18 Best Things to Do in Kobe

Best Things to Do in Kobe: Kobe Beef, Arima Onsen and more

Kobe (神戸) is the capital city of Hyogo Prefecture, and one of the largest cities in Japan with a population around 1.5 million. Kobe has been serving as one of the most important port cities for foreign trade in the country since 1853, and it has developed its own distinctive culture influenced by several countries.

From the large Chinatown to the former Western style foreign residential area, Kobe offers an unique and multi-cultured streetscape, attracting a large number of visitors from Japan and abroad through the year. Kobe is also known as the birth place of the world-famous wagyu beef brand, Kobe Beef. It’s arguably the best city to indulge yourself with the finest quality wagyu beef dishes.

Kobe City is a popular destination for a day-trip from Kyoto or Osaka. If you are planning to visit Western Japan, you should definitely consider adding Kobe to your travel itinerary as it’s absolutely one of the most attractive cities in Japan! In this article, I have listed the best things to do in Kobe City, so let’s check them out 🙂

1. Kobe Beef

The most famous Wagyu Beef brand in the world, Kobe Beef is indeed raised in Kobe City. It’s definitely a must-have dish while visiting the city. There are numbers of restaurants and steakhouses in the city serving delicious Kobe Beef with various dishes including as steak, Shabu-Shabu and Sukiyaki.

One of the best ways to enjoy Kobe Beef is Teppanyaki, the Japanese style iron griddle cooking. In Teppanyaki restaurants, usually chefs cook the dishes right in front of customers on grill plates attached on the table, so you can be entertained watching Kobe Beef and other items being cooked and prepared by a skilled chef while enjoying the dish.

Please check the attached link below to find out the best Kobe Beef restaurants in Kobe City!

Best Kobe Beef Restaurants in Kobe

2. Kobe Harborland

Kobe Harborland (神戸ハーバーランド) is a popular shopping, entertainment and dining district at the port area of Kobe City. The vibrant waterfront district consists of large shopping complexes and buildings with shops, restaurants, cafes, museum, Ferris wheel, hotel, spa, promenade and other amusement facilities. Many facilities are indoor and can be enjoyed even on a rainy day.

It’s a popular spot to visit after sunset especially among couples as the romantic view of the port and illuminated buildings can be enjoyed. Some of city’s famous landmarks such as Kobe Port Tower and Kobe Maritime Museum can be seen on the opposite shore.

Map: http://bit.ly/2XuXicA

3. Meriken Park

Meriken Park (メリケンパーク) is a waterfront park located in the port area of Kobe and the opposite shore of the Harborland. The park is home to multiple facilities and landmarks such as Kobe Tower, Kobe Maritime Museum, a memorial to victims of the Great Hanshin earthquake, cruise ship terminal and luxury hotels.

Kobe Port Tower is a famous landmark of the city, opened in 1963. The 108m tall tower was designed to resemble Tsuzumi (traditional Japanese drum) and has shops, cafes and observatories inside. Kobe Maritime Museum is a museum that exhibits the history of Japanese shipping and Kobe harbor.

Map: http://bit.ly/2YAW6Rg

4. Kitano-cho Area

Kitano-cho (北野町), also known as the Kitano Ijinkangai (北野異人館街) is a former residential area of foreign merchants and diplomats in Kobe City. The Western style mansions and buildings were  during the period of late Meiji and early Taisho eras when the port of Kobe opened for foreign trade in the 19th century.

Many buildings of former foreign residences are preserved and open to public as tourist attractions today, including Weathercock House, Kobe Kitano Museum, French House and English House. The neighbourhood of Kitano-cho is a popular area for photography among tourists as it offers a unique and charming streetscape lined by the historic buildings, cafes, restaurants and boutiques.

Map: http://bit.ly/2XvJGsw

5. Kobe Chinatown

Kobe Chinatown (also called Nankinmachi (南京町)) is one of the largest Chinatowns in Japan where hundreds of Chinese restaurants and shops gather. As Kobe started foreign trades in 19th century, the Chinatown was slowly developed by Chinese merchants, and became one of the top tourist sites in the city today.

Kobe Chinatown is a popular spot for dining and shopping, and attracts a large number of visitors especially when traditional ceremonies are taking place during Lunar New Year and  Mid-Autumn Festival. An illumination event is also held during winter featuring lanterns illuminating the streets of Chinatown.

Map: http://bit.ly/2RYM1es

6. Nunobiki Ropeway

Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway (神戸布引ロープウェイ) is one of the most popular attractions in the city, running between the city center and the slope of Mt Rokko. The ropeway station is located near JR Shin Kobe Station and the line links to Nunobiki Herb Garden Station. There is one more station in between.

The ropeway provides a stunning panoramic view of the city during a 10-min ride. The View Plaza observation deck is located on the top station 400m above the ground where you can sit and relax while watching the spectacular view of Kobe. It’s highly recommended to visit around sunset time if you wish to enjoy the city view both in day and night. At night, a special light-up is also available around the View Plaza on some days.

