Last Updated on April 6, 2021 by queenie mak
As the 6th largest city in Japan, Kobe is located on the south side of the main island of Honshu near Osaka and Kyoto. The capital city of Hyogo Prefecture is known for its busy port, culturally influenced districts, and the production of Kobe beef.
Initially, I wanted to take a Kobe day trip from Osaka because I wanted to eat Kobe Beef. Yes, a lot of my trips are very much motivated by food. But I was pleasantly surprised by all the things to do in Kobe, including the diverse neighbourhoods and the city’s panoramic views.
If you already spend a few days in Osaka and want to take a day trip somewhere, follow my 1 day Kobe itinerary and see all the best tourist attractions in less than 24 hours!
Related Post – Japan one month itinerary: from Tokyo to Hiroshima
What you need to know before taking a Kobe sightseeing day trip
Before visiting all the Kobe attractions, take a look at my post on everything you need to know before going to Japan. I included a lot of travel information, including how to get around Japan and other travel tips.
Here are few additional travel tips that you may find useful for spending one day in Kobe:
- ICOCA is the prepaid IC card for Hyogo Prefecture. It is a rechargeable smartcard where you can take public transportation including buses and trains (Japan Railway, Hanshin Railway and Hankyu Railway). It is useful to have especially if you are doing a Kobe day trip from Osaka.
- You can see all the best attractions in Kobe in 1 day
- Walking is the best way to see most attractions in Kobe
- Kobe is a safe city for solo female travellers
Want to read this post later? Pin it on your Pinterest board!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through them, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting this website. For more information, please read the disclosure for more info.
How to get to Kobe Japan
Kobe has an local airport, Kobe Airport, which services flights from Tokyo, Sapporo, Kagoshima, Okinawa and other Japanese cities.
But the majority of visitors will arrive at Kansai International Airport (KIX), which is 67km away from Kobe.
The easiest way to get from KIX to Kobe city centre is to catch a bus at bus stop #6 at KIX. The bus journey takes about 1 hour and costs ¥2,000. Check the schedule and fares here.
Osaka to Kobe day trip: How to travel to Kobe
First of all, Kobe is only 30km west of Osaka in the Kansai Region. Several railways can take you from Osaka to Kobe.
My ideal Osaka to Kobe day trip starts at Sannomiya Station in Kobe, where the station is closer to the city centre. To get there, take Japan Railway, Hanshin Railway or Hankyu Railway from Osaka. The duration and cost of each railway are similar.
Then at the end of the day, return to Osaka from Kobe Station on Japan Railway. Check the exact train schedules and fares on Hyperdia for all three railways.
- Japan Railway: from Osaka Station to JR Sannomiya Station
- Time: 27 minutes
- Cost: ¥410 (covered by JR Pass)
- Hanshin Railway: from Osaka-Umeda Station (Hanshin) Station to Kobe-Sannomiya (Hanshin) Station
- Time: 31 minutes
- Cost: ¥320
- Hankyu Railway: from Osaka-Umeda (Hankyu) Station to Kobe-Sannomiya (Hankyu) Station
- Time: 27 minutes
- Cost: ¥320
How to travel back to Osaka from Kobe
As mentioned above, the perfect day trip starts with arriving at Sannomiya Station in Kobe and leaving Kobe from Kobe Station. There is only one railway that will take you back to Osaka from Kobe Station.
- Japan Railway: from Kobe (Hyogo) Station to Osaka Station
- Time: 25 minutes
- Cost: ¥410 (covered by JR Pass)
Kobe Itinerary: What to do in Kobe in 1 day
As I mentioned already, my ideal day trip to Kobe starts with taking one of the three railways from Osaka to Sannomiya Station and the day trip ends with a trip back to Osaka from Kobe (Hyogo) Station.
I like this route because you don’t have to backtrack to Sannomiya Station to catch your train back to Osaka. I’m all about creating an efficient and time-saving itinerary!
1. Ikuta Shrine
The Kobe day tour starts with a visit to Ikuta Shrine, which is only a few minute’s walk from Sannomiya Station.
Located in Sannomiya, a district in Kobe also known as the downtown area, Ikuta Shrine is the most visited shrine in Kobe by local residents. People pray for good health and happiness as Ikuta Shrine is the symbol of hope.
As one of the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan, the 1800-year-old temple has several traditional temples, torii gates and even modern concrete buildings.
