Located about 30km west of Osaka and 64km west of Kyoto, Kobe is a great day trip or overnight destination. Here, we’ll introduce the main sightseeing districts in Kobe.
Kobe port and skyline
Kobe Districts Summary
- Sannomiya-Motomachi: Kobe’s central shopping and entertainment district. It has most of the main attractions in the city.
- Bay: Kobe’s waterfront, which houses Harbourland and a number of museums.
- Shinkaichi: A retro district that used to have cinemas.
- Nada: Japan’s largest sake-producing district.
- Arima Onsen: A charming mountain hot spring town within Kobe city limits.
- Mount Rokko: Kobe’s highest mountain peak, home to gardens and various attractions. There’s also the Kitano-cho district at its base.
- Kitano-cho: The former residential area for foreign merchants and diplomats. Today, there are many trendy boutiques, cafes, and shops.
Most of the main attractions in Kobe are located in the central part of the city. A number of them are within walking distance, but you may have to hop on a train or bus to visit some of the others. For details on how to get around Kobe, see the Getting Around Kobe page.
Motomachi and Port district
Sannomiya is one of Kobe’s main transportation hubs, and most major railway lines pass through the area. This is also the main shopping and entertainment district in Kobe. You’ll find several shopping arcades here, the longest being Sannomiya Centre Street at 550 metres long. In the Motomachi area – a short 10-minute walk away – you’ll find Kobe’s Chinatown, which is perfect for a lunchtime food crawl. In the same area, you’ll also find the Kyu-kyoryuchi. It used to be home to the offices for foreign consulates and trading companies and today houses high-end fashion brands including Prada and Louis Vuitton.
Japan skyline at the port
This district comprises Kobe’s waterfront area between Kobe Station and Minatomotomachi Station. During the years after the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake in 1995, the Kobe city government made many efforts to revitalise the waterfront. These efforts included building the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, whose building was designed by Tadao Ando. The waterfront area includes attractions like Meriken Park, Harbourland, and Kobe Port Tower.
Shinkaichi Shopping Street: Editorial credit: utoi / Shutterstock.com
A rather retro and somewhat weathered neighbourhood in Kobe that used to have many cinemas and theatres. Today, visitors come to the area to explore one of the largest food markets in the Kansai region. This area is full of local charm, with many cafes, guesthouses, bars, and live music venues. It’s also known for having one of the city’s largest red-light districts.
With over 40 breweries concentrated in a 3 kilometre stretch, the Nada district is one of Japan’s top sake-producing regions. The district is a must-visit for sake lovers. Visit a few of the breweries or adjacent sake museums and take tours of the facilities; the free samples of freshly-made sake don’t hurt either.
Arima Onsen city, Kobe
Located on the other side of Mount Rokko, Arima Onsen is a compact hot spring town. It’s lovely during autumn when all the fall colours are out. Consider staying for a night or two at a Japanese-style inn in the area and soaking in the restorative hot springs waters.
Port of Kobe from Rokko mountain
At 931 meters, this is Kobe’s highest peak. You could easily spend a day exploring the gardens, museums, shops, and restaurants up here. Visit during autumn for some truly glorious fall foliage; the views from the cable car ride up to the mountain are stunning.
Kitano foreigner’s residence
This is a district at the foot of the Rokko mountain range. In the latter half of the 19th century, it was the area where foreign merchants and diplomats resided. Today, with its boutiques, cafes, and shops, it’s a favourite spot for young Japanese to wander around. A number of the former mansions, built in varying variations on Western architectural styles, are also open to the public. Don’t forget to check out the Starbucks housed in a century-old Ijinkan.
Kobe Travel Guide:
- Kobe Travel Guide Overview
- Things To Do In Kobe
- Places To Eat In Kobe
- Kobe Itineraries
- Family-friendly Attractions in Kobe
- Kobe Cherry Blossoms
- Kobe Fall Foliage
- Kobe Districts
- Kobe Ryokan
- Kobe Hotels
- Kobe Map
- How To Get To Kobe
- Getting Around Kobe
- Best Time To Go To Kobe
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- Get travel insurance for Japan - World Nomads is well-regarded (and here's why)