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With towering skyscrapers, new-world restaurants manned by robots and over-the-top theme parks and attractions, Tokyo is a city that cannot be described, it has to be experienced. And with such an astonishing contrast between the modern and the traditional, exploring this Asian metropolis is simply mind-blowing.
However, this fast-paced city can not only be incredibly overwhelming for first-time visitors, but it also has a reputation for being expensive. Luckily, we’ve created a guide of the best things to do in Tokyo with some free attractions thrown in to help you save some money.
So whether you’re planning a trip with your kids, your friends or your significant other, here are the best things to do in Tokyo:
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Tokyo is nothing if not epic. And there are countless activities and attractions worth adding to your bucket list. If you’re looking for some ideas, we’d recommend adding these fun things to do in Tokyo to your must-do list:
As extraordinary as Tokyo is, exploring this diverse city for the first time can easily be daunting. Booking a guided tour with a local allows you to immerse yourself in the city’s authentic culture, swap the tourist traps for the lesser known hotspots, and make a friend while you’re at it!
These walking tours are available for two, four, six or eight hours and tailored to your interests and preferences. The itineraries are flexible and can be changed as you go along.
Explore the Sensoji Temple and Asakusa-jinja Shrine in the Asakusa area, discover the city’s many museums such as the unusual Intermediatheque Museum, or simply take a stroll through Yoyogi Park. Don’t miss the chance to watch some sumo wrestlers training in the city centre!
Want to be certified as a samurai? Learn how to sword fight like an authentic Japanese samurai with one of these traditional Kembu workshops in the city of Tokyo. This one-hour samurai sword lesson covers the basic sword fighting techniques used by these ancient Japanese warriors.
Kitted out in full traditional yukata or hakama gear, you’ll learn how to perform a traditional bow, how to draw a kembai (traditional Japanese sword), and engage in a sword battle.
At the end of the lesson, you’ll have a photo taken in full costume and receive a completion certificate for full bragging rights.
Watching a sumo wrestling match is pretty much a rite of passage in Tokyo, and tickets to these popular events can be rather difficult to get hold of if you don’t plan well in advance.
With this exciting two-hour guided tour, you’ll get to witness an exceptional morning training session, and learn the secrets of this age-old Japanese sport.
Meet your guide nearby (tours are available in English and Japanese) and head to the ‘beya’, a sumo stable where these Japanese sumo wrestlers live and train. You’ll get to watch sumo wrestlers train close up for anything between 100 and 150 minutes!
With memorable dining experiences, from cooking classes to night-time dinner cruises, Tokyo is a great city to explore as a couple. Looking for suggestions? Here are our favourite romantic things to do in Tokyo:
Learn to make your very own traditional Japanese sushi with this three-hour sushi-making workshop. Get up early in the morning to experience the hive and activity of the Toyosu fish market when the fishing hauls come in.
While you’re here, you’ll pick up some expert tips on how to prepare the fish for making sushi and how to pick fresh ingredients from the world’s largest fish market.
Once you’ve made all of your purchases, you’ll be taught how to make your own sushi from the ingredients you’ve bought. You’ll also be taught by the experts how to present this Japanese delicacy at this insider’s beginner-friendly class. And the best part? You’ll get all-you-can-eat sushi for lunch afterwards so come hungry!
Floating down the Sumida River on a traditional Yakatabune houseboat is one of the most romantic things to do in Tokyo. This three-hour cruise offers the chance to admire Tokyo City and Tokyo Bay by night. Come hungry because you’ll be treated to a traditional Japanese dinner with all-you-can-drink beer, sake and shochu included!
As you drift gently along the water, keep an eye out for the Tokyo Skytree and the Rainbow Bridge from your vantage point on the top deck of the houseboat.
When dinner is served you’ll be seated at a table or around a low table on the floor – the traditional way – and taste your way through a 10-course meal of Japanese-style dishes. The courses include fresh tempura prawns, a sashimi boat, konomono vegetables, and a seasonal rice dish just to name a few.
