Best Things to Do in Kobe! A Full Guide of Everything from Must-See and Hidden Spots to Food, Shopping and more!

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Written by Editorial department

Kobe, a bustling city and sought-after destination in Japan. From port city landscapes to backstreets with retro flair, there’s an endless number of trendy spots to see. You may feel a little lost if this is your first visit, but don’t worry! Here’s a full guide of Kobe’s best hits to help you pick a plan that’s just right for you.

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What’s Kobe Like?

Kobe, the capital of Hyogo Prefecture, is the 7th largest populated city in Japan at approx. 1.5 million people. As a port city, it’s prospered throughout history with a wide import of cultures and trends from across the world. Unlike other places in Japan, walking the streets of Kobe can feel like walking through different countries. The global atmosphere offers a unique charm that draws crowds from not only across Japan, but also around the world.

※Population data as of October 2020.

Kobe, a port city brimming with global flair
Kobe, a port city brimming with global flair

When is the Best Time to Visit Kobe?

For your next trip to Kobe, you won’t want to miss the cheery season of cherryblossoms as they come into full bloom from April to May, or the gorgeous autumn leaves across October and November. July and August are especially humid. In the winter, snow is scarce, but the air will drop to below 0℃ at times.

※Please note, summer months in recent years have seen extreme heat with highs as much as 35° and more.

Kobe’s Climate Across the Year (JMA 2019)

Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
Average Temperature (℃) 6.7 8.1 10.8 14.5 20.6 23.4 26.4 28.8 26.9 21.2 14.6 9.9
Average Humidity(%) 62 63 61 61 59 72 79 76 68 69 61 66
Average Precipitation(mm) 15 36 79 87.5 96 159 220 221 39 160 4 62.5

Kobe Recommended Wear by the Season

Spring (March – May): Light jacket or thin sweater
Summer (June – August): Thin fabrics, short sleeves, hat, and sun protectant
Fall (September – November): Light jacket or light sweater
Winter (December – February): Coat or thick, warm sweater

How to Get to Kobe?

Kobe is easily accessible by public transit, via bullet train to Shin-Kobe Station or by stopping off at Sannomiya Station in the city center, serviced by both JR and private railway lines. Located just 20 minutes from Osaka and 80 minutes from Hiroshima, Kobe’s location serves as an excellent home base for your travels in west Japan.
For highway bus, there are many routes across Japan that provide service to Sannomiya Station.
By air, a flight from Tokyo (Haneda Airport) to Kobe Airport only requires about 65 minutes.

How to Get Around the Sights in Kobe

Sannomiya Station is located at Kobe’s center, serving as a travel hub for tourists riding the JR, Hanshin Line, Hankyu Railway, Kobe Municipal Subway, and other train lines.
The area just outside Sannomiya Station is also home to plenty of sightseeing that you can visit on foot. Walk 20 minutes towards the ocean to find Kobe Port Tower, a symbol of the city’s bay area, or walk 10 minutes towards the mountains to the Kitano District, bustling with other-worldly, global flair.

8 Best Hidden Spots in Kobe

Kobe sits wedged between mountains and sea, a unique geography that offers visitors the charms of both in one trip. Here are 8 must-try spots in Kobe to make the most of your stay.

1. Nankin-machi (Chinatown)

The Nankin-machi district in Kobe ranks among Japan’s top 3 chinatowns, next to those in Yokahama and Nagasaki. In addition to its 100+ Chinese restaurants and eateries, there’s plenty of Western and Japanese spots, supermarkets, specialty shops and more just waiting to be explored. To get the best of food and sights, we recommend eating your way along the vibrant, bustling streets with pork buns, shark fin, grilled “shoronpo” soup dumplings, Peking duck, and more.

Nankin-machi, one of Japan’s Top 3 Chinatowns alongside Yokohama and Nagasaki.
Nankin-machi, one of Japan’s Top 3 Chinatowns alongside Yokohama and Nagasaki.

