3 Days in Osaka: The Perfect Itinerary

3 Days in Osaka: The Perfect Itinerary

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Osaka will always be one of our favorite cities in Japan. I’ve been there four times in five years and every trip still feels like it’s the first.

Osaka is a big city but it isn’t overwhelming like Tokyo. It’s known for having some of the best food in Japan and it offers plenty to do for first-time visitors.

If it’s your first trip and you don’t have a lot of time, then I’d say that a 3-day stay is ideal. It’ll give you enough time to see the city’s top attractions without feeling rushed.

The following 3-day itinerary offers suggestions on what to do and where to eat in Osaka, but if you need more help in planning your trip, then you can refer to our comprehensive Osaka travel guide.

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Osaka Castle and takoyaki balls

WHAT TO DO IN OSAKA IN 3 DAYS

Listed below are Osaka’s top attractions and a few suggested restaurants. You can jump to the location map at the bottom of this article to see exactly where they are in the city.

QUICK GLANCE

DAY ONE

• Harukas 300
• MEGA Don Quijote Shinsekai
• Den Den Town
• Kuromon Ichiba Market
• Okonomiyaki Mizuno
• Dotonbori
• Shinsaibashi
• Umeda Sky Building
• Hankyu Depachika
• Kura Sushi
DAY TWO

• Osaka Castle
• Takoyaki Doraku Wanaka
• Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
• Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel
• Cup Noodles Museum
• Ippudo
• Minoo
• Hisakunikosendo
• Izakaya Toyo
DAY THREE

• Universal Studios Japan or Take a Day Trip

DAY 1

Harukas 300

Harukas 300 offers the best views in Osaka. It refers to the observation deck that occupies the top three floors of the Abeno Harukas building. At 300 meters tall (984 ft), it’s the tallest skyscraper in Japan.

If you like observation decks, then you can make Harukas 300 your first stop on your first day in Osaka. It opens at 9AM and is easy to get to with Osaka-Abenobashi Station located directly underneath the Abeno Harukas building.

After enjoying the views from Harukas 300, you may want to visit the Abeno Harukas Art Museum on the 16th floor or do some shopping at the Kintetsu department store which is also located inside Abeno Harukas. Covering over 100,000 square meters of retail space, it’s the largest department store in Japan.

You can purchase tickets to Harukas 300 at the gate or in advance through Klook.
View from Harukas 300 Observatory

Operating Hours: 9AM-10PM, daily
Admission: JPY 1,500
Closest Subway Station: Osaka-Abenobashi Station
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr

MEGA Don Quijote Shinsekai

If you enjoy shopping for bargains, then you’re going to love Don Quijote (Donki for short). It’s a famous chain of discount department stores similar to Daiso. They have over 160 branches throughout Japan including several in Osaka.

A little over a kilometer west of Abeno Harukas is the MEGA Don Quijote Shinsekai store. As its name suggests, Mega Don Quijote stores are the biggest in the chain.

We haven’t been to this one but we have visited the large branch in Dotonbori which consists of six floors. That one isn’t even a Mega Don Quijote so I can only imagine how large this Shinsekai outlet must be.

Don Quijotes are known for selling everything under the sun like groceries, snacks, household items, electronics, clothing, and dildos. Yes, dildos.

MEGA Don Quijote Shinsekai is about a 15-minute walk from Abeno Harukas. If you’d rather not walk, then you can take the metro. It’s just one stop away from Tennoji Station to Shin-Imamiya Station.
Snacks for sale at Don Quijote

Operating Hours: 9AM-5AM, daily
Closest Subway Station: Shin-Imamiya Station
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 – 1.5 hrs

Den Den Town

Den Den Town is a neighborhood in southern Osaka that’s home to a cluster of hobby shops selling electronics, video games, collectibles, and anime/manga merchandise. It’s the heart of otaku culture (diehard fan) in Osaka and reminds me of a miniature version of Tokyo’s Akihabara.

We’ve stayed at many different neighborhoods in Osaka but Den Den Town was my favorite. It’s a fun area to be in, especially at night when it comes alive. There’s a lot of cheap street food here as well.

