Should you stay in Osaka or Kyoto?

Staying in Osaka vs Kyoto

What we think: It's better to stay in Osaka rather than Kyoto, as Osaka generally offers more affordable hotels, greater food choices, and much better transport links throughout Kansai. You can easily take the bullet train from Osaka to Kyoto in the morning to spend a full day exploring Kyoto.

Choose between Osaka and Kyoto according to your preferences:

AtmosphereUrban and vibrantSerene and traditional
Cultural SitesModern attractions, some historicalNumerous temples, shrines, and gardens
Food SceneStreet food and diverse cuisineTraditional Japanese cuisine
AccommodationMore affordable hotelsRange of traditional and modern stays
TransportationExtensive metro systemEfficient bus system and walkable districts


Osaka, Japan's third-largest city, is renowned for its dynamic energy, modern attractions, and culinary excellence. Known as the nation's kitchen, Osaka's food scene is unparalleled, with Dotonbori's neon-lit street offering plenty of must-try dishes.

Why Choose Osaka?
  • More Affordable: Compared to Kyoto, often seen as a city steeped in tradition with premium price tags, Osaka stands out for its affordability. This is noticeable in areas such as accommodation, dining, and shopping, where Osaka generally offers more budget-friendly options.
  • Livelier Nightlife: Osaka boasts a vibrant nightlife scene, unlike Kyoto's more subdued evening offerings. From bustling street food stalls in Dotonbori to lively bars and clubs in Namba, Osaka provides a dynamic nightlife experience.
  • Rich Street Food Culture: While Kyoto is celebrated for its traditional Japanese cuisine and kaiseki dining, Osaka is renowned as the nation's kitchen, famous for its street food culture with specialities like takoyaki and okonomiyaki.
  • Modern Metropolis: Osaka's urban landscape, marked by towering skyscrapers and modern amenities, offers a stark contrast to Kyoto's historic streets and ancient temples, appealing to those who prefer a more contemporary city experience.
  • Greater Sporting Passion: Osaka has a more pronounced sports culture compared to Kyoto, with a particular emphasis on baseball. The city's enthusiastic support for its teams, such as the Hanshin Tigers, is unmatched in the region.
  • Diverse Shopping Options: Osaka outshines Kyoto in terms of shopping diversity, offering everything from high-end department stores in Umeda to unique and affordable options in Shinsaibashi and Amerikamura, catering to all tastes and budgets.
  • More Accessible Entertainment: Entertainment in Osaka, including Universal Studios Japan, provides unique attractions that cater to families and tourists of all ages, something that Kyoto, with its focus on cultural and historical sites, cannot match.
  • Vibrant Music and Arts Scene: Osaka has a thriving music and arts scene, with a range of live venues and galleries that showcase both local and international talent, offering a more eclectic cultural experience compared to Kyoto.
  • Friendly and Outgoing Locals: Osaka is known for the warm and friendly nature of its people. This contrasts with Kyoto, where the atmosphere can sometimes seem more reserved, making Osaka a city where visitors can easily feel at home.
  • A Gateway to Kansai: Osaka serves as a central hub for exploring the Kansai region, with excellent transport links to nearby cities and attractions. This makes it an ideal base for tourists looking to explore beyond the city's borders, including Kyoto itself.

Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, offers an unparalleled historical and cultural experience with its over 2,000 temples and shrines, compared to Osaka's more modern appeal. This deep cultural heritage makes Kyoto a must-visit for those interested in Japan's ancient past.

Why Choose Kyoto?
  • Natural Beauty: Kyoto is particularly famous for its cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons, as well as its serene natural landscapes like the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and the Philosopher's Path, Kyoto offers a nice escape from the bustling energy of Osaka.
  • Iconic Festivals: Kyoto hosts some of Japan's most iconic festivals, such as the Gion Matsuri and Aoi Matsuri, which showcase the city's rich history and traditions, offering unique cultural experiences not found in Osaka.
  • World-Class Culinary Scene: While Osaka may be known as Japan's kitchen, Kyoto excels in traditional Japanese cuisine and kaiseki dining, providing an exquisite culinary experience with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients and artful presentation.
  • Preserved Traditional Districts: Kyoto's well-preserved traditional districts, like Gion and Higashiyama, offer a glimpse into Japan's past, contrasting with Osaka's more modern and urban environment.
  • Unique Craftsmanship and Art: Kyoto is renowned for its traditional crafts and arts, including kimono making, pottery, and tea ceremony, offering visitors the opportunity to explore and even participate in these age-old traditions.
  • Quieter, More Reflective Atmosphere: Compared to Osaka's bustling streets, Kyoto provides a quieter, more reflective atmosphere, ideal for those seeking a more relaxed and contemplative experience.
  • Extensive Gardens and Parks: Kyoto's numerous gardens and parks, like the Kyoto Imperial Palace Park and Kinkaku-ji's surrounding gardens, offer beautifully landscaped spaces for relaxation and reflection, showcasing traditional Japanese garden design.
  • Focus on Sustainable Tourism: Kyoto emphasizes sustainable tourism, encouraging visitors to engage with the city in a way that preserves its cultural sites and natural beauty, a contrast to the more commercial tourism approach seen in some areas of Osaka.
  • Gateway to Traditional Japan: Kyoto serves as a gateway to the traditional heart of Japan, offering easy access to other historical destinations in the region, making it an ideal base for those looking to delve deeply into Japan's rich cultural history.
Making Your Choice

Choosing between Osaka and Kyoto ultimately depends on what you want to get out of your trip to Japan. If your ideal holiday includes lively nights and culinary adventures, Osaka should be the city for you. On the other hand, if you're seeking a more traditional experience with a focus on historical sites and natural beauty, Kyoto will be more to your liking.

Tips for Travellers
  • Consider Staying in Osaka and Kyoto: If time allows, you could consider splitting your stay between both cities to experience the best of both worlds. They are only about 15 minutes apart by bullet train, making it easy to explore both.
  • Seasonal Considerations: You need to keep in mind the time of year you plan to visit. Kyoto's cherry blossom and autumn seasons are incredibly popular, while Osaka's festivals offer unique experiences throughout the year.