I first spent two days in Osaka in 2017 and while I thought the city was cool, I didn’t love it.
Skip forward to December 2023 and I visited Osaka for the second time and ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT.
This time around we extended our 2 day Osaka itinerary to 4 days that also included day trips. But I also think the big difference was that this time I had money to spend on food (last time I was a backpacker on a tight budget eating at convenience stores) and this time I also massively appreciated why Osaka was so different from Kyoto and Tokyo - and I love that about the city.
So if you’re planning a 2 day Osaka itinerary, I hope my new-found-love for the city and repeated visits will help you plan the best Osaka itinerary and what to see in Osaka for 2 days.
Perhaps you only visit on a short detour from Kyoto or on your way south to Hiroshima or Fukuoka. Or maybe cheaper flights mean you’re planning a 2 week Japan itinerary starting in Osaka - whatever your reason, I think a 2 day trip to Osaka is worth it.
How to get to Osaka
From Kansai International Airport to Osaka City
If you’re flying into Osaka to kick off your Japan itinerary, then you will be arriving at Kansai International Airport (KIX).
From the airport there are several ways to reach the city:
1. For Namba Station: The Airport Express (Nankai-Kuko Line) takes around 40 minutes to reach Namba Station and departs from Kansai-Airport Station every 10 minutes - costs 970 yen.
2. For Osaka Station: The Kanku-Rapid Kansai Kuko Line takes around 65 minutes to reach Osaka Station and departs from the airport approximately every 15 minutes and costs 1,210 yen.
3. For Tennoji Station or Osaka Station: The JR Haruka Limited Express bound for Kyoto takes around 45 minutes and departs from the airport every 30 minutes - costs 2,740 yen (or included in your JR rail pass)
4. For Osaka-Umeda Station: The Kansai-Airport Limousine Bus (Airport Shuttle Bus) takes 1 hour and departs from the airport bus station every 15 minutes - costs 1,600 yen
5. Taxi: Taxis are notoriously expensive in Japan and a 1 hour ride from the airport to Osaka city will cost around 20,000 yen
Kansai Airport has a great travel planner here to help you plan your transfer.
We did option 1 as we were staying around 5 minutes from Namba Station, in Nipponbashi. The 40 minute ride was super straightforward and the cost was great too!
How to get around Osaka
We actually found Osaka the easiest city to navigate between Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.
Not that the others are difficult but obviously Tokyo is HUGE and getting where you want to be on the subway can take an hour or more.
Kyoto we found the old town Gion area walkable and trains out of the city were great, but the subway was a bit limited and we used buses mostly.
However for our Japan Osaka itinerary, we found it to be easily the most walkable large city we visited and the subway and trains were so easy to navigate.
We chose to just buy train tickets as and when we needed them but you may want to consider an IC Card or an Osaka amazing pass - 2 days. I will say that the pass is only worth it if you’re going to go to several of the attractions included, as we weren’t planning to, it wasn’t worth the cost.
Is 2 days in Osaka enough?
I think seeing Osaka in 2 days is plenty of time to see the main sights of the city.
However I would recommend longer if you are planning to use one of your days to visit Universal Studios in Osaka. This sample itinerary for Osaka is only for the city itself.
The same also goes for if you’re planning any other day trips from Osaka. We spent 4 days in Osaka in total to allow for 2 day trips that we did.
If your Osaka itinerary is longer than two days, here are some day trips I suggest:
Universal Studios Osaka
Kyoto (if you don’t already have it on your itinerary)
Where to stay in Osaka for two days?
We stayed in Nippombashi and loved the location - it was perfect to walk to a lot of the places to visit in Osaka that we wanted to see. It was also close to Namba Station which was ideal for getting to Osaka Castle and Minoh Park.
We stayed at Nippombashi Crystal Hotel which was great - modern, free wifi, free snacks and hot drinks, great amenities and helpful staff. The room was a bit small but we had stayed in smaller one in Tokyo so it was not the end of the world!
Here are some other well-located accommodation options to consider for your 2 days in Osaka itinerary:
Best things to do in Osaka: 2 day itinerary
Osaka: Day 1
Namba Yasaka Shrine
Start your day at this free Shinto temple located in Namba. It’s a small temple complex and you probably only need to be there around 15-20 minutes but the standout is the HUGE dragon head where the dragon's mouth is a performance stage.
Definitely one of the most unique temples I’ve seen in Japan and a photo-worthy spot in Osaka.
Next, head over to Osaka Castle. You can get here from the shrine by walking to Namba Station and taking the Sennichimae and the Tanmachi Lines.
When you visit Osaka Castle, it’s a personal preference on whether you want to go inside or just admire it from the outside.
The gardens and grounds are free to visit and absolutely beautiful throughout the year. The castle itself dates back to 1597 and is truly a beautiful building to see.
