Japan’s busy capital city is a treasured blend of traditional and modern. With its historic temples, towering skyscrapers, and vibrant culture, Tokyo is one destination you’ll never forget. Find out how to plan the perfect trip to Tokyo and discover the best places to check out in the Japanese capital.

Arrive at the Airport

The Greater Tokyo Area is served by two primary airports: Tokyo Narita International Airport and Haneda International Airport.

Tokyo Narita International Airport

Tokyo Narita International Airport consists of three terminals. Travelers will arrive in either Terminal 1 or Terminal 2, while international departures leave from Terminal 3. The airport features a number of restaurants, duty-free shops, boutiques, and beauty salons to help you make the most of your time here.

Narita Airport offers a variety of public transportation options, including buses, taxes, the Keisei Skyliner, the JR Narita Express, and even helicopters.

One of the best things about landing in Narita International Airport is that you can take advantage of direct access to major stations like Shinjuku Station, Shibuya Station, and Tokyo Station. Take the comfortable Narita Express train if you don’t mind paying more for quick travel. Those on a budget should consider the Narita Line Rapid Train, which is cheaper.

The Narita Express, or N’EX, features plenty of luggage space, comfortable airplane-style seats, overhead bins, and LCD screens with information about flights, the train’s location, and estimated arrival times. You can use your Japan Rail Pass to pay for the train, which you should purchase before coming to Japan.

Haneda International Airport

Both airports offer great services, but Haneda Airport is located closer to central Tokyo. As such, Haneda has fewer transportation options, some of which require transfers, but travel to your hotel is cheaper and quicker.

Most domestic flights arrive at Haneda Airport, so if you’re coming to Tokyo from any other area in Japan, you’ll likely land here. Plus, more international flights are being served by Haneda Airport. Delta Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines all have routes from the United States to Haneda.

Haneda Airport consists of two terminals, both of which feature arrival and departure lobbies, shops, restaurants, observation decks, and access to the Keikyu Line and Tokyo Monorail. Both transportation options require transfers to the JR Yamanote Line at Shinagawa Station to reach central Tokyo. One-way fares on the JR Yamanote Line to Shinjuku Station are just 200 yen.

Another inexpensive transportation option is the Keikyu Limousine Bus, which provides direct access to destinations across the Greater Tokyo Area. You can also take a Keikyu Taxi, but you’ll pay a lot more.

Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.

Early Morning: Grab Breakfast

Start your morning in Tokyo off right with a delicious breakfast. Whether you’re craving pancakes, eggs with bacon and hash browns, sourdough toast, fruit, or crepes, Tokyo restaurants serve up familiar and exotic favorites.

For a full breakfast with scrambled eggs, pancakes, and coffee, head to Ivy Place in Shibuya. This popular eatery offers homemade granola with fresh fruit and honey, a savoy cabbage and goat cheese frittata, banana fritters with peanut butter cream, smoked salmon eggs with mascarpone dill cream, and fried eggs with kimchi. You can also opt for toasted bread with homemade jam and whipped butter; just choose between New York rye, whole wheat, rich cacao toast, Pullman loaf, or gluten-free bread.

While at Ivy Place, set aside some extra time to enjoy a cup of earl grey, mint green tea, or a caffe latte before sightseeing.

If you prefer a quick breakfast, there’s a rooftop garden on the sixth floor of Tokyu Plaza on Omotesando. Grab some coffee and a pastry at Starbucks and sit underneath the shade trees in one of the swing chairs.

For a heartier meal, go up one more floor to Bills. The authentic Australian restaurant serves breakfast until midday with light favorites like raw cacao and banana muesli, vegan granola, and a seasonal fruit bowl. You can also try the daily breakfast scones with coffee, or go for the Full Aussie with organic eggs, herbed mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, bacon, toast, and pork and fennel sausage.

Midmorning: Visit the Sights

With so many historic landmarks, be sure to set aside plenty of time to tour Tokyo’s attractions. The Imperial Palace in the Marunouchi district is a must-see experience. The 17th-century parks surrounding the palace feature moats and walls that once served as a fortress. The Imperial Palace is still in use by the Imperial family to this day, and the inner grounds are closed to the public for most of the year (the only exceptions are Jan. 2 and Dec. 23). Still, you can take a guided tour of the palace grounds Tuesday through Saturday at 10 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.

Tokyo’s most famous shrine is located in the Asakusa district. Sensō-ji Temple is an ancient Buddhist temple dating back to the year 645. Visitors enter through the Kaminarimon, or Thunder Gate, through a 200-meter shopping street called Nakamise before entering the second gate. Nakamise has been a shopping street for several centuries, and today you can find souvenirs such as folding fans, crafts, and local snacks.

Pass through the second gate (Hozomon Gate) into the temple’s main hall with its five-story pagoda. If you’re lucky, you may encounter one of the temple’s annual events, such as the Sanja Matsuri Festival in May or the Asakusa Samba Carnival in August.

When planning your Tokyo sightseeing tour, download some helpful apps to navigate the bustling capital. Tokyo Location Guide provides directions to nearby tourist spots and information on filming locations throughout the city, while Tokyo Handy Guide details tourist destinations by area, complete with facility information.

Noon: Enjoy Lunch

After walking around historic shrines and temples, you’ll be more than ready to sit down for lunch. If price isn’t an issue, try the one-star Michelin-rated Sushi Tokami. During lunch hours, you can enjoy 10 pieces of sushi for 5,000 yen, which is about $45. Executive chef Shota Oda goes to the Tsukiji market himself to find the freshest ingredients for his creations, so you know you’re getting some of the best sushi in Japan.

