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Top Five Must-See Attractions & Museums in Osaka

Welcome to Osaka, our favorite city in Japan, where centuries-old heritage meets contemporary vibrancy. Known as Japan's kitchen, Osaka tantalizes with its rich food scene, while the historic Osaka Castle stands in stark contrast to the neon-lit streets of Dotonbori. Join us on a journey to discover the unique blend of tradition and modernity that makes Osaka a must-visit destination. 

In this post, we will unveil our top five must-see attractions and museums in Osaka that promise to make your trip truly unforgettable. Dive into the lively atmosphere and street food of Dotonbori, explore history at the Osaka Castle Museum, soar to new heights at the Umeda Sky Building, immerse yourself in art and nature at teamLab Botanical Garden, and find serenity at the Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine. Whether you are a foodie, history buff, lover of art and architecture, or seeker of spiritual experiences, Osaka has something captivating for every traveler. So, join us as we dive deeper into the top five must-see attractions and museums in Osaka.


Eat & Explore Dotonbori 

Dotonbori is a bustling neighborhood in Osaka's Namba district renowned for its street food scene, making it a must-visit destination for foodies! The area is adorned with neon lights and iconic billboards, creating a lively atmosphere that draws locals and tourists alike. Along the canal and winding streets, you will find an array of food stalls and restaurants offering delectable treats such as takoyaki (octopus balls), kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers), fresh seafood, and even Portuguese pastel de nata from Lord Stow's Bakery! The variety and quality of street food in Dotonbori are unparalleled, providing visitors with a delightful culinary adventure as they explore the sights and flavors of this dynamic district.

Pastel de Nata_Osaka Takoyaki_Osaka-1

As previously mentioned, the area is renowned for its extravagant neon lights and billboard displays, featuring giant moving signs, illuminated advertisements, and captivating digital art. One of the most famous landmarks in Dotonbori is the Glico Running Man sign, an iconic symbol of the district that has become a must-visit spot for tourists and locals alike. The running man, with his dynamic pose and bright colors, represents the Glico company's caramel candy that were originally marketed as a source of energy, and has become synonymous with Dotonbori's lively ambiance. (Looking to learn more about Glico and it's famous running man? Check out this article by Culture Trip that dives into a history of the company further.) In addition to the Glico sign, Dotonbori boasts a plethora of other eye-catching billboards and neon displays that line the streets and canal. These colorful and dynamic advertisements add to the district's charm and create an immersive experience for visitors exploring the bustling nightlife and entertainment options.

Glico Running Man

Dotonbori is not just a haven for street food; it also boasts a diverse array of sit-down restaurants that cater to every culinary preference and palate. From renowned establishments like Ichiran, known for its customizable ramen bowls, to upscale teppanyaki restaurants (also called hibachi restaurants in the United States) where skilled chefs showcase their culinary artistry, Dotonbori offers a gastronomic journey like no other. Our favorite meal of the trip, in fact, was at a phenomenal teppanyaki restaurant in the Dotonbori area called Teppanyaki Hikari (Namba)! When visiting Japan, make sure to include a visit to a teppanyaki restaurant for dinner on your itinerary for a truly memorable dining experience!

Teppanyaki Osaka

For those craving Japanese barbecue, the neighborhood is dotted with exceptional yakiniku spots where diners can grill premium cuts of meat to perfection. Seafood enthusiasts can indulge in fresh catches of the day at seafood restaurants specializing in sushi, sashimi, and seafood hot pots, showcasing the bounty of the nearby sea. One of the most iconic seafood restaurants in Dotonbori is Kani Doraku Dotonbori Main Branch (Dotonbori) which you cannot miss thanks to its giant crab outside! The restaurant specializes in all things crab and it was truly another fantastic meal on our trip. 

Whether you're seeking a casual meal or a fine dining experience, Dotonbori's sit-down restaurants provide a diverse range of options, ensuring that every diner's taste buds are satisfied in this vibrant culinary hub of Osaka.

