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The 10 Best Things To Do in Kobe

Discover the best things to do in Kobe, including famous hot springs, mountain views and of course Kobe beef.

By 6 min read

Kobe offers travelers the perfect balance between exploring nature and the city. Though Japan’s seventh-largest city has typically been visited as a day trip from Osaka for its local delicacy, Kobe’s fashionable atmosphere and proximity to other attractive destinations make it an up-and-coming travel destination in its own right. Most famous for Kobe beef, this city in the Kansai region has much more to offer besides this world-renowned dish and is one of Japan’s most attractive cities. Read on to discover what we think are 10 of the best things to do in Kobe.

1. Kobe Port Tower

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The tower will reopen on April 26, 2024.

The waterfront view from Meriken Park is the most popular view of Kobe’s cityscape. Its most iconic feature is the Kobe Port Tower, a unique red tower with shops, restaurants and an observation deck. The tower has recently been renovated and will reopen on April 26, 2024. Another unique architectural feature in the park is the Kobe Maritime Museum, a white steel building meant to resemble sails. The luxurious Hotel Okura and the Oriental Hotel are also located nearby, and the park itself features a grassy lawn, art installations and a memorial to the victims of the 1995 earthquake. It’s the perfect place for a stroll any time of the day but offers particularly breathtaking views at night.

2 Hatobacho, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Motomachi station
Fees: ¥1,200
Open from April 26, 2024

2. Chinatown Nankinmachi

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Today, Nankinmachi is a center of the Chinese community in Kansai.

One of only three Chinatowns in Japan, Kobe’s Nankinmachi is Kobe’s most visited attraction. This bustling neighborhood began to develop in 1868, when the Port of Kobe opened to foreigners and attracted many Chinese immigrants. Today, Nankinmachi is a center of the Chinese community in Kansai and holds various festivities throughout the year, including Chinese New Year and a lantern festival. The entrances of this small but vibrant neighborhood are marked by decorated archways, and a pavilion surrounded by stone carvings of the zodiac stands in its central plaza. The streets are lined with stalls selling street food like steamed dumplings, pork buns and Peking Duck wraps.

1-3-18 Sakaemachidori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Motomachi station
Hours: Open all year round

3. Kobe Beef

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Satisfy your craving.

A list about Kobe would be incomplete without its eponymous Wagyu beef or Japanese beef. The oft-described “melt in your mouth” delicacy is world-famous for its flavor, tenderness and its fatty, marbled texture. The meat is produced from Tajima cattle, a breed of Japanese Black cattle reared in the pastures of Hyogo Prefecture near Kobe. Contrary to popular belief, these cattle are not massaged with sake or given any alcohol. After the cattle are slaughtered, only the meat with exceptionally high levels of fat marbling is labeled as Kobe Beef. Though this beef is expensive, there are several restaurants in Kobe at different price ranges where visitors can savor this delicacy.

Mouriya

2-1-17, Shimoyamatedori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Sannomiya
Hours: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Misono

1-1-2, Shimoyamatedori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Sannomiya
Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 1:40 p.m. / 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Kobe Beef Steak Ishida

1-21, Kitanagasadori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Sannomiya
Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. / 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

4. Local Breweries

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Indulge in some of the best sake in the country.

Another of Kobe’s specialties is sake, and the Nada district in eastern Kobe is the top sake-producing area in Japan. This area’s favorable weather conditions, access to high-quality rice and clean water and proximity to Kobe Port and Osaka, have made it an ideal place for sake production. Many of the breweries have their own exhibits and offer sake tasting. And because the Nada district is only about 3 kilometers long, it’s easy to explore a few breweries on a walking trip.

Hakutsuru Sake Brewery

4-5-5 Sumiyoshi Minamimachi, Higashinada Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Sumiyoshi
Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Kikumasamune Sake Brewery

1-9-1 Uozaki Nishimachi, Higashinada Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Minami-Uozaki
Hours: 9:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Kobe Shushinkan

1-8-17 Mikagetsukamachi, Higashinada Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Shinzaike
Hours: 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.

