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Best things to do in Osaka

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Where in the world: Asia  /  Japan  /  Kansai  /  Osaka Prefecture  /  Osaka
Things to do in Osaka can take your from touring grandiose examples of traditional Japanese architecture, to taking advantage of exceptional shopping opportunities. Boasting marvelous gardens, an outstanding vantage point, and its own museum, Osaka Castle appeals to history enthusiasts. Attracting families, Universal Studios Japan allows tourists to delve into the fantastic world of blockbuster movies. Nature and animal lovers flock to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, where they can learn about the immense diversity of the country's marine ecosystems. Foodies go to Kuromon Ichiba Market, filled with colorful stalls packed with fresh foods.

Osaka is best known for its Landmarks, Theme Parks, and Parks.

Top 15 things to do in Osaka

1. Universal Studios Japan

Families flock to Universal Studios Japan for the shows, rides, and attractions that fill the park, an installment of the international Universal Studios brand. The park includes a number of the classic rides and sections, such as Marvel comic book roller coasters, a Jurassic Park ride, and a Wizarding World of Harry Potter featuring restaurants, shops, and rides. Research tickets and opening times in advance, as lines can get very long. Note that most of the signs and performances are only in Japanese.
Suggested duration: 6 hours
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2. Osaka Castle, Chuo

Built and rebuilt numerous times since 1653, Osaka Castle looms over its surrounding gardens, moats, imposing stone walls, gates, and turrets. Take the elevator up to the observation deck on the castle’s eighth floor, or wander the garden between the complex’s many structures, stopping in the tea house for a snack. The castle, originally intended to help with the unification of Japan, was captured and changed hands over a dozen times. Visit the museum within to learn more about the castle’s history.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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3. Dotombori District, Dotombori

Whether the lights, the entertainment, or the food draws you to Dotombori District, visit this lively, colorful street to see downtown Osaka. Running along a canal, with promenades on either side and bright, neon signs illuminating the area, this street offers hundreds of restaurants and street food options. Serving as a theater district since the 17th century, the area offers entertainment ranging from traditional puppet theater to multiplex movie theaters.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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4. Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto

Have your wishes granted at Kiyomizu-dera Temple, an independent Buddhist temple and World Heritage Site dating back to 1633. Constructed during the Heian period, the main temple and its famous stage were built without using nails. From the stage, look out onto the treetops below and the view of Kyoto in the distance. In the temple complex, drink from the three streams of the Otowa waterfall, whose waters are believed to have wish-granting powers. At the Jishu shrine to the god of love and matchmaking, try to walk between two stones with your eyes closed: those who are successful will also successfully find love.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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5. Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, Kyoto

Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine serves as the starting point for the hiking trails, covered by densely packed vivid orange gates, that snake up the mountain behind it. This Shinto shrine devoted to Inari, the god of rice, has existed on site since 816 CE and contains several buildings and gates. Visitors hike the paths, which are covered by thousands of parallel donated "torii" gates, to reach the inner shrine halfway up the mountain. Wear comfortable shoes, and stop at the restaurants along the way to sample "abuurage" (fried tofu), considered a favorite food of foxes, the special messengers of Inari.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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6. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Marvel at the beauty of the natural world at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, devoted to the interconnectedness of all life and the brilliant diversity of underwater ecosystems. The aquarium holds about 30,000 species and is organized by geographical region, paying closest attention to the Pacific Ocean. Enter through the immersive tunnel tank, then look for the whale shark, the various species of penguins in the Antarctica section, and the interactive touch tank in the Maldives room, where visitors can pet sharks and rays.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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7. Arashiyama, Kyoto

For centuries a source of respite and escape, Arashiyama offers a glimpse of natural beauty outside of Kyoto. The district has a variety of outdoor activities: visit the Japanese macaques in the monkey park, or take a rowboat out onto the lake. Don't miss the bamboo grove, a gentle uphill trail through densely packed stalks, ending at a historic imperial villa and its surrounding landscaped gardens.
Suggested duration: 6 hours
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8. Gion, Kyoto

Step back in time into Gion, a neighborhood in Kyoto that dates back to the Middle Ages. At the foot of the Yasaka shrine, locals developed this area to provide services to shrine visitors. Today, the neighborhood remains characterized by its wooden "machiya" merchant houses and cascading willow trees. Walk along the scenic Shirakawa canal and stop at a high-end restaurant, or visit an "ochaya" (tea house), where geishas, known locally as geikos, serve and perform for visitors.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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9. Nijo Castle, Kyoto

Originally built in 1603 and holding World Heritage Site status, Nijo Castle presents an exemplary look at Japanese feudal architecture. The castle served as a residence to the first Edo shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and the complex contains two concentric circles of moat and wall fortifications, surrounding the central palace and auxiliary buildings. Observe the sound you make as you walk through the corridors connecting various buildings on the "nightingale floors" designed to make noise and warn guards against intruders.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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10. Himeji Castle, Himeji

A World Heritage Site, Himeji Castle represents the largest structure of its kind in Japan. Constructed in the 14th century, the grandiose castle underwent several major reconstructions since then, surviving two scheduled demolitions, the 1945 bombings, and an earthquake. Admire the imposing structure from the outside, or roam the well-kept interior and labyrinthine garden paths.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto

With its top two stories completely coated in pure gold leaf, Kinkaku-ji gleams in the sunlight and reflects off the pond at its edge. This Zen Buddhist temple started as a villa for a powerful statesman in the 14th century, before its conversion to a temple by the family of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1397. After a high-profile arson in 1950, the temple was rebuilt in its current form with ostentatious gold leaf coating to echo the extravagance of aristocratic culture in Yoshimitsu’s time. Look out for the different historical architectural styles represented by each floor of the temple.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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12. Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street, Chuo

Browse the stores of Osaka's most popular shopping district, Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street. A vast array of stores, restaurants, and food stalls line the covered pedestrian street, always crowded with local shoppers and tourists. Indulge in some retail therapy, window shop, or sample the local delicacies sold at every corner. Drop by any cafe or teashop to relax with a refreshing drink, take in the atmosphere, and people watch.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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13. Nara Park, Nara

Take a stroll among verdant trees and peaceful shrines of Nara Park, established in 1880. The park shelters relatively tame herds of sika deer, free to roam the lawns and gardens at will. Wander through groves of willows and cherry trees to spot picturesque ponds and admire numerous temples sprinkled throughout the park. The deer, although friendly, occasionally exhibit aggressive behavior in the presence of food--if you wish to feed them, purchase some rice crackers and keep your snacks away from their sight.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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14. Mint Museum

Take a tour of Mint Museum, the facility responsible for the production and circulation of Japanese coins, and home to an attractive garden of cherry blossoms. Inaugurated in 1871, the head office has been responsible for the creation of Japanese currency and medals of honor. Take a guided tour of the facility, which introduces the machines, governmental hierarchy, and measures that have helped it do its work. Visits to the cherry blossom gardens and adjoining museum offer contrasting, but similarly enriching experiences.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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15. Osaka Shiritsu Toyo Toji Museum

Find masterpieces of East Asian ceramics at Osaka Shiritsu Toyo Toji Museum, with over 6,000 items mainly from Korea and China. The three-story museum boasts one of the finest ceramics collections in the world, focusing on fine craftsmanship rather than the history of ceramics. Viewed in naturally lit galleries, these pieces belong to national treasures of three countries: ancient Korea, China, and Japan. An informative video explains how this treasure was unearthed, and how it's been preserved and displayed. After visiting the museum, stop for a drink in the tea salon.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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