Den Den Town is about a 15-minute walk north of MEGA Don Quijote Shinsekai. If you’d rather not walk, then you can take the metro at Dobutsuen-Mae Station and get off after one stop at Ebisucho Station.
Hobby shop in Den Den Town

Closest Subway Station: Ebisucho Station
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr

Kuromon Ichiba Market

Less than a 10-minute walk north of Den Den Town is Kuromon Ichiba Market, one of our favorite places in Osaka. It’s a Japanese-style wet market where you can try many delicious dishes like uni, scallops, takoyaki, otoro, and tako tamago.

Nicknamed “Osaka’s Kitchen”, many of the city’s chefs purchase their ingredients at Kuromon Ichiba Market so you know the seafood is always fresh and of the highest quality.

You can easily visit the market on your own, but if you’d like to go with a guide, then you can book a tour with Magical-Trip. Check out my article on Kuromon Ichiba Market for a list of the tastiest dishes you can find at the market.

As tempting as everything looks, try not to eat too much because the next stop on this itinerary is Mizuno, one of the best places to have Okonomiyaki in Osaka.
Uni at Kuromon Ichiba Market

Operating Hours: 9AM-6PM, daily
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr

Okonomiyaki Mizuno

Okonomiyaki is one of the dishes Osaka is best known for, so it’s something you need to try on your first trip to the city.

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese-style savory-sweet pancake made with a base of wheat flour batter mixed with eggs, grated yam, and shredded cabbage. It’s cooked on a teppanyaki grill and filled with a number of additional ingredients like pork belly, seafood, vegetables, and cheese.

You can find okonomiyaki everywhere in Osaka, but we suggest having it at Mizuno. It’s a Michelin-recommended restaurant known for serving some of the best okonomiyaki in the city. It’s about an 8-10 minute walk from Kuromon Ichina Market.
Okonomiyaki

Address: 1 Chome-4-15 Dotonbori, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 542-0071, Japan
Operating Hours: 11AM-9PM, daily
Closest Subway Station: Namba or Kintetsu-Nippombashi Station
What to Order: Okonomiyaki
Expect to Pay: Starts at JPY 970 per okonomiyaki

Dotonbori

Dotonbori is one of the main tourist destinations in Osaka. If you do a google image search for “osaka”, then you’ll find that most of the pictures that come up are from Dotonbori.

Dotonbori is a popular nightlife and entertainment area with plenty of shops, restaurants, and street food stalls. One of its most recognizable landmarks is the billboard of Glico Man (pictured below) which has become an iconic symbol of Osaka.

Okonomiyaki Mizuno is already in Dotonbori so you can explore the area after lunch. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of tasty snacks to eat there.
Glico Man sign in Dotonbori

Closest Subway Station: Osaka Namba Station
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 – 1.5 hrs

Shinsaibashi

If Dotonbori is mainly for food, then Shinsaibashi is for shopping. Shinsaibashi is a district but people use the term to refer to Shinsaibashi-suji, a covered shopping street just north of Dotonbori.

Shinsaibashi is home to plenty of trendy boutiques, retail chains, and Japanese department stores like Daimaru, Uniqlo, Zara, Prada, and H&M. It’s separated from Dotonbori by a narrow river so if you just keep walking north, then you’ll probably find yourself in Shinsaibashi without even realizing it.

You can refer to my article on Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori for more pictures and information.
Walking through Shinsaibashi shopping arcade

Closest Subway Station: Shinsaibashi Station
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1-2 hrs

Umeda Sky Building

You started your first day in Osaka with amazing views of the city. How about ending it with more of the same? This time at sunset.

When you’ve had your fill of shopping, hop into a train at Shinsaibashi Station and make your way north to Umeda Sky Building. It’s one of the most distinctive-looking buildings in Osaka, consisting of two 40-story buildings connected at the top by the Floating Garden Observatory.

At just 173 meters (567.5 ft), the views from the observatory aren’t as lofty as Harukas 300, but the building does feature striking glass-enclosed escalators that take you to and from the observatory. They’re known as the world’s highest escalators and are a popular photo backdrop in Osaka.
View of Umeda Sky Building from the street

Operating Hours: 9:30AM-10:30PM, daily
Admission: JPY 1,500
Closest Subway Station: Umeda Station
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr

Depachika

Have you hard of those ridiculously expensive Japanese melons that sell for over USD 200 apiece? You can find them and other decadent food products at a depachika, which is a high-end food hall located at the basement of luxury department stores.

