If you’re planning a trip to Japan, make sure Kobe is on your list of must-visit cities. This beautiful port town located in the Hyogo prefecture has been enchanting visitors for centuries with its stunning architecture, delicious cuisine, and rich cultural heritage.
The vibrant port city located on the southern coast of Japan’s main island is a true gem that should be on every traveler’s list. Known for its stunning harbor views and delicious beef, Kobe is an enchanting destination filled with unique attractions and experiences waiting to be discovered.
As you wander down the picturesque streets of Kobe’s Kitano district, be prepared to fall in love with the city’s unique blend of Western and Japanese influences. The area is famous for its beautiful European-style mansions that once belonged to wealthy foreign merchants who settled here during the Meiji era.
One such mansion is the Former Foreign Settlement Museum – an excellent example of 19th-century architecture and home to various exhibitions showcasing life during this fascinating period.
One cannot talk about things to do in Kobe without mentioning its world-famous beef. This delicacy comes from wagyu cattle raised under strict conditions that include being massaged daily and fed beer (yes, really!). You can find restaurants all over the city serving up various cuts of this melt-in-your-mouth meat – but if you want a truly authentic experience, head to one of the many teppanyaki joints where skilled chefs cook your meal right before your eyes on a hot metal plate.
Key Take Aways
- Try the world-famous Kobe beef at one of the city’s many restaurants.
- Kobe’s City Loop Bus runs throughout main tourist destinations offering great views as you go along
- Purchase a prepaid IC card like Suica or PASMO for easy transportation around the city.
- Catch a panoramic view of the city from atop Mt Rokko via cable.
- Explore Chinatown, one of Japan’s biggest and most vibrant.
- Catch glimpses into Western influence with walking tours around the Sannomiya neighborhood where Western-style buildings line the streets
- Kansai International Airport, is the nearest airport to Kobe.
- Stay in a hotel near Sannomiya Station for easy access to public transport and restaurants.
Ok, now it’s time for our (very long) list of all the best things to do in Kobe
Check Out Chinatown
Kobe has one of the largest Chinatowns in Japan, with a history dating back to the 19th century. Known as Nankinmachi, it’s a bustling area with over 100 restaurants, shops, and food stalls. Here you can try popular Chinese dishes such as steamed buns, dumplings, and shark fin soup, as well as shop for traditional Chinese souvenirs like calligraphy brushes and silk fans.
Explore Kobe’s Sake Breweries
Kobe is known for its high-quality sake, and there are several sake breweries throughout the city that offer tours and tastings. One of the most famous is the Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum, which was established in 1743 and is one of the oldest sake breweries in Japan. Here you can learn about the history and production of sake, as well as taste different varieties.
Kobe’s Harborland is a modern waterfront district with a variety of attractions, including shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. One of the highlights is the Kobe Anpanman Children’s Museum and Mall, which is based on the popular children’s anime character Anpanman. The mall has a range of Anpanman-themed shops and restaurants, as well as a play area and museum dedicated to the character.
Take a stroll through Kitano-cho
Kitano-cho is a historic district in Kobe that’s known for its Western-style buildings and architecture. Many of the buildings were built by foreign merchants who settled in the area in the 19th century, and today they house museums, cafes, and galleries. One of the most famous buildings is the Former Foreign Settlement Museum, which is housed in a former American consulate and has exhibits on the history of the area.
Nunobiki Herb Garden
The Nunobiki Herb Garden is a beautiful botanical garden located on the slopes of Mount Rokko, offering stunning views of Kobe and Osaka Bay. The garden has over 75,000 herbs and flowers, including lavender, rosemary, and thyme, and visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, such as herb picking, tea ceremonies, and aromatherapy workshops. The garden is also home to a restaurant that serves dishes made with herbs and spices grown on-site.
Kobe City Museum
The Kobe City Museum is a modern museum that showcases the history and culture of Kobe. The museum has a range of exhibits, including artifacts from the city’s early history, traditional Japanese art, and contemporary art. One of the highlights is the museum’s collection of ukiyo-e prints, which are Japanese woodblock prints from the 17th to 19th centuries.
