If you’ve only ever been to Tokyo before, you’ll find a different side of Japan in Osaka. Compared to Tokyo, Osaka’s rhythm seems to be at half-time and its mood way chipper. The streets are filled with friendly faces and booming voices… and the mouthwatering smell of hearty, savory food. Welcome to Osaka!
Osaka has long been known “the nation’s kitchen.” The name originates from Osaka’s important role in storing and distributing the country’s goods and produce, thanks to its strategic location right next to Kyoto (the capital at the time) and as the center of the country’s sailing routes. With an abundance of quality ingredients and the support of merchants, Osaka evolved to become the country’s food capital, giving its nickname another meaning.
Now we all know that where there is great food and abundance, people have more time for fun – which is why Osaka’s nightlife is definitely exciting. You can easily spend the night shopping and partying in the city’s downtown districts (Minami-Namba and Kita-Umeda).
During the day, you can enjoy Osaka’s modern architecture and cityscape. You can also hop over to the nearby destinations in Kansai for a change in scenery – Kyoto and Nara are just an hour’s train ride away, Kobe and the international airport are much nearer, and even Himeji and Hiroshima are doable day trips thanks to the shinkansen.
With an amazing local culture, night scene, and accessibility, Osaka is no doubt a great base for a trip to Japan’s Kansai region. If you’re headed to Kansai soon, here’s where to stay in Osaka.
Where to stay in Osaka – neighborhood guide and best accommodations
Quick tips – choosing the best place to stay in Osaka
- If you love being in the center of Osaka’s bustling night scene, stay in Namba. You’ll be within walking distance of Osaka’s best food trails, shopping districts, and hip hangouts.
- If you want to easily explore the rest of Kansai, stay in Umeda. This is a super convenient base for travelers with full sightseeing itineraries. If you’re planning to visit most of Kansai’s top destinations, Umeda is a major transportation hub with easy access to Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, and Himeji.
- If you want a relaxed stay away from the crowds and the bustle of city life, stay in Honmachi or the Osaka Castle Area. For the introverts out there, these districts are your perfect home bases. You won’t be a total recluse as these spots are in convenient central locations, but you can come home to a quieter, more chill neighborhood at the end of the day. You’ll also find great budget hotels here. PLUS, if you’re traveling to Osaka to see the cherry blossoms, staying in these districts gives you front-row seats to the floral show.
- If you’re in Osaka for Universal Studios, stay in the Osaka Bay Area. It’s a bit far from Osaka’s downtown districts, but you’ll be near the two popular theme parks: Universal Studios Japan and the Osaka Aquarium.
If you love food, shopping, and hip hangouts, stay in Namba
Many have hailed Osaka as the world’s greatest food city and the nation’s kitchen, and the center of that much-celebrated food culture is Namba itself. Namba is home to Dotonbori, where you’ll find Osaka’s most popular restaurants and bars. This is the best place to try out Osaka’s regional eats: okonomiyaki (savory pancakes) and takoyaki (octopus balls).
You’ll also find great shopping options in Namba. For international luxury brands, head to Midosuji. For trendy finds, go to Amemura. For traditional souvenirs, sample the wares along Hozenji Yokocho.
Where to stay in Namba, Osaka – top recommendations
★Travelers’ Pick: Swissotel Nankai Osaka is the most luxurious place to stay in Namba, so this is a perfect choice for travelers who are celebrating special occasions. The rooms are amazing, the service is first class, and it’s near to all the exciting places in Osaka. The hotel’s in-house restaurants will also introduce you to authentic Japanese cuisine and a selection of international fare, and the hotel’s spa and swimming pool will help you relax after a full day of adventures in Kansai. Double rooms start at USD 230.
For groups, check out the family rooms at Khaosan World Namba (quad rooms start at USD 140). For a budget option, check out Hostel Rakutsuki (beds start at USD 23).
If you want to easily explore the rest of Kansai, stay in Umeda
Umeda is Osaka’s business district, so this is where you’ll find the skyscrapers, fancy restaurants, and – most important of all – the major transportation hubs. The JR Osaka station and the nearby Shin-Osaka station are important stops that connect Osaka to the rest of Kansai, making the area the perfect jump-off point for adventures in the region.