Tasting your way through 100 different types of sake from all over Japan is a great date night idea for couples visiting Tokyo. Head to the Kurand Sake Market and try as much sake as you like over the course of six hours!
There are all sorts of flavours of this traditional Japanese rice wine to choose from, including traditional flavours as well as unusual tastes such as cheese, milk, and yoghurt!
The sake served at Kurand Sake Market is specially selected by the chain’s executive chef who used to be the chief brewer at a sake brewery. The selection changes every season so even if you’ve been before you’re bound to find something new to try!
The best part about this romantic date night idea is that you can bring your own food along to pair with the different types of sake. Simply browse the fridges and have a taste of any sake you like!
With its Disney theme parks and family-friendly attractions and activities, Tokyo is a city that embraces childhood at any age. You won’t struggle to find something fun to do, but if you’re looking for ideas, here are the best things to do with kids in Tokyo in our opinion:
You can’t plan a family trip to Tokyo without whisking the kids away on a magical day trip to Disneyland. Get a head start at this fantastic family attraction with pre-booked tickets that allow you to skip the lines.
With less time spent queuing and more time for exploring the 115-acre theme park, you’re promised a full day of unforgettable family fun! Take your time exploring a whole host of exciting attractions themed around well-known fictional characters from Monsters Inc, Toy Story, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Alice in Wonderland.
Stop to watch an incredible live show, experience Disneyland Tokyo’s world-famous fireworks display, and introduce the little ones to their favourite Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck.
P.S. – Save a bit of cash in Tokyo with our EPIC guide to the best hotels in Tokyo!
Welcome to Japan’s very first LEGO-themed attraction: the LEGOLAND Discovery Center! Situated in Decks Mall in Odaiba, this theme park is tailored to kids from three to 10 years old – absolutely everything here is child-sized!
Let the little ones loose at the LEGO mini-land made from over 1.5-million LEGO bricks and watch them test their building skills at the Duplo Village. There’s plenty more to keep kids of all ages busy – enjoy a tour of the LEGO factory, hop on board one of the exciting LEGO-themed rides, and watch a show at the 4D cinema. There’s a cafe on-site for parents to grab a cup of coffee.
Experience a Hello Kitty wonderland at Tokyo’s Sanrio Puroland. This cat-themed indoor theme park is one of the best things to do with kids in Tokyo all year round.
Dedicated to Hello Kitty and other Sanrio characters, kids of all ages will enjoy a host of animated parades, live shows, as well as meet and greets with their favourite Hello Kitty characters at this play park. There are nine colourful attractions, from boat and train rides to Hello Kitty playhouses that are safe for kids of all ages.
When they’ve had their fill of the entertainment on offer, you can sit back at one of the themed restaurants and enjoy a bite of Sanrio-themed food at the pink-coloured food court.
Treat the kids to an ice cream from the Sweet Parlour or sit down for a more substantial bite to eat at the Seven Rainbow World Restaurant.
From walking tours to fireworks and spectacular night-time city views, Tokyo is a city that’s epic to explore after dark. Don’t miss these fantastic things to do in Tokyo at night:
Tokyo is famous for its unusual restaurants and the Robot Restaurant is no different! Head to Shinjuku in Kabukichō and enjoy a spectacular 90-minute performance featuring robots, dancers, samurais, and ninjas with a dazzling and innovative display of neon lights and sounds. It’s an absolutely epic feast for the senses!
Held four times a night every day of the week, this famous dinner show is one of the most popular things to do in Tokyo, so be sure to book your tickets well in advance. Arrive early so you can take a look around – this unearthly restaurant with its psychedelic decor is a show in itself; you’ll see why it cost more than 10 billion yen to build!
Discover the buzzing Shinjuku district of Tokyo when the sun goes down on this 2.5-hour walking tour by night. Admire the phenomenal views from the Observation Deck by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, walk down ‘Memory Lane’ (Omoide-Yokocho) and stop for a drink and a light meal of oden or yakitori at a local izakaya (a Japanese-style pub).
