Best Things to Do in Tokyo

The Japanese capital has one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and many places to discover. Here I tell you everything you can see and do in Tokyo during your visit.

Matías Rodríguez

Matías Rodríguez

13 min read

Best Things to Do in Tokyo

Tokyo Japan | © Aleksandar Pasaric

Tokyo is a vibrant city, with many attractions to see and activities to do. It has one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and its multicultural side will have the facility to catch you whatever your interests are.

If you love the cuisine Tokyo will offer you the best dishes, if you are interested in history you will be fascinated by its ancient buildings and monuments and if you prefer nature you will also be amazed by its large parks. With the contrast between its modern technological buildings and its historic temples, the Japanese capital will turn your trip into an adventure at every step.

1. Visit the Senso-ji Buddhist temple, the oldest in Japan

Senso-ji Buddhist Temple| ©mon_vitoria
Senso-ji Buddhist Temple| ©mon_vitoria

Buddhism is the majority religion in Japan and Senso-ji Temple is the oldest and most important temple in the country.

Located in the Asakusa district, in the north of Tokyo, it was founded in the year 645, but its fame increased substantially after World War II, since it was bombed and destroyed during the conflict but its reconstruction was a symbol of peace and resurrection that united all Japanese.

Today it is one of the most visited buildings in the country and its importance is equivalent to the main cathedrals of Catholic countries.

Senso-ji is a very beautiful temple and it is worth a thorough tour of its interior and its extensive complex that includes the main building and its characteristic five-story pagoda.

The first step is to enter through the Kaminarimon gate and walk along the Nakamise-dori shopping street with 250 meters of stores on both sides until you reach the Hozomon gate, through which you can enter the pagoda, the main halls and shrines. I recommend that you pay attention to the colors, details and ornamentations of the temple, as they are typical offerings of the Buddhist religion.

Senso-ji was a pilgrimage temple for the Japanese since its founding and remains so to this day, so the stores on Nakamise-dori Street offer food, drinks and all kinds of products for pilgrims who come walking from all over.

Details of interest

  • Price... Entrance to the temple is free.
  • Location... 2 Chome-3-1 Asakusa, Tokyo.
  • Hours... The temple is open daily from 6:00 am to 5:00 pm.
  • How to get there... From Tokyo Station take the JR Yamanote line train to Kanda and then the Ginza subway to Asakusa. Although the best way to get there and explore the area is with one of the guided tours of the city.

Book a guided tour of Tokyo

2. Visit Ueno Park, the forest of museums.

Ueno Park| ©Takashi Matsumura
Ueno Park| ©Takashi Matsumura

Tokyo is a jungle of asphalt, hustle and bustle and traffic, but it also has natural spaces to relax.

Ueno Park is the best known of the city's green lungs and one of the most interesting, because in addition to lush vegetation, including the most colorful flowers in Japan, it houses some of the most traditional museums in the country, such as the Tokyo National Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Science Museum.

If you are visiting Tokyo during the spring you can attend the famous hanami or cherry blossom, which will bathe every corner of Ueno Park in color.

But the offer does not end there because this green lung is also a cultural reference where you can walk among temples and shrines, play musical instruments, hear concerts by street artists and tour the Shinobazu pond in small boats.

Ueno Park also allows you to enjoy Tokyo with children, because inside there is a zoo with many local species and one of the largest natural reserves of panda bears in the world outside China. I recommend a bike tour to make the most of this idyllic place.

Details of interest

  • Price... Entrance to the park is free.
  • Location... Uenokoen, Tokyo.
  • Hours... The park is open from 5:00 am to 11:00 pm.
  • How to get there... From Tokyo Station take the JR Yamanote Line train to Okachimachi Station.

Book a bike tour in Tokyo

3. Visit the Imperial Palace, a fortress in the heart of Tokyo

Tokyo Imperial Palace| ©Jeff Amador
Tokyo Imperial Palace| ©Jeff Amador

The Imperial Palace is the official residence of the Emperor of Japan and occupies the grounds of the former Edo Castle.