Umeda itself is a nice district to explore. You can get great views of the city from the Umeda Sky Building and shop and eat at the Tenjimbashi-suji shopping street. For a quick break from the city, walk to Nakanoshima Park, a green island in the middle of the Yodogawa.
Where to stay in Umeda, Osaka – top recommendations
★Travelers’ Pick: You can’t go wrong with The Ritz-Carlton with its prime location in the middle of Osaka’s business district. As you would expect from the Ritz, you’ll find perfect rooms, hotel amenities, and the best staff service. While you can easily walk to major transportation hubs to reach destinations beyond Osaka, you can also avail of their car rental services for a road trip to remember. Double rooms start at USD 390.
For groups, check out the apartments of Hostel Apartment Umeda (apartments start at USD 250). For an amazing budget option, check out Drop Inn Osaka (beds start at USD 20; they also have private twin rooms and family rooms).
If you want a relaxed stay away from the crowds, stay in Honmachi
Honmachi is right in the center of Osaka and between Umeda and Namba. Despite being central and a convenient base to reach both hubs easily, Honmachi is itself a quiet and peaceful area. There aren’t a lot of things to do (which is a plus for us introverts) and the area has lots of affordable hotel options and a couple of great restaurants. You’ll also find Utsubo Park here, which is a great spot for cherry blossom-viewing come spring.
Where to stay in Honmachi, Osaka – top recommendations
★Travelers’ Pick: MOXY Osaka Honmachi pretty much exemplifies the Honmachi experience. This is where you stay if you’re looking for convenience, affordability, and just the right balance of excitement and downtime. It’s a short walk to the Sakaisuji Honmachi subway station (which connects you to the rest of the city), has its own in-house bars where you can socialize and unwind, and has a clean, modern design you’ll love to come home to. Double rooms start at USD 100.
If you’re up for a splurge, St. Regis Osaka will do the job of giving you the perfect holiday in Osaka. It’s right in the middle of Midosuji, Osaka’s high-end shopping street, and this 5-star hotel comes with all the trappings of luxury: restaurants with a view, bars serving fancy cocktails, and large private bathrooms with body jets. You even get your own butler who can take care of all your sightseeing needs, dinner reservations, and event tickets so you can focus on what’s important – having the time of your life. Double rooms start at USD 585.
For families and groups, check out The Rooms Osaka (apartments start at USD 100). For a budget option, check out Hostel Q (beds start at USD 17; they also have double and family rooms).
For cherry-blossom viewing, stay near the Osaka Castle
Like Honmachi, the area around the Osaka castle is great for those who desire a reprieve from Osaka’s busy downtown districts. You’ll get to enjoy sights of the stunning Osaka castle, peaceful strolls in the park, and gorgeous views of the city. It’s only about a kilometer away from the downtown districts, so the bustling city isn’t so far away either.
It gets busy around late March to early April, though, as local and foreign tourists go to the castle park for the best views of the cherry blossoms. Join in on the festivals for an authentic Japan travel experience.
Where to stay near the Osaka Castle – top recommendations
★Travelers’ Pick: Hotel New Otani Osaka couples amazing views with great rooms and hotel amenities. This unbelievably affordable 5-star hotel is a short, leisurely walk from Osaka Castle Park, and near train and subway stations. You’ll also get to enjoy an in-house bar as well as a spa, swimming pool, and fitness center. Double rooms are a steal at USD 130. They also have family rooms for bigger groups. Pro-tip: if you’re coming to Osaka for the cherry blossoms, the best time to visit is the first week of April. Book your rooms early.
For budget options, check out Guesthouse Morizou (beds start at USD 25) and Lucky’s (beds start at USD 25).
If you’re in Osaka for Universal Studios, stay in the Osaka Bay Area
Apart from being a certified foodie haven and the heart of the Kansai night scene, Osaka is also known for two attractions: Universal Studios and the Osaka Aquarium. If these two are on the top of your itinerary, stay in the Osaka Bay Area. You can also hike up Mount Tempozan while there – don’t worry if you’re not particularly fit; it’s Japan’s smallest mountain!