Dotonbori River

Dotonbori is not only famous for its food scene and neon lights, but also for the picturesque Dotonbori River that runs through the heart of the district. This scenic waterway adds to the charm of the area, with colorful boat tours offering a unique perspective of the bustling streets lined with restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues. Although we suggest skipping the river cruise (unless you have the Osaka e-Pass, which includes a river cruise), strolling along the river offers the perfect opportunity to soak in the ambiance and admire the iconic neon lights. The combination of incredible street food and the tranquility of the Dotonbori River creates an unforgettable experience for visitors exploring this lively neighborhood in Osaka.


Osaka Castle Museum

Osaka Castle is one of Japan's most iconic landmarks, steeped in centuries of history and culture. Originally built in the 16th century, the castle has undergone several reconstructions over the years (most recently in 1931) and stands today as a symbol of Osaka's resilience and heritage. Its striking appearance with towering walls, moats, and impressive architecture attracts visitors from around the world. Today, the castle has been repurposed into a museum. 

Osaka Castle_Landscape

Looking to learn more about Japanese castles and how they differ from their European counterparts? Check out our Himeji Travel Guide as we dive into this topic further.

The Osaka Castle Museum, located within the castle's main keep, offers a captivating journey through time, showcasing exhibits that delve into the castle's history, the feudal era in Osaka and Japan as a whole, and the samurai legacy. Visitors can explore artifacts, armor, weapons, and displays that bring the castle's storied past to life.

Osaka Castle Roofline
One of the highlights of a visit to Osaka Castle, however, is the panoramic view from the top floors of the Osaka Castle Museum, offering breathtaking vistas of the surrounding cityscape and parks. The castle's majestic presence, coupled with its historical significance and cultural exhibits, makes it a must-visit attraction for history enthusiasts and anyone seeking to immerse themselves in Japan's fascinating past.

View from Osaka Castle

The Osaka Castle Museum is open daily, with the exception of the period of December 28 - January 1 when the museum is closed to visitors. The Osaka Castle Museum offers expanded visiting hours during cherry blossom season and Golden Week. Tickets can be purchased either online in-advance or in-person at Osaka Castle. Additional information about Osaka Castle, including opening hours, advance purchase tickets, and admission costs, can be found on the Osaka Castle website.

Osaka Castle Park

Osaka Castle Park is a historic and picturesque park located in the heart of Osaka, surrounding the iconic Osaka Castle. Spanning more than 260 acres, the park is not only a popular destination for locals and tourists but also a significant historical and cultural site.

The centerpiece of Osaka Castle Park is, of course, Osaka Castle itself, a symbol of the city's rich heritage and resilience. Visitors to Osaka Castle Park can explore the castle grounds, which include impressive stone walls, moats, and gates that reflect traditional Japanese castle architecture. 

Aside from the castle, Osaka Castle Park boasts expansive lawns, gardens, and walking paths that are perfect for leisurely strolls, picnics, and outdoor activities. The park's cherry blossom trees draw large crowds during the springtime, offering a stunning display of pink blooms against the backdrop of the castle and surrounding greenery.
Osaka Castle Park

Throughout the year, Osaka Castle Park hosts various events, festivals, and cultural performances, adding to its vibrant atmosphere and providing opportunities for visitors to engage with Japanese traditions and arts.

Overall, Osaka Castle Park is not just a beautiful green space but also a living monument to Japan's history and a vibrant hub of cultural activities, making it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Osaka.

Umeda Sky Building 

The Umeda Sky Building is a striking architectural marvel that dominates Osaka's skyline, offering visitors an unparalleled panoramic view of the city and beyond. Situated in the bustling Umeda district, this skyscraper stands out with its unique twin tower design connected by a floating observatory, Kuchu Teien Observatory, across the top 39th and 40th floors (as well as the rooftop) of the Umeda Sky Building.

