Dating back to 1586, the Osaka Castle is one of the city’s most beloved attractions. One of the most historically significant landmarks in Osaka, you can step inside its interior to discover a museum dedicated to the history of the area and its 16th and 17th-century timeline with an observatory on its eighth-floor. It is a beautiful place for an afternoon stroll throughout the year, while spring its plum tree orchard shows off its blooming flowers in a colorful display of pinks and whites.
Minoo National Park
Just a quick 30-minute train ride from Hankyu Umeda station is Minoo National Park. While not technically part of the city, a walk along the road to the park’s main waterfall is an easy way to escape the suburban sprawl. The main path coming out of Minoo Station is a peaceful walk through paths lined with traditional buildings and temples alongside a scenic river. Minoo is one of the loveliest places in Kansai to see autumn leaves and is well known for the bright red maple trees planted in the area. Don’t pass up an opportunity to eat a fried maple leaf sold by vendors on the side of the road. Not only will you be trying the area’s local speciality, you can also add ‘tree leaf’ to your list of foods eaten in Japan.
Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium
A perfect activity if you’re traveling with the kids, a visit to the Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium means you’ll be able to explore 15 different habitats found on the Pacific Rim with over 30,000 creatures encompassing 620 species. You can meet otters, sea lions, penguins and dolphins, while the walk-through aquarium is the highlight attraction with its diverse marine habitats such as Aqua Gate and Antarctica, along with Great Barrier Reef and Monterey Bay. Make sure to stop by the Pacific Ocean exhibit to meet the massive whale shark.
If there was just one place to visit in Osaka, it would be Dotonbori. This road is the city’s main artery and epitomises Osaka culture. The road is packed full of restaurants and bars trying to lure you in with huge animatronic signs and bright neon lights. At night, the pace is a bit frantic, almost like a scene in a movie, as you’re sucked in and shuffled among the smoking, drinking and gorging crowd. Look for the Kuidaore clown slowly banging his drum and, from the bridge, don’t miss the new LED Glico Man running across the world. Peek into Don Quixote to find every KitKat flavour imaginable and keep an eye out for the host boys with their outrageous haircuts and outfits.
Tennoji Park and Zoo
Tennoji Park and Zoo is Osaka’s largest green space, serving as a respite from the buzzing city center. You’ll find lush foliage that includes fragrant flower displays, while springtime brings the much-loved cherry blossom displays. Walk along the park to admire its beautiful sculptures, ponds and bridges, then take the entire family to the Tennoji Zoo to see a variety of animals roaming through the African savannah-like habitats where you can get up close with lions, giraffes and elephants.
Universal Studios Japan
One of Osaka’s newest attractions, Universal Studios Japan is a great family-friendly attraction and a hotspot for theme park enthusiasts. Nestled in the Osaka Bay area, you’ll find movie-themed thrill rides, live entertainment and a variety of restaurants and shops. Take a ride on Jurassic Park, Spider-Man and Shrek’s 4-D adventure, then explore The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that are based on the popular rides in Universal’s Island of Adventure in Orlando, Florida.
Hozenji is probably one of the smallest temples you’ll see in Japan, but it’ll likely be the most memorable. Right in the middle of crowded Namba is the last place you’d expect to find solitude, but Hozenji manages to be a serene oasis in the middle of this neon jungle. The Buddha kept at Hozenji is covered with a thick layer of moss because of the constant stream of prayers and subsequent splashes of water thrown in his direction. The alleyways surrounding Hozenji hark back to an older Osaka, with cobblestone streets and noren-cloth-covered entryways.