It was a hot summer afternoon in 2012 when I accompanied my friend to the Kobe City Office in Sannomiya to get some official paper work done. It's just a stone's throw away from my office; however, it was the first time I went there. Parched due to the summer heat we decided to go to a cafe first and have some iced coffee, and we were happy to see that there's one located on the 24th floor of the City Hall building itself.
So it was pure coincidence that we discovered the nice City Hall observation lobby with an outstanding view of the city of Kobe—for free!
The panoramic view from the City Hall observation hall is largely split into two views; a north side view of the Sannomiya area with the Rokko mountain range behind and the view to the south, which covers the port area, Kobe Port Tower, the airport in the distance as well as the Port Island and Rokko Island views.
There is a good cafe (UCC Cafe Comfort) and a Korean restaurant (Kudara Kobe), where the visitors can enjoy some food and snacks along with the panoramic views of the city from a height of over 100 meters. The observation lobby stays open till quite late at night, and the city lights are fantastic to watch with very little crowds.
The north side view in the night is particularly beautiful, thanks to the three interesting illumination landmarks installed on Mt. Shisho, Mt. Ikari and Mt. Dotoku in the Rokko mountain range. They are called "Kobe emblem", "Anchor" and "Merchant ship" and begin to shine just before sunset. Wind and solar power is used to create this illumination, a fact which made them shine also after the Great Hanshin earthquake when other power sources got cut off. The landmarks are therefore considered as a light of hope.
The observation hall also has some exhibition space, where you can study the Kobe City of Design project, other illumination spots in the city as well as general tourism related information.
The observatory gets a lot of visitors in the first and second week of December, when visitors of the popular illumination event, Kobe Luminarie, also visit the observatory to get a view of the illumination from the top.