Umeda Sky Building
The floating garden observatory, perched approximately 558 feet (170 meters) above ground level, is the highlight of the Umeda Sky Building experience. Visitors can ascend to the observatory via a glass-enclosed escalator that traverses the open-air atrium, providing a thrilling sense of elevation. Once at the top, the observatory offers 360-degree views of Osaka, showcasing iconic landmarks, cityscapes, and even Mount Ikoma on clear days.

Umeda Sky Building_Glass-Enclosed Elevators_Osaka
The Umeda Sky Building's observatory is not just about the view—it also features a cafe, shop, and outdoor observation decks where visitors can soak in the breathtaking scenery. Whether you visit during the day to admire Osaka's urban landscape or at night when the city lights create a mesmerizing glow, the Umeda Sky Building and its floating garden observatory promise a memorable experience for travelers seeking panoramic vistas and architectural splendor.

View of Osaka from Umeda Sky Building

More information about the Umeda Sky Building, including opening hours, advance purchase tickets for the ever-coveted sunset time slot, can be found on the Umeda Sky Building website.  

Koji Kinutani Tenku Art Museum

The Koji Kinutani Tenku Art Museum is a hidden gem nestled within the Umeda Sky Building, located on the 27th floor of Tower West. Dedicated to the illustrious Japanese artist Koji Kinutani, this museum proudly displays a magnificent array of his masterpieces.
Koji Kinutani Tenuk Art Museum
Kinutani's art style is characterized by vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and a sense of ethereal beauty that often incorporates elements of nature and celestial themes. Visitors to the museum can admire a diverse range of Kinutani's paintings, sculptures, and installations.

What sets the Koji Kinutani Tenku Art Museum apart is its location within the Umeda Sky Building, offering visitors a dual experience of art and breathtaking panoramic views of Osaka from the museum's windows. This fusion of art and exterior scenery creates a harmonious atmosphere that inspires and captivates art enthusiasts and visitors alike. Plus, admission to the museum is included with the Osaka e-Pass! 
Koji Kinutani Tenku Art Museum_Umeda Sky Building_Osaka
The museum is a must-visit destination for those seeking a blend of artistic inspiration and awe-inspiring views in the heart of Osaka. The Koji Kinutani Tenku Art Museum is closed on Tuesdays, with the exception of Tuesdays that fall on a national holiday. More information about the Koji Kinutani Tenku Art Museum, including opening hours and current exhibits, can be found on the museum's website.

teamLab Botanical Gardens

The teamLab Botanical Garden is a mesmerizing fusion of art, technology, and nature located within Nagai Park at the Nagai Botanical Garden, offering visitors a unique and immersive experience unlike any other. Created by the renowned digital art collective teamLab, this innovative exhibition combines digital art installations with real plants and flowers, creating a surreal and enchanting environment that stimulates the senses and sparks imagination.

TeamLab Botanical Gardens Osaka

Nagai Botanical Garden is home to a diverse collection of plants, flowers, and trees from around the world. The botanical garden provides a peaceful setting for nature lovers to explore and admire a rich variety of flora throughout the seasons.

The botanical garden features a series of interactive exhibits and installations that blend seamlessly with the natural surroundings, blurring the lines between the virtual and physical worlds. Visitors can wander through illuminated pathways, encounter mesmerizing light displays that react to movement, and experience immersive soundscapes that transport them into a world of wonder.

TeamLab Osaka Botanical Garden
The teamLab Botanical Garden is not only a celebration of art and technology but also a contemplation of the relationship between humans and nature, inviting visitors to explore the beauty and interconnectedness of the natural world in a captivating and immersive way. It's a must-visit destination for art lovers, nature enthusiasts, and anyone seeking a truly unforgettable experience in Osaka.

teamLab Botanical Garden_Osaka_Tranquil Pond

teamLab Botanical Garden is only open in the evenings and opening hours differ based on the season. teamLab Botanical Garden is closed the second and fourth Monday of each month. For current opening hours and advance purchase tickets, please visit the teamLab website.

Nagai Park

Nagai Park is a sprawling urban park nestled in the heart of Osaka offering a serene retreat from the bustling city life. Spanning over 160 acres, the park is renowned for its natural beauty, recreational facilities, and cultural attractions, making it a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.

