Osaka is a massive city, so choosing where to stay may seem like a difficult task. However, the city’s main attractions are concentrated in a few key locations, and once you get to know where these are, you should be able to pick a location fairly easily based on your personal interests and your own travel itinerary.
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Central Osaka Area
Central Osaka is typically divided into a northern “Kita” area which is centered on the Umeda district, and a southern “Minami” area which is centered on the Namba district. Umeda and Namba are therefore the two top options when choosing where to stay in Osaka. Both areas have excellent transportation links, plenty of shopping, and dining facilities, and a very high concentration of hotel accommodation. Umeda is a more modern area and has better links to cities outside of Osaka, such as Kyoto, Kobe, Wakayama, and Kanazawa. Namba, on the other hand, is a long-established area in Osaka with more history, and it also has the advantage of colorful nightlife, and access to both traditional and modern entertainment.
Although Umeda and Namba are the most popular locations, there are alternative options which may suit you better. These include choosing a location further south in Tennoji, staying in the Osaka Bay area, finding a location close to Osaka Castle, exploring the museum district of Nakanoshima, planning a quick get-away by staying near Shin-Osaka Station, or economizing in Honmachi. In this article we will look closely at all of these options in turn. However, another important point when choosing where to stay, is how easily you can get to other parts of the city. The two rail lines that provide the best accessibility to all parts of Osaka are the Midosuji Subway Line and the Osaka Loop Line. When choosing your accommodation, try to find a hotel that is close to a station on one of these lines.
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The Umeda district has a great mix of accommodation types, with a large number of big name luxury hotels, but also plenty of affordable mid-range hotels, as well as some budget hostels and guest houses for backpackers. The top tourist attractions in this area are Umeda Sky Building the Hep Five building’s Ferris wheel, and Tsuyu-no-Tenjinja Shrine. Other areas in the Kita district within walking distance of Umeda include Nakazakicho: an old-fashioned area of tiny alleyways filled with independent shops, cafes, bars, and event spaces; and Kitashinchi: a high-end entertainment area just south of Umeda.
Umeda itself, is a busy, modern, commercial district, packed with dramatic high-rise buildings and an incredible range of shopping and dining facilities. Among these, the Daimaru, Hanshin
Umeda is also super convenient in terms of transport with several railway stations providing links to destinations both inside and outside Osaka. There are three subway stations in Umeda, making most parts of the city easily accessible. These are Osaka-Umeda Station on the Midosuji Line, Higashi-Umeda Station on the Tanimachi Line, and Nishi-Umeda Station on the Yotsubashi Line. Osaka Station is the major JR railway hub, and here you can catch the Osaka Loop Line that encircles central Osaka, as well as limited express services for destinations such as Kinosaki Onsen, Kanazawa, and Wakayama. Nearby, Hankyu Osaka-Umeda Station provides services for Kyoto, Kobe, and Takarazuka, and Hanshin Osaka-Umeda Station provides services for Kobe, Namba, and Amagasaki. Intercity highway buses can also be caught from the JR Expressway Bus Terminal on the north side of Osaka Station and the Willer Express bus terminal at the Umeda Sky Building.
Namba has a good mix of accommodation types, with plenty of comfortable tourist hotels, mid-range business hotels, and budget guest houses, hostels, and capsule hotels. Namba lies at the heart of the southern Minami district which also includes the bright lights of Dotonbori, the fashion boutiques of Shinsaibashi, trend-setting Amerika-mura, and Nipponbashi’s Denden Town with its cheap electronics and “otaku” specialty stores. All of these areas are easily walkable from Namba, which makes it the perfect base to explore some of Osaka’s best tourist attractions.
Famous shopping attractions around Namba include Kuromon Ichiba food market, Doguyasuji’s “Kitcheware Street”, and the Namba Parks shopping complex with its tiered roof-gardens and unique canyon design. Visitors can take a step back in time at historic Hozenji Temple and the neighboring stone-flagged alleyway of Hozenji Yokocho, and enjoy traditional entertainment such as puppet plays at the National Bunraku Theater or Kabuki dramas at Osaka Shochikuza Theater. For more modern entertainment the bars and restaurants of Dotonbori have everything you need.
