12 Best Day Trips from Osaka: Sightseeing Highlights
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Located on the island of Honshu, Osaka is a culturally dynamic city with a wealth of memorable holiday experiences, from the vibrant Dōtonbori dining and nightlife precinct to numerous national museums. However, Osaka is also surrounded by some of Japan’s top sightseeing hotspots, making it the ideal base for enthralling day trips.
From thousands of deer at Nara and the flourishing art scene in Naoshima Island to the largest freshwater lake in Japan and the family-friendly rides at Universal Studios Japan, there’s a diverse range of experiences in this exciting region. All of these and many more can be easily reached from Osaka, giving you a true insider’s perspective of Japan’s historic, natural and contemporary attractions.
In addition to highlighting the best day trips from Osaka, we’ve also recommended the most popular Osaka hotels to ensure you have a comfortable, luxurious and affordable place to call home.
1. The Harbour City of Kobe
Nestled between Osaka Bay and the rugged Rokko mountain range, Kobe is a picturesque port city about a 50-minute train ride from Osaka. The town is world-famous for its sumptuous Kobe Beef, which can be sampled in many of the city’s teppanyaki restaurants. However, if you prefer to see the city from the water, organise a romantic Kobe Dinner Cruise, which combines teppanyaki with live jazz music.
Indulge in one of the city’s premier onsens, such as the renowned Arima Onsen, which features mineral-rich hot springs in a tranquil mountain setting. Looking for a bird’s-eye view of Kobe? Travel up the Shin-Kobe Ropeway, which passes the Nunobiki Waterfall and Nunobiki Herb Garden before revealing panoramic city vistas.
Venture into Kobe’s Nada district to taste the city’s famous sake from one of the breweries or head to Kobe Harborland for extravagant shopping and live entertainment. Don’t miss the informative Earthquake Museum, which showcases exhibits on the 1995 earthquake in Kobe.
2. History & Deer at Nara Park
Located about a one-hour train ride from Osaka, Nara Park is a popular spot for both history and nature enthusiasts. Most visitors flock to the park to see around 1,200 resident wild sika deer, which are quite tame and used to humans. You can purchase deer crackers at various points around the park to feed the deer and some have even been trained to bow when asking for a cracker.
However, there’s more than deer to see in Nara Park, which was established in the 1300s and is a designated “Place of Scenic Beauty”. Stretching for over 502 hectares, Nara Park includes the revered Kasuga Shrine and Kōfuku-ji Buddhist temple. You can also visit the sacred Tōdai-ji Buddhist temple, which features architectural national treasures and numerous sculptures within its gardens.
Rickshaws are available to transport you around Nara Park to certain attractions. Alternatively, you can organise a one-day private tour of Nara from Osaka, which includes seeing the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue at the Great Buddha Hall.
3. Sombre History at Hiroshima
Best known for the atomic bomb that landed on it during World War II, Hiroshima remembers this tragic history with beautiful and moving memorials. Visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, which commemorates the lives lost with a prominent memorial structure and Children’s Peace Monument.
The Hiroshima of today is a thriving city with rich traditions, fascinating history and modern entertainment. Don’t miss seeing the reconstructed Hiroshima Castle, which reflects the original 16th-century fortress and is surrounded by pink cherry blossoms in spring. You’ll find an equally stunning landscape in Shukkeien Garden, which mimics a range of natural sights in miniature forms, such as mountains, valleys and forests.
Stroll along the shop-lined streets of Downtown Hiroshima to discover fashion boutiques, fine-dining restaurants and bars along the pedestrianised Hondori Street. Afterwards, get up close with lions, exotic birds and tigers at the Hiroshima City Asa Zoological Park.
4. The Art Paradise of Naoshima Island
You’ll need to catch a train and ferry to Naoshima Island, but it’s worth the trip thanks to its contemporary art museums, futuristic architecture and Mediterranean atmosphere. You’ll find sandy beaches scattered around the island, in addition to inland mountains, secluded bays and the Naoshima Fishing Park.
Naoshima island is a hub for artists and art lovers, where you can simply wander along the streets and along the coastline to see intricate sculptures and murals. One of the best spots for art is the Art House Project, where abandoned houses, workshops and a temple have been transformed into public art installations.
Combine art with pampering at I Love Yu, a public bathhouse that also displays the works of Japanese artists. Afterwards, visit some of the nation’s best creative institutes, including Chichu Museum and Benesse House, the latter of which offers accommodation in an art museum.
5. Edo History at Kanazawa
Kanazawa was once the seat of the powerful Maeda Clan during the Edo period and still retains much of its historic structures and proud centuries-old traditions. You’ll definitely want to make a day of it in Kanazawa, where you can explore atmosphere medieval streets, contemporary shopping and entertainment precincts and the fascinating Nagamachi samurai district.
Nature lovers should visit the prized Kenrokuen Garden, considered one of the three most exquisite gardens in Japan thanks to its traditional bridges, water features, teahouses and cherry blossoms. Afterwards, immerse yourself in Edo history at Myoryuji Temple, which has earned the nickname “Ninja Temple” from its hidden tunnels, rooms, traps and escape routes.