The melon pictured below costs JPY 21,060 which at today’s exchange rate is about USD 195. Crazy right? You’ll find all kinds of designer fruit at a depachika like giant white strawberries and USD 200 packs of grapes.

There are several department stores around Umeda Station like Daimaru, Hankyu, and Hanshin. They all have depachikas but we suggest checking out the depachika in the basement of the Hankyu department store.

PRO TIP: There are people giving out free tastings at every depachika. Taste as much as you want without feeling pressured to buy anything. Japanese people do it all the time. As my Japanese friend says, only tourists feel pressured to buy things at depachikas.
Expensive melon for sale at a depachika

Operating Hours: 10AM-8PM, Sun-Thurs / 10AM-9PM, Fri-Sat
Closest Subway Station: Umeda Station
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr

Kura Sushi

Kura Sushi is our favorite Japanese kaiten-zushi chain. They have branches throughout the country and it’s something we try to have at least once on every return trip to Japan.

Kaiten-zushi refers to a restaurant that offers sushi on a rotating conveyor belt. Plates of sushi make they way around the restaurant and customers are free to grab whatever they want. It’s a fun way of enjoying cheap but delicious sushi.

At Kura, most plates of sushi go for just JPY 100 or about USD 1. More expensive items can be ordered ala carte via a touch screen menu. Plates are color-coded so you can easily keep track of your bill.

There are several Kura Sushi outlets in Osaka. The closest branch to Umeda Station is about a 10-minute walk away.
Plates of sushi

Address: 3 Chome-9-1 Toyosaki, Kita Ward, Osaka, 531-0072, Japan
Operating Hours: 11AM-11PM, daily
Closest Subway Station: Umeda Station
What to Order: Sushi
Expect to Pay: Around JPY 100 per plate

DAY 2

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle is the city’s most popular historical attraction. It was originally built in 1597 and was at one point the largest castle in Japan.

It’s located in a sprawling park covering an estimated area of 61,000 square meters (15 acres). Apart from the main castle tower, it features over a dozen culturally significant structures like turrets, gates, and a storehouse.

The castle is protected by an outer and inner moat and boasts a lawn garden with 600 cherry trees, making it one of the best places for cherry blossom viewing (hanami) in spring.

You can purchase tickets to Osaka Castle at the gate or in advance through Klook. You can also visit on a guided day tour (Klook | Magical Trip). The tour offered by Magical Trip is a bike tour so it may be a more fun way of exploring Osaka Castle and the area around it.
Osaka Castle in cherry blossom season

Operating Hours: 9AM-5PM, daily
Admission: JPY 600 (Castle Tower), JPY 200 (Nishinomaru Garden)
Closest Subway Station: Tanimachiyonchome, Morinomiya, or Osakajokoen stations
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1.5 – 2 hrs

Takoyaki Doraku Wanaka

Like okonomiyaki, takoyaki is a core Osaka dish and something you need to try at least once. It refers to a ball-shaped snack made with wheat flour batter filled with octopus (tako), tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion.

Takoyaki can be served plain, though it’s more often brushed with takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise and sprinkled with green laver and bonito shavings.

Although they’re in the shape of balls, they have a very delicate coating and are almost liquid-y inside, save for the soft and chewy piece of octopus in the middle.

Takoyaki Doraku Wanaka is one of the most popular takoyaki stands in Osaka. They have multiple branches in the city, including one on the grounds of Osaka Castle Park. You can have a quick takoyaki snack here before proceeding to your next stop.
Takoyaki balls

Address: 3-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002, Japan
Operating Hours: 11AM-10PM, daily
Closest Subway Station: Osakajokoen Station
What to Order: Takoyaki
Expect to Pay: Around JPY 500-800 for 8-15 pcs

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is one of the world’s biggest aquariums. It holds nearly 11,000 tons of water and boasts a main tank measuring 34 meters long by 9 meters deep.

The aquarium houses an estimated 30,000 marine and land animals from 620 species, including otters, sea lions, penguins, rays, jellyfish, and whale sharks.

You can purchase tickets to the aquarium at the gate or in advance through Klook. Check out my article on Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan for more pictures and information.