Map: https://maps.app.goo.gl/5g9kqZ1L4gedQtDC6

7. Nunobiki Herb Gardens

Nunobiki Herb Garden

Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens (神戸布引ハーブ園) is also located on the slope of the Rokko mountain, featuring a large number of plants with about 75,000 seasonal herbs and flowers in 200 variations. The garden can be accessed only by the Nunobiki Ropeway and it’s located on the top station.

The garden consists of 12 areas where herbs and flowers are displayed in different themes on the mountain slope. A large variety of plants can be enjoyed together with the spectacular view overlooking the city of Kobe. There are also a glasshouse, museum, cafe, shop and footbath at the site.

Map: https://maps.app.goo.gl/wrjHFJgC1eyY1e7s7

8. Rokkosan

Rokkosan or Mt Rokko (六甲山) is a range of mountains in Hyogo Prefecture with the highest peak at 931 meters. The mountain range spans approx 56km in the south of the prefecture between western Kobe and Takawazuka City. Mt Rokko stands as a symbol of Kobe City as well as a popular sightseeing and hiking spot away from the bustling city.

The mountain offers a variety of attractions such as a botanical garden, museum, park, shops, restaurants and observatories. Most visitors go there to enjoy the panoramic view of Kobe and Osaka overlooking from the mountain. The city view gets especially spectacular at night as it’s often described as the “Ten Million Dollar Night View”. The mountain top can be accessed by a cable car linking from both Kobe City and Arima Onsen town.

Map: http://bit.ly/2LBfbPI

9. Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (明石海峡大橋) is a suspension bridge that links Kobe City and Awaji Island and spans over the Akashi Strait. The bridge opened in 1998 as the world’s longest suspension bridge at the time with the length of 3,911m and it’s currently the second longest in the world after the 4,608m long 1915 Çanakkale Bridge was built in Turkey in 2022.

The science museum, Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center is located next to the bridge (on the Kobe City side) where guests can learn the history and technologies about the bridge and its construction. The bridge is usually open only for vehicles, but there is a special path, Maiko Marine Promenade at 50 m above the sea, which allows visitors to walk on the bridge over the Akashi Strait.

Map: http://bit.ly/2RYO8Pq

10. Nada Sake Brewery

Sake Brewery in Nada District, Kobe

Nada district in Kobe City is one of the major sake producing regions in Japan. Due to an abundance of mineral-rich water, the quality of rice, an ideal weather condition and good location near Osaka, the hub of distribution, the district is able to produce rich and flavourfull sake and became a principle area of sake production.

Nada district is home to numbers of sake breweries and some of them are open to public and offer a sake brewery tour and tasting. Some breweries have exhibition spaces and museums with English coverage, which you can learn the history of sake and Nada district including Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum, Sawanotsuru Sake Museum, Sakura Masamune Museum and Kiku Masamune Sake Brewery Museum.

11. Sorakuen Garden

Sorakuen (相楽園) is a pleasant and peaceful Japanese landscape garden located in the heart of Kobe City. The garden used to be part of the residence of Yasujiro Kodera, a father of former mayor of Kobe City Kenkichi Kodera. The ownership of the garden passed to the city and opened to public in 1941.

The garden features the “Chisen Kaiyu Shiki”, one of traditional styles of Japanese garden with a path around a pond. The spacious garden is formed with traditional Japanese gardens with Western style architecture. The garden is a popular place especially for Azalea viewing in spring and tinted leaves in autumn.

Map: http://bit.ly/2XOlPZf

12. Arima Onsen

Arima Onsen (有馬温泉) is a popular hot spring town in the outskirts of Kobe City. Although it’s within the city limits, the town is situated behind Mt Rokko and surrounded by rich nature where visitors can feel the tranquility and beauty of nature, being away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Arima Onsen is one of the oldest Onsen towns in Japan with over 1,000 year-old history. It’s known as a favourite Onsen of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, one of the most famous Japanese samurai and warlord from the 16th century, whose statue can be found in the town. There are two types of spring water in Arima Onsen: Kinsen “Gold Spring” with brown-ish colour containing iron and salt and Ginsen “Silver Spring” with clear colour containing radium and carbonate.

More info: Best Things to Do in Arima Onsen

13. Winter Illuminations

Winter illumination is a top seasonal attraction in Japan and numbers of illumination events are held in cities across Japan every winter. There are several winter illuminations and events that can be enjoyed in Kobe City, and if you are planning to visit Kobe in winter, you should definitely visit some of them and be mesmerized by colourful and dreamy winter lights. Illuminations are available during winter in several locations including Meriken Park, Kobe Harborland, Former Foreign Settlement and Chinatown.

Kobe Luminarie (神戸ルミナリエ) is one of the most popular winter illumination events in Japan, which originally started in 1995 to commemorate the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. The event features colourful and gorgeous light installations designed by Japanese and Italian artists, which are displayed at several locations within the city. The event invites a few million visitors every year.

Kobe Illuminage (神戸イルミナージュ) is a large scale illumination event taking place at Michi no Eki Kobe Fruit Flower Park Osawa. The event features approx 5.5 million colourful LED lights creating a wide variety of light installations and attractions.

