Tokyo is a city that never fails to impress. It is a vibrant and bustling metropolis that offers a mix of ancient traditions and modern technology.
From its bustling streets filled with neon lights to its ancient temples and gardens, Tokyo is a city that has preserved its rich cultural heritage while embracing modernity. This guide will explore the top 15 things to do in Tokyo, from visiting historic landmarks to enjoying the city’s vibrant nightlife.
Visit the Tokyo Skytree
The Tokyo Skytree is one of Tokyo’s most iconic landmarks and the tallest tower in the world, standing at 634 meters. It is located in the Sumida district of Tokyo and offers stunning city views from its observation decks.
Visitors can take an elevator to the Tembo Deck, which is located at the height of 350 meters, and enjoy panoramic views of Tokyo.
On clear days, visitors can see as far as Mount Fuji, over 100 kilometers away. The Tembo Deck features a glass floor allowing visitors to view the city below.
For those who want an even more spectacular view, the Tembo Galleria is located at the height of 450 meters and offers a 360-degree view of Tokyo. Visitors can take a spiral staircase leading to the tower’s top and enjoy breathtaking views of the city.
The Tokyo Skytree is also home to various shops and restaurants, including a souvenir shop where visitors can purchase unique Tokyo Skytree-themed items.
Explore the Sensoji Temple
The Sensoji Temple, also known as the Asakusa Kannon Temple, is one of Tokyo’s most famous and oldest Buddhist temples. It is located in the Asakusa district of Tokyo and is a popular destination for both locals and tourists.
The temple was founded in the 7th century and is dedicated to Kannon, the goddess of mercy. Visitors can explore the temple’s grounds, which feature a variety of buildings and structures, including the main hall, the five-story pagoda, and the Hozomon Gate.
One of the most popular attractions at the Sensoji Temple is the Nakamise shopping street, which leads up to the temple’s main gate.
The street is lined with shops selling a variety of traditional Japanese souvenirs and snacks, such as senbei (rice crackers), yukata (summer kimono), and omamori (good luck charms).
Visitors can also experience the traditional Japanese practice of omikuji at the Sensoji Temple. Omikuji are paper fortunes that are randomly drawn and offer predictions about one’s future.
Visitors can purchase an omikuji at the temple and tie it to a designated area if the fortune is bad or keep it if the fortune is good.
Take a stroll in the Ueno Park
Ueno Park is one of Tokyo’s largest public parks in the Ueno district of Tokyo. It is a popular destination for locals and tourists, offering various attractions and activities.
One of the main attractions at Ueno Park is the Tokyo National Museum, which features a vast collection of Japanese art and artifacts.
Visitors can explore the museum’s galleries and exhibits, including displays on Japanese history, culture, and religion.
The park is also home to the Ueno Zoo, which features a variety of animals, including pandas, elephants, and gorillas.
The zoo is a popular destination for families with children and offers a fun and educational experience.
In addition to the museum and zoo, Ueno Park also features a variety of other attractions, including the Shinobazu Pond, home to over 300 species of waterfowl, and the Ueno Toshogu Shrine, which is dedicated to the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Visitors can also stroll through the park’s cherry blossom trees during the spring, which blooms in late March to early April and attracts visitors to view the beautiful pink and white blossoms.
Shop in the Ginza District
The Ginza district is one of Tokyo’s most famous shopping districts and is home to various upscale department stores, boutiques, and luxury brand shops.
It is located in the Chuo ward of Tokyo and is a popular destination for locals and tourists interested in high-end shopping.
One of the main attractions in Ginza is the department store Mitsukoshi. It is one of Japan’s oldest and most prestigious department stores, and visitors can find a wide range of luxury brands and products, including designer clothing, jewelry, and cosmetics.
The Ginza district is also home to the flagship stores of many high-end international brands, such as Chanel, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. Visitors can enjoy browsing through the latest collections and admiring the window displays.
In addition to shopping, the Ginza district is known for its high-end dining options. Visitors can find a variety of upscale restaurants and cafes offering a range of cuisines, from traditional Japanese dishes to international fare.
For those who are interested in traditional Japanese crafts, the Ginza district also features a variety of shops specializing in pottery, lacquerware, and other handmade items.
Enjoy the Shibuya Crossing
The Shibuya Crossing is one of Tokyo’s most famous and iconic landmarks. Located in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, it is known as the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing and is a must-visit destination for anyone visiting Tokyo.