The aquarium is located in Tempozan Harbor Village so you can catch a train from Osakajokoen Station to Osakako Station. The entire trip should take around 30-40 minutes.
Exhibit at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Operating Hours: 10AM-8PM, daily
Admission: JPY 2,400
Closest Subway Station: Osakako Station
Estimated Time to Spend: About 2-3 hrs

Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel

Just a short walk from the aquarium is Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel. Measuring about 100 meters (328 ft) in diameter, it’s recognized as one of the biggest ferris wheels in the world.

A full rotation takes about 15 minutes. At its apex, you’ll find yourself about 112.5 meters (369 ft) above the ground and taking in terrific views of Osaka Bay.
Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel

Operating Hours: 10AM-9:30PM, daily
Admission: JPY 800
Closest Subway Station: Osakako Station
Estimated Time to Spend: About 15-30 mins

Cup Noodles Museum

If you like instant noodles, then you need to visit the Cup Noodles Museum. It’s a free museum dedicated to instant noodles and serves as a tribute to its inventor and Nissin company founder – Momofuku Ando.

As you can see in the picture below, on the display at the museum are hundreds, maybe thousands of cup noodle packages. Basically every product ever released by the Nissin company will be showcased here.

The exhibits are entertaining but the best part about the museum is the instant noodle factory. For JPY 400, you can decorate and design your own cup of instant noodles to take home as a souvenir.

The Cup Noodles Museum is located in Ikeda so you can take the metro from Osakako Station to Ikeda Station. The entire journey will take a little over an hour.
Cup noodles display

Operating Hours: 9:30AM-4:30PM, daily
Admission: FREE
Closest Subway Station: Ikeda Station
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1-2 hrs

Ippudo

What better dish to have after a visit to the noodle museum than a piping hot bowl of ramen? It’s one of the most famous dishes in Japanese cuisine and a must-have on every visit to Japan.

Less than 5 minutes from the Cup Noodles Museum is the Ikeda branch of Ippudo, a global ramen chain with branches in Asia, Europe, North America, and Australia.

Ippudo started in Fukuoka so they’re famous for their tonkotsu or hakata ramen. It’s a type of ramen known for its milky white broth made by boiling pork bones for several hours until the marrow seeps out. It’s delicious and personally my favorite type of ramen.

You’re probably starving at this point so you may want to order a side of gyoza (Japanese dumplings) and a bowl of chahan (Japanese fried rice) to go with your ramen.

Ramen, gyoza, and chahan are commonly eaten together in Japan. In fact, look around at any ramen restaurant and you’ll find most Japanese customers eating all three.
Ramen at Ippudo

Address: 2-10 Masumicho, Ikeda, Osaka 563-0041, Japan
Operating Hours: 11AM-11PM, daily
Closest Subway Station: Ikeda Station
What to Order: Hakata ramen, gyoza, chahan
Expect to Pay: Starts at around JPY 790 per bowl of ramen

Minoo

If you still have the time and energy, then you may want to go on an easy hike in Minoo. Minoo is home to a national park with scenic hiking trails, a waterfall, and an interesting delicacy known as momiji tempura.

Meiji no Mori Minō Quasi-National Park is one of Japan’s oldest national parks. It’s home to a large population of wild monkeys and a paved trail that leads to a lovely waterfall.

We visited Minoo in late November when the leaves were a symphony of reds, oranges, and yellows. Autumn is one of the best seasons to visit Minoo but it should be lovely at any time of the year.

You can reach Minoo via a 20-minute metro ride from Ikeda Station to Minoo Station. The hike to the waterfall takes about 40 mins each way. The trail is paved and almost entirely flat with plenty of street food stalls along the way.
Frying maple leaf tempura in Minoo

Operating Hours: 24 hrs
Admission: FREE
Closest Subway Station: Minoo Station
Estimated Time to Spend: About 2 hrs

Hisakunikosendo

As described, Minoo is home to an interesting snack called momiji or maple leaf tempura. In fact, it’s said to be the only place in the world where you can have this unusual treat.

To prepare, yellow maples leaves are pickled then coated in a batter made with flour, coarse sugar, and sesame seeds before being deep-fried. They’re stored overnight to remove any excess oil before being sold and eaten the next day.