2. Former Foreign Settlement of Kobe

Kobe opened its port in 1868, becoming a vital point of trade between Japan and foreign nations. As a result, the Kobe-Motomachi area was designated as a residential area for foreign traders. The townscape features grand, western architecture and modern buildings that offer a taste of European style without having to leave Japan. Visitors here are greeted with historic, culturally significant buildings, luxury brand shops, overseas specialty stores, cafes, and plenty of shopping to enjoy. At night, the streets are lit up beautifully in a way that, coupled with its seaside location, offers up an especially romantic glow.

Former Foreign Settlement of Kobe, a trendy area lined with western-style architecture
Former Foreign Settlement of Kobe, a trendy area lined with western-style architecture

3. Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge

The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge connects Awaji Island to Kobe City in Hyogo Prefecture. Known as the world’s longest bridge, its full length spans 3,911 meters, while the distance between its two supporting towers measures 1,991 meters long. It’s suspended by wires, connected at its two main towers from a height of 300 meters high! In the evenings, the bridge is lit up for an especially romantic air.
Visitors are welcome to enjoy the views or stroll across, but it’s also possible to take a tour up the main towers! You won’t want to miss it!

Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, the World’s Longest Suspension Bridge
Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, the World’s Longest Suspension Bridge

4. Ikuta Shrine

An over 1800-year old shrine near the downtown Kobe area. It’s one of the cities prominent power spots and known for bringing prosperity to relationships. Behind the main hall you’ll find Ikuta Woods, a garden sanctuary with “water fortunes” that are praised for their uncanny accuracy.

Ikuta Shrine, worshipped as a god of love and relationships.
Ikuta Shrine, worshipped as a god of love and relationships.

5. Kobe Harborland

Kobe Harborland is the name for the 18.5-hectare harborside area and complex of entertainment buildings. In addition to shopping, its larger-than-life, cosmopolitan look and feel make it an especially popular stop with tourists. For kids, there’s endless, fun possibilities at Kobe Anpanman Children’s Museum & Mall, Mosaic Big Ferris Wheel and plenty of other entertainment to enjoy!

“Harborland”, an expansive leisure area by the sea.
“Harborland”, an expansive leisure area by the sea.

6. Kobe Kitano Ijinkan (Former Foreign Residences)

Along with the opening of Kobe’s port in 1868 came the development of “Kobe Kitano Ijinkan-gai”, the residential area for foreign traders. It included 30 western-style buildings that still stand today, 16 of which are available to tour inside. If you take visit inside you’ll enjoy a full range of quirky experiences, like sitting in the Saturn Chair at “Yamate Hachiban-kan”, create an all-original perfume at the “Dutch Museum and Fragrance House”, or even have a chance to take some catchy snaps at the Kobe Mysterious Consulate of Trick Art”.

Kitano-dori Yokan Nagaya/Ben’s House
Kitano-dori Yokan Nagaya/Ben’s House

7. Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens & Ropeway

Welcome to Japan’s biggest herb garden, set against a backdrop of fresh fragrance and color all year around. This expansive garden is home to photo spots and 12 separate gardens including rose and lavender. At the onsite cafe and restaurant visitors are greeted with a menu of items celebrating fresh, seasonal herbs and edible flowers. At the Fragrance Museum there’s a crash course in making natural, essential oils that simply can’t be missed. Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens is accessible by a 10 min. cable car ride. From the gondola looking down you’ll find a stretch of Kobe cityscape and ocean as it unfolds beneath your feet.

The Herb Garden, Filled with Fresh Fragrances
The Herb Garden, Filled with Fresh Fragrances

8. Mt. Rokko

Mt. Rokko, at 931-meters tall, is the main peak of the Rokko Mountains. There is a cable car available for easy access to the top. It includes a number of different recreational facilities, from places to move your body and mountain escapes with romantic night views. Soothe your soul with the gentle sound of the Rokko International Musical Box Museum, or visit Rokko Alpine Botanical Garden, the world-acclaimed garden for alpine plants. Tucked away in the richness of nature, there’s plenty to enjoy!

