Tokyo Travel Guide: Where to go, eat and shop

From the majestic Imperial Palace with it captivating glimpses of Mt. Fuji and the Lotus Moat to the dizzying heights of the Tokyo Skytree revealing breathtaking panoramas of the cityscape, every step you take while visiting Tokyo promises awe-inspiring experiences. 

Today, Tokyo offers a seemingly unlimited choice of unique shopping, entertainment, culture and dining options that are begging to be explored. Therefore, it can daunting when planning a trip to this mega city.

To help you during the trip planning phase, we’ve handpicked some of the most unique places to visit, eat and shop in and around what is an iconic city that   seamlessly blends traditional and modern Japanese culture.

Tokyo and its surroundings cities have plenty of popular and off-the-beaten path attractions that you won't want to miss!
  • Imperial Palace – The Imperial Palace hosts free 75-minute tours twice a day from Tuesday to Saturday. Registrations open at 9:00 am for the morning tour starting at 10:00 am, and 12:30 pm for the afternoon tour starting at 1:30 pm. To join, tourists can either register in advance or try their luck with a walk-in registration, which is limited to a certain number of people per tour. Although the tours do not take visitors inside the palace, you will get to enjoy breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji, see the Lotus Moat, and cross over the famous Nijyu Bridge. You must have valid ID (original, not a copy) with you.
  • Tokyo Skytree – This broadcasting and observation tower is located in Sumida and stands at a height of 2,080 feet (634 metres). At the observatory you can take in breathtaking panoramic views of the city skyline, including Tokyo Bay and Mt. Fuji on clear days. The attraction is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 9 pm. Tickets can be purchased online in advance or on the day at the ticket counter
  • Senso-ji Temple – Considered one of the most colorful and popular shrines in Tokyo, this Buddhist temple (built in the 7th century) is located in Asakusa. The attraction is open every day mostly from 6:30 am to 5:00 pm year-round. Admission to the temple is free of charge.
  • Shibuya Crossing – The pedestrian crossing located just outside Shibuya Station is renowned as the busiest in the world. During each traffic light cycle, people can cross in all directions. Apart from that, Shibuya Center Street is also worth visiting for its trendy shops and cafes. The Hachiko Statue, which is considered a symbol of loyalty and devotion, is also located nearby.
  • Iconic Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots – During the day each spring, Kitanomaru Park is one of the greatest places to experience the cherry trees in bloom. For an up-close view, a rowboat ride in the canal is a must-try. When the sun sets, make your way to the famous Meguro River for an unforgettable experience. The Sakura trees that line the riverbanks create a tunnel of pink over the canal, which is illuminated by lanterns. The Meguro River Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual event that typically starts in the latter half of March.
  • Gotokuji Temple – Located outside of the noisy centre of Tokyo, this Buddhist Temple is a must-visit for all the cat lovers. It has gained popularity due to the legend claiming it to be the birthplace of the beckoning cat (good luck charm). You can find thousands of maneki-neko cats of all sizes here as well.
  • Day trips to Nikko, Kamakura, Hakone, and Yokohama – Because of Japan's top-notch transportation system, any day excursion is just a short trip away. Each one of these cities is distinct, so each place will provide a unique experience. Explore what they have to offer and how to get to each one of them.
Tokyo's shopping scene is very diverse. Each shopping street has a unique character and specialty. Here is what to expect and prepare yourself if you plan to explore such areas.
  • Takeshita Street – Popular among trend-setting youth, this colourful pedestrian shopping jungle will overload your food and fashion senses. For a perfect souvenir, take a photo at one of the famous Purikura photo booths.
  • Ginza Chuo-dori and Omotesando – Besides boasting an elegant atmosphere, these two shopping streets are lined with luxury boutiques and international flagship stores that cater to upscale, fashion-forward shoppers.
  • Nakamise-dori – Just a short walk from Asakura Train Station, this shopping street dates back to the 17th century. While strolling among the stalls, you can find everything from street food to traditional arts and crafts, clothing and accessories. Although shops are usually open from 10 am to 5 pm, it’s worth visiting the illuminated temple and street after sunset when the area is less crowded.

Whether you savour melt-in-your-mouth sushi or indulge in savory ramen noodles, Tokyo's diverse culinary scene reflects a rich cultural heritage and dynamic character representing a fusion of flavors, textures, and aromas.

For a perfect Ramen food immersion, head to Tokyo Ramen Street, which includes a collection of renowned shops located at Tokyo Station. Or, for a fun experience, try the seasonal Nagashi Somen (slippery noodles sliding down a half-cut bamboo pipe with water running down it) near Tokyo at Chayakado in Kamakura, Kanagawa or Nagashi Somen En Uemon in Kofu-shi, Yamanashi-ken.

If you have more of a sweet tooth, you can try the delicious Totoro (one of Japan's most beloved anime characters) cream puffs and Ghibli-themed cookies at Shirohige's Cream Puff Factory -- a cute and cozy café / bakery. However, if you want a sugar rush, head to Dagashi Bar in Shibuya. For a 500 Yen entry fee, you can eat as many candies and snacks as you can with one drink included. They also have a side menu for food and beverages to help you counterbalance the sugar intake.

However, if you are looking seemingly endless food options, Ebisu Yokocho – a popular alleyway located just minutes from Ebisu Station – is lined with many food stalls featuring a variety of local culinary delights ranging from hot pots and beef tongue to Japanese-style pancakes that you can grill yourself.

Nostalgia buffs can appreciate the atmosphere at Omoide Yokocho (or Memory Lane). This open-air market was erected from Tokyo’s burnt ruins after WWII. Today, it has approximately 60 bars and restaurants, which are mostly chicken skewer and broiled offal food joints.

For the ultimate drinking experience, hop on a train or bus from Tokyo Station and head to the Suntory Musashino Brewery. At the Suntory factory, you will get to learn about the fascinating story behind the production of one of the premier beer brands in Japan by joining one of their free tours. Tours also include a free beer tasting session. If cocktails are more your style, then make your way to Tír na nÓg, which is a medieval fantasy-themed bar based on Irish mythology. There, you can immerse yourself in the place’s unique ambiance, while enjoying a range of cocktails and mocktails.

One last thing to remember as you plan your trip: airfare and hotels in Tokyo can be expensive, so before you leave, you may want to consider protecting your trip investment with travel insurance. When shopping for travel insurance for your trip to Tokyo, you can look for a policy that provides coverage for trip cancellation, interruption and delays, lost/delayed baggage, emergency medical treatment, and emergency transportation.

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