The Ultimate Guide to One Day in Kobe & Top Things to Do & See in this stunning port city
The charming port city of Kobe is uniquely vibrant and naturally stunning with a welcoming atmosphere. The city is a perfect mix of international influence and Japanese culture. Exuding a casual feel with its small-style restaurants and izakaya along with the atmospheric Chinatown, Kobe offers plenty on the menu as well. One of the top things to do during your one day in Kobe is to try the renowned Kobe Beef (if you are not a Vegan or a Vegetarian).
Kobe is a great city to explore and makes an easy destination to get to from Kyoto or Osaka which makes it an attractive day trip option for tourists. Surrounded by natural beauty and with so much culture, Kobe is a destination worth exploring when in Japan. In this guide to one day in Kobe and top things to do in Kobe, I share some of the highlights of this beautiful city from my experiences when I lived in Japan a few years ago. In fact, when it comes to the best things to do in Kobe, this article has everything you need so you get the full benefit of your one day in Kobe or a few days in Kobe. From world famous parks, and shrines to mountains and onsens, I have you covered in this article.
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Is Kobe worth visiting?
Without a doubt, Kobe is absolutely worth a visit! The city has so many hidden surprises including rich architecture, hot springs, beautiful hillside villages, and the world renowned sake that goes so well with their wagyu beef. Kobe is a city where you can experience all of Japan in one day and offers so much more than expected.
About Kobe, Japan
Located in the Kansai region, Kobe is the capital city of Hyogo Prefecture. Situated between the sea and the Rokko Mountains, Kobe is one of the largest port cities in Japan along with Yokohama and Nagasaki. Kobe has a long history as an important place of trade since 1868 and is an attractive city to explore. Given its history, the port city shows strong western and Asian influences. The city’s skyline is much influenced by western architecture, and Kobe’s dining scene is a beautiful fusion of foreign and Japanese cuisine.
Kobe is a city that is easy to navigate and presents a great many things to do. Two days in Kyoto is an ideal amount of time as it allows you to explore at your own pace, and thoroughly savour all the sights you are experiencing. However, if you are pressed for time, then this guide about one day in Kobe along with the top things to do in Kobe allows you to adjust the suggested highlights to fit in with your time in the city and see the best of Kobe for timeless memories.
One Day in Kobe Flexible Itinerary
If you are visiting Kobe on a day trip from another city in the Kansai region, such as Osaka or Kyoto, your day may involve a longer day with an early start. You may want to begin your day from 08:00 in Kobe so you can enjoy the maximum of what the city has to offer. For flexibility, I have not inserted any timings in this article so you could navigate the city at your pace.
Arriving in Kobe, Japan
1 | Travelling from Kyoto
Take the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Shin-Kobe station. There is a direct Hikari train that departs each hour. Alternatively, take the JR rapid train that will take you to Kobe Sannomiya station in 50 minutes.
Sannomiya station is centrally located in Kobe and is the better place to start your day in Kobe. All public transport routes starts here.
2 | Travelling from Tokyo
Visiting Kobe from Tokyo is possible. Take the Shinkansen (Japan’s bullet train) which is the quickest way to reach Kobe. There are three Shinkansen options — Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama. All the Shinkansen trains stop at Shin-Kobe station. Ensure that you take the Shinkansen that is headed to Okayama, Hiroshima or Hakata. Otherwise, you may have to change trains at Shin-Osaka.
At Shin-Kobe, take the local train, Seishinchuo line to Sannomiya station. The journey time between Shin-Kobe to Sannomiya is just 2 minutes. The total time from Tokyo to Kobe and onward to Sannomiya will take a little over 3 hours.
Find out more about Japan Rail Pass for 7, 14 and 21 days from the official Japan Rail Pass site.
What to do in Kobe for a day
1 | Ikuta Shrine
Ikuta Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Japan, and dates back to 201 AD. The shrine is dedicated to the god of marriage and love. It is very popular amongst the younger generation in Japan. There are several lucky charms (EMA) of various designs that are sold and you could select what suits.
Practical Info for Ikuta Shrine
Address: 1 Chome-2-1 Shimoyamatedori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0011, Japan.
1 minute walk, west exit 3 of Sannomiya Station.