Ropeway Ride to Mount Maya
For panoramic views of Kobe, take a cable car ride to the top of Mount Maya. The ride takes around 10 minutes, and at the summit, there are observation decks and hiking trails. There’s also a restaurant where you can enjoy a meal while taking in the stunning views.
Located on the slopes of Mount Rokko, Nunobiki Falls is a series of four waterfalls that are a popular destination for hiking and sightseeing. The falls are surrounded by lush forest and offer stunning views of the city below.
Shop at Kobe’s Motomachi Shopping Street
Motomachi Shopping Street is a lively shopping district in Kobe that’s lined with boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. The street has a mix of Western and Japanese architecture and is a great place to shop for souvenirs, fashion, and local products.
Experience the Kobe Luminarie
Every December, Kobe hosts the Kobe Luminarie, a stunning light festival that attracts millions of visitors from all over Japan. The festival is held to commemorate the Great Hanshin earthquake that struck Kobe in 1995, and the lights symbolize hope and recovery. The festival features elaborate light displays and music performances and is a must-see for anyone visiting Kobe in December.
Explore Kobe’s Unique Architecture in Kitano-cho
Kitano-cho is a historic district in Kobe that’s known for its unique Western-style architecture. The district is home to several mansions and houses that were built by foreign merchants who settled in Kobe in the late 19th century. Many of these buildings have been preserved and converted into museums, cafes, and shops, making Kitano-cho a great place to explore and learn about Kobe’s history.
Savor Kobe Beef
Kobe is famous for its high-quality beef, which is known for its tenderness and rich flavor. Kobe beef comes from Tajima-gyu cattle, which are raised in the Hyogo prefecture and fed a special diet to produce the characteristic marbling. There are many restaurants in Kobe that serve Kobe beef, including teppanyaki restaurants where chefs cook the beef in front of you.
Visit Kobe’s Suma Beach
Kobe’s Suma Beach is a popular destination for swimming and sunbathing during the summer months. The beach is located near the city center and has a long stretch of sand and clear blue water. There are also several beach bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a meal or a drink with a view of the sea.
Take a Scenic Walk in Sorakuen Garden
Sorakuen Garden is a traditional Japanese garden located in the heart of Kobe. The garden has a pond, tea house, and several walking paths that offer scenic views of the surrounding nature. The garden is also home to a variety of cherry trees, making it a popular destination for cherry blossom viewing in the spring.
Visit Kobe’s Ikuta Shrine
Ikuta Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Japan, dating back over 1,800 years. The shrine is located in the heart of Kobe and is dedicated to Wakahirume-no-mikoto, the goddess of marriage and good relationships. The shrine has several buildings and torii gates, as well as a traditional Japanese garden. Ikuta Shrine is also home to several festivals throughout the year, including the popular Mikage Festival in June.k
Ride the Kobe City Loop Bus
The Kobe City Loop Bus is a convenient way to see the city’s main attractions. The bus runs in a loop around the city, stopping at popular tourist spots such as Meriken Park, Kitano-cho, and Kobe Port Tower. The bus has an English audio guide, making it a great way to learn about Kobe’s history and culture.
Learn about Earthquakes at the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution
The Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution is a museum dedicated to the Great Hanshin Earthquake that struck Kobe in 1995. The museum has exhibits that showcase the science behind earthquakes and the impact of the disaster on Kobe’s residents. The museum also has a memorial hall that pays tribute to the victims of the earthquake.
Visit Kobe’s Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum
The Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum is a unique museum that showcases the history of Japanese carpentry tools. The museum has a collection of over 20,000 tools, including saws, chisels, and planes, as well as exhibits on the history of Japanese carpentry. Visitors can also watch live demonstrations of traditional Japanese carpentry techniques.
Explore the Arima Onsen Hot Springs
Arima Onsen is a hot spring resort located in the mountains near Kobe. The resort has several public and private hot springs that are believed to have healing properties. The hot springs are also surrounded by lush nature and are a great place to relax and unwind.
