If you want to enjoy a night out in Kobe, there's everything from hole-in-the-wall bars to karaoke clubs, English pubs to pumping dance clubs. You can have a quiet drink or 2, shoot some pool, or dance all night, the choice is yours. If you're not sure what suits your fancy, just step off the train at Sannomiya Station and wander until you find something – it won't take long, since most bars are within a 5- to 10-minute walk from the city's throbbing hub.

    Kobe nightlife is sometimes overlooked as a party destination, and while it's true that the city can't compare to the madness of nearby Osaka and the sheer size of Tokyo, there’s a thriving bar and music scene in Kobe. With some of the oldest and hottest jazz venues in Japan, Kobe is considered a hotbed of talent in country's jazz scene.Most jazz clubs are conveniently located in the Sannomiya area of central Kobe.

    1

    Mosaic Big Ferris Wheel

    Enjoy panoramic views from this towering waterfront tourist attraction

    The Mosaic Big Ferris Wheel is a popular tourist attraction that overlooks the entirety of Kobe Port. Rising to 54 metres, this towering ride offers incredible views of distant landmarks, including the soaring peak of Mount Rokko and Kobe Bridge – one of the world's longest suspension bridges.  

    Once the sun has disappeared for the day, you are presented with a radiant light show that illuminates the Ferris wheel using around 120,000 LED lights. The Mosaic Big Ferris Wheel is within a 10-minute walk from Kobe Station. The landmark is beside the sprawling Kobe Harborland and the Anpanman Children's Museum.

    Location: 1 Chome-6-1 Higashikawasakicho, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo 650-0044, Japan

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)78-360-1722

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    2

    Kobe Port Tower

    • Couples
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    Kobe Port Tower has been a seafront landmark for Kobe since it was erected in 1963. The 108-metre-high red lattice tower features an observation deck with views across the bay and out to the Rokko mountain range. Kobe's airport and the Hanshin Expressway can also be seen. Night-time views are particularly dazzling with the nightly "light show" on nearby Ashaki Kaiko Bridge.

    Kobe Port Tower's curved tube-like shape is called hyperboloid in architectural terms, but its design was inspired by the tsuzumi traditional drum instrument used in kabuki plays. The unusual design proved to be sturdy as well as attractive when it held firm during Kobe's great earthquake of 1995. Many other buildings in the port area collapsed. The tower is set in Meriken Park, site of the first American Consulate, where there's a small earthquake memorial as well as a launching point for harbour cruises. If you have time, the Kobe Maritime Museum nearby is worth a visit.

    Location: 5-5 Hatobacho, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyōgo Prefecture 650-0042, Japan

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 7 pm (March–Nov until 9 pm)

    Phone: +81 (0)78 391 6751

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    3

    Mount Maya night viewpoint at night

    Experience Kobe’s cityscape from a mountainside viewing platform

    Mount Maya ascends high above Kobe to an impressive 698 metres above sea level. One of the most popular viewing spots on the city fringes is the Maya Kikuseidai viewing platform. While it’s a great destination during daylight hours, the panoramic vistas reach an entirely new level when the cityscape comes to life after dark.

    It’s possible to drive to the mountain summit, but you can also reach the top of Mount Maya via a scenic cable car. This ropeway gondola takes you just above the treetops, letting you appreciate the remarkable landscape before arriving at Hoshi no Eki Station.

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    4

    Sone

    Sone is Kobe's original jazz club, open since 1969, and is still bringing in hip crowds looking for some top-notch live music. Four live sets play every night, with a range of jazz sounds – from traditional to Dixieland. You can choose to eat at Sone, with a range of western platters and some set menu meals available too. The club also puts on Sunday afternoon jazz sessions; check its calendar for details.

