The capital of the Osaka Prefecture, Osaka is a Japanese city known for its modern architecture, vibrant nightlife, and street food scene. But it’s also home to many historical attractions, like Osaka Castle Park and Sumiyoshi Taishi Shrine. There are plenty of fun things to do in Osaka with kids, like visiting Universal Studios Japan, saying hi to the whale shark at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, and riding the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel.
If you’re looking for things to do in Osaka in winter instead, check out inside attractions like the CupNoodles Museum and Tenjinbashi-suji, a covered shopping street. Here are many more fun things to do in Osaka at night and during the day.
Dotonbori is one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s located on the Dotonbori Canal and stretches from Dotonboribashi Bridge to Nipponbashi Bridge. The vibrant entertainment district is known for its bright lights, colorful signs, and a plethora of restaurants and bars. Besides eating, you can take a sightseeing boat cruise and visit Don Quijote – Japan’s version of Walmart. Thanks to its lively atmosphere, you literally can’t miss Dotonbori on a visit to Osaka.
2. Universal Studios Japan
Universal Studios Japan is one of six Universal theme parks around the world. It’s one of the most fun things to do in Osaka for the entire family. Universal Studios Japan is split into nine zones, including Hollywood, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurrasic Park, WaterWorld, Minion Park, and New York. Visitors can try a Butterbeer at Hog’s Head, watch the popular WaterWorld show, play with Curious George, and even go on a JAWS ride (gigantic shark included).
3. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Located in the city’s Tempozan Harbor Village, Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is the world’s largest aquarium. It focuses on marine life from the Pacific Rim, and each of its 15 tanks represents a specific Pacific Rim region. The aquarium is home to over 30,000 animals from 620 different marine species. Although the aquarium’s star attraction is a giant whale shark in the Pacific Ocean zone, other animals you can see include penguins, manta rays, other shark species, and playful otters.
4. Umeda Sky Building
Umeda Sky Building is one of the city’s most unique buildings and most recognizable landmarks. The 568 feet-tall building consists of two office towers, which are connected by the ring-like Floating Garden Observatory on the 39th floor. The observation deck offers scenic 360-degree city views. Downstairs, there’s an underground market with over 20 restaurants, which resembles Osaka from the early 20th century. Outside the Umeda Sky Building, visitors will find water features and urban walking trails.
Another one of the city’s notable landmarks is Tsutenkaku. Located in the colorful Shinsekai neighborhood, the iconic structure was originally built in 1912 to resemble the Eiffel Tower. However, following a fire, its metal was used in World War II and it didn’t get rebuilt until 1956. Today, there’s an observation deck on Tsutenkaku’s fifth floor with great city views. A visit to Tsutenkaku is one of the best things to do in Osaka and Shinsekai.
Well, we just covered the fact that Tsutenkaku is one of Shinsekai’s most popular attractions. But let’s talk more about this unique district. Shinsekai was developed prior to the World Wars, following the success of the 1903 National Industrial Exposition. Its northern end was modeled after Paris, which is why Tsutenkaku resembles the Eiffel Tower. Meanwhile, its southern portion reflects New York’s Coney Island. While in Shinsekai, try kushikatsu, one of the city’s many food specialties.
7. Osaka Castle Park
Osaka Castle Park is an extensive public park (complete with moat) conveniently located in the middle of the city. Although Osaka Castle is one of its main attractions, the park is also home to Osaka-jo Hall, a popular music venue; sports facilities like a Japanese archery ground and Shudokan gymnasium; an ume (plum) orchard; and Nishinomaru Garden, which has over 300 cherry trees. Inside the impressive castle, visitors will find both a museum and a viewing platform.
8. Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel
Located at Tempozan Harbor Village, Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel is a top Osaka attraction. At 369 feet high and 328 feet in diameter, it’s also one of the world’s largest Ferris wheels. See amazing views over Osaka Bay on your 15-minute ride in one of the 60 cabins. At night, the Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel is illuminated to signify tomorrow’s weather forecast. Red equals sunny, green is cloudy, and blue means rain is on the way.
9. America Mura
America-mura is a vibrant district in the city’s Minami area. It’s been the center of youth culture since the 1970s and its streets are filled with over 200 businesses, including thrift stores, cafes, art galleries, and shops selling miscellaneous American goods. Sankaku Koen Park, a triangular concrete plaza, is at its core and regularly hosts music performances and flea markets. If you love to people watch, America-mura and Sankaku Koen Park are the places to be for unique fashion inspiration.
10. Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum
This is the world’s only museum that focuses on Kamigata Ukiyo-e or Kamigata woodblock prints. The Osaka-Kyoto region was frequently called Kamigata during the Edo Period (1603-1868). Artists in the region created more realistic woodblock prints in this period, compared to their counterparts in Tokyo. The intimate and unassuming museum is located down a side street in the Dotonbori district. Its permanent collection includes approximately 50 works and is a must-visit for Japanese art lovers.
11. Sumiyoshi Shrine
The Sumiyoshi Taishi Shrine is one of Japan’s oldest shrines and the city’s most popular shrine. During the three-day New Year holiday period, two million people visit the shrine. Established in the 3rd century, Sumiyoshi Taishi Shrine is built in the unique Sumiyoshi-zukuri architectural style, which is characterized by straight thatched roofs. Leading up to the Sumiyoshi Taishi Shrine’s four buildings is the picturesque Sorihashi Bridge. The shrine is dedicated to the three gods of the sea and Empress Jingu’s spirit.
12. National Bunraku Theater
Bunraku is a traditional form of puppet theater. It developed in Osaka in the 17th century, as a form of entertainment for common people. One of Japan’s three great theatrical traditions, the National Bunraku Theater is the best place to see a performance. Fortunately for tourists, English programs and audio guides are available. Bunraku performances usually run in three-week sets throughout the year. The National Bunraku Theatre also hosts traditional Japanese dance and theater performances.
Shinsaibashi is one of the city’s commercial districts. It’s another popular tourist spot as it’s teeming with restaurants, bars, and shops. On average, 60,000 people visit Shinsaibashi on weekdays, and this number doubles on weekends and at night. Top places to visit include Shinsaibashi Suji, the main shopping arcade; America-mura; Mitsu Hachimangu Shrine; and Daimaru, a huge department store with food options. Shinsaibashi is conveniently located an easy walk from vibrant Dotonbori and Namba.
14. Maishima Pottery Museum
Established in 1998, Maishima Pottery Museum is located on Maishima Sports Island – a man-made island in Osaka Bay. The city is known as the birthplace of sueki pottery, from which many other Japanese pottery specialties evolved. One of these specialties is naniwazuyaki, which is pottery creatively made from unwanted marine clay in Osaka Bay. Inside Maishima Pottery Museum are a gallery, cafe, and studios where visitors can make their own pottery creations alongside expert teachers.
15. Abeno Harukas
At nearly 985 feet high, Abeno Harukas is Japan’s tallest skyscraper. Located on the building’s top three floors, Harukas 300 is an observation deck that offers panoramic city views. Then there’s Abeno Harukas Kintetsu Department Store, which is Japan’s largest department store. It stocks a variety of international brands and has three floors of restaurants. On the 16th floor, visitors will find the Abeno Harukas Art Museum as well. It displays rotating exhibitions on both Western and Buddhist art.
16. Tenjinbashi-suji Shopping Street
One of the top local things to do in Osaka is to visit Tenjinbashi-suji, which claims to be Japan’s longest shopping street. The covered arcade stretches for more than 1.6 miles and offers an authentic experience, as it’s where many locals shop. The Tenjinbashi-suji shopping street is lined with about 800 stores selling clothing, accessories, groceries, snacks, and more. In particular, the clothing stores are known for their affordable prices but average quality garments.
17. Peace Osaka
Peace Osaka is also known as the Osaka International Peace Center. Established in 1991, it’s a museum focused on the devastating American air raids on the city during World War II. Spread over three floors, there are exhibits on the overall damage done to the city, as well as on the daily lives of locals at the time. There’s also a replica air-raid shelter. Many of the museum’s exhibits are child-friendly and offer hands-on experiences.
18. Shitennoji Temple
Founded in the 6th century by Prince Shotoku, Shitennoji Temple is one of Japan’s oldest temples. Although the temple’s buildings have burned down several times, they’ve always been carefully reconstructed to reflect the original design. Most of its outer buildings are free to visit, but fees apply to enter places like the Treasure House and Gokurakujodo Garden. On the 21st and 22nd days of every month, there’s a large and lively flea market on the Shittenoji Temple grounds too.