You can visit the castle and go inside for a very affordable fee of just 600 yen. However, from 10am onwards, expect there to be a queue to get in! Especially during the cherry blossom and autumn seasons when crowds are biggest.
On the top floor the panoramic deck has great views of the grounds and the city.
I went inside during my first visit in 2017 but chose not to a second time as the queues were long!
Instead I recommend going to the Japanese Garden in the grounds which is a much quieter area but with beautiful views of the castle.
Pro tip: Alternatively for an Osaka hidden gem that offers a beautiful view of the castle itself, the nearby Blue Birds Rooftop has a roof terrace with spectacular views of the castle. You can eat here or just come for drinks.
Dotonbori and Glico “Running Man” sign
Next, head back into the centre of Osaka to see one of the most iconic stops on your 2 day Osaka itinerary.
Dotonbori is arguably the most famous area of Osaka and one of the top things to do in Osaka on any itinerary!
Dotonbori is the colourful and lively entertainment district in the heart of Osaka surrounding the canal. The area is full of brightly coloured billboards and signs, popular restaurants, theatres, street music and shops.
I honestly recommend seeing it both during the day and at nighttime for the full experience.
One of the most famous spots is the Osaka “Running Man” sign, this is a Glico advertisement which was installed in 1935 by the confectionery company and has become an icon of Osaka.
You can find the exact location of the sign next to Ebisubashi Bridge which is the best viewpoint for the sign. Or search for “Dotonbori Glico Sign” in Google Maps.
Pro tip: While there are lots of famous restaurants in the Dotonbori area, I can’t attest to having tried any of them. We did find similar famous Osaka foods that were much cheaper a street or two away from this area. So be warned - you will pay a premium to eat on the main streets in Dotonbori.
Don Quijote Dotonbori
One of my favourite discoveries in Asia during 2023 was the Don Quijote shops!
These are huge discount stores with floors and floors of everything you could possibly need or think of. From a supermarket to luxury watches and bags, luggage, fancy dress, beauty products, stationary, toys, homewares and more.
The famous “Don Don Donki” theme tune will be blasting throughout the store, combined with the colourful signs and lights, this whole store is more of an “experience”!
But if you need to buy literally anything during your trip to Japan, you’ll find it in a Don Quijote and you’ll probably leave with something you didn’t even need as well.
What makes the Don Quijote in Osaka unique is the huge ferris wheel on the front of the store which overlooks Dotonbori. If you’re looking for weird and fun things to do in Osaka - this is a great option. The ferris wheel costs 600 yen to ride.
Okonomiyaki Sanpei for dinner / Gyoza Ninoni
For dinner I highly recommend you try Okonomiyaki while you’re in Osaka.
Okonomiyaki is one of the famous foods in Osaka and it’s basically a savoury pancake loaded with fillings of your choice.
We found Okonomiyaki Sanpei which is a tiny restaurant with room for around 10 people. The restaurant does a run of service at the same time so you queue outside. Wait for the current group to finish, and then the restaurant brings in the next 10 people.
his is because all the okonomiyaki are made on hot plates right in front of you and to make the process easier for the staff, every step is done at the same time for everyone in the restaurant. This also means you can only order once, so make sure you order everything you need at the start, otherwise if you want more food you have to go back outside and queue again!
This was one of my favourite experiences in Osaka and the price was amazing for basically dinner and a show with your food made fresh right there in front of you.
Note that the restaurant is open 12-3pm and 5-10pm. I recommend being there before 5pm to join the queue. We got lucky and were at the front of the queue for the second group at around 5.30pm. But by the time we came out at around 6.15pm the queue was 20+ people long.
Also the restaurant is kind of hidden down a walkway under an apartment building - look for the red lantern hanging outside the door.
If you don’t fancy queuing for your dinner or if you’re still hungry afterwards, I highly recommend the nearby izakaya - Gyoza Ninoni.
These were THE BEST gyoza of our whole trip and the small plates here were so affordable. We came here another night of our trip and had 4 beers and around 8 small plates, which all came to just £17.
Overall the atmosphere was so fun here too and I’d recommend coming here for lunch or drinks too if you’re looking for affordable places to eat in Osaka.
Osaka: Day 2
Nipponbashi Denden Town
We were able to easily visit this area as it’s the area we were staying in. It’s a fun area to wander around and see the sheer number of tech stores, video gaming arcades and anime stores - definitely an insight into the modern culture of Japan which I think is seen more in Osaka than in Kyoto or Tokyo.
However if you are an anime, manga or video gaming fan then visiting this district is essential. You could easily spend hours in this small district exploring all the tech and gaming stores as well as looking for collectibles or the latest manga.
Shinsaibashi Shopping Street
If shopping is more your thing, you can’t miss Shinsaibashi shopping street in Osaka.