Culture vultures can visit the Higashi Chaya District to watch classic Geisha performances in teahouses. Don’t miss the bustling Omicho Market, the city’s largest market for fresh food including seafood and local produce. You’ll also find stalls selling flowers, clothing and local delicacies.
6. Natural Spoils at Lake Biwa
The largest freshwater lake in Japan, Lake Biwa has inspired numerous poems and has been the site of various historic battles. Dating back over four million years, Lake Biwa is also one of the world’s oldest lakes, home to almost 50 native fish including cyprinids, silurid catfish and the rare Biwa trout.
A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Lake Biwa is particularly stunning during spring when the cherry blossoms bloom. However, it’s also a hotspot for culture and history, with numerous landmarks nestled on its shores. Don’t miss a stroll along the Meiji-period Lake Biwa Canal or the 17th-century Hikone Castle, which has an informative on-site museum.
7. Beautiful Traditions at Kyoto
Kyoto is an easy one-hour drive or train ride from Osaka, letting you combine two of Japan’s best cities in one holiday. The former capital of Japan, Kyoto is filled with beautiful shrines, temples and historic buildings that showcase the city’s rich traditions.
History lovers should visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace, which housed the Imperial Family until 1868, or the Kyoto National Museum, where you can admire centuries-old artwork and artefacts. If you’re visiting during autumn, soak up the brilliant red leaves at Tofukuji Temple or Daigoji Temple. During spring, head to Nijo Castle or Kiyomizudera Temple to admire pink cherry blossoms.
Time your visit to Kyoto for one of the enthralling yearly events, such as the historic Jidai Matsuri parade or Gion Matsuri, which features float processions and traditional costumes. Want to see the city’s most iconic sights? Take a private one-day tour of Kyoto with a knowledgeable guide.
8. Sacred Buddhist Culture at Mt Koya
Considered one of Japan’s holiest mountains, Mt Koya is the religious hub of Shingon Buddhism, a sect dating back to the 1st century. This sacred site is about a 90-minute train ride from Osaka and treats you with its secluded temple-strewn township built on a forested mountaintop.
Called “Koya-san” in Japanese, this Buddhist community is home to over 100 temples and monasteries, including the famous Kongobuji Temple, which showcases the story of Koya-san and has Japan’s largest rock garden. Stroll through the atmospheric Okunoin Cemetery, where you can see ancient tombstones and eventually reach Torodo Hall, which features over 10,000 lanterns lit year-round.
Active travellers can take on the 23.5-kilometre-long Koyasan Choishi Michi hiking trail, which can be shortened to 9.5 kilometres for day trippers. Looking for a truly unique experience? Organise a night at one of the temple lodges, where you can experience an authentic monk lifestyle, including morning prayers and traditional cuisine.
9. The Ancient Architecture of Himeji Castle
A combination of trains and buses from Osaka will get you to the storied Himeji Castle in about 1.5 hours. Considered the finest surviving example of Japanese castle architecture, the entire fortification comprises 83 buildings constructed during the feudal period. You can also see ancient defence systems and beautiful cherry blossom trees.
Stroll around the castle grounds to admire the 14th-century fortifications while navigating tree-lined pathways and impressive gates. You’ll learn about the castle’s advanced defensive measures as you explore the labyrinthine pathways to the six-storey main keep. Climb the narrow staircases to the top floor to see a small shrine and admire views that highlight the maze-like lanes below.
Don’t miss seeing the dominating Hishi Gate or the Nishinomaru bailey, which once housed the famous Princess Sen. There’s also various lore surrounding the castle, including the ghost story of Banchō Sarayashiki and the legend of the Old Widow’s Stone.
10. Echizen Washi Village
Discover a 1,500-year-old tradition at Echizen Washi Village, about a 1.75-hour train ride from Osaka. This Japanese art of papermaking incorporates traditional tools to create letters, envelopes, paper screens and wallpaper. You can learn about the classic techniques at Echizen Washi Village while watching the papermaking artisans at the Udatu Paper & Craft Museum.
If you want to get hands on, attend a workshop run by experienced papermakers, where you learn the step-by-step process of washi. If you prefer to delve deep into the history of papermaking, visit the Paper & Culture Museum, which showcases exhibits on washi, including centuries-old paper creations. Afterwards, stroll around the Goka area to visit two revered shrines dedicated to paper deities.
11. Family Fun at Universal Studios Japan
Want a day-long adventure, but don’t want to travel too far? Universal Studios Japan is only 10 kilometres from the centre of Osaka, but you’ll want to dedicate an entire day to this world of family fun and entertainment. Comprised of 10 exhilarating worlds, the action-packed theme park is a haven of high-speed roller coasters, beloved characters, exciting shows and delicious treats.
Fans of Harry Potter shouldn’t miss The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, home to iconic stores from the books, including Ollivanders, Zonko’s Joke Shop and Honeydukes. If you love adrenalin-pumping thrills, jump on the Hollywood Dream, Jurassic Park or The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man rides.