Located in the urban center of Tokyo, it is a massive fortress of retaining walls and control towers and one of Japan's most famous buildings. The Nijubashi bridges leading to the entrance of the inner grounds are the best known image of the Palace.

It is possible to visit the Emperor's residence, but except on special occasions it is only possible to access the Oriental Gardens, which border the entrance gates, watchtowers, imperial walls and security moats.

In any case, touring these interior spaces of the Imperial Palace is a great experience to get a sense of the size of the residence.

It is a tradition in Japan for locals to come to the Palace gardens on New Year's Day and every December 23, when the imperial family steps out onto the balconies to greet visitors. If you are looking for what to do in Tokyo in December, joining in could be an interesting activity.

You can take advantage of one of the photo tours in Tokyo where you can learn how to capture the most iconic images of the Japanese city.

Interesting details

  • Price... Admission to the Oriental Palace Gardens is free.
  • Location... 1-1 Chiyoda, Tokyo.
  • Hours... The Palace is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 2:45 pm.
  • How to get there... The Palace is located four blocks from Tokyo Station, where most train and subway lines converge.

Book a photo tour of Tokyo

4. Discover Akihabara, Tokyo's electronic and otaku culture district

In Akihabara| ©BartPhotography
In Akihabara| ©BartPhotography

Akihabara is one of the most eclectic places in Tokyo, known for being the electronic district and the birthplace of manga, anime and video games. In this geek paradise you can be dazzled by neon billboards, sleep in capsule hotels, which are very famous in Japan, and live cosplay experiences.

If you are not a fan of anime and otaku culture you can still enjoy the neighborhood, which has become one of the most visited in Tokyo in recent years.

If you are a coffee lover, you will surely find places that interest you in Akihabara because it also stands out for the Maid cafes, places where the waitresses are disguised as maids. The ideal time to visit the area is on Sundays, when the main street Chuo-Dori becomes pedestrianized.

In Tokyo there are many places where you can find electronic gadgets, but Akihabara is undoubtedly the neighborhood where there is the greatest variety and the best prices.

It is also possible to book guided tours in Spanish and the area usually appears in many gastronomic tours of Tokyo, as it is one of the best places to eat in the Japanese capital.

  • How to get there... Take the Hibiya subway line to Akihabara station and the JR Yamanote and Sobu trains to Suehirocho station.

Book a food tour in Tokyo

5. Take a trip to Mt. Fuji by bullet train

Cycling in Tokyo| ©Yukiko
Cycling in Tokyo| ©Yukiko

If you want to live a futuristic experience on your trip to Tokyo, I recommend a trip by bullet train to one of the cities near the Japanese capital, such as Kyoto, Yokohama and Osaka.

The shinkansen, as it is known this train that reaches 320 kilometers per hour, also takes you to Mount Fuji and Lake Ashi. Undoubtedly, a spectacle for the eyes by combining technological evolution with the nature of the volcano.

If you are interested in this activity be sure to read our article on Bullet Train Tours in Tokyo.

Book an excursion to Mount Fuji

6. Get carried away in Kabukicho, Tokyo's red light district

Kabukicho| ©Basile Morin
Kabukicho| ©Basile Morin

Tokyo is an entertainment-oriented city and as such has a neighborhood exclusively for adult entertainment. Kabukicho is the red light district of the Japanese capital and home to hundreds of bars, restaurants and nightclubs. There are also a large number of cinemas and shopping venues.

Until a few years ago Kabukicho was a neighborhood not recommended for visitors, but due to reports of robberies and other crimes, the Shinjuku government got involved to improve the safety of the site taking as a reference the positive experiences of other similar neighborhoods in cities like Amsterdam.

Today, Kabukicho is a safe place for tourists and one of the most visited areas of Tokyo because everything is possible there, from buying video games to falling in love with a geisha.

In Kabukicho you can also discover attractions as diverse as the famous Godzilla head at the entrance of the Gramercy Hotel or the small Golden Gai shops where you can have a beer.