Rokko Garden Terrace
Rokko Garden Terrace

3 Top Things to Try in Kobe

No trip to Kobe is complete without an itinerary of out-of-the-box experiences. Here are 3 of the highest rated experiences to try.

1. Mt. Maya Kikuseidai: A Stellar View at Night

The star-lit nightscape of Kobe is so stunning that it has been listed in Japan’s Top 3 Night Views, along with Hakodate and Nagasaki.
There are a few notable places in Kobe to catch a view of the cityscape at night, but there is no comparison to the view from Mt. Maya, 702 meters above. The view from the “Kikuseidai” observation deck is especially remarkable.

One of Japan’s top 3 awe-inspiring night views.
One of Japan’s top 3 awe-inspiring night views.

2. Food Replica Making at Kitano Meister Garden

Kitano Meister Garden is a hands-on, interactive workshop complex founded in 1998 after renovating the closed Kitano Elementary School. Its home to a number of different studios and over 60 different hands-on experiences to try. A popular option among visiting tourists includes the food-sample making class. It begins with a range of different starter ingredients, all of which are used to design a handmade food replica and all-original souvenir to commemorate your trip.

Create replica foods that look just like the real thing!
Create replica foods that look just like the real thing!

3. Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge : A Tour to the Top of the Towers

This tower tour at Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge includes exclusive access to the otherwise closed bridge towers, 300 meters high over the passing bridge traffic below. The thrilling sights from 300 meters above will amaze your eyes!

360-degree panoramic view from 300-meters high
360-degree panoramic view from 300-meters high

More details about an exclusive tour at the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge towers!

6 Recommended Restaurants in Kobe

Kobe, a melting pot of different cultures and countless types of delicious food! From high-end Kobe beef and age-old soul food favorites to full-on sweets and more, you can’t miss this chance to enjoy the delicious tastes of Kobe.

1. WAKKOQU, Kitanozaka

WAKKOQU Kitanozaka sits at the foot of Kitano, the stylish district known for its worldly influence. Set in a European-esque backdrop with Japanese flair, this veteran restaurant is the place to eat teppan-yaki grilled Kobe beef to your heart`s content.
This spot specializes and select cuts of Kobe beef, the highest grade of all Tajima brand wagyu beef. Each bite is grilled to juicy perfection on a teppan-yaki iron griddle, providing a one-of-a-kind steak experience that’s simply unbeatable.

Using only the best, hand-selected cuts
Using only the best, hand-selected cuts

2. Higaki

“Box-Pressed Sushi”, is a traditional Osaka/Kansai method of sushi making where sushi rice is topped with sea bream, shrimp, conger eel, or other fish and pressed into a square shape via a wooden box.
At Higaki, a restaurant located in the bustling “Nankin-machi” chinatown district of Kobe, the conger-eel box sushi comes with especially high acclaim. The eel is a specially caught, large “Densuke Anago” variety from the Seto Inland sea, that packs a truly delicious bite.

Conger-eel and Prawn Box-Pressed sushi
Conger-eel and Prawn Box-Pressed sushi

3. Roushouki

Roushouki was established in 1915 as a pork bun shop. In a single day, its known to sell as many as 13,000 steam buns. To this day it still sees long lines waiting to get inside. The dough is based on a generations-old family recipe, matching perfectly with the pork inside for the harmonious, tasty bite that people love.

Pork buns
Pork buns

4. Western Cuisine DINING QUATTRO

A beloved stop for Japanese comfort food in the bayside streets of Kobe. From hamburg steaks and deep fried prawns to korokke and more, the menu is packed with all the western-style comfort foods that Japan has loved for years. One especially hot item is the Quattro Korokke. Its crispy exterior and packed potato and beef tendon filling are sure to keep you full.