Nagai Park is primarily known for its sports and leisure amenities, including baseball fields, tennis courts, and jogging tracks, catering to active visitors and locals looking to engage in outdoor activities. The park's expansive lawns and open spaces are ideal for picnics, family gatherings, and relaxation amid nature. 
For cultural enthusiasts, Nagai Park is home to the Nagai Stadium (also called Yanmar Stadium Nagai), a prominent sports venue that has hosted various international events, including the FIFA World Cup. Additionally, the park features the Osaka City Museum of Natural History.
Winter Cherry Blossoms_Nagai Park_Osaka
Nagai Park is also renowned as a prime spot for viewing cherry blossoms (called hanami in Japanese) during spring, boasting around 500 sakura trees that paint the park in a breathtaking pink hue. Beyond the classic sakura, the park is home to winter cherry blossoms (shown above), plum blossoms, and camillas, adding to its allure throughout the year. 

Whether you're seeking a peaceful nature retreat, recreational activities, or cultural experiences, Nagai Park offers a diverse range of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages, making it a cherished green space in the vibrant city of Osaka. A map of Nagai Park, which includes additional information about the park's various attractions, can be found here.

Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine

Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine is a historic and revered Shinto shrine located in the Sumiyoshi district in southern Osaka, known for its beautiful Taiko-bashi Bridge, serene ambiance, and cultural significance. Founded over 1,800 years ago, the shrine holds deep roots in Japanese mythology and traditions, making it one of the oldest and most esteemed shrines in the country.

One of the iconic features of Sumiyoshi Taisha is the Taiko-bashi Bridge (also called the Drum Bridge), a distinctive arched bridge that symbolizes a spiritual transition from the ordinary world to the sacred realm of the shrine. Visitors crossing the Taiko-bashi are said to cleanse their spirits before approaching the shrine, creating a sense of reverence and tranquility.

Sumiyoshi Taisha
The serene grounds of Sumiyoshi Taisha are dotted with ancient trees, serene ponds, and peaceful pathways, creating a serene and picturesque setting for visitors to explore and contemplate.

Throughout the year, the shrine hosts various festivals and ceremonies that offer insights into Japanese culture and traditions, attracting locals and tourists alike. Whether admiring the architectural beauty, crossing the iconic Taiko-bashi Bridge, or participating in traditional rituals, a visit to Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine offers a glimpse into Japan's spiritual heritage and a tranquil escape from the bustling city of Osaka.

Sake Offering_Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine_Osaka

Entrance to the shrine is free of charge. More information about Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine can be found on the shrine's website.

Other Top Attractions & Museums in Osaka

As you continue your exploration of Osaka beyond our list of the top five must-see attractions and museums in Osaka, there are several other popular sites and experiences awaiting your discovery. From fascinating aquatic wonders at the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan to thrilling adventures at Universal Studios Japan, there is something to peak every traveler's interest.

If you are drawn to spiritual landmarks, a visit to the Namba Yasaka Shrine is a must-see. The shrine's vibrant colors and unique lion-headed deity façade make it a captivating stop for cultural immersion.

For those eager to delve into Osaka's culinary scene further, a trip to Shinsekai is a requirement of your time in Osaka. This vibrant district is renowned for its retro charm, bustling streets, and a plethora of eateries serving up local delicacies. Do not miss the opportunity to taste kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers) or indulge in a hearty meal at one of the iconic restaurants in this lively neighborhood.

Whether you're seeking underwater marvels, theme park thrills, spiritual tranquility, or gastronomic delights, Osaka continues to enchant with its diverse array of attractions and experiences.

Namba Yasaka Shrine

Namba Yasaka Shrine, also known as Yasaka Shrine or Namba Shrine, is a Shinto shrine located in the Namba district of Osaka. The shrine is famous for its unique lion-headed deity façade, which is believed to swallow evil spirits and bring good luck. Worshipers come to this shrine to pray for success in academics and in the workplace. The shrine's architecture and atmosphere reflect a blend of traditional Japanese aesthetics and local folklore, creating a serene yet lively ambiance that attracts both locals and tourists. 