Enjoy the Nightlife in Sannomiya
Sannomiya is a bustling district in Kobe that’s known for its nightlife. The area has a variety of bars, clubs, and karaoke rooms, making it a great place to experience Kobe’s nightlife scene. Sannomiya is also home to several late-night food stalls where you can try local dishes like takoyaki and yakitori.
Take a Cruise around Kobe Port
Kobe Port is one of Japan’s busiest ports and is known for its beautiful harbor views. One of the best ways to see the port is by taking a cruise around the harbor. There are several companies that offer harbor cruises, some of which include lunch or dinner on board.
Visit the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art
The Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art is a modern museum that showcases contemporary art from Japan and around the world. The museum has a collection of over 10,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, and installations. The museum also has a beautiful garden and a restaurant that offers views of Kobe City.
Explore the Nunobiki Trail
The Nunobiki Trail is a hiking trail that starts from Kobe’s Shin-Kobe Station and leads to the Nunobiki Falls. The trail offers stunning views of the city and is surrounded by lush nature. There are several rest areas along the trail, as well as a tea house where you can enjoy a cup of Japanese tea.
Attend a Baseball Game at the Hanshin Koshien Stadium
The Hanshin Koshien Stadium is a historic stadium that’s home to the Hanshin Tigers, one of Japan’s most popular baseball teams. Attending a baseball game at the stadium is a great way to experience Japan’s love for the sport. The stadium also has a museum that showcases the history of the Hanshin Tigers.
Visit the Kobe Animal Kingdom
The Kobe Animal Kingdom is a zoo and botanical garden located in the heart of Kobe. The zoo has a range of animals, including birds, reptiles, and mammals. There’s also a greenhouse that’s home to a variety of exotic plants. The zoo is known for its interactive exhibits, such as feeding the parrots and holding the rabbits.
Explore the Kobe City Archives
The Kobe City Archives is a museum and research center that showcases the history of Kobe. The museum has a range of exhibits, including maps, photographs, and documents that showcase the development of the city. Visitors can also access the archives’ collection for research purposes.
Enjoy a Sunset at Mount Rokko
Mount Rokko is a mountain range located near Kobe that offers panoramic views of the city and the surrounding area. The mountain can be accessed by cable car or by hiking trails. One of the best times to visit is during sunset, when the sky turns into beautiful shades of red and orange.
Visit the Kobe Maritime Museum
The Kobe Maritime Museum is a museum dedicated to the maritime history of Kobe. The museum has exhibits on the history of shipbuilding, navigation, and trade in the city. One of the highlights is the museum’s collection of model ships, including a replica of the Titanic.
Explore the Kobe Fashion Museum
The Kobe Fashion Museum is a museum dedicated to fashion and textiles. The museum has a collection of over 15,000 garments, including traditional Japanese clothing and contemporary fashion. The museum also has exhibits on the history of fashion and textile production in Japan.
Take a Day Trip to Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located near Kobe. The castle is known for its beautiful white exterior and traditional Japanese architecture. Visitors can explore the castle’s interior, which has several floors and rooms, as well as the surrounding castle grounds. Himeji Castle is easily accessible by train from Kobe.
Experience the Kobe Jazz Street Festival
The Kobe Jazz Street Festival is a popular music festival that takes place in the city every October. The festival features jazz performances from local and international musicians, as well as street performances and food stalls. The festival takes place in several venues throughout the city, making it a great way to explore Kobe’s nightlife scene.
Take a Walk Along the Kobe Bay Area
The Kobe Bay Area is a modern waterfront district that’s home to several attractions, including the Kobe Port Tower and the Kobe Maritime Museum. The area also has several parks and walking paths that offer beautiful views of the harbor. The area is especially beautiful at night when the harbor is lit up with colorful lights.
Visit the Kobe City Suma Aquarium
The Kobe City Suma Aquarium is a popular attraction that’s home to a variety of marine animals, including dolphins, whales, and penguins. The aquarium has several exhibits that showcase the diversity of marine life in Japan and around the world. Visitors can also watch live shows and feed the animals.