Hours: 07:00 to 17:00
The official website is in Japanese — select Google translate option to read in English
No admission charge
2 | Visit Sorakuen Garden — Sannomiya Area
Sorakuen Garden is a unique landscaped traditional Japanese Garden that was completed during the late Meiji period. For architectural lovers, you’ll be pleased to know that the garden is home to the famous Hassam House which once belonged to a British-Indian trader in the early 1900s.
Spend some time strolling around this beautiful garden. There are stepping stones, and stone bridges along with a 500 year-old camphor tree which are delightful. The natural beauty is spellbinding especially around the pond. Sorakuen Garden is exceptionally beautiful during spring, between late April to early May when the azaleas burst into bloom. Chrysanthemums and maple leaves steal the show in autumn, between late October and late November. The garden is a popular wedding venue.
Practical Info for Sorakuen Garden
Address: 5 Chome-3-1 Nakayamatedori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0004, Japan
Train: 7-minute walk from Motomachi Station on the JR Kobe Line and Hanshin Main Line.
Subway — Kobe Municipal Subway Seishin-Yamata Line: 3-minute walk from exit 2 (west) of Kenchomae Station.
Hours: 09:00 to 17:00 (last entry is at 16:30).
Closed: Every Thursday （or following day if national holiday falls on a Thursday）
December 29th – January 3rd
Admission: Adults (over 15 years) is Y300 | Children: Y150
Would you like to experience the authentic side of this historic city and discover what makes Kobe special?
Opt for a ‘eat like a local’ personalised experience of places to eat in this guided tour with a knowledgeable guide. Along the way, you will also see some highlights of the city. The tour will be crafted with your interest and personality in mind. Some of the highlights include the following but this is a fully flexible guided experience:
- Take a stroll along the Maiko Marine Promenade
- Follow your host across the glass Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
- Amble up (or take a cable car) to the top of Mount Rokko
- Eat and drink authentic Japanese food on Motomachi street
This experience is recommended if you are short on time but wish to experience the best of this pretty city. You can safely leave the hassle of working out public transportation to an expert and enjoy a carefree day.
3 | Cafe Freundlieb —Sannomiya Area
Head to Cafe Freundlieb for a mid-morning coffee and treats. Cafe Freundlieb is housed in an old church that was built in 1929. The cafe has an open atmosphere, vaulted ceilings natural light streaming through tall windows and a white interior. It serves up freshly baked pastries, sandwiches out of freshly baked bread along with tea and coffee.
Practical Info for Cafe Freundlieb
Address: 651-0092 4-6-15 Ikuta-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi
Hours: 10:00 — 17:00
Subway: 7-minute walk from the south exit of Shinkobe Station on the Kobe Municipal Subway Seishin-Yamate Line.
Train: 11-minute walk from Sannomiya / Kobe Sannomiya Station.
4 | Explore the Sannomiya Area
Head in the direction of the waterfront, through the Kyu-kyoryuchi area. The area was a former settlement for foreigners and there are several western architectural buildings including consulates and shops.
5 | Kobe Chinatown
Also known as Nankinmachi, Kobe Chinatown is an endless street with many Chinese restaurants and shops selling a variety of Japanese-Chinese food. There are steamed buns, ramen, tapioca drinks and much more. The steamed buns are great as are the plates of gyoza. The food at Chinatown is inexpensive. Kobe Chinatown has a unique atmosphere and vibes along with exceptional buildings. It is one of the largest Chinatowns in Japan and a must visit for all tourists.
Practical Info for Kobe Chinatown (Nankin-machi)
Address: 1-chōme-3-18 Sakaemachidori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0023, Japan.
Hours: Varies, typically from 10:30 – 19:00. Some stay open late.
Located at about 5-minute walk south of Motomachi Station, or a 10-minute walk southwest of Sannomiya Station
6 | Sake Tasting in the Nada District (Nadagogo)
After lunch, make a quick stop at the Nada District. From Chinatown, you need to take the bus or the train eastwards to Nadagogo. Nada Gogo also known as the five villages of Nada is a quiet area and is home to some of Japan’s top sake breweries. Sake making is said to have begun here around 1330.
