Skip to Content

Osaka Or Kyoto – Which City Is Best For Tourists? (Expat Guide)

Osaka Or Kyoto – Which City Is Best For Tourists? (Expat Guide)

Japan is a wonderful place with some of the most riveting cities on the planet.

Whether you are going to a world-class city such as Tokyo or looking to spend time in Nara, it’s always a breath of fresh air to be in Japan.

A trip to Japan is often going to involve deciding which Japanese cities to check out. Japan is famous for many things and sometimes this can dictate where you end up staying or visiting.

Two cities that tend to stand out include Osaka and Kyoto.

As you pick up new Japanese words as a tourist, it’s important to plan your trip and make sure it’s a successful one full of fun.

To make your choice easier, we are going to shed light on whether you should be going to Osaka or Kyoto.

Comparing Osaka vs Kyoto for Tourists


We know the average tourist in Japan is going to have one eye on their budget. We are the same whether we are in Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka!

This is an important detail you are going to want to be aware of.

In general, our experiences have shown that Osaka tends to be far more affordable. You are going to find a wide array of places for different price ranges in this city, which is ideal for those who are coming from different walks of life and might have differing budgets.

On the other hand, Kyoto is going to be far more costly.

Most things that you are going to buy whether it’s food, souvenirs, or anything else is going to be expensive in Kyoto compared to Osaka.

Places To See

Let’s be honest, you are going to want to get your money’s worth when you are in any international city and that includes these two.

It is always important to get to see as many places as possible.

Kyoto is a wonderful city for those who are looking to learn more about Japanese history. The architecture, cultural nuances, and the events that have taken place in Kyoto are going to give you a lot to chew into as a history buff.

We visited different palaces and temples in the area learning about the development of Kyoto over the years. This included walking through the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, which was a fascinating experience most people don’t get to enjoy. Just the idea of getting to see bamboo in such a manner is unforgettable and worth your time!

We also took the time to go to the heralded Fushimi Inari Shrine, which has been around for a long time and welcomes thousands of tourists every week.

On the other hand, if you just want to be entertained then we would recommend going to Osaka. The nightlife is outstanding in this city.

Osaka was a lovely place too because you get a little bit of everything. Yes, you get to see castles such as the Osaka castle, which has a breathtaking design with historic purpose but you als oget to enjoy places such as the Pokemon Center for fans of Pokemon.

This diversity of places within Osaka does tend to bring people in. Plus, the nightlife is vibrant and the city continues to entertain throughout the night.

Just walking through Shinsekai and mingling with the local residents is a fascinating experience in Osaka. It’s quite entertaining and right up to par with other places we have been to over the years. We highly recommend looking into this place if you are particular about nightlife and being entertained at all hours of the day.


It’s important to touch on the topic of transportation when it comes to visiting a Japanese city.

Osaka has two international airports and it’s easier to fly into the city if that’s going to be a sticking point for you. The same does not apply to Kyoto, where you are going to have to find a separate transportation method to get to the area.

For the most part, Japan is excellent when it comes to having a robust transit system that’s easy to use and is going to get you to where you want to go.

We feel both cities have good transit systems and you should be able to move within the cities as you want to use the train.

Osaka tends to stand out because you can land there.

Final Thoughts

These are the details to consider when comparing Kyoto to Osaka as a tourist.

In our eyes, it simply comes down to preferences.

Are you a history buff that is more in tune with being outdoors and just exploring traditional architecture? If so, you are going to want to put Kyoto on your list.

However, if you are more about the modern way of living with a bit of history sprinkled in and want a good nightlife experience then it’s best to come to Osaka.

The one thing we will say is that if possible you should be adding both cities to get a balanced itinerary in place. Both are unique places that have a lot to offer.

You can also look at our list of top Japanese video game stores and planning a trip to Hakone in Japan.