Take a Cooking Class to Learn How to Make Japanese Cuisine
Kobe is known for its delicious cuisine, and taking a cooking class is a great way to learn how to make traditional Japanese dishes. There are several cooking classes in Kobe that offer hands-on lessons on how to make sushi, tempura, and other Japanese dishes. Some classes also include a trip to the local market to buy ingredients.
Explore the Nunobiki Underground Shopping Mall
The Nunobiki Underground Shopping Mall is a shopping district located beneath Kobe’s Shin-Kobe Station. The mall has a range of shops, including fashion boutiques, cafes, and souvenir shops. The mall is also home to several restaurants that serve Kobe beef and other local specialties. The mall is a great place to escape from the heat or rain while exploring the city.
Visit the Kobe City Oji Zoo
The Kobe City Oji Zoo is a popular attraction that’s home to a variety of animals, including lions, tigers, and bears. The zoo is known for its open-air enclosures that allow visitors to get up close to the animals. The zoo also has a petting zoo and a playground, making it a great place to visit with children.
Try Kobe’s Local Sake
Kobe is known for its high-quality sake, and there are several sake breweries throughout the city that offer tours and tastings. One of the most famous is the Kobe Shushinkan Brewery, which was established in 1751 and is one of the oldest sake breweries in Japan. Here you can learn about the history and production of sake, as well as taste different varieties.
Take a Stroll through the Kobe City Arboretum
The Kobe City Arboretum is a beautiful botanical garden located on the slopes of Mount Rokko. The garden has a range of trees and plants, including a collection of Japanese cherry trees that bloom in the spring. There are also several walking paths and observation decks that offer beautiful views of the surrounding nature.
Visit the Nada Sake District
The Nada Sake District is a historic sake-producing area located in Kobe. The district is home to several sake breweries, some of which have been producing sake for over 200 years. Visitors can take tours of the breweries and taste different types of sake. The district also has a sake museum that showcases the history and production of sake in the region.
Take a Day Trip to Awaji Island
Awaji Island is a beautiful island located off the coast of Kobe. The island is known for its beautiful nature, including beaches, hot springs, and scenic hiking trails. The island is also home to several attractions, such as the Naruto Strait and the Awaji Puppet Theater. Awaji Island is easily accessible by ferry or car from Kobe.
Visit the Kobe City Namban Art Museum
The Kobe City Namban Art Museum is a museum that showcases the cultural exchange between Japan and Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. The museum has a collection of paintings, furniture, and other objects that reflect the influence of European art on Japanese culture. Visitors can also learn about the history of Kobe as a port city that facilitated this cultural exchange.
Explore the Kobe Municipal Fruit and Flower Park
The Kobe Municipal Fruit and Flower Park is a botanical garden that’s home to a variety of plants and flowers, including roses, orchids, and bonsai trees. The park also has a greenhouse and a fruit orchard, where visitors can pick and taste different types of fruit. The park is especially beautiful during the cherry blossom season in the spring.
Take a Dip in the Arima Onsen Foot Spa
The Arima Onsen Foot Spa is a public foot bath located in the Arima Onsen hot spring resort. The foot spa is free to use and offers stunning views of the surrounding nature. Visitors can soak their feet in the hot spring water and relax while enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.
Visit the Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens
The Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens is a botanical garden that’s home to a variety of herbs and flowers. The garden has several walking paths and observation decks that offer beautiful views of the surrounding nature. There are also several restaurants and cafes that serve dishes made with herbs grown in the garden.
Attend a Performance at the Kobe Bunka Hall
The Kobe Bunka Hall is a concert hall that’s known for its excellent acoustics. The hall hosts a range of performances, including classical music, opera, and ballet. The hall has a seating capacity of over 2,000, making it one of the largest concert halls in the Kansai region.
Visit the Kobe Municipal Museum of History
The Kobe Municipal Museum of History is a museum that showcases the history of Kobe, from its early days as a small fishing village to its development into a bustling port city. The museum has exhibits on the city’s economy, culture, and daily life, as well as a collection of artifacts and documents.