5. Ikuta Shrine

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The shrine serves as a spiritual refuge from the bustling Sannomiya atmosphere

Just a short walk from Sannomiya station is a shrine that may be one of Japan’s oldest. Ikuta Shrine is mentioned in the Nihon Shoki, an ancient, semi-mythical book of classical Japanese history. According to this history, Ikuta Shrine was founded by Empress Jingu in the third century AD after returning from a campaign in Korea. She was almost shipwrecked but survived after praying to the sea god Watatsumi, so she founded the shrine in his honor. The shrine used to be surrounded by forest but is now in the center of the city that has been built up around it, serving as an ancient spiritual refuge from the bustling Sannomiya atmosphere.

1-2-1 Shimoyamatedori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Sannomiya station
Hours: 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.

6. Mount Rokko and Mount Maya

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Climb every mountain.

Kobe may be a sprawling city with 1.5 million inhabitants, but its location at the foot of the Rokko mountains has much to offer nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts. Both Mount Rokko and Mount Maya directly north of eastern and central Kobe include plenty of hiking trails, parks and observatories.

Mount Rokko is the highest peak of the mountain range and is particularly popular for its hiking trails, but also features a botanical garden and golf course. At the base of Mount Maya is the Nunobiki Waterfall, and the spectacular “10 million dollar night view” can be seen from the Kikuseidai Observation Platform. Several other observatories offering breathtaking views, shops and restaurants, such as the Rokko Garden Terrace, also dot the mountainside.

Mount Rokko

Arimacho, Kita Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Rokko Cable Car Shimo station
Mount Maya

Mayasan, Nada Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Maya Cable Station (temporarily closed)

7. Arima Onsen

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Take a dip in historic hot spring waters.

Tucked in the mountains on the opposite side of Mount Rokko from central Kobe lies Arima Onsen, one of Japan’s oldest hot spring towns. Founded 1,300 years ago, this town was frequented by nobles, samurai and emperors. The town has two public baths, Kin no Yu and Gin no Yu (temporarily closed), each specializing in one of the town’s two types of hot spring waters, called kinsen (gold water), and ginsen (silver water). There are several ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) that allow visitors on day trips to use their baths. The town can be explored entirely on foot. Before heading home, visit the local restaurants and souvenir shops after a dip in the hot springs.

Kin no Yu

833 Arimacho, Kita Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Arimaonsen station
Hours: 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Gin no Yu (temporarily closed)

1039-1 Arimacho, Kita Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Arimaonsen station

8. Kitano Ijinkan

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Explore the former mansions in the area.

After the Port of Kobe opened to foreign trade in 1868, foreign merchants and diplomats settled in Kobe’s Kitano-cho district at the foot of Mount Rokko Today, about 20 of the former mansions of these residents are open to the public as museums. These Ijinkan (foreign residences) exhibit beautiful vintage European architecture. Further contributing to the neighborhood’s European atmosphere are a variety of cafes, restaurants and boutiques scattered between the mansions, making the Kitano Ijinkan district a perfect place for a stroll. Entrance fees for the residences cost around ¥600, and combination tickets are available to see several of the old mansions.

Kitanocho, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Sannomiya station
Fees: ¥600

9. Nunobiki Herb Garden

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See Kobe from a bird’s eye view.

Kobe’s Nunobiki Herb Garden is the largest in Japan. Located on Mount Maya, the garden complex has its own ropeway that offers spectacular views of Kobe’s cityscape. The garden complex comprises 12 different gardens, so visitors can enjoy seasonal flower displays year-round. The garden’s main building, Wartburg Castle looks like a medieval castle and contains shops and a restaurant.

1-4-3 Kitanocho, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens Ropeway
Fees: ¥1,800 for admission to the garden and a round-trip ropeway ride
Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.

10. Sorakuen Garden

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Spend an afternoon taking a stroll.

Sorakuen is a traditional Japanese garden in Motomachi, offering a peaceful escape from central Kobe. The garden opened to the public in 1941. The garden is very traditional, with a path moving around a central pond. On the pond’s shores sits the Funeyakata building, a cabin finished in spectacular Japanese urushi (lacquerware) used as a houseboat in the Edo period by the lord of the Himeji Clan. Of the former residence buildings, only a European-style stable remains. One of the garden’s highlights is the Hassan House, a Western-style house previously relocated from the Kitano district in 1963.

5-3-1 Nakayamatedori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo - Map
Nearest station: Kencho-Mae station
Fees: ¥300
Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
What did you think of our list of 10 best things to do in Kobe? If you’ve been there, what are your favorite things to do? Let us know in the comments!

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