furniture and interior goods stores. The area was known for its furniture production after WWII which is why there are several excellent furniture stores on the chic street.
I’m not particularly a great shopper when it comes to fashion, but I love all the modern and contemporary interior goods and furniture store. The shops on Orange Street are more refined and hip. And it is a great place for finding furniture and knick-knacks for your home.
8. Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Arcade
Also part of Namba, Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Arcade is the most popular covered shopping street in Osaka. Many shoppers visit the 600-meter long shopping arcade and shop in trendy clothing stores, department stores, and tax-free drug stores selling cosmetics and other goods. Besides all the shops along the main street, make sure to check out some of the smaller streets that are perpendicular to Shinsaibashi.
The main shopping street gets pretty crowded during the weekend. Actually, it is pretty busy most of the time. But that is part of the fun.
I purposely put Shinsaibashi as the last place you visit on your 2 days Osaka itinerary because this is the best area for you to pick up any souvenirs for your friends and family back home. So shop to your heart’s content!
If you want to experience Osaka with a tour guide, check out some of these tours:
Osaka day trips
If you have more than 2 days in Osaka, consider doing a few excursions from the city. Day trips from Osaka are super easy because of the accessibility of transportation.
Located just north of Osaka, Minoo Park has easy 3km hiking trails, temples and gardens. The trail leads to a 33 meter Minoo Waterfall, which is a highlight of the park. Definitely, visit the park during the autumn season to see the changing colours of the maple trees. Oh, and did I mention Minoh Beer Warehouse is nearby?
From Osaka-Umeda Station, take the Hankyu-Takarazaka Line for Minoo Station. You have to switch trains at Ishibashi Station. The journey takes 26 minutes and costs ¥270. The trail starts right when you exit the station.
With just a half-hour of a train ride, you can transport yourself into Kyoto where you can experience an abundance of historical temples and culinary delights. If you only have one day in Kyoto, check out Kinkaku-ji, Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari. But if you have 2 days in Kyoto, you can see many more sights!
The journey from Shin-Osaka Station to Kyoto Station is just less than 30 minutes on JR Kyoto Line and costs ¥570. If you have a JR Pass, just hop on a Shinkansen and you can travel to Kyoto in 15 minutes.
As the sixth biggest city in Japan, Kobe is a beautiful port city with great scenery and delicious food. You can spend a day walking through Kitano-cho area to see various foreign residences, take in the view at the Kobe Harbour and enjoy a Kobe beef lunch.
To spend a day in Kobe, take the train from Osaka Station to Sannomiya Station. The journey takes half an hour and costs ¥410.
Himeji is known for the glorious Himeji Castle, also known as the White Heron Castle. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, the castle certainly does not disappoint. And make sure to visit Engyoji Temple in Mount Shosha. It is one of the most peaceful temples I’ve ever been to.
For your day trip to Himeji, take the rapid service train from Osaka Station to Himeji Station. It takes 62 minutes and costs ¥1,520.
Nara is a wonderful destination for a day trip from Osaka. Spend the day roaming in Nara Park, have a close encounter with the wild deers, and getting lost in the small streets of Naramachi (Old Nara City). And check out the famous Tōdai-ji Temple as it is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Japan.
Spending the day in Nara is easy with an efficient train system. Take the Kintetsu Railway from Osaka Namba Station to Kintetsu-Nara Station. The journey takes about 40 minutes and costs ¥730.
Koyasan is a sleepy little town but full of charm. It is known for its hundreds of sacred temples and Japan’s biggest graveyard. It is one of the most spiritual towns in Japan.
From Namba Station, take the Nankai Koya Line for Gokurakubashi Station (81 minutes, ¥1,680). From the station, take the Nankai Koyasan Cable car towards Koyasan (5 minutes, ¥500).
Are you looking forward to all these sights in the Osaka itinerary?
There is so much to do in Osaka and it might be overwhelming as a first time visitor. But I put together the most comprehensive and easy to follow 2 days Osaka itinerary so you can concentrate on having a good time rather than planning all the details.
Let me know in the comment if you like the suggested places or if you have any questions.