Namba is particularly well-connected with four railway stations and the OCAT highway bus terminal. Namba Subway Station serves the Midosuji, Sennichimae, and Yotsubashi lines making the rest of the city readily accessible. At Osaka Namba Station you can board Hanshin services for Amagasaki and Kobe, and Kintetsu services bound for Nara and Mie. JR Namba Station also has Yamatoji Line services bound for Nara. Finally, Nankai Namba Station is particularly useful as it has direct services to Kansai International Airport, and also outbound services for Wakayama and Mount Koya.
Tennoji is an interesting area located further south of Namba, but still very well-connected with two railway stations and a tramline. Famous tourist attractions around Tennoji include Tennoji Park and Zoo, Osaka City Museum, Shitenoji Temple, and Japan’s tallest building: the Abeno Harukas skyscraper. Tennoji is also within walking distance of Shinsekai and the Tsutenkaku Tower, the Spa World hot spring theme park, and it is connected to several historic locations still further south by the Hankai Tramway.
Despite all these attractions, because Tennoji is not so central you may find that hotel rates are a little cheaper. Most of the hotels in this area are mid-range, except for the Osaka Marriott Miyako, which is a luxury hotel in the Abeno Harukas tower. Tennoji Station is served by several JR lines including the Osaka Loop Line, and the Midosuji and Tanimachi subway lines. Just across the street from Tennoji Station, Osaka-Abenobashi Station runs Kintetsu services for Yoshino, including the limited express sightseeing train, Blue Symphony service.
Osaka Bay Area
Staying on Osaka Bay is a great choice for couples or families. The major attractions here are cruises on the bay, the Universal Studios Japan (USJ) theme park, and the Tempozan Harbor Village entertainment complex which includes Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and the Tempozan Ferris Wheel.
There are a number of luxury and mid-range hotels located around USJ and close to the Tempozan Village and these locations are connected to each other by a ferry service. Although this area is accessible by train or bus, it is not very central, so you may be able to get a good deal on room rates.
Osaka Castle Area
Osaka Castle is a popular destination in the cherry blossom season. The castle is surrounded by a large park and there are five railway stations around it. Of these stations, Temmabashi Station on the park’s north west corner provides good links to the north and south of Osaka via the Tanimachi Subway Line and to Kyoto via the Keihan Main Line.
Choosing a hotel closer to this station will also give you access to a number of other local attractions such as the Osaka Mint Museum, Ohtsuki Noh Theater, and Osaka Museum of History. Aqua-Liner river cruises also depart from a pier very close to Temmabashi Station. Most hotels in this area are mid-range and affordable.
Nakanoshima is an island between two rivers located to the west of Osaka Castle. The island features pleasant parkland, several museums, and other locations of cultural interest. Although it is accessible from Temmabashi Station via the Keihan Nakanoshima Line, this is a nice area to explore on foot and there are a small number of upscale and mid-range hotels here. Attractions include Osaka Science Museum, the National Museum of Art, and the Museum of Oriental Ceramics.
Shin-Osaka Station Area
Shin-Osaka Station is located further to the north of the Umeda area. Most of the hotels here are in the mid-range, but there are some high grade tourist hotels within walking distance of the station, and for budget travelers there is a youth hostel and a capsule hotel. The area around Shin-Osaka Station has no major tourist attractions, so the main reason to stay here is for easy access to the station itself. Shin-Osaka Station is Osaka’s only terminal for the high speed “bullet train” shinkansen lines, so you may want to stay here if you are planning long-distance travel to one of Japan’s other major cities. The Tokaido Shinkansen connects Osaka with Kyoto, Nagoya and Tokyo, and the Sanyo Shinkansen connects with Kobe, Himeji, Okayama, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. However, it is very easy to get to Shin-Osaka Station from Umeda; either via the Midosuji Subway Line in 7 minutes, or via the JR Kyoto Line which will get you to Osaka Station in 4 minutes. So even if you are planning to travel by shinkansen, you may still prefer to stay in Umeda.
There’s not a lot going on in Honmachi, but it lies midway between the Kita and Minami areas and has easy access to both areas via the Midosuji Line at Hommachi Station. With the exception of the 5-star luxury hotel St. Regis Osaka, most hotels in this area are mid-range and highly affordable. If everywhere else is booked up, Honmachi might be your last best choice.
Article Michael Lambe. Photos by shiii/pixta (1), matya1234/pixta (2), Anesthesia/pixta (3), gengorou/pixta (4), k_n/pixta (5), tabiphoto10/pixta (6), mfs/pixta (7), skylight/pixta (8). All rights reserved.