Kobe’s local delicacy, Kobe beef, might be the only reason many people know the city exists, but those who visit will find a beautiful, charming city with an international population, fascinating sights and sounds, lively nightlife and excellent restaurants serving so much more than just melt-in-your-mouth beef.
A ride up the Shin-Kobe ropeway makes for a good introduction to the city. Take the ropeway all the way to the top, past the first station, and get off at the Nunobiki Herb Garden, where you’ll have panoramic views of the surrounding city. When the weather is nice, spend some time strolling the meandering paths through the garden and back down the mountain. Once back in the city, head to the Kitano neighborhood to tour some of the historic European-style homes dating back to the days when Kobe first opened up as an international port. The area also offers boutique shopping.
If you’re traveling with young children, a visit to Kobe Harborland is in order. The entertainment complex, styled like a Mediterranean village, houses several ethnic shops and restaurants as well as a small amusement park. This is also the place to catch sightseeing boats.
At the end of a long day of sightseeing, it’s time to partake in a Japanese past time: onsen. These thermal hot springs dot the volcanic islands that make up Japan, and the Arima Onsen is one of Japan’s oldest. Local lore says a soak in each of the two springs will cure you of your ills.
Finally, a trip to Kobe wouldn’t be complete without a few good meals, and at least one of them featuring famous Kobe beef. You’ll find steakhouses throughout the city serving various cuts of the specialty beef, each cut graded A, B or C for quality. If you’re Japanese isn’t great, your best bet is the Wakkoku restaurant at the bottom of the Crowne Plaza building, as the staff will introduce each cut of meat to you before they get cooking right at your table. Remember to order some hot sake to wash it down with, as the Kobe region is one of Japan‘s leading sake-producing areas.