Related article: Best Winter Illuminations in Western Japan

14. Autumn Leaves

Autumn leaves are another wonderful seasonal attraction in Japan, so if you are going to visit Kobe in autumn, don’t miss a chance to hunt for autumn tints. There are numbers of spots to enjoy autumn leaves in Kobe both in city center and outskirt.

The symbol of the city, Mt Rokko is one of the first areas where you can enjoy autumn colours in Kobe. Together with autumn leaves, the dynamic scenery can be admired from the mountain top, ropeway and cable car. Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden is situated near the summit of the mountain, 865m above the sea level and is home to a wide range of trees that display amazing autumn tints during the season.

Kobe City Forest Botanical Garden, a 142.6 ha botanical garden and arboretum located near Mt Maya, is another great spot to enjoy autumn leaves in rich nature. The garden displays gorgeous autumn colours by 3,000 trees in 38 varieties. An autumn leaves festival is held during the season, featuring special events and light-up of trees at night.

If you wish to enjoy autumn leaves with traditional Japanese scenery, visit Sorakuen Garden where maple leaves turn into red and yellow colours, making a stunning contrast with the greenery and Japanese landscape garden. The plants in popular botanical garden, Nunobiki Herb Garden also covers the mountain slope with gorgeous autumn colours.

15. Koshien Stadium

Koshien (甲子園) is a home stadium of Hanshin Tigers, a popular professional baseball team in Japan. Hanshin Tigers is known for having the most passionate and enthusiastic fans, and numbers of games are held at the Koshien Stadium with exciting and energetic atmosphere.

The stadium is also used for the national high school baseball tournaments, and it was actually built to host the tournament in 1924. The stadium has 55,000 capacity which was the largest in Asia at the time. If you are a baseball fan, you should definitely watch a baseball game in Koshien Stadium and  experience the Japanese baseball culture. Koshien Stadium is located in Nishinomiya City about 20km east of Kobe City.

Map: http://bit.ly/2LIFIL5

16. Kobe Animal Kingdom

Kobe Animal Kingdom (神戸どうぶつ王国) is an animal and flower park located on the Port Island, a man-made island in Kobe City. The park is home to about 800 animals and 10,000 plants including Sumatran tiger, hippopotamus, sloth, otter, red panda, capybara, flamingo, penguin, tortoise, horse, etc. It has divided themed areas that recreate the habitat of the animals such as African Wetland, Tropical Forest, Rocky Valley and Sumatran Tiger Ecological Garden. As the park is mainly indoor, most of facilities can be enjoyed even on rainy day.

The unique feature of the park is that visitors are able to interact with adorable animals such as watching up close, touching and feeding. Outside of the park, there are also some fun activities and attractions including camel ride, horse ride and bird performances.

17. Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art

The Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art (兵庫県立美術館)  is a modern and contemporary art museum located in Nada-Ward in Kobe City. The museum opened in 2002 and was built as part of Kobe’s recovery program after the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. The building was designed by Ando Tadao, one of the greatest Japanese architects of all time, who has designed some notable buildings in Japan and overseas including Tokyo Skytree and Chichu Art Museum on Naoshima Island.

The museum stores over 7,000 pieces of artwork displays a large selection of paintings, prints, sculptures and other artworks by both foreign and Japanese artists. Besides the permanent exhibitions, the museum also hosts several temporary exhibitions through the year.

Map: http://bit.ly/2nF1K7C


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PEANUTS comic and the characters including Snoopy and Charlie Brown are beloved all across the world. There are several PEANUTS related facilities and attractions across Japan including PEANUTS CAFE and SNOOPY MUSEUM. The first ever PEANUTS themed hotel, PEANUTS HOTEL opened in Kobe City, Japan in 2018.

The hotel consists of 3 floors divided into 3 different themes of “IMAGINE”, “HAPPY” and “LOVE” and has 18 guest rooms in total with different concepts and designs of PEANUTS comic. PEANUTS Cafe Kobe is situated on the first floor of the hotel, offering light meal and drinks available for takeaway in a cozy and stylish space. The cafe also sells a range of merchandise including limited items. On the 3rd floor, there is a PEANUTS themed restaurant PEANUTS DINER inspired by a seaside diner of American West Coast and serving delicious dishes using local ingredients.

More info: PEANUTS HOTEL: Stay at Snoopy Themed Hotel in Japan

If you are planning to visit Kobe and other spots in Hyogo Prefecture, please check out the best things to do in Hyogo from the link below!
▶︎Top Things to Do in Hyogo

Thanks for reading! Kobe is one of the most attractive and enjoyable cities in Japan, and it’s accessible from popular cities in Western Japan such as Kyoto and Osaka. For more information about Hyogo Prefecture and nearby attractions, please check out the listed articles below, too!

Written by

"The world is my oyster" A globetrotter 🌎 and hammock lover 🌞 who loves taking adventures to fuel wanderlust. Born and raised in Japan, I have lived and explored countries around the world. As a resident of Japan and based on my travel experience, I'd love to share my knowledge and tips for travelling Japan with my readers. I hope my story will help you plan your trip and have a great time in Japan 🌈