Where to stay in the Osaka Bay Area – top recommendations
★Travelers’ Pick: Hotel Universal Port is practically next door to Universal Studios and a short ferry ride from the Osaka Aquarium. The lobby is like an extension of the theme park with its fun décor, and its rooms come with a fantastic view of the bay and the city. Double rooms start at USD 150; they also have family rooms and facilities for disabled guests.
The Park Front Hotel is also a great option when you need to be near the Universal Studios (double rooms start at USD 195; they also have family rooms). If you want something more budget-friendly and don’t mind a short 5-minute train ride, check out Hostel Jin (beds start at USD 23; they also have private doubles and family rooms) and The Blend Inn (twin rooms start at USD 80; family rooms also available). Both are near the JR Nishikujo station, which connects you to Universal Studios and JR Osaka station.
Map – best hotels in Osaka
Use this map to get around Osaka.
Top tips – traveling in Kansai
Japan’s Kansai region is an amazing place to visit. Plan to spend at least 5 days in the area. Both Osaka and Kyoto are great bases for travel to Kansai, but Osaka is generally more affordable and more accessible.
- Public transportation – It’s easy and convenient to get around Kansai using the trains and subway system. My favorite route finders are Jorudan and Hyperdia, although Google Maps also does the job.
- Train passes – You can save a lot of time and money by getting a train pass before entering Japan. This is especially important when you’re planning to buy a JR Pass – you cannot buy it once inside Japan. If you’re planning to go around Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara, get a Kintetsu rail pass. If you want to reach more areas in Kansai, get a JR Kansai Pass. If you’re visiting cities from other prefectures as well (like Tokyo and Nagoya), it’s well worth to get a JR Pass that will be valid for the whole of Japan. Here are all the passes available for use in Osaka and a comprehensive guide to choosing and using the Japan Rail Pass.
- Stay connected – Navigating Kansai can get a bit tricky, especially with the language barrier. Make use of translation apps and route finders while on the road by getting a pocket Wi-Fi.
- Save on conversion fees – Converting to yen can rack up a painful amount of bank fees, whether you’re exchanging your money at the bank, withdrawing from international ATMs, or paying with your credit card. Save yourself from all that by getting a TransferWise Borderless Mastercard, an international debit card that lets you enjoy your holiday without the bank fees. You can use it to pay anywhere Mastercard is accepted (not just in Japan, but worldwide – they currently support 40+ currency balances) and withdraw from ATMs that cater to Mastercard, with the lowest conversion fees ever. You don’t even have to be a financial techie to get a card – opening an account is simple and you can get your card in 3-5 days.
- Book your tickets in advance – Buy your tickets to Universal Studios and the Osaka Aquarium in advance to avoid long queues and enjoy discounted rates.
- Eat up! – When in Osaka, there’s no other way to go but kuidaore all the way! That means to “eat yourself to bankruptcy”, which is a pretty great way to go down when you’re in Japan’s foodie capital. Don’t miss a trip to Dotonbori in Namba. If you want some guidance as you bust your gut, join a food walk like this.
Read next: Adventures from Osaka
Kansai is a great area to explore. Read these next for more ideas for your Kansai holiday itinerary:
- Hiking Koyasan – If you’re up for an offbeat cultural adventure, a hike up Mt. Koya near Kyoto may be up your alley.
- Spring in Japan – Spring is an amazingly gorgeous time to visit Japan, and Osaka is the best base for exploring Kansai’s spring spots. If you’re visiting at the height of the cherry blossom season, here’s where to check them out.
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I hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Kansai! Osaka is a great city to explore and stay in, so I’m sure you’ll fall in love with the city as much as I did.
If you found this guide useful, please share with your friends and travel buddies. Thanks for reading and happy travels to Japan!
(Photo credits: Osaka Namba by Redd Angelo, Osaka Castle by Oskar Krawczyk, Osaka in spring by Galen Crout, Shinsaibashisuji by Louis Lo / Unsplash.)
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