Last Updated on August 8, 2023 by Jerardo Gomez
Welcome to the vibrant city of Kobe, Japan! Nestled between the sea and the Rokko mountain range, Kobe is a captivating city filled with a rich blend of Eastern tradition and Western modernity. This one-day travel guide will lead you through a well-rounded experience of this remarkable destination.
I really loved Kobe and it was one of my favorite experiences in Japan which is why I decided to write a Kobe Japan travel guide to help you plan your trip. It makes a great day trip from Osaka. It is also a good day trip from Kyoto too.
Whether you’re a foodie, culture enthusiast, or nature lover, Kobe offers something unique for every traveler. So brace yourself for an unforgettable 24-hour journey in this quintessentially Japanese city. Let’s explore Kobe!
Why should you travel to Kobe?
Kobe is the perfect get-away from large cities like Osaka and Tokyo with unique finds in this port town.
The answer lies in its unique charm that harmoniously blends urban sophistication with traditional Japanese grace. Bursting with a wide array of attractions, Kobe is a city where you can explore exquisitely manicured Japanese gardens, wander through bustling shopping arcades, and eat delicious Kobe beef at upscale diners – all in the same day.
The city center’s world-class sake breweries provide a taste of Japan’s rich culinary heritage, while the sweeping vistas from the Rokko mountain range offer a serene escape from the city buzz. To sum it up, Kobe is a city that promises a rich and diverse travel experience, making it a must-visit destination for any Japan itinerary.
8:30 AM Shin-Osaka Station to Kobe
How to get to Kobe Herb Garden from Shin-Osaka Station?
Start your journey from Shin-Osaka Station, one of the major railway hubs in the Kansai region. Opt for the Shinkansen (bullet train) to shin-Kobe Station.
Upon arriving at Shin-Kobe Station, make your way toward the Shin-Kobe Ropeway, which is conveniently located adjacent to the station. Just head south and exit the station in which you will find directions. The ropeway, operating from 9:30 AM, offers a stunning cable car ride up the Rokko Mountains. The scenic ride lasts around 15 minutes and presents breathtaking panoramic views of Kobe city.
9:30 AM Kobe Herb Gardens
Going to the Kobe Nunobiki herb gardens is a must and I either recommend it in the morning or at dusk time to see the city center light up. And you can eat Kobe beef here too.
Start off your day with a visit to the tranquil and peaceful Herb Gardens of Kobe. Located in the heart of Kobe, these lush gardens provide breathtaking views and an opportunity to relax surrounded by nature.
This was my favorite part of my trip and one of my favorite things to do in Japan! I really not only enjoyed the garden but the souvenirs are one of a kind. The food was great, and the drinks were also amazing. I suggest trying the lavender soft serve which can be found mid-way down the garden’s path.
What makes Kobe Herb Gardens a must-see?
The garden is divided into various themed sections, including a rose garden, a fruit garden, and a greenhouse with tropical plants. It’s also home to a multitude of herbs, with over 200 varieties giving rise to a fascinating tapestry of scents as you wander through the garden.
It made my day trip to Kobe fun and relaxing seeing different kinds of plants with a lot of different scents. Please add this to your Kobe Day trip itinerary!
But what truly sets Kobe Herb Gardens apart is its unique fusion of natural beauty and cultural experience. The garden houses a museum dedicated to herbs, where visitors can learn about their various uses, from cooking and medicine to aroma therapy. Don’t miss the opportunity to participate in an interactive workshop where you can make your own herb-infused souvenirs such as soap, candles, and lotions.
Finally, the garden’s hilltop location offers awe-inspiring vistas over Kobe and Osaka Bay, particularly stunning at sunset. The combination of its tranquil setting, educational activities, and mesmerizing views make the Kobe Herb Gardens a must-see for anyone visiting Kobe. Enjoying a meal at the garden’s restaurant, which serves dishes using herbs grown in the garden, provides the perfect way to round off your visit.
Afternoon: Explore Mount Rokko
This one is optional: After you’ve rejuvenated in the gardens, make your way to Mount Rokko for a stunning view of Kobe and its surrounding areas.
You can find a trail/hike at the southern part of the garden that will lead you to Shin-Kobe station and will pass through Nonobiki Waterfall. This takes 45 minutes but if you dont want to walk, then just use the ropeway to head back.
12:00 PM Head to Kobe Steak Restaurant Mouriya
You do not have to go to this restaurant but I have included it because it was really good, it has a lunch special, and it’s conveniently located next to the train station. I recommend you make a reservation 1 month ahead!
The friendly staff at Mouriya not only welcomes guests to take photographs but they also endeavor to explain the different cuts of beef and cooking processes, making your meal an unforgettable culinary journey. I think this is the place to go as a tourist to try the world famous kobe beef. The wagyu beef really melts in your mouth here.
Consider visiting during lunchtime when the restaurant offers special set menus at reduced prices. This is a cost-effective way to sample the delicacy of Kobe beef without burning a hole in your wallet. Enjoy your meal!