The crossing is located outside the Hachiko Exit of Shibuya Station, surrounded by towering buildings and neon lights. It is estimated that over 1,000 people cross the intersection during each green light cycle, creating a mesmerizing sight.
One of the best ways to experience the Shibuya Crossing is to take a walk through it during peak hours, which are typically in the late afternoon and evening.
Visitors can also enjoy the view from one of the surrounding cafes or restaurants, which offer a bird’s eye view of the crossing.
Another popular activity at the Shibuya Crossing is to take a photo with the famous Hachiko statue, which is located just outside the station.
The statue is a tribute to the loyal Akita dog, Hachiko, who famously waited for his owner at the station every day, even after his owner passed away.
Visit the Meiji Shrine
The Meiji Shrine is a Shinto shrine located in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. It is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, who were instrumental in the modernization of Japan during the late 19th century.
The shrine is set in a large forested area and accessed via a long pathway from the entrance gate. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through the forest and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere before arriving at the main shrine complex.
The main shrine buildings are made of cypress wood and copper and are surrounded by lush gardens and greenery. Visitors can explore the various buildings and structures, including the main hall, offering hall, and treasure house.
One of the most popular activities at the Meiji Shrine is participating in traditional Shinto rituals, such as purification rites and prayer.
Visitors can purchase an omamori, or good luck charm, at the shrine’s gift shop and participate in the purification ritual by washing their hands and mouth with water from the ceremonial fountain.
Another popular activity at the Meiji Shrine is visiting during the annual Hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the new year. During this time, the shrine is crowded with visitors who come to pray for good fortune and health for the upcoming year.
Go to the Tsukiji Fish Market
The Tsukiji Fish Market is one of the world’s largest and busiest fish markets in the Chuo ward of Tokyo. It is a popular destination for seafood lovers and those interested in Japanese culinary culture.
The market opens early in the morning, and visitors can witness the exciting auctions where large quantities of fresh seafood are sold to buyers.
The most popular item to watch being auctioned is the prized Bluefin Tuna, which can sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
After the auctions, visitors can explore the many stalls and shops within the market, selling a wide variety of seafood, including sushi, sashimi, and fresh oysters.
The market also has many small restaurants and food stands serving freshly cooked seafood dishes.
One of the most popular activities at the Tsukiji Fish Market is to participate in a sushi-making workshop. Visitors can learn about the art of making sushi from master chefs and enjoy eating their creations afterward.
Another popular activity is to take a guided tour of the market, which offers visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the market’s inner workings and a chance to learn about the history and culture of the market.
In 2018, the Tsukiji Fish Market relocated to Toyosu, a newer and larger facility a few kilometers away from the original location.
The new market features modern facilities and amenities but still offers visitors a chance to experience the excitement and energy of a bustling fish market.
Visit the Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea
Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea are two of Japan’s most popular theme parks in the Tokyo Disney Resort in Urayasu, just outside of Tokyo.
These theme parks offer visitors a chance to experience the magic of Disney and are must-visit destinations for families with young children.
Tokyo Disneyland is modeled after the original Disneyland in California and features classic Disney attractions and characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Cinderella.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of rides, shows, parades, and themed areas, such as Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.
On the other hand, Tokyo DisneySea is a unique theme park that features a nautical theme based on the sea’s myths and legends.
The park is divided into seven themed areas, including Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront, and Arabian Coast. It features a variety of rides, shows, and attractions, such as the Tower of Terror and Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Both parks offer a range of dining options, including character-themed restaurants and merchandise shops where visitors can purchase exclusive Disney merchandise.
One of the most popular times to visit Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea is during the holiday season, when the parks are decorated with festive lights and decorations. The parks also offer special seasonal events, such as Halloween and Christmas-themed events.
Explore the Harajuku District
The Harajuku district is a vibrant and eclectic neighborhood located in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo. It is known for its unique fashion, colorful street art, and delicious food, making it a popular destination.
One of the most iconic attractions in Harajuku is Takeshita Street, a narrow pedestrian street lined with trendy boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Here, visitors can find the latest fashion trends and sample various delicious street food, such as crepes, cotton candy, and taiyaki, a fish-shaped cake filled with sweet red bean paste.
Another popular attraction in Harajuku is Yoyogi Park, a large public park next to the Meiji Shrine. The park is a popular spot for picnics, sports, and outdoor events and is known for its cherry blossom trees, which bloom in the spring.
