Kobe is a great city to explore over several days, or if you’re pressed for time, even as a day trip from another city in the Kansai region. Our one-day and two-day itineraries allow you to make the best use of your time.
Kobe Sannomiya Center Gai – image © Florentyna Leow
Kobe is easy to navigate, so you can swap out places as you like for these itineraries. Choose the best one below to suit your schedule.
- For information on the sights mentioned here, see our Things to Do in Kobe page.
- For transport information, see our Getting Around Kobe page.
- For restaurant suggestions, see our Places to Eat in Kobe page.
- For hotel suggestions, see our Kobe Hotels and Kobe Ryokan pages.
Kobe One-Day Itinerary
One day is enough to see some of the main sights in Kobe. This itinerary assumes you’re staying overnight in Kobe. While it can be done as a day trip from a neighbouring city such as Osaka or Kyoto, it will be a longer day with a rather early start. If this is the case, adjust according to how much time you have. For some suggested hotels, see the Kobe Hotels page.
8:30am Shin-Kobe Station or Sannomiya Station
Begin at one of the stations above, depending on where you’re staying or which train line you’ve used to travel to Kobe. From here, make your way to the next destination.
Western-style mansion in Kitano-cho, Kobe: Editorial credit: Shawn.ccf / Shutterstock.com
9:00am Explore Kitano-cho
Begin your morning by strolling around the Kitano-cho district at the foot of the Rokko mountain range. This former residential area for foreign merchants and diplomats preserves some of the old mansions built around the late 19th century. It’s also a pleasant and attractive neighbourhood to walk around. Enjoy the architecture and maybe visit one of the former mansions.
With the exception of the Dutch Museum and Fragrance House, which opens at 9:00am, most of the Ijinkan mansions open at 9:30am. If you don’t feel like paying the entrance fees for any of these places, drop by the Starbucks in Kitano-cho instead, which is housed in a converted former mansion.
Ikuta Shrine in Kobe City
10:15am Walk to and explore the Sannomiya area
Begin meandering towards the waterfront, in the general direction of Motomachi and the waterfront. There are several options. You could veer a little westwards to visit Sorakuen Garden , drop by Ikuta Shrine , or stop over at Cafe Freundlieb for a mid-morning coffee and sandwich. Continuing to head towards the waterfront will take you through the Kyu-kyoryuchi area, which is another former foreign settlement in Kobe with a number of Western-style buildings including consulates and department stores.
Those with more energy could head to the Sannomiya Center Gai shopping arcade, and walk from the Sannomiya end to the Motomachi end. It’s easy to explore this area on foot; alternatively, you can take a bus to get to where you want.
12:00pm Lunch in Kobe Chinatown
It’s midday, so it’s time to refuel. Nankinmachi, or Kobe’s Chinatown, has many street food stalls and restaurants to choose from. The steamed buns are always a good bet, as are a plate of gyoza.
Sawanotsuru sake brewery and museum, Kobe: © Martin Lopatka
1:30pm Sake-tasting in the Nada district
After lunch, take the train or bus eastwards to the Nada district. This quiet area is home to a handful of excellent sake breweries, which means opportunities to learn about sake-making but also plenty of free samples. You could easily spend several hours strolling around. We especially like the Sawa-no-Tsuru Museum. Find a map of the Nada breweries here.
4:30pm Head back to central Kobe
Take the train or bus back to the city center. Have a cafe break or rest at your hotel.
6:30pm Dinner in Kobe
Day trippers could return elsewhere for dinner, but since you’re in Kobe, it’s worth checking out a Kobe beef restaurant. Check out our Places to Eat in Kobe page for some ideas. After dinner, head to Meriken Park for a stroll along the waterfront. The night skyline is pretty, especially when the whole area is illuminated. Alternatively, you could take a ride on the Shin-Kobe Ropeway for an aerial view of the city below.
Kobe Two-Day Itinerary
Two days is a good amount of time to spend in Kobe. It allows you to slow down a little and thoroughly savour all the sights you’re seeing. We suggest following the one-day itinerary for the first day, as it covers most of the highlights in Kobe city itself. The second day takes you out of the city proper and into the mountains.
