With more than 12.5 million residents, and over a thousand tourists at any given time, Tokyo is crowded—yet strangely quiet—and bursting with activities. A delightful blend of modernity and antiquity, of the outrageous and the understated, this beautiful city has a lot to offer. Tokyo caters to everyone’s desires and promises to be the experience of a lifetime, whether it’s your first time or your tenth. The most valuable advice to keep with you is to sample everything, and we’ll show you how.
To make the most of Tokyo’s many attractions, you’d be best suited finding accommodation somewhere fairly central. Deciding on an area can be a daunting task, as there are over 20 districts making up the city of Tokyo. Most sites and seasoned travelers alike recommend Shinjuku, Ginza, Shibuya and Asakusa. The most popular hotels are the Apartment Hotel Shinjuku, the Hotel Sunroute Plaza, and the Millenium Mitsui Garden Tokyo Hotel Ginza.
Taxis in Tokyo are notoriously costly, so whichever district you ultimately decide on, be sure to look for a place to stay in Tokyo within easy walking distance of the JR Yamanote Train Line.
1 – The Senso-Ji Buddhist Temple
The Senso-ji Temple is one of the city’s oldest religious sites. The original architecture was destroyed during World War II, with only the eastern gate remaining. Relatively recently reconstructed, the Temple remains a place of calm—even if the shop-lined street leading up to it, Nakamise Dori, can seem like a daunting obstacle.
2 – The Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace is without a doubt one of the most attractive and historical sites in Tokyo. Guided tours are offered free of charge on weekdays, usually lasting an hour and fifteen minutes and starting at 10h00 and 13h30.
The park that forms the East Garden is also open to the public between 09h00 and 16h30 all year round, although the closing times fluctuate by about half an hour from summer to winter. There are plenty of shady spots and open fields for picnics, and there are jogging routes along the moats and pathways.
3 – The Meiji-Jingū and the Yoyogi Park
Built in commemoration of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, the Meiji-jingū is Tokyo’s well-renowned Shinto shrine, and is a place of calm meditation. Like all holy places, the shrine is especially lively on festival days, but you can easily witness at least two weddings in the courtyards every Sunday. Although the shrine is open to all from sunrise to sunset free of charge, the individual buildings are known to maintain varied hours.
The surrounding forests have often been described as being even more alluring an attraction than the Meiji-jingū shrine itself. More than 245 different tree species from across the globe can be found here, and the forests are considered as part of the Yoyogi Park by many of its visitors.
4 – The Roppongi Hills Complex
For an entrance fee of $15, you can stroll the Roppongi Hills complex’s gardens, shops, and the Mori Art Museum, home to exciting exhibits. A cinema and an array of cafes and restaurants add to the attraction, but the real crowd-puller here is the 52nd-floor Tokyo City View observation deck. For $3 extra, you can also gain access to the 54th-floor Sky Deck.
5 – Tokyo Whiskey Library
A relatively new venue, the Tokyo Whiskey Library offers more than 1000 international whiskey brands, as well as cocktails and tasting sets. For the sweet-tooth, pairing your drink with chocolates from Tomigaya’s specialists Minimal is sure to be a treat.
If you’re looking for a relaxing spot to have a drink between activities or to end your day, the Tokyo Whiskey Library (and the following attractions) are sure to spark your interest.
6 – Dassai Bar 23
If you relish sake, the Dassai Bar 23 in Tokyo Square Garden serves various types of the popular drink, including the exclusive Dassai Beyond. Five tasting sets are also available, as well as nigori and sparkling sake.
7 – DJ Bar Bridge
Located on the top-floor right across the street from Shibuya Station, the DJ Bar Bridge offers patrons a magnificent view to compliment the sounds of DJ Nori and Toshiyuki Goto, two of Tokyo’s veteran DJs.
8 – Global Hearts
Also located close to Shibuya Station, Global Hearts is one of the newer Tokyo clubs, and offers the electronic dance music fan an opportunity to party internationally.
9 – T.Y. Harbor
If you prefer sipping craft beers on the waterfront, T.Y. Harbor is widely acclaimed as Tokyo’s best harbor side pub. Californian-style ales and porters side with excellent food choices from the affiliated restaurant.
10 – The Tsukiji Fish Market
The Tsukiji Fish Market is easily the busiest, leading fish market in the world, and is home to Tokyo’s world-famous tuna auctions. An exclusive but worthy event, more than 2 000 tons of fish are handled in the market on a daily basis, and bidding starts at 05h30. If you’re not feeling too jet-lagged, head down to the fish information center in the Kachidoki Gate just off Harumi Street at 04h30 for a chance to enter the small viewing area open to the public from 05h00 to 06h15.
Fortunately, the outer market offers a satisfying compromise, and is always open to visitors. 09h00 is a great time to arrive if you want to witness the many fishmongers filleting their day’s catch without having to dodge as many trucks.
11 – Nonbeing Yokocho
On the other hand, if you’re keen for a pub crawl, Nonbei Yokocho is the place for you. Translated as Drunkard’s Alley, this is a lively street lined with tiny bars.
12 – Apple & Ginger
If you’re health-conscious or in need of non-alcoholic refreshment, Apple & Ginger is a popular juice stand near Yoyogi Park. Fresh apple juice made with Aomori apples and ginger juice with Kochi ginger is readily available hot or cold.
13 – Chazen
It wouldn’t be right to visit Tokyo without partaking in an authentic Japanese tea ceremony. Chazen will teach you how to grind your own tea leaves into matcha powder and make a cup of tea for yourself. Because of its popularity, booking in advance is essential.
With a little of everything for everyone, Tokyo truly is an international city that hasn’t lost its traditional charm. Now that you know some of Tokyo’s biggest attractions, where to stay and where to unwind, you’re well-prepared to make the most of your visit—whether it’s your first or your tenth.