Don’t forget about the live shows, such as Shrek’s 4-D Adventure, Universal Monsters Live Rock and Roll Show or the wet and wild WaterWorld stunt show. Stop for some lunch at Snoopy’s Backlot Cafe, Mel’s Drive-In or Lost World Restaurant.
12. The White-Sand Shirahama Beach
Need a beach break? Japan has you covered with the picturesque white sands and crystalline water of Shirahama Beach, only a little over two hours’ train ride from Osaka. This popular beach getaway is about 800 metres long and features excellent surfing waves, waterfront restaurants and souvenir shops.
There are thatched huts along the sand or you can rent beach umbrellas from rental stands along the shoreline. If you want to add some pampering to your beach trip, check out one of the hot springs near the beachfront. Visit Saki-no-Yu for over 1,350 years of history and panoramic ocean vistas or head to Shirasuna to combine the open-air hot spring with the cool ocean water.
5 Most-Popular Hotels in Osaka
Positioned in the heart of Osaka, InterContinental Osaka delivers an exceptional level of opulence and service near the city’s biggest attractions. The spacious guest rooms feature glistening city vistas, freestanding baths, rich natural finishes and bathrobes. Amplify your luxurious experience by booking a Residential Suite, which boasts a high-end kitchen, dining room and lounge room.
Indulge in the on-site facilities, from the 24-hour gym and 20-metre indoor swimming pool to the onsen-style hot spring bath at a traditional Japanese guest house. Are you a foodie? Enjoy traditional Japanese cuisine at NOKA Roast & Grill or authentic French fare at Pierre. There’s also the on-site adee bar and STRESSED patisserie for casual occasions.
Star Rating: 5*
Price: AUD 318 – AUD 1,256
Guest Rating: 9.4
Address: 3-60, Ofuka-cho, Kita, Osaka, Japan
The four-star Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel occupies a prime position on the top floors of Japan’s tallest building, treating you to uninterrupted city views from every room. With 360 rooms to choose from, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to affordability or unbridled luxury. The latter is best experienced in the Imperial Suite, which boasts antique furnishings, spa bath and entire walls of windows.
Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel doesn’t hold back on the facilities. Admire Western and Japanese art in the ABENO HARUKAS Art Museum, work out in the 38th-floor Fitness Gym, enjoy a cocktail in the Club Lounge or drink authentic Italian espresso at Caffe Ciao Presso Abeno Harukas.
Star Rating: 4*
Price: AUD 221 – AUD 409
Guest Rating: 9.4
Address: 1-1-43 Abeno-suji, Abeno, Osaka, Japan
Fraser Residence Nankai Osaka is positioned on the doorstep of Kansai, Japan’s cultural and historical hub. Yet this luxurious hotel focuses on contemporary comforts and convenience with its exceptional business and leisure facilities, including a 24-hour gym, steam room and sauna, on-site cafe and eight-person meeting room.
Enjoy a range of self-contained accommodation at Fraser Residence Nankai Osaka, thanks to its spacious studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. Each one features a kitchen, complimentary Wi-Fi, washer/dryer and views of the city. There are also free children amenities, Japanese-style bath salts and one-hour access to the on-site meeting room each day.
Star Rating: 4*
Price: AUD 215 – AUD 287
Guest Rating: 9.3
Address: 17-11, Nambanaka 1-chome, Naniwa, Osaka, Japan
Perfect for families who love both luxury and convenience, The Park Front Hotel at UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN is under five minutes’ walk from the entrance to Universal Studios Japan. This extravagant hotel combines its prime location with almost 600 exquisite rooms, all of which feature family-friendly extras, such as cribs, bed guards, child nightwear and children slippers. Each room also boasts an LCD TV, free mineral water and air purifier.
Dine on-site at the hotel’s buffet restaurant, which dishes up delicious Japanese and Western cuisine alongside panoramic views of the theme park. There are also shops on site, including CANDY SHOW TIME and Tully’s Coffee.
Star Rating: 4*
Price: AUD 208 – AUD 254
Guest Rating: 9.2
Address: 6-2-52, Shimaya, Konohana, Osaka, Japan
Hotel Universal Port is under 500 metres from Universal Studios Japan, but also places you within a 30-minute train ride from the centre of Osaka. This family-friendly hotel offers a range of accommodation to suit all budgets, from the cosy Standard Rooms and spacious Family Rooms to the finely-furnished Premium Palace with theme park views, separate living room and palace-themed bed.
You can enjoy a range of dining experiences at Hotel Universal Port, including a hearty breakfast buffet, full-course dinner and a casual cafe with hanging T-Rex skeleton. Need some relaxation? Kick back with a pampering treatment in the on-site Refresh Salon UNWIND.
Star Rating: 4*
Price: AUD 144 – AUD 270
Guest Rating: 9.1
Address: 1-1-111 Sakurajima, Konohana, Osaka, Japan
Osaka: Your Gateway to Japan
Osaka is more than just a city. It’s a springboard to incredible Japan holiday experiences that will leave you wanting to explore more of this dynamic country. Affordable hotels with luxurious touches and on-site spas and restaurants provide the perfect base for your sightseeing adventures.
What day trips do you want to take from Osaka? Let us know in the comments.