LIGHT IT UP
- Experience the neon thrill of Dotonbori after dark
- Taste Osaka’s famous street foods
The lively Dotonbori district, located on the banks of a canal of the same name, was historically Osaka’s theater district. But today, the most entertaining sights are out in the streets, especially after dark, when storefronts are ablaze with neon lights, smoke billows from streetside food stalls, and billboards with giant sea creatures—blowfish, octopus, crab—beckon to hungry passersby. This is the epicenter of street food in a city known for just that, so stop as often as the urge strikes: Sample chargrilled crab legs at Kani Doraku (under the huge mechanical crab), then join the crowd slurping steaming bowls of tonkotsu ramen at Kinryu (look for the vermilion façade and enormous green dragon). You’ll absolutely want to queue up for Osaka’s most beloved street snack: takoyaki, delectable fried balls of batter and octopus topped with sauces and bonito flakes. Acchichi Honpo serves some of the city’s best (though beware, they’re extremely hot right off the pan), and its canalside location is easy to find: a block east of Ebisu Bridge and the Glico Running Man sign, a 33-meter-tall glowing advertisement originally installed eight decades ago that’s now an iconic attraction.
The Dotonbori area is 10 minutes south of the Conrad by taxi (ask for a drop off at Dotonbori near Namba station). Or walk south from the hotel to the Higobashi station and take the Yotsubashi (blue) subway line to Namba station. From Namba, walk east to Dotonbori. The main drag is the street just south of the canal; this is where Kani Doraku and Kinryu Ramen are located. Acchichi Honpo is on the north bank of the canal.
EXPLORE THE LIVELY UMEDA DISTRICT
- Ride a rooftop Ferris wheel
- Dive deep into an iconic depachika (food hall)
- Shop for gourmet delicacies and only-here souvenirs
At first glance, the Umeda neighborhood appears to be a mind-boggling maze of subway and train stations connected via a spiderweb of crowded passageways. To gain some perspective, head to Hep 5, a nine-story department store and entertainment complex with a cherry-red Ferris wheel spinning on the roof. Board one of the gondolas for a thrilling ride—the apex reaches 105 meters—taking in panoramic views of the city and the teeming crowds below. Then head underground: In the basement of the neighboring Hankyu Department Store, you’ll find what many feel is the city’s best depachika, a Japanese department-store food hall where tantalizing offerings range from sushi-filled bento boxes and matcha-flavored cakes to jaw-droppingly expensive Yubari melons (they cost upward of ¥ 150,000). Seeking an easy-to-pack souvenir? Locals snap up boxes of Grand Calbee gourmet potato crisps in limited-edition seasonal flavors, like Camembert or white peach.
Umeda is a short walk (or an even shorter taxi ride) north of Conrad Osaka. Hep 5 is just east of the station complex. Hankyu Department Store is connected to the Hankyu Railway Station.
TAKE TIME FOR TEA
- Indulge in superb genmaicha tea and Japanese sweets
- Visit a gallery of stunning hand-fashioned ceramics—and find the perfect gift
If you’re under the impression that Japanese tea can only be appreciated with a formal ceremony, you’ll want to pay a visit to Wad Café, a delightful (and refreshingly casual) teahouse in the Yotsubashi neighborhood, just a short ride from the Conrad. Ascend the white external staircase to the second-floor space, all natural woods and soothing earth tones with sunlight pouring in through outsize windows—in short, the perfect setting in which to sample fine Japanese teas. The English menu is wonderfully instructive, listing the different tea varieties and their optimal preparations; try the nutty genmaicha if you can’t decide. There’s also a tempting selection of sweets, from fruit-filled mochi to the summertime favorite, shaved ice. And if, like us, you fall hard for Wad’s beautiful serving sets, head upstairs to the owner’s ceramics gallery, which displays handmade pieces—sculptural vases, bowls, cups, and tableware—that double as collectible (and highly covetable) artworks.
Wad Café is 10 minutes by taxi from the Conrad. Or walk south from the hotel to the Higobashi station and take the Yotsubashi (blue) subway line to Yotsubashi station, then walk north.
WALK INTO HISTORY
- Time-travel through one of Osaka’s most evocative enclaves
- Browse shops and galleries in traditional buildings
- Pair takoyaki with champagne at an elegant wine bar
Amid Osaka’s hypermodern, forever-under-construction cityscape, it can be a challenge to find evidence of eras past. Much of the city’s historic architecture was destroyed during World War II—but one district that suffered considerably less damage was Karahori. Here, traditional wooden buildings have in recent years been carefully restored to house small cafés, art galleries, and boutiques. Begin your tour of this surprisingly little-known neighborhood by passing through the old wooden gate of the Len mansion, a Taisho-era (1912–1926) gem with stone walkways and a hidden garden. Within you’ll find tiny shops like Ek Chuah, a local chocolatier, and boutiques stocked with handmade purses and antiques. A short stroll away is the Meiji-era (1868–1912) So town-house complex, where a creaky staircase leads to the second-floor Spectrum Gallery, with its colorful exhibitions featuring Osakan artists. When hunger strikes, slide open the wood-slat door at neighboring Takoriki. This elegant seven-seat bar pours flutes of champagne to accompany excellent takoyaki, the city’s famous octopus balls, served with your choice of toppings: wasabi, mayonnaise, or even Italian cheese.
It’s easiest to reach the Karahori district by taxi, which should take about 15 minutes from Conrad Osaka, depending on traffic.
DISCOVER AN URBAN OASIS
- Escape the crowds on a walk through a lush city park
- Revive with artisanal pour-over coffee or a glass of Loire Valley pét-nat
Should you tire of Osaka’s crowded sidewalks and breakneck pace (and you invariably will at some point), you’re in luck: It’s only a 10-minute stroll from the Conrad to Utsubo Park, an unexpectedly peaceful oasis in the heart of the city. The park’s eastern half—formerly a military airfield—is now given over to lush trees, colorful flowers, fragrant rosebushes, and plenty of meandering paths and benches for relaxing in the shade. In the surrounding neighborhood, a number of fashionable coffeehouses and bakeries have recently opened; one worth seeking out is Takamura Wine & Coffee Roasters, an airy new café, wine bar, and gourmet market with an excellent coffee program, an on-site sommelier, and outdoor seating on a quiet side street. Sip a specialty pour-over coffee made with single-origin beans from Guatemala, or indulge in a glass of wine—perhaps an effervescent pétillant-naturel from the Loire Valley—before wandering back through the park’s blooming gardens.
From the Conrad, it’s a short walk south on Yotsuhashi-suji to Utsubo Park. Takamura Wine & Coffee Roasters is just north of the park.