Nada Gogo extends from east to west with the Rokko Mountain range to the north and Osaka Bay to the south. The spring water of Mount Rokko, Miyamizu which is rich in minerals and low in iron is used for sake production which makes sake from this region to be rich and unique.
The heart of the sake brewing district is Sake Brewery Street. Home to many independent museums, that offer opportunities to learn about sake brewing along with plenty of free samples.
TTS Tip: The Sawa-no-Tsuru Museum has free entry, information about sake brewing in the English language and free sake samples.
Practical Info for Sake Tasting in the Nada District
Address: Higashinada-ku, Kobe-shi, Hyogo-ken
The Nada Gogo area is a six-minute walk from Mikage Station on the Hanshin line.
Explore the world famous Nada sake brewery district with a local guide. Listen to stories of its rich history and culture and meet some of the local brewers.
7 | Explore Rokkosan (Mount Rokko) Mountains by Cable car
The Rokko Mountain range forms the backdrop to Kobe city. Mount Rokko at 931 metres is the highest peak in the Rokko Mountain range. The towering mountain offers one of the best panoramic views of Osaka Bay and Kobe. Rokkosan has an international history, botanical gardens, adventure, excellent hiking trails, outdoor fun and a European atmosphere. Mount Rokko is one of Hyogo Prefecture’s primary tourist destinations. There are several ways to get to Mount Rokko including hiking. To save time, opt for the fastest route and take the cable car when you are in Kobe for a day.
Nunobiki Herb Garden is highly recommended for a stroll. Take a break, and enjoy tea and cake at the Rokko Garden Terrace. Visit the Alpine Botanical Garden and greenhouses and have a go at the musical notes when you visit the music box museum.
Practical Info for exploring Rokkosan
Address: Nada-ku, Higashinada-ku and Kita-ku, Kobe-shi.
Take the funicular from the Rokko Sanjo Station on the Rokko Cable Line.
You can also access Mount Rokko via the Shin-Kobe Ropeway or the Rokko Arima Ropeway. The Rokko-Arima Ropeway connects Mount Rokko and Arima Onsen with just a 12-minute ride.
1 | Get the Rokkosan Pass from the Kobe Sannomiya Station. The cable car station has no ticket offices or ticket machines.
2 | Give yourself at least two hours to experience Mount Rokko.
8 | Kobe Harbourland
Kobe Harbourland is a district situated between Kobe Station and the waterfront area. This is a beautiful part of Kobe that offers fantastic views. The area was developed as a tourist attraction in 1992. It houses shopping, entertainment, hotels and even a cruise ship. The Kobe Port Tower is worth visiting — the observation deck gives a 360-degree view of Kobe.
Practical Info for Kobe Harbourland
Address: 1 Chome Higashikawasakicho, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0044, Japan
Hours: From 10:00 A.M.
9 | Kobe Beef for dinner
No matter what you do, have dinner in Kobe before you leave the city and ensure it is Kobe beef for dinner.
Kobe beef is exceptionally tender and comes from Tajima black cattle which the city is famous for. Kobe beef is available nationwide but eating it in the city of origin is quite special. Try it as a steak, or teppanyaki style.
Mouriya Honten is a Kobe steak restaurant and a renowned teppanyaki steakhouse established over 130 years ago. It is situated in the Sannomiya part of Kobe.
Mouriya Honten Kobe Steak Restaurant
Address: 1-17 Shimoyama Tetsu 2, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-0011 Hyogo Prefecture.
Hours: From 11:00 A.M.
Kobe’s cityscape is stunning. This experience offers you the opportunity to discover this grand city with a local guide who will design the itinerary with your interests to visit places along with places to eat. This experience can be anything from 2 hours to 8 hours.
ADD TO YOUR ONE DAY IN KOBE ITINERARY
If you decide to stay for more than a day in Kobe, you may want to experience Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art and Kobe City Museum in addition to the following three recommended sites to your itinerary.
1 | Kobe Municipal Arboretum
If you love nature and botanical gardens, then a visit to Kobe Municipal Arboretum should top your list. Also known as Kobe City Botanical Garden, this vast natural oasis is set against the backdrop of the Rokko Mountains. It is conveniently reached with a short bus ride. The garden sprawls over 143 hectares and is adorned with forests, flowers and a huge variety of plants. There are trees and plants from Seattle, USA along with Brisbane, Australia. The garden is stunning all year round with spectacular hydrangeas in June as well as the vibrant fall foliage. From mid-October to early December, the colours of the maple leaves are at their best.
