Where To Stay In Osaka? – Useful Tips For Foreigners
Known as Japan’s third-largest metropolis, Osaka is one of the most attractive tourist spots with diverse cultures and supper friendly locals. In recent times, thanks to the rapid growth of the world economy as well as the tourism industry, the variation as well as the number of accommodations for travelers in the City of Water is increasing daily. In this blog, we’re gonna find out where to stay in Osaka and what you need to consider while booking. Let’s get start!
All You Need To Know About Where To Stay In Osaka
Situated at the mouth of Yodo River on Osaka Bay – the center of Japan, Osaka (大阪) is part of the Kansai region and the biggest among the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto trio. With a strategic position like that, Osaka has long been a bustling port and trading center in Japan. In the old times, Osaka City was once the ancient Japanese capital. After hundred years of rapid industrialization, with the penetration of different cultures around the world, Osaka has become a cosmopolitan city, known as the City of Business in Japan. One thing you may not know is that Osaka is the house of Japanese electronic giants such as Panasonic and Sharp.
Although Osaka is Japan’s second smallest prefecture by size, its population represents 7% of the entire nation, making it the second-most populous prefecture after Tokyo. Furthermore, 10% of all non-Japanese residents live in Osaka.
Why stay in Osaka?
Despite not being as exuberant as Tokyo or culturally rich as its neighbor Kyoto, Osaka has its own incredible attractions to become one of the most favorite destinations in Japan. First is the diversity. The tallest building in the country is here; the oldest shrine in the country is also here. There’s just so much in such a concentrated area. This city offers visitors vast underground shopping malls, extremely ancient castles and a world-class culinary area with various dining and drinking options. It’s also the home of the notable fast food Takoyaki – kinda wheat flour ball with a small piece of octopus inside. Osaka has a total of 24 wards, of which the two major downtown areas are Kita (which literally means ‘north’ in Japanese) and Minami (‘south’).
What’s more, Osaka people are said to be the most humorous, outgoing and fun-loving in Japan. You may be surprised to know that the local baseball Fanclub (of the Hanshin Tigers team) is the most rabid and boisterous one in the country.
Types of accommodation in Osaka
Osaka has endless lodging options varying in all budget classes. The two main types of accommodation in Osaka are hotel and ryokan. Besides that, in this blog, we also introduce you to a good alternative which is capsule. You could be overwhelmed by the huge number of accommodations in the city, so in order to find an affordable hotel or a great ryokan, you definitely have to read a lot of online reviews.
As mentioned before, Osaka has a fantastic selection of hotels, ranging from high end domestic, international hotel chains to cheap capsule hotels. Choosing a hotel depends on what your priority is. Are you planning to check out every tourist spot? Or enjoy not only Osaka but also Kyoto? The location is so important that it can help you to save unnecessary costs for lodging and moving. Don’t forget to compare prices, read real reviews carefully before booking because the rooms can not be as perfect as you see online. Most hotels have their English official websites so that foreigners can easily book a reservation online. Otherwise, you can check Osaka accommodation on Booking.com, Agoda.com or AirBnB.com.
Ryokan is the traditional Japanese-style inn with modern amenities built-in, providing both an atmospheric and comfortable stay. Being reminiscent of the nation’s past, ryokans are highly recommended to those who crave for experiencing a traditional Japanese lifestyle. Luckily, Osaka has few true ryokans. The typical price for two people is $90 per night. Many of them also offer hot spring baths and timeless cuisine.
Mainly targeting a male clientele in need of nothing but a bed, capsule hotels accommodate their guests in non-smoking small capsules. Only with $30-40, you can have a clean and modern Osaka capsule including a TV, coin lockers, pajamas and necessary bathroom amenities. Usually, you can reserve a room with no upfront payment and free cancellation. Pay when you check out.
This new lodging option offers various types of guestrooms, from capsule-style bedding to bunk-bed dormitories to twin-bed economy rooms. It would be best for those who are looking for a budget option but want to avoid the stereotypical older-style hostel choices.
The best area to stay in Osaka
Kita is the daytime heart of Osaka, offering quite a lot of things to do. As the top of the list Best place to stay in Osaka, it ticks all the boxes: the biggest commercial district, the most important transportation hub and a lot of varied attractions appealing to many different tastes. Kita is also famous for its high density of skyscrapers. Among them, the shining 173-meter-high Umeda Sky Building seems to be the most spectacular.
