Top 10 Exhilarating Things to Do in Tokyo: A Traveler’s Must-See Checklist

Seeking the most compelling things to do in Tokyo? Our guide is your direct ticket to the city’s top attractions, including immersive cultural encounters, buzzing city views, and local culinary gems. Get ready to explore Tokyo with activities that promise to make every moment count.

Key Takeaways

  • Shibuya Sky offers a dazzling cityscape view and the ‘Crossing Light’ show; it’s best visited during sunset or at night for a mesmerizing experience.
  • Immerse yourself in Tokyo’s rich cultural heritage by visiting historic sites like Meiji Shrine, Sensoji Temple, and the azalea-filled Nezu Shrine.
  • From serene hot springs to adventurous natural hikes at Mount Takao, Tokyo provides a variety of peaceful escapes and outdoor activities within the city and its outskirts.

Experience the Magic of Shibuya Crossing

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Imagine standing atop the Shibuya Scramble Square Tower, feeling the pulsating energy of Tokyo beneath your feet. Welcome to Shibuya Sky, an open-air observation deck on the 47th floor that offers stunning panoramic views of Tokyo. As you ascend the ‘escalator in the sky’, you’ll find yourself at Sky Edge, a picturesque glass corner perfect for capturing the mesmerizing cityscape.

Maximize your visit with these tips:

  • Purchase your tickets online in advance for a discount
  • Store any larger belongings in lockers
  • Time your visit around sunset. Yes, it’s the busiest time, but the golden hues of the setting sun illuminating the city are worth it.
  • If you’re a night owl, don’t miss the ‘Crossing Light’ light show that illuminates the city every 30 minutes after 7:00 p.m., reflecting the seasonal changes of Tokyo.

Discover Authentic Japanese Cuisine

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Tsukiji Outer Market stands as proof of Tokyo’s status as a gastronomic paradise. Here you’ll find an array of traditional Japanese cuisines, from the freshest raw seafood to delicious sweets and drinks. But the culinary adventure doesn’t stop at fresh food and street delights.

For an indelible dining memory, visit the Michelin-starred restaurant Den. Here, Chef Hasegawa takes kaiseki (traditional Japanese multi-course meal) to a new level, blending tradition with a modern flair. Don’t miss the opportunity to enhance your meal with expert sake pairings recommended by the staff.

Savor Street Food in Harajuku

people walking on street during daytime

Harajuku, Tokyo’s hub of youth fashion, is also a haven for food lovers. Here, you can indulge in standout street food like rainbow cotton candy and whimsical animal-shaped ice cream cones. For an Instagram-worthy treat, head to Ichounoki, known for its unique twist on kakigori (shaved ice) served with intricate, colorful designs and inventive flavor combinations.

If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss the crunchy stick-shaped cream puffs at Croquant Chou Zakuzaku. These mouth-watering treats add to the diverse sweet offerings in Harajuku. But it’s not all about sweets here. Galant’s popular omurice, a delightful rice dish wrapped in a tender omelette, is a must-try for a savory break.

Unwind with a Cup of Green Tea

Having savored such delicious Japanese food, now, enjoy a soothing cup of green tea. Sakurai provides a contemporary interpretation of the Japanese teahouse, blending tradition with modernity. You can sample a variety of Japanese teas or watch as your chosen green tea leaves are roasted to make fresh hojicha.

The serene Hamarikyu Gardens offer a perfect setting for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Here, you can immerse yourself in the enduring art of tea making at your own pace. Attending a tea ceremony in the lush tranquility of the gardens provides a reflective cultural encounter, adhering to time-honored traditions.

Immerse Yourself in Japanese Culture and History

Now, journey back in time to delve into Japan’s cultural heritage and explore Japanese history in Tokyo. Tokyo is home to the Meiji Shrine, dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Surrounded by a forest of over 100,000 trees, this shrine is a peaceful oasis in the heart of the bustling city.

Another must-visit destination is Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s oldest temples. It features a bustling approach lined with stalls, a large red gate, and a five-story pagoda, making it a vibrant hub of culture and history.

Nezu Shrine is renowned for its architecture and azalea garden. Its hundreds of torii gates form tunnel-like paths, adding to its unique charm. Tennoji Temple, over 800 years old, is located in the historical Yanaka district and is set amongst a large cemetery with cherry trees, providing a blend of history and natural beauty.

Not to be missed is Yushima Seido, notable for its connection to Chinese Confucianism and the development of Japan’s education system. It houses the world’s largest Confucius statue. Fukagawa Fudoson, also known as Narita-san Fukagawa Fudo-Do, combines traditional and modern architecture and is significant for its rituals and historical roots.

