**Updated : June 2023**
Use the map to see a visual of all our recommendations - click the arrow next to our photo to have a pop up list! This post may also contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you purchase a product via these links, with no extra cost to you!
Before you Arrive...
Before arriving in Kobe, you should decide whether you want to stay in Kobe (which is what we recommend) or make the journey to Kyoto. Although you can easily make a day trip to explore Kyoto, we personally feel there is plenty to do in Kobe, and depending on your port schedule you might end up feeling very rushed if you do plan to head to Kyoto. However, in case you are looking to make a quick trip north, then it'll take about 1.5 hours each way. You have a few options too - from hiring a private transfer, to a taxi, to using public transportation. The last option will most likely take a bit more time however it'll be the cheapest. Some top sights in Kyoto are the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, and Universal Studios Japan.
Some other things to note are Kobe typically welcomes its cruises with a bit of a celebration. As we were docking we were able to enjoy music from a band on shore, and they even let off a whole mass of balloons to welcome us and had a whole crowd of people to wave at us! Honestly it was very unexpected, we just felt lucky that we happened to be on an outside deck watching the whole event! Once you disembark, you'll be right near the subway line to get to downtown - your other option will be to take a taxi. If you're like us and dock at the Port of Kobe then you'll take the Port Liner metro to go 2 stops to Sannomiya Station, and from there you can transfer to pretty much anywhere in the city. Even if you're not interested in doing much on your port day, we recommend at least going to Sannomiya and walking around for a little while and trying some local foods!
Best Things to Do in Kobe
Kobe Beef - For the meat eaters out there, try Kobe beef! Known around the world as an "even better" Waygu, you may never have the chance to try Kobe beef in Kobe again. Although there are SO MANY places scattered all throughout Kobe (and the rest of Japan) serving Kobe beef, we happened to find one tucked away in a little corner within walking distance of Sannomiya Station. Called Kobe Meriken Hatoba, we had an exceptional time and meal - with included whiskey (or grape juice) shots, and an opportunity for the chef to come out and take photos with you, this is definitely a place we'll be going back to if we ever make it to Kobe again. (**Note - Each person is required to purchase their own meal, a.k.a. no sharing.)
Chinatown - Also located within walking distance of Sannomiya Station, this is the perfect stop if you're looking to fill your tummy with some awesome street food. We tried lots of things (see our video below) but our favorites were the marshmallow jewel candy, soup dumplings, and of course some bubble tea! There is also lots to look at (think Spidermans hanging on the walls)!
Kobe Nunobiki Ropeway - Unfortunately we didn't have time during our port in Kobe to make it out to the Nunobiki Ropeway, but we've heard the views are truly incredible and worth the short hike for! From Sannomiya Station, take the Sannomiya IC Line (yellow) about 30 minutes to Shin-Kobe Station. From here you'll have a 10 minute walk to the Gondola Lift Station, and after paying 1800 yen for a round trip ride, you'll be able to enjoy the views of the garden and waterfalls from above! Not to mention the incredible views of the city.
Ikuta Jinja Shrine - Hidden away from the main road, this beautiful shrine is also within walking distance from Sannomiya Station. If you're not looking to make it all the way to Kyoto to see the Fushimi Inari Shrine, then this is your next best bet to see a beautiful shrine in Japan. This shrine is free to visit, and being one of the oldest shrines in all of Japan, it made sense why it was a little on the busier side. We didn't spend too much time here since we needed to make it back to our ship, but it was beautiful and we highly recommend a stop!
Arima Onsen - A small town located about an hour subway ride from downtown Kobe, this area is largely known for their many onsens and hot springs! To be honest, you could easily spend the entire port day in this cute hot spring town just enjoying the sights, hot springs, and cute stores - but we made a quick stop just to visit some of the hot springs! With winding alleyways and streets, we highly recommend stopping at the tourist information center first to grab a map of the city - which will give you an excellent guide as to where some local hot springs are! We ended up accidentally visiting a traditional bath house (whoops lol) but it was a great experience - just know that there are no swimsuits, and there are people there to bathe.
Sake Breweries - Kobe is one of the oldest sake producing areas, which only makes sense why there are so many local Sake Breweries around Kobe, including Hakutsuru Sake Museum. The main reason we chose this museum was because it was 100% FREE, plus we heard it was recently remodeled and figured we might as well check it out. In addition to a self-guided tour throughout the two story museum, the visit ends with unlimited sake tastings of 3 flavors of sake. There is a special 4th one that you can try, but this one costs an extra 500 yen but includes a shot glass for you to take home!
Kobe Motomachi - With an open atmosphere and laid back shopping mall feel, these covered shopping streets in Kobe seem to be endless. The most famous of these being Kobe Motomachi Shopping Street. If you're looking for sweet treats, kobe beef, boutique shopping or good deals, you'll be able to find them all in this one location.
Afternoon Tea - The last thing on our list, that we didn't expect in Japan much less Kobe, was spending an afternoon having tea. Not only did we manage to find a cute tea store, shockingly called "Afternoon Tea", but their set up was adorable and their teas and sweet pastries and scones were delicious! Although it was a bit random in Japan, it really brought us back to our Afternoon Tea Riverboat Ride in London!
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We're Deborah & Tyler, a pretty average husband and wife duo from a pretty average state that didn't want to live so averagely. After our *Covid wedding we sold everything that didn't fit into the Jeep and moved to Alaska, then decided to take a gap year!
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