With your appetite quenched, head east to discover the entertainment district of Kabukichō. Spot the famous Godzilla on the roof of the Toho Cinema, stroll down the narrow streets of Shinjuku Golden-Gai, and visit the Hanazono Shinto Shrine on this exciting night-time tour of Tokyo.
The Sensoji Temple is one of the most popular attractions in Tokyo with hordes of tourists visiting and taking photos outside the temple during the day. But did you know that visiting after dark is far quieter and the temple is extraordinary to look at when it’s lit up at night?
Just a short walk from Asakusa station, Sensoji is Tokyo’s oldest temple and one of Japan’s few temples and shrines that can be visited at night. For the best photos, head to Sensoji Temple after 8 pm. Take advantage of the quiet streets to admire the incredible street art when the shops lining the Nakamise-dori Street are closed.
Traveling to Tokyo soon? These are some of the BEST day trips from Tokyo!
Tokyo is an expensive city if you don’t know where to go. But the right advice and proper planning can make exploring this modern city fairly affordable. Need some recommendations? Here are the best free things to do in Tokyo:
Tokyo’s towering skyscrapers make it an epic city to view from above. Discover this multidimensional city from the observation deck on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, formerly the tallest building in Tokyo until it was overtaken by the Midtown Tower in 2007.
Towering 243 metres above the ground, this building has two towers each with a vertigo-inducing 202-foot-high observation deck that can be reached by a thrilling 55-second elevator ride.
On a clear day, you can enjoy the panoramic views of the Tokyo skyline, including famous landmarks such as the Tokyo Skytree, Meiji Shrine, the Tokyo Dome, and Mount Fuji. Entrance is free of charge and the North Observatory remains open in the evenings, making it a great spot to catch the city views at sunset.
While most of Tokyo’s museums have an admission charge, there is quite a few that offer free entry. Visit the World Bags Museum Tokyo home to over 550 different types of bags from all over the world, learn about Yebisu Beer at the Museum of Yebisu Beer, and admire the impressive gallery of Japanese folded paper art at Origami Kaikan.
Other museums you can explore for free include the Intermediatheque, Japan Stationery Museum, TUS Museum of Science, Fireworks Museum, Meguro Parasitological Museum, and the Metropolitan Police Museum.
Plus, the National Museum of Modern Art offers free entry on the first Sunday of the month, the 18th of May (International Museum Day) and the 3rd of November (Culture Day).
Did you know that you can go beer tasting for FREE in Tokyo? When you book in advance you can score a free factory tour of the Suntory Musashino Brewery in Fuchu, Tokyo!
Get on the Keio Line at Shinjuku Station and get off at Bubaigawara Station to catch the factory’s free five-minute shuttle to one of Japan’s oldest beer breweries. Free one-hour guided tours of the factory are available every day where you can discover how Suntory beer, one of Japan’s premier beers, is produced.
And the best part? You’ll get to taste three ice-cold beers from Suntory’s selection of the day at the end with some salty snacks to pair with it – all for free!
As you’ve just read, there are endless opportunities for finding fun and romantic things to do in Tokyo – and not everything has to break the bank. There are plenty of activities and attractions that are affordable and even free of charge if you plan in advance.
With all sorts of exciting activities for all ages, from theme parks and sumo wrestling to sake and beer tasting, Tokyo’s diverse list of attractions is almost impossible to compare. Everything is entirely unique. But if we had to choose, we’d say the best thing to do in Tokyo is to learn the art of sushi making so you can bring a taste of Tokyo’s culture home with you!
So whether you’re planning a trip away with family and friends, young or old, we hope you’ve enjoyed our list of the best things to do in Tokyo. Have fun!
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Gin lover. Coffee addict. Nicola has traveled the world for 7 years and is a staff writer for Hotel Jules. Born in London, Nicola first got the taste of travel studying abroad in Barcelona. Since then she's been hooked - traveling the world non-stop. Passionate about green travel and vegan lifestyle, Nicola spends more of her free time staring at maps wondering where she will head to next!