The best free activities in Osaka
Dotonbori , Osaka
Credit: Nina Bernardi
The famous bridge of Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka.
Credit: Nina Bernardi
Visiting Osaka on a budget?
As in many cities of the world, you can wander the streets of Osaka without spending a penny. And in Osaka, some of the streets themselves are spectacles on their own! Shrines, parks and other public sites can often be visited for free, and they offer moments of relaxation and calm in a busy day. There are also many festivals and fireworks displays that enliven the city throughout the year. So enjoy it!
The best areas in Osaka
This is the "flashy" district, with its outlandish and colorful shops, neon lights that brighten the streets and are reflected in the Dotonbori canal that runs along the street of the same name. There's an electric atmosphere here, and you can enjoy cheap but delicious foods like ramen, takoyaki and more in the many restaurants and stalls that animate the neighborhood.
It's also in this district that you'll see the famous "Glico man" light-up sign. In the era of social networks, expect to queue if you want to be photographed in front of this iconic Osaka billboard.
A tip: go there in the day and at night, to experience the different moods.
- To read: Dotonbori
Address: 1 Chome-9 Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, 542-0071 Osaka
Literally "American village", Amerika-mura is named because it houses a mini statue of Liberty. There's also a clown statue of Uncle Sam.
It's the Harajuku of Osaka. Here, trendy fashion stores sit side by side with kawaii shops and trendy cafes. The youth of Osaka are having a blast, and cosplayers and fashionistas gather at the weekend at Triangle Park. Go there for a visual feast - you can people-watch and see the latest trends in this great city.
- To read: Amerika-mura
Address: 1 Chome Higashishinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, 542-0086 Osaka
It might be difficult for you not to crack and spend nothing, but even though you'll be tempted we have to suggest visiting Kuromon market.
There's everything from live fish to craft shops and things that can only be seen in Osaka. You can have lunch on site and enjoy the many small restaurants and food stalls. It's a must for gourmets and the curious.
- To read: Kuromon Ichiba
Address: 2 Chome-4-1 Nipponbashi, Chuo-ku, 542-0073 Osaka
The best free tourist and religious sites
Osaka Castle Park
Located in the center of the city, Osaka Castle Park offers a green break in the midst of all the urban turmoil. You have to pay if you want to enter Osaka Castle, but entry to the park is free. You can enjoy a superb view of this 50-meter-high castle, its moats and Nishinomaru gardens.
In the cherry blossom season, there are always family or friends there for the hanami and every weekend or holidays there are food and drink stands in the park. It's the perfect place for a picnic.
- To read: Osaka Castle Park
Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo-ku, 540-0002 Osaka
Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
Built in the year 211, this is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan. It is also one of only three shrines built in a purely Japanese architectural style, without any outside influence, unlike other Shinto shrines.
It's surrounded by beautiful gardens and a red arch-shaped bridge leads to the main shrine. Visit for an aesthetic and spiritual experience.
- To read: Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
Address: 2 Chome-9-89 Sumiyoshi-ku, 558-0045 Osaka
One of the largest Shinto shrines in the country. Tenmangu is dedicated to the divinity of knowledge, Sugawara Michizane. Founded in the 10th century, it was destroyed several times by fires. The main building and the gate date from 1845.
Tenmangu is famous for its festival, which takes place at the end of July for two days and is one of the three biggest festivals in Japan. Two parades enliven the city. One along the streets of the shrine district and another on the river. The latter ends with a huge firework display. Everything is free, and it's not to be missed if you're in Osaka at this time of year.
This shrine is located in the Tenman district, which is the longest covered shopping street in Japan.
- To read: Tenmangu Shrine, Tenjin Palace
Address: 1 Chome-1-8 Tenjinbashi, Kita-ku, 530-0041 Osaka
Bunraku National Theater (Puppet Theater)
The shows aren't free, but there is a very informative exhibition on this form of theater. It teaches everything about the history of Bunraku as well as about making puppets. You can even try playing puppeteer yourself.
- To read: Bunraku National Theater
Address: 1 Chome-12-10 Nipponbashi, Chuo-ku, 542-0073 Osaka
The tomb of Emperor Nintoku
Although this tumulus isn't one of Osaka's most famous tourist sites, it's still the third largest tomb in the world. Built about 1,500 years ago, it's 500 meters long and 300 meters wide and is surrounded by moats, making it look like an island and making it voluntarily inaccessible.
It can however be observed from the path that encircles the moat. Many informative panels explain the history of kofun, Japanese burial mounds.
Address: 7 Daisencho, Sakai-ku, 590-0035 Sakai
Places to see around Osaka
If you start to get tired of the city's busy streets, neon lights and cacophony of sounds, take refuge in Minoo Park. This huge park, located in a forested valley, is only about thirty minutes by train from Osaka.
A path along the river Minoo extends three kilometers, and leads to a waterfall of the same name, 33 meters high. In the fall, the area is a riot of red foliage and is absolutely splendid. Along the way, several temples can be visited. Don't miss Ryuanji and its vermilion bridge.
Address: 1-18 Minookoen, Minoo, 562-0002 Osaka
Asahi Suita Brewery
Beer lovers will be delighted to take a free guided tour of the Asahi Brewery!
After learning everything about the making of this drink, you'll get the chance to taste the different varieties for free for 20 minutes! Non-alcoholic drinks are also offered for free at the tasting. Understandably popular, it's advisable to book in advance.
Address: 1-45 Nishinoshocho, 564-0071 Suita
Access: The Asahi Brewery is located in Suita, about 10 minutes by train from Osaka, on the JR Kyoto Line.