19. Spa World
Spa World is basically a hot spring theme park. Over seven floors there are onsens, saunas, a water park, a swimming pool, a gym, and food courts and restaurants. The internationally-themed onsens include a Finnish bathhouse and sauna; a Greek-themed medicinal bath; a Roman jacuzzi; and Balinese-style baths. Take a round-the-world holiday without leaving the city! Visit their website for information on onsen etiquette. Spa World is definitely one of the most interesting things to do in Osaka.
20. Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
Commonly known as the CupNoodles Museum, this is one of the best free things to do in Osaka. In 1958, Momofuku Ando invented the world’s first instant noodles in Ikeda on the city’s outskirts. From here, he invented Cup Noodles, which went on to become a global food phenomenon. At the museum, you can create your own Cup Noodles packaging (for a fee), learn more about Momofuku Ando, watch a film in the theater, and visit the museum shop.
21. Sumo Spring Grand Tournament
Sumo is the country’s national sport. Originating in ancient times, only men practice the sport professionally in Japan. The two-week Sumo Spring Grand Tournament, held annually in March, is the official sign that spring has sprung in Osaka. Held in the city’s EDION Arena, the tournament is known for its roughness. But spectators get the opportunity to watch both high-ranking sumo wrestlers, and their lower-ranked counterparts. There are six tournaments held every year across Japan.
22. O-hatsu Tenjin
Tusyu-no-Tenjinja Shrine (also called Ohatsu Tenjin and Tsuyunoten Shrine) was founded some 1300 years ago. The guardian shrine of the Umeda area, it’s located at the southern end of the Ohatsu Tenjin shopping arcade. Today, the shrine is visited by young people praying for success in love as it features in Sonezaki Shinju, a Bunraku puppet play that’s Japan’s very own Romeo and Juliet retelling. Ohatsu Tenjin Shrine also hosts a flea market on the first Friday of every month.
23. Tower of the Sun
Standing approximately 230 feet high, Tower of the Sun is a massive sculpture designed by Japanese artist, Taro Okamoto. It was the symbol of Expo ‘70 (the first world’s fair held in Asia) and currently stands in the Expo Commemoration Park in Suita, located north of the city. The tower has three faces on its front and back, representing the past, present, and future. Since 2018, the Tower of the Sun has been open to the public.
24. Tenjin Matsuri
Tenjin Matsuri (Tenjin Festival) is known as one of the three great Japanese festivals. Established in the 10th century, the annual festival is held on July 24 and 25. Tenjin Matsuri honors Tenmangu Shrine and its principal deity of scholarship, Sugawara Michizane. The festival features traditional costumes and a jubilant atmosphere, particularly on July 25, when there are river and land processions and fireworks. It’s one of the best things to do in Osaka in the summer.
25. Kuromon Market
Stretching for over 1900 feet, Kuromon Market (Kuromon Ichiba) is a lively covered market located in the city’s Minami area. It’s nicknamed Osaka’s Kitchen, as it’s where many locals and restaurant chefs purchase their supplies. There are over 150 stalls and 25 eateries at Kuromon Market, but over a quarter of stalls sell fresh fish and seafood. You can also purchase fresh produce, low-priced clothing, and confectionery. Approximately 25,000 people visit Kuromon Market daily.
26. Namba Yasaka Shrine
Home to Namba’s guardian deity, Namba Yasaka Shrine is the region’s principal shrine. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in World War II air raids, so its current buildings are post-war reconstructions. Its most prominent building is shaped like an enormous lion’s head – measuring approximately 39 feet high and 36 feet across. Apparently, the lion’s giant open mouth will swallow any evil spirits troubling you. Surrounded by cherry blossom trees, Namba Yasaka Shrine is particularly popular in spring.
27. Mozu Tombs
Mozu Tombs is a collection of about 50 megalithic ancient tombs. Together with the nearby Furuichi Tombs, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The key-shaped tombs, predominantly surrounded by moats, were built between the 4th and 6th centuries for the region’s elite rulers. The largest of the tombs, and one of the world’s largest graves, belongs to Emperor Nintoku Kofun. Generally not open to the public, the best way to see Mozu Tombs is from Sakai City Hall’s free observation deck.