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Kyoto vs Osaka: Which is Better to Visit in One Week in Japan?

Kyoto vs Osaka: Which is Better to Visit in One Week in Japan?

By Vicky LengUpdated Mar. 21, 2023

If you are planning to travel Japan for one week, and Tokyo is definitely on your list, then which city should you visit for the rest of the time? Kyoto or Osaka?

  • If you're keen on the most traditional aspects of Japan, Kyoto comes to the forefront. Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan and has a history of over 1,000 years. With a great number of old shrines and temples remaining, its unique Geisha culture, classical tea ceremonies…, it’s a historical haven! 
  • If you're more interested in modern and vibrant highlights of a trade city, Osaka wins the contest. Osaka was an ancient transport hub and is now the second-largest bustling commercial city in Japan. Its lively downtown, modern skyscrapers, Universal Studios, and Osaka Aquarium are popular attractions for families or couples.

Still hard to make a choice? You could visit both in one week, after Tokyo, with 3 days in Kyoto and 1 day in Osaka. The Shinkansen (bullet train) takes less than 30 minutes between Kyoto and Osaka, and it is quite convenient and doable.

Top Experiences: Kyoto vs Osaka — Tradition vs Progress

Both Kyoto and Osaka have many high-quality attractions and interesting things to do.

Top Things to Do in Kyoto

Kyoto is an amazing city featuring shrines, geishas, ryokans (traditional inns), tea ceremonies... It’s a city worth visiting at a slow pace.

Stay at a ryokan to experience traditional Japanese accommodation.

sleep on a tatami bed at a ryokan Sleep on a tatami bed at a ryokan

See geishas in Gion District and watch them performance or have an afternoon tea with them.

Geishas in kimonos, Kyoto Geishas in kimonos, Kyoto

Try on Japanese clothing: kimono wearing is perfect for couples and families with kids.

try on kimono Try on kimono

Feed the friendly deer in Nara.

feed deer in Nara Feed deer in Nara

Experience a traditional tea ceremony at a tea house.

tradition tea ceremony Tradition tea ceremony

Go to the Samurai Museum and try on the armor for a samurai photo.

Samurai Museum Samurai Museum

Sample a local variety of sake at a brewery.

Japanese sake brewery

Top Things to Do in Osaka

In Osaka, the bustling trade city, you can feel a friendly atmosphere and authentic Japanese style.

Visit historic Osaka Castle, the center of Japanese unity in the 16th century.

Osaka Castle Osaka Castle

Taste authentic street food at lively Dotonbori.

Dotonbori Dotonbori at night

Enjoy the bustling night views from Umeda Sky Building.

Umeda Sky Building Umeda Sky Building

Admire famed Ukiyo-e artwork at Kamigata Ukiyo-e Museum, and have the chance to make your own woodblock print.

Ukiyo-e Ukiyo-e

Make cup noodles with your kids at the Cup Noodle Museum.

Cup Noodle Museum Cup Noodle Museum

Enjoy family fun at Universal Studios or Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.

Universal Studios Universal Studios
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Accommodation: Kyoto vs Osaka — Traditional Japanese Inns vs Luxury Modern Hotels

Service in Japan is well-known around the world for being attentive and courteous. Whether you stay in a star-rated hotel or a ryokan in Japan, you can enjoy excellent service.


Traditional ryokan in Kyoto Traditional ryokan in Kyoto

Staying in a ryokan is a worthwhile thing to do in Japan. Kyoto is the best place for you to experience a traditional Japanese-style inn with your family. In a ryokan you can sleep on a tatami bed, try on yukata robes, and sample a high-class kaiseki feast. Some ryokans also have onsens (hot springs), which are simply the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing family time.

However, a good ryokan easily becomes fully-booked, we recommend booking at least 6 months in advance. Contact us and we can arrange a ryokan for you according to your preferences.

You enjoy 100% refund of any payments made to Asia Highlights prior to 3 weeks before departure (detail⇒). 


Osaka offers a range of modern choices, from 5-star luxury hotels to 3-star affordable hotels. No matter what hotel you choose, you can enjoy spotlessly-clean accommodation, comfortable beds, and perfect service.

We suggest you to stay at a hotel near a station or favorite attraction so that you can get around easily.

Both cities are quite family-friendly destinations, you can learn more about How to Plan an Incredible Family Trip to Japan >>>

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Food: Kyoto vs Osaka — Kaiseki vs Street Snacks

Japanese cuisine is famous all over the world — sushi, ramen, tempura, etc. Many people come to Japan just to eat authentic Japanese food.


Kaiseki, Kyoto Kaiseki, Kyoto

More than other cities, food in Kyoto reflects the exquisiteness of Japanese food.

  • Kaiseki generally uses seasonal ingredients. This traditional feast has small portions and is well-displayed. Kaiseki is a famous high-class cuisine that’s elegant and luxurious. Experiencing the pinnacle of classical Japanese food culture through Kaiseki promises to be a fond memory of your trip.
  • Tofu soup (yu-dofu) is a typical food of Kyoto. It is mild in taste with kelp being the main additional ingredient, but as such you can really taste the sweetness of the tofu. You could add a little soy sauce or use a dipping sauce to add flavor.
  • Matcha: Don’t miss matcha tea in Uji in Kyoto, because it is the famous birthplace of matcha. You can also enjoy a variety of rich matcha desserts there, like ice cream, cakes, and jelly.


Takoyaki, Osaka Takoyaki, Osaka

On the streets of Osaka, you can find many delicious and affordable specialty snacks. Dotonbori is the cuisine center of Osaka, where you can satisfy your taste buds.

  • Okonomiyaki (Osaka yaki) is a Japanese vegetable pancake with vegetables, sliced pork, seafood, and seasonings grilled on a plate. Also known as Japanese-style pizza, it’s so tasty that you should definitely try it when you in Osaka.
  • Takoyaki (octopus dumplings): Octopus tentacles and vegetables are mixed in a batter and baked together to form spheres. Mayonnaise is often used to add flavor while eating. It’s not only popular in Osaka, but also all over Japan … even around the world.
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Transport: Kyoto vs Osaka — Ease of Getting Around

The Shinkansen in Japan The Shinkansen

Japan has a very developed transportation network. The Shinkansen (bullet train network) is a well-known travel highlight, which most travelers want to try when they go to Japan. Whether you're in Kyoto or Osaka, it's a convenient way to get to the attractions or nearby places you want to visit.

Kansai International Airport, Japan’s third busiest, is located in Osaka. You could spend the last half a day or day in Osaka and then depart Japan from Kansai. Of course, it's also easy to get to Osaka’s airport from Kyoto: it’s only 75 minutes away.

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