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Tokyo Tourism: Best of Tokyo
With its futuristic skyscrapers, unrivalled food scene, and wild nightlife, Tokyo is a rush of pure adrenaline. The city is famously cutting-edge, yet its ancient Buddhist temples, vintage teahouses, and peaceful gardens offer a serene escape—and a reminder of its past. Spend the morning in Asakusa, Tokyo’s historical neighbourhood, to see the Sensoji temple, then take a stroll along the Sumida River (in the spring, the cherry blossoms are in full force). Or, make your way to Tsukiji Outer Market for a sushi breakfast—the narrow corridors are packed with tons of spots to choose from (most close around noon so get there early). Turn up the volume—and get a taste for cosplay culture—in Harajuku, or hit Akihabara for video games and anime. In the evening, take a detour down a yokocho—a little side street alleyway—to find laid-back izakayas and chill bars.That’s only scratching the surface—we’ve got more recs, below.
"Thank goodness for [Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden] which has lovingly curated the different types of sakuras [cherry blossoms] to bloom both earlier and later. We were able to catch the glorious blooms even in mid April, when the flowers in most other famous sakura parks would already have fallen."
"[Asakusa] neighbourhood was the first one we visited in our trip to Japan and we absolutely loved it...The huge red lantern at the Kaminarimon gate and the temple grounds are stunning! Lots of shops at the main street Nakamise Dori. Try out some candied strawberry, buy some trinkets for souvenirs, get some melon bread... it's worth a stroll even with the crowds."
What to do
Iconic places and can’t-miss experiences that define the citySee all
Where to stay
Top spots to rest up—charming to classic to modernSee all
Where to eat
The tried-and-trues, plus local faves and hidden gemsSee all
The Best Free Things to Do in Tokyo
Friends often ask me what to see in Tokyo, and how they can visit without breaking the bank. After decades of exploring the city and writing about it, I’m happy to say that although Japan can be expensive, many of my Tokyo must-sees happen to not cost a cent. And the best free experience of all? Simply walking around the fascinating neighbourhoods where these attractions are located.
Beth Reiber, Lawrence, KS
- Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observation Decks5,479Located on the 45th floor of a city office building in Shinjuku, Tokyo’s best no-fee observatory is a great introduction to the city’s never-ending sprawl. On clear winter days, you can even see Mt. Fuji. Make this one of your first stops, not only to get a handle on Tokyo’s layout but also for the Tokyo Tourist Information Centre on the first floor, which has maps and brochures.
- Tokyo Free Walking Tour366Led by dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers, I always recommend this nonprofit that offers four free tours conducted in English that take in some of Tokyo’s most iconic sights and neighbourhoods. Highlights include Asakusa, Ueno Park, the East Gardens of the Imperial Palace, and Meiji Shrine and Harajuku. Tours are offered Saturday, Sunday, and some Wednesdays, and last 90 to 120 minutes.
- The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace (Edo Castle Ruin)2,046Edo Castle was once the mightiest in the land, surrounded by whirling moats and secured with 29 watchtowers and 38 gates. Today, all that remains are the stone ramparts, tower foundation, and turrets. Although the ruins are fascinating, my favourite part is Ninomaru, a traditional (and free) Japanese garden. It’s particularly beautiful in the spring when azaleas, wisteria, and other flowers are in bloom.
- Senso-ji Temple9,445Tokyo’s most famous temple predates the city by 1,300 years. Dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, it attracts some 30 million visitors every year. I love the temple’s festive atmosphere, which extends into the surrounding Asakusa neighbourhood with its shitamachi (old downtown) character. Nakamise, the pedestrian lane leading to the temple, is lined with inexpensive souvenir stalls and is one of Japan’s oldest shopping streets.
- Meiji Jingu Shrine8,273Tokyo’s most venerated Shinto shrine is dedicated to Empress Shoken and Emperor Meiji (1852-1912), who oversaw Japan’s transformation from an agrarian feudal society to a modern industrialized nation. Nestled in a dense, sacred forest it has a peaceful atmosphere even though it’s not far from the vibrantly youthful Harajuku neighbourhood. (However, it's an especially popular site to visit around the New Year, so expect crowds if you visit then.)
- Tsukiji Jogai Market1,898I was sad to see Tsukiji Fish Market move to a more sterile location in Toyosu, but Tsukiji Jogai (Outer Market) retains its bustling, lively atmosphere. A warren of alleyways lined with stalls and shops, it offers fresh seafood, seasonal produce, cooking utensils, and street food ranging from personal favourites like takoyaki (round octopus cakes) to king crab. It’s free to visit, but to escape the crowds arrive by 9 a.m.
- Yoyogi Park2,332This 133-acre free park near Harajuku and Shibuya is one of Tokyo’s largest and most beloved parks, making it a great place to see Tokyoites at play. Families, couples, students, and groups of all nationalities come for weekend picnics on wide, grassy lawns or to play sports ranging from soccer to frisbee. It also has a forested area, bird sanctuary, dog run, rental bikes, and a dedicated cycling course, including one for children.
Explore Tokyo by interest
Only in Tokyo
Unique experiences you can’t do anywhere else
Tokyo on a dime
Eats and activities that won’t break the bank
If you’re feeling fancy-ish
Go-all-out experiences totally worth the yen
Stop and smell the roses
Gorgeous gardens, right in town
See the city after dark
Late-night eats, trendy bars, and more
Sip on some sake
Tastings, tours, bars, and more
Take a break at a teahouse
See a ceremony and get a taste of tradition
The city’s a stage
Theatre, concerts, and other live shows
All about that view
The best spots to see the city skyline
For the history buff
Must-see museums, temples, and more