Osaka to Kobe Day Trip: Best Things to Do in Kobe in One Day

As the 6th largest city in Japan, Kobe is located on the south side of the main island of Honshu. 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 spending a few days in Osaka and want to take a day trip somewhere, follow my Osaka to Kobe day trip itinerary and see all the best tourist attractions in less than 24 hours!

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Osaka to Kobe Day Trip: what you need to know

Before starting your day trip to Kobe, 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 a few additional travel tips that you may find useful for your Kobe itinerary:

  • 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, especially if you are doing a Kobe day trip from Osaka.
  • The best way to experience this Kobe itinerary is on foot. All the attractions are within walking distance.
  • Kobe is a safe city for solo female travellers. Even if you are taking the train at night from Kobe to Osaka, it is super safe.
  • Plan your day trip to Kobe with the following festivals and events:
    • Kobe Bon Odori Festival (mid-August) – attend a summer festival with traditional dance and folk songs in Meriken Park. 
    • Minato Kobe Marine Fireworks Festival (late October) – enjoy the fireworks in Meriken Park.
    • Nankinmachi Lantern Festival (December to January) – see over 400 Chinese lanterns in Kobe’s Nankinmachi Square

How to travel to Kobe from Osaka

First of all, Kobe is only 30km west of Osaka in the Kansai Region and there are several railways that 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. 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

  • Osaka Station to JR Sannomiya Station (20 minutes, ¥410 (covered by JR Pass)

Hanshin Railway

  • Osaka-Umeda Station (Hanshin) Station to Kobe-Sannomiya (Hanshin) Station (31 minutes ¥320)

Hankyu Railway

  • Osaka-Umeda (Hankyu) Station to Kobe-Sannomiya (Hankyu) Station (27 minutes, ¥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. And only Japan Railway can take you back to Osaka from Kobe Station.

Japan Railway

  • Kobe Station to Osaka Station (25 minutes,¥410 (covered by JR Pass)

Kobe Itinerary: What to do in Kobe in 1 day

As I mentioned, my ideal day trip to Kobe from Osaka starts with taking one of the three railways from Osaka to Sannomiya Station. The day trip ends with a trip back to Osaka from Kobe 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!

So here is how you use the Kobe interactive map. All the top things to do in Kobe are pinned with coloured pins. Red numbered pins are all the must-see attractions on Day 1blue pins are other things to do in Kobe if you want to change the itinerary and green pins are day trip ideas from Kobe.

1. Visit Ikuta Jinja

The Kobe day tour starts with a visit to Ikuta Jinja, one of the most visited shrine in Kobe. Local visit the Shinto Shrine and pray for good health and happiness as Ikuta Shrine is the symbol of hope.

The vermilion-lacquered giant torii gates at the entrance welcome you to the Zen temple. Then see Honden (the main hall), one of the oldest Shinto Shrines in Japan as the shrine dates back to 3rd century AD.

While you are there, also check out other buildings on the premise, ponds and various torii gates as well. And if you are visiting Kobe in the fall, you can see a traditional Japanese play during Ikuta’s Autumn Festival.

2, 3, 4 & 5. Wander around Kitano-cho

When the city of Kobe opened to foreign trade in 1868, many foreign merchants and diplomats moved to Kobe and settled in Kitano-cho. Today, it is a historical district with many of these foreign residences, also known as ijinkan.

And many of these foreign residences function like a museum where you can see antiques, artworks and historical items of that particular culture. Some highlights include the Weathercock House and Uroko House. Most houses charge between ¥500 to ¥750. Or you can buy a combination ticket for ¥1,400 or ¥2,800.

Even if you don’t visit the foreign residences, walk around Kitano Ijinkan-Gai (Main Street) and enjoy a stroll around the quaint area. And enjoy a view of Kobe from Kitano Tenman Shrine.

6 & 7. Try Kobe Beef

A day trip to Kobe wouldn’t be the same if you didn’t try Kobe beef! And Kobe beef is pretty unique. It is from Tajima black cattle raised only in Hyogo Prefecture and only about 3,000 cattle can be qualified as Kobe beef each year.

It is a type of Wagyu beef where it can be prepared in one of several ways including sukiyaki, shabu-shabu, sushi, or it can be eaten as a steak fillet or beef cutlet.

Steakland is a popular and touristy teppanyaki restaurant where the chef cooks the Kobe beef on a hot flat skillet in front of you. A set meal includes salad, grilled vegetables, rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables and Kobe beef.

Or try Wagyu Hitsumabushi (thin slices of beef in lacquer rice bowl) or Wagyu Sukiyaki at Aka Noren, a popular restaurant that specializes in Wagyu beef. Or try steak fillet or Wagyu beef cutlet from their a la carte menu.

Budget tip: It is cheaper to eat Kobe beef at lunch rather than at dinner. Many Wagyu beef set lunches across the city are very affordable.

8 & 9. Walk across Sannomiya Center Gai Shopping Street and Motomachidori

After eating a delicious Kobe beef lunch, continue your Kobe day trip itinerary by walking through two of Kobe’s most well-known pedestrian shopping streets.

Sannomiya Center Gai Shopping Street is a large covered shopping street starting from Sannomiya Station and ends at Tor Road. The busy shopping street has many retail stores for trendy fashion, hip cafes and restaurants.