Traveling in this area is extremely convenient as four public transit lines meet here at Osaka/Umeda Station (the JR Line and three private lines: Hankyu, Keihan and Hanshin). These offer quick access to other parts of Osaka, as well as Kyoto, Nara, Kobe and further afield. The Midosuji subway line also stops right in the middle of Kita.
The district itself is like a mini-city and divided into smaller neighborhoods, which we’re going to discover in the next parts.
Umeda (梅田) features as one of the two downtown centers in Osaka (the other one being Namba). You’ll be spoiled for choice by huge shopping, dining, lodging and entertainment centers when travelling in this area. One thing you must try in Umeda is the HEP 5 ferris wheel – an iconic landmark and a cool way to get great views of Osaka and neighboring Kobe. People also visit here to check in with some notable sightseeing spots like the Umeda Sky Building, Osaka Station City and Grand Front Osaka. The Grand Front shopping complex took years to build, but it added a touch of glamour to Umeda and transformed the area into a shopping destination.
Being the most well-connected major transportation hub in Osaka, Umeda is the first choice for those who prefer convenience to culture. It’ll be super easy for you to get around the city and access to surrounding cities like Kyoto and Kobe. Moreover, the fact that Umeda is exceptionally safe and clean makes it the cream of the crop.
Kita also includes neat areas like the traditional and artsy Nakazakicho. Just a few minutes walk from the busy confines of Umeda, the quaint neighborhood is perfect for frivolous meandering through zigzag-side streets looking for funky and unique cafes.
Additionally, Nakazakicho is the kind of place you need to go out of your way to visit, as there are no signposts or anything to indicate that a lost neighborhood lies on the other side of the JR train tracks.
Tenma gets its name from a thousand-year-old shrine called Osaka Tenmangu. Featuring narrow alleys, small restaurants opening up directly onto the street, Tenma is the place where Osakans shop and work by day and go for a good time by night. Here, you can bargain hunt at amazing clothes shops, get to know an authentic side of the city and experience local Japanese life. The famous Tenjinbashi-suji shopping street is the longest in Japan, covering 2.6 kilometers of arcade.
Tenma is also well-known for delicious, affordable and unpretentious food. Come at night and explore a wide selection of hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants.
Our picks for the best hotels in Kita:
Osaka Dai-ichi Hotel
Imperial Hotel Osaka
Toyoko Inn Osaka Umeda Higashi
Located around Namba Station, Minami (南, “South”) is the second worth place to stay (after Kita). Though it’s not as convenient as Kita district (there are only three train lines converge here), Minami is where you can enjoy the most vibrant nightlife in Osaka. It’s a world of neon lights, colorful people and some of the best food on earth.
Though Minami is not as clean and well-ordered as Kita, it is still considered way better than many other downtowns in the world. When you visit Minami, stay in Namba for easy access to Kansai Airport, Dotonbori for nightlife and shopping, Nippombashi (Kuromon Market) for the ultimate foodie.
Delicious street food, hilarious entertainment, and wacky partying are what may pop up first when you get to know this neighborhood.
Stay in Namba to enjoy the great local Japanese atmosphere and bustling nightlife as you see on TV. There is an abundance of reasonably priced restaurants and shops, closing very late at night. Moreover, you can access a wide variety of mid-range and upper-class hotels with bigger room size compared to Japanese standards.
Apart from food and shopping heavens, Namba is also easily accessible by subways and trains, making it a good base for sightseeing in Osaka as well as taking day trips to nearby cities like Kyoto and Nara. Direct access to the airport via train from Namba Nankai Station (40 minutes) or airport bus from Namba OCAT (50 minutes).
A short walk from Namba Station stands the lively and colorful Dotonbori – home to what are considered to be the quintessence of Osaka. With a history dating back to the early 1600s, Dotonbori is one of the oldest and most dynamic parts of the city. The name “Dotonbori” refers to the local businessman who tried to widen the river banks in hopes of increasing trading opportunities. The Dotonbori Canal, which bisects Minami, is clustered with gaudy neon lights, and the enormous variety of restaurants and bars.