Momiji tempura is crunchy like a hard cracker and just mildly sweet. It’s sold everywhere in Minoo but one of the best places to try it is at Hisakunikosendo. They’ve been making and selling momiji tempura for almost eighty years.
Maple leaf tempura from Hisakunikosendo

Address: 1 Chome-1-40 Minoo, Osaka 562-0001, Japan
Operating Hours: 9:30AM-6PM, Fri-Wed (closed Thursdays)
Closest Subway Station: Minoo Station
What to Order: Momiji tempura
Expect to Pay: About JPY 400-500 for a small pack

Izakaya Toyo

You’ve had a long day so what better way to end your second day in Osaka than with a cold beer at an izakaya (Japanese pub). And not just at any izakaya, but at Toyo, the izakaya made internationally famous by the Osaka episode of Street Food on Netflix.

Toyo is an izakaya in Miyakojima Ward named after its owner. If you’ve seen that episode of Netflix, then you’ll know that Toyo-san is an energetic and entertaining man known for his aggressive way of blowtorching food.

Judging by all the Japanese customers in office attire, I believe Toyo Izakaya was already popular with locals before that episode aired. But because of Netflix, it’s become popular with international tourists as well.

The place was packed by the time we got there but if you arrive early, then try to get a table near Toyo-san. He’s as much of an attraction here as the food.
Tables at Izakaya Toyo

When we visited Izakaya Toyo, we couldn’t stay long so my Japanese friend and I ordered a large bottle of Japanese beer and the daily special, which turned out to be this sushi and sashimi platter of toro, uni, and ikura.

The uni and ikura were good, but the toro was still almost frozen which was a shame. It was fairly pricey as well at JPY 3,000 so I suggest asking for the menu when you eat here.

Izakayas are known for serving simple bar food like yakitori, kushiyaki, grilled seafood, and ramen. Basically anything that goes well with beer.
Plate of uni, ikura, and toro

Address: 3 Chome-2-26 Higashinodamachi, Miyakojima Ward, Osaka, 534-0024, Japan
Operating Hours: 3:30-8:30PM, Tue-Sat (Closed Sun-Mon)
Closest Subway Station: Kyobashi Station
What to Order: Daily specials
What We Paid: JPY 3,740 for the daily special and one large bottle of beer

DAY 3

Your first two days in Osaka will cover most of the city’s top tourist attractions. On your third day, you can either spend the day at Universal Studios Japan or go on a day trip.

OPTION 1: Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan needs no introduction. It’s one of Osaka’s most visited tourist attractions and features popular theme park rides like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and the Transformers.

A visit to Universal Studios Japan will eat up your entire day so there’s no need to plan anything else. As of this writing, a 1-Day Studio Pass goes for JPY 7,800 for adults and JPY 5,400 for children.

You can purchase tickets at the gate or in advance through KKday. Tickets are sometimes cheaper on third-party sites like KKday so be sure to check their website for a list of USJ deals.

You can check out my article on Universal Studios Japan for more pictures and information.
Hogwarts Castle at night

OPTION 2: Take a Day Trip

One of the best day trips you can make from Osaka is to Kyoto, my favorite city in Japan. It’s long been viewed as the country’s cultural center, home to over a thousand temples and gardens that have earned it a reputation for being the country’s most beautiful city.

Kyoto can be reached in less than half an hour by JR train from Osaka. Being so accessible, many travelers visit both cities on the same trip. Kyoto merits an even longer stay than Osaka, but if you don’t have a lot of time in Japan, then you can spend your third day exploring Kyoto.

One day won’t do Kyoto justice but it’ll give you a small taste of this incredible city and perhaps entice you to come back for a longer trip. You can refer to our Kyoto travel guide to help you plan your trip. If you’d prefer to go on a guided tour, then you can book one through Klook.

An alternative would be Nara which is like a smaller version of Kyoto with deer. For me, Nara isn’t as interesting as Kyoto but it’s more compact and makes more sense to do as a day trip. Check out our Nara travel guide to help you plan a DIY day trip. Otherwise, you can book a guided tour through Klook.

For more recommendations, check out our article on the best day trips to take from Osaka.
Kinkaku-ji

LOCATION MAP

To help you understand where these attractions are in relation to one another, I’ve pinned them all on a map. Click on the link to open the interactive map in a new window.

Map with pins

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