At the entrance, the vermilion-lacquered giant torii gate welcomes you to the zen temple. Then you will approach the tower gate and when you passed the threshold, you will see the main shrine.
If you are visiting Kobe in the fall, you can even see a play performed near the Ikuta Shrine during Ikuta’s Autumn Festival.
When the city of Kobe opened to foreign trade in 1868, many foreign merchants and diplomats moved to Kobe and settled in an area called Kitano-cho.
Today, Kitano-cho is a historical district in Kobe with many of these foreign residences, also known as ijinkan, remain in the area and are open to the public.
Each mansion is like a museum where you can see antiques, artworks and historical items of that particular culture. There is an England House, France House, a former Chinese consulate house, etc. Most museums charge between ¥550 to ¥750. Or you can buy a combination ticket.
Visit Uroko House and Uroko Museum and be in awe of the architecture and the “fish scale” shingles. And the famous Weathercock House.
Even if you don’t visit any of these foreign residences, walk around Kitano-cho and enjoy a stroll around the quaint area, and a view of Kobe from the top of the hill. Plus, there are many cafes, restaurants and boutique stores in Kitano-cho.
3. Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens
With over 75,000 plants and over 200 types of herbs and flowers blooming all year round, it makes Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens is a must-see attraction in Kobe!
As Japan’s largest herb garden, Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens has 12 extensive garden areas, an herbal foot bath, a Fragrance Museum, a Spice Museum and a restaurant with an open deck that has a wonderful view of Kobe.
It is possible to hike to the top of the herb garden. But the more efficient way is to take the ropeway to the top (¥950 one way) and walk down from the mountain. Make sure to take in the view of Kobe and the view of the gardens from above during your 10-minute ropeway ride to the top.
4 & 5. Try Kobe beef at Steakland or Wakkoqu
A day trip to Kobe wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t try Kobe beef!
First of all, Kobe beef is pretty unique. Kobe beef is from a type of Tajima black cattle raised only in Hyogo Prefecture. About 3,000 cattle can be qualified as Kobe beef each year which makes Kobe beef one of the most expensive type of beef in Japan.
It is also known as a type of Wagyu beef, in which the meat is tender and juicy and is well-marbled with fat.
There are several ways of preparing Kobe beef including sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, sashimi or it can be eaten as a steak.
In Kobe, there are many teppanyaki restaurants where the chef cooks the Kobe beef on a hot flat skillet in front of you.
Steakland is a popular teppanyaki restaurant where you can select various types of Kobe beef. A set meal includes salad, grilled vegetables, rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables and Kobe beef of course.
It is cheaper to have a lunch set rather than a dinner set. If you are budget conscious, definitely have a Kobe beef set lunch at Steakland as it is one of the best and most affordable set meals.
Wakkoqu is also a great teppanyaki restaurant for trying Kobe beef but the price point is higher but less crowded.
6. Kobe City Museum
Opened in 1982, Kobe City Museum has a collection of maps from different eras of Japan and other cultural artifacts relating to Japan’s exchange with other countries.
But the museum is known for the world’s largest collection of Namban Art, or “Southern Barbarian Art”. The type of art is influenced by the contact between the Japanese and Europeans, specifically Portuguese, between the 16th and 17th centuries when trading with the western world started. The theme of the artwork is always about foreign warriors and many of the artwork are painted on Nanban byōbu (Japanese folding screens).
Besides Kobe City Museum, there are two museums in the world that has Namban Art and they are both in Portugal.
7. Nankin-machi (Chinatown)
When the city of Kobe opened for foreign trade in 1868, many Chinese immigrants moved to Kobe and settled near Kobe Port. The area grew but was destroyed during World War II. But Nankin-machi, Kobe’s Chinatown district was rebuilt and became one of the most active Chinese communities in the Kansai region.
Nankin-machi has two main streets that meet at a small plaza in the centre. You’ll find many Chinese restaurants, shops and a Chinese temple. There are three archways at the south, west and east end of Chinatown while a pair of lion guards the north entrance.
Nankin-machi is a popular place to visit especially during the Lunar New Year (around late January to mid-February) and Mid Autumn’s festival (early October).
8. Kobe Port Tower
Standing at 108m (354 ft) tall, the shape of the Kobe Port Tower resembles the hourglass shape of a tsuzumi, a traditional Japanese drum. Moreover, the red steel on the exterior reminds you of the ropes around the drum.