How to get to Kobe Steak Restaurant Mouriya from Shin-Osaka Station?
To reach Kobe Steak Restaurant Mouriya from Shin-Kobe Station, you can take Seishin-Yamate Line Local towards Seishinchuo which takes 6 minutes in total.
2:00 PM Sample Sake in Kobe
After your savory Kobe beef lunch, it’s time to explore Kobe’s rich sake heritage. Kobe’s Nada district is Japan’s leading sake-producing region, thanks to the availability of high-quality rice, suitable climate for sake fermentation, and the mineral-rich water from the Rokko Mountain Range.
How to get to the Nada Sake District from Sannomiya Station?
Getting to the Nada district is fairly straightforward. From Sannomiya Station, board the Hanshin Main Line train towards Nishinomiya. Alight at Uozaki Station in less than 15 minutes. The sake breweries are a short walk from here.
Recommended Sake Breweries
Hakutsuru Sake Brewery Museum: Hakutsuru is one of Japan’s leading sake brands, and this museum allows you to delve into the sake-making process through its informative displays and exhibits. Don’t miss the sake tasting session that lets you sample different types of Hakutsuru sake.
Sawanotsuru Museum: Another noteworthy stop, this museum presents the history of sake brewing in the Nada district, with a range of exhibits from vintage tools to dioramas. The free sake tasting is a highlight here as well.
Kobe Shushinkan Brewery: Home to the famed Fukuju brand of sake, this brewery offers informative tours, tastings, and even a lovely restaurant where you can enjoy a meal paired perfectly with their sake.
Be sure to buy any Sake souvineers here!
2:00 PM Alternative: Explore Kobe’s Chinatown
If you are not a fan of sake or simply want to explore more diverse aspects of Kobe, consider a visit to Nankinmachi, Kobe’s vibrant Chinatown. The area is a bustling enclave filled with shops selling a variety of goods and street food stalls offering a range of delicious Chinese delicacies.
How to get to Nankinmachi from Sannomiya Station?
Getting to Nankinmachi is convenient and easy. Board the Kobe City Loop bus from Sannomiya Station and alight at the Kyu-kyoryuchi (Former Foreign Settlement) bus stop. Nankinmachi is a short walk from there.
What to do in Kobe’s Chinatown?
Nankinmachi is not only about food; it’s also a cultural experience. The colorful streets are lined with red lanterns and oriental architecture. You can explore the various shops, sample delicious street food, or try their famous steamed buns and dumplings. Don’t miss the chance to taste the unique blend of Chinese and Japanese influences in dishes like Ramen. If food isn’t your main interest, shopping for unique souvenirs and experiencing the lively atmosphere of this area are equally enjoyable.
4:00 PM Visit Kobe Harborland
As the day begins to wind down, make your way to Kobe Harborland, a shopping and entertainment district located right on the waterfront. This lively area is a blend of romantic scenery, shopping delights, and diverse dining options.
Kobe Harborland offers something for everyone. From high-end boutiques to popular retail stores, the shopping options are vast and varied. The district is also a food lover’s paradise, with a wide array of restaurants and cafes offering both local and international cuisine.
The real appeal of Harborland, however, lies in its stunning views. The harbor, with its array of yachts and ships, set against the backdrop of the Rokko Mountains, provides a truly picturesque vista. As the sun begins to set, the area takes on a magical quality, with the lights from the buildings reflecting off the water creating an enchanting atmosphere.
If you’re interested in some entertainment, consider visiting the Kobe Anpanman Children’s Museum & Mall, or take a scenic cruise around the harbor. Alternatively, simply wander around, soak in the sights, and take plenty of pictures – the scenery is truly photogenic, particularly at dusk.
How to get to Kobe Harborland from Nankinmachi?
Getting to Harborland from Nankinmachi is quite straightforward. You can take a 12-minute walk towards the south, following the main road alongside Meriken Park. Or, if you prefer, take the City Loop Bus and get off at the Harborland stop. The journey should take less than 10 minutes.
6:00 PM Shop at Motomachi Shopping Street
After exploring the waterfront of Kobe Harborland, make your way to Motomachi Shopping Street. Situated between Sannomiya Station and Meriken Park, this shopping district is filled with over 500 shops selling everything from traditional crafts to modern fashion.
Motomachi is ideal for those looking to buy souvenirs or gifts. Here, you can find a wide selection of traditional crafts like Kutani-yaki pottery, Akadama sake sets, and Kobe lacquerware. If fashion is more your thing, Motomachi has plenty of trendy clothes shops from global brands as well as local boutiques. There are also many eateries lined up along the main street, giving you an opportunity to sample Kobe’s delicious cuisine.
How to get to Motomachi Shopping Street from Sannomiya Station?
Getting to Motomachi can be easily achieved by taking one of the Kobe City Loop Buses. Alight at the Motomachi 4-chome bus stop and you will be at the entrance to the shopping street in less than 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can take a 15-minute walk from Sannomiya Station and arrive at the same destination within walking distance.