    Location: 1-24-10 Nakayamatedori, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture 650-0004, Japan

    Open: Daily from 5 pm to midnight. Also open Sundays from 12.30 pm to 4 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)78 221 2055

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    5

    Garage Paradise

    Garage Paradise is a popular music bar that has 5 live sets nightly and DJs playing a range of music from R&B and soul, to jazz, house and trance. The bar's cosy basement space is spruced up with romantic finishes and candlelit tables, and if you're in the mood to do more than sit and drink there's a dance floor and pool table. There are more than 100 drinks to choose from on the menu and plenty of food choices too, in the ¥800 to ¥1000 range.

    Location: Basement of Kobe Yamashita Building, 1–13–7 Nakayamate Dori, Chuo, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan

    Open: Daily from 7 pm until late

    Phone: +81 (0)78 391 6640

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    6

    New Munchen Kobe Taishikan

    New Munchen Kobe Taishikan is a German bierkeller-type venue with plenty of beer. A wide range of Sapporo beers are on offer, as well as a full menu of more than 150 food items. This sleek underground brewery makes 2 craft beers – a 100% malt brew called Kobetaishikan and a fruitier variety called Minato Kobe Weizen. The bar offers an 'all you can drink' menu and karaoke equipment, making New Munchen Kobe Taishikan a popular spot for groups getting started on their evening out.

    Location: Sannomiya 2-5-18, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo, 650-0021, Japan

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)78 391 3656

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    7

    Main Bar Emerald

    Main Bar Emerald is a swanky cocktail lounge in the 5-star Hotel Okura Kobe. Follow the dimmed lights and gentle jazz soundtrack through the lobby into this elegant bar in central Kobe. The Main Bar Emerald is a classy place to wind down and enjoy a wine or cocktail. It’s a good spot for a romantic drink or a quiet evening out with friends. You can find the hotel next to Meriken Park and Kobe Port Tower.

    Location: Hotel Okura Kobe, 2-1 Hatobacho, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Hyogo, 650-8560, Japan

    Open: Daily from 4 pm to midnight

    Phone: +81 (0)78-333-3524

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    photo by J o (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    8

    Smokey

    Open since 1955, Smokey is one of Kobe's oldest bars. It’s a tiny place with just a bar and 6 seats in total, but it’s still a lively spot to spend an evening. The founder was a bartender at the old Kobe Oriental Hotel, serving the likes of Marilyn Monroe back in the day, and his tiny bar is chock full of photos and memorabilia of the famous people who have stopped by over the years. Find it on the left side of Kitano-zaka, north of Sannomiya Station.

    Location: 1-9-1 Nakayamate Dori, Chuo, Kobe, Hyogo, 650-0004, Japan

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 5 pm to 11.30 pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +81 (0)78 391 0257

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    9

    Second Chance

    The name says it all at Second Chance. This is an all-night gathering spot for night owls who refuse to stop the party until dawn. The tiny, one-room bar bears more resemblance to a beach shack than a downtown city bar, but the people who crowd in there night after night don't seem to mind its modest surroundings. Second Chance is close to Sannomiya station in central Kobe. 

    Location: Takashima Building, 2nd floor, 2–1–12 Nakayamate Dori, , Chuo-Ku, Kobe 650-0004, Hyogo, Japan

    Open: Daily from 6 pm to 5 am

    Phone: +81 (0)78 391 3544

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    10

    Forty Five 45 sports bar

    Café 45 is a popular place for sports fanatics to gather and to check out the live football (soccer) action on the giant TV projectors. The atmosphere is usually lively, especially for anticipated English Premier League games. 

    You can also play the bar's foosball tables, pinball machines and dartboards. Two 'VIP' PlayStation game rooms are available to rent. If you're planning to make a night of it, consider the 'all you can drink' option.

    Location: 3 Chome-2-1 Nunobikicho, Chuo Ward, Kobe, Hyogo 651-0097, Japan

    Open: Friday–Wednesday from 5 pm to midnight (closed on Thursdays)

    Phone: +81 (0)78 241 3000

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    Stephan Audiger | Compulsive Traveller

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