Practical Info for Kobe City Botanical Garden
Address: 1-2 Kamitanigami Yamada-cho Kita-ku Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, 651-1242 Japan.
Bus: Free shuttle bus from Kitasuzurandai Station on the Shintetsu Arima Line.
Opens: 09:00 – 17:00 (last entry at 16:30).
Admission charge: Y300 (Adults) and Y150 (Children)
2 | Arima Onsen
Arima Onsen is a little village crowded with hot springs and is situated on the other side of Mount Rokko. With spectacula views of the beautiful Mount Rokko range, Arima Onsen is the place to head to for a relaxing stay.
Stay at one of the inns at Arima Onsen and this will give you access to a bath with the waters of the area. There are several public baths for day-trippers to soak-in. You could try Gin no Yu, famous for its clear carbonate and radium-rich waters.
Practical Info for Arima Onsen
Address: Arima-cho, Kita-ku, Kobe-shi, 651-1401
Hours: Varies by site
Train: Arima-Onsen Station on the Shintetsu Arima Line.
3 | Kitano-cho
Kitano-cho is an area popular for foreign residents and showcases a range of western architectural styles. There are mansions in Western-Chinese, French and Tudor. Several mansions are now converted to museums and are open to the public. The history and architecture is interesting and the area has many high-end fashion stores, cafes and restaurants.
Practical Info about Kitano-cho
Address: Kitano-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe-shi, 650-0002.
Subway: 10-minute walk from the south exit of Shinkobe Station on the Kobe Municipal Subway Seishin-Yamate Line.
Train: 15-minute walk from Sannomiya / Kobe Sannomiya Station.
Places to Stay in Kobe
Kobe has an impressive range of hotels and ryokans catering to all budgets. Here is a selection of hotels located in central Kobe.
1 | Hotels
1 | Hotel Okura Kobe
Hotel Okura Kobe is situated in the Kobe waterfront, in front of Meriken Park. The hotel is ideally located as it is only a short walk from the Harbourland and Chinatown. Guests enjoy a free shuttle service from Sannomiya Station that runs every 20 minutes.
2 | Kobe Meriken Park Hotel
Kobe Meriken Park Hotel offers fabulous views of the harbour. Rooms are large, comfortable, convenient and serve breakfast on the 17th floor! The hotel offers complimentary shuttle service for its guests to and from the station.
3 | ANA Crowne Plaza Kobe
Crowne Plaza is a 5-star rated hotel and is conveniently situated right next to Shin-Kobe Station. This is a great hotel to stay if you intend to make Kobe a base and go on some day trips to Himeji, Kyoto or Osaka by bullet train. You could also easily access the cable car to Nunobiki Herb Garden. Rooms are relatively spacious by Japanese standards and breakfast is a variety of Japanese and Western choices.
Related read: Best easy day trips from Kyoto, Japan
2 | Ryokans
Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns and offer excellent onsen facilities. Kobe is home to a number of hot springs due to its proximity to the Rokko Mountain range.
1 | Taketoritei Maruyama
This splendid ryokan is nestled in the hillside of Arima Onsen and makes a fine choice for a stay. The inn is relatively small, with 30 guest rooms. Some rooms have private hot spring baths. A few have Western style beds. Breakfasts and kaiseki dinners are served.
The private hot spring baths are available with prior booking for 45 minutes on a first-come-first-serve basis. Taketoritei Maruyama is reasonably priced but you need to avoid the peak travel seasons to enjoy the low prices.
TTS tip: Taketoritei Maruyama is located on a steep hill. Arrange for a pick-up from the train station with the hotel beforehand.
2 | Arima Grand Hotel
With spacious rooms and stunning views, this fine Arima Grand Hotel is set on a hillside, and offers both traditional Japanese style rooms as well as Western style rooms. This is more of a resort hotel in Japan with hot spring baths, karaoke bars, outdoor garden and sumptuous kaiseki dinner. Let the hotel know that you are arriving for a pick-up to be arranged. Charges apply for the pick-up.
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