In addition to shopping and outdoor activities, Harajuku is also home to several unique museums and galleries. The Design Festa Gallery is a popular destination for contemporary art lovers, featuring a rotating selection of exhibitions and installations.
The Kawaii Monster Cafe is another popular destination, featuring colorful and whimsical decor and a variety of cute and colorful dishes.
Harajuku is also known for its fashion and street style, with many visitors coming to see the locals’ unique fashion trends and styles.
The area around Harajuku Station, known as “Cosplay Street,” is a popular spot for cosplayers and those interested in Japanese pop culture.
Visit the Imperial Palace
The Imperial Palace is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan and is located in the heart of Tokyo. The palace grounds cover an area of approximately 3.41 square kilometers and include several historic buildings and gardens, making it a must-visit destination for Japanese history and culture.
One of the most impressive features of the Imperial Palace is its stone walls and moats, which were built during the Edo period to protect the palace from attacks. Visitors can walk along the palace walls and enjoy views of the moats and surrounding gardens.
The palace grounds also feature several historic buildings, including the main palace building, which is used for official ceremonies and receptions, and the Imperial Household Agency Building, which houses the administrative offices of the Imperial Household.
The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace are open to the public, allowing visitors to explore the grounds and gardens.
The gardens feature a variety of plants and trees, including cherry blossoms in the spring, and offer stunning views of the palace buildings and surrounding cityscape.
Visitors can also take a guided tour of the palace grounds, which includes a visit to the Imperial Palace Museum. The museum features a collection of artifacts and artwork related to the imperial family, including clothing, furniture, and paintings.
The Imperial Palace is closed to the public on certain days, so it’s best to check its website for information on visiting hours and closures.
Visitors should also note that some areas of the palace grounds may be off-limits, and photography is prohibited in certain areas.
See the Tokyo Tower
The Tokyo Tower is a famous landmark in Tokyo and one of the most recognizable structures in the city. Standing 332.9 meters tall, it is the second-tallest structure in Japan after the Tokyo Skytree.
The tower was built in 1958 and was designed to resemble the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It is located in the Minato ward of Tokyo and offers stunning views of the city skyline from its observation decks.
The main observation deck is located at the height of 150 meters. It offers panoramic views of Tokyo, including famous landmarks like the Rainbow Bridge, Tokyo Bay, and Mount Fuji on a clear day.
Visitors can also visit the higher “Top Deck” observation deck, located at the height of 250 meters and offers even more stunning views of the city.
In addition to the observation decks, the Tokyo Tower also houses a variety of attractions, including restaurants, souvenir shops, and a wax museum.
The tower also features a special “One Piece” theme park dedicated to the popular manga and anime series of the same name.
One of the unique attractions of the Tokyo Tower is its illumination. Every evening, the tower is illuminated with various colors, which change depending on the time of year and special events.
The tower’s illumination is especially stunning during the holiday when lit up with festive colors and patterns.
Visitors can reach the Tokyo Tower by taking the subway to the Akabanebashi Station, just a short walk from the tower. The tower is open daily from 9:00 am to 11:00 pm, with the last admission at 10:30 pm.
Visit the Odaiba district
Odaiba is a popular entertainment and shopping district located on a man-made island in Tokyo Bay. It is known for its futuristic architecture, trendy boutiques, and numerous entertainment options, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to Tokyo.
One of the most iconic landmarks in Odaiba is the giant Ferris wheel, known as the Daikanransha. It stands at the height of 115 meters and offers stunning views of Tokyo Bay and the surrounding city skyline.
Visitors can also enjoy other amusement park rides at the nearby Tokyo Joypolis indoor theme park, such as roller coasters and carousels.
Another popular attraction in Odaiba is the Oedo Onsen Monogatari hot springs theme park. Here, visitors can enjoy a relaxing soak in natural hot springs and experience traditional Japanese onsen culture, such as wearing yukata robes and enjoying Japanese food and drink.
For shoppers, Odaiba offers a variety of options, including the VenusFort shopping mall, which is designed to resemble a medieval European village, and the Aqua City Odaiba shopping complex, which offers stunning views of Tokyo Bay and a variety of stores and restaurants.
In addition to its entertainment and shopping options, Odaiba also features several impressive examples of modern architecture, including the Fuji TV Building and the Rainbow Bridge.
Visitors can also stroll along the waterfront, which offers stunning views of the Tokyo skyline.