Yasukuni Shrine is another significant cultural site, focused on Japan’s war dead. Its grand architecture and museum present a nationalistic perspective, adding a unique facet to the city’s rich cultural tapestry.

Explore Tokyo’s Art Scene

Tokyo holds special attractions for art lovers. The city’s vibrant art scene is a blend of contemporary and traditional art. Mori Art Museum is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an exhibit called ‘Our Ecology: Toward a Planetary Living’. This exhibit focuses on contemporary art’s role in addressing environmental concerns.

If you’re a fan of traditional Japanese art, visit the Sumida Hokusai Museum. Here you can immerse yourself in the famous ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ and other works by Katsushika Hokusai.

For a sensorial experience, head to TeamLab Planets Tokyo in Toyosu. Its digital art installations offer an immersive journey through light, color, and motion. The Toranomon-Azabudai location provides a walking adventure filled with interactive experiences, making it a must-visit for any art enthusiast.

Enjoy Panoramic Views of Tokyo

red tower in the middle of city during daytime

Having explored the city’s diverse art scene, it’s time to appreciate Tokyo from a unique viewpoint. The Tokyo Tower, one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks, offers two observation decks and a One Piece-themed amusement park. From here, you can enjoy marvelous views of the cityscape.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building offers:

  • Free access to its South Observation Deck
  • A chance to appreciate the Tokyo skyline and, on a clear day, even spot Mount Fuji
  • A Yayoi Kusama’s polka-dot motif piano that is open for public use

For an uninterrupted 360-degree panorama, head to Tokyo City View’s Sky Deck at Roppongi Hills. Here, you can enjoy views of Tokyo Tower, the Skytree, and even Mt. Fuji on clear days. These panoramic views offer a unique and breathtaking perspective on the city, making them must-see destinations for any traveler looking to capture the essence of Tokyo from above.

Stroll Through Tranquil Parks and Gardens

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Escaping the city’s hustle and bustle, enjoy a serene walk through Tokyo’s tranquil parks and gardens. Cherry blossoms, deeply symbolic in Japan, are celebrated in various forms of art and are seen as a poetic reminder of life’s fleeting nature.

Hanami, the practice of gathering under blooming cherry trees for picnics and socializing, is a popular activity during the cherry blossom season. Yozakura, which provides a mesmerizing nighttime viewing experience, is another way to appreciate these beautiful trees.

Ueno Park is a destination for solitude and tranquility. Its features include:

  • A cherry blossom canopy that offers a serene atmosphere, making it a perfect place for a peaceful stroll
  • Beautiful gardens and ponds
  • Several museums and art galleries
  • A zoo

The Yanesen neighborhood maintains a balance of Tokyo’s traditional culture and modern crafting, adding to the quietly reflective experiences of Tokyo.

For a unique urban escape, visit the Meguro Sky Garden. This lush, layered garden sits atop a highway junction and offers greenery, cherry trees, and a bamboo grove. Alongside its natural beauty, it’s an excellent place for enjoying the sunset over a picnic.

Visiting these parks and gardens during cherry blossom season is an essential Tokyo experience, combining urban exploration with tranquil, traditional beauty.

Shop ’til You Drop

Now, revel in one of travel’s greatest joys: shopping! In districts like Koenji, you can browse through vintage and second-hand fashion boutiques or discover edgy and fashion-forward vintage collectibles at specialized shops like Archive Store. For a bohemian vibe, head to Shimokitazawa. This area is known for its thrift stores and indie culture, reflecting the area’s vintage fashion and rarity in vinyl discoveries. For a grand shopping experience, visit Mitsukoshi and Isetan department stores. These stores provide a diverse selection of fashion and an extensive food hall. Major hubs like Kitte, Daimaru, and Gransta near Tokyo Station also offer a variety of shops and restaurants, in addition to their architectural beauty. Shopping in districts like Shibuya, Ginza, and Shinjuku offers an extraordinary experience. Each district offers its unique assortment of retail adventures. Shinjuku dazzles shoppers with its vast array of shops ranging from flagship stores to tucked-away gems that offer unique regional foods. Shibuya serves as a bustling fashion hub, while Harajuku delights with its small boutiques and quirky shops that cater to unique tastes. Kagurazaka blends Japanese and French styles, offering an array of chic shops and eateries that highlight its fashionable allure. Omotesando, Tokyo’s answer to the Champs-Élysées, marries luxury international fashion houses with unique boutiques bursting with local trends. Nakano Broadway, a popular shopping street, is accessible via Tokyo’s efficient train stations and appeals to visitors looking for a truly local shopping atmosphere.