If you just so happen to visit Namba Yasaka Shrine on the third Sunday in January, like we did, you will witness a giant tug-of-war ritual in celebration of the god Susanoo-no-Mikoto (Susanoo). As the story goes, Susanoo killed Yamata-no-orochi, the eight-headed serpent god from Japanese mythology, thus freeing the Japanese people from hardship.

Namba Yasaka Shrine_Osaka

Visitors to Namba Yasaka Shrine can also explore the surrounding Namba district, known for its vibrant nightlife, shopping streets, entertainment venues, and delicious street food. The shrine's proximity to popular attractions like Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi makes it a convenient stop for cultural immersion and sightseeing while exploring Osaka's bustling urban landscape.

Eat & Explore Shinsekai

Shinsekai in Osaka is a vibrant and eclectic district known for its nostalgic charm, diverse food scene, and unique atmosphere. The name "Shinsekai" translates to "New World," reflecting the area's history and transformation over the years.

One of the main attractions of Shinsekai is its wide array of eateries offering traditional Osaka cuisine and local specialties. Visitors can indulge in iconic street-food dishes such as kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers), takoyaki (octopus balls), as well as sit-down meals consisting of okonomiyaki (savory pancakes) and katsu curry (breaded cutlet with curry sauce). The area's lively streets and bustling restaurants create a lively and bustling dining experience, perfect for foodies looking to savor authentic Japanese flavors.

Aside from its food scene, Shinsekai is also home to Tsutenkaku Tower, a symbol of the district and a popular landmark for visitors. The tower offers observation decks with panoramic views of Osaka city, providing a fantastic vantage point to admire the cityscape and surrounding areas.

Tennoji and Abeno Area_Osaka

Exploring Shinsekai is a journey through time, as the district retains elements of its early 20th-century architecture and retro charm. The colorful signage, nostalgic storefronts, and bustling entertainment arcades add to the area's unique appeal, making it a favorite spot for both locals and tourists alike.

We visited Shinsekai on a guided street food tour, booked via GetYourGuide. It was a neat way to see another area of the city, meet fellow travelers, and try some new - and unique - foods. While some of the food we tried was excellent (takoyaki and gyoza), some was downright terrible (stingray fin). Regardless, it was a great way to spend an evening and offered us the opportunity to go to places we would not have explored on our own! If you book an experience or tour through our GetYourGuide affiliate link, we may earn a small commission.

Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan is a popular theme park located in Osaka, offering an immersive and thrilling entertainment experience for visitors of all ages. It is part of the Universal Parks & Resorts family and features a diverse range of attractions, shows, and experiences inspired by popular movies, TV shows, and franchises.

One of the most exciting additions to Universal Studios Japan is Super Nintendo World, a themed area dedicated to beloved Nintendo characters and games. This immersive land brings iconic video game worlds to life, allowing visitors to step into the world of Super Mario Bros. and embark on interactive adventures with Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and other beloved characters.

Super Nintendo World features attractions such as Mario Kart: Koopa's Challenge, where guests can race against each other in augmented reality-enhanced vehicles inspired by the iconic Mario Kart game. There's also Yoshi's Adventure, a family-friendly ride that takes guests on a whimsical journey through Yoshi's Island, encountering colorful scenery and friendly creatures along the way. Plus, a new Donkey Kong area is set to open later this year!

Aside from Super Nintendo World, Universal Studios Japan offers a wide range of themed areas and attractions based on blockbuster movies, TV shows, and pop culture phenomena. From thrilling roller coasters and 4D simulator rides to live shows and character meet-and-greets, there's something for every type of visitor to enjoy. We opted to skip a trip to Universal Studios Japan and instead visit Tokyo Disney Resort on our trip. However, the next time we find ourselves back in Osaka, Universal Studios Japan is high on our list of must-see attractions. 