Quattro Korokke
Quattro Korokke

5. Teppan Bar clap

A bar fusing the best of okonomiyaki and Spanish cuisine. This quaint little spot keeps only 10 counter seats and a single table at the back. The interior buzzes with the liveliness of latin music, offering up an easy vibe that invites anyone to come in and stay.
To start, we recommend the “Butatama” (pork and egg) okonomiyaki. It’s grilled into a perfectly petite round shape, and stacked as high as 5 centimeters.

Pork & Egg Okonomiyaki
Pork & Egg Okonomiyaki

6. Patisserie Mont Plus

Kobe is home to many popular confectioneries, but Patisserie Mont Plus is still one that stands above the crowd. Inside you’ll find the chef’s specialty French sweets and Japanese sweets made with subtle French influence. There’s a small area with tables to sit if you prefer to eat in store, along with a cozy decorated interior to host your sweet tasting experience.

Stylish Interior
Stylish Interior

5 Absolute MUST-try places to shop in Kobe

Kobe is one city that stays ahead of the trend. From stylish shops with the latest items to longstanding, veteran shops to browse, there’s plenty of shopping to enjoy. Here are 5 of our top recommended shopping centers and shopping streets to help you make the most of it all.

1. Kobe-Sanda Premium Outlets

Kobe-Sanda Premium Outlets boasts the title of being one of the largest outlet shopping malls in western Japan. It was designed after the Pasadena suburbs outside of Los Angeles. Once here you’ll find a line up some 210 different shops, featuring popular brands, popular specialty stores, interior goods and sports, general knick-knacks and restaurants.

Kobe-Sanda Premium Outlets
Kobe-Sanda Premium Outlets

2. Kobe-Motomachi Shopping Street

This shopping street is lined with approx. 300 different shops along the full length of the 1.2-km arcade. The bustling shopping hub is separate into “Ichibangai”, “sanchome”, “yonchome”, “gochome” and rokuchoume”a venues, each selling a variety of wares from fashion and miscellaneous goodies to new shops, restaurants and veteran shops. No matter when you visit, there are seasonal, annual events to enjoy.

Kobe-Motomachi Shopping Street
Kobe-Motomachi Shopping Street

3. Daimaru Kobe Store

Daimaru Kobe Store is a retail complex located in the relaxed, retro streets of the former foreign residences. In addition to covered luxury brands, the complex is also home to trendy stores and select shops to delight shoppers of all ages. Just outside the main building you’ll even find a few boutique shops like Former Foreign Settlement 38-bankan, a chic history building that retains its architectural integrity today.

Daimaru Kobe Store
Daimaru Kobe Store

4. Sannomiya Center Gai Shopping Street

Sannomiya Center Gai, the central hub and traffic central of Kobe. This large-scale shopping street stretches from east to west spanning the distance between Flower Road and Koikawasuji with a wide range of food, fashion, home and miscellaneous goods and more.

Sannomiya Center Gai
Sannomiya Center Gai

5. Kobe Harborland umie

Kobe Harborland is a prime destination for tourists in Kobe. The expansive area is home to Kobe Harborland umie, the large-scale, 3-building retail complex with about 230 different fashion, goods and food shops. With direct access to the ocean, this wide-open location is a perfect place to spend a day shopping, eating and strolling around.

Kobe Harborland umie
Kobe Harborland umie

Checking where to stay? Here’s Kobe’s 7 best hotels and stays

Kobe is a tourist haven that boasts a full range of hotels and stays, from wallet-friendly guesthouses to high-end hotels with luxury services. Here are 7 of our top picks so you can pick a stay that first your budget and style.

Kobe’s best hotel for remarkable views and top notch food

1. Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel

A resort hotel set in the heart of Kobe’s port, with 270° views of nothing but ocean. Every room includes a full balcony, offering up a cruise-like feel with sprawling views of Kobe and its glittering city nightscape. The fully serviced restaurant specializes in both Japanese and western high-end fare, all served with a splendid view of the city.