Nearby is the Hanazono shrine, dating from the Edo period and the Sengoku Buyuden restaurant, where you can put yourself in the shoes of a samurai.

  • How to get there... By subway on the Marunouchi line to Shinjuku station and by train on the JR Yamanote line to Shin-Okubo station.

Book a samurai experience in Tokyo

7. Eat fresh sushi at the Toyosu Market and learn how to cook it

Toyosu Fish Market| ©mon_vitoria
Toyosu Fish Market| ©mon_vitoria

Toyosu is the most famous fish market in Tokyo since it replaced the old Tsukiji. More modern and larger than its predecessor, it preserves the tradition and is one of the most visited places by tourists, but also a place where it is possible to mingle with the locals and enjoy the best fresh sushi in the Japanese capital.

It is also possible to witness the famous tuna auctions that take place early in the morning and visit the retail stalls where it is estimated that ten thousand tons of fish and seafood are sold every month.

The fresh sushi stalls can be found at the entrance of the market, from where it is also possible to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets in Japan.

If you visit Tokyo during the Christmas season you will see how it fills up with local visitors looking for the best fish for dinner.

Please note that if you want to watch the tuna auctions from one of the viewing platforms, you must visit the market before six in the morning and reserve your place on the market's official website.

If you just want to visit the market to get to know it and enjoy fresh sushi, the best time is at noon.

Interesting details

  • Price... Entrance to the market is free.
  • Location... 6 Chome-6-2 Toyosu, Tokyo.
  • Hours... The market is open daily from 5:00 am to 7:00 pm.
  • How to get there... By train on the JR Yamanote line to Shijo-mae station.

Book a sushi class in Tokyo

8. Go out for a drink in Roppongi, Tokyo's nightlife district

Roppongi, Tokyo| ©Manone
Roppongi, Tokyo| ©Manone

If you have toured the city's attractions and are looking for a diversion, you can make the most of your visit to Tokyo by checking out some of the hundreds of venues located in Roppongi, the Japanese capital's bar and nightclub district.

In the neighborhood you can also find some of the most exclusive restaurants in the city and a nightlife that vibrates with the presence of tourists, students and artists.

Roppongi is also one of the most cosmopolitan spots in the city, with visitors from all over the world and the best views, as it boasts the privilege of housing the tallest towers in the Japanese capital.

In recent years, the neighborhood has also become home to some of the best events in the city, such as the International Film Festival held every October in Tokyo or the cherry blossom celebrations in March.

The only thing that is certain in Roppongi is that wherever you go you will have a great time. In this neighborhood you can enjoy international entertainment and contemporary art, the most interesting observatories and the best nightclubs. Here is our post about the best things to see and do in Tokyo at night.

  • How to get there... By train on the JR Yamanote line to Roppongi Station or on the Ueno-Tokyo line to Roppongi-Yonchome Station. By subway on the Keikyu line combined with the Oedo line to Roppongi Station.

Book a pub crawl tour in Tokyo

9. Watch the skies over Tokyo from the observation deck of the Radio Tower

Radium Tower| ©Lawrence L
Radium Tower| ©Lawrence L

If you have taken a trip to Mount Fuji from Tokyo, you will be able to recognize its silhouette on the horizon when you go up to one of the viewpoints in the city. Especially if you are traveling to Tokyo in the summer or are lucky enough to have a clear day.

Among the many viewpoints you can visit, the most famous is at the top of the Radio Tower, which at 332 meters high is also the second tallest structure in Japan, behind only Tokyo Skytree.

The Radio Tower is a telecommunications and observation building inspired by the Eiffel Tower and strikingly painted in white and international orange to comply with air safety regulations.

Since its inauguration in 1958, this tower has been part of the Tokyo skyline and from its two observation decks it is possible to view the entire city. It also has a glass floor that will give you the feeling that you are floating in the air.

At the base of the tower is also the picturesque Zojoji temple and its contribution is not only aesthetic, as it serves as a telecommunications antenna for broadcasting and digital television.