The morning ambiance is kinda cozy and quaint, especially when you come along Dotonbori’s narrow, stone-paved paths and visit the Hozenji Temple. When the night falls, you can either stroll along the riverwalk or take a boat cruise on the canal itself to enjoy extravagant neon lights and eat till you drop.
Located at the eastern edge of Dotonbori, Nipponbashi is home of Den Den Town – the district of all geeky things in Osaka. This area offers you maid cafes, anime superstores, character cafes, and second-hand shops selling everything from used games to trading cards. Here you can also try the best street foods in Japan as both Kuromon Ichiba and Dotonbori market are just some steps away.
Our picks for the best hotels in Minami:
Fraser Residence Nankai
Yamatoya Honten (大和屋本店), Dotonbori
Capsule Hotel Astil Dotonbori
First Cabin Midosuji Namba
Nine hours Namba station
3. Honmachi (Central Osaka)
Situated between Kita and Minani, Honmachi and its adjoining districts form the center of Osaka. Though it is much calmer and doesn’t have as many shopping and dining options as the two major districts, Honmachi appears to be a convenient place to stay. If you want to reach Kita or Minami, you can either go on food (within 20-30 minutes) or take the public transport. The Midosuji subway line stopping in the middle of Honmachi will get you wherever you want to go.
Honmachi is a great area where you can enjoy green spaces, fresh air and nice playgrounds. Visit Osaka’s one of the most distinctive places of worship – Namba Yasaka Shrine to see the enormous lion head-shape building and check out the cherry blossoms in spring. As Honmachi is not the most exciting part of the city, most hotels are at reasonably priced mid-range.
Our picks for the best hotels in Honmachi:
St. Regis Osaka
City Plaza Osaka
Positioned at the north end of the city and by the side of Yodo-gawa River, Shin-Osaka is no more than a transport hub, where train travelers from other parts of Japan enter the city. It’s named for the bullet train stop (shinkansen) at its heart. There are plenty of shops and restaurants inside the station itself, including 7-Eleven running 24/7 on the first floor, the Libro bookstore, Kyoto Craft Mart, and Starbucks coffee on the second floor.
This area is best for those who both want to be close to the bullet train station and easily access Osaka downtown. As it’s on the shinkansen line and only 11 minutes from Kyoto, exploring both Kyoto and Osaka without moving hotels would be no problem. Above all, it’s filled with reasonable hotels so you can save a big budget when staying in this area.
Our picks for the best hotels in Shin-Osaka:
Courtyard by Marriott Shin-Osaka Station
Shin-Osaka Station Hotel Honkan
Hotel Morning Box Shinsaibashi
Located in the southeast of central Osaka, the Tennoji (天王寺, Tennōji) and surrounding Shinsekai area are must-visit neighborhoods of Osaka, offering a host of culinary delights and world-famous temples. This area is also home to the tallest skyscraper in Japan – Abeno Harukas and one of Osaka’s largest transportation hubs – Tennoji Station.
It’s quite unbelievable but some years ago, Shinsekai was abandoned and being the poorest area. This entire neighborhood is filled with wooden houses, narrow alleys, and traditional tea shops – everything but new. The 103-metre high Tsutenkaku Tower that you still see at the district’s center is the nostalgia-evoking symbol of Shinsekai. In recent years, Tennoji has undergone a lot of redevelopment. Today when you visit the town, lots of mall complexes, zoological gardens and art museums in the immediate vicinity of the Tennoji station promise to bring you rewarding experiences.
Besides the dining and entertainment district, people also head to Shinsekai to try Osaka’s famous Kushikatsu (deep-fried meat and vegetables). Have you ever noticed the small bars that only have enough space to stand? These bars are called Tachinomi (standing bars), a very unique feature of Tennoji and the Shinsekai area.
Our choices for the best hotels in the Tennoji:
Marriott Miyako Hotel
Kintetsu Friendly Hostel Osaka Tennoji Park
Super Hotel Osaka Tennoji
6. Osaka Catsle area
Normally, tourists will not base their stay in this place since nightlife, shopping and food choices are relatively lacking compared to the central downtown. However, if you are a cherry blossom lover and you wanna see night time illumination, or you visit Osaka for the second time, Osaka castle area is highly suggested for you.
This area is known for the iconic Osaka Castle, with a history that dates back almost 450 years. The subtle balance of colour along with the delicate patterns and shapes have made it a beautiful testament to traditional Japanese architecture.