Ideally, you’ll be staying overnight in Kobe or even Arima Onsen. Day 2 suggests visiting Arima Onsen in the morning and Mount Rokko in the afternoon, but you could easily swap these two locations if you’re planning on staying at a ryokan in the hot spring town.
We suggest following the one-day itinerary above.
9:00am Shin-Kobe Station or Sannomiya Station
9:00am Shin-Kobe Station or Sannomiya Station
Begin at one of the stations above, depending on where you’re staying or which train line you’ve used to travel to Kobe. From here, make your way to the next destination. There is a direct bus from Sannomiya Station to Arima Onsen which takes just 30 minutes, though this requires advance booking.
Hot springs in Arima Onsen
9:30am Explore Arima Onsen
Arima Onsen is a small hot spring town on the other side of the Rokko mountain range. It’s fairly compact and is a very pleasant little place to explore, especially during autumn. Wander along the narrow, winding streets, including the sloping Yumotozaka lined with restaurants and souvenir and craft shops. Stop by the little shrines and temples sequestered here and there: Tosen Shrine, Arima Inari Shrine, and Onsen-ji Temple. Entertain your kids at the Arima Toys and Automata Museum. Those yearning for a dose of nature should head to Tsuzumigataki Park for a look at its gorgeous waterfall, and Zuihoji Park when the fall foliage is out.
11:00am Soak in a hot spring bath
The main point of visiting an onsen town is, of course, to enjoy the hot springs. Arima Onsen has a number of public baths for day trippers. Kin no Yu and Gin no Yu are the town’s most famous baths, with ‘gold’ and ‘silver’ water respectively. The ‘golden springs’ are really iron-rich, reddish brown waters, and are supposed to help with skin problems as well as muscle and joint aches. The ‘silver springs,’ on the other hand, are rich in carbonated acid and radium – good for improving your blood circulation and overall immunity.
12:15pm Lunch in Arima Onsen
You might already have snacked your way through town – there’s Takenaka’s deep-fried minced beef cutlets, rich homemade gelato at Stagione, and cakes and sweets at Cafe de Beau. But if you’ve managed to resist the temptation so far, now’s the time to eat a square meal.
Arima Onsen is short on dinner options as most visitors staying in the evening will eat at their hotel or inn; but it does have many lunch options in town. We like the soba noodles at Dosanjin in Arima Onsen, the organic food at Doukatei, and the casual set lunches at Cafe Tchic Tac.
Child statue at Nunobiki
1:15pm Mount Rokko
To get here from Arima Onsen, take the Rokko-Arima Ropeway up to Mount Rokko. You’ll be able to enjoy panoramic views of Kobe and Osaka from the top. It’s pleasant wandering around this area: you can visit the Alpine Rokko Botanical Garden, check out the Rokko Pastures and its various animal-related activities, and chill out at the Rokko Garden Terrace.
Time permitting, we also recommend visiting the Nunobiki Herb Garden. It’s utterly glorious when it’s in full bloom – walking among a lush profusion of fragrant herbs and flowers is nothing to be sniffed at! The tropical greenhouse is also a must-visit for plant-lovers. Finish your visit here by soaking your feet in the herbal footpath.
The easiest way to get to the Nunobiki Herb Garden is from Shin-Kobe Station. If you’re on Mount Rokko, you’ll need to take the ropeway down, and then a bus or train to Shin-Kobe for the ropeway up to the garden.
Afterwards, you may wish to hike back to Shin-Kobe Station instead of taking the cable car down. Not only will this provide you with lovely views of the city, it’ll take you past some of the waterfalls. Who doesn’t like chasing waterfalls on a hike?
5:00pm Head back to central Kobe
Return to the city for a break at your hotel.
6:30pm Dinner in Kobe
Kobe has many good restaurants for dinner. Check out our Places to Eat in Kobe page for some suggestions. Alternatively, you might choose to stay at an inn in Arima Onsen this evening and have a multi-course kaiseki dinner included with your stay.
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)