Other viewpoints in Tokyo are also interesting, such as the Mori Tower or the Metropolitan Government Building.

Interesting details

  • Price... Entrance to the viewpoints costs approximately 10 euros.
  • Location... 4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Tokyo.
  • Hours... The tower observation deck is open daily from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm.
  • How to get there... By subway on the Oedo line to Akabanebashi station, Hibiya line to Kamiyacho station, Mita line to Onarimon station and Asakusa line to Daimon station. By train on the JR Yamanote line to Hamamatsucho station.

10. Walk the trails of Meiji Jingu Shrine

Meiji Jingu Shrine| ©Tokuzo in Edomura
Meiji Jingu Shrine| ©Tokuzo in Edomura

This shrine pays homage to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. Both were revered historical figures in Japan and when they died, this complex of monuments was built in Shibuya surrounded by a forest with more than 300 species of trees from all prefectures of the country.

There you will find various tributes, such as a cedar torii, which is the traditional Japanese arch of Shinto shrines, or the offerings of French wine barrels, since Emperor Meiji was the first to allow the consumption of this drink in Japan.

The Meiji Jingu Shrine is also an oasis of peace in the noisy Japanese capital and a spiritual corner much visited by the Japanese, because it symbolizes the unity of the country in the face of adversity, especially after the shrine was destroyed during the bombers of World War II and rebuilt with donations from taxpayers.

It is possible to visit it on your own or with a guided tour, but you should keep in mind that it is a very extensive forest and the walk from the entrance to the foot of the sanctuary is strenuous. I recommend you to bring comfortable shoes and water for hydration.

Keep in mind that if you visit Tokyo in winter the roads can be snowy and the temperature drops drastically, as it does in autumn.

Details of interest

  • Price... Admission to the shrine is free.
  • Location... 1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Tokyo.
  • Hours... The shrine is open daily from 5:00 am to 6:00 pm.
  • How to get there... By subway on the Odakyu Line to Sangubashi Station and by train on the JR Yamanote Line to Yoyogi Station.

10. Go hiking on Mount Takao, Tokyo's natural treasure

On Mount Takao| ©Laura
On Mount Takao| ©Laura

From the heights of Tokyo it is possible to see Mount Fuji, which is the highest peak in Japan, but you don't have to go that far for a mind-blowing mountaineering experience.

Much closer to central Tokyo you can find Mount Takao, which is approximately 600 meters high and has eight hiking trails that will allow you to discover another profile of the city.

Mount Takao also has a panoramic cable car, chairlifts and it is possible to reach its surroundings by train. In addition to some of the best scenery in Tokyo and an open view of Mount Fuji, it houses a botanical park, a Buddhist temple and a funicular. It is one of the most attractive natural sights in the Japanese capital.

If you are interested in a hiking experience, at Mount Takao you can hike on your own on one of the eight available trails with their varying levels of difficulty or hire a guided tour to reach the summit with the assistance of a local guide.

One way or the other, it's an activity I recommend to escape for a few hours from Tokyo's neon lights and bustling city center, and to take some of the best photographs of the Japanese capital.

Details of interest

  • Price... Entrance to the Mount Nature Reserve is free.
  • Location... Periphery of Hachioji, Tokyo.
  • How to get there... By subway on the Chuo line to Kobotoke Station, about five kilometers from Mount Takao. To get to the entrance of the nature reserve, it is necessary to hire private transportation.

What is the ideal time to travel to Tokyo?

Tokyo by night| ©Keith Twyman
Tokyo by night| ©Keith Twyman

It is difficult to answer the question of when it is best to travel to Tokyo because whenever you go you will find an endless number of activities to discover this fascinating city of contrasts.

However, to help you in your decision, I leave you a list of articles where I list the best plans to do in the months when the Japanese capital receives more visits:

Finally, you may also find it useful to organize your trip to Tokyo according to the number of days you plan to stay in the city. To give you a hand, here are some itineraries: