Tokyo might just be one of the most interesting cities in the world! It’s a city that provides travellers with experiences ranging from traditions centuries old to modern technologies that will blow your mind. Make sure you dedicate at least 3 days to this incredible city as there is plenty to see and loads to do. To make planning easier for you, below are some of the best things to do in Tokyo. If you are time limited, our favourite districts to explore are Shinjuku and Shibuya.
Insider Tip: See the best of Tokyo on a on a guided sightseeing tour with a local. It’s the perfect introduction for first-time visitors or someone with limited time.
1. Meiji Shrine & Yoyogi Park
Our first point of interest on our list of the best things to do in Tokyo is the beautiful Meiji Shrine. It happens to be one of our favourite places in Tokyo.
Meiji Shrine is in Yoyogi Park and is easily accessed from either JR Harajuku Station or Yoyogi Station. The Shrine is surrounded by forest, so it has an incredibly peaceful vibe to it. The Shrine was dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and the Empress Shoken, and happens to be one of the most popular temples in Japan.
2. Shibuya Crossing
Most people know about the Shibuya Crossing thanks to its presence in movies such as Lost in Translation, Fast and Furious and Resident Evil. This crossing is rumored to be the busiest crossing in the world! People cross here from 5 different angles.
It is incredible to simply watch the people cross and weave their way through this crossing. I always wonder how people move so smoothly past each other whilst everyone seems to be staring at their phones.
The Shibuya Crossing is located right in front of the Hachiko exit of Shibuya station.
3. Tsukiji Market
Located in central Tokyo, the Tsukiji Market is the world’s largest and busiest fish market! The best time to visit this market is at 5 am so you can catch the live tuna auctions. Do make sure to check their website to see if public access is permitted that day. You can register your spot for the auction at 4:30 am at the fish information centre inside the Kachidoki Gate off Harumi Street.
4. Takeshita Street in Harajuku
If you are after something quirkier and totally unique, why not head to Takeshita Street in Harajuku. This street is a narrow pedestrian street lined by shops, boutiques, cafes and fast food outlets. It is probably the busiest street in all of Tokyo, so be prepared to push through the crowds.
The street is super popular amongst the teens, and you might even spot a few who are dressed up in their cosplay outfits. While you are there, make sure to pop into the cotton candy store as well as the Kawaii Monster Café.
Shinjuku Kabukichō is one of the red-light districts in Tokyo! In this area you will find many love hotels, host and hostess clubs, restaurants, theme clubs and nightclubs. This is also where you will find the very popular Robot Restaurant.
Despite the fact that this area is indeed a red-light district, we found that all the clubs were pretty discreet and we felt perfectly fine walking down the streets with our kids in hand. I have heard that if you are there by yourself, you will most likely get annoyed by all the people who will try to persuade you to visit their club.
This area is best visited at night, since the streets will be alive with neon lights galore! We loved checking out Kabukichō!
6. Shinjuku Golden Gai
Located in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho, you will find a series of narrow alleys that are filled to the brim with over 270 unique little bar dens! The bars are all unique and you will find a few totally eclectic bars as well. You can find some that have chandeliers whilst others are designed in a hard rock theme. Why not head out and enjoy a night of bar hopping.
7. Omoide Yokocho (aka Piss Alley)
Yokochos are ultimately small little old-school alleys that are located close to the train stations, and that are filled to the brim with tiny little restaurants and drinking spots.
Piss Alley, or Memory Lane, is a Yokocho alley in Shinjuku. This popular lane is located on the West side of Shinjuku station. If you head over in the late afternoon, you will find the gorgeous little alley is not only filled with people, but is also filled with smoke and smells of delicious food.
8. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office
There are several ways in which you can get a view from up high over Tokyo! One of the best things to do in Tokyo to get a panoramic view over the city is to visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office. The building is located 10 minutes from Shinjuku station by foot. Access to the top floor of the building is absolutely free. There is also a souvenir shop as well as a restaurant up there!
9. Ryōgoku Kokugikan
One of the best things to do in Tokyo for the sports lovers, Tokyo’s National Sumo Hall is a very popular tourist attraction. Most go there because of the sumo wrestling, but you can also see a whole parade in the ceremonial clothes as well as classic move demonstrations by former champions.
The 15-day tournaments take place in January, May and September.
10. Senso-ji Temple
Senso-ji Temple was built in honour of Kannon. It is the oldest temple in Tokyo and definitely deserves a spot as one of the best things to do in Tokyo. We absolutely loved our time exploring this Temple and do recommend you stop and take some photos at the large Hozomon Gate.
The temple is located in Asakusa, close by to the famous Tokyo Tower. There are plenty of little lanes around the temple which you should explore as well, some of which are all about delicious types of foods, whilst others all offer distinct types of souvenirs.
Where to Stay in Tokyo
Here are our top recommendations of hostels and hotels in Tokyo. All are centrally located, highly rated and have excellent facilities.
- Best Hostel: Khaosan Tokyo Kabuki
- Best Budget Hotel: Richmond Hotel Premier Asakusa International
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba
- Best Luxury Hotel: Palace Hotel Tokyo
- Best Airport Hotel: Hotel Nikko Narita
Don’t forget to also take a look at Airbnb. They have many accommodation options available in Tokyo, and many of them are cheaper than your average hotel. Click here to get $40 off your next booking with Airbnb.
Popular Tours in Tokyo
Below are some popular tours in Tokyo that you might enjoy doing.
- Mount Fuji Full-Day Scenic Bus Tour from Tokyo
- Tsukiji Fish Market: 3.5-Hour Food and Drink Walking Tour
- Tokyo: Full-Day Bicycle Tour
- Kamakura & Tokyo Bay Full-Day Bus Tour from Tokyo
Tokyo is an incredible city to visit and in our opinion, it should be on every traveler’s list of places to see. Do make sure you set aside at least 3 days for Tokyo, as the city is really large, the list of best things to do in Tokyo is endless and it takes a bit of time to maneuver from one district to the next. I think in many ways this city will surprise you and will most definitely leave a lasting impression.
I thought the main fish market had moved to a new location in Toyosu…? I thought the retail (outer) market was still in Tsukiji, but I’d think the tuna auction would be at the new location, which is the wholesale market?