Room balcony
Room balcony
Address
5-6 Hatobacho, Chuo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo
Official Website
Official Website (English)

2. Kobe Portopia Hotel

A hotel with easy access to Kobe Airport, and free shuttle service to Sannomiya and Shin-Kobe stations. Visitors can enjoy gorgeous, port island landscapes and views of distant planes as they take off from Kobe Airport. The hotel boasts a wide range of different full-serviced restaurants, as well as a fitness center, esthetic salon, outdoor pool, jewelry store and general shopping to help you make the most of your stay.

Outdoor pool (open in summer season)
Outdoor pool (open in summer season)
Address
6-10-1 Minatojimanakamachi, Chuo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo
Official Website
Official Website (English)

3. Kobe Bay Sheraton Hotel & Towers

Set on Rokko Island, this hotel offers sweeping views of Kobe Bay and Mt. Rokko. Chosen as 4 pavilions in the Michelin Guide for 4 consecutive years, this full-serviced luxury hotel offers western amenities with a touch of Japanese hospitality and flair. Guests can enjoy a soak at the hotel’s onsite natural hot springs and melt away the fatigue of their travels.

HAMAIZUMI Kobe Rokko Onsen
HAMAIZUMI Kobe Rokko Onsen
Address
2-13 Koyochonaka, Higashinada-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo
Official Website
Official Website (English)

4. Hotel La Suite Kobe Harborland

A boutique, luxury hotel with 70 rooms, each with an en suite, ocean-view terrace. Its located just a 10-minute walk from JR Kobe Station for easy access. Inside, guests can treat themselves to a special meal at the French, Teppanyaki, or other luxury restaurants.

Hotel La Suite Kobe Harborland
Hotel La Suite Kobe Harborland
Address
7-2 Hatobacho, Chuo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo
Official Website
Official Website (English)

A Trendy, Wallet-Friendly Guesthouse near the Heart of the City

5. Guest House Kobe Nadeshiko-ya

Guest House Kobe Nadeshiko-ya is a woman-owned business that comes with a range of amenities geared towards female guests. It features girls-only rooms, showers and bathrooms so women can enjoy a safe and easy stay at a guesthouse, even if on their first solo trip.

The lounge
The lounge
Address
1-2-21 Sakaemachidori, Chuo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo
Official Website
Official Website (English)

6. Kobe Guesthouse MAYA

“A Trip into Kobe’s Ordinary” is the concept behind this guesthouse, located close to Kobe Oji Zoo, It invites its guests to enjoy a local dive into Kobe’s “everyday”, from local shopping streets and museums to a dip at the public baths after climbing Mt. Maya. Both dormitory-style and private style rooms are available.

Kobe Guesthouse Maya
Kobe Guesthouse Maya
Address
4-4-10 Shironouchidori, Nada-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo
Official Website
Official Website (English)

7. Yume Nomad

This charming little guesthouse is just a 10-minute walk from JR Kobe Station, located in the old-world, retro-chic “Shinkaichi” district of Kobe. It’s made from a renovated lodging and rebranded with an art-focused, chic interior. For guests who prefer to cook for themselves, you can even walk over to buy ingredients at the Higashiyama Shopping Street and enjoy cooking in the shared kitchen.

Communal Space
Communal Space
Address
1-2-2 Shinkaichi, Hyogo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo
Official Website
Official Website (Japanese)

3 Kobe Souvenirs to Impress your Friends

In Kobe, there’s always a fierce competition for the best, delicious sweets. After trying a few for yourself, you won’t want to miss taking a few home to impress your friends! Here are 3 of our top picks for Kobe souvenirs.

1. “Mimi” by Freundlieb

Fruendlieb is a veteran bakery shop that’s been in business since the Taisho Era (early 1900s). It’s longstanding crowd favorite “Mimi” (literally “ears”) features a rich, buttery pie texture in an adorable heart shape. The name and cute ear shape are a nod to the German belief of pigs (ears) being a lucky charm. The buttery, flakey crust is simply irresistible, and it comes in both large, medium and small sizes.

Mimi” by Freundlieb
Mimi” by Freundlieb

2. “Gaufre” by Kobe Fugetsudo

Gaufre from Kobe Fugetsudo are an iconically famous confection from Kobe. It features thinly roasted wafers filled with a light vanilla, strawberry or chocolate cream. You’ll love the light, fleeting flavor of wafer and cream as it melts away in your mouth.

“Gaufre” by Kobe Fugetsudo
“Gaufre” by Kobe Fugetsudo

3. Kobe Pudding by TORAKU

Kobe Puddings are made simply with eggs, heavy cream, dairy, sugar, and topped with citrus liqueur. The round, delicate taste is made even more delicious with the special caramel sauce on top. Kobe Pudding has received the Grand Gold Quality Award from Monde Selection.

Kobe Pudding by TORAKU
Kobe Pudding by TORAKU

Hottest Events in Kobe

Kobe is home to an amazing range of exhilarating events across all four seasons of the year. As a savvy tip, you may consider making your next trip overlap one of these annual events. Here’s a quick pickup of must-see events we recommend.

1. Suma Dai-Chaikai (Tea Ceremony Party)

This large-scale Tea Ceremony Party is open to the general public and takes place every year at the historic Sumadera Temple. It’s especially popular because this easy-going, casual tea ceremony allows visitors to join just as they are, even in street clothes.

Sumadera Temple
Sumadera Temple

2. Kobe Oji Zoo: Sakura Night Stroll

Kobe Oji Zoo is a coveted destination for sightseeing, especially in spring when its 480 Yoshino variety cherry blossoms come into full bloom. For the best time to visit, don’t forget to come back at night to see the blooms fully illuminated and beautiful like you’ve never seen them during the day. (Please note, the zoo animals are not available to view during the evening illuminations).

Beautifully illuminated cherry blossoms at night
Beautifully illuminated cherry blossoms at night

3. Kobe Jazz Street

Kobe is known as the home of Japan’s jazz roots. Every year in October, a special event, nicknamed “Kobe Jazz Street” is held at different venues across the city. It includes a full on marching jazz parade, plus enough jazzy decorations and flair to have earned its name as a Kobe fall tradition.

Parade Day at Kobe Jazz Street
Parade Day at Kobe Jazz Street

4. Kobe Municipal Arboretum Shinrin Momiji Sansaku (Stroll through autumn leaves)

Take a drive about 25 minutes from the center of Kobe to Kobe Municipal Arboretum, a wide open space to enjoy the nature of Mt. Rokko. Towards the end of October, there are nearly 3,000 trees in 38 varieties whose leaves transform into gorgeous colors. This specific event is called “Shinrin Momiji Sansaku”

Stroll through autumn leaves
Stroll through autumn leaves

5. Nankin-machi Shunsetsu (Spring) Festival

This is Nankin-machi’s biggest lunar near year festival. During festival season crowds come to enjoy the sounds of firecrackers and the unforgettable sights of the Chinese Dragon and Lion Dances. There are plenty of events to enjoy, including the Chinese History Parade, where actors dress in Chinese opera-style costumes and make up while acting out the stories of notable historic figures.

Nankin-machi Shusetsu Festival
Nankin-machi Shusetsu Festival

Summary

We hope this complete guide to Kobe’s best sightseeing, food, stays and shopping will help you plan your next trip. Kobe is a very compact city, making it easy to get around and try out plenty of spots that you may have picked up from this article.
So be sure to plan a trip, and when you’re done, you might consider crossing the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge for more delicious food and sights on Awaji Island.