This covered shopping street is full of shops, street food and souvenir stores all selling everything you could possibly want or need.
I have to say I am not a shopping person. I never usually shop while I travel, however I quickly realised that Osaka had a vast amount of second-hand, vintage and thrift stores and WOW the prices are incredible.
These are not people’s gross second-hand items, these are designer and durable items that will last and our Osaka 2 days trip quickly became our opening into the amazing world of Japan thrifting - it’s a big thing once you know about it!
I purchased a Columbia Outdoor down jacket for just £16. We got a Pendleton fleece for £25. I found a unique 100% wool Icelandic sweater for £15. We also found (but didn’t have the luggage allowance) for a wax Barbour jacket for £40.From North Face to Zara to vintage American sports jackets, the secondhand shops were a treasure trove.
There are too many to count in the Shinsaibashi shopping street but some of our favourites were:
Shin Sekai / New World
Known as the Osaka Business Park area, it’s up to you if you want to see Shinsekai during the daylight or at night. It’s already very colourful and quirky during the day, but at night it comes alive with restaurants, music, bars and colourful lights and signage.
We visited both in the day and evening - both were a lot of fun and you can see pictures of both below.
If you would prefer to go at night then you can swap it with the next stop, which is right next door.
This area is famous for the Osaka food, Kushikatsu which is basically deep fried everything on a stick with various dipping sauces. We visited the Kushikatsu Daruma - Dobutsuen-mae restaurant in Shin Sekai New World and tried the platter which had deep fried fish, meats, sweet potato, cheese, pumpkin, scallops, rice and quail egg.
It sounds like a lot but you only get one of each and it ended up being more of a snack for us than dinner so bear in mind if you’re looking for a lunchtime or mid-afternoon snack.
Tennoji Park (optional zoo)
This park is well worth a visit just to see what’s going on there.
On my first visit there were cherry blossom trees in bloom, on my second visit there was a German Christmas Market there. They also have summer cinemas, lots of popup shows and events and the gardens themselves are wonderful to wander around and explore. Plus there is also the Osaka City Museum and shrines.
If you’re travelling with young children, they might also be interested in the Tennoji zoo here which has over 200 animal species and costs just 500 yen for adults, 200 for children and preschoolers or younger are free.
Menya Nosuta Ramen
If you eat at one place on your Osaka two day itinerary, make it here.
Not only is this one of the best ramen I’ve ever eaten, but it’s also the biggest serving for the best price.
Menya Nosuta Ramen is famous for their ramen bowls which are piled high with food. But don’t let that fool you into thinking the quality is less.
Like many izakayas, the food is made right there in front of you, including watching them hand-pull the noodles. The broth is incredible and I love that the meat wasn’t fatty either (my usual complaint for a lot of pork ramens)
There is usually a line outside from around 7pm onwards but there are around 15 seats inside and it moves quickly. You place your order at the ramen ticket machine inside once the member of staff has called you into the restaurant.
FAQs: 2 days Osaka
Is Osaka Japan worth visiting?
Osaka is a haven for food lovers and also shopping (especially second hand and vintage shopping). The city felt more “real”, young and authentic out of Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka. Obviously there are still tourist attractions but we met a lot more locals and had a more city-like experience which is absolutely worth seeing and experiencing in contrast with other popular destinations in Japan.
Is Osaka or Kyoto better?
They are completely different. If you want history, shrines, temples, ancient streets and “pretty” places to see autumn foliage or cherry blossoms, then go to Kyoto.
If you want a city experience, bright colours, amazing food, great shopping, great day trip options and affordable prices go to Osaka.
Is Osaka cheaper than Tokyo?
Absolutely yes. And cheaper than Kyoto too.
What food is Osaka known for?
There are many foods popular and famous in Osaka but some of the most famous foods in Osaka that you have to try on your Osaka travel itinerary are okonomiyaki (a type of savoury pancake with lots of toppings and takoyaki (fried octopus balls).
Summary: the ultimate 2 day Osaka itinerary
Hopefully this 2 day Osaka itinerary helps you plan the best way to see Osaka in two days for your trip.
I think Osaka is often dismissed as it’s not the “traditional” Japanese culture that people travel to Kyoto for, or the big craziness that you get in Tokyo.
But after returning to Osaka I now see it as a far more authentic Japan, traditionally rooted in a more working-class city which has produced a vibrant street food culture, a more friendly and welcoming attitude from locals and a more young, open-minded culture which puts it at the forefront of business and innovation.
Osaka is not only a convenient place to start or end your trip due to the international airport, it’s also the city that had the biggest contrast and lively identity that I felt during our whole trip and I hope this Osaka travel guide reflects that!
Let me know if you use this itinerary in Osaka!
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