Visitors can take the Yurikamome Line from Shimbashi Station or the Rinkai Line from Shin-Kiba Station to reach Odaiba. The district is also easily accessible by car via the Rainbow Bridge.
Try Japanese cuisine
No trip to Tokyo would be complete without experiencing the incredible flavors of Japanese cuisine.
From sushi and ramen to tempura and udon noodles, Tokyo offers a wide range of culinary delights that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.
One of the most famous dishes in Japan is sushi, and Tokyo is home to some of the best sushi restaurants in the world.
Sushi is typically made with raw fish, rice, and a variety of other ingredients, and is often served in small bite-sized pieces. Some of the best places to try sushi in Tokyo include Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi in the Tsukiji Fish Market and Sukiyabashi Jiro in the Ginza district.
Another popular dish in Japan is ramen, a noodle soup dish typically made with a rich broth and a variety of toppings, such as sliced pork, eggs, and green onions.
Some of the best ramen shops in Tokyo include Ichiran Ramen and Afuri Ramen, which have multiple locations throughout the city.
Tempura is another popular dish in Japan, consisting of deep-fried seafood or vegetables typically served with a dipping sauce.
Some of the best places to try tempura in Tokyo include Tempura Kondo in the Ginza district and Tempura Tsunahachi in Shinjuku.
Udon noodles are also a popular dish in Japan and are typically served in a hot soup with a variety of toppings. Some of Tokyo’s best udon noodle shops include Tsurutontan Udon in Roppongi and Marugame Seimen in Shinjuku.
In addition to these classic dishes, Tokyo also offers a wide range of other culinary delights, such as yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), tonkatsu (breaded and fried pork cutlets), and okonomiyaki (a savory pancake made with a variety of ingredients).
Enjoy the nightlife in Shinjuku
Shinjuku is a bustling entertainment district in Tokyo that offers a vibrant and diverse nightlife scene. Here are some of the top things to do in Shinjuku at night:
- Visit the Golden Gai: The Golden Gai is a small area of narrow streets lined with tiny bars and pubs, each with its own unique atmosphere. This is a great place to experience the local nightlife and meet other travelers and locals alike.
- Explore Kabukicho: Kabukicho is Tokyo’s largest entertainment district and is known for its neon lights and bustling streets. Here you can find a variety of bars, nightclubs, karaoke bars, restaurants, hostess clubs, and other adult entertainment options.
- Check out the Robot Restaurant: The Robot Restaurant is a unique and colorful experience that features high-tech robots, laser lights, and live music performances. This is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a truly unforgettable night out in Tokyo.
- Visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building: This building features an observation deck that offers stunning views of the Tokyo skyline at night. Admission is free, making it a great budget-friendly option for those looking to enjoy the city’s nightlife.
- Go bar-hopping: Shinjuku is home to many bars and pubs, from traditional Japanese izakayas to trendy and modern bars. Bar-hopping is a great way to experience the local nightlife and sample a variety of drinks and snacks.
- Sing karaoke: Karaoke is a popular activity in Japan, and there are plenty of karaoke bars in Shinjuku where you can sing your heart out. Many bars offer private karaoke rooms, making it a great option for groups.
- Visit the Godzilla Head: The Godzilla Head is a giant replica of the iconic movie monster’s head that sits atop a building in Kabukicho. At night, the eyes light up, and the head roars, creating a unique and unforgettable experience.
Visit the Tokyo National Museum
The Tokyo National Museum is a large museum in Ueno Park with over 110,000 artifacts and artworks from Japan and other parts of Asia.
Visitors can explore exhibits featuring Japanese swords, ceramics, calligraphy, textiles, Buddhist art, and non-Japanese collections from China, Korea, and other parts of Asia.
The museum’s main building, the Honkan, houses most Japanese art collections, while the Hyokeikan is a separate building dedicated to non-Japanese collections. Visitors can also enjoy the museum garden and attend cultural events yearly.
Tokyo is a city that has something for everyone. From its ancient temples and gardens to its modern skyscrapers and vibrant nightlife, Tokyo is a city that offers a unique blend of tradition and innovation.
Visitors can explore the city’s many attractions, including the Tokyo Skytree, the Sensoji Temple, and the Odaiba district, and try delicious Japanese cuisine.
Tokyo is a must-visit destination for any traveler, and the top 15 things to do in Tokyo offer a glimpse into the city’s rich culture and exciting atmosphere.