8:00 PM Dinner and Evening activites
After a long day of exploring Kobe, explore Harborland and find something for dinner that looks good. There are a lot of restaurants and street food around.
Mosaic is a popular shopping complex at Harborland where you can indulge in some retail therapy at the numerous boutiques and specialty shops that stay open late. It’s also famous for its restaurants that present a wide variety of cuisines, providing ample dinner options.
There is also a ferris wheel.
Enjoy the Illuminations
One of the key highlights of Harborland at night is the stunning illumination display. The entire area, from its buildings to the trees lining the waterfront, is beautifully lit up, making for an enchanting evening stroll.
Visit the Kobe Port Tower
Another must-do evening activity is visiting the Kobe Port Tower. This 108-meter tall tower offers panoramic views of the harbor and the city. Its observation deck is an ideal spot to soak in the breathtaking day trip night views of Kobe.
Remember to check the timing and availability of these activities ahead of time, as they can change depending on the season and weather conditions.
I really hope this Kobe itinerary was helpful for you!
I have good memories at the herb garden, eating real kobe beef, visiting chinese restaurants around kobe Chinatown and the ocean brushing up against the city.
Kobe Airport is also here if you decide to visit from Tokyo which would be faster than the Shinkansen. If visiting Japan is on your bucket list then make sure to also include a Kobe trip.
Thank you for following along on this journey. If you enjoyed this guide and want to stay updated on more travel adventures, insider tips, and travel inspiration, don’t forget to subscribe. We look forward to helping you plan your next unforgettable journey. Happy travels!
Other Things to Do in Kobe
Visit the Kobe City Museum
Immerse yourself in the rich history and culture of Kobe at the Kobe City Museum. Housed in a stunning neo-Renaissance style building, the museum showcases a diverse collection of art and archaeological artifacts offering a glimpse into Kobe’s past.
Savor Kobe Beef
A visit to Kobe isn’t complete without tasting Kobe beef, a delicacy known worldwide for its taste, tenderness, and marbled texture. Many restaurants in Kobe specialize in this dish, so treat yourself to an unforgettable culinary experience.
Explore the Kobe Maritime Museum
At the Kobe Maritime Museum, you can learn about the city center’s maritime history and its importance as a port city. The museum’s interactive exhibits and ship models are sure to captivate maritime enthusiasts and casual visitors alike.
Marvel at the Iconic Kobe Port Tower
Aside from the nighttime visit mentioned in our itinerary, the Kobe Port Tower also offers spectacular views during the day. Ascend the tower for panoramic vistas of the cityscape, the Rokko Mountains, and the azure sea beyond.
Pay Respects at the Kobe Earthquake Memorial
The Kobe Earthquake Memorial offers a poignant reminder of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. The memorial park features preserved ruins and exhibitions, narrating the story of the tragic event and the city’s remarkable rebirth.
Catch a Match at Kobe Misaki Stadium
If you’re a sports fan, consider catching a match at the Kobe Misaki Stadium, a top-notch facility hosting football matches and other sports events.
Visit Arima Onsen Town
Wrap up your Kobe experience with a visit to Arima Onsen, one of Japan’s most famous hot spring towns. Take a dip in the therapeutic hot spring waters and soak in the serene ambiance of this quaint town.
Remember, Kobe is a city teeming with wonders. So, take your time, explore at your own pace, and savor every moment of your visit to this remarkable city.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: What is the best time of year to visit Kobe?
A1: Kobe is a beautiful city to visit any time of the year. However, the spring (March-April) and autumn (October-November) seasons are particularly picturesque due to cherry blossoms and fall foliage, respectively.
Q2: Is Kobe safe for tourists?
A2: Yes, Kobe is generally considered safe for tourists. Like any other city, it’s always important to stay alert and aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas.
Q3: What is the local currency in Kobe?
A3: The local currency in Kobe is the Japanese Yen (¥).
Q4: Can I get by with English in Kobe?
A4: While tourist information centers have some level of English, it is very different from Toyko. Communication in Kobe will mostly be pointing, Google Translate, and careful listening to their English. It would be a good idea to learn basic Japanese phrases before going to Kobe.
Q5: How accessible is Kobe for those with mobility issues?
A5: Kobe is generally quite accessible for people with mobility issues. Public transportation is equipped with facilities to accommodate wheelchair users, and many tourist attractions have accessible entrances and facilities.
Q6: What are some vegetarian-friendly dishes in Kobe?
A6: While Kobe is famous for its beef, there are also several vegetarian-friendly dishes available. These include vegetable tempura, tofu dishes, and various kinds of sushi.
Q7: Can I use credit cards in Kobe?
A7: Yes, credit cards are widely accepted in Kobe, especially in hotels, restaurants, and larger stores. However, it’s a good idea to carry some cash for smaller shops and street vendors.