For a more affordable lunch, look for an Ippudo noodle shop. Often touted as offering the best ramen in Tokyo, this casual chain is easy to overlook among the thousands of noodle restaurants, but Ippudo stands out. The traditional atmosphere may seem intimidating, but Ippudo offers English menus and friendly staff eager to please. Try the classic ramen Shiromaju Motaoaji with its soba noodles and white broth if you prefer something on the lighter side, or the famous pork dumplings with ramen if you need a few extra calories to keep you going.

Afternoon: Hit the Museums

Tokyo has so many museums that it’s impossible to see them all on your first trip, but the Edo-Tokyo Museum should be at the top of your list.

The Edo-Tokyo Museum details the history of Tokyo during the Edo period between 1603 and 1868. Its exhibits are quite diverse and include historic artifacts and interactive models. There’s even a full-sized replica of the Nakamura-za Kabuki Theater façade.

The Samurai Museum is another Tokyo gem. English tours run throughout the day and tour guides are informative and helpful. Plus, if you visit in the afternoon, you may witness a Samurai demonstration. Exhibits include artifacts from costumes to armor. Best of all, you can dress in Samurai garb for a photo op, which is sure to impress your friends back home!

Other top museums in Tokyo include the Tokyo National Museum, the Mori Art Museum, and the National Museum of Nature and Science.

Edo-Tokyo Museum
Interior of the Edo-Tokyo Museum, established in 1993.

Late Afternoon: Browse the Shops

There’s no shortage of shops in Tokyo. From offbeat fashion to vintage clothes and from traditional crafts to designer jewelry, Tokyo has it all. Even if you can’t afford to splurge, the affluent Ginza shopping district is worth the trip. It features posh boutiques, department stores, and avant-garde offerings. For instance, Itōya is a nine-story stationary shop brimming with visual art supplies, Italian leather goods, and luxury fountain pens. For arts and crafts, stop at Takumi for elegant folk crafts, textiles, and Japanese ceramics.

The heart of Tokyo’s youth culture, Shibuya harbors trendy shops with cheap apparel. Shibuya 109 is a cylindrical tower you can’t miss. It houses dozens of boutiques with competing soundtracks and styles. As long as you’re on the petite side, you can find one-of-a-kind fashions at Shibuya 109 designed to stand out.

Other great shopping districts include Shimo-Kitazawa, Dankanyama, and Shinjuku.

Dinnertime: Savor a World-Class Meal

You don’t have to travel far to find a Michelin Star restaurant in Tokyo. Kanda, Sukiyabashi Jiro, and Quintessence have retained the highest three-star rating since 2007. Other great options include Amamoto sushi bar, Miyasaka, and Ginya tempura restaurant.

After a long day, you may want to grab takeout and head back to your hotel. Priya Indian Cuisine in Shibuya is a wonderful restaurant for both dining in and carrying out. Choose from a variety of curries, vegetarian dishes, and tandoori.

Late Night: Catch a Show

With hundreds of concert venues, Tokyo always has a live performance worth seeing. Keep in mind, however, that concerts in Tokyo start early around 7 or 8 p.m. and finish up by 10 p.m. Check out the Koenji neighborhood with its many resident musicians, who perform in spaces like Koenji High.

Prefer a musical? Shiki Theatre Company features Broadway favorites, including The Lion King and Aladdin.

Where to Stay in Tokyo

Since Tokyo is such a popular destination for business and leisure travelers, the capital city offers countless accommodations. Decide on your budget and choose from the best Tokyo hotels, hostels, and private rentals to plan the perfect trip.

Top Hotels

Recognizable hotel names abound in Tokyo, from The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo to the ibis Tokyo Shinjuku. Upscale accommodations include Imperial Hotel Tokyo, Hilton Tokyo, and Conrad Tokyo, all of which offer unparalleled luxury.

Budget-minded travelers should consider Ryokan Sansuiso in the Gotanda district, Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku, or Tokyu Stay Shibuya. Note which district you would prefer to stay in and perform your hotel search accordingly.

Best Hostels

Save even more on your vacation to Japan by booking a room or bed in a hostel. Tokyo hostels offer dormitory-style rooms with communal living spaces and group activities, making them ideal for backpackers, solo travelers, and social couples.

Space Hostel Tokyo offers simple accommodations with shared toilets, shower room, kitchen, and dining area. Free Wi-Fi is available, and there’s a lovely rooftop lounge where you can relax at the end of the day.

Gotanda
Gotanda neighborhood in the Shinagawa ward of Tokyo.

Another affordable option is bAKpAK Tokyo Hostel, which is a 10-minute walk from Irya Station. Choose from a private room with en suite bathroom or a single bed in the mixed dorm. The hostel offers free snacks, coffee, and tea as well as safety lockers, a fully furnished guest kitchen, Wi-Fi, and a 24-hour café lounge.

K’s House Tokyo is a classic backpacker hostel in Kuramae, which is located away from Tokyo’s busy tourist areas. Enjoy the on-site international exchange, a friendly staff, and cozy communal spaces. Rooms at K’s House include dormitories, twin rooms with bunk beds, double rooms for couples, and family rooms. There’s also a five-person all-female dormitory for the ladies.

Other top-rated hostels include Tokyo Central Youth Hostel, Imano Tokyo Hostel, ARTnSHELTER, and Wise Owl Hostels Tokyo.

Coolest Private Rentals

If you’re traveling with family or a group of friends, or you just prefer more privacy, a private rental may be your best bet. Booking a private rental in Tokyo can give you access to the entire apartment, allowing you to feel more at home during your stay. Reserve a traditional Japanese-style home with its low tables and cushions, or a Western-style urban house with an artsy loft. No matter your preferences, Tokyo offers private accommodation rentals to match your tastes and budget.

Ready to take the trip of a lifetime? Plan and book the best Tokyo vacation ever, from accommodations and transportation to attractions and tours, right here at GoDoTrip.