There are several observatory levels where you can see a 360-degree view of Kobe including Osaka Bay, Mount Rokko and even Kansai International Airport. There is a rotating cafe where it takes 30 minutes to completely rotate around the tower.
Kobe Tower is best viewed at night when all the exterior LED lights lit up. The tower has over 7,000 LED lights!
It costs ¥700 to see the Kobe Port Tower. Or buy a combination ticket for ¥1,300 and you can see Kobe Maritime Museum as well.
9. Kobe Harbour
Kobe Harbour is particularly beautiful at night when all the lights are on and shining on all the major buildings. Both Kobe Maritime Museum (white lattice structure that mimics a sailboat) and Kobe Port Tower are part of the beautiful skyline.
Many people living in Osaka (especially couples) like to visit Kobe as a day trip. And they especially like to visit Kobe Harbour at night as it is one of the most romantic places in Kobe.
And on the other side of the harbour, you can see the bright Mosaic Big Ferris Wheel at Kobe Harbourland.
10. Kobe Harbourland
At the end of your Kobe day tour, visit Kobe Harbourland, a shopping and entertainment district by Kobe Port. There are lots of restaurants if you want to have a quick dinner before returning to Osaka.
And make sure to pick up some treats that you can only get at Kobe! I got a Kobe camembert cheesecake and it was soo good!
Even if you are not a big shopper, walking around Kobe Harbourland is quite nice.
Kobe (Hyogo) Station is next door to Kobe Harbourland. Take Japan Railway back to Osaka. The last train going back to Osaka is at 12:30 am.
Day trips from Kobe: if you are spending more than 1 day in Kobe
1. Have a hot spring experience at Arima Onsen
Whether you visit Arima Onsen as a day trip or stay overnight in the hot spring town, you will thoroughly enjoy the scenery of Japan’s oldest hot spring town. Try the famous “Kinsen” golden hot spring (spring water turns into a reddish-brown colour once the water touches the air). The iron and sodium chloride is excellent for your skin and circulation.
From Sannomiya Station, take the subway to Tanigami Station. Then take a train to Arimaguchi Station, then another train to Arima Onsen Station. The entire journey takes 36 minutes and costs ¥680.
2. Hike Mount Rokko
Hike up Mount Rokko and see a panoramic view of the city of Kobe. On a clear day, you can see as far as Osaka! But the night view is quite spectacular as well! While you are there, see other attractions like Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden, Rokko International Musical Box Museum and Rokko Garden Terrace.
First, take Hankyu Railway from Sannomiya Station to Rokko Station (7 minutes, ¥190). Then take Kobe City Bus #16 to Rokko Cablecar (26 minutes, ¥210). Then take Rokko Cablecar up Mount Rokko (10 minutes, ¥600 one way or ¥1,100 round trip).
It is possible to visit Arima Onsen from Mount Rokko. The Rokko Arima Ropeway (12 minutes, ¥1,030 one way or ¥1,850 round trip) can take you from the mountain to the hot spring town.
3. Visit Himeji Castle in Himeji
Himeji Castle, also known as the White Heron Castle, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Japan’s top castles. While you are visiting Himeji, make sure to visit Koko-en Garden and Engyoji Temple in Mount Shosha.
Take Japan Railway from Kobe to Himeji. The journey takes only 37 minutes and costs ¥990.
Where to stay in Kobe
It is not necessary to stay in Kobe, especially if you are only visiting all the local Kobe attractions. However, if you want to see more of Kobe, do a bit of hiking around Mount Rokko, visit Arima onsen town, or continue travelling west to Himeji and the rest of Japan. I would highly encourage you to stay at one of these accommodations.
- Guest House Kobe Nadeshikoya ($) – Get a cozy bunk bed at this budget guest house. Located conveniently close to Nankin-machi (Chinatown).
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Candeo Hotels Kobe Torroad ($$) – Located in the city centre, get a comfortable queen room at a 4-star hotel with complimentary Japanese hot springs facilities.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Negiya Ryofukaku ($$$) – If you have the time and budget, stay at a traditional Japanese onsen experience in Arima, an onsen town north of Kobe.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
Are you going to spend at least one day in Kobe while you are travelling in Japan?
I hope you enjoyed reading my Kobe 1 day itinerary. The city of Kobe is more than just Kobe beef (although I would just go to Kobe and eat Kobe beef!) I can’t wait to go back and see more and explore places beyond the city.
Would you include Kobe in your itinerary and spend a day in Kobe? Let me know in the comments.