Not far away is Motomachidori, a historical shopping street where some of the retailers have more than 100 years of history. It starts near JR Motomachi Station and stretches 1.2km to the west. But you don’t have to walk the entire length – most active retailers are on the east end. Plus, you’ll want to jump over to the next attraction on the Kobe itinerary.

10. Eat street food in Nankinmachi

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 Nankinmachi, Kobe’s Chinatown District, was rebuilt and became one of the most active Chinese communities in the Kansai region.

Kobe’s Chinatown consists of two main streets intersecting at a small plaza in the centre. Many street food vendors and Chinese restaurants lining the main road. Also, there are three archways at Chinatown’s south, west and east end and a pair of lions guard the north entrance.

This is an excellent place to eat in Kobe. Try Chuka Ryori (Japanese adapted Chinese food) if you are not too full from your Kobe beef lunch. Or you can get some steamed pork buns from Rōshōki to-go – they are the most popular food vendor in Nankinmachi.

11, 12, 13 & 14. Wander around Meriken Park and Kobe Harbour

Kobe Harbour is particularly beautiful at night when all the lights are on and shining on all the major buildings. Many people living in Osaka (especially couples) like to visit Kobe on a day trip. And they especially like to visit Kobe Harbour at night as it is one of the most romantic places in Kobe.

At the end of your Kobe day trip, visit some of the highlights in Meriken Park and Kobe Harbour before catching the Japan Railway train from Kobe Station back to Osaka. The last train going back to Osaka is at 12:30 am.

  • Be Kobe – take a photo next to the iconic sign commemorating the 150th anniversary of Kobe Port.
  • Kobe Port Tower – the 108m (354 ft) tall tower resembles the hourglass shape of a tsuzumi, a traditional Japanese drum. There are several observatory levels and a rotating cafe. However, the Kobe Port Tower is is temporarily closed for renovation.
  • Mosaic – see the colourful Mosaic Big Ferris Wheel, shop for souvenirs and may be have dinner before returning to Osaka.
  • Umie North Mall – excellent shopping mall that you have to walk through on the way to Kobe Station.

Other suggested attractions for your Kobe itinerary

There are so many things to do in Kobe that it was difficult to choose what to do in one day. But if you are staying longer in Kobe or want to change up the itinerary, here are some other suggestions:

  1. Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens – see over 75,000 plants and over 200 types of herbs and flowers blooming all year round. It is Japan’s largest herb garden!
  2. Kobe City Museum – it has the world’s largest collection of Namban Art, or “Southern Barbarian Art” (a Japanese art style developed in the 1500s when trading with the West began).
  3. Kobe Maritime Museum – learn about Japanese trading ships and the history of Kobe port. The exterior of the museum is a large white lattice structure that resembles a sailboat.
  4. Takenaka Carpenter Tools Museum – the only museum in Japan dedicated to carpentry tools.
  5. Atoa – a new creative space that features aquariums and interactive art.

If you are spending more than one day in Kobe

If you decide to stay in Kobe longer than a day, there are other things to do outside of the city centre. Here are some suggestions:

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 “Kinsengolden hot spring (spring water turns into a reddish-brown colour once the water touches the air). Iron and sodium chloride is excellent for your skin and circulation.

How to get to Arima: take the subway from Sannomiya Station to Tanigami Station, change train to Arimaguchi Station, then change one more train to Arimaonsen Station. The entire journey takes 36 minutes and costs ¥690.

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! While you are there, see other attractions like Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden, Rokko International Musical Box Museum and Rokko Garden Terrace. Also consider going at night because the night view is fantastic!

How to get to Mount Rokko: take Hankyu Railway from Sannomiya Station to Rokko Station (15 minutes, ¥200). Then take Kobe City Bus #16 to Rokko Cablecar (14 minutes, ¥210). Then take Rokko Cablecar up Mount Rokko (10 minutes, ¥600 one way or ¥1,100 round trip).

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.

How to get to Himeji: take Japan Railway from Sannomiya Station to Himeji Station. The journey takes only 40 minutes and costs ¥990.

Where to stay in Kobe Japan as a solo traveller

It is possible to see all the best Kobe attractions in one day, but I highly recommend staying in Kobe for a few nights. Kobe accommodations are cheaper than Osaka and it is an excellent hub for seeing other places in the area.

When I stayed overnight in Kobe, I stayed at these hotels which are centrally located and great for solo travellers.

  • Kobe Plaza Hotel West ($) – the compact room is big enough for one person and is next to Chinatown. Check Agoda for prices & reviews.
  • Candeo Hotels Kobe Tor Road ($$) – the 4-star hotel has modern guest rooms and is within walking distance of most attractions. Plus, it has a sky spa on the top floor. Check Agoda for prices & reviews.

Want to join a tour in Kobe, Japan?

Are you going to take a day trip to Kobe from Osaka?

I hope you enjoyed reading my Kobe 1 day itinerary. The city of Kobe is more than just Kobe beef (although I would go to Kobe and eat Kobe beef!). I thoroughly enjoyed Kobe and hope you will include it in your Japan itinerary.

Let me know in the comments if you followed this Kobe day trip itinerary or have any suggestions to make it better.

Thank you for reading my Kobe itinerary

You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Japan:

Introduction to Japan

Kansai region

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 20+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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