Apart from Osaka castle, Sakuranomiya Park is also a great spot to enjoy the symbol flower of Japan. Located in the north of Osaka Castle, this place offers a massive concentration of 3,000 cherry blossom trees, creating a breathtaking backdrop by the bank river. During the season (usually from late March to half April), people go to the park to picnic under cherry blossom trees or take part in the biggest flower festival in the year.
Osakajo Hall is a large concert venue and event space that hosts many international headliners. The Osaka Museum of History gives an in-depth look at the city’s past, and the Mint Museum has a number of exhibits on the history of money in Japan.
Since the area is off the beaten, hotels tend to be cheaper and with larger rooms compared to downtown. From this area, you can easily access Osaka Station in Umeda using the JR Osaka Loop Line or visit Kyoto downtown through direct train at Kyobashi Station.
Our recommendations in the Osaka Castle area
Hotel New Otani
The Lutheran Hotel
Hotel Keihan Kyobashi Grande
Hotel Noum Osaka
Tips when choosing a place in Osaka
- Osaka is big, so stay somewhere central and convenient to save your time and money.
- The best areas to stay (in order of preference) are Kita, Minami, Honmachi and the Shin-Osaka Area. Other decent places to stay include the Tennoji Area and the Osaka Castle Area.
- Try to stay near the Midosuji subway line (the red one), as it cuts across the city and is the most important line in Osaka. This line connects Namba downtown, Umeda downtown and Shinkansen bullet train station.
- The peak seasons to travel in a year are March – mid April (cherry blossom season) and November (fall foliage season). Hotels will be super crowded and they get booked out months in advance. So if you’re travelling at this time, remember to make a reservation soon enough.
You can check current available hotels at Agoda.com and Booking.com.
Frequently asked questions
1. Which is the best place to stay in Osaka?
If you love food, dynamic nightlife and modern cityscapes, Namba and Umeda are absolutely the best areas for you to stay. Osaka Castle Area is a great choice for those that are particularly into cherry blossoms.
2. Is Namba Osaka safe?
Japan has a global reputation as a safe country so basically, your safety will be well guaranteed when you travel here. However, Osaka has the highest crime rate among the three metropolises: Tokyo – Kyoto – Osaka, and Chou ward (which includes Namba) is a hotbed for criminal activities, such as smuggle, prostitution and gang violence. While it’s still relatively safe compared to other major cities around the world, you should still be careful.
Bag-snatching and bike thefts are the most common crimes in this area. When you’re in a crowd, public transportation or walking alone in the dark, be alert! If you need help, visit the police box, or Koban – a dispatch area for police officers in Japan. They are usually around train stations, and have “KOBAN” written on them in English.
In case of an emergency, dial 110 for the police and 119 for an ambulance. These lines offer a simultaneous interpretation, which allows you to speak English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese.
3. Is it better to stay in Osaka or Kyoto?
This is a really tough question. Both cities are intriguing and have so much to offer.
Kyoto has a reputation for its deep culture and quaintness. While Osaka is surprisingly attractive and energetic. Also, certain neighborhoods are so much fun. However, if you really have to choose, Osaka would stand out as it locates more centrally in the region. From this city, you can easily take day trips to Nara, Kobe, Himeji, Okayama, Kurashiki, etc. Why not do day trips to Kyoto instead of staying there? It only costs around $10 for a return train ticket and 20-30 minutes traveling by train.
Moreover, there are plenty of hotels in Umeda and Namba Osaka that offer visitors better quality and more affordable prices than ones in Kyoto. On top of that Osaka isn’t without its historical things to see. Osaka Castle is a must-see in the city, and the hidden temples here and there are great to seek out as well.
If you do not mind moving with your luggages, it’s recommended that you stay in both cities and move.
4. Where should solo travelers stay in Osaka?
Well, I’d say the Amerika-mura district isn’t a bad choice. With an excellent location, great bars, and clubs nearby, that cater to solo foreign visitors. You can also meet interesting people and enjoy cheap martinis, as long as you take normal safety precautions when traveling alone.
Hope you’re ready to touch down in Osaka anytime soon. Feel free to leave comments if you still have questions about where to stay in Osaka or need more location guides.