Whether you're a fan of thrill rides, immersive experiences, or simply want to immerse yourself in the world of your favorite characters, Universal Studios Japan promises an unforgettable adventure in Osaka. Tickets for Universal Studios Japan can be purchased via GetYourGuide. If you book an experience or tour through our GetYourGuide affiliate link, we may earn a small commission.

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is Japan's largest and most impressive aquarium, located in the Osaka Bay area. It is renowned for its expansive collection of marine life, immersive exhibits, and educational experiences that delight visitors of all ages.

One of the standout features of Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is its massive central tank, known as the Pacific Ocean tank, which holds over 5,400 tons of water. This tank simulates the Pacific Ocean ecosystem and houses a diverse array of marine species, including whale sharks, manta rays, and various fish species. Visitors can view these majestic creatures up close through a giant acrylic viewing panel that offers a panoramic underwater experience.

Apart from the Pacific Ocean tank, the aquarium is divided into several thematic zones representing different marine habitats from around the world, such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Aleutian Islands, and the Antarctic. Each zone features interactive displays, informative exhibits, and opportunities for hands-on learning about marine conservation and biodiversity. 

More information about the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, including opening hours and advance purchase tickets, can be found on the aquarium's website.

Osaka e-Pass

Before heading to Osaka, we highly recommend looking into the Osaka E-Pass. Formerly known as the Osaka Amazing Pass, the Osaka E-Pass is a convenient and cost-effective way for visitors to explore the city of Osaka while enjoying a wide range of attractions, transportation options, and discounts. This pass is designed to enhance the tourist experience and make it easier to navigate the city.

Here are some key features and benefits of the Osaka E-Pass:

  • Unlimited Transportation: The pass provides unlimited rides on designated public transportation within Osaka, including Osaka Metro lines and Osaka City buses, making it both cost-effective and easy to get around the city. Please note: Transportation is not included on any JR-operated lines.
  • Free Admission to Attractions: With the Osaka E-Pass, you can enjoy free admission at over 25 popular attractions, including museums, river cruises, and cultural experiences. This includes iconic sites like Osaka Castle and the Umeda Sky Building. (The Umeda Sky Building can only be accessed with the Osaka E-Pass before 4:00PM, otherwise you can use your pass for a 30% discount on regular-priced admission from 4:00PM to close.)
  • Discounts & Special Offers: In addition to free admission, the pass offers discounts and special offers at select shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues across Osaka, allowing you to save money while enjoying local experiences.
  • Validity Period: The Osaka E-Pass is available in 1-day and 2-day options, allowing you to choose the duration that best fits your travel plans. The pass is valid for consecutive days from the first day of use, providing flexibility and convenience.
  • Digital Convenience: As the name suggests, the Osaka E-Pass is digital and can be accessed online, eliminating the need for physical tickets/vouchers. This makes it easy to purchase, activate, and use the pass during your visit to Osaka.

Overall, the Osaka E-Pass is an excellent value for travelers looking to maximize their time and experiences in Osaka while enjoying the convenience of unlimited transportation and discounted access to top attractions. We opted for the 2-day option and could not recommend it enough! 

View from Osaka Castle_2

Exploring Osaka: A Brief Overview

From the vibrant street food scene of Dotonbori to the historical significance of Osaka Castle and the immersive wonders of attractions like teamLab Botanical Garden at Nagai Park and the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, Osaka truly embodies a blend of rich cultural heritage and modern excitement.

Whether you're a foodie, history buff, nature lover, or thrill-seeker, Osaka offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to every interest and passion. It is a city that continues to enchant visitors with its vibrant energy, cultural depth, and warm hospitality, making it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an unforgettable journey in Japan.

Looking for more information on Japan and Osaka? Check out our Osaka Travel Guide for more popular sites, incredible restaurants, and general information about this dynamic city! Looking for general information on Japan before embarking on your trip? From money matters, to train information, we have it all in our Japan Travel Guide

Have you visited Osaka? We would love to hear from you!