Dive into Tokyo’s Vibrant Nightlife

shibuya crossing, tokyo, japan

As the sun sets, Tokyo morphs into a buzzing playground. Here are some of the top nightlife districts and venues in Tokyo:

  • Shinjuku: A major hub for nightlife, Shinjuku comes alive with neon-lit streets and is home to the lively LGBTQ+ district of Shinjuku Nichome.
  • Roppongi: Offers a cosmopolitan nightlife scene with a mix of upscale clubs, bars, and casual establishments.
  • Ginza: Known for its sophisticated clubs that cater to a fashionable crowd.
  • Shibuya: The heart of youth culture in Tokyo, Shibuya provides a diverse range of nightclubs for various tastes. WOMB in Shibuya stands out as one of Tokyo’s largest dance clubs, focusing on electronic music.
  • Club GHQ and RAISE in Ginza, and 1 OAK Tokyo and V2 Tokyo in Roppongi: These venues combine luxurious interiors with high-quality sound systems for a premier nightlife experience.

Live music lovers can indulge in a variety of genres at venues like Liquidroom in Ebisu, Ruby Room with its indie music scene, and Pit Inn for evening and matinee shows. For a unique bar experience, visit Bar Benfiddich. It offers an omakase cocktail experience with ingredients sourced from a family farm and a notable whisky collection for those seeking a classic drink. Music bar Tangle, where the owner DJ’s himself, focuses on audio enjoyment over drinking, and Zoetrope specializes in Japanese whiskies, with occasional film screenings.

Relax in Traditional Japanese Hot Springs

After such thrilling experiences, it’s time to relax in Tokyo’s traditional hot springs. In Tokyo, hot springs are a vital part of the local culture, providing a serene space for relaxation and rejuvenation.

The city offers a rich diversity of hot springs, each with its unique features. You can enjoy natural cypress wood baths at Oyata Onsen Myojin no Yu, black-colored baths at Mikokuyu Onsen, or the radium-enriched baths at Kokubisui Onsen Take no Yu.

Tokyo’s hot springs are easily accessible, with options like:

  • ONSEN RYOKAN Yuen Shinjuku in the heart of the city
  • Toshimaen Niwanoyu overlooking a Japanese garden
  • Keio Takaosan Onsen Gokurakuyu, located in the mountains.

Bathing in these natural hot springs can offer health benefits including relieving muscle pain, improving circulation, and soothing skin ailments. It’s an essential part of the Japanese culture and a must-try experience when in Tokyo.

Embark on Outdoor Adventures

Finally, venture beyond the city limits to immerse yourself in nature. Mount Takao, located within the metropolitan area of Tokyo, offers a convenient escape to nature. It’s just 50 minutes away by train from Shinjuku.

The mountain is home to several trails, including:

  • Trail number 1: This mostly paved trail leads hikers to the 599-meter summit in about 90 minutes.
  • Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park: More adventurous souls can delve deeper into nature by exploring the surrounding trails.
  • Yakuoin Temple: Connect with cultural history by visiting the ancient temple.

For a waterfront adventure, try the traditional Yakatabune Harumiya cruise on Tokyo Bay. This two-and-a-half-hour cruise offers a unique way to experience the city from the water.


From the bustling streets of Shibuya to the serene hot springs, from the vibrant art scene to the tranquil parks and gardens, we’ve explored the many layers of Tokyo. Whether you’re a foodie, a culture enthusiast, a shopaholic, or an adventurer, Tokyo has something for everyone. So, pack your bags and get ready to create unforgettable memories in this remarkable city.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is 3 days in Tokyo enough?

Three days in Tokyo is enough to explore both modern and traditional sides with good planning. It’s a popular tourist destination with plenty of amazing attractions to see during your stay.

What is Tokyo best known for?

Tokyo is best known for being the central hub of anime, electronics, manga, and video games, with Akihabara as the epicenter of this vibrant culture. It’s a sensory overload with electric lights and colors, making it a top spot for exploration, window shopping, and photography.

What are some must-try street foods in Harajuku?

You must try the rainbow cotton candy, whimsical animal-shaped ice cream cones, and crunchy stick-shaped cream puffs as street foods in Harajuku. They are standout and delicious options to indulge in!

What are some of the best places to enjoy panoramic views of Tokyo?

You can enjoy panoramic views of Tokyo from the Tokyo Tower, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building’s South Observation Deck, and Tokyo City View’s Sky Deck at Roppongi Hills. Whether you’re looking for a bird’s eye view or a panoramic cityscape, these spots offer a breathtaking experience.

Where can I shop for vintage and second-hand fashion in Tokyo?

You can find vintage and second-hand fashion